Like most Sundays, April 14, 2019 will be a day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints to attend a locally organized and priesthood directed sacrament meeting. Sacrament meetings need to become more holy and sacred to everyone attending them. What follows are scripture references, quotes from members of the First Presidency, and suggestions for activities to help in understanding, preparing for, and worshiping reverently at sacrament services.
In a modern revelation, the Lord gave the following commandment: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacrament upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High” (Doctrine and & Covenants 59:9-10).
President Dallin H. Oaks explains: “This is a commandment with a promise. By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will ‘always have his Spirit to be with [us]’ (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). That Spirit is the foundation of our testimony. It testifies of the Father and the Son, brings all things to our remembrance, and leads us into truth. It is the compass to guide us on our path” (“Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov. 2008).
Activity: Each and every Sabbath day of the year plan to attend every sacrament meeting that you can. By both spiritually calendaring and faithfully making sacramental covenants, the Holy Ghost will continually be your guiding Liahona (Alma 37:38-47) and personally direct you on the path of righteousness.
President Oaks emphasizes, “The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most important and sacred meeting in the Church. It is the only Sabbath meeting the entire family can attend together.” (Ensign, Nov. 2008).
Activity: Plan family home evenings that discuss ways to prepare and reverently worship at sacrament meetings. For example, choose songs from the Children’s Songbook, such as “Saturday,” 196; “When I Go to Church,” 157; and “Reverence Is Love”, 31.
Preparing to Bring a Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
In the Book of Mormon the Savior clearly explained to the Nephites that the blood sacrifices and burnt offerings of the Mosaic law were fulfilled in Him (3 Nephi 9:19). Jesus then gave the following commandment with a promise: “And ye shall offer up for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).
President Russell M. Nelson recommends, “We attend [sacrament meeting], as the Lord commanded, to receive the sacrament and renew our covenants. …We commemorate His Atonement in a very personal way. We bring a broken heart and a contrite spirit to our sacrament meeting. It is the highlight of our Sabbath day observance.” He also suggests, “Families and members need to arrive well before sacrament meeting begins. …During that quiet interval, prelude music is subdued. This is not a time for conversation or transmission of messages but a period of prayerful meditation as leaders and members prepare spiritually for the sacrament” (“Worshipping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004).
President Oaks adds the following ideas: “How we dress is an important indicator of our attitude and preparation for any activity in which we engage. If we are going swimming or hiking or playing on the beach, our clothing, including our footwear, will indicate this. The same should be true of how we dress when we are going to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament. …During sacrament meeting—and especially during the sacrament service—we should concentrate on worship and refrain from all other activities…. Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines. Young people, it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior” (Ensign, Nov. 2008).
Activities: Prior to the Sabbath, make sure your Sunday clothing indicates reverence toward participating in the ordinance of the sacrament. Be seated well before sacrament meeting begins. Listen quietly to the prelude music. In preparing to partake of the sacrament, strive to practice “prayerful meditation” upon the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Three months after the organization of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, Emma Smith was commanded to “make a selection of sacred hymns…. For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:11-12).
The First Presidency has declared, “some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns” (Hymns, ix).
President Nelson explains, “The hymns of the Church are the basic music for worship services and the standard for congregational singing. …Opening and closing hymns are usually sung by the congregation. The sacrament hymn is always sung by the congregation” (Ensign, Aug. 2004).
President Oaks notes, “How wonderful when every person in attendance joins in the worship of singing—especially in the hymn that helps us prepare to partake of the sacrament” (Ensign, Nov. 2008).
President Henry B. Eyring remembers a sacrament meeting more than 70 years ago when he sang with the congregation the hymn “Abide with Me; ‘Tis Eventide” (Hymns, no. 165) and being drawn closer to the Savior because, “More precious than a memory of events is the memory of the Holy Ghost touching our hearts and His continuing affirmation of truth. More precious than seeing with our eyes or remembering words spoken and read is recalling the feelings that accompanied the quiet voice of the Spirit. Rarely I have felt it exactly as the travelers on the road to Emmaus did—as a soft but unmistakable burning in the heart. More often it is a feeling of light and quiet assurance” (“His Spirit to Be with You,” Ensign, May 2018).
Activities: During each sacrament meeting join in singing all congregational hymns and the sacrament hymn. Volunteer to sing in your Church unit choir. Individually or as a family find opportunities to read, ponder, and sing all the hymns designated to be sung prior to the sacrament (Hymns: 146, 169-197). You may want to memorize one or more of the sacred Church hymns.
Learning from Those Who Speak
With respect to the planning for speakers after the sacrament, President Nelson advises: “With these doctrines in mind, bishoprics and branch presidencies need to plan sacrament meetings thoughtfully in order to keep the meetings focused on the Lord and His Atonement, His example, and the doctrines of the gospel. Invitations to speak should be extended well in advance and include a clear description of the topic assigned and time allotted, along with an offer to help. …Sacrament meetings afford an opportunity for youth to speak briefly on assigned gospel subjects. At other times, high councilors will be assigned by the stake president to speak. …Fast and testimony meetings are held once a month, usually the first Sunday. …After the sacrament, the conducting brother bears a brief testimony. He then invites members to bear brief, heartfelt testimonies of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration” (Ensign, Aug. 2004).
Activities: Find ways to listen attentively to those called to speak at sacrament meeting. One strategy may involve taking notes. Another is to listen for something that you learned or found helpful to discuss with your family later during the Sabbath day or for home evening. After the meeting, look for opportunities to share uplifting comments with those who spoke, especially youth speakers.