For leaders who want to improve sacrament meeting reverence, consider pointing congregations to the Last Supper. Reverence is a matter of the heart and not a to-do list. When members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allow the spirit of the Last Supper to sink deeply into their hearts, reverence for God’s sacrament meeting will blossom.
A "sacrament" from the Latin sacramentum means to "set aside for a holy purpose." It is "a spiritual covenant between God and man," according to Elder Bruce R. McConkie in “Mormon Doctrine.”
As parents and leaders remind those within their stewardship to set themselves aside for holy purposes, the desire to draw closer to Jesus Christ during his sacred sacrament will become the prime motivation.
The Last Supper
The Savior’s last night of mortality was exquisitely sorrowful, yet tender. That fateful Thursday evening, Jesus accomplished the atonement for all sin, grief and pain from Adam to the end of the world.
Wrote one Book of Mormon prophet, "For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice... and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal" (Alma 34:10,14).
In loving service before undertaking the weight of Gethsemane, Jesus broke bread for his disciples, saying, "Take, eat; this is my body," then poured wine, saying, "Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28).
The admonition to "drink ye all of it" is an invitation to offer our "whole souls" to Christ (Omni 1:26).
When we partake worthily of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we consecrate and dedicate ourselves to renew our baptismal covenant to (1) always remember him, (2) take upon ourselves the name of Christ, and (3) keep his commandments. The corresponding promise is that we "may always have His spirit to be with (us)" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:75-79).
Preparation for reverence
Do we arrive late and harried to the most sacred gathering of the week? Do we pay for Sabbath-day worship with overdrafts from Saturday-night excess? Through the sacred sacrament, do we truly desire Christ’s spirit to "always be with us," or do we wander to distraction as if distraction will never be with us again?
When the Savior concluded the Last Supper, he and his disciples "sang a hymn" (Matthew 26:30). How gentle the notes of that soft symphony!
Our preparation for sacrament reverence should always include the singing of hymns. In "Worship through Music," published in the November 1994 Ensign, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, "When a congregation worships through singing, all present should participate... What are we saying, what are we thinking, when we fail to join in singing in our worship services?"
For those who are able to sing but clam up during the hymns, you are telling the Lord you don’t need the spirit of the sacrament. In effect, you are telling the Savior that his hymn on that sacred preparation for Gethsemane is meaningless to you because you are above it all, so why bother to open your mouth?
Reverence is more than quiet
Low volume is not reverence; worship is not whispers. While quiet and calm are outward evidence of our inner commitment, real reverence begins and ends with our proximity to Jesus. He is either in our hearts or "far from the thoughts and intents of (our) heart" (Mosiah 5:2).
Even young children, with gentle reminders, can prepare for reverence and taste the fruits of casting their minds toward heaven.
As Jesus desires to share the fruits of his sacrifice with each of us through the sacrament, we, in turn, can remember the first sacrament as a symbol of his "great and last sacrifice" (Alma 34:10) for us. By so doing, our reverence for Jesus will not only show in our outward demeanor but "shine in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Note: This will be my final Friday Minute before our three-year mission, oceans from home. We will miss sharing the gospel with so many wonderful friends but look forward with faith to sharing God’s plan of happiness with new friends. May God bless and keep you always in the arms of his incomparable love, ‘til we meet again.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake. He begins service July 2012 as a mission president.