My lesson for August: [I love studying, researching and preparing my lesson. I learn so much. This month went really well . . .]
Elder Perry chose to talk about the importance of the Sacrament. Along with that, he speaks about the Sabbath. I was left wondering how anyone would attempt speaking about one without the other. They are two subjects that just naturally overlap.
These two topics are dear to my heart. There was a time, however, when neither of them were very important to me. I could shop on Sunday, go 4-wheeling, work, do yard work. I could watch TV all day or play computer games. I could dress inappropriately or stay in bed until noon. I could lay on the trampoline all day in the sun or play racquetball. And not really care what anyone thought about it. And there were several periods in my life that I went many, many months without attending church at all or taking the Sacrament.
So what has changed? [Please know, it has changed!]
Elder Perry says, “Sisters, in the latter days the adversary succeeds when we relax our commitment to the Savior, ignore His teachings and cease to follow Him.”
There was a time when I thought that all commandments, including number four, were too restrictive and too constraining. I thought they took away my agency. I thought they bound me down into a joyless life. I thought they were mostly meant for the older generation. I thought I would go out of my mind with all the things my parents expected of me.
Forty years later I can see how very mistaken I was. I now find that the commandments, including number four, are very freeing. They enlarge my agency. They direct my life and give me joy beyond anything I could imagine when I was younger. The commandments give me a feeling of security and safeness.
The commandments are, really, the Easy Button!
Let me show one way that is true. If your weekdays go anything like this, Sunday can only be a blessing. Keeping the Sabbath Holy can only be a blessing!
SONG by Hilary Weeks [Seriously, you must listen to this!]
Now, I realize that the Sabbath Day is the most glorious day in the week. And there are four of them in a month. There’s five in a very good month!
Elder Perry says, “This year we’ve had opportunity to study the words of the New Testament. It is focused on the life and influence of the only Man who came into mortality with dual citizenship in heaven and on earth—our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The world today is so saturated with ‘doctrines of men’ that it is easy to forget and lose faith in that all-important account of the Savior’s life and ministry—the New Testament. This sacred volume is the centerpiece of all scriptural history, just as the Savior Himself should be the centerpiece of our lives. Think about that for a minute. Elder Perry says that the New Testament is the centerpiece of all scriptures.
There is priceless wisdom to be found in the New Testament. Elder Perry says he enjoys reading the accounts of Paul [exactly what we are studing right now . . .] as he traveled and organized the Savior’s Church, especially his teachings to Timothy. In the fourth chapter of Paul’s writings to Timothy, it says. . . [and how many times have we heard this scripture this past year?] “These things command and teach. … Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” I can think of no better way for us to begin or continue to be an example of the believers than in our observance of the Sabbath day.
That is so true. How many times has someone in a grocery store said, “Well, church must be over because here come all the Mormons!” Our actions on the Sabbath speak volumes about us, don’t they!
We all know the story of the Sabbath day. We all know that when the seventh day came God ceased his labors. Then, He blessed the day and sanctified it. We all understand that He expects His children to do the same. He expects us to bless and sanctify our Sunday. The pattern of Sabbath day observance must always include worship. You’ve probably heard lots of people say that they feel closer to God when they are out in nature instead of sitting on a wooden pew. I heard someone say, “I’d rather be out in the mountains thinking about God than sitting in church thinking about the mountains.” All of these clever sayings are just that. Clever. They can never take the place of Sunday worship. [As much as our family camps, this would be a very tempting family theme, but we’ve chosen to not adopt that philosophy.]
The Gospel Principles Manual says: “Jesus taught that the Sabbath day was made for our benefit. The purpose of the Sabbath is to give us a certain day of the week on which to direct our thoughts and actions toward God. It is not a day merely to rest from work. It is a sacred day to be spent in worship and reverence. As we rest from our usual daily activities, our minds are freed to ponder spiritual matters. On this day we should renew our covenants with the Lord and feed our souls on the things of the Spirit.”
So, it’s not enough to just not work or not shop on Sunday! It’s not enough to just spend time with family. It’s not enough to rest from our labors if we are just sleeping. Elder Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, “If we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts.” We must fill our Sabbath Day with good works and serving the Lord. It’s not enough to attend just one meeting. We must attend all our meetings, but especially Sacrament Meeting, and prepare ourselves ahead of time so that we are able to feel the promptings of the spirit.
[As a side note, I thought it was interesting to learn that until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He and his disciples honored the seventh day as the Sabbath. But after his resurrection, Sunday was held sacred as the Lord’s Day in remembrance of his resurrection on that day (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). From that time on, his followers appointed the first day as their Sabbath. In both cases there were six days of labor and one for rest and devotion. The Lord has given us a direct commandment in these days that we, too, should honor Sunday, the Lord’s day, as our Sabbath (see D&C 59:12).]
What kinds of things may we do on the Sabbath? The Lord has told us to prepare only simple foods on that day, keeping the purpose of the Sabbath in mind (see D&C 59:13). The prophet Isaiah suggested that we should turn away from doing our own pleasure and should “call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord, and honorable” (Isaiah 58:13). We should do righteous things. We keep the Sabbath day holy by
- Attending Church meetings.
- Reading the scriptures and the words of our Church leaders.
- Visiting the sick, the aged, and our loved ones.
- Listening to uplifting music and singing hymns.
- Praying to our Heavenly Father with praise and thanksgiving.
- Performing Church service that we have been assigned to do.
- Preparing family history records and personal histories.
- Telling faith-promoting stories and bearing our testimony to family members and sharing spiritual experiences with them.
- Writing letters to loved ones.
- Writing letters to missionaries.
- Fasting with a purpose.
- Sharing time with children and others in the home.
One thing we can always do in deciding what other activities we should properly engage in on the Sabbath, is ask ourselves: Will it uplift and inspire me?
Keeping the Sabbath is like Spiritual Botox!!!!!!
Let’s talk about the Sacrament:
As you know, the sacrament was instituted by the Savior, Himself.
Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus gathered his Apostles around him in an upstairs room. He knew he would soon die on the cross. This was the last time he would meet with these beloved men before his death. But, He wanted them to always remember him so they could be strong and faithful. To help them remember, he introduced the sacrament. He prepared a special room. He prepared a special table. He performed a special service. Remember, He washed their feet. He prepared a special ordinance. He broke bread into pieces and blessed it. Then he said, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:22). Next he took a cup of wine, blessed it, and gave it to his Apostles to drink. And He said: “Drink ye all of it. For this is in remembrance of my blood . . . , which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:23-24; see also Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:15-20).
After his resurrection, Jesus came to the Americas and taught the Nephites the same ordinance (see 3 Nephi 18:1-11). And, after the Church was restored in the latter days, Jesus once again, through personal revelation to the Prophet Joseph, commanded his people to partake of the sacrament in remembrance of him, saying, “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (D&C 20:75).
I find it amazing that the Lord, Himself, on these three occasions, personally, made sure the importance of the Sacrament was deeply understood. In all three instances, he personally spoke his desires to his followers.
I think it is marvelous that when the gospel was restored, Peter, James, and John, three of the Apostles who first received the sacrament from the Savior, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Under their direction, the priesthood authority necessary to administer the sacrament to the members of the Church was restored.
It still gives me chills. What could be more appropriate? What could be more logical. What could be more reasonable than Peter, James and John restoring the authority to do the Lord’s work?
Can you even imagine what it would have been like to have received the sacrament, personally, from his hand? Can you imagine looking into his loving and forgiving eyes as he presented the emblems of his body and blood? Can you imagine hearing Him pray to His Father over the bread and wine? We read about that very experience for the Twelve Disciples in the New Testament. But we can have a spiritual experience, much the same, here in our own lives.
Go with me now, into a quiet, sacred chapel. And recognize that the chapel is an ordinance room much like an ordinance room in the sacred temple.
As we listen to the prelude music our thoughts should begin to settle and turn to our Savior. We could open a hymnbook and quietly read the words to a sacrament hymn. We could begin to picture parts of the Savior’s life. All the bible stories we heard as children could go through our mind like a slide show. We would see Him heal the sick, and feed the hungry and find the lost sheep. We could picture Him as he shared the living gospel and taught his disciples. We could picture him healing the woman who touched his hem. We would see his raise his beloved friend Lazarus. We would see Him gather children to Him and bless them individually. We would see Him in Gethsemane and then at Calvary. We would see His resurrected body as He allowed Thomas to touch His body in order to heal his broken faith. And we could ponder in our hearts His lasting grace and boundless charity for each of us. We would recognize His priceless gifts to us for all of eternity.
After we think about all that he has done for us, our minds might turn to repentance. Looking over the past week we could remember times when we had been less than perfect. We could ask the Lord to help us remember when we had lied or offended or cheated or hurt someone. And we could ask for forgiveness right then, sitting on our comfortable bench with our family next to us. We are able to humbly ask the Lord for forgiveness. It’s that simple and, yet, it’s that amazing. He can take away our sins! None of us actually know how it is done. But we can all know that it IS done. We know that it’s possible.
And, knowing that it’s possible should bring us great joy. We are then able to praise the Lord. We praise His name in song. The blessings of the Sabbath day will linger in our hearts as we silently pray for the courage to accept His will. We will have a desire to listen to Him and to obey Him. We’ll have a desire to serve Him. It would be a good time to ask Him to bring into our minds how to specifically serve Him. Perhaps ask for a specific name of someone in the Ward or neighborhood whose life He would have us touch.
And having gone through this process of acknowledging the Lord, repenting, praising and being willing to follow Him, our hearts will be full. Our hearts will be overflowing with Love for the Lord. And we will be able to more perfectly walk His chosen way. We will have a desire to do His work.
Elder Perry repeats, “Partaking of the sacrament is the center of our Sabbath day observance. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord commands all of us:
“And that thou may more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments 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. …
“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing.
The last couple of times that I have either studied or prepared lessons or talks about the sacrament, I have come upon a specific phrase.
What does it mean to offer up our sacraments to the Lord?
We acknowledge that all of us make mistakes. Each of us has a need to confess and forsake our sins and errors to our Heavenly Father and to others we may have offended. The Sabbath provides us with a precious opportunity to offer up these—our sacraments—to the Lord. He said, “Remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.”
Elder Melvin J. Ballard said, “We want every Latter-day Saint to come to the sacrament table because it is the place for self-investigation, for self-inspection, where we may learn to rectify our course and to make right our own lives, bringing ourselves into harmony with the teachings of the Church and with our brethren and sisters.
In summary: during the sacrament service we should dismiss from our minds all worldly thoughts. We should feel prayerful and reverent. We should think of the atonement of our Savior and be grateful for it. We should examine our lives and look for ways to improve. We should also renew our determination to keep the commandments. We do not need to be perfect before partaking of the sacrament, but we must have the spirit of repentance in our hearts. The attitude with which we partake of the sacrament influences our experience with it. If we partake of the sacrament with a pure heart, we receive the promised blessings of the Lord.
The Lord tells us, “Trifle not with sacred things. The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
I hope as we sing the closing song [Hymns, Page 169] that you will read the words and recognize the wisdom of them. It is a perfect song to read and ponder before and during the sacrament. Note who it is written by! You will see that the words to this special hymn basically prepared this lesson.
I pray that each of us will have a desire to more fully live the law of the Sabbath and to partake of the Sacrament with a new determination and a new commitment to do so, as if the Lord Himself, were peresenting the emblems to each one of us.
Because, he is.