Sunday, September 6, 2015

Thoughts on Messing Up During the Sacrament Prayers

The Sacrament (otherwise known as Communion, the Eucharist, etc. in other faiths) is at the heart of religious observance in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We repeat it nearly every Sunday during the most important and sacred meeting, appropriately named Sacrament Meeting. Ideally, it is a time when members are able to forget all worldly distractions, focus exclusively on the Savior, and renew our baptismal covenants with Him.

I have always found it thought-provoking that the youth of the Church is in charge of this most sacred ordinance. The young priests--often about sixteen years old--are in charge of blessing the bread and water that is then passed to the congregation by deacons and teachers who are younger still, ranging in age from twelve to fifteen. Other priesthood holders of all ages may participate in its administration, but the Sacrament is primarily the responsibility of these teenagers.

Is it not interesting that God would hand over control of this most sacred of ordinances to the youth, and not to the more mature adults? To be frank, the youth are often rowdy and immature, sometimes seen joking around during Sacrament Meeting when they should be observing reverence, much to the chagrin of adult leaders. In addition, some have a tendency to speed through and/or mumble the sacramental prayers instead of giving them their due respect.

When this happens, the Bishop may decide to have the prayers repeated until they are said correctly. These prayers are the only ones that are repeated word-for-word in our worship meetings. God considered them so important that he gave us the very words we should use in Doctrine and Covenants 20:75-79. The words reflect the covenants we made at our baptism and remind us of our duties in keeping these covenants, including taking upon ourselves the name of the Son, remembering Him, and keeping His commandments. We are then promised the continual guidance of the Holy Ghost.

But why is it so important, really, that these words are said verbatim, to the extent that not a single word can be omitted or submitted? Sometimes, when a prayer is said incorrectly, the priest feels embarrassed, the members feel uncomfortable, and visitors feel confused about why exactly they are hearing the same prayer repeated. This can cause further awkwardness for the members who may feel the need to explain what is happening to the visitor. Sometimes, we may wish that we can just move on without going through the uncomfortable process of repeating the prayer.

However, my thoughts on the subject today brought me peace in the knowledge that the Lord's Church is in good hands. His ordinances are, among other things, physical symbols of our covenants and relationship with God. Wouldn't a casual attitude about said ordinances reflect a casual attitude about our relationship with Him? 

As the scripture says, "In the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest" (D&C 84:20).

I am glad that the sacred ordinances of the Church are not treated lightly.

Though the Sacrament may be in the hands of the youth, God does not expect less of them. Through their service, the youth learn the care needed in the administration of godly things. They are given a symbol and a type of the fact that God does require perfection in all things, but that is not to say that He requires it the first time. We may mess up and have to try again, sometimes many times. It may cause us and others around us pain and discomfort. Our failure may cause us to want to just give up and avoid any future embarrassment. But in the end, if we endure, following the only true path of repentance, which is through the Savior, we will have the comfort of knowing that we did things the right way--God's way--and that in the last day He will look at us and say, "Well, done, my good and faithful servant." 

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