President's Pen 5-9-16 (Sacrament Meeting Preparation)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ,  by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Elders & Sisters,

We are looking forward to zone conferences this week.  Please pray to have a revelatory experience as you ask questions, ponder and study, pray, and seek the Spirit's guidance.  We love you and pray for your continued success.  

There is a long standing tradition of preparing for the sacrament in our mission and I thought it might be helpful to revisit the topic.  We are blessed beyond measure to partake of the sacrament each week and renew our covenants.  As we prepare ourselves, we must also teach the power of this sacred ordinance and help all come to understand the blessings we receive from it.

In Elder Bednar's recent conference address he spoke on how we might all retain a remission of our sins.  He quoted from King Benjamin's address, "ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of our sins."  He described how faith in the Savior, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost sanctifies us and provides a remission of our sins.  The blessing, once baptized, is to retain a remission of our sins as we follow the same pattern of faith in the Savior, repentance, covenant keeping, and good works.   Elder Bednar described how the ordinance of the sacrament is an invitation to sincerely repent and to be renewed spiritually.  He then taught how the act of partaking of the sacrament in and of itself does not remit sins, but that through our conscientious preparation, coupled with a broken heart and contrite spirit, allows for the Sprit of the Lord to be with us.  It is then through the sanctifying power and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can always retain a remission of our sins.

So what is the conscientious preparation that is required prior to our partaking of the sacrament?  Conscientious is defined as wishing to do what is right, especially to do one's work or duty thoroughly.  Also added to the definition is the idea of careful, meticulous, and even painstaking effort.  This then provides the backdrop of not only the attitude we need to have as we prepare for the sacrament, but the effort required to do it the right way.  

Consider how many might arrive at church each Sunday…  As families there is a rush to get kids ready and arrive on time, as missionaries you are scrambling to track down investigators, leaders are actively welcoming or finishing their preparation before the sacrament meeting begins.  The announcements are given, the opening hymn is sung, the opening prayer is offered, we sing the sacramental hymn, and within ten to fifteen minutes of arrival the sacrament is being passed, the most important thing we do all week.  With a rushed or harried morning, many may have given little to no thought about what is about to take place until the hymn is sung or the sacrament prayers are said.  Is this conscientious preparation?  Can we expect to truly appreciate and feel the cleansing effects the sacrament offers if no forethought is given in advance?

So how do we best prepare?  Consider what you might do during the week and in particular the day or two before we partake of the sacrament.  I offer three simple recommendations that might help you in your preparation.  

First, start with considering your faith in, and your testimony of Jesus Christ.  Do you believe and know He is your Savior and Redeemer?  Do you have a correct understanding of His character and attributes?  Can you recognize and observe a pattern of gospel living in your own life that is in accordance with His will?   As you ask these questions continue to think upon the Savior, take some time to study His life and focus on the days before His Atonement.  Travel with Him to the upper room where the last supper was held.  See Him institute the sacrament, wash the disciples feet, and tenderly teach them.  Travel with him to Gethsemane, see Him take upon your sins, your pains, your infirmities.  Recognize his great love for you as he submits His will to the Father.   See Him on the cross, mocked and scorned, and ultimately dying of a broken heart.  See Him triumphantly rise on the third day, having overcome sin and death.  As you prepare for the sacrament each week, travel with the Savior, walk along side Him on the path He walked to redeem and save you.  Ponder on these topics, study them, and prior to partaking of the sacrament each week, pray to have your heart and mind more opened to the Savior's love for you.  

Second, review your week and recognize where you need to repent.  Your repentance, or gift to change, is of course something you do daily, but reconcile those aspects of your life where you are earnestly seeking to do better.  Perhaps it's your thoughts, your diligence, your obedience, your faith, or even your desires.  Elder Porter of the Seventy taught, "When we sin and desire forgiveness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean to experience “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This comes when our desire to be cleansed from sin is so consuming that our hearts ache with sorrow and we yearn to feel at peace with our Father in Heaven. Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance or resentment. We cease doing things our way and learn to do them God’s way instead. In such a condition of submissiveness, the Atonement can take effect and true repentance can occur. The penitent will then experience the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost, which will fill them with peace of conscience and the joy of reconciliation with God. In a wondrous union of divine attributes, the same God who teaches us to walk with a broken heart invites us to rejoice and to be of good cheer."  The first fruits of repentance is baptism (Moroni 8:25), that same thought process can be extended once we're baptized, the first fruits of repentance is the sacrament.  Prepare for the sacrament each week by sincerely repenting.  Review what we teach, are there steps you are striving to take?

Third, review the covenants you will renew and commit to living them more fully.  As we partake of the sacrament, we renew all covenants.  Do you remember them and do you have them in your mind?  At baptism we covenant to remember the Savior, take upon us His name, and keep His commandments. When you partake of the sacrament you witness to the Father that you will do these things; how are you doing?  You have also made temple covenants to be obedient, to sacrifice, to make the gospel laws the standards for your life, to remain chaste, and to build God's kingdom by consecrating yourself.  Can you do better in keeping these covenants?  In your sacrament preparation take the time to review these covenants, study them, remember what they mean and what is expected of you.  Elders, consider other covenants you have made as the priesthood was conferred upon you.  Are you magnifying it?  Are you diligent and worthy of the sacred authority you've been given to act in God's name?  We are a covenant keeping people.  Covenants are made as we participate in ordinances, your sacrament meeting preparation is a great reminder of the blessings that come as you keep them.

As you take time to prepare to participate in the sacrament each week, its meaning will take on much greater significance for you.  As the sacramental hymn is sung, be sure to sing, ponder the words, and recognize it is a form of prayer.  As the sacrament emblems are blessed, remember their symbolism, ponder the saving and redeeming power that comes as you partake.  Focus your thoughts on what you pondered, studied, and prayed about in your preparation.  Seek forgiveness for your sins, think upon the Savior, and be grateful for this ordinance that is the only one you get to do for yourself again and again .  

As you consider your conscientious preparation, I pray that you will focus your time on the Savior, that you'll sincerely repent, and that you'll recommit to keeping your covenants.  I promise that your love for the Savior will increase, you will feel greater power as His grace strengthens you, you will feel clean, and the Spirit will be your constant companion.  Retaining a remission of your sins is not only necessary to live with God, but the only way to peace, happiness, forgiveness, and joy.   I testify that the Savior lives, he loves us, He has saved us, redeemed us, enabled us through His grace, and will heal us from all we experience in this life.  What a blessing it is to know this for ourselves and teach it everyday.  We love you!

Mission Update

Thanks for all you are doing to invite all to come unto Christ.  At every opportunity please continue to invite all to follow the Savior.  We invite so that men and women will have faith in the Savior and His Atonement, we help them repent, guide them to be baptized for a remission of sins, help them feel and receive of God's love through the gift of the Holy Ghost, and help them endure to the end.  Please desire this for all you come in contact with.  We love you!

President Hall