Thursday, February 12, 2009

Do Good

Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
To all the people you can
As long as ever you can.

John Wesley

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Sacrament

I spoke in Sacrament meeting today. My assigned topic was "The Restoration." Huh? That has to be the most broad topic possible. After lots of reading and pondering and praying, I chose to speak on the restoration of the sacrament and how taking the sacrament restores each of us. Here's the talk:

The restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed all of our lives in many ways. I could spend the rest of this meeting listing those blessings and I would run out of time long before I ran out of blessings. Today, I would like to talk about a few aspects of the restoration that have been a great blessing in my life.

One definition of the word “restoration” is “the giving back of something lost.”

Often, as I read the Book of Mormon, I wonder what a young Joseph Smith (and Oliver Cowdery or whoever was acting as scribe for him at the time) thought as each new and wonderful story and principle came forth through the translation.

For example, when Joseph translated 3rd Nephi and Joseph and Oliver learned of Christ’s visit to the Book of Mormon people, they must have been filled with joy to realize the plain and simple truths that Christ taught the people. I would imagine that their hearts were touched (as mine is) by the description in 3rd Nephi Chapter 18 of Christ teaching the Nephites the principle of the Sacrament. And, I can’t imagine their joy as Joseph translated Moroni 4 and 5 and the actual words of the Nephite sacramental prayers were revealed.

In fact, In June 1829, prior to the revelation of Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the saints used a manuscript in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery as the first known “priesthood handbook.” It contained, among other things, the sacramental prayers from Moroni chapters 4 and 5.

The Book of Mormon became the Lord’s instrument in restoring the form and words of this sacred ordinance. In this way, the Lord renews with us his ancient covenant, made first with the children of Israel, then with the apostles in the upper room the night of Christ’s betrayal, again with the apostles and disciples near the temple in Zarahemla, and finally, with us in these latter days.

There are many definitions of the word covenant, but in most scriptural cases, the word covenant is used to describe a promise that God makes on condition that the other party will faithfully serve him. There are specific covenants that are a part of the sacramental prayers as revealed through the Book of Mormon. These covenants are eternal. They are the same covenants that God has made with His people since the beginning of time.

In the sacrament prayers, we make a promise to partake of the emblems in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ. We covenant to take upon us the name of Christ. We promise to always remember Him and to keep His commandments. The Lord promises that we will have His spirit with us always.

In Exodus, chapter 19:5, just prior to the Lord’s revealing the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, he made a covenant with Israel. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people....” In Exodus 24:7-8, the covenant is completed, “And he [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people; and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.”

When Christ came, in the meridian of time, his ultimate sacrifice for us removed the necessity of using animal sacrifice to look forward to his coming. Christ, Himself, became the “blood of the covenant.”

When Christ instituted the Sacrament in the upper room with his apostles, prior to his crucifixion, he said, using that same ancient covenant, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28) As He instituted the sacrament with his apostles, Christ restored and renewed his ancient covenant with Israel. When Christ blessed the bread and wine in the Book of Mormon, he again renewed the ancient covenant. And, when the sacrament was restored in these latter days, it is that same ancient covenant that we make each week as we partake.

So, again, what is this covenant that is so important that the Lord requires that we make it each week of our lives?

Each week as we take the sacrament, we covenant

to take upon us the name of Christ

to always remember Him, and

to keep His commandments.

The Lord covenants that we will always have His spirit to be with us.

What does it mean when we covenant to take upon us the name of Christ? This phrase is found only in the prayer on the bread. Christ said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (Jn 6:35) “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (Jn 6:50-51)

As we eat and drink the sacrament, we indicate our total acceptance of Christ and his way of life. As we partake, we are symbolically accepting Christ and his teachings into our bodies and our hearts. When we take upon us the name of Christ, we take Him into our hearts and our bodies. We become one with Him. His desires become our desires.

Thus the next promise we make becomes very easy. After we have taken upon us the name of Christ, always remembering Him and His sacrifice for us should come naturally. He has become a part of us.

In Jeremiah 31:34-35, speaking of the last days, the Lord said, “...I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God and they shall be my people....for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

As we take the sacrament, we symbolically take the Lord into our inward parts and write Him in our hearts. When we do that, it automatically follows that we will always remember Him and as we always remember Him and His sacrifice for us, we will keep his commandments, which is the third covenant that we make when we take the sacrament.

What motivates us to keep the commandments?

In the early church, the sacrament was sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. The word Eucharist is usually translated as “thanksgiving.” I love that.

Each time we take the sacrament, we should be filled with thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for the remarkable gift of the atonement in our lives. Where would we be without it? Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, as sinful creatures with no ability to repent, we would be doomed to a life without God, now and eternally. When I think about the atonement and I am filled with gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice for me, I am filled with love for Him.

John said, “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19.)

Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15.)

John also said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 Jn 5:3)

I have found that when I truly take upon me the name of Christ by partaking of the sacrament and writing His name in my inward parts; when I always remember Him and His sacrifice for me, then his commandments are not grievous to me. In fact, with the Psalmist, I can say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:8) Or with Nephi, “Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in rightousness; and I will praise the holy name of my God.” (2 Ne 9:49.)

As we take upon us the name of Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments, the Lord promises that we will always have his spirit to be with us.

After Christ taught the sacrament to his apostles at the last supper, he said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Sprit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:15-21, 26-27)

So, as the Lord keeps his part of the covenant and blesses us with his spirit through the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost helps us to keep our part of the covenant. The Lord does not leave us alone. Through the Holy Ghost, We are able to recognize truth. We are able to remember the commandments of God. We are comforted and find peace. It is the Holy Ghost that makes it possible for us to take His name upon us, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. This is Christ’s grace to us.

The Lord gives us the opportunity to partake of the sacrament each week so that he can bless us with the Holy Ghost to always be with us. This in turn allows us, through His grace, to keep our side of the covenant. As we become “new creatures” by taking His name upon us and becoming sanctified through the Holy Ghost, we are able to always remember Him and keep His commandments.

I know, through the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he restored the complete Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth in these latter days. I am grateful for the restoration of the ordinance of the sacrament which allows me to weekly receive again the grace of Christ through His promise to always be with me. In this way, through His grace, I am restored each week. I am given the opportunity to take His name upon me, to always remember Him, and to keep his commandments.

I’ll close with one of my favorite scriptures from Ephesians.

“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strenghthened with might by his spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19)

May we all have the Lord’s spirit to be with us to strengthen us and help us keep the covenants we make each time we take the sacrament is my prayer.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A great and terrible day

Today was a great and terrible day. It was great because Sean and Brooke and Finny came down from Huntington Beach for the day. Kyle brought Gavin and Parker over. (Whit was in class all day.) We had so much fun playing with the kids. We got out old family pictures and looked at them. That was the great part of the day.

The terrible part was that I got a call late this morning and a dear friend of our family had a stroke this morning about 9:00 a.m. She is still unconscious. We love her and her husband very much. We love her kids and grandkids. We are all praying for her full recovery, but we are also praying "Thy will be done." Sometimes that is so hard. I hope that the Lord's will is the same as mine. I want her to recover fully and be around for many many years. Heavenly Father, if it be thy will, please please bless her to wake up soon and recover fully from any damage the stroke may have caused. Bless her husband and family with peace. Help them to sleep tonight and feel thy tender lovingkindness in their lives over the next few days. Be with all of them. Comfort them.