A screaming contest is in session a room or two away from where I am writing today. My wife and two daughters are its participants. I’m not sure why or how this got started, but the laughter following each attempt tells me it is all in good fun.
Of the Church’s young adults, President Russell M. Nelson said, “Our Heavenly Father has reserved many of His most noble spirits—perhaps, I might say, His finest team—for this final phase. Those noble spirits—those finest players, those heroes—are you!”
We are seeing that more clearly each day. This week was fast and testimony meeting during our sacrament hour. We joined faith on behalf of those in need at this time. It was one of those meetings that you wish had been recorded for future reference. The testimonies borne and the spirit in our midst were memorable. Wouldn’t it be great if you could capture these kinds of sentiments and emotions for later on? You can. It has already been done and is literally at your fingertips.
The hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do that very thing—they document our faith, testimony, and gospel perspective that invites the Spirit and warms the heart. Let’s take, for example, the church meeting I attended today. (Although it could be any sacrament meeting; this is just an example.)
Opening Hymn: #139 – In Fasting We Approach Thee
|1. In fasting we approach thee here
And pray thy Spirit from above
Will cleanse our hearts, cast out our fear,
And fill our hunger with thy love.
3. And may our fast fill us with care
|2. Thru this small sacrifice, may we
Recall that strength and life each day
Are sacred blessings sent from thee—
Fill us with gratitude, we pray.
4. This fast, dear Father, sanctify—
When I first began singing the words, I thought of Jesus Christ and how much the lyrics of this song remind me of a sacrament hymn. I did my best to carry the tune and deliver a performance worthy of the words I was reading. My wife, who has a beautiful voice, helped me follow her marvelous lead.
After the opening prayer and a warm welcome, the bishop announced the sacrament hymn, and members of the Aaronic priesthood began preparing the emblems of the sacrament. This is perhaps the most significant ordinance in our church and definitely the most frequent. To me it is remarkable that we can enjoy it often and benefit greatly from the young men who are called to administer it, these emblems of the Lord’s Supper. While they prepare to do so, the congregation sings a special hymn in remembrance of the Savior and His sacrifice on our behalf. Our appreciation for Him and willingness to keep His commandments is expressed. We use the terminology “sacrament hymn” for this special song.
Sacrament Hymn: #184 – Upon the Cross of Calvary
|1. Upon the cross of Calvary
They crucified our Lord
And sealed with blood the sacrifice
That sanctified his word.
3. Upon the cross our Savior died,
|2. Upon the cross he meekly died
For all mankind to see
That death unlocks the passageway
As the notes come to a close, we return the hymnals to the holders in the back of the pews and the ordinance continues with prayer (there are two: one for the bread and, after that is passed, one for the water). A young priest kneels at the sacrament table and repeats the words of the blessing on the bread, and then deacons pass these emblems to the members of the Church in attendance.
A similar sacrament prayer is offered for the water, and the cups of water are passed to the reverent congregation. This responsibility of the sacrament administration is shouldered by the Aaronic Priesthood mostly, who deliver the sacrament to members nearly every week.
By participating in this weekly ordinance, the members of the congregation testify of Jesus Christ and His gospel, and recommit to their covenant made at baptism. Then the testimony-bearing portion of the meeting commences. Members of the congregation stand and witness of Jesus Christ and His gospel. The sentiments expressed are frequently moving and wonderful. Often those in the congregation cry tears of joy and appreciation for the Savior and the many blessings available through Him. Both the young and the elderly participate. This opportunity to bear testimony involves all in the congregation and consumes the remaining portion of the meeting. Yet once again, we sing a closing hymn prior to the benediction.
Closing Hymn: #139 – Because I Have Been Given Much
|1. Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great bounty, Lord each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see,
who has the need of help from me.
2. Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care…
3. Because I have been blessed by thy great love dear Lord,
I literally could have picked any sacrament meeting as an example for this article. The songs, which we call hymns because of their spiritual nature, permeate the meeting from the beginning to the end. They give us an opportunity to learn, to worship, to praise and acknowledge our Father in Heaven and the Savior Jesus Christ.
These special meetings inspire and motivate us through the challenges we are sure to face in the coming week. (We have hymns about that as well!)
Maybe you, like me, struggle to keep up with all your responsibilities. I find myself needing help on occasion. Each week I am able to reset and try again to do my best.
God accomplishes His work through small and simple things. There are many resources of spiritual uplift and growth. And though I fall short at times, my best is all He asks of me.
Something tells me that is just the way He planned it.
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy . . .
About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.