For the last five weeks, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have remained home from church services. This was decided by our prophet and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and announced on March 12th. There are many elderly who come and just for safety sake, it was better for us to stay home.
It has been quite an adjustment for those who are accustomed to attending meetings every Sunday. One of those adjustments has been taking the sacrament at home.
Our normal schedule for sacrament meeting is an hour long and starts off with a welcome by a church leader at the pulpit, followed by an opening hymn, opening prayer, then a sacrament hymn and the blessing of the sacrament. This consists of a blessing for the broken bread that the youth boys 16 and older do while we are singing the sacrament hymn. This bread then gets passed around on trays by youth boys 12 to 18 for everyone to take a piece. If there are no youth, the men do it. Then there is the blessing of the water in little cups on trays. These also get passed around by the youth boys.
We then have two or three prepared sermons (we call them “talks”) by volunteers from the congregation, a closing song and closing prayer, and then we are done. It’s always uplifting and refills my spirit. Usually once a month, we have a choir number in between the talks; other Sundays we have what is called a “rest hymn” or “intermediate hymn,” which allows us to rest our thoughts while we sing a hymn.
Having a sacrament meeting at home is quite different. Only members of the priesthood can bless the sacrament, so if there are widows, single sisters, or others who do not have a member of the priesthood in their home, some men from the congregation will visit their home to administer the sacrament to them.
My husband can bless the bread and water in our home, so we have been doing so each Sunday. To prepare for this, I brought out one of my good china plates from my grandmother to hold the bread and I use two of my punch bowl cups for the water. I found a white cloth napkin to cover them both and I typed the sacrament prayers on a card so it was easier to read. Whoever blesses the sacrament is required to read the prayer because there is too much of a chance of not getting the words correct if memorized. These prayers are two of the four written prayers we have, and it must be done exactly. (The others are the baptism by immersion and sealings in the temple.)
What I have found surprising as I’ve taken the sacrament from home is that I really missed the time we normally would have to ponder while the bread and water are passed. In our ward (congregation), there is at least a 7- to 10-minute quiet time after each blessing while the sacrament is passed (other than a few babies making noise). I had used that time to think about how I can improve my life, how grateful I am for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, or just regular meditation on spiritual things. But we didn’t have that at home. The bread was broken, blessed, and we ate. The water was blessed and we drank. So I asked my husband if we could have time to ponder in between the blessing of the bread and water.
We did this last Sunday and it worked. That spiritual lift was there. That feeling of renewal and heavenly comfort was felt. It was exactly what I needed. Taking the sacrament is very important for us as members. It’s the real reason we go to church at all. The talks are inspiring and Sunday School is helpful in learning scripture and scriptural principles, but the real reason over millions of members go for that first hour of church is to renew our covenants with the Lord and pray for forgiveness of our sins.
We take the Sacrament to renew the covenants we made at baptism. We take the sacrament that we “….may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son and witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son and always remember Him and keep his commandments which He has given them…” Then the water prayer says “…that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy son…”
After a spiritual discussion between my husband and me, followed by a closing prayer, the plate and card with the prayers are left on our coffee table in the living room throughout the week. Every time I pass through, this small item reminds me of my covenants and what I must do to remember Him. Be a little kinder, help someone in need, remember the good in others — there are many ways.
We won’t be home for church forever, but this small yet important act of taking the sacrament, renewing our covenants, and pondering for a quiet moment helps the rest of the week go well. If it doesn’t go well, it gives me the strength to go on. And that makes all the difference.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.