20 March 2021

The Atoning Power of Jesus Christ

The ordinance of the Sacrament is an important way for us to receive the Savior's power!

Today we're going to talk about the Atoning Power of Jesus Christ and how His power can be a more significant influence in our lives. In April 2017 General Conference President Nelson gave an incredible talk on this subject called "Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives". I'll just share the following powerful assertion from that talk and invite you to peruse it in more detail later:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with His power, which is available to every earnestly seeking daughter or son of God.

I'd like to focus on just one component of the Savior's gospel, which is indeed filled with His redemptive power. As I read several verses from the scriptures to introduce this topic, I think you'll be surprised by how quickly you are able to orient yourself to these verses, the main character, the setting, and maybe even what book of scripture I'm reading from. I'm about to read several verses and I encourage you to picture everything as vividly as you can, even close your eyes if that helps you.

3 Nephi 18:3-12

3 And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.

4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.

5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.

6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.

7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.

8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.

9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.

10 And when the disciples had done this, [He] said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.

11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.

12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.

Aren't we incredibly fortunate to have the account of the Savior's post-resurrection ministry in the Americas? In it He establishes His church in same manner as he had done previously at Jerusalem. This account of the Savior instituting the ordinance of the Sacrament is very instructive. We learn several things from this specific account that aren't readily apparent from the New Testament accounts of the Savior administering the Sacrament to the Apostles.

In this account we learn that the ordinance of the Sacrament is administered by the aurthority of the priesthood. We learn that to partake of the Sacrament is to bear our testimony to the Father that we always remember Jesus and that we are willing to keep His commandments. Most importantly for us: as we always remember Him, Jesus promises that we will have his Spirit to be with us!

The importance of the companionship of His Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, cannout be overstated! Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave a talk in April 2016 General Conference in which he teaches the following:

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit and bears witness of all truth. In the scriptures, the Holy Ghost is referred to as the Comforter, a teacher, and a revelator. Additionally, the Holy Ghost is a sanctifier who cleanses and burns dross and evil out of human souls as though by fire.

The ordinances of salvation and exaltation administered in the Lord’s restored Church are far more than rituals or symbolic performances. Rather, they constitute authorized channels through which the blessings and powers of heaven can flow into our individual lives.

The ordinances of baptism by immersion, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament are not isolated and discrete events; rather, they are elements in an interrelated and additive pattern of redemptive progress. Each successive ordinance elevates and enlarges our spiritual purpose, desire, and performance. The Father’s plan, the Savior’s Atonement, and the ordinances of the gospel provide the grace we need to press forward and progress line upon line and precept upon precept toward our eternal destiny. ("Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins", David A. Bednar)

Can you see how the ordinance of the Sacrament is filled with the power of Jesus Christ? The bread and water are symbols of his mortal body and blood, sacrificed for us. We covenent that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, and always rememer him, and keep his commandments which he has given us. In doing this we are promised the companionship of His spirit.

The format of our worship services and the administration of the Sacrament has changed in the last several months. Currently, we gather for a broadcast worship service and only after we have had an opening prayer, an opening hymn, gospel-centered talks, a closing hymn, a closing prayer, and a sacrament hymn do we receive the ordinance of the Sacrament.

Though many things are different about the format of our meetings and the settings in which we may partake of the Sacrament, something that has remained unchanged is the actual format of the ordinance itself, along with the wording of the sacrament prayers. Around four-hundred years after the Savior established his Church in the Americas, Moroni recorded the exact words given by Jesus for blessing the bread and water. The priests who bless and administer the Sacrament use those same words today.

I remember as a Priest in the Aaronic priesthood being nervous about saying the prayer for the congregation. My goal was to get through the words quickly and correctly. Sometimes in my haste, or just because of nerves, I made mistakes that required repeating the prayer, which I never looked forward to. I have since come to feel very differently about the scenario of a Sacrament prayer being repeated to correct a simple mistake. I'll introduce this idea with the words of a well-known primary song. I wish we could sing it together, or at least hear the primary children sing it. Maybe you can sing along on the inside as I read the words:

It shouldn't be hard to sit very still
And think about Jesus, his cross on the hill,
And all that he suffered and did for me;
It shouldn't be hard to sit quietly.
It shouldn't be hard, even though I am small,
To think about Jesus, not hard at all. ("To Think About Jesus")

...but sometimes my mind wanders, even during the very prayer in which I should be focusing on the covenant I'm about to make in partaking of the Sacrament. More than once, this has happened during a recitation of a Sacrament prayer that featured a mistake that needed correcting. The second offering of that prayer, for me in the congregation, was a tender mercy, a second chance for me to remember the Savior's sacrifice for my sins. So, to the priest quorum, and any who may help administer the sacrament: even in correction (sometimes especially in correction) the ordinances of the priesthood are filled with the Savior's power.

In our own lives, having to try again and again because of a mistake is sometimes no fun, but, the beauty of the Great Plan of Redemption is that we can try again! We learn in the scriptures that "...as often as my people repent will I forgive them." (Mosiah 26:30)

I'd like to liken what Alma once said when referring to bearers of the priesthood and associated ordinances to the role of Aaronic priesthood holders in preparing, blessing, and passing the Sacrament:

Alma 13:2,16

2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
16 Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.

Everything about the Aaronic priesthood ordinance of the Sacrament and the bearers that administer it can teach us of the Savior's redeeming power. In the most recenet general conference Elder Steven J. Lund shared the experience of his son, a young deacon, who passed away after a battle with cancer. In that talk we learned how his sacrifice to pass the Sacrament, even amid difficult physical challenges, was a heartfelt example of how sacramental symbols point us to Christ.

Bro. Adrián Ochoa, former counselor in the Young Men General Presidency taught what the phrase "preparatory Priesthood" really means:

Dear young men, when you exercise the Aaronic Priesthood in the way I have described, you are preparing yourselves for responsibilities in your future. But you are doing much more than that. Like John the Baptist, that exemplary Aaronic Priesthood holder, you are also preparing the way of the Lord and making His paths straight. When you boldly declare the gospel of repentance and baptism, as John did, you are preparing the people for the coming of the Lord (see Matthew 3:3; D&C 65:1–3; 84:26–28). ("Aaronic Priesthood: Arise and Use the Power of God", By Adrián Ochoa, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency)

Helping to administer the ordinance of the Sacrament certainly counts as boldly declaring the gospel of repentance and baptism. I would even add that receiving the ordinance of the Sacrament also counts as boldly declaring the gospel of repentance and baptism, since we are bearing our testimony to the Father as we renew the covenants we made at baptism. Participating in the ordinance of the Sacrament is one way we prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Just this week in "Come, Follow Me" we studied D&C 27 wherein we are reminding that the Savior will return to once again administer the ordinance of the Sacrament as part of his Second Coming.

In the meantime, there are bound to be meaningful ways for us to better prepare our own offering of a broken heart and contrite spirit. Maybe there's a simple change we can put into place to make it easier to remember him throughout the week. Maybe there's a conversation we need to have with someone or an apology to offer. I'm grateful that even through the pandemic the leaders in our wards and stakes who hold keys over the administration of the Sacrament have authorized us to regularly receive it, even outside of Sacrament meetings. I feel strongly that power from Jesus Christ will flow into our lives through the channel provided by our participation in the ordinance of the Sacrament.

I know my [Savior] lives, and loves [us] too. The Spirit whispers this to me, and tells me it is true. (I Know My Father Lives, by Reid Nibley)