Confounded

Several weeks ago in Sunday School, we were discussing the sacrament in context of 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. I’d like to be non-critical, but the discussion was pretty much the same doctrines I have come to loath (not the people, the doctrines). With the topic (and time) winding down, I offered that while all that was shared to that point was consistent with 100 years of conference talks, there was an entirely different perspective, which included:

  • that the sacrament is a higher ordinance than baptism, which is the reason why baptism is required in scripture prior to partaking;
  • one should be worthy to make a covenant by repenting and being forgiven prior to partaking the sacrament; and
  • one should begin preparing immediately.

That was as far as I dared go, as it was clearly agitating to many. I was nervous when one of the Stake Presidency raised his hand to respond. I was surprised when he supported the idea of preparing in advance, and shared a story about how intently he prepared for baptism, but had never done that kind of preparation for the sacrament.

Last weekend was stake conference. Several individuals were assigned to talk about the sacrament and several more with different topics piled on teaching that we should prepare all week for “the most holy hour of the week.” Coincidence?

Now, I’m grateful that there is the change in focus from using the sacrament to repent, to preparing in advance (though I do not remember hearing it mentioned that this preparation should specifically include repentance; it was at least implied).

So, perhaps there was a nudge. Even so, I regret that other perhaps-more-important concepts were not similarly nudged. Worse, I find myself wincing at the idea of sacrament meeting being the most holy hour of the week. Is this a misinterpretation of the quote, “The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church?” We will have to allow that “the Church (the institution)” in this quote may not intend to include what is happening “among the church (the membership or body of Christ).” Do those who say such things really intend to thus denigrate personal revelation — communing with God, or is it simply a statement that since there is so little personal revelation among us, sacrament meeting is as good as it gets? If the latter, we as a church may be spiritually dead.

I believe that at the root of this we find a difference in perspective regarding the importance of sacred ritual. While few would say that the sacrament is a check-off box (though many comments make it sound like the speaker believes this to be the case), it does seem that within the LDS environment that sacred rituals are the de facto measure of righteousness (“the covenant path”). But, what if these sacred rituals are the lesser law — “the law of performances?” What if rituals are things we do in order to learn the things we need to be? While essential, what if participating in these ordinances is not the intended fulfillment of the law any more than putting on a ring makes one a righteous and supportive spouse or receiving a drivers license makes one a safe and responsible driver?

Note: …perhaps a focus for the chapter of ordinances?

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