“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.” (D&C 59:9)
As I think about other sacrament meetings that I have attended, my mind goes back to a small apartment in France, where my companion and I were authorized by our mission president to hold Sunday meetings for our one and only member and any investigators that we could find. We lived in a sparsely furnished apartment with just two chairs, so we pondered how we could seat more people in our small living room for a sacrament meeting. We finally decided to purchase a few concrete blocks and some long wooden planks, which we fashioned into low benches. It wasn’t great, but it was better than sitting on the floor! That first Sunday, we had four investigators, one member and two missionaries, for a total of seven people in attendance. We sang the hymns of Zion (without a piano or keyboard of course), prayed, administered the sacrament, and shared our testimonies. Each Sunday thereafter, a few more people would show up, until after a few weeks we were averaging some 30-35 people in attendance in our small apartment, and we had to find another location that was more suitable. I will never forget sacrament meetings in those humble surroundings, and I will also never forget the powerful spirit that we felt. Our investigators, some of whom eventually became members of the Church by way of baptism, also felt the power of the Spirit in that small missionary apartment.
The Sabbath day is one of God’s great gifts to His children. It is a powerful tool that helps us as we prepare to return to His presence. This is what President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “Our goal is eternal life in the presence of our Father in Heaven” (General Conference, October 2010, “Till We Meet Again”). Sabbath day worship and the sacrament ordinance help us to “prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32).
This life-long process of journeying back to the presence of the Father is the very essence of God’s plan for His children. But in order to enter back into His presence, we must become clean and pure, like our Heavenly Father, “for no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom” (3 Nephi 27:19). It is through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we are able to become clean enough to return to God’s presence. “But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord (Helaman 14:17).
Unfortunately, as we live day-by-day in the world, we slowly take on the characteristics of the world. In September 1995, when he spoke to the women of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley talked about “tak[ing] on the slow stain of the world.” He then went on to read for the very first time “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
In our day-to-day lives, we see things, we hear things, we say and do things that make us unclean, or in the language of scripture, “spotted.” No matter how hard we try, we are all imperfect. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In other words, we are imperfect people trying to become more perfect. Thus the commandment given by the Savior during his ministry, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48).
The great modern-day revelation on Sabbath day worship is contained in section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
“Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
“But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full” (D&C 59:9-13).
In order to become “unspotted from the world,” we go to our ward or branch meetinghouse and participate in Sabbath day worship, including the ordinance of the sacrament. This opportunity to become clean and pure, or unspotted, is God’s great gift to His children as He helps them to prepare to return to His presence.
As an Area Presidency, we encourage all members of the Church in our area to more faithfully and diligently hallow the Sabbath day. Keep it holy in word and in deed. Go to the house of the Lord and partake of the sacrament. Receive the blessing of becoming more “unspotted from the world.” As we do this, we will gradually, steadily, and surely become more like our Savior, and ultimately be able to return, clean and pure, to our Heavenly Father’s presence. This is the great gift of the Sabbath that has been given us by a loving Father in Heaven.