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How We Taught the New Testament in the Past: Lesson 5: “Born Again”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 16, 2011

Lesson 5: “Born Again”

The current lesson manual seeks “To help class members understand that to receive everlasting life, we must be “born again” and continue to follow Jesus Christ” and takes its illustrations from the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus, and Jesus’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well. This lesson for the 1970-71 Course 18 (for 18-year-olds) Sunday School manual teaches the same principles of “walking in the way of Christ,” but with the illustration of the sacrament.

Renewal and Recommitment

“… whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” (John 4:14.)

As Jesus Saw It

The night before Jesus was crucified he was commemorating the feast of the Passover with his chosen twelve.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:26-28.)

This is how the Savior instituted the sacrament. it was to be “in remembrance.” What does this mean? We “remember” the birthday anniversary of a friend every year and send him cards and gifts. We keep “in remembrance” a departed loved one. How do we keep the Savior in remembrance by partaking of the sacrament?

In Today’s Setting

During World War II President Hugh B. Brown was co-ordinator for LDS servicemen. he tells of an incident that occurred when he was visiting a service base in England, wherein seventy-five out of seventy-six LDS men in the camp turned up at about an hour’s notice to attend a sacrament meeting. (The seventy-sixth man was in the hospital.) President Brown quickly selected men to administer the sacrament, be prepared to speak, lead the singing, play the organ, and so on; and he records that the group sang all four verses of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” without books and from the depths of their souls. particularly inspiring was their full-throated singing of the last verse, “And should we die …,” for these men were fighting a war. Continuing in President Brown’s own words:

Then one of the boys who had been asked to administer the Sacrament knelt at the table, bowed his head and said, “O, God, the Eternal Father;” he paused for what seemed to be a full minute, and then he proceeded with the rest of the blessing on the bread. At the close of that meeting I sought that boy out. I put an arm around his shoulders, and said, “Son, what’s the matter? Why was it so difficult for you to ask the blessing on the bread?” He paused for a moment and said, rather apologetically, “Well, Brother Brown, it isn’t two hours since I was over the continent on a bombing mission. As we started to return, I discovered that my tail assembly was partly shot away; that one of my engines was out; that three of my crew were wounded, and it looked like it was absolutely impossible to reach the shores of England. Brother Brown, up there I remembered Primary and Sunday School, and MIA, and home and church, and up there, when it seemed that all hope was lost, I said, ‘O God, the Eternal Father, please support this plane until we reach a landing field.’ He did just that, and when we landed, I learned of this meeting, and I had to run all the way to get here. I didn’t have time to change my battle dress, and then when I knelt there and again addressed the Lord, I was reminded that I hadn’t stopped to say thanks. Brother Brown, I had to pause a little while to tell God how grateful I was.” [Hugh B. Brown, Eternal Quest (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1956), p. 198.]

Why did the airman pause at this time to thank the Lord? his was a personal prayer. Was this the right time to offer it? What do you suppose he might have told the Lord as well as expressing thanks? In what way was his action “in remembrance” of Jesus? What principle is involved here? to what extent did the sacrament make a difference in the airman’s life? What lesson does this story have for us who take the sacrament weekly without the stimulus of recent salvation from threatened death?

The Master’s Way

When the resurrected Savior appeared on the American continent and he introduced the sacrament to the faithful there, he summarized its purpose in a few words. After the people had partaken he said:

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. (3 Ne. 18:10.)

We take the sacrament in remembrance of the atonement of Jesus Christ, the greatest event in the world’s history. Through that event comes resurrection for all, plus the opportunity for eternal life. But our sacramental remembrance of Jesus is probably more than a mere act of memory. As the Nephites learned, it is a pledging of one’s life, a commitment of the soul. It is a witness to the Father that we will express our remembrance of Jesus in a life of obedience to his commandments.

THE LAW OF SACRIFICE

When our first parents, Adam and Eve, were beginning life together in mortality, the Lord commanded them “that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.” (Moses 5:5.)

After Adam had been obedient to the command of the Lord for some time, an angel of the Lord appeared to Adam and asked:

Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.

wherefore, thou shall do all that thou doest in the name of the son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:6-8.)

The ancient priesthood bearers sacrificed the firstlings of their flocks, a lamb without blemish whose blood was to be shed in the sacrifice. The symbolism pointed men’s thinking forward to the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the Firstborn of God’s spirit children; he was perfect in all respects, hence without blemish; and it was necessary for him to shed his blood in the great atoning sacrifice. The Prophet Joseph smith stated:

Certainly, the shedding of the blood of a beast could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type, or explanation of what was to be offered through the gift of God Himself; and this performance done with an eye looking forward in faith on the power of that great Sacrifice for a remission of sins. (Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 58.]

Animal sacrifice was offered by the Old Testament prophets for the same reason that the sacrament is offered to members today, to point people’s minds to that marvelous event which means so much for all mankind – the atonement of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophets all “had a hope of his [Christ’s] glory many hundred years before his coming.” (Jac. 4:4.)

The story of Abraham preparing to offer Isaac on the sacrificial altar has many parallels with God’s offering of Jesus Christ. Isaac was the righteous son of promise; Isaac was the chosen son because of merit; etc. The episode helped to give these two noble men a greater understanding of the atonement.

Jacob mentions that

… it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son. (Jac. 4:5.)

“BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD”

The statement about Jesus which John the Baptist made to the multitude has deep significance: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29.) The animal sacrifice for the past several thousand years had all pointed people’s thinking to Jesus Christ. now here was the perfect sacrifice – the great Jehovah himself, Jesus Christ – going to John for baptism as his ministry began.

WHO SHOULD PARTAKE

We have already referred to the sacrament being instituted in Palestine and among the Nephites. In April 1830 the Prophet Joseph Smith was commanded of Jesus Christ pertaining to the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. Among other significant instructions Joseph Smith was told: “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” (D&C 20:75.)

It is noted that in his example and instructions to the Jews, Nephites, and Latter-day Saints, the Savior intended the sacrament only for members of his Church. The taking of the sacrament is a renewal of the covenant that was made between the Church member and the Savior at the time of baptism. Jesus explained to the Nephites that one of their number would be ordained to “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.” (3 Ne. 18:5.) He re-emphasized this stipulation after the wine had been passed to the multitude:

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. … (3 Ne. 18:11.)

Nonmembers should be instructed by those who invite them to the meeting that the sacrament is a renewal of the covenant that members of the Church make at baptism. Care should be taken not to give offense on this matter to those who are not members of the Church. The following instruction from the Presiding Bishopric to bishops has this point in mind:

In a recent memorandum to the Presiding Bishopric, the First Presidency states that it is not necessary for bishops to indicate that the Sacrament is to be administered to members of the Church only.

President McKay suggests that occasionally someone give a talk in each ward as to the meaning of the Sacrament prior to its administration, but that to announce publicly that it is for members of the Church only might possibly result in giving offense. [“Announcing Administration of the Sacrament,” The Priesthood Bulletin, September-October 1965, item 4.]

PARTAKERS TO BE WORTHY

Moroni gave a warning pertaining to personal worthiness and the covenants:

See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out. (Morm. 9:29.)

The Apostle Paul reviewed for the Corinthian saints the importance of the sacrament and then reminded them and warned them:

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Cor. 11:26-30.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled:

How long do you suppose a man may partake of this ordinance [sacrament] unworthily and the Lord not withdraw His Spirit from him? How long will he thus trifle with sacred things and the Lord not give him over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption! The Church should know if they are unworthy from time to time to partake, lest the servants of God be forbidden to administer it. Therefore our hearts ought to be humble and we to repent of our sins and put away evil from among us. [Ludlow, Latter-day Prophets Speak, p. 369.]

President Heber J. Grant has explained the proper attitude and spirit each member ought to have as he or she partakes of the sacrament:

Before partaking of this sacrament, our hearts should be pure; our hands should be clean; we should be divested of all enmity toward our associates; we should be at peace with our fellow men; and we should have in our hearts a desire to do the will of our Father and to keep all of His commandments. If we do this, partaking of the sacrament will be a blessing to us and will renew our spiritual strength. [Ibid., p. 369.]

If members of the Church are known to be unworthy, the presiding officers are to inform them that they are not to partake of the sacrament. Those persons whoa re disfellowshipped or excommunicated are not to partake of the sacrament. [General Handbook of Instructions, Nov. 20, 1968, p. 129.] (3 Ne. 18:28-32.)

THE USE OF WATER IN THE SACRAMENT

Wine was used for the sacrament in the first-century Church, whereas now we use water. the change came about in response to a revelation from God.

Early in the month of August, 1830, Newel Knight and his wife called at the home of Joseph Smith, who was then residing in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Neither Newel Knight’s wife nor Joseph’s wife, Emma, had been confirmed members of the Church. It was proposed that the two wives should be confirmed and partake of the sacrament before the Knights had to return. The Prophet Joseph Smith records: “In order to prepare for this I set out to procure some wine for the occasion, but had gone only a short distance when I was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation. …:” [DHC, Vol. 1, p. 106.]

Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.

For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory – remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;

Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth. (D&C 27:1-4.)

THE SACRAMENTAL COMMITMENTS

The sacramental prayers are two of the three established prayers in the Church which are to be given verbatim in our public gatherings. The other prayer is the baptismal prayer. the sacramental prayers are recorded in Moroni 4 and 5 and in D&C 20:77, 79.

The prayers begin by addressing god the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. this is the proper procedure in prayer. (3 Ne. 18:19-20.) The prayer asks God to “bless and sanctify” the bread or wine to the partakers that they may eat and drink in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ (his great atonement) and (1) witness that they are willing to take upon them the name of the Son, 92) always remember him (Jesus), and (3) keep his commandments which he has given them. The Lord promises to the worthy disciple who makes these pledges that the Holy Spirit shall attend him.

BEARING THE NAME OF CHRIST

All mortals are children of God the Eternal Father. It is estimated that there are between three and four billion people on the earth today. Two and three-fourths million people are members of the Church, or about one in every 1,250 people on the earth. Latter-day Saints take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ at baptism. Church members have chosen the Savior as their spiritual leader and thus have become in that sense children of Christ. (Mosiah 5:7.)

Walking in His Steps

If a man announced that he was a Communist, how would you expect him to conduct himself? If a person said that he was a vegetarian, an agnostic, etc., would you expect certain patterns of conduct? In the sacrament, Church members covenant that they are willing to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ. What does this commitment imply? What’s in a name? We are saying that we bear the name of Jesus Christ, accept all the responsibilities that holy adoption implies, and are in fact willing to bear in honor his holy name. That is, we will “always remember him.” President McKay has suggested what this means to us:

Remembrance is the having of what is known consciously before the mind. The promise, then, is that at all times he will bear in mind with gratitude and reverence him whose life was the epitome of purity, kindness, love. Under all conditions, he is to eschew evil, cherish virtue, and supplant hatred with compassion and benevolence. [David O. McKay, Treasures of Life (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book co., 1962), p. 289.]

The Lord reminded his Jewish apostles, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15.) Everyone who worthily partakes of the sacrament commits himself to obedience to God’s laws. To quote President McKay again:

Who can measure the responsibilities of such a covenant? How far-reaching! How comprehensive! It excludes from man’s life, profanity, vulgarity, idleness, enmity, jealousy, drunkenness, dishonesty, hatred, selfishness, and every form of vice. It obligates him to sobriety, to industry. ti kindness, to the performance of every duty in church and state. he binds himself to respect his fellow men, to honor the priesthood, to pay his tithes and offerings, and to consecrate his life to the service of humanity. [Ibid., p. 290.]

FIRST BE RECONCILED

Yes, among other ignoble feelings the covenant excludes enmity. To take the sacrament while bitter or hostile towards a fellow being is to partake unworthily. Jesus put it this way:

Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee –

Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you. (3 Ne. 12:23-24.)

In partaking of the sacrament worthily we must come to him “with full purpose of heart.”

From time to time most of us have need to be reconciled with another person before taking the sacrament. Sometimes we observe the need in others. Eddie did. He was a priest, and was working on a farm for the summer. The father of his employer on occasion worked jointly with his son in harvesting, etc., since they had adjoining farms. Eddie soon found that they were good, honorable, honest, hard-working men. Judging from their material possessions they were successful. Eddie noticed one problem, however. When the work days had been long, hot, and hard, ofttimes their tempers became short. These men would argue over very trivial things and on occasion would become quite heated and sarcastic in their comments to each other.

One Sunday Eddie was administering the sacrament and noticed that neither of these two farmers partook of the sacrament. He recalled that the day before, they had exchanged several unkind words. The following Monday at work, the father said to his son, “Why don’t you bring your wife and children over tonight after your chores and let’s have a bite to eat, visit, and watch TV?” Eddie noticed that through the balance of the week these two men worked well together. The following Sunday they partook of the sacrament and seemed grateful for the privilege.

Eddie concluded from watching these two Melchizedek Priesthood bearers that the sacrament truly meant something to them, that the commitments in the prayer had real meaning for them.

How easy it is to take the sacrament as a matter of course, without even thinking! We are invited to partake so often that we can easily forget the true significance of it. Yet Christ often pointed out the sinfulness of obeying the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit. It is useless to outwardly honor the memory of the Savior if in our hearts we are doing the opposite of that which we are taught. We have made a commitment not to partake of the sacrament until we have tried to settle any outstanding differences with others of God’s children. if we want “his spirit to be with us” we must always try to live up to the spirit of his laws.

It is a precious thing the Lord has given us. We can use it to recommit ourselves to the Savior, or we can use it as meaningless ritual.

JESUS WILL PARTAKE WITH HIS SAINTS

Fortunately most of us are able to partake often of the sacrament. It is a command as well as a great privilege that we should do so. Thereby our covenants are kept fresher in our minds and hearts, and our resolve to honor them is renewed and strengthened. thereby, too, we are enabled to look with hope to that future day of which Jesus spoke:

… For the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni …; and also with Elias …; and also John …; and also Elijah …; and also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham …; and also with Michael, or Adam …; and also with Peter, and James, and John …; and also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. *(D&C 27:5-7, 9-12, 14.)

May we be worthy to be participants on that great occasion.



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