When Nuria and I were being taught by full-time missionaries in 1982, we were invited to visit the local ward meetinghouse and to attend the Church meetings there. As we arrived on a beautiful Sunday morning, the first two members that we met at Church were two sisters from our Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. That was a pleasant surprise! We then entered the sacrament hall and beheld families talking reverently to each other, as the sacrament meeting was about to begin. There was great love and friendship in evidence among them.
The missionaries then pointed out the bishop in the stand talking with one of his counselors. I knew the bishop, though not as the local leader of the Church, but as a faculty professor of mine, whom I respected as a great physician and individual. Nuria and I loved the service. From that very first day, except for illness, we have always attended Sunday meetings. I had received a spiritual confirmation in my heart that this Church was true and that the will of our Lord Jesus Christ was for us to remain. Shortly thereafter, we were baptized together and began attending sacrament meetings as members of the Lord’s restored Church.
The Sabbath Day
In Mark 2:27 we read, “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” President Russell M. Nelson has taught that this means that the Sabbath day is a gift to us from our Savior, as a day of rest from our weekday labors. It is a day to focus on Jesus Christ and His gospel.1 I have remarked many times that without the commandment to “remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,”2 Sunday would be just another day of work or of leisure for me. That line of thought would not have allowed me to obey this commandment, nor keep all covenants that I’ve entered with our Lord Jesus Christ. I now strive to receive the blessings from obedience and from service opportunities of the Sabbath day.
The Sabbath is clearly a day in which we worship, work, and serve, as our employment circumstances allow. Each one of us has different responsibilities to attend to. Healthcare workers, police, and other vital occupations may be required to work on Sundays. When I was working as a physician, I had to do shifts in the hospital on some Sundays as assigned by the department director. I would go early to the hospital to evaluate the patients admitted under my care dressed in trousers, a white shirt, and a tie. I kept a prayer in my heart and focused on the service that was needed for the attention of our patients. As soon as the work was done, I would go straight to church and meet with my family there for the remainder of the meetings that I was able to join.
I like the focus on Church attendance expressed by a member whom President Dallin H. Oaks quoted in the October 2021 general conference. He said, “Years ago, I changed my attitude about going to church. No longer do I go to church for my sake, but to think of others. I make a point of saying hello to people who sit alone, to welcome visitors, . . . to volunteer for an assignment. . . .
“In short, I go to church each week with the intent of being active, not passive, and making a positive difference in people’s lives.”3
President Spencer W. Kimball’s words were also quoted by President Oaks in that same general conference address, as follows, “we do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility. . . . If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord.”4
What is the significance of the sacrament as we partake of it every week? I like the definition provided in the Guide to the Scriptures, “For Latter-day Saints, sacrament refers to the ordinance of partaking of bread and water in remembrance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The broken bread represents His broken flesh; the water represents the blood that He shed to atone for our sins (1 Cor. 11:23–25, D&C 27:2). When worthy Church members take the sacrament, they promise to take upon them the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. Through this ordinance, Church members renew their baptismal covenants.”5 It is the Lord’s day, and we seek to honor Him by keeping it holy.
Elder Wilford W. Andersen, now an emeritus General Authority Seventy, told me once that the ordinance of enduring to the end is the sacrament. Think about it. It is the only ordinance that we do for ourselves on a weekly basis as we decide if we are worthy to partake of it. Concerning our worthiness, we can counsel with our bishop if we need, as he is authorized to act as a judge in Israel for the members of his ward. Partaking of the sacrament allows us to renew and remember all covenants. It the best way to increase faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Because of increased faith in Him we can repent daily, to remain on the covenant path that leads to salvation and exaltation. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have the power to serve as He would in bringing salvation to others.
Returning to the scripture in Ezekiel 20:20, as President Nelson has indicated, we can be guided in our obedience to the commandments to keep the Sabbath day holy and to worthily partake of the sacrament. We can know what is right when we ponder what sign we give to Jesus Christ by doing this or that activity on a Sunday. It is best to be guided by the Holy Ghost, to submit our will to Jesus Christ as we obey commandments and keep covenants that we have with our Savior. It is a clearer direction as we strive to remain on His covenant path.