“How to Always Have the Spirit,” For the Strength of Youth, Mar. 2021, 26–29.
When I was 12 years old, I went with my family to visit the Church history sites in upstate New York, USA. In the Sacred Grove, I remember pondering about the First Vision and the other amazing visions Joseph saw and thinking, “Wow! if I would have an amazing spiritual encounter with heavenly beings like Joseph did, my life would be set.”
I have since learned that rather than a big spiritual encounter once in my life, I need little experiences often to keep me strong in my testimony and safely on the path back home. Heavenly Father knew that we would need regular guidance in our lives, and He prepared the way for us to receive it.
For all those who have enough faith in His Son to repent and be baptized, He gives the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through the weekly ordinance of the sacrament, He provides us the possibility to “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” if we remember the Savior and keep His commandments (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). This makes it possible for us to access the daily guidance of the Spirit in our lives as we use our agency to make decisions that will help us along the path back to Heavenly Father.
Heavenly Father knew we would need regular access to the guidance of His Spirit, not just big one-time experiences. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, He restored the ordinance of baptism by immersion, which helps us become clean. We are then prepared to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by confirmation, giving us the possibility of daily guidance by the Spirit.
Heavenly Father knew that becoming clean once would not be enough and that we would need to remember the Savior and become clean again and again in order to keep the Spirit always with us. He restored the ordinance of the sacrament for that purpose. If we carefully prepare for and regularly partake of the sacrament, we are promised that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77; emphasis added).
However, just showing up to Church and eating the bread and drinking the water will not permit us to access the Lord’s promise. Our intentional preparation for the ordinance enables us to receive the Savior’s power in our lives.
Athletes do not become proficient by just putting on a uniform or walking onto the court or the playing field. They must train their bodies, learn the techniques, and practice in order to become proficient in their sport. Similarly, we must learn how to prepare to partake of the sacrament reverently and worthily so that we can receive the power that He can give us.
One way to prepare your heart and spirit to partake of the sacrament is to conduct a small interview with yourself each week. I like to use Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 to interview myself. This verse contains the requirements for baptism that God revealed to the Prophet Joseph. It contains the qualifications that all who want to be baptized must meet. I find that it helps me to prepare myself to receive the renewing promises available through the sacrament.
Using that scripture as my guide, here are some of the questions I ask myself to see if I am prepared to partake of the sacrament.
The first requirement listed in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 is to humble oneself before God. We do this by accepting and being willing to follow His will as it is written in the scriptures, taught by His servants, or as it comes to us in promptings.
I ask myself if I am fighting God on anything in my life right now. Am I resisting His direction? Am I attentive to the teachings of His servants? If I am not, I make plans to improve and commit to do better as I prepare to partake of the sacrament. God is all-knowing—when I recognize that He can see the big picture for my life, it’s easier to humble myself before Him and trust that He will guide me to what is best.
Having a broken heart and a contrite spirit is related to humility. It means being willing to submit to God’s will. To be humble means to say we’re sorry and to forgive even when it’s hard or when we may feel others were in the wrong. Can you say, “My heart is right with everyone”? Have you hurt anyone around you, or do you have bad feelings about someone? Do you need to ask for forgiveness?
When I have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, I am willing to make an effort to make things right with God and those around me. I try to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings towards others. The Spirit doesn’t dwell with us when we have contentious feelings, so getting rid of them is an important step in preparing ourselves to receive the promise of the sacrament.
Another requirement in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 is to “truly repent of all our sins.” When we were baptized, we were washed clean of our sins. We made a promise to try to keep God’s commandments and repent when we make mistakes.
I ask myself, “Am I just taking the sacrament because I think I should, or do I really want to become clean again?” I look back at my sins and errors from that week and ask myself if I truly want to change and get rid of them. As you have the desire to become clean, you’ll see, by the Spirit, things you need to improve, and He will continue to prompt you to repent and make better choices.
Confession to the Lord (and to others we may have harmed or offended if necessary) is part of our preparation.
Ask yourself, “Is there something I need to change that I haven’t yet? Is there something I still need to repent of?” Resolving issues through sincere repentance can qualify us to worthily partake of the sacrament.
Each covenant we make signifies a commitment to take Christ’s name more fully upon us. When we are baptized, we show our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and keep His commandments. When we make additional covenants in the temple or accept callings, we further take upon ourselves Christ’s cause and His teachings. Showing our willingness to take upon ourselves His name as part of the sacrament each week means recommitting to all of the covenants and commitments we have previously made with Him.
In evaluating my preparation to take the sacrament, I ask myself questions such as: “Am I doing the best I can to be an example of Christ and His teachings? Am I keeping all the promises I made associated with my covenants? Am I as committed today to Christ and my covenants with Him as I was on the day I first made them?”
We promised the Lord when we made our baptismal covenants that we would strive to keep His commandments. The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord and to love your neighbor (see Matthew 22:36–40). We demonstrate our love to both God and our fellowmen by serving them.
I ask myself, “Do I make time to serve? Am I reluctant to serve, or am I happy to serve?” “Am I trying to magnify my calling?” Serving others is a wonderful way to prepare to partake of the sacrament. In fact, it is most often in serving others that we need the guidance of the Spirit.
As we intentionally prepare each week to worthily take the sacrament, we will qualify to always have the Spirit to influence and guide our lives. That’s a promise from the Lord.