In the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, we learn that the Savior Jesus Christ observed the Passover with His disciples, instituted the ordinance of the sacrament, and “when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) where, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He suffered for the sins of all mankind. 1
As latter-day disciples of Jesus Christ, each Sabbath we commemorate His atoning sacrifice through the ordinance of the sacrament. Like the disciples of old, each of us in our sacrament meetings are invited to “watch,” “tarry,” and “pray” with the Savior for “an hour” 2 as we remember Him and all that He has done on our behalf. Like the Savior, we too can prepare for this sacred time by singing and contemplating hymns, especially those that teach us about His divine role as our Redeemer.
Elder Peter F. Meurs of the Seventy has taught, “The sacrament hymn is an especially important part of our sacrament experience. Music elevates our thoughts and feelings. The sacrament hymn has even greater influence when we focus on the words and the powerful doctrine taught. We learn much from words such as ‘Bruised, broken, torn for us,’ ‘Let us remember and be sure our hearts and hands are clean and pure,’ and ‘Where justice, love, and mercy meet in harmony divine!’
“As we sing a hymn in preparation to partake of the emblems, the words can become part of our covenant commitment. Consider, for example: ‘We love thee, Lord; our hearts are full. We’ll walk thy chosen way.’”3
Our hymnal contains many beautiful hymns that specifically reference the Savior, His Atonement, and the ordinance of the sacrament. At the bottom of each hymn, scriptural references can be found through which the underlying doctrine can be further explored and studied.
Through singing these hymns with our hearts, minds, as well as our voices, and through contemplating the wonderful doctrine expressed, we allow ourselves to be filled with gratitude, love, and peace through the power of the Holy Ghost.
A few years ago, I attended a sacrament meeting with a mind troubled by the challenges and worries of the day. When the sacrament hymn commenced, together with the congregation I sang and thought about the following words:
In humility, our Savior,
Grant thy Spirit here, we pray,
As we bless the bread and water
In thy name this holy day.
Let me not forget, O Savior,
Thou didst bleed and die for me
When thy heart was stilled and broken
On the cross at Calvary.
Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving;
Teach us tolerance and love.
Let our prayers find access to thee
In thy holy courts above.
Then, when we have proven worthy
Of thy sacrifice divine,
Lord, let us regain thy presence;
Let thy glory round us shine. 4
As I began to sing, I felt the need and desire to repent and to be humble. This was followed by a vivid understanding of the symbolism behind the emblems of the sacrament and that the Savior sacrificed Himself for me. I became acutely aware that His stilled and broken heart made it possible for my heart to be filled with forgiving, tolerance, and love; and that through His grace I may one day be worthy to be in His presence. At the conclusion of the hymn, my mind was at peace and my heart was full of joy and gratitude for the challenges and opportunities encountered in life. I was ready to partake of the sacrament.
Each week as we prepare to partake of the sacrament, may we:
ponder the words of the sacrament hymn and be attentive to promptings to act,
take time to read the scriptural references associated with the hymn and study the underlying doctrine,
sing the hymn with our heart, mind, and voice, and
remember the Savior’s invitation to us to tarry, watch, and pray with Him each sacrament service
As we do so, we will discover greater peace, love, joy, and confidence through the gospel and greater meaning to our weekly sacrament experience.