If I’m being honest, I don’t particularly enjoy passing the sacrament. Of course, it’s a privilege to do it, but I like to spend that time sitting next to my wife. There’s something powerful about taking the sacrament together every week. Nonetheless, my rebellious post-BYU facial hair doesn’t always discourage a desperate deacon from asking for extra hands. I’m happy to help. And sometimes, passing the sacrament offers me a truly unique and humbling experience: It allows me to see when certain individuals don’t take the sacrament. And frankly, I love it when that happens.
Don’t get me wrong
Don’t get me wrong, taking the sacrament every week is important. It’s a commandment. It’s an ordinance. It’s a blessing. But when someone doesn’t take it, I pause.
You’ve probably experience this as well. You pass the tray of broken bread to someone, and they just keep on passing it down the row. The inevitable question pops into your head, “Yikes! What’d they do to not be worthy of the sacrament?!” That’s really a cheap question to ask ourselves. Maybe they just went to an earlier ward, took the sacrament there, and didn’t want to take it twice. But even if they are unworthy of the sacrament, our initial thought should not be, “What did they do?” but rather, “Look what they’re doing.”
Our initial thought should not be, “What did they do?” but rather, “Look what they’re doing.”
Look what they’re doing
For the sake of argument, let’s make the assumption that the initial judgment is correct and they actually aren’t worthy of participating in the sacrament.
Whatever sin they may or may not have committed is irrelevant to you and I. What matters is that, for whatever reason, they’re trying to get back on track.
Most repentance occurs privately. It happens between you, God, and maybe a third party who was affected by the sin. We keep it quiet. Nobody wants their worst self shouted from the rooftops, nor is it necessary.
But when you abstain from the sacrament, you have to accept that people are probably going to notice. It’s not meant to draw public attention to the individual’s repentance process, but the cultural reality is that people are seated on every side of you, and they have eyes. It’s a very real social hurtle that those individuals have to deal with. In an ideal world, maybe it’d be a more private occurrence. But right now, it’s not. You have to assume it’s going to become public knowledge because it happens in a public environment.
So we’ve got an individual who has made a serious mistake, is OK with people knowing it, and is even humble enough to let the public come to their own conclusions about it.
That. Is. So. Incredibly. Brave. When an individual knows the stakes, risks, and pressures, and still decides to publicly abstain from the sacrament, that courage is beautifully real. You and I both probably have experiences in which we’ve been morally convicted to stand alone for what is right. It’s hard to do. But it can be even harder (and all the more powerful) to stand alone when it means admitting you did something wrong.
It means they’re trying
People are always changing. The person you were a year ago is likely not the same person you are today. We’re always evolving, making mistakes, and trying to become more like Christ. I often jokingly mention to my wife that anything stupid I say automatically expires after 45 days and can’t be held against me anymore. It’s a silly rule but the principle behind it is true:
When we see someone not take the sacrament, they’re in transition. They’re leaving behind the person that committed the sin, and they’re throwing themselves at the feet of Christ. If we’re making judgments and assumptions about their sin, we’re judging a person who likely no longer exists. What we can count on, though, is that the person in front of us is fighting tooth and nail to stay on the straight and narrow. They’re looking to be reconciled with God. They’re using the priceless gift of Christ’s atonement.
That’s why I love to see Latter-day Saints not take the sacrament. I feel the spirit. I feel an outpouring of love for that person. It’s not a self-righteous pity. It’s sincere sympathy, gratitude, and hope. I appreciate their conviction. In a culture where church can sometimes turn into a game of “who’s the most perfect?” I crave the raw humility and humanity of these meek members. It’s the gospel in action, and it’s working right before my eyes.
If this article is about you, if you’re the one who let the bread and water pass you by during sacrament meeting, thank you. Thank you for your faith, your determination, and your example. I love that you’re brave enough to not participate in the sacrament. And I can’t wait to pass it down your aisle again and again, until the day finally comes when you can renew your covenants once again.