Preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament for such a large crowd was quite the logistical feat, but the dozens of young deacons, teachers and priests who carried out the sacred ordinance did so efficiently and reverently.
After testimonies from two Scouts and a talk by Stephen Owen, Young Men general president, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the attendees. He praised the young men for the “reverence and dignity” they provided for a “very sacred ordinance that’s not easy to administer on a hillside with a couple thousand people.” He went on to say this about the experience:
“After the first day of the Savior appearing to the Nephites in the new world, at the close of that experience he’s ready to leave. They don’t say anything, they don’t verbalize it, but they start to cry. And he can see in their tears that they would like him to stay a little longer. They’re too courteous to intrude or to ask, but their tears speak volumes and he stays. And after blessing them and blessing their children, he introduces the sacrament. He probably would have introduced it another day, but it appears that he didn’t plan to introduce it that day. And I’ve wondered if those people would have missed something special, something virtually eternal, if they hadn’t been longing in their heart for more gospel, more of Him, more of the Savior, more of what they’d felt, more of what they had seen, and as a result they had introduced to them, there right on a hillside, I guess comparable to this, the sacrament in the Nephite world, we assume for the first time.
Now the number was 2,500 people, and we’re at 21 or 2,200. This is the closest I’ve come to having a reenactment of that divine experience, and I invite you to think and consider that it may well be the closest that you’ve come or will come to a gathering of this number, the sacrament administered hillside to hillside, length and breadth, and to reflect on the gift and promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I suppose that will be as indelible in my memory from this Jamboree as any experience I’ve ever had at any Jamboree.”
It was on this sacred ordinance that Elder Holland focused the remainder of his remarks. He told young men, “I’m an Eagle Scout and I am an active deacon, teacher, and priest from my Aaronic Priesthood years, and I’m sure it’s my fault, not my leaders, but I cannot remember a serious lesson directed to me as an Aaronic Priesthood young man about the Atonement. Not the Atonement generally, not the Atonement in seminary, not the Atonement from the pulpit in sacrament meeting or stake conference, I don’t remember a time that I got a lesson nose-to-nose, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball as a deacon or a teacher or a priest about the meaning of the Atonement and what role I was to play in that as a 12-year-old, as a 14-year-old, or as a 16-year-old. I am embarrassed to say that, I’m sure I had that experience, but the fact that I don’t remember it is telling on me, and it may be telling on some of you if you have not yet thought about what it means to administer the emblems of the Lord’s Atonement.”
He told the story of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, administered in the upper room in Jerusalem the night before Christ’s indictment and death. He said, “I ask you to remember this when you pass, deacons, and when you prepare, teachers, and when you bless and administer, priests. I want you to go not only back to the upper room for the initiation of the sacrament per say, with the Savior, that’s wonderful enough, but go back a little further. Go back to the children of Israel in captivity in Egypt.”
After recounting the story of the children of Israel sacrificing lambs 1,400 years earlier so the angel of death would pass over them, Elder Holland testified, “It was those emblems that Christ then took and said all of that 1,400 years of preparation is for this night. All the meaning of all your ancestors and their loyalty to this sacrificial memory, comes to play tonight because I am that lamb and it will be my blood that is shed and it will be my body that represents that unleavened bread.”
After describing the history, he said, “It is my promise that I will never forget the blood of the Lamb and the bread of life. And I want to commit every Boy Scout and adult and latter-day saint, and friends who are joined if you will, I want to invite every one of us to remember that and keep that covenant and remember that we have been set free. We are in bondage, not to an Egyptian pharaoh in this case, but we were in bondage to death and to hell and to sin and to transgression and to problems and depression and discouragement and all kinds of issues,” but, “God has sent redemption. He has sent somebody to make you free, just as literally as if you’d put blood on the doorposts and across the lintel of the door. You’ve been allowed a chance to come home. You’ve been allowed a chance to come into the promised land.
This is the redemption of Israel, except that Israel is now the whole world. It’s the redemption of Israel by the living son of the living God. And I want the sacrament to mean I think more to you than it may have meant to me, though it meant a lot. It meant a lot to me as an Aaronic Priesthood boy, but I want it to mean ever more to you, given the day in which we live and the troubled times we have; I think your days are more difficult than mine were so many years ago.”
Elder Holland said of the sacrament, “There is no ordinance in the Church that compares. We don’t offer temple ordinances for everybody everywhere every week that regularly, we don’t offer any ordinance that repeatedly. This is the most repeated and probably accordingly I think the most significant, because it re-invokes all of our covenants, every covenant we’ve ever made, up to, you adults, including your temple covenants. It re-invokes and recommits everything we are to the Atonement, and we put it in the hands of teenagers.
It is just beyond me. It is just staggering to me that God in his goodness would take the most sacred, repeatable, significant, atoning, remembering ordinance in the Church and put it in the hands of a 12-year-old. Let it be prepared by a 14-year-old. That the sacred prayer and administration of it would be in the hands of a 16-year-old. What does that say about you? What does it say about God’s trust and confidence in you? You need to step up. You need to stiffen your back and square your shoulders and step up. Maybe more than some of us do.”
He concluded with this blessing: “May God bless you that this day might be a turning point for some if it needs to be, if the sacrament can mean something more today than it did last week or the week before or the week before that. God bless you for being who you are and what you are. I’m deeply moved to be here. I’m deeply touched. It brings back wonderful memories for me of my Scouting years and the leaders that I love and experiences like this that they provided. May I be as faithful as I’m asking you to be, to step into the future with a strong back and a square set of shoulders. And we can repeat the Scout Law and the Scout Oath on one hand and we can recite the scriptures of almighty God on the other and in either case we can re-pledge and rededicate ourselves to the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of His church and the restoration of this gospel.”
Author: Maria Milligan | Chief of Staff, Utah National Parks Council, BSA