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Pacific Ponderings

Life Without the Sacrament: Like a Sky Without Stars

“Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!"[1]

In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson invites us to imagine how we would feel if the stars appeared only once in a thousand years.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."[2]

I mentioned this quote to our campus stake presidents and Area Seventy as we counseled together about whether or not to continue to hold small sacrament services on campus. Life without the sacrament would be like the sky without stars, but hopefully its renewal will be remembered with joy for many generations.

We collectively wrung our hands as we considered whether or not to allow single sisters in the Hales to continue to receive the sacrament from ministering priesthood holders. In light of the island-wide “Stay At Home / Work From Home” order forbidding “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household,” the decision seemed clear to me. Students should not be passing the sacrament to anyone outside their own apartments.

We know our students want to bless others and love you for your righteous desires. But we have read too many sad stories of tight-knit religious communities in South Korea, New York, and Arkansas who had become infected. And just yesterday I learned about another such case in Skagit County, Washington, where 45 members out of 60 who attended a church choir practice on March 10 have now come down with the virus. Several are hospitalized; two have died. And this despite administering hand sanitizer and trying to observe social distancing at the choir practice.

So, as I said, the decision to cancel sacrament services in the Hales outside one’s own roommates was clear to me. But it was nonetheless very painful for the campus stake presidents and me. We know how much the ordinance means to the students who will be without it.

The sacrament is a precious privilege. It provides welcome weekly spiritual uplift. It strengthens us. It invites us to repent and to feel forgiven. It keeps us on the covenant path. It re-centers us on Christ. So we felt saddened that so many on campus will be without this privilege temporarily.

We hope and pray that students in our YSA wards will enjoy memorable, spiritually-enriching virtual gatherings on Sundays during this hiatus. We also hope that the absence of the sacrament for this season will greatly increase appreciation for it when we assemble in sweet communion again. May those who have been without the Lord’s Supper during the pandemic never partake of the sacrament casually again. May its return be like the appearance of the stars for those who only rarely see “these envoys of beauty” that “light the universe”—an occasion giving rise to profound belief and adoration.

[1] “The Starlight Night,” Gerard Manley Hopkins.

[2] “Nature,” Ch. 1, Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: New American Library), 188.