When we cover the sacrament in our lessons, the focus is usually on the doctrines behind the ordinance. In lesson 6 of the Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith manual those doctrines are found in remembering the atonement and in the covenant made at baptism and renewed by the sacrament.
However, I think there is a bit more to the role of the sacrament and sacrament meetings than these doctrines—social meanings that might be found in the following two poems.
The first of these is from a soldier fighting during World War II. Jeston Jacobson was approaching his 30th birthday when he penned these lines. By the late Spring of 1945 he had returned from the war and met Maurine Meservy, who he married in the Salt Lake Temple in August of that year. Jacobsen was a businessman in Provo, and the couple together raised nine children. They served an LDS mission in Barbados in 1983-84, before he developed dementia. He died in 2001. I have not discovered any other poems that Jacobson wrote.
Testimony Meeting in New Guinea
by S/Sgt. Jeston Jacobson
- I was glad when I saw a sign hanging
- High on a cocoanut tree,
- It told of a Mormon meeting,
- And the time and place it would be.
- Next Sunday our group had assembled
- In a ragged, war-beaten tent.
- Twenty young men who were anxious
- To partake of the sacrament.
- We listened to strong men bearing
- Their testimony of truth.
- Peace was there, on that battlefield,
- In the hearts of those Mormon youth.
- A lad who was wounded in action,
- Who had known long moments of dread,
- Told how after his comrades had left him
- (They’d given him up for dead,)
- He had prayed to the Lord, and he told him
- Of a blessing that hadn’t been filled.
- And that God, who is bound by a promise,
- Sent him back to this mission field.
- He was but one of the many,
- Who rose to their feet that day,
- And our faith grew stronger from hearing
- Those thoughts that they sent our way.
- Now that the war has sent me
- To a distant battlefield,
- My thoughts go back to the battered tent –
- And I have my faith for a shield.
I’m sure this experience was common among LDS servicemen—the discovery of LDS services in odd and exotic locations where they served to tie them back to the broader LDS community and to strengthen them for the trials they would yet face. Yes, Jacobson is suggesting that testimony and faith is a shield, but I think he can also be read as suggesting that taking the sacrament is part of the shield and support that soldiers, and all of us, need.
The next poem is by a more prolific poet. Eva Wanda Willes was born in Lehi in 1893 and married David O. Wangsgaard in the early 1910s. Their only child, Reid, was born in 1916. In addition to her frequent contributions to LDS periodicals, Wangsgaard published four collections of her poetry: Down this Road — which featured an introduction by David O. McKay (1940), After the Blossoming (1946), Within the Root (1949), and Shape of Earth (1959). She passed away in Logan, utah in 1967.
by Eva Willes Wangsgaard
- When you eat brown-crusted bread
- Think of sun and rain;
- But remember, willing backs
- Bent to gather grain.
- When you make the snowy loaf
- Golden-rich with butter,
- Think of milkers in the cold
- Barns where lanterns sputter.
- When the bread is being passed,
- One plate to another,
- Offer thanks that sun-browned hands
- Feed an unknown brother.
I have to admit that Wangsgaard probably didn’t intend a reference to the sacrament when she wrote “When the bread is being passed, / One plate to another,” still, when I read the poem it seemed like it could be read that way. And in the context of the poem’s recognition of the toil that goes into the production of our food (something often ignored in today’s consumer-oriented society), Wangsgaard’s words gain a reference to the toil that our Savior underwent to provide us the atonement and to feed us the bread of life.