Smiling Eyes and the Divine Gift of Comfort…

Partaking of the sacrament, the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood, has always been a special time for me. The sacrament, instituted by the Savior Jesus Christ at His Last Supper, is referred to in various ways throughout Christianity, including holy communion or eucharist. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we receive these consecrated emblems during a gathering we call sacrament meeting. As a very small child I remember well looking at this bread and water (some use wine) and trying to figure out exactly how this relates to the body and blood of Jesus, but I did not understand. What I did know was that it made me want to do good, to be good, and made me feel close to my Heavenly Father and His Son. I have always felt a certain and special comfort when partaking, and desire still to feel close to my Lord.

“The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci

It is good to have comfort. There is a sweet peace in feeling that everything is going to be all right, that there will be calm after storms, peace after war, and joy following sorrow. This comforting peace can come in the most chaotic moments, or small moments that may cause discomfort or fear in the simplest things. New activities can be exciting, but they can also be the cause of anxiety and nervousness. I felt that very way when I was twelve years old, had the Aaronic Priesthood conferred upon me, and was ordained to the office of deacon.

One of the most notable duties of a deacon in the church is to provide delivery, under the direction of the bishop, to each congregant during sacrament service. The room is divided into quadrants, and after the bread is broken, and the bread and water are blessed by priests, the deacons take trays of bread and little cups of water to each individual in their assigned quadrant desiring to receive. This service is provided with the greatest of reverence, soft walking, with deliberate action to provide the opportunity for others to partake and receive the comfort that comes with renewing covenants, taking upon ourselves again the name of Jesus Christ.

As a young deacon, I can tell you that there was stress involved in feeling like I was doing this just right. While smiling and kindly eyes were of course appropriate mannerisms, giggling or other distracting behaviors were certainly out of order. I was twelve, it was not always easy to be the well mannered young man expected of me. Nevertheless, I strived, and I felt the comfort of the Lord.

Traditionally, everybody in the room during these sacred moments, attempt to be reverent and minimalist in any communication so as not to distract. In the Sanger Ward of my youth though, there was this one sister different from the rest. Her name was Ione Hansome (1919-99). She in her earlier years had been a teacher of journalism and history of some renown for Reedley and Sanger High Schools, boisterous and grateful in her demeanor. Everyone knew Sister Hansome. She made an impression always, on this twelve-year-old boy included. She would occasionally speak to the congregation from the pulpit, sharing stories and witnessing of her belief in God. One such Sunday, while she was addressing the congregation, a large earthquake shook the chapel in Sanger. I think that everybody felt she also made an impression on the Lord. She was a good and powerful woman.

Sister Ione Hansome, circa 1953

It was my duty each Sunday to hold the tray for Sister Hansome to partake. While most parishioners would sit silent during the passing of the sacrament, making only small kindly eye contact if any, she would with some volume, but not irreverence, look me in the eye and say, “Thank you.” I honestly did not know what to say or do. I was not accustomed to anyone saying anything other than the prescribed sacrament prayers during that time. At first, I just moved on to the next person, but as the weeks and months went on, serving her every Sunday and hearing her “Thank you,” I came to feel her gratitude from the comfort she received in partaking of that which the Lord had provided. I, with smiling eyes, would acknowledge her grace, and only then would I move on. I miss Ione Hansome and feel comfort still in her inspired vocal gratitude. Thank your Sister Hansome.

Much has been said of the event we have come to know as the Last Supper, where the Lord instituted His sacrament. There was so much said and done, so much that the Lord taught, that anything I write here would be incomplete, but I would like to focus on the statement of the Lord from John 14:18, “I will not leave you comfortless.”

It is with a deep and abiding love that He gave us comfort through the Holy Spirit. The following scriptures I call the Twin Scriptures of the Mission of the Holy Ghost. It is so important that we understand the mission of God’s Spirit so that we can use Him to benefit our lives as well as the lives of those with whom we wish to share the gospel or to help overcome difficulties in their own lives.

In John 15:26 we read, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me.” This scripture shows as the primary mission of the Holy Ghost the testifying of Christ. There is no more important purpose for the Holy Ghost than that of being a witness of the Savior and His divine mission, the infinite atonement. That is why when we humbly partake of the sacred emblems of the sacrament, we can feel His peace and Spirit. He is there testifying of the divinity of Christ and of the importance of the covenants we have made and renew in Him.

“Jesus Institutes the Sacrament” by Gary E. Smith

An important follow up to this scripture in understanding the mission of God’s Spirit is found in John 14:26 where we read, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

The Comforter is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that He would not leave us comfortless. He is sent by the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and tasked with the responsibility to teach us all truth, and to remind us of those things that we have already learned but of which we need reminding still. I find that I need to be reminded often, and I am grateful to the Lord for His gift of love, the Holy Ghost, that I may learn and remember truth, but most grateful to know the Savior, His mission and His love.

During the five years that I served as bishop of the Gettysburg Ward, it was my responsibility to oversee and to authorize the blessing and distribution of those sacred emblems we call the sacrament. I found sweet peaceful comfort as young Aaronic Priesthood holders would bring to me and others with sacred trust those tokens of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. I will never forget the kind eyes of young Izaac as he weekly provided me with this cherished blessing. With my eyes and smile I conveyed a heartfelt if not verbal thank you in return.

For a time Covid restricted those young deacons from the opportunity to fulfill their divinely appointed assignments. Since then, and being able now to receive as once before, I am increasingly grateful for the opportunity to partake and to renew, but now as young Jack extends the tray to my reach each Sunday, I look into his eyes, understanding and valuing evermore, and say with humble gratitude, “Thank you.” I am not so audible as the unforgettable Sister Handsome, but to Jack’s ears he can hear me. I could tell that at first he did not quite know what to do, but now with smiling eyes he acknowledges my gratitude before moving on. As with Sister Hansome and I, with Izaac and our Lord, this is a blessing which we share together. In these things I find ultimate comfort.

“In Remembrance of Me” by Walter Rane

The Lord has not left us comfortless. We find comfort in one another as in His name we serve and receive with grace. We find comfort in the Lord as we welcome and enlist His Holy Spirit on our behalf. We feel the witness of His Spirit when we partake and renew. During His last and continuing suppers He has taught us these things. May we look to the Lord for all truth, for forgiveness of our sins, for grace and for peace, through the divine gift of comfort, the gift of the Holy Ghost. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.