Among highlights of the Tabernacle Choir's tour to the Holy Land Dec. 26-Jan. 6 were two sacrament meetings. The first was held within hours after the choir arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, Dec. 27; the second meeting was on Jan. 2, a Saturday, which is the traditional day of worship for Jews and many Christians in the Holy Land.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Seventy addressed the Dec. 27 sacrament meeting in the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, located on Mount Scopus near the Mount of Olives. The Jan. 2 meeting was addressed also by Elder Holland and by Elder James E. Faust of the Council of the Twelve, who arrived in Israel on Dec. 28 and attended all the choir's concerts. Sisters Ruth Faust and Patricia Holland bore their testimonies. The Jan. 2 meeting was held in a hotel ballroom in Tiberias by the Sea of Galilee.In his remarks Dec. 27, Elder Holland said to the 303 choir members: "Perhaps we cannot know the full measure of God's miracle of which you are now a part. You are part of a vision. I mean that literally." Elder Holland recounted the beginning of an LDS presence in the Holy Land when, in 1840, Orson Hyde "saw opening before him the journey to the great cities of the world: to New York, to London, to Amsterdam, to Constantinople, to Jerusalem."
Elder Holland quoted from Elder Hyde's record of the vision he received: " `A voice came to me, saying, Here are many of the children of Abraham, whom I will gather to the land that I gave to their fathers. And here also is the field of your labors. Go ye forth to the cities which have been shown you and declare these words unto Judah. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.'
"I pray with all my heart," Elder Holland told the choir members, "that you will understand what I think that means for you. Never in the history of this dispensation - not ever - not since 1820, not since 1830, not since 1840, not until 1992, has the Church collectively been able to say anything so powerfully and so directly in Jerusalem. Here is the Tabernacle Choir `to speak comfortably to Jerusalem. . . .' "
Elder Holland continued: "Elder Hyde's 1840-41 journey is still to this hour and to this day, one of the most remarkable missions ever undertaken in the history of the Church. And this lone man came here as a result of this vision in which I believe with all my heart you are part."
In the Jan. 2 sacrament meeting, Elder Faust noted he was traveling with the choir for the first time. "I didn't realize how hard you work," he observed. He reviewed how the choir tour to Israel came about, recounting that Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek extended an invitation through President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve last February when he and Elder Faust were visiting in Israel. (See Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 issues of Church News.)
Of traveling with the choir and attending its concerts, Elder Faust said: "We've had our souls subdued and our spirits lifted by being with you. . . . The end of the good you've done will never come."
Elder Faust referred to some of the events from the Savior's life and ministry that transpired in the vicinity where choir members and their guests - including nearly 300 family members and friends traveling with them - were assembled. Elder Faust pointed in the direction of the Sea of Galilee, just yards away from the hotel where the meeting was being held, and said, "It was here, in this area, that the Savior called three of His 12 apostles [Peter, James and JohnT." Elder Faust then quoted from Luke 5:1-6, 11, and then bore his testimony, saying he did so with the same authority as that of Peter, James and John.
Elder Holland pointed out that the sacrament meeting in Tiberias was being held only a few miles from Capernaum, where the Savior gave the greatest sermon ever given on the sacrament, the sermon on the "bread of life," which marked the beginning of the "hard doctrine" that caused many of His disciples to turn away from Him. Elder Holland quoted extensively from the 6th chapter of John, which contains an account of Jesus feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes.
He noted that meals were provided for disciples who faithfully came to hear the gospel. "Out of the generosity of His heart, fish and bread had been provided," Elder Holland said. "But to those who came the next day simply looking for a meal, He said that was not the kind of meal He provided. He said, `I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; he that believeth on me shall never thirst.' (John 6:35.)
"Meals sustain and provide a purpose, but the spirit quickeneth. . . . It was on this hillside, surrounding this sea, on an experience, perhaps not [the SabbathT but a sacramental experience like the one you had, where came the beginning of the end. . . . It was in that experience, with that group, partaking of the bread of life that Christ began the journey with some offense, even to some of His closest disciples, that would take Him to Gethsemane and to Calgary. It was the beginning of the preaching of the hard doctrine. The irony is that the hard doctrine was about the sacrament, the bread of life and the living water, about which some of His closest associates said, `This is a hard saying,' and they went away.
"God bless us who have the privilege to take the sacrament where that sermon was given, that we will never go away and will, indeed, like Peter, declare there is nowhere else to go (John 6:68), however hard it gets, however difficult the sayings are, there is nowhere else to go . . . there is only one source of living bread, and there is only one source of the living water."