Or do we?
When I was a teacher at the Provo Missionary Training Center, I would read the sacrament prayers often with the missionaries. At least once during their 8-week stay, after agreeing upon the covenant as mentioned above, I would inquire how long the missionaries kept all of the commandments after they took the sacrament on any given week. Most often, we would agree that we usually didn't get through an entire day, sometimes not even out of church, without having some undisciplined thought or saying something regretful or doing something inconsistent with the commandments we had covenanted to keep. We agreed that our failure to keep the commandments could potentially break the agreement we had made, making our covenant void.
At this conclusion, I would challenge the missionaries with a question: "If, in reality, we don't always keep the commandments, and that jeopardizes the validity of our covenant," I'd ask, "what happens if I die on a Thursday?"
With some back-and-forth discussion, the missionaries insisting repentance overrides all individual shortfalls and me asking for evidence from the verse, one or more of the missionaries would always stumble upon a most interesting word in D&C 20:77. "It doesn't say that we'll always keep the commandments," they'd say, "but that we we will be willing to take upon us the name of Christ, willing to always remember Him and willing to always keep the commandments." We'd conclude that a willing attitude is a key to keeping our covenants. We may not always keep every commandment, but as long as we press forward and are always willing to keep them, we are keeping our covenant-- and that is something we can do from Sunday to Thursday to Sunday and on again from week to week.
Something that I didn't realize well enough to share with my missionaries was the way the sacrament prayers work together. The prayer over the bread does indeed emphasize willingness. It says that as we eat the bread in remembrance of the body of Christ, we witness that we are, "willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keeps his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them." If we are truly willing, we may have his Spirit with us always.
The prayer over the water, however, is not about willingness. It is not about trying, it is about doing-- but the requirements are slightly different. As we drink in remembrance of the Savior's atoning blood, we witness, "that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them."
First, we agree to be willing, to keep trying, and to press forward. Then, we agree that we will always remember our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Knowing how to always remember Him is a point of such importance that it has merited three talks from living apostles with nearly identical titles. In a 2009 address from Elder D. Todd Christofferson, we learn that three aspects of always remembering Christ include seeking to know and follow His will; recognizing and accepting our obligation to answer to Christ for every thought, word, and action; and living with faith and without fear so that we can always look to the Savior for the help we need.
Elder Oaks provided more examples of how we can always remember Him in an address given in 1988. Some of those examples include serving as called, forgiving others, receiving ordinances, enduring affliction, ministering to the sick and afflicted, and loving our neighbors.
In his 1999 CES fireside address, then-Elder Eyring taught:
The Master not only foresees perfectly the growing power of the opposing forces but also knows what it is like to be mortal. He knows what it is like to have the cares of life press upon us. He knows that we are to eat bread by the sweat of our brows and of the cares, concerns, and even sorrows that come from the command to bring children to the earth. And He knows that both the trials we face and our human powers to deal with them ebb and flow.
He knows the mistake we can so easily make: to underestimate the forces working for us and to rely too much on our human powers. And so He offers us the covenant to “always remember Him” and the warning to “pray always” so that we will place our reliance on Him, our only safety. It is not hard to know what to do. The very difficulty of remembering always and praying always is a needed spur to try harder. The danger lies in delay or drift.
If we are unsure how to always remember Him, Elder Eyring encouraged us to start by remembering Him. He pleaded with us to study and ponder the scriptures and to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. As we learn to always remember Christ, we will always have his Spirit with us, we will have armor and protection against pride and undisciplined thoughts that may lead us astray. We will have strength that we will not drift and faith to do all things.
As we take the sacrament each week, we are reminded of the promises we have made to be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, to be willing to keep his commandments at all times and in all places, and to always, always remember Him. As the ten-minute reminder concludes, the task to remember becomes our own. As we establish habits of scripture reading, prayer and blessing those around us, we can ensure that we will remember Him for the 10,000 minutes of each week spent outside of sacrament meeting.