Seven weeks ago, Joy and I began writing the following “document.” It was subsequently forwarded to a significant number of associates for review and comment. With one notable exception (thank you LL), we received virtually no feedback. It may be that people are simply too busy. Perhaps it is too long. It may be that it is far outside the comfort zone for those raised in an LDS culture. It may be that my writing style is simply too much to endure. Whatever the case, now is probably the time to put it “out there,” since without dialogue, it is pretty much stuck in amber.
I do not doubt that the Lord will continue to teach and guide us and continue to help us to refine and answer our questions. If so, we hope to add/modify/correct this as time progresses. Regardless, we greatly appreciate the Lord opening our minds to some of our unbeliefs and helping us to better understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Bless Him!
My family has been concerned about the administration of the
Inspiration and other spiritual confirmations related to:
historical documents (e.g., The Joseph Smith Papers),
scripture study, and
other’s opinions, commentaries, and practices.
I am not particularly comfortable sharing these things (more especially the personal revelations, which I deem to be to me, not to the world), but much of what I write hinges on these experiences
a bias towards scripture and the revelations/teachings of Joseph Smith
(and chary of cultural norms, traditions, handbooks, commentaries, and philosophies; including some practiced by Joseph Smith, et. al.),
a bias towards the sacrament being primarily coupled with worship and sabbath day observance, and
a bias towards personal revelation.
Please allow me to elaborate on the latter two biases.
Sabbath Day Bias
Mormon worship is insipid and
Avraham Gileadi Translation
If you will keep your feet from
Complete Jewish Bible
KING JAMES’ VERSION
If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him,
If we take Isaiah literally, it would be pretty easy to read this as:
JONATHAN’S VERY LOOSE, COLlOQUIAL VERSION
Would you please, on this one day, this one
In case you missed it, that would be the “lower law;” Isaiah sets the bar pretty high. High enough to make it possible to have the Holy Spirit as our constant companion or high enough to “always have [the Lord’s] Spirit to be with us?”
There is important context here. There are times when I hear the voice of the Lord in specific language. For example, “the church is true [long pause], but not all of it.” Generally, this was not the case here. The answers were provided in a more holistic manner, which was not entirely consistent with the linear thought required by human language. Therefore, I struggled greatly to translate/interpret what I was instructed in a way that could be recorded. In contrast, the Lord did give me a few specific words and those in italics are His.
My family has been consistently praying that the Lord would show us our unbeliefs. One of the first fruits of those prayers was the understanding that the sacrament was not being performed appropriately in any meeting in which we participated. Joy prompted me to see if the Lord would authorize me to bless and administer the sacrament in our home. We had discussions regarding the taking of the challah and wine/grape juice at the synagogue on Friday nights and whether I could in silent prayer bless those emblems that we might thus partake of the sacrament. Similarly, we had discussed the propriety of young children partaking of the emblems in various fellowship meetings we attended when they were not yet old enough to be baptized, understanding that one was to be baptized prior to partaking of the sacrament.
My son hearken and understand. A righteous desire to worship is a pleasing thing unto me. To partake of
You are authorized to perform this ordinance for those who may appropriately participate. Whether bread or cracker, water or
Listen. Those changes that were made [to the previous day’s revelation] and the way they were recorded are
I wish I could tell you that I had fully researched those scriptures that are directly related, and that I immediately understood the connections. I did not.
As a consequence of writing this document and struggling with the common elements of the baptismal and sacramental covenants (in addition to the various relationships between the covenants:
The covenant of the sacrament includes
Oh. Right. Q.E.D.2
Why is it that these things always seem to apply to the other guy and not us?
“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have
For forty-some years, I “knew” that this related to the Catholic and Reformed Christian Churches. I fully ignored that comparing current LDS practice with scripture and early church practice makes it pretty clear that these aspects of the sacrament have all been changed:
how it is to be
who administers the sacrament,
who receives the sacrament,
how it is administered, and
the language of the LDS sacrament prayer
(though this is inconsequential by comparison).
One sees a
Without elaborating, I note that the original Hebrew word
The Doctrine of the Sacrament
Up front, let me be clear that there are two aspects of this covenant that elude me: “His name” and “His Spirit.” On the surface, both seem straightforward. As I study, ponder, and pray about these more deeply, there is an ever-increasing impression that my understanding is but as a
The Sacrament Is Not a Step in the Repentance Process
Simply said, the repentance process should be complete prior to partaking of the sacrament. This includes our receiving the sanctifying confirmation that our sins have been forgiven. How else could we partake worthily? This does not imply that components of the sacramental covenant should not be part of the repentance process. For example, could we repent without a commitment to keep the commandments? Considering the gravity of this idea, let’s sharpen to a finer point using the metaphor of Plan A vs Plan B.
Plan A VS Plan B
The Father wants us on Plan A. He wants us to never depart from the path that is Plan A. Knowing our fickleness, He has graciously provided a Plan B, which has the singular purpose of putting us back on the path of Plan A. I repeat, God does not want us to depart Plan A. He does not want us to have to execute Plan B. The intent is not for us to fall off the high wire and into the safety net. The net is not there to encourage us to fall. Do nets encourage us to take risks? Yes. Welcome to mortality, spelled
The responsibility to judge our worthiness to partake of the sacrament is ours. Paul thus teaches the Corinthians3:
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore
What ordinance is designed to be received by one who is impure or unworthy? To more fully comprehend this, we should take a serious look at how the ordinance of baptism has changed by virtue of changing the doctrine of baptism. As with the sacrament, the change in doctrine is more important than the mechanical changes to the ordinance.
Perhaps you are thinking, “baptism is for the remission of sins.” Please consider this, what is supposed to occur prior to
And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they
See also Acts 2:38, 2 Ne 9:23;
See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out. (Mormon 9:29, highlights mine)
If I understand this correctly, we can claim to be worthy to take the sacrament after we repent and are told that we are forgiven. Then we are prepared to make a covenant to keep the commandments and thus never sin again (true for both baptism and sacrament). As a
Let’s look at this differently. Many of us have been taught that Christ, being without sin, was baptized to fulfill all righteousness (see 2 Ne 31:4-7) and that we on the other hand are baptized to cleanse us from sin. So, why are eight-year-old
…for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For
Am I wrong to presume that there is typically this order: we repent, are forgiven, are baptized, receive a remission of our sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost, and
If you are feeling contrarian, most of the following scriptures use the term(s)
Now I would have you to remember also, that
Here we seem to have an
Baptism deserves its own paper, but before moving on, please consider this.
This topic is hardly complete5. It would be good to explore essential skills needed to identify unworthiness and more expeditiously return to and remain on Plan A. Satan is very good at confusing, guilting, and (like a good martial arts master) using our strengths against us. As but a single example, I had a church leader once respond to my wrestle with worthiness6
The Sacrament Is Not a Renewal of the Baptismal Covenant
Okay, now that I have your attention, actually it is a renewal of the baptismal covenant
Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—(Mosiah 18:8–9)
Still, is this not a subset of all the laws and commandments we agree to keep, even if this is the first covenant we are making with the Lord? Without prejudice, I note there is nothing here about loving God, worshiping Him, keeping His covenants, coming to know Him, etc.
The Sacrament Prayer Is Not the Covenant
During 40-some years since my baptism, and up until very recently, I do not know if I ever understood or made the requisite covenant while partaking of the sacrament. If that isn’t a “broken” covenant, what is? Imagine the bread has just been blessed, you have heard a priesthood holder say,
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it;
That looks like an
I contend that if you have done something similar to the following, then you have made a
You took the bread and in your heart raised it high above your head in remembrance of Yeshua being raised on the cross. You praised and blessed the Lord for His mercy, grace and love, and your whole soul cried out in your heart, “O Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast taken upon Thee and forgiven my sins, and purified and sanctified my heart that I might in worthiness make a covenant with the Father.”
If, on the other hand, you have (like me) simply eaten a piece of blessed bread (perhaps thinking that it
Some have suggested that we might substitute personal pronouns into the sacrament prayer as
Others have suggested that we might raise our hand to the square during the sacrament prayer as a symbol demonstrating acceptance of a covenant.
How are these things not changing the doctrine of the sacrament?
We will leave the water/wine and the distinctions to the bread as an “exercise for the student.”
In this sense, one must wonder if the sacrament is
In a different sense, is the promise of receiving the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, the first comforter, to be supplemented by the second comforter and all that is implied therein? Is that to be supplemented
In yet another sense, with respect to
The idea of “taking His name upon us” seems pretty straight forward. Many seem to agree that by doing so we become His begotten sons and daughters, and He becomes the Father of our salvation. Nevertheless, there seems to be something inherent in the entire concept of (the power of) names that I do not comprehend. We can probably agree that it is not just a badge we put on our pocket. It is not just a declaration of a religious sect. It is more than just a handle we use to refer to something, more than a capitalized word given to a person, place, or special thing (i.e., proper noun).
It is clear from various scriptures that the use of the name of God is an authority granted that is like unto a power-of-attorney. In the old testament, the word
There seems to be something sublime going on here that is beyond my grasp. Perhaps this is due to culture, to language, and/or tradition. Perhaps it is just obstinacy on my part or unbelief or lack of faith. Even so, I can’t help but wonder if there is a distinction between becoming His adopted sons and daughters,
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and
Isn’t Jesus effectively saying that they
It is curious that in the account of the people of King Benjamin, they start out as a rather unrighteous people. Through the care and teaching of holy prophets, they are converted and become an obedient, blessed, and presumably righteous people, almost Zion-like. Having become such, an angel comes to King Benjamin and teaches him what he is to teach the people so that they can make a sacred covenant and thus, as a people, receive the name of Christ.
Is there a sequence? What Moroni says in Moroni 6:1–4 (quoted above) seems to indicate a different sequence than is found in the record of King Benjamin: “And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ.” Should this have been, “…they were willing to take…?” Is there an implication here of a ladder? Is there a duality as is seen in temple ordinances where we receive a token of the real thing in order to encourage us to strive after the real thing? Or – and this is currently my preferred interpretation – is there is a distinction between receiving His name
And while we are on Benjamin (Hebrew: bin·yä·mene' or Son of the/my right hand), we see again this idea of a name being tied to sonship. Peter, or Simon-bar-Jonah (Greek: son of Jonah) would have been a “bin.” It is common practice among the Jews when calling a man up to read from the Torah to introduce them as X-bin-Y, where Y is either their father’s name, or Moses, or in the case of the Messianic Jews, Yeshua.
I can’t help but believe that there is something profound in all this, and that it is very different from what we are frequently taught, and that we only have a mere shadow or hint to what it means to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. Yes, we witness that we are
Another key element of the sacramental covenant relates to the resultant blessing of “always [having] His Spirit to be with [us].” As with the point about roles (footnote above), likewise there is good reason to have a firm understanding of what “His Spirit” actually means. So, what is Yeshua’s Spirit and how does it relate to the “Spirit of God,” the “Holy Spirit,” the “Holy Ghost,” “the Mind of God,” “the Light of Christ,” the “Comforter,” the “Second Comforter,”
Since I do not understand these things, can I even pretend to claim to
Best Practice(S) -- Thoughts and discussion
We all know that preparation is important. It seems that the
a fundamental understanding of the gospel of Christ and the doctrine of Christ (including baptism),
a proper understanding of the doctrine of the sacrament,
a forgiveness of our sins (i.e., full and complete repentance), and
a Spirit-rich environment.
One or more of these may require instruction.
Presupposing that those who are ready to make the sacrament covenant have repented and are worthy, there remains the expectation that partaking of the sacrament should be a sacred, spiritually uplifting, and worshipful experience. It seems reasonable to (generally) consider these elements:
a peaceful environment conductive to the Spirit,
a sacrament hymn,
a pre-sacrament prayer,
the sacrament (always conducted in a reverential and worshipful manner),
additional time for personal prayer, reflection, and continued personal worship, and ideally,
one or more post-sacrament hymns, and
one or more post-sacrament prayers.
Before elaborating, let me summarize the point: making a sacramental covenant is a big deal. It is likely the biggest deal of the week for most people. Let’s give the experience its due.
The intent of the pre-sacrament prayer is the same as the pre-sacrament hymn, to express gratitude and praise for Christ atoning for our sins and
I skip the actual sacrament here, as the remainder of the document will focus thereon.
The time following the sacrament is not infrequently occupied by things that are far distant from sincere worship. Metaphorically, this is not unlike spending days to create the perfect Thanksgiving feast only to see guests gulp it down in a few seconds in order to get back to the game. Is it any wonder that the leftovers frequently taste better than the meal?
The point of having a
Tradition within many, but not all, Christian religions is to take the sacrament during each Sabbath. Some do so during both Saturday night and Sunday services. Some provide the sacrament but once a month. Many Messianic Jews choose to partake of the sacrament once a year, during the Passover, because that is when the Savior partook, and they take very literally the admonition to do what Jesus did, including the entire context of the first supper. Given that they do not embrace the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants, this isn’t an unreasonable interpretation and at the very least seems to set the lower bound.
And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and
While it is reasonable to presume that the concept of “thy sacraments8”
In D&C 46:2-4 there is the implication, but only the implication, that sabbath meetings are sacrament meetings. It is my opinion that Joseph Smith and other early members of the restored church enjoyed the cultural tradition of partaking of the sacrament at a sacrament meeting (see D&C 46:4-5) each sabbath and considered this so obvious as to require little exhortation. If the church (members, not institution) strictly obey the law of the sabbath, then meeting together on that day to worship seems like the natural thing to do. It also seems natural to partake of the sacrament at that sabbath meeting.
You would think that there would be more provided by the Lord tying the sacrament to sabbath day observance. All I see is in D&C 59, above. I don’t find it elsewhere in the scriptures, and I have not found it in the teachings of Joseph Smith (search for sacrament, bread, wine, emblems, supper, etc.). You may be thinking, once ought to be enough! Quite right. And yet, when something is important to the Lord, we typically see more than a little repetition. What we have from scripture is:
And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And
See also D&C 20:55, 75.
So, what is “oft?”
During His visit to the people of Nephi, Jesus administered the sacrament two days in a row (see 3 Ne 18:3, and 3 Ne 20:3). Perhaps this is because there were many there who were not present on the first day. More frequent taking of the sacrament is similarly suggested in D&C 88:141, in conjunction with the ordinance of washing of the feet. From the Joseph Smith Papers, we have the sacrament taken on various occasions that were not on the Sabbath. For example:
Bottom line? While Joseph Smith does appear to have centered his sacrament worship on the sabbath, it appears from his journals and other early church documents that he did not allow this to limit him/them. If there is an upper bound, I don’t know where it is, other than that taking the sacrament in vain is problematic, no matter what the frequency.
Blessing the sacrament
In this section, let us consider these things:
what should be used for the bread and the wine
who should receive the sacrament,
who should bless the sacrament,
how this should be conducted, and
who should preside.
Before we begin, let me reassert (in case you jumped forward to this point
For, behold, I say unto you, that
To say that we are given carte blanche about what to use for the emblems might be a bit strong (e.g., we probably don’t want to start drinking blood). From this it seems reasonably clear that having the right mind and heart is more important than the emblems themselves. With that said, we might reasonably have preferences that help us promote an
My read on this is, don’t do those things that you know will cause your
Water vs Wine
If wine tastes nasty to you, perhaps that is symbolic to you of the pain and suffering of the atonement
It seems reasonably clear that “[making] it new among you”
As an aside, I find it most interesting that throughout scripture the consumption of blood, which is the life (Genesis 9:4),
Bread VS Cracker
Clearly the aforementioned scriptures
With respect to symbolism,
Receiving the sacrament
Based on the material above, it should be obvious that I equate being worthy to partake of the sacrament with being free of sin. That leaves two likely-to-be sensitive topics: should one who is not baptized partake of the sacrament, and as a subset thereof, should young children partake of the sacrament.
Baptism Before Sacrament
We have examples in the scriptures that appear to go both ways, but do they?
The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order. And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord. (D&C 20:68–69)
Some may say, well, that’s easy, that particular section of the Doctrine and Covenants is problematic for any number of reasons. Can you hear me give out a big sigh? Even if you believe this, please consider that the revelation received by Oliver Cowdery referred to as the “Articles of the Church of Christ,” received in June 1829 contains the following words:
And now behold I give unto you a commandment that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh & blood unworthily when ye shall minister it for whoso eateth & drinketh my flesh & blood unworthily eateth & drinketh damnation to his soul Therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat & drink of my flesh & blood ye shall forbid him nevertheless ye shall not cast him out from among you but ye shall minister unto him & shall pray for him unto the Father in my name & if it so be that he repenteth & is baptized in my name then shall ye receive him & shall minister unto him of my flesh & blood but if he repenteth not he shall not be numbered among my people that he may not destroy my people.
This is the basis for the language in
I could elaborate further and quote other scripture, but I believe the point is well enough made.
Sacrament before Baptism
What can we say? The Savior seemed to like to mix it up. For example, in this verse, we see individuals receiving baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost in advance of baptism by water.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (3 Nephi 9:20)
In the Book of
What can I say? His church, His rules. For us? It appears that we are expected to follow the prescription given in 3 Ne 12:1.
Christ then moves on to the New World version of the sermon on the mount, which continues with additions through Chapter 16. In Chapter 17 He then blesses the sick and then has the “little children” (those less than the age of accountability?) brought to Him. He kneels. He prays words that could not be written, and the multitude were overcome with joy. Jesus
Christ then administers the sacrament.
And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
And when the disciples had come with bread and wine,
And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples:
And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it. And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
See also verse 30.
Many were not there. On the following morning, the disciples taught the people who had missed the prior day’s events all that Jesus had taught, had them kneel and pray, and then they [presumably the disciples] went to the water and were baptized (3 Ne 19:11-12). Following this the multitude witnesses them [the disciples] encircled with fire (3 Ne 19:13-14). Immediately thereafter, Christ appears again, has the people pray, and then provides the sacrament:
And it came to pass that he commanded the multitude that they should cease to pray, and also his disciples. And he commanded them that they should not cease to pray in their hearts.
And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
Returning to the disciples, some would say that they were baptized into a new dispensation. Some would say they were baptized via a new authority. Some would say both. Some would cry foul because, again, there is no indication that on either day that all who partook of the sacrament were previously baptized.
Prior to the destruction, we know that Nephi and others were out preaching repentance and baptism.
Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water. Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins. And there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance; and thus the more part of the year did pass away. (3 Nephi 7:24–26)
It is highly probable that these same men had previously been baptized,
And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible. (3 Nephi 8:25)
This probably shouldn’t be interpreted as the fine-tuning kind of repentance we should be doing on a continual basis. To these Christ speaks after His death and presumably prior to His resurrection:
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (3 Nephi 9:19–20)
Now, what happened in the lives of these survivors, and what do you think Nephi, his brother, and other prophets and priests were doing during the year9
Young Children Partaking of the sacrament
Well, what then about the young children who have not reached the age of accountability?
Curiously, scripture does not seem to provide direct guidance on this topic. One can read from the examples/instances in the Book of Mormon that there was no indication that children were excluded. True. There is also no indication that they were included. Likewise, true.
I can find no instruction anywhere in scripture regarding the sacrament (bread or wine) and children. Similarly, I find nothing in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith or in the Joseph Smith Papers. New Testament accounts and teachings regarding the sacrament include: Matt 26:26; John 6:54; Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 11:26. Some people have equated Christ's feeding of the 5000 to be a sacrament. While this may be true in the broader definition of the word sacrament, there is no indication that “the sacrament” was offered prior to the “last supper.” Looking at this from a Mosaic Law vantage, while young children participated in feasts related to various offerings and ordinances, we run into a wall with Jesus teaching that those are to be replaced with a “broken heart and contrite spirit,” not with a sacrament. Nevertheless, this may have been implicit, especially in his teachings to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood.
In this section, while my personal opinion is guided principally by personal revelation, I shall attempt to present the information is an impartial manner to more strongly encourage you to ponder these things. I note in advance that there are multiple possible directions to take, including combinations of: let them; don’t let them; follow the group-think du jour; adjust according to circumstances, etc.
Young Children Partake
Young Children Don’t Partake
PRO: Young children are innocent and therefore worthy. They do not sin by partaking of the sacrament. Denying them the sacrament implies that they are unworthy, which very thought is offensive.
CON: It is true that they are worthy. That does not mean that they understand the doctrine of the sacrament and are prepared to take upon them a covenant. More importantly, if there is a condemnation, it will be to those who allow them to do so. They are innocent. We are not.
PRO: There were those in the Book of Mormon account that were not yet baptized partaking of the sacrament, so it is reasonable that young children that were not baptized could do likewise.
CON: As indicated earlier in the paper, that might not be the case. There is no indication that those assembled had not been previously baptized. It is more likely that all who should have been baptized, were indeed baptized. We may unambiguously conclude that they had not yet been
PRO: There is no doctrine that supports withholding the sacrament from young children.
CON: Au contraire! We may readily apply that same doctrine that declares that those supposing “that little children need baptism [are] in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for [they have] neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should [they] be cut off while in the thought, [they] must go down to hell. (Moroni 8:14)
PRO: This has been a tradition within the LDS church from the beginning. If Joseph Smith had thought it wrong, he would have surely made it known.
CON: This is the strongest argument made for allowing this practice and is impossible to refute as it depends upon the very lack of information that inspires the question in the first place. Joseph Smith, like the rest of us, grew up with biases based upon culture and traditions. Perhaps everything would be different if he had thought to ask the question (or if he did, to have written down the answer).
Again, we refer back to D&C 20, with all the same caveats as before. It seems pretty clear that the sacrament is to be blessed by either a Priest or an Elder, and while we might discuss what those “offices” actually mean in this context, I leave that off to discuss more specifically when the
The priest’s duty is to
In all these duties the priest is to assist the elder if occasion requires. (Doctrine and Covenants 20:46–52, highlights mine)
We must presume that the “priest is to assist the elder” in those duties listed immediately preceding, which exclude administering the sacrament. In short, it seems pretty clear that the priest is not to administer the sacrament if an elder is present.
In this case, Oliver’s
The Priests duty is to preach teach expound exhort & baptize & administer the Sacrement & visit the House of each member & exhort them to pray vocally & in seecret & also to attend all familiy duties & ordain other Priests Teachers & Deacons & take the lead in meetings but
So here, presumably, we have Joseph Smith modifying Oliver Cowdery’s work to specifically prohibit many of a Priest’s duties when an Elder is present. While later changes to this text reinstate a number of those duties while in the presence of an Elder, administering the sacrament is not one of them.
It is at least a curiosity that in each recorded instance we have available where the Savior participates in the sacrament, it is He that blesses the bread and the wine.
In the Mormon tradition, there are a plethora of priesthood. In that context, this statement hardly makes any sense: “…Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name (3 Nephi 18:5).”
While there are various other questions regarding priesthood authority, I
Administering the sacrament
I note here that I have written nothing about the “preparation of the sacrament” and cleaning up after the fact.
Regarding the actual administration, please note a couple of things from these same three
Articles of the Church of Christ
Revelation Book 1
Doctrine and Covenants 20:75–79
And the Church shall oft partake of bread & wine & after this manner shall ye partake of it The Elder or Priest
And it is expedient that the Church meet together oft to partake bread & wine in Rememberance of the Lord Jesus & the
It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus; And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it—he shall
And then shall ye take the cup & say O God the Eternal Father we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ to bless & sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it that they may do in remembrance of the blood of thy Son which was shed for them that they may witness unto thee O God the Eternal Father that they do always remember him that they may have his spirit to be with them Amen
The manner of administering the wine Behold they shall take the cup & say O God the Eternal Father we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ to bless & sanctify this wine to the souls of all <those> who drink of it that they do it in Rememberance of the blood of thy Son which was shed for them that they may witness unto thee O God the Eternal Father that they do always Remember him that they may have his spirit to be with them amen
The manner of administering the wine—he shall take the cup also, and say: O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen
Consistent between the three documents, we see the instruction that the person blessing the sacrament should kneel with the church. Given the principle of greater and lesser laws, we would presume that this would not be a requirement to those who are physically unable to do so without pain.
Curiously, when the
Flipping continents, in Acts 6, we have the twelve calling on the multitude of disciples to select seven men to “serve tables.” Did that mean pass the sacrament? It seems difficult to equate passing the sacrament with “leaving the word of God.” One last point
In the original Articles, we see Cowdery suggesting a pre-sacrament prayer. Joseph Smith eliminates that and it stays gone. Clearly, I have a bias towards saying such a prayer, as it can put the entire ordinance in perspective. I know of no information indicating why the change was made. Somebody thought that entirely too much time was being spent in prayers? Yeah, hard to believe that one.
Then there is that change from “hath” to “has.” While this seems to be a big deal to many who claim that the ordinance of the sacrament has been changed, this seems the most insignificant of all the changes. The point is not to refute the fact, but to keep in perspective the relative import of all the various changes.
It was a practice in the early church for the priesthood holder to raise or “lift up” their hands when blessing the sacrament. It would be interesting to know if the Savior lifting His eyes to heaven was a typical practice during His prayers, including His blessing of the sacrament
As a strictly personal preference, I prefer to lift the sacrament high above my head when blessing it. I was prompted to do this one day with a simple breakfast I was enjoying at the end of a day of fasting. It was such a profound experience that I now repeat it often, and always when I bless the sacrament. Part of this may come from understanding that in the original Hebrew, “offering” strongly implies “lifting,” which is certainly prescribed to look to Him who was to be lifted up. See:
Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do
And for this cause have I been
And it shall come to pass, that
And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the
And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom;
therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may
Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for
(3 Nephi 27:13–22, highlights mine)
While this is not prescribed anywhere in scripture, it most certainly enhances the sacred experience of the sacrament for us. Per the
Where did this concept of a presiding authority taking the sacrament first come from? As just mentioned, if this matters, perhaps it matters most in the context of who should be administering. If we want to follow Christ’s example, and be at least partially consistent with scripture, then the most advanced priesthood holder should be blessing the sacrament. As an aside, in the case of Christ in 3 Nephi, we presume that He did not partake of the wine, given His statement regarding not partaking in Matt 26:29, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” So, interestingly, in the New World the presiding authority is presumed to have not partaken (there is no indication that He did).
While this document attempts to reasonably address and document those controversial aspects of both the doctrine and practice of the sacrament, Joy and I make no pretense of being academics, scholars, historians, anthropologists, or having any credentials. We leave it to those of greater sophistication to resolve the issues described herein.
While watching several congregations implement the sacrament in any variety of ways, we’ve noted a couple of things of interest. In one recent meeting at the conclusion of the sacrament the person conducting thanked everyone “for being reverent during the worship portion of the meeting” and then went on to announce the speakers. The implication was that within the three-hour block, only that 10 minutes qualified as worship. While confident that he would have re-phrased his comment were it pointed out, it still rings too close to home. In my humble opinion, that just isn’t good enough. In another congregation, they have separate emblems for young children to partake that are not blessed. In yet another congregation, I noted that when they get together to fellowship (not worship), they include the sacrament. Can you imagine if we started our scripture study groups with the sacrament? How about immediately following a baptism? When would it be appropriate? When would it be inappropriate?
If frequency is any indication of importance, the sacrament should reign supreme. This is how many Jews feel about the sabbath as compared to other feasts and required calendar observances. It is the most frequent. It is therefore the most important. This is opposite the typical idea that that which is most precious is that which is most rare. What do you think, is the love of God most precious because it is so rare?
In closing, I sincerely hope that there are elements of this discussion that help you fine tune your sacrament and sabbath worship and help you to come closer to our Lord and our God. I hope that pondering the doctrine of the sacrament (what the covenant actually is, why it isn’t a renewal of the baptismal covenant, what worthiness means, etc.) has allowed you to evaluate your own traditions, especially in light of the many criticisms regarding the mechanics of administering the sacrament. I similarly hope that you have been able to put these concepts into the context of sabbath worship. These things have dramatically changed our perspectives – we believe for the better – and focused our attention on that which is fundamental: our covenant to look to Christ and obey His word with the hope of being adopted as His children and having His Spirit constantly confirm to us the truth of all things.
This seems consistent with the idea of there being greater and lesser commandments, which
We should be careful not to conflate doctrines and commandments.
No attempt is made herein to rank the
1. Among ancient Christian writers, a mystery. [Not in use.]
2. An oath; a ceremony producing an obligation; but not used in this general sense.
3. In present usage, an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace; or more particularly, a solemn religious ceremony enjoined by Christ, the head of the Christian church, to be observed by his followers, by which their special relation to him is created, or their obligations to him renewed and ratified. Thus baptism is called a sacrament, for by it persons are separated from the world, brought into Christ’s visible church, and laid under particular obligations to obey his precepts. The eucharist or communion of the Lord’s supper, is also a sacrament, for by commemorating the death and dying love of Christ, Christians avow their special relation to him, and renew their obligations to be faithful to their divine Master. When we use sacrament without any qualifying word, we mean by it,
4. The eucharist or Lord’s supper. – Addison.