Christ Introduced the Sacrament
What do the emblems of the sacrament teach about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
Our Savior wants us to remember His great atoning sacrifice and keep His commandments. To help us do this, He has commanded us to meet often and partake of the sacrament.
The sacrament is a holy priesthood ordinance that helps remind us of the Savior’s Atonement. During the sacrament, we partake of bread and water. We do this in remembrance of His flesh and His blood, which He gave as a sacrifice for us. As we partake of the sacrament, we renew sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father.
Shortly before His Crucifixion, Jesus Christ gathered His Apostles around Him in an upstairs room. He knew He would soon die on the cross. This was the last time He would meet with these beloved men before His death. He wanted them to always remember Him so they could be strong and faithful.
To help them remember, He introduced the sacrament. He broke bread into pieces and blessed it. Then He said, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:22). Next He took a cup of wine, blessed it, gave it to His Apostles to drink, and said, “This is in remembrance of my blood … , which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24; see also Matthew 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:15–20).
After His Resurrection, the Savior came to the Americas and taught the Nephites the same ordinance (see 3 Nephi 18:1–11; 20:1–9). After the Church was restored in the latter days, Jesus once again commanded His people to partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Him, saying, “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (D&C 20:75).
How the Sacrament Is Administered
The scriptures explain exactly how the sacrament is to be administered. Members of the Church meet each Sabbath day to worship and partake of the sacrament (see D&C 20:75). The sacrament is administered by those who hold the necessary priesthood authority. A priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder breaks bread into pieces, kneels, and blesses it (see D&C 20:76). A deacon or other priesthood holder then passes the sacrament bread to the congregation. Then the priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder blesses the water, and it too is passed to the members. Jesus gave His disciples wine when He introduced the sacrament. However, in a latter-day revelation He has said that it doesn’t matter what we eat and drink during the sacrament as long as we remember Him (see D&C 27:2–3). Today, Latter-day Saints drink water instead of wine.
Jesus has revealed the exact words for both sacrament prayers. We should listen carefully to these beautiful prayers and try to understand what we are promising and what is being promised to us. Here is the prayer that is offered to bless the bread:
“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 they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen” (D&C 20:77).
Here is the prayer that is offered to bless the water:
“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine [water] 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” (D&C 20:79).
The ordinance of the sacrament is performed very simply and reverently.
Carefully review the sacrament prayers. Think about the meaning of each phrase.
The Covenants We Renew during the Sacrament
What covenants do we renew during the sacrament? What blessings does the Lord promise us as we keep those covenants?
Each time we partake of the sacrament, we renew covenants with the Lord. A covenant is a sacred promise between the Lord and His children. The covenants we make are clearly stated in the sacramental prayers. It is important to know what those covenants are and what they mean.
We covenant that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. By this we show we are willing to be identified with Him and His Church. We commit to serve Him and our fellowman. We promise that we will not bring shame or reproach upon that name.
We covenant to always remember Jesus Christ. All our thoughts, feelings, and actions will be influenced by Him and His mission.
We promise to keep His commandments.
We take these obligations upon ourselves when we are baptized (see D&C 20:37; Mosiah 18:6–10). Thus, when we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenants we made when we were baptized. Jesus gave us the pattern for partaking of the sacrament (see 3 Nephi 18:1–12) and said that when we follow this pattern, repenting of our sins and believing on His name, we will gain a remission of our sins (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24).
The Lord promises that if we keep our covenants, we will always have His Spirit to be with us. A person guided by the Spirit will have the knowledge, faith, power, and righteousness to gain eternal life.
What can we do to remember these promises during the week?
Our Attitude When Partaking of the Sacrament
How can we prepare ourselves to partake of the sacrament? What can we think about during the sacrament to help us remember the Savior’s Atonement?
Before partaking of the sacrament, we are to prepare ourselves spiritually. The Lord emphasizes that no one should partake of the sacrament unworthily. That means we must repent of our sins before taking the sacrament. The scriptures say, “If any have trespassed, let him not partake until he makes reconciliation” (D&C 46:4). The Lord instructed His twelve Nephite disciples, “Ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; for whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul” (3 Nephi 18:28–29).
During the sacrament service we should dismiss from our minds all worldly thoughts. We should feel prayerful and reverent. We should think of the Atonement of our Savior and be grateful for it. We should examine our lives and look for ways to improve. We should also renew our determination to keep the commandments.
We do not need to be perfect before partaking of the sacrament, but we must have the spirit of repentance in our hearts. The attitude with which we partake of the sacrament influences our experience with it. If we partake of the sacrament with a pure heart, we receive the promised blessings of the Lord.
Why do you think worthily partaking of the sacrament increases our spiritual strength?
See this page in the original 1992 publication.
[This entry is in two parts:SacramentandSacrament: Sacrament Prayers. The first part explains the practice of partaking of the Sacrament in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the second part gives the history and contents of the Sacrament prayers used in the administering of the Sacrament. ]
Author: PIXTON, PAUL B.
The word "Sacrament" is used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to refer almost exclusively to the Lord's Supper. The English word "Sacrament" derives from the Old French sacrement by way of Middle English; the Old French noun in turn is based on the Latin sacramentum, which denotes a sum deposited by the two parties to a suit (so named probably from being deposited in a sacred place) binding an agreement, oath of allegiance, or obligation. Though the word never occurs in the Bible, the Sacrament has come to have a major role in the practices of nearly all Christian denominations. In traditional Catholic and Protestant Christianity, the "Sacrament of the Lord's Supper" is regarded as one of a group of sacraments, whose purpose is to serve both as conveyors of God's grace and as the outward signs that such grace has been bestowed. The definition of seven sacraments for the Roman Catholic church came at the Fourth Lateran Council, convened by Pope Innocent III in 1215. Protestant reformers, while rejecting most of the sacramental doctrines of the medieval church, retained the notion of sacraments with respect to baptism and the Eucharist.
In Latter-day Saint usage, Sacrament designates that ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ as a means by which worthy Saints may renew their covenants with their Redeemer and with God the Father (cf. Mosiah 18:8-10; JC, pp. 596-97; AF, p. 175). On the Eve of his trial and crucifixion in Jerusalem and surrounded by his closest associates, the Twelve apostles, Jesus took bread, which he blessed and broke and then gave to them, saying, "Take, eat; this is my body." Jesus likewise took the cup, blessed it, and then gave it to them, "Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28). The Book of Mormon records that the resurrected Jesus instituted this same ordinance in memory of his body and blood as he showed himself to the righteous of the Western Hemisphere after his ascension from Jerusalem (3 Ne. 18:7;20:3;26:13).
Paul notes that the Savior gave a commandment to perform this ordinance regularly, "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew [i.e., testify of] the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26). The New Testament indicates that the injunction was observed in the early Christian Church (cf. Acts 2:42;20:7). To the Saints at Corinth, Paul wrote in plainness of the simple ordinance which he had received from the Lord, stressing that it was done "in remembrance of [Jesus Christ]" (1 Cor. 11:19-26; cf. Luke 22:19; 3 Ne. 18:7).
The time and setting chosen by Jesus for administering the Sacrament among his Jerusalem disciples tie this ordinance to the older observances of the Passover, including the bread and wine he used, and to which he gave new symbolism (Matt. 26:26-28; Luke 22:15-20). Through his Atonement Christ fulfilled the purpose of the ordinance of animal sacrifice found in the Old Testament, which was to prefigure the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of God. The new ordinance replaced the need for animal sacrifice with the sacrifice on the part of Christ's followers of a broken heart and contrite spirit (3 Ne. 9:18-20).
The sermon that Jesus delivered on the topic of the "bread of life" in the Gospel of John draws on the symbolism of the Lord himself as "the living bread which came down from heaven." It also prefigures the ordinance of the Sacrament that he initiated later as a reminder to all that salvation comes only through "the living bread" and the "living water" (cf. John 6:48-58). In the postapostolic age, however, theologians transformed the symbolic nature of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper into the dogma of transubstantiation, thereby introducing the notion that those who partake of the bread and wine miraculously ingest the literal body and blood of Christ, although the outward appearance of the emblems (i.e., the accidentals) remain the same. The LDS Church rejects this dogma and holds that the Sacrament is to help the Saints remember Jesus and that the transformation envisioned is a renovation of the human soul by the Spirit (D&C 20:75-79).
The Sacrament in LDS belief does not serve primarily as a means of securing remission of sins. It does, however, focus attention on the sacrifice for sin wrought by the Savior and on the need for all those who have been baptized to maintain their lives constantly in harmony with his teachings and commandments. For this reason, there are numerous scriptural injunctions concerning the need for compliance with God's commandments by those who partake of the Sacrament (1 Cor. 11:22-23; 3 Ne. 18:28-29; D&C 46:4). Unbaptized children, however, being without sin, are entitled and expected to partake of the Sacrament to prefigure the covenant they themselves will make at the age of accountability, age eight (see Children: Salvation of Children). In administering the Sacrament, Christ himself used emblems readily at hand at the Last Supper-bread and wine. To Joseph Smith the Lord declared "that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the Sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory-remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins" (D&C 27:2). In typical LDS practice, bread and water are used.
The ordinance of the Sacrament is administered by "those having authority"-that is, by priesthood bearers. According to modern revelation, priests in the Aaronic Priesthood and any Melchizedek Priesthood holder may officiate at the Sacrament table; in general practice, the table is prepared by teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood, and the bread and water are blessed by priests and passed to the members of the Church by deacons in the same priesthood.
The prayers spoken over these emblems are among the few that are scripturally prescribed exactly. Those who partake of the Sacrament place themselves under covenant with the Lord to take upon them the name of Christ, to always remember him, and to keep his commandments. The Lord in turn covenants that they may always have his Spirit to be with them (D&C 20: 75-79; Moro. 4-5; John 6:54). [See alsoAtonement of Jesus Christ; Communion; Last Supper.]
Sacrament: Sacrament Prayers
Author: TANNER, JOHN S.
The Sacrament prayers, which were revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, are among the few set prayers in the Church, and the only ones members are commanded to offer "often" (D&C 20:75). They are offered regularly during the administration of the ordinance of the Sacrament in Sacrament meeting, occupying a central place in the religious lives of Latter-day Saints. They originate in ancient practice and, with one exception (the current use of water instead of wine), preserve the wording of nephite sacramental prayers: 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 they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen [Moroni 4:3].
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 [Moroni 5:2].
The prayers, in turn, formalize language used by the resurrected Savior when he visited the Americas (3 Ne. 18:5-11; cf. D&C 20:75-79). Subsequent to a revelation in August 1830 (D&C 27) water has been used instead of wine.
No such exact wording of the prayers is included in the New Testament. However, one scholar has detected parallels between Latter-day Saint Sacrament prayers and ancient eucharistic formulas (Barker, pp. 53-56). The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) confirms that key elements of the Sacrament prayers were part of the original Last Supper: Jesus included covenantal obligations similar to those in the prayers (JST Matt. 26:25) and made clear that his action introduced a formal "ordinance" that they were to repeat often (JST Mark 14:24). Further, in the JST, Jesus does not say, "This is my body," and "This is my blood"-metaphors whose interpretation has historically divided Christians on the matter of "transubstantiation." He said instead, "This is in remembrance of my body," and "This is in remembrance of my blood" (JST Matt. 26:22, 24; cf. JST Mark 14:21, 23).
The Sacrament prayers invite personal introspection, repentance, and rededication, yet they are also communal, binding individuals into congregations who jointly and publicly attest to their willingness to remember Christ. This shared commitment to become like Christ, repeated weekly, defines the supreme aspiration of Latter-day Saint life.
Barker, James L. The Protestors of Christendom. Independence, Mo., 1946.
Tanner, John S. "Reflections on the Sacrament Prayers." Ensign 16 (Apr. 1986):7-11.
Welch, John W. "The Nephite Sacrament Prayers." F.A.R.M.S. Update. Provo, Utah, 1986.
JOHN S. TANNER
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Why do we take the sacrament with our right hand? A look at this symbolic action and its connection to the ongoing Restoration
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regularly issues revisions to its General Handbook, a guidebook containing principles and specific practices for serving and leading in the Church. In the spring of 2020, an instruction was added in the section “The Sacrament” (18.9.7): “Members partake with their right hand when possible.”
In 1983, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson addressed the question of using the right hand to partake of the sacrament in an Ensign article. He linked using the right hand to partake of the sacrament with using the right hand for other sacred oaths (raising of the right arm to the square during baptism and other sacred ordinances come to mind for me). He taught:
The Latin word sacramentum . . . literally means “oath or solemn obligation.” Partaking of the sacrament might therefore be thought of as a renewal by oath of the covenant previously made in the waters of baptism. It is a sacred mental moment, including (1) a silent oath manifested by the use of one’s hand, symbolic of the individual’s covenant, and (2) the use of bread and water, symbolic of the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior of the world. The hand used in partaking of the sacrament would logically be the same hand used in making any other sacred oath. For most of us, that would be the right hand.
He also mentioned that, for different reasons, not everyone is able to use their right hand but that whichever hand is used, he emphasized that it is most important to focus on remembering the atoning sacrifice of the Savior Jesus Christ.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long history of encouraging members to use the right hand in partaking the sacrament with repeated mention by leaders in various publications between the late-1800s and the mid-1900s that it is “customary” or “advisable” (but not required) to use the right hand. However, it appears that this is the first time since the 1930s that this counsel has appeared in an official handbook. Thus, this may be another example of the ongoing Restoration to which President Nelson has referred.
This new instruction has resulted in quite a bit of discussion online. Unsurprisingly, online commentary has been all over the map. Essays and commentaries come from a wide range of perspectives, from those who state that this simply puts in writing a common understanding to those who have been active members for decades but have never heard any such instruction. Some think it is way too “nit-picky” while others like the symbolism. One commentator expressed concern that this approach seems to privilege right-handed people or denigrate left-handed people.
For me, the new instruction coheres with my own Episcopalian upbringing, what I learned as a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as what I have observed in my life-long study of, and experience with, sacred practices in various faiths.
Growing up, from ages 9 to 12 I served as an Episcopalian acolyte, or altar boy. One of the first things I did was assist Father Wilmington at the baptism of my infant brother Keith. Father Wilmington baptized Keith by affusin (pouring water over his head) and then, using his right thumb, placed the mark of the cross on Keith’s forehead.
Each Sunday morning, I also assisted Father Ewald as he served Holy Communion (the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper) to fellow congregants. Father Ewald always used his right hand to bestow the consecrated host (a small unleavened wafer) and those who received it always used their right hand to place the host in their mouths. Like Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, we Episcopalians made the sign of the cross with our right hands.
Even in important secular events, the right hand was used. In concert with those around me, I placed my right hand over my heart when I said the Pledge of Allegiance or sang the national anthem. When I watched the Perry Mason television show, I saw that when a witness swore to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” they raised their right arms. I knew that persons in the military used their right hand to salute each other, and, like everyone else, I extended my right hand to greet others in a near-universal sign of fellowship.
Between the ages of 13 and 18, I began worshipping more at the altar of athletics and witnessing the unholy sacraments of California’s 1970s party scene. However, in 1977 at age 18, I experienced a sudden and profound conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In most ways, my new faith was quite different from the Episcopal faith of my youth and the Catholic faith of my closest friends. However, it was familiar that often the right hand was used for religious practices. This included sustaining members in callings and raising the right hand to the square when performing a baptism. It was explained to me that I should use my right hand when I partook of the sacrament bread and water, and I observed that it was clearly important in the temple as well. Using the right hand to receive the emblems of Christ’s body and blood seemed natural and, well, right.
Christian and Jewish Use of the Right Hand
As part of my work with the American Families of Faith project, I have been privileged to attend services of various faiths and study their doctrines and practices. Often these religious ceremonies involve the right hand. I believe there is value in learning about these practices when considering the potential significance behind this new line in the handbook.
The following is part of an explanation about placing the sign of the cross on one’s self from a website of an Orthodox Christian church: “Because the Lord separated the sheep from the goats, putting the faithful sheep on His right side and the goats on the left, the Church always treats the right side as the preferred side. We only cross ourselves with our RIGHT hand. The priest, when blessing a person, first touches or points to their RIGHT side, then their left. . . . The priest always gives communion with his RIGHT hand, even if he is left-handed” (emphasis in original).
Even though Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians cross themselves differently (Catholics touch left shoulder first, Orthodox touch right shoulder first), they both use their right hands for this sacred action.
In Jewish weddings, the groom places the wedding band on the bride’s right index finger and says, “With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel.” During Orthodox Christian weddings, “the priest will join the right hands of the couple. This is an ancient symbol of marriage.”
In Christian iconography, the Harrowing of Hell depicts Jesus, following His crucifixion, triumphantly appearing in the world of spirits and, with his right hand, grasping the hand or wrist of Adam and Eve to lead them and others from the bondage of hell to spiritual freedom. Medieval Catholic depictions of Christ and Orthodox icons also show Christ displaying various signs of benediction with his right hand.
Other Catholic Ordinances
Catholic priests use their right thumbs when they administer the sacrament of anointing the sick with oil and when they place a cross of ashes on the foreheads of parishioners on Ash Wednesday. They also extend their right hand when making the sign of the cross over their congregations and when providing absolution during the sacrament of penance (reconciliation or confession).
There are many biblical verses about the right hand of God. The Psalmist states, “Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand” (Psalm 73:23). When a lame man sitting at the gate of the temple asked Peter and John for alms, Peter, “took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (Acts 3:7). Stephen, the first martyr, saw Jesus “standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
In a number of Christian faiths, “The Right Hand of Fellowship” is offered to each other as a sign of covenant. Shaking hands with the right hand is an ancient and widespread practice that may well have its roots in ancient religious practices. The exterior of the Salt Lake Temple even includes clasping right hands as a symbol of equality and the act of entering into covenants with God.
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The Power of Shared Ritual
Our contemporary culture celebrates uniqueness and individuality in dress, music, media, food, and many other domains. This can bring wonderful diversity of expression and preference. However, many forces today seek to divide people into various groups based on one’s differences, and our world has become increasingly tribal as division, separation, and stratification permeate society. Many people chafe at conformity or communalism and view efforts to encourage specific actions as unaccommodating, insensitive, or even oppressive, such as those who feel that the focus on the right hand is a slight toward those who are left-handed.
But I look at it a different way. The Lord’s prophets seek to develop unity among God’s diverse people in changing and challenging times. The Church’s handbook is a living document provided by living prophets that offers living guidance for more than 30,000 bishoprics, 3,500 stake presidencies, and 16 million members throughout the world. None of these leaders attended years of professional ecclesiastical training (such as the four-year college degrees common in many faiths) to learn their responsibilities and procedures in particular callings. More than half of all Latter-day Saints live outside the United States and a good proportion are converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thus, members and leaders come from incredibly diverse cultures, religions, backgrounds, and experiences—including those who come with little to no religious background. To some degree, they all rely on the General Handbook for guidance. Many may appreciate and welcome this small additional guidance on a sacred religious ritual they will now practice almost every week. As part of an ongoing Restoration, it is a guideline from the Lord’s prophets that can help create unity in wards and congregations around the world.
The handbook does not state a specific reason for using the right hand, but depending on other sacred and solemn personal experiences, a Latter-day Saint might think of using the right hand to partake of the sacrament as pledging one’s allegiance to Jesus Christ, as reaching out to Jesus to be healed, as agreeing to be honest with the Savior, as extending a hand of fellowship to Jesus, as a sign of commitment to keep the commandments, as remembering the squared right arm that accompanies various sacred covenants, or in any other way that has sacred meaning to you personally.
Religious ritual can help us see our shared humanity across various kinds of differences. I have found joy in joining, uniting, and communing with fellow worshipers—brothers and sisters in faith. Using our right hands when possible is a symbolic way of being united in order, meaning, and ordinances.
Gathering together on the Lord’s day to commune with the Lord and with the Saints to remember Christ’s atoning sacrifice by partaking of the sacrament is, indeed, a holy communion.
Lead image from Church Newsroom, all other from Getty Images
David C. Dollahite is a Camilla Eyring Kimball Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and co-director of the American Families of Faith project. His views are his own.
On the night before His Crucifixion, Jesus Christ met with His Apostles and instituted the sacrament (see Luke 22:19–20). After His Resurrection, He instituted the sacrament among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 18:1–11). Today the sacrament is an ordinance in which Church members partake of bread and water in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. This ordinance is an essential part of worship and spiritual development. Through this ordinance, Church members renew the covenants they made with God when they were baptized.
When He instituted the sacrament, Jesus Christ said, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. … This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19–20). The sacrament provides an opportunity for Church members to ponder and remember with gratitude the life, ministry, and Atonement of the Son of God. The broken bread is a reminder of His body and His physical suffering—especially His suffering on the cross. It is also a reminder that through His mercy and grace, all people will be resurrected and given the opportunity for eternal life with God.
The water is a reminder that the Savior shed His blood in intense spiritual suffering and anguish, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluding on the cross. In the garden He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). Submitting to the will of the Father, He suffered more than we can comprehend: “Blood [came] from every pore, so great [was] his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7). He suffered for the sins, sorrows, and pains of all people, providing remission of sins for those who repent and live the gospel (see 2 Nephi 9:21–23). Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus Christ saved all people from what the scriptures call the “original guilt” of Adam’s transgression (Moses 6:54).
Partaking of the sacrament is a witness to God that the remembrance of His Son will extend beyond the short time of that sacred ordinance. Part of this ordinance is a promise to remember Him always and a witness of individual willingness to take upon oneself the name of Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments. In partaking of the sacrament and making these commitments, Church members renew the covenant they made at baptism (see Mosiah 18:8–10; Doctrine and Covenants 20:37).
In return, the Lord renews the promised remission of sin and enables Church members to “always have his Spirit to be with them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). The Spirit’s constant companionship is one of the greatest gifts of mortality.
In preparation for the sacrament each week, Church members take time to examine their lives and repent of sins. They do not need to be perfect in order to partake of the sacrament, but they should have a spirit of humility and repentance in their hearts. Every week they strive to prepare for that sacred ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 3 Nephi 9:20).
Scripture Study Resources
Messages from Church Leaders
Tabernacle Choir Videos
“God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son”
Aaron L. West, “Little Children and the Sacrament,” Ensign, October 2016
“Line upon Line: Matthew 26:26–28,” New Era, October 2016
“Questions & Answers: What am I supposed to think about during the sacrament?” New Era, June 2014
“Renewing Covenants through the Sacrament,” Ensign, June 2010
Marilynne Linford, “Questions and Answers about the Sacrament,” Friend, March 2008
Laurel Rohlfing, “Remember Jesus Christ during the Sacrament,” Ensign, June 2007
Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Restoration of the Sacrament (Part 1: Loss and Christian Reformations),” Ensign, January 1992
Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Restoration of the Sacrament (Part 2: A New and Ancient Covenant),” Ensign, February 1992
Pat Graham, “Sharing Time: Be Grateful for the Sacrament,” Friend, November 1987
John S. Tanner, “Reflections on the Sacrament Prayers,” Ensign, April 1986
In the News
“Viewpoint: The Sacred Ordinance of the Sacrament,” Church News
“Young Men, Teach about the Sacrament, Brother Beck Says,” Church News
Teachings of Presidents of the Church
Stories and Activities for Teaching Children
“Sacrament,” Lesson Helps for Teaching Children
With the church’s blessing, Mormon girls are passing the sacrament — and not just to the members sitting next to them
It was practicality, not activism, that gave Mormon girls a chance to carry a sacrament tray, a task universally handed to the church’s all-male priesthood.
In July, Liesl Shurtliff told her husband, Scott Shurtliff, a lay bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that she was missing the sacrament — the weekly Communion ritual with bread and water representing the body and blood of Christ — to nurse her baby in the mother’s lounge, typically inside a women’s restroom.
“We should do something about that,” Bishop Shurtliff concluded, especially since his Hyde Park congregation near the University of Chicago is teeming with young couples and infants.
So he did.
Shurtliff instructed the young deacons (12- and 13-year-old boys) to take their trays to the women’s room, where girls were stationed to carry the consecrated elements inside and pass them to the mothers there.
It was, he said this week, no different than deacons handing trays to members in the pews, who then hand them from person to person, regardless of gender.
There have been reports of a similar practice in Mormon wards in various locales, including Utah County.
Indeed, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the Utah-based faith has no problem with these efforts.
“It is appropriate for a sister to assist by carrying the sacrament tray into the mother’s lounge,” Hawkins said in a statement, “just as it is common for members to pass the sacrament tray to one another in the chapel.”
In recent years, some Mormon feminists have been pushing for greater gender equity in Latter-day Saint programs and practices. The group Ordain Women has been seeking female entrance into the all-male priesthood.
Even without full-on ordination, letting teenage girls pass the sacrament seems to many like a relatively easy but significant symbolic move.
“We have the opportunity as leaders and members to look closely at our ordinances and practices and determine where priesthood keys are necessary to perform ordinances, and where they are not,” said Neylan McBaine, author of “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact.”
“In the sacrament, the prayer said over the bread or water is scripturally mandated. Who then holds the tray and passes it around the congregation is not,” she said. “This seems like an appropriate area to examine whether or not we have needlessly overextended the necessity of the priesthood.”
April Young Bennett, a writer with the Mormon feminist magazine Exponent II, cheered this sacrament development.
The church’s teenage girls “are so underutilized,” Bennett said. “When boys turn 12, they have this sacred opportunity to pass the sacrament. Girls have nothing comparable.”
The Hyde Park solution, she noted, is a “great way to involve the young women as well as a great way to help nursing mothers.”
Of course, not all breastfeeding moms want to be sequestered in the mother’s lounge, Bennett said, but this meets the needs of those who do desire that privacy.
She and other Latter-day Saint feminists long have pointed out that there is no scriptural mandate for using only young men to pass the bread and water.
“It would make such a big difference in the lives of young women,” Bennett said, “to participate in sacred ordinances.”
Janie George, a member of the Young Women’s presidency in the Hyde Park congregation, has seen that happen up close.
Girls there have responded enthusiastically, George said. “They’ve been excited about participating.”
This should be done in every ward that needs it, she wrote in an email, “especially when nursing mothers are often not permitted to nurse in the chapel [something I don’t agree with].”
After Shurtliff announced this practice to the Young Women leaders, George said, “I wondered why I didn’t do this as a young woman.”
The Rules About Administering The Sacrament at Home
As the COVID-19 virus continues to impact Latter-day Saints around the world, many wonder how to continue partaking of the sacred ordinance of the sacrament if Sunday meetings are canceled. For members of the Church, partaking of the sacrament weekly is an essential part of gospel living. Here is what the General Handbook states about administering the sacrament outside of weekly church meetings.
The bishop holds the priesthood keys for administering the sacrament in the ward. All who participate in preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament must receive approval from him or someone under his direction.
If members of his ward are unable to partake of the sacrament because they are confined to a home, care center, or hospital, the bishop may authorize priesthood holders to administer the sacrament to them. He may authorize this even if they are temporarily outside his ward boundaries. However, he may not authorize the sacrament to be given to members outside his ward boundaries in other circumstances.
According to these guidelines for families in isolated areas, “The father or another priesthood holder may prepare and bless the sacrament if he is worthy, is a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood or holds the Melchizedek Priesthood.” Any priesthood holder may pass the sacrament. In all cases, authorization is needed from a bishop or presiding authority to administer the sacrament. Those involved in preparing the sacrament, blessing the sacrament, and passing the sacrament should strive to maintain the same level of reverence as if attending a Sunday meeting, including in dress and decorum.
Bishops and other Church leaders will work to help families understand the guidelines of partaking of the sacrament if Sunday meetings are canceled in your area. Help will also be provided to those without a priesthood leader in their home. If your meetings have not been canceled but you feel uncomfortable attending sacrament meeting, contact your bishop to receive authorization to hold the sacrament in your home or have the priesthood come to you.
Here are a couple of ideas to keep in mind as the coronavirus spreads in regards to the sacrament:
- The elderly and those with existing health conditions as especially susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Anyone administering the sacrament to these persons should be tested for fevers and symptoms before administering the sacrament.
- Use gloves when preparing and administering the sacrament.
- Place pieces of bread in individual cups if administering to small groups to prevent contamination.
- Thoroughly sanitize all surfaces food or drink will come in contact with.
More information will be provided as it becomes available.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.
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Sacrament (LDS Church)
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, most often simply referred to as the sacrament, is the ordinance in which participants eat bread and drink water in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Normally, the sacrament is provided every Sunday as part of the sacrament meeting in each LDS Church congregation.
In the LDS Church, the word "ordinance" is used approximately as the word sacrament is used in many other denominations of Christianity. In the LDS Church, the sacrament is a specific ordinance. Latter-day Saint adherents regard partaking of the sacrament to be a commandment of Jesus Christ; participating in it demonstrates a willingness to remember the atonement of Jesus Christ.
In each congregation of the LDS Church, the sacrament is offered on a weekly basis during sacrament meeting; the sacrament is not provided during general and stake conferences. As most males in the church age 16 years and older can perform the ordinance, church congregations may send men to the homes of sick or housebound members in order to provide them with the sacrament. Fathers of families occasionally perform the ordinance with their families during times of illness or travel, but this requires the approval of the local bishop or branch president and is not intended to replace the regular attendance of public sacrament meetings. In areas lacking an organized church presence or in times when meeting is impossible, a priesthood holder in the household generally administers the sacrament to his family and possibly to others nearby who do not have a priesthood holder in the home.
Method of administering the sacrament to the congregation
In LDS sacrament meetings, the sacrament is passed to members of the congregation after being blessed by a priest from the Aaronic priesthood or a member of the Melchizedek priesthood. The sacrament table is prepared before the meeting begins, usually by teachers, by placing whole slices of bread on trays and filling small individual water cups, which are also held in trays. Both bread and water trays are then covered with white cloth. After introductory prayers, administrative business, and announcements, the sacrament portion of the service begins. It is customary for the congregation to sing a hymn while the bread is uncovered and prepared. The congregation remains seated while the priesthood representatives stand and break bread into bite-sized pieces. The breaking of the bread represents the broken body of Christ. After breaking the bread and the conclusion of the hymn, the priesthood holder kneels and says a set prayer on the broken bread. The bread is passed to the congregation by priesthood holders, usually by deacons. The prayer on the bread is found in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants:
- "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 they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he has given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Book of Moroni 4:3, Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).
After the bread is passed to the congregation, the bread trays are placed on the table and covered with the white cloth. The water trays are then uncovered and a set prayer is given on the water, which is then passed to the congregation. The prayer on the water indicates that the water represents the shed blood of Christ:
- "O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this [water] 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." (Book of Moroni 5:2, Doctrine and Covenants 20:79).
After the water is passed to the congregation, the water trays are covered with the bread trays for the remainder of the service. Usually, those who have prepared the bread and water prior to the meeting have the responsibility of disposing of them after the meeting. The leftover bread and water are discarded. Latter-day Saints believe the bread and water to be symbols, not the actual body and blood of Christ; therefore, discarding blessed bread and water is not considered sacrilegious.
The sacramental prayers are different from most other prayers in the LDS Church in that they must be recited verbatim. If the person blessing the sacrament makes a mistake and does not correct himself, the bishop or branch president will signal that the prayer must be repeated until recited correctly.
Alterations and Substitutions
As introduced by the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, the sacrament included the use of fermented wine, though the church now uses water.
Following what adherents believe came in an 1830 revelation given to Smith not to purchase alcohol from enemies, the church focused on producing its own wine, eventually owning and operating vineyards and wineries in Utah Territory and California during the 19th century.
In 1833, Smith said he received the revelation known as the Word of Wisdom, part of which prohibits the consumption of alcohol, with the exception of sacramental wine. Initially, the Word of Wisdom was treated as a recommendation, and the early Latter Day Saints would still drink alcohol. During the late-19th century, church leaders began to interpret the Word of Wisdom as a requirement for membership. This increased respect for the Word of Wisdom, combined with other scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants, led congregations to begin substituting water for the sacramental wine. The practice was officially adopted church-wide in 1912.
Occasionally, a lack of access to bread will result in the use of food other than bread in the sacrament. For instance, after the Second World War, members in Switzerland, under heavy food rationing, "were so anxious to partake of the sacrament that they purchased some potato peelings which cost fifty dollars and used these in place of bread."
Changes in sacrament administration
- Weekly administration of the sacrament in the LDS Church did not begin until the 1850s. There is no revelation directly commanding the sacrament to be a weekly practice, but the custom developed and spread throughout the church over time.
- Until the late 1890s or early-20th century, the entire congregation kneeled during the sacramental prayers, consistent with D&C 20:76 and Moroni 4:2. Current practice requires that only the individual giving the prayer kneel.
- Deacons and teachers did not originally take part in the preparing or passing of the sacrament, a practice which was first adopted in 1898 and was widely implemented in the 1920s or 1930s. Previous reluctance to involve them was probably due to the following verse from the LDS Doctrine and Covenants:
″But neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands″ (Doctrine and Covenants 20:58).
- The term "administer" has since been interpreted as referring to recitation of the sacrament prayer, which deacons and teachers are not given the authority to do.
- Individual water cups, instead of drinking from a common cup, were introduced in 1911.
- Passing the sacrament first to the presiding church authority was emphasized in 1946.
Temporary adjustments due to COVID-19
On March 12, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders of the church announced a temporary suspension of all large meetings for members of the church worldwide, including weekly sacrament meetings, which is effective until further notice. Among the instructions given during this period of time was the directive that the bishops of each congregation ensure that those over whom they have stewardship receive the sacrament at least once a month during this period of time.
Meaning of the sacrament
The sacrament is viewed by adherents as a renewal of a member's covenant made at baptism. According to the sacramental prayers, a person eats and drinks in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus, promises to always remember Him, take His name upon them, and keep His commandments. In return, the prayer promises that the participant will always have the Spirit to be with them.
The sacrament is considered the most sacred and important element of normal Sabbath day observance and as such is approached by Latter-day Saints with reverence and in a spirit of penitence. Consequently, all who partake of the sacrament are encouraged to examine their own consciences and prayerfully gauge their own worthiness to do so. If they feel unworthy, they are encouraged to refrain from participating in the sacrament until they have properly repented of their sins. Partaking of the sacrament by non-members and unbaptized members is permissible (except in cases were the person has been excommunicated by the church), but the unbaptized are regarded as not having part of the covenant associated with the sacrament.
- ^See, e.g., Roberts, B. H. (1938). Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Deseret News Press. OCLC 0842503005.[page needed]
- ^Dallin H., Oaks (May 1985). "Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ". Ensign. 15 (5): 101–105. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^Christofferson, D. Todd (October 2017). "The Living Bread Which Came Down from Heaven". Ensign. 47 (11). Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^in the Book of Mormon, the verse reads "which he hath given them".
- ^The text of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants contains the word "wine" rather than "water". Since the LDS Church uses water rather than wine in the sacrament, the word is changed to "water" in the prayer.
- ^D&C 27:2–4.
- ^Louis, David (9 January 2021). "'Near everyone drinks wine in Southern Utah': A brief history of Dixie Wine". St. George News. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^Lancaster, Dennis R. (1972). Dixie Wine. Provo: Brigham Young University. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^Lancaster, Dennis (Summer 1976). "Dixie Wine Mission"(PDF). Sunstone. 1 (3): 74–84. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^"[I]t mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory": Doctrine and Covenants 27:2.
- ^ abBray, Justin R. (2011). "'All Progressive Wards Are Buying': The Individual Sacrament Cup". Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^Babbel, Frederick W. (1998). On Wings of Faith: My Daily Walk with a Prophet. Cedar Fort Incorporated. p. 46. ISBN .
- ^"Doctrine and Covenants 20:76". churchofjesuschrist.org. February 21, 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^"Moroni 4:2". churchofjesuschrist.org. February 21, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- ^"Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings". churchofjesuschrist.org. February 21, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- ^Lyman, Francis M. (1899). "The Administration of the Sacrament in the Sunday School". In Deseret Sunday School Union (ed.). Proceedings of the Sunday School Convention. p. 75. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^Additional scriptural support for this interpretation may be found in Moroni 4:1 "1 The manner of their elders and priests administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church; and they administered it according to the commandments of Christ; wherefore we know the manner to be true; and the elder or priest did minister it"
- ^McKay, David O. (April 1946). "The Lord's Sacrament". Conference Report: 116. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (12 March 2020). "Update: Gatherings of Church Members Temporarily Suspended Worldwide" (Press release). churchofjesuschrist.org. Newsroom. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^"Directions for Essential Ordinances, Blessings, and Other Church Functions" (Press release). Newsroom, churchofjesuschrist.org. 16 April 2020. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^"Chapter 23: The Sacrament". Gospel Principles. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- ^Burton, Theodore M. (May 1983). "To Forgive Is Divine". Ensign. 13 (5): 70. Retrieved 4 March 2021.