Sacrament (LDS Church)
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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. It is similar to the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, or communion in Protestant denominations. 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 demonstrate 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, the male head of 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 Church 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, representing the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. 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, while the priesthood representative kneels. 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.
The use of wine as a symbol of the blood of Christ
Commanded in an 1830 revelation 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 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 on occasion. During the late-19th century, church leaders began to interpret the Word of Wisdom as a mandatory requirement for members. 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. Crackers and tortillas are sometimes used in outdoor, rugged settings, such as church-sponsored Boy Scout camping trips. In such situations, the word "bread" is typically retained in the prayer.
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 rather 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.
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 the Sunday meetings 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, "Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ", May 1985, pp. 101—05.
- 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.
- "[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.
- "Doctrine and Covenants 20:76". lds.org. February 21, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- "Moroni 4:2". lds.org. February 21, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- "Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings". lds.org. February 21, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- Francis M. Lyman, "Proceedings of the First Sunday School Convention", p. 75.[full citation needed]
- David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1946, p. 116.
- Burton, Theodore M. (May 1983). "To Forgive is Divine". Ensign: 70.