This is an essay on the symbolic meaning behind the LDS ordinance of the sacrament and is meant to uncover some of the obvious (but well hidden) symbolism behind the way the ordinance is currently being performed. This essay does not claim to be thorough or complete in its discussion of the symbolism of the sacrament. Much of the traditional symbolism behind the sacrament with regard to the emblems of Christ and man’s relationship to him can be found a variety of other writings as well as discussed in weekly church meetings. It is not the intention of this essay to be redundant with regard to these teachings. Rather, the intention is to provide additional information that may not be noticed by all but a few of those who consider themselves well-versed in understanding the symbolism behind the ordinance. Thus, this essay will discuss some of the contemporary symbolism behind the sacrament ordinance that might be overlooked by the rank-and-file church attendee
The author of this essay does not claim to be anyone special, to receive revelation for the church, or to have any special insight or wisdom. Nor does the author claim that the material within this essay is correct. The material is just provided as food for thought so that some may benefit by considering the words and seeking their own answers directly from God.
Asking for answers is the beginning of wisdom. Unfortunately, very few notice what is occurring about them and, thereby, are guilty of walking in darkness at noonday. To the (LDS) church the Lord remarks "… there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen. They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are WALKING IN DARKNESS AT NOON-DAY." (capitals added for emphasis; D&C 95:5-6) Like the first man, Adam, many are in a deep sleep. Many who have gone to temple and taken out endowments realize that (symbolically) Adam represents each of us. As in the admonishment to Adam, the Lord is continually calling to each of us: "Adam…. Adam…. AWAKE AND ARISE!"
The Lord calls to us to awake through a variety of ways. One is through the symbolism in many of our ordinances as well as by the irregularities therein. We only need to pay attention to see the symbolism. It is meant for us to take notice of what is going on about us and to begin asking questions. Even when ordinances change through the years, they take on new symbolism that few notice. Although this essay will focus only on modern ordinance of the sacrament, the reader is encouraged to look about him (or her) for contemporary symbolism in other aspects of the gospel that may have been missed.
This essay will proceed by first posing questions about apparent irregularities in the modern LDS sacramental ordinance. Again, these are questions that many should be asking, but do not ask because they are not paying attention. These apparent irregularities are essentially the equivalent of the Lord calling to each of us… "Adam, are you paying attention? Are you awake yet?"
Hopefully, it will be understood that the sacrament is being performed exactly as it should be done in our day, despite it not being performed in the most pure manner. The reason is that the people are not deserving of the most pure ordinance and so they are left with a perverted one. The Lord has his hand in all things and there is much symbolism in the modern ordinance THAT IS MEANT TO BE NOTICED BY THOSE WHO ARE (SPIRITUALLY) AWAKE.
Question #1: Why does the Aaronic Priesthood administer the sacrament?
In the majority of LDS Wards and Branches, the sacrament is routinely administered by the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, comprising the offices of priest, teacher, and deacon. To rank-and-file LDS, seeing these young men administering the sacrament is neither unusual nor alarming. Most never notice the words of the Lord in the D&C regarding this ordinance and are comfortable in their delusions that everything is being done in pure form.
However, careful reading of the D&C makes it clear that administration of the sacrament is the responsibility of the Melchizedek Priesthood (elder) and priests (Aaronic Priesthood) are only to do so when "THERE IS NO ELDER PRESENT".
D&C section 20 contains revelation given at the time the latter-day church was organized on April 6, 1830, and contains many passages regarding the duties of various offices of the priesthood. Verse 46 states that it is "The priest's duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament," Thus, priests do indeed have authority to administer this sacred ordinance. However, verse 50 states "But WHEN THERE IS AN ELDER PRESENT, he (the priest) is ONLY TO PREACH, TEACH, EXPOUND, EXHORT, AND BAPTIZE," This idea is also seen in verses 38 through 40: "An apostle is an elder, and it is HIS (apostle or elder) CALLING to baptize;… And to ADMINISTER BREAD AND WINE--the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ".
Interestingly, the priests are usually assisted by the deacons and teachers in administering the sacrament. "BUT NEITHER TEACHERS NOR DEACONS HAVE AUTHORITY TO baptize, ADMINISTER THE SACRAMENT, or lay on hands;" (D&C 20:58)
Thus, the question is then asked that if it is the duty of the Elders to administer the sacrament, then why is it being done so often in LDS Wards and Branches by the Aaronic Priesthood? That is, why do priests administer the sacrament when there is an elder present? What is the Lord trying to tell us through this apparent anomaly?
To fully comprehend and appreciate the answers to these questions, it is necessary to first understand a key concept that is described in section 107 of the D&C: The Melchizedek Priesthood has responsibility over the spiritual state of the church and the Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of the preparatory gospel. The reader is asked to keep this concept in mind with the idea that the answers to these questions will become more clear as this essay progresses.
Question #2: Who are those who are unworthy to take the sacrament?
The Lord sternly warns in the Book of Mormon to refrain from giving the sacrament to those who are unworthy. But, to who is this referring? It is plain from reading the scriptures that all those who are NOT BAPTIZED are unworthy of partaking of the sacrament.
However, it is the practice in many LDS wards and branches to not forbid investigators from partaking of the sacrament and this is the policy in the author’s home branch. The Aaronic Priesthood is instructed by the leadership that non-members are not forbidden from partaking and to pass the sacrament trays to them as well as to everyone else. It has been explained that refusing non-members the sacrament could result in them being offended and not feel welcome in church.
The warning to the priesthood to forbid those who are unworthy to partake of the sacrament is recorded in 3Nephi, chapter 18 (verses 28-30): "… this is the commandment which I give unto you, that 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; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him. Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and IF IT BE SO THAT HE REPENTETH AND IS BAPTIZED in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood." The stipulation that the unworthy are those who need to repent and be baptized is in agreement with the Lord’s instructions to the disciples "And this (sacrament) shall ye always do to THOSE WHO REPENT AND ARE BAPTIZED in my name;" (3Nephi 18:11) as well as with instructions in the D&C (20:68) "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."
Question #3: Why don’t all kneel when the sacramental prayer is said?
When the sacramental prayer is spoken, no one kneels with the exception of the person speaking the prayer. Apparently, most LDS do not find this to be unusual.
However, the Lord plainly instructs in the D&C that everyone in the church is to kneel: "And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it—HE SHALL KNEEL WITH THE CHURCH and call upon the Father in solemn prayer, saying: O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ …" (D&C 20:76-77). This is the same manner in which it was done in Book of Mormon times: "And THEY DID KNEEL DOWN WITH THE CHURCH, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ, saying: O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name …" (Moroni 4:2-3)
Question #4: Why is water rather than wine used in the sacrament?
In the LDS sacrament, water is substituted for wine. The usual reason given for this is that Joseph Smith was instructed to substitute water for the wine because others were poisoning the wine. However, close examination of church history uncovers the fact that there is no justification for substituting water for wine in administration of the sacrament.
Briefly, in 1830, Joseph went to procure some wine for the sacrament to be administered after the confirmation of Newel Knight and his wife. On his way, he was met by a heavenly messenger and received the revelation that is recorded in D&C 27 warning him only to use wine of their own making (see History of the Church, Vol 1, page 106).
In D&C 27 (verses 2-5), the Lord instructs Joseph 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… Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies; Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you;". However, few realize that after Joseph received this revelation, he procured wine of their own make and used it rather than water (or anything else). This is recorded in the History of the Church (Vol 1, page 108): "… In obedience to the above commandment (in D&C 27), WE PREPARED SOME WINE of our own making, and held our meeting, consisting only of five, viz., Newel Knight and his wife, myself and my wife, and John Whitmer. We partook together of the Sacrament, …"
Furthermore, few LDS notice that section 89 of the D&C was given three years AFTER section 27 and that section 89 instructs in using WINE in the sacrament: "That inasmuch as any man drinketh WINE or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, ONLY IN ASSEMBLING YOURSELVES TOGETHER TO OFFER UP YOUR SACRAMENTS before him." (D&C 89:5)
There is no scripture in the LDS cannon that instructs to use water in the sacrament. Section 27 of the D&C calls for wine of their own make. Wine is very symbolic and the reason it is used in the sacrament lies in its symbolism as an emblem of the blood of Christ. When grapes are trod upon by men, the juice that becomes wine flows out.
Perhaps the reason that water is substituted for wine is that there is an important symbolic message that is meant to be noticed.
Question #5: Why is the Lords supper so scant?
Most notice that the contemporary LDS sacrament consists of a small piece of bread and a very small cup of water. But many religious scholars believe that in new testament times, the sacrament was equivalent to a full meal. The ordinance is sometimes referred to as "the Lord’s supper", but the scant crumb of bread and thimble of water given in the LDS ordinance would not even make a decent snack.
In the scriptures, there are references to eating of the sacrament until you are filled: "And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat. And when they had eaten and WERE FILLED, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude. And when the multitude had eaten and WERE FILLED, he said unto the disciples: 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." (3Nephi 18:3-5) Similarly: "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." (3Nephi 20:8) Of course, being filled is symbolic of being filled spiritually. But, all ordinances have outer and inner meanings. There is supposed to be a physical (outer) representation (being filled) that is symbolic of the spiritual (inner) filling of the hunger in a persons soul.
Summary and the proposed symbolic meanings in the contemporary ordinance.
The ordinance of the LDS sacrament is very symbolic and instructive to anyone who cares enough to pay attention. The Lord constantly calls to Adam (each of us) to awake from his (or her) slumber. As briefly discussed in the above paragraphs, the ordinance of the LDS sacrament contains a variety of irregularities that seem to contradict the scriptures and are out of harmony with the proper performance of the ordinance. These include such things as administering the sacrament to those who are unbaptized as well as failure to use the proper emblems, such as wine.
What follows are a few brief explanations of the symbolic meanings of what might seem to be irregularities in the performance of the (LDS) sacrament. These do not pretend to be the correct or authoritative answers, but are presented only as food for thought from which a person may obtain their own answers from the Lord.
Aaronic Priesthood. Among other things, the LDS ordinance is symbolic of the (spiritual) state of the LDS church and mans relationship to God. The LDS church today administers the preparatory gospel (which falls under the responsibility of the Aaronic Priesthood). A complete discussion of the preparatory gospel is beyond the scope of this essay, so the reader is asked to do their own searching. However, this aside, perhaps the reason that the Aaronic priesthood administers the sacrament when there appear to be elders present is that there is really NO ELDER PRESENT. According to D&C 121 (31-46), the priesthood may be conferred upon men, but it easily lost due to pride, vain seeking, and unrighteous dominion. Perhaps there are many who think that they hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, but really do not because of having violated the conditions stated in D&C 121. Thus, like the young men who usually administer the sacrament in their (the elder’s) presence, they too only hold the priesthood of Aaron. Could there be such a state of spiritual corruption and dominion occurring in the church that the Melchizedek Priesthood has been generally lost?
Perhaps unrighteous dominion by the shepherds over the flock can be illustrated in such a common occurrence as the sustaining vote. The Lord has instructed that all things be done by common consent (D&C 28:13). However, one will notice that there is rarely, if ever, a dissenting vote seen today when a sustaining vote is taken. Some may even feel that it is evil and unrighteous to vote contrary to what is proposed. If so, then what does ‘common consent’ mean? Why then are the votes taken? Anyone who carefully studies early church history, finds that it was not so in the beginning because many such votes were heavily split. However, it is not unusual today for someone giving a dissenting vote to find themselves in front of a disciplinary court for failure to vote in the proscribed manner.
The unworthy. The failure of the church to kneel before the Lord when the sacrament is blessed is symbolic of pride and arrogance on the part of the church in general. The submission to the Lord (symbolized by kneeling before him) is done in word only, and not in deed. Inasmuch as the true sacrament can only be partaken in a genuine spirit of repentance and humility, the LDS in general become those who are unworthy to partake.
Being unworthy themselves, the LDS are no longer prohibited to forbid others who are unworthy to partake, notwithstanding neither really does because the ordinance is not being carried out properly. Thus, they are left with a changed ordinance that is directly suited to the (spiritual) condition of those receiving it.
Water and crumbs. Use of water rather than wine in the sacrament is symbolic of "watering down" of this holy ordinance. Likewise, the (literal) small piece of bread and thimble of water (which is passed) is symbolic of receiving a (spiritual) sip and a morsel. Few eat and are filled spiritually, so why should they be expected to be filled physically?
Final remarks. After reading this essay and thereby realizing that there indeed are irregularities in the performance of the (LDS) sacrament, some may feel confused and disheartened. Some may even be tempted to ignore the material and to slip quietly back into the comfort of maintaining ones own delusions. Others might wonder why the Lord would allow such changes in the ordinance to occur.
However, in the midst of this darkness shines a great light and perhaps this is why such corruption is allowed to occur. The message of all true prophets as well as what is recorded in the scriptures is to come unto Christ personally and KNOW HIM. Ultimately, this is also the meaning behind the ordinance of the sacrament.
The curse of the preparatory gospel is meant to turn souls unto Christ. There are many anomalies in the preparatory gospel that are meant to be noticed and contain much symbolism for all who will take notice. When one realizes that "all is not well in Zion", it is hoped that this will result in earnest seeking of answers directly from the Lord. Again, it is a wake up call for all those who are guilty of walking in darkness at noonday: "AWAKE AND ARISE!"
Thus, what appears to be in disorder is not so at all. Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see will contemplate these things and will ultimately comprehend that these apparent irregularities in the sacrament are, in actuality, in order.