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Sacramentby Paul B. Pixton
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 Supperbread 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 gloryremembering 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 Sacrament Prayers)
[See also Why Do We Partake of the Sacrament With the Right Hand?; The Aaronic Priesthood and the Sacrament by Elder Dallin H. Oaks; Atonement of Jesus Christ home page; Easter home page; Communion; Last Supper; Always Have His Spirit by Elder Dallin H. Oaks; Partaking of the Sacrament family home evening lesson; Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Priesthood Organization home page; Priesthood Ordinances home page]
Madsen, Truman G. "Christ and the Sacrament" and "The Sacramental Life." Christ and the Inner Life, pp. 39-42. Salt Lake City, 1981.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Sacrament
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company