What Does It Mean to Eat and Drink the Bread and Water to Our Souls?

When Jesus visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He introduced the sacrament. Breaking and blessing bread, He told the people to eat in remembrance of His body. Passing a cup of wine, He told them to drink in remembrance of His blood. After the people ate the bread and drank the wine, “they were filled” (3 Nephi 18:1-11).

The following day, Jesus again gave the people bread to eat and wine to drink (3 Nephi 20:3-7). On that occasion, He instructed them further about what they were doing:

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 (3 Nephi 20:8).

This statement is reminiscent of one of the Beatitudes, which Jesus had shared with them the day before: “Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 12:6).

Near the end of the Book of Mormon, we read the words of the sacrament prayers. In both of the prayers, we ask Heavenly Father to “bless and sanctify” the bread or the wine “to the souls of all those who partake [or drink] of it” (Moroni 4:3, Moroni 5:2). Once again, we are told that the sacrament is for the soul.

What does it mean to eat and drink the bread and water to our souls?

Early in His mortal ministry, Jesus preached a sermon which was disturbing to some. Speaking to a group of people who had eaten some bread and fishes He had miraculously multiplied, He said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27). What was that food which would last forever? “I am the bread of life,” He said. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Then, He made the imagery a little more vivid:

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me (John 6:54-56).

This imagery was too much for some of His disciples, who “went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). But it was not inconsistent with the metaphors He used on other occasions. For example, to the Samaritan woman at the well, He said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).

Internalizing the Savior’s teachings is the goal. Becoming one with Him and with His Father is the goal. Adopting His attributes and character is what our discipleship is all about. Eating and drinking is an appropriate symbol for what we are trying to do. We ask God to bless and sanctify the bread and water to our souls because those sacramental emblems are symbolic of something much more important: our desire to “put on Christ:” to adopt His attributes, to emulate His actions, to become like Him (Galatians 3:27).

This Sunday, as I partake of the sacrament, I will remember what the act of eating and drinking represent. I will strive to eat and drink to my soul—to participate fully in an activity which can satisfy my spiritual hunger and thirst and lead me toward eternal life.

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What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About the Sacrament?

Shortly before His death and resurrection, Jesus shared a meal with His apostles in Jerusalem. The purpose of this meal, which is known as the Last Supper, was to celebrate Passover, a Jewish feast commemorating the deliverance of Israel from Egypt 1,500 years earlier. During the meal, Jesus blessed and broke bread, telling His disciples, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then, He poured wine and said, “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood” (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20). The apostle Paul added that Jesus told the disciples, “This do in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). And Luke indicated that members of the church developed the practice of meeting on the first day of the week—Sunday—to “break bread,” presumably a repetition of the practice Jesus had instituted (Acts 20:7). (See also Acts 2:42.)

Soon after the Savior’s resurrection, as He visited a group of people on the American continent, He instituted the same practice. He asked His disciples to bring bread and wine. Breaking and blessing the bread, He “gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.” He then distributed “the wine of the cup” to His disciples and commanded them to distribute it to the multitude. At that time, He explained a few more things about this religious practice:

  1. Specific individuals will be authorized to perform this ordinance.
  2. The act of taking the bread and wine is itself a testimony to the Father that the people are willing to keep the Savior’s commandments and that they always remember Him.
  3. He promised them that, if they would always remember Him, they would always have His Spirit to be with them.
  4. People who repent and are baptized should “always” participate in this ordinance.

(3 Nephi 18:1-11).

The following day, after praying with the much larger multitude who had assembled, He again gave them bread to eat and wine to drink. However, this time, there was no bread or wine brought by the disciples. These supplies appeared miraculously (3 Nephi 20:3-7). On that occasion, He said:

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 (3 Nephi 20:8).

Near the end of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni added a few more chapters, after surviving alone for longer than he had expected (Moroni 1:4). Among those chapters are instructions for “administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church,” including specific words to be used in blessing the bread and the wine (Moroni 4, Moroni 5). Those words echo some of the teachings of the Savior in the passages above, including the concept that we eat and drink “to [our] souls,” that we witness our remembrance of Jesus and our willingness to keep His commandments by partaking, and that we will receive His Spirit if we always remember Him.

In the following chapter, Moroni explained that this became a common practice in the church: “They did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (Moroni 6:6).

Today, I will be grateful for the additional knowledge about the sacrament provided by the Book of Mormon. I will remember that disciples of Christ have a duty to participate in this ordinance regularly. I will remember that participating in this ordinance is a way of demonstrating to my Heavenly Father that I always remember His Son, and that I can thus qualify for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I will also remember that I eat the bread and drink the water to my soul, and that, if I do so appropriately, my soul will be filled.

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Why Did the Disciples Pray to Jesus in 3 Nephi 19?

During the first day of the Savior’s visit to the American continent, He taught the people to pray to Heavenly Father in His name (3 Nephi 18:19-21, 23, 30). This is consistent with His instructions to the twelve apostles at the Last Supper (John 14:13-14, John 15:16, John 16:23-26). The following morning, as they gathered in anticipation of His return, they did just that (3 Nephi 19:6-8). And as Mormon tells us, they followed that pattern in the days and years that followed (3 Nephi 27:2, 3 Nephi 28:30Moroni 3:2).

But there was an exception to this pattern. When the Savior appeared on the second day, He had the people kneel down, and then He invited the twelve disciples whom He had chosen to kneel and pray. Instead of following the pattern which they had been taught (and which they had followed just a short time earlier), Mormon tells us that on this occasion, “they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God” (3 Nephi 19:18).

Why did they pray directly to Him? The Savior explained the reason as He prayed to the Father:

Thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them (3 Nephi 19:22).

How did the disciples know that this variation was acceptable on this occasion?

The Bible Dictionary entry for “prayer” tells us, “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God,… then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.” We must never forget what we are actually doing when we pray: communicating with God. The disciples had prayed to the Father earlier that day “for that which they most desired,” which was “that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Nephi 19:9). Now, as they prayed to Jesus, they had received the Holy Ghost, and inspiration was an essential element of their prayers:

They did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire” (3 Nephi 19:24).

These prayers were not monologues. They were interactive experiences: talking, listening, and sincerely expressing the deepest feelings of their hearts.

The purpose of prayer is communion with God:

We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ–when His words abide in us.  (Bible Dictionary).

So it was acceptable for the disciples to pray to Jesus instead of to the Father in His name on this occasion because He was in their presence. And they knew that their prayer was acceptable because they were genuinely communicating with God, and expressing the sincere desires of their hearts and receiving revelation from His Spirit as they prayed.

Today, I will strive to pray with the sincerity of these disciples. I will strive to listen to the guidance of the Spirit as I pray. I will remember that praying in the name of Christ is more than simply saying His name during the prayer. It is aligning my will with His and striving to pray for things which are consistent with His purposes.

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How Is Jesus Both “the Father and the Son?”

Yesterday, I wrote about a phrase used by the prophet Abinadi to describe the Savior: “the light and the life of the world.” Today, I’d like to talk about another pair of titles Abinadi also applied to Jesus Christ: “the Father and the Son” (Mosiah 15:2). What did he mean by that?

After quoting Isaiah’s description of the Savior’s willingness to bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, and be wounded for our transgressions (Mosiah 14:4-5), Abinadi emphasizes the self-discipline required for the Savior to carry out the atonement. To illustrate this point, Abinadi uses the terms “the Father” and “the Son” to describe the dual nature of Christ during His mortal life:

  • The Father” refers to that part of Him which was immortal and divine. He was “God himself”—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God who revealed Himself to Moses. He was the creator of the earth. He was also the literal Son of God.
  • The Son” refers to the part of Him which was mortal, the part which He inherited from His earthly mother, Mary. Abinadi calls it “the flesh.” It is the part of Him which enabled Him to experience life as we experience it, to suffer “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” and ultimately, to willingly submit to death (Alma 7:11).

Abinadi uses these two terms to illuminate the fact that the atonement of Jesus Christ was a real victory. Even though He was the omnipotent God, there was a part of Him which tried to drag Him down. By taking upon Himself a mortal body, He subjected Himself to the same weaknesses and infirmities which we experience as mortals. The atonement represents the Savior’s total victory over the bondage we experience because of our mortal bodies.

While Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciples slept, including the three whom He had brought within hearing distance of the place where He prayed. He tried to wake them twice, but He responded compassionately to their inability to stay awake. “The spirit indeed is willing,” He said, “but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

At that moment, the Savior did not have the same luxury. After pleading with His Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” He confirmed His willingness to endure the agony which would follow: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). In making this statement, He confirmed not only His willingness to submit to His Father’s will, but also His control over His own flesh. He had the power to submit His will to the will of His Father because the will of “the Son” inside of Himself (“the flesh”) had been “swallowed up” in the will of “the Father” inside of Himself (His spirit). (See Mosiah 15:2-7.)

The day the Savior was born, He spoke with the prophet Nephi to assure him that the sign of His birth would be given that night. Paraphrasing the prophet Abinadi, He said, “I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh” (3 Nephi 1:14). Embedded in this statement are both types of submission described above:

  1. Of the Father because of me” – Jesus voluntarily submitted His will to the will of His Father.
  2. Of the Son because of my flesh” – Now that His will was aligned with His Father’s will, He exercised self-discipline to overcome resistance or reluctance from His earthly body.

The Apostle Paul taught us that we must also learn to discipline ourselves and to overcome the negative tendencies of our mortal bodies:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would….
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:16-17, 24).

Today, I will remember the unfathomable self-discipline demonstrated by the Savior as He overcame sin and death for all of us. I will strive to strengthen my own spirit in order to exercise control over my own flesh. I will remember that I cannot submit my will to the will of my Heavenly Father unless the desires of my spirit govern the actions of my body.

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How Is Jesus Christ “the Light and the Life of the World?”

The priests of King Noah believed that we are saved by the law. The prophet Abinadi pointed out their hypocrisy: “If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it?” (Mosiah 12:29). But he went on to teach them a fundamental principle of the gospel: “Salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish” (Mosiah 13:28).

After quoting Isaiah’s discussion of the suffering of the Savior in Isaiah 53 and after explaining how the Savior’s atonement fulfills another passage which the priests had asked him to explain: Isaiah 52:7-10, Abinadi testifies that salvation comes only through Christ. Near the end of his testimony, he describes the Savior in the following words:

He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death (Mosiah 16:9).

No other prophet in the Bible or in the Book of Mormon uses the phrase “the light and the life of the world.” This phrase is unique to Abinadi.

When Jesus Christ visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He used the phrase twice.

1. Speaking to the people as they sat in darkness following the destructive natural disasters which coincided with His death, He said:

I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (3 Nephi 9:16-18).

2. Later, when He appeared to a group of people assembled at the temple in Bountiful, He introduced Himself in these words:

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning (3 Nephi 11:10-11).

There are many ways that Jesus Christ is our light. He sets an example for us to follow. He reveals truths to us which we cannot learn on our own. He gives us hope when we are in situations which seem impossible.

There are also many ways that He is our life. Through His resurrection, He has enabled us to overcome physical death. By paying the price for our sins, He made it possible for us to overcome spiritual death and to be cleansed and sanctified before returning to the presence of our Father in Heaven. He also helps us to live “more abundantly,” to find joy and meaning in our daily lives which we would not enjoy without His influence.

Even though the phrase “the light and the life of the world” doesn’t appear in the Bible, the Savior does affirm in the Bible that He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12, John 9:5). And just before raising Lazarus from the dead, He tells Lazarus’s sister Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

Today, I will remember the personal role the Savior plays in my salvation. As important as God’s commandments are, there is no checklist to return to Him, independent of His Son. I will be grateful that Jesus Christ Himself gives me light and life when I turn to Him and strive to follow Him wholeheartedly. I will turn my heart and mind to Him, so that I can receive the light and the life which He has brought into the world.

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What Is the Significance of the Name “Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace?”

In Isaiah 9 (which is quoted by Nephi in 2 Nephi 19), the prophet Isaiah provides a long name for the Messiah. Most of the time, names are not translated. For example, the name Immanuel, which means “God is with us,” is left untranslated in the King James Version of the Bible. However, the name given in Isaiah 9 is translated into English. Here is the name in the original Hebrew:

Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom
(פֶּלֶא יֹועֵץ אֵל גִּבֹּור אֲבִיעַד שַׂר־שָׁלֹֽום)

The King James translators (and the Book of Mormon) render this as a series of names, separated by commas:

Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:62 Nephi 19:6).

To understand the meaning of this name, we need to understand the context. In the prior chapter, Isaiah prophesies that the Assyrian empire will destroy the kingdoms of Israel and Syria. This invading force, which he compares with a mighty river, will “overflow and go over” into the kingdom of Judah. It will “reach even to the neck,” the capital city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 8:7-8, 2 Nephi 18:7-8).

The outcome of this invasion will be devastating: “Trouble, and darkness, dimness of anguish” (Isaiah 8:22, 2 Nephi 18:22).

But he begins chapter 9 with a message of hope: After enduring this oppressive darkness, the people will see “a great light.” An amazing leader will be born who will establish order and peace:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called:

  • Pele – Wonderful – The One who performs miracles. This is the same word Isaiah uses when he prophesies that, in the last days, God will do a marvelous work and a wonder (Isaiah 29:14).
  • Joez – Counselor – One who is capable of giving good advice and guidance. One translation of the Bible translates this word as “strategist.” (See https://biblehub.com/isaiah/9-6.htm.)
  • El-Gibbor – Mighty God – This is no ordinary leader. This is the Lord of the Universe, with all of the power that He possesses.
  • Abi-Ad – Everlasting Father – He not only governs with great power, but we can have confidence that He will do so forever.
  • Sar-Shalom – Prince of Peace – The word sar is translated in other passages as “captain” or “commander.” The word shalom has rich meaning in the Old Testament, and refers not only to a lack of conflict between people but also to prosperity and calmness for each individual. (See “Shalom: Peace in Hebrew,” by Dr. Aviezer Ravitzky, on myjewishlearning.com.) A “prince of peace” is a leader who establishes safety, prosperity, and joy for everyone.

Who wouldn’t want a leader like that? Particularly after enduring humiliation and abuse at the hands of brutal conquerors, wouldn’t the children of Israel be relieved and grateful for a leader who is wise, who works miracles on behalf of His people, and who can be counted on to do so forever?

Today, I will be grateful for the Savior’s leadership. I will remember that He gives good advice, that He is powerful, that He will always be there, and that He brings peace and happiness to those He leads.

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What Is the Significance of the Name “Immanuel?”

Immediately after describing how the Lord called him to be a prophet, Isaiah tells the story of an assignment he received from the Lord. He was to deliver a message to Ahaz, the king of Judah. The Lord told him where to meet Ahaz (at the upper pool, just outside of Jerusalem) and who to bring with him (his son, Shear-jashub) (Isaiah 7:3, 2 Nephi 17:3).

Two nearby countries—Israel and Syria—had entered into an alliance and were preparing to invade Judah. Ahaz’s people were beginning to panic. Isaiah’s message for the king was simple: Don’t be afraid of the imminent attack. “It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass” (Isaiah 7:7, 2 Nephi 17:7).

Isaiah then offered Ahaz a sign to prove that his words were true, and he invited Ahaz to choose the sign. But Ahaz declined the offer, saying that he was unwilling to “tempt the Lord” (Isaiah 7:10-12, 2 Nephi 17:10-12). So Isaiah offered a sign of his own choosing:

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.
For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings (Isaiah 7:14-16, 2 Nephi 17:14-16).

This prophecy was fulfilled in at least two different ways:

  1. Within a few short years, less than the amount of time it would take for a child to reach the age of accountability, the Assyrian empire conquered both the kingdoms of Israel and Syria, and both of the kings which had threatened Judah were dethroned. God was with Ahaz and his people.
  2. About 700 years later, a young woman named Mary miraculously gave birth to a child who was literally the Son of God. He came to remove obstacles which we could not overcome without divine assistance. His mortal life, death, and resurrection made it possible for us to overcome every challenge we face, including spiritual and physical death.

The name “Immanuel” (עִמָּנוּאֵל) means “God is with us.” In telling the story of Christ’s birth, Matthew pointed to this prophecy of Isaiah, saying that it was fulfilled when the angel Gabriel told Mary she would bear a son even though she was a virgin (Matthew 1:23).

So the message of Jesus Christ’s birth is the same as the message Isaiah gave to Ahaz: Don’t be afraid. God is with you. He has paved the way for you to overcome every obstacle. Things that seem overwhelming and terrifying now may simply disappear, like the threat of invasion from two countries. Or you may be strengthened to endure them with grace, as were the people of Alma (Mosiah 24:15). Either way, with God’s help, you can overcome every obstacle you face.

Today, I will be grateful for the reassurance embedded in this name of the Savior. I will remember that I can be successful with God’s help. I will avoid becoming overwhelmed or immobilized by fear when difficulties arise, because I will remember that one of the Savior’s names is “Immanuel:” “God is with us.”

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