What Can We Learn from the Differences Between the Sacrament Prayers?

Yesterday, I discussed the three-part structure of the sacrament prayers. Both prayers consist of a petition, a statement of purpose, and a list of promises.

Today, I’d like to consider the differences between the prayers. Here is a side-by-side view of the two prayers with the differences highlighted:

The Blessing on the Bread The Blessing on the Wine
Moroni 4:3 Moroni 5:2
O God, O God,
the Eternal Father, the Eternal Father,
we ask thee we ask thee,
in the name of thy Son, in the name of thy Son,
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,
to bless and sanctify this bread to bless and sanctify this wine
to the souls of all those who partake of it; to the souls of all those who drink of it,
that they may eat in remembrance that they may do it in remembrance
of the body of thy Son, of the blood of thy Son,
which was shed for them;
and witness unto thee, that they may witness unto thee,
O God, O God,
the Eternal Father, the Eternal Father,
that they are willing  that they do
to take upon them the name of thy Son,
and always remember him, always remember him,
and keep his commandments which he hath given them,
that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. that they may have his Spirit to be with them.
Amen. Amen.

A few observations:

Significant Overlap

Out of 91 words in the first prayer and 78 words in the second, 64 of the words are identical, representing 70% of the blessing on the bread and 82% of the blessing on the wine. The core message of the prayers is the same, repeated twice for emphasis. But because the prayers are so similar, the small differences between them stand out.

Two Symbols

The first few differences occur simply because one prayer is over bread, and the other is over wine. The people “eat” and “partake” of the bread but “drink” the wine. The bread represents the Savior’s body, while the wine represents His blood.

“Which Was Shed for Them”

After defining the wine as symbolic of the Savior’s blood, the second prayer inserts an extra phrase: “which was shed for them.” No corresponding phrase occurs in the first prayer. Why the inconsistency?

When Jesus introduced the sacrament to the people gathered at the temple in Bountiful, He used similar phrases for the bread and the wine:

  • The bread: “This shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you” (3 Nephi 18:7).
  • The wine: “This shall ye always do…in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you” (3 Nephi 18:11).

This group of people had been in His presence all day. They had seen His resurrected body. They had felt the prints of the nails in His hands and in His feet. The phrase describing His body—”which I have shown unto you”—was appropriate for them but would not be relevant to us. But the phrase which he applied to His blood—”which I have shed for you”—applies to us just as it did to them. So a version of that phrase is included in the second prayer.

“Willing to…”

In the prayer on the bread, we testify that we are willing to do three things. In the prayer on the wine (water), we testify that we actually do one of those things. Why the difference? Most of the time the phrase “willing to” appears in the Book of Mormon, it is in reference either to baptism or to the sacrament. And most of the time, these passages describe a willingness to do two things: take upon ourselves the name of Christ and keep His commandments (2 Nephi 31:10, 13-14, Mosiah 5:5Mosiah 18:8-9, Mosiah 21:35Mosiah 26:18, Alma 7:15, 3 Nephi 18:10).

Perhaps this phrase is meant to convey a sense of realism:

  • Disciples of Christ are continually striving to keep His commandments more fully. They are making progress, but they are not yet perfect. (See Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually,” General Conference, October 2017).
  • Likewise, they are striving to take upon themselves His name. They are working at it, but they have not fully achieved that goal. (See Henry B. Eyring, “Try, Try, Try,” General Conference, October 2018.)

“Remember Him”

But the third promise we make is a different matter. We attest that we are willing to always remember Him when we eat the bread. And we attest that we do always remember Him when we drink the water. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has pointed out that the Lord placed a special emphasis on remembering Him by including only that obligation in the second prayer. Elder Holland concluded that “remembering is the principal task before us” (“This Do in Remembrance of Me,” General Conference, October 1995).

A disciple is not yet like the teacher, but he or she does not forget the teacher. An important duty of our discipleship is to keep the Savior in our thoughts, to remember His attributes, His expectations, His love for us, and His willingness to bless us. We aren’t yet like Him, but we can always remember Him, and in so doing, we can qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which will help us to become more like Him every day.

“Always”

Why does the first prayer promise that we will “always have His Spirit to be with us,” while the second prayer only promises that we will “have his Spirit to be with us?” I think it is the same thing. When Jesus introduced the sacrament earlier in the Book of Mormon, He promised the people twice: “If ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7, 11). The word “always” applies to the entire sentence. To the degree that we remember Him, His Spirit will be with us.


Today, I will remember the lessons I have learned by pondering the sacrament prayers. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I will strive to remember Him always, so that I may have His Spirit with me. As the Spirit helps me grow and progress, I will be able to more fully keep His commandments and to take His name more fully upon me.

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1 Response to What Can We Learn from the Differences Between the Sacrament Prayers?

  1. Pingback: Moroni 4:3, 5:2 The Sacrament Prayers | Book of Mormon Study Notes

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