On both the first and the second days of the Savior’s ministry on the American continent, He blessed bread and wine and commanded the multitude to eat and drink, telling them that they should “always” do this in remembrance of His body and blood. (See 3 Nephi 18:1-11, 3 Nephi 20:2-9.)
Moroni later recorded the prayers which “the elders and priests” offered in the church as they administered the bread and wine in obedience to this commandment. (See Moroni 4, Moroni 5.) In preparation for the organization of the church in 1830, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which these same prayers were specified for the administration of the sacrament. (See Doctrine and Covenants 20:75-79.) With the exception of the substitution of water for wine, these are the same words we use today. (See General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 18.9. The Sacrament)
Although we don’t know the words Jesus used to bless the bread and the wine, many of the phrases used in the prayer specified by Moroni come from the Savior’s instruction to the original multitude. Here are some examples:
|Jesus said…||Blessing on the bread|
(Moroni 4:3, D&C 20:77)
|Blessing on the water|
(Moroni 5:2, D&C 20:79)
|“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” (3 Nephi 20:8).||“to the souls of all those who partake of it”||“to the souls of all those who drink of it”|
|“And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you.” (3 Nephi 18:7).|
“…and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you” (3 Nephi 18:11)
|“that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son”||“that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them”|
|“And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me” (3 Nephi 18:7).|
“…that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me” (3 Nephi 18:11)
|“and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to…always remember him”||“that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him”|
|“and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you” (3 Nephi 18:10).||“and keep his commandments which he hath given them”|
|“And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7, 3 Nephi 18:11).||“that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.”||“that they may have his Spirit to be with them.”|
Today, I’ve been thinking about the second row in this table. Jesus instructed the people to eat the bread in remembrance of His body, “which I have shown unto you.” He then instructed them to drink the wine in remembrance of His blood, “which I have shed for you.” In the sacrament prayers, the blessing on the water incorporates a version of that phrase—”which was shed for them”—but there is no corresponding phrase in the blessing on the bread. This makes sense, because the qualifier “which I have shown unto you” would only have applied to that first generation who had the opportunity to be with Him.
But that omission has made me think more deeply about what the sacrament meant to that generation of people. When they subsequently partook of the sacrament, they were literally remembering the experience of being in the presence of the resurrected Son of God.
In a similar manner, the ordinance of the sacrament can connect us to spiritual experiences in our lives. As we partake of the bread and drink the water, we can remember times of closeness with God, and the experience can serve to remind us of the impact those experiences have had in our lives.
Next week, when I partake of the sacrament again, I will remember the connections between the Savior’s words and the sacrament prayers. I will remember that, like the people He visited personally, the sacrament can connect me to prior spiritual experiences and help me to remember times of closeness with God.