In August of 1830, Newel and Sally Knight visited Joseph and Emma Smith at their home in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Both Sally and Emma had been baptized, but neither had yet been confirmed members of the Church, so they decided to partake of the sacrament and perform the confirmations during their visit. Joseph went to obtain some wine for the sacrament but was warned by a heavenly messenger to turn back. The messenger said, “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:2). Today, in the Church, we use water instead of wine to represent the blood of Christ.
About a month later, Joseph received some additional information, which he appended to the words of the angel. This included elaborations on two passages from the New Testament:
- The Savior’s statement, at the Last Supper, that He would no longer eat of the bread nor drink of the fruit of the vine “until the kingdom of God shall come” (Luke 22:16, 18). In this elaboration, the Lord lists a number of people who will participate in that future celebration: Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Michael (Adam), and Peter, James, and John (Doctrine and Covenants 27:5-14).
- Paul’s symbolic admonition to take upon us “the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17). (See Doctrine and Covenants 27:15-18.)
Shortly after, Joseph and Emma returned to the Peter Whitmer farm in Fayette, New York, where they encountered a new challenge. Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon, had written a number of “revelations” which many members of the Church had accepted as authentic even though they contradicted basic doctrines of the gospel. According to Newel Knight, Joseph was awake most of the night, praying to know what to do. Soon after, Joseph received a revelation on the subject. (See “Section 28, ‘Thou Shalt Not Command Him Who Is at Thy Head’” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2002), 57–59.)
In that revelation, which was addressed to Oliver Cowdery, the Lord explained that there must be order in His Church. No one can command or overrule a person in authority over them, and as the First Elder of the Church, Joseph Smith was uniquely authorized to receive commandments and revelations on behalf of the entire Church (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2). Other members should be cautious how they characterized the revelations they received. Oliver, for example, was instructed to write “by wisdom,” not “by way of commandment,” in order to avoid implying a level of authority he did not possess (Doctrine and Covenants 28:5).
Here are some blog posts related to the themes in these two revelations:
- Eating and drinking are an apt analogy for the actions we must take in order to be healed by the Savior: What Are the Bread and the Waters of Life?
- Our emotional and mental state as we partake of the sacrament determines the experience we will have: How Can I Participate More Meaningfully in the Sacrament?
- Internalizing the teachings and the character of the Savior is the goal of our discipleship and should be our focus each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament: What Does It Mean to Eat and Drink the Bread and Water to Our Souls?
- In any organization, it is important to understand who is authorized to do what. Both times the church was organized in the Book of Mormon—by Alma and later by the Savior—role clarity was essential: What Is Authority?
- Prophets sometimes speak uncomfortable truths. We should be humble enough to take seriously the counsel we receive from church leaders: On Prophets and Pride.