In the ancient tabernacle, there was a gold-plated table with twelve cakes (or loaves) of bread on it. God commanded that the bread always be there, and He called it lehem panim (לֶ֥חֶם פָּנִ֖ים), or “bread of the face,” signifying that it was continually in His presence. In the King James Version of the Bible, this phrase is translated “shewbread” (pronounced “show bread”), meaning the bread that is visible, or shown to God. Once a week, on the Sabbath, the priests would eat the shewbread in a holy place and would replace it with a new set of loaves for the new week. (See Exodus 25:23-30, Leviticus 24:5-9.)
To me the symbolism is powerful. The twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and God wanted them to think of themselves as being continually in His presence. They would act differently if they saw themselves as being visible to Him and close to Him.
The bread of the sacrament fulfills a similar purpose. When Jesus instituted the sacrament on the American continent, He said, “This shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you…. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:6-7). In subsequent days, “he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them” (3 Nephi 26:13). The people continued this pattern when He was no longer with them: “They did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus” (Moroni 6:6).
This Sunday, as I partake of the sacrament, I will remember the symbolism of the shewbread. I will remember that God wants me to be with Him continually, and that I partake of the bread and water weekly as an attestation that I always remember Him.