There are many symbols on earth. Letters, words, and phrases symbolize everything from simple ideas to complex concepts. We have symbols for elements and molecules, such as water (pictured to the right). We have symbols for music. We have symbols for most physical and many non-physical things.
The Old Testament is replete with symbols of the Savior. Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Circumcision was performed as symbolic of the covenant between God and man. Moses lifted up a serpent upon a staff to provide healing to those Israelites who would look and live. Mosaic law required the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb in order to atone for sins. Baptism was and is performed in part to symbolize the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior.
The sacrament is symbolic of Jesus Christ’s body and blood. To the Nephites in the Americas as well as to his disciples Jesus gave the sacrament. He explained the meaning of the bread: “And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown 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 18:7). The bread is symbolic of Christ’s body, which He laid down for us that we might have power over death in the resurrection.
After bread was given, Jesus commanded that those who had gathered at the temple in the land Bountiful partake of wine.
“And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it. And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled. And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness 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 18:8-11).
Just as the bread is symbolic of the Savior’s triumph over physical death, the water (or wine) is symbolic of Jesus’ blood, which was shed for us in Atonement for sins and sorrows and sufferings. Jesus’ blood provides the sanctifying power to those built upon His rock: “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:60; see also 3 Ne. 18:12). Again, through Christ’s blood are we sanctified. The bread is symbolic of salvation from physical death whereas the wine or water is symbolic of salvation from spiritual death.