The symbols of the sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ that we use in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are bread and water. When the bread and water are blessed in Sacrament Meeting at church, they are done in just that order – the bread first and then the water. We do this because that is the order that the Savior instituted the sacrament.
The bread of the sacrament represents Christ’s body. The water represents His blood. In that vein (pun intended), the bread represents Christ’s power over the body, over physical death. The water represents His atoning blood and power over spiritual death. When we partake of the sacrament we do so as part of our repentance of sins (strictly speaking, we do not repent through the sacrament, we should repent before we partake of the sacrament; however, the covenants we make during the sacrament are similar to the ones we make during baptism. Through the sacrament the Lord blesses us with the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost justifies us to God. Thus, in a lot of ways partaking of the sacrament is part of our repentance process). Further, when we partake of the sacrament we are also doing so in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and looking forward to our own resurrection. Christ provides salvation over death and hell through His body and blood.
I have written about this before but I taught this yesterday to my Priest Quorum and thought the concept was worth reposting.
This past Sunday our lesson for the Young Men was on preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood. The LDS Church’s Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2 had a nice summary of the ordinances that bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood and those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can perform. The lists go beyond ordinances but they make up the bulk of them.
Power of the Aaronic Priesthood
1. Prepare, administer, and pass the sacrament.
2. Baptize (priests only).
3. Receive the ministering of angels.
4. Go home teaching.
5. Look after the physical needs of the Saints.
6. Collect fast offerings.
7. Ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons (priests only).
8. Take charge of meetings in the absence of elders.
Power of the Melchizedek Priesthood
1. Confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
2. Name and bless infants.
3. Administer to the sick.
4. Consecrate oil for anointing.
5. Dedicate graves.
6. Confer the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods and ordain to offices in those priesthoods.
7. Look after the spiritual needs of the Saints.
8. Preside at meetings.
9. Enter the temple and receive all temple ordinances.
10. With the proper keys, officiate in all temple ordinances.
11. Have power and authority over all the offices in the Church (see D&C 107:8).
12. Do all things an Aaronic Priesthood bearer can do.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is the something contained in this list, namely that those who are ordained Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood have the authority to baptize others (of course, under the direction of their Bishops – all things are done in the proper order with the proper oversight in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) but they cannot confirm those same people as members of the Church nor can they bestow upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This is like the law that Jehovah gave to Moses and the law that He, as the Savior, gave during His mortal ministry. The Mosaic Law was preparatory for a higher law. It was a schoolmaster that led the House of Israel to Christ, although it had largely been corrupted by the time Jesus was born. The Mosaic Law was focused on outward ordinances (those ordinances were supposed to reflect inner change and covenant). These ordinances were done through the authority of the Aaronic (technically Levitical but those terms are basically interchangeable) Priesthood. But those ordinances were incomplete without the Melchizedek Priesthood. Christ was the great High Priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:8-10).
Just as the Mosaic Law was incomplete without Christ, so is baptism without confirmation and the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half – that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.314). The Law of Moses was incomplete without the confirmation given by Christ.
Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood can baptize but they cannot confirm. They cannot complete the baptism of fire, which is really what purifies and sanctifies the baptized through the Atonement of Christ. The Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory. It is only half the Priesthood. What is amazing is that God allows young men starting at the age of 12 to bear that great responsibility. Aaronic Priesthood holders have primary responsibility for the physical aspects of the Church (of course all Melchizedek Priesthood holders still have the Aaronic Priesthood so they too are responsible for the physical needs of Church members and sometimes more so than the young men). Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood are directly responsible for the Sacrament, which is one of the most sacred of all ordinances performed in the Church. The Sacrament was instituted by the Savior shortly before His death. Jesus blessed and broke and passed the bread and wine. He delegates this great responsibility to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood today.
There is no greater responsibility for men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the responsibility they hold as bearers of the Priesthood for even family responsibilities are Priesthood responsibilities. There are typically only six to seven years between when a young man receives the Aaronic Priesthood and when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood (all of this is contingent upon worthiness and personal and family desires). The teenage years are crucial for spiritual development. They are the time for young men to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood.
My current favorite hymn is In Humility, Our Savior. It is a song that resonates sincere worshipfulness of and reverence to the Lord. The melody used in the LDS Hymnal was written by Rowland Pritchard, a Welsh musician. The tune name is Hyfrydol (the Welsh “y” is roughly pronounced as an English “u”; the “f” is a “v”; the whole word sounds something like: huv’rudol), which means “cheerful”. This tune is used for a number of different hymns, one of the most famous is called Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.
These lyrics provide the joyful hopefulness the Hyfrydol tune name implies. The text is by Charles Wesley.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.
Here is the Mormon Tabernacle performing Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.
However, I think the lyrics of In Humility, Our Savior have a special power when coupled with the melody Hyfrydol. Keep in mind that In Humility, Our Savior is written as a sacrament hymn – a hymn that helps us focus on Jesus and His Atonement as we prepare to partake of the Sacrament. The sacrament is an ordinance designed for us to show our devotion to God. With the sacrament we covenant with God. We covenant to strive for holiness so that the Lord may sanctify us and make us sacred (note that sacrament and sacred have the same root). The bread and water of the sacrament are blessed and made sacred, that is sanctified and set apart unto God, and in turn as we keep the covenants we make with God we are made sacred.
In Humility, Our Savior is a sacrament hymn. It is particularly worshipful of the Lord.
In humility, our Savior,
Grant thy Spirit here, we pray,
As we bless the bread and water
In thy name this holy day.
Let me not forget, O Savior,
Thou didst bleed and die for me
When thy heart was stilled and broken
On the cross at Calvary.
Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving;
Teach us tolerance and love.
Let our prayers find access to thee
In thy holy courts above.
Then, when we have proven worthy
Of thy sacrifice divine,
Lord, let us regain they presence;
Let thy glory round us shine.
I love the last words of the first verse: “Let me not forget, O Savior,/ Thou didst bleed and die for me/ When thy heart was stilled and broken/ On the cross at Calvary.” “Let me not forget, O Savior” we plead as we sing the song. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never forget!” The Book of Mormon prophet Helaman pleaded with his sons to always remember Christ:
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12)
The next time you hear or sing In Humility, Our Savior, focus not only on the beautiful melody and moving harmonies but also on the words and meaning of the words. Let us never forget the Lord’s sacrifice for us and let us hope with faith for the day when we, having proved ourselves worthy, might regain the Lord’s presence and dwell forevermore with Him.
“See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out.” (Mormon 9:29)
Sacrament – sacra-ment. Sacra- is the same word as sacred. Or, more accurately it comes from the Latin sacrare, which means to consecrate (or to make sacred). -ment is a modifier that turns a verb into a noun. It means “the action or result of what is denoted by the verb” (source). This means that partaking of the sacrament is to partake of something holy, something consecrated, that in turn helps us be holy and consecrated. The sacrament is thus both sanctified and sanctifying. This scripture in Mormon has an important phrase: “the sacrament of Christ.” It is Christ’s sacrament. He gave it unto us and His atonement gives it the power it has. We eat and drink in remembrance of His body and blood. It is sanctified and sanctifying through Jesus’ Atonement.
The sacrament is an ordinance that is meant to help us become sacred. Being sacred is to be sanctified and holy and set apart. It is a calling of chosenness – a responsibility to shine as an example unto others and help them know the way by which they too can become sanctified and sacred. Being chosen or set apart is not a pandering to vanity, it is a call to responsibility. As we partake of the setting apart of the sacrament, we should feel a greater responsibility for our actions. We should feel like the brothers Jacob and Joseph: “And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day” (Jacob 1:19). We must act with all diligence.
Today when we partake of the sacrament, what are the covenants we make? We promise our Father in Heaven that we will:
Take upon us the name of Christ.
Always remember Christ.
Keep the commandments of Christ.
First, I think it is important to note that we make these promises to Heavenly Father. Just as we pray to the Father (in the name of Christ) so do we covenant with the Father (in the name of Christ) as we partake of the sacrament. We first promise that we will take upon us Christ’s name. That is a heavy responsibility! As Christians we should emulate Christ. We should take upon us His name by our words and actions. When we are baptized and confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we reject the old man or woman of sin and become new creatures in Christ. The old “us” dies and is buried and the new “us” arises as a spiritual child of Christ. We can then become heirs and joint-heirs with Christ (see Romans 8:17).
We also promise to always remember the Savior and keep His commandments. Those are no two small tasks but that is what is required of us. Those are terms many or all of us accepted before this life and they are terms that all will have the opportunity to accept in this life or in the next. As we accept and keep these promises we will always have Christ’s Spirit with us. He is bound by the covenant when we do what He asks (see D&C; 82:10).
The sacrament is a holy ordinance with which we make covenants with our Father in Heaven in the name of Christ. As we partake of it worthily and remain true to the covenants we make the sanctified bread and water will be sanctifying unto us.
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 doinremembrance 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 inremembrance 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.