There are 26 thoughts on “The Changing Forms of the Latter-day Saint Sacrament”.

  1. Found it. aug 30 1861. I copied a bit of context as well.
    If the priesthood of a Branch are true to themselves and their responsibilities and united, the people generally are easily controlled and give but little trouble; but if they are not, as in the case of the Bradford Officers, they are a hindrance to the work and an obstacle in the path of the presiding officers. I hope that they will adhere to the promise they have made to cease speaking evil of one another; but I fear that people who fail to keep the covenant which they made at the water’s edge, when they took upon them the name of Saint, and which they renew every time they partake of the Sacrament, will hardly keep a covenant of any other description which involves the same requirements. If you become satisfied hereafter that they partake of the sacrament unworthily, I think you would not only be justified in withholding it from them, but I view it as a matter of duty and obligation upon you. I did so in San Francisco while there, and would do so again to any Branch (while I hold any present views, and until additional light or instruction shall be given Me) under similar circumstances.

    Hope this is applicable.

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  4. When did they start teaching that you were forgiven for your sins by taking the sacrament? Do members really feel that happen every week?

    • In hymn numbers 175 and 180 written by early church leaders it specifically talks about remission of sins.

  5. I wanted to add to your search for the earliest references to the sacrament as renewing baptism covenants. In the dedicatory addres and prayer for the Laie chapel in Hawaii, Elder Matthew Cowley said: “the most effective way to have your hearts touched is by partaking of the holy sacrament and renewing your covenants with God, that you will keep his commandments.” This was on March 5, 1950. While he didn’t explicitly connect renewing covenants back to baptism, it does seem germane to the discussion. Once you start referring to the sacrament as renewing rather than making covenants it doesn’t seem far to connect it to baptism. The source for the quote is “Matthew Cowley: Man of Faith” by Henry A. Smith, page 232. Your article has given me a greater appreciation for covenant making in the sacrament ordinance. Thank you very much!

    • Dear Timothy, thank you for your quote, which I find very interesting and I was not aware about it. The lack of a specific reference to the ordinance of baptism leaves the room open to a number of possible interpretation. I agree with you that Elder Cowley could be referring to the renewal of the covenants made at baptism. However, based on what Elder Neil Andersen stated, the sacrament is the ordinance where we renew ALL our covenants with GOD and not just baptism, which is in line with what Elder Cowley stated. In other words, we take upon ourselves to obey God’s commandments and we do so by entering in a number of ordinances and covenants throughout our lives. We do so only once for the living (baptism, confirmation, gift of the HG, priesthood, washings, anointings, endowment and sealing) and we promise the Lord to be faithful every time we take the sacrament. In essence the sacrament is a recurring ordinance that stand alone to help us remember what we promised the Father we would do throughout our mortal life to honor and love Him and His Son Jesus Christ. We promised this course of action through each of those one-in-a-lifetime ordinances listed above.
      Thank you again! Ugo

  6. The context of both the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament is the body of those who have joined Christ’s church. Baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are a serial ordinance, which each of us must receive, one by one, as we join our fellow Latter-day Saints, gathering into Christ’s church. The sacrament is a parallel ordinance, offered simultaneously to an entire gathering of Saints, affirming our covenant with Heavenly Father through Christ and confirmed by the Holy Ghost. The form of each ordinance is adapted to these serial and parallel functions, grafting each of us into the vine that is continually and collectively nourished by Christ.

  7. I loved the article. Thanks Ugo!
    A talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in April 1985 General Conference called, “Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ”, is one that I have loved to re-read from time to time. In it, he explores the ramifications of our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ that we promise to do by partaking of the sacrament. He points out the sacredness and far-reaching implications of the sacramental ordinance, which falls in line with the quote from Elder Anderson. Here is a quote from that talk:
    “…there is something beyond these familiar meanings, because what we witness is not that we take upon us his name but that we are willing to do so. In this sense, our witness relates to some future event or status whose attainment is not self-assumed, but depends on the authority or initiative of the Savior himself.
    “Scriptural references to the name of Jesus Christ often signify the authority of Jesus Christ. In that sense, our willingness to take upon us his name signifies our willingness to take upon us the authority of Jesus Christ in the sacred ordinances of the temple, and to receive the highest blessings available through his authority when he chooses to confer them upon us.
    “Finally, our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ affirms our commitment to do all that we can to be counted among those whom he will choose to stand at his right hand and be called by his name at the last day. In this sacred sense, our witness that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ constitutes our declaration of candidacy for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Exaltation is eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.)
    “That is what we should ponder as we partake of the sacred emblems of the sacrament.”
    Thanks again for the article.

  8. The Book of Mormon makes clear that the ordinance of baptism represents certain covenants we make with God. The strong match between the covenant taught by Alma and the covenant we make in the Sacrament prayers shows these are parallel covenants. I believe this connection is made stronger if we gain a better understanding of one of the elements of Alma’s covenant: that we are willing to “mourn with those who mourn.” This is usually explained as the promise we make to comfort people who are grieving for the loss of a loved one. However, it is also part of the Beatitudes in the Savior’s sermon at the Bountiful Temple, where those introductory phrases are given in a covenant making context, and the blessings come to those who make the covenant to follow the Savior. One of these promises is Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    What does it mean to mourn in this covenant sense? I believe the key is in Moses 7:45-47. “All they that mourn” are those who look forward to the great personal sacrifice of the Redeemer. We look back to his suffering body, marred with nail holes and a sword, and the blood he shed for us. His atoning sacrifice is the focus of the Sacrament. So the core concept of baptism is also at the heart of the sacrament.

  9. My grandmother was born in 1885. When I was a young teen in the early 1970s she lived with us. I remember her telling us that when she was a girl there were not individual sacrament cups. All of the water was blessed in a small (maybe silver) pail. Everyone took turns dipping and drinking from a ladle. The most worn spot on the ladle was right next to the handle. Most people would drink there thinking that they were avoiding the places on the ladle where everyone else was placing their lips.

  10. I learned much from the aurhor’s research and am grateful. Missing, but not key to the article’s value, is a comment on the practice of passing the sacrament to those presiding at the meeting. What is the history and present instruction on doing so?

    • While I don’t know the history, I do know the rationale for the practice of passing the sacrament to the presiding officer first. Specifically, the presiding officer is ultimately responsible for making sure the sacrament prayers were said correctly.

      • I found the following in a 1952 Improvement Era. It appears that this policy of passing the sacrament to the presiding authority first became effective in 1946. Interestingly, High Councillors “outranked” the bishop of the ward with regard to the passing of the sacrament:
        “In a letter sent by the First Presidency to presidents of stakes and bishops of wards under date of May 2, 1946, setting forth certain unanimous recommendations of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve, some pertinent instructions were issued concerning the passing of the sacrament to presiding officers. We quote from that letter as follows and urge care in following the recommendations made:
        It was further suggested, and unitedly agreed upon, that the sacrament should be first given to the presiding authority in the meeting. This may be the bishop, perhaps one of the stake presidency, or one of the visiting General Authorities. It is the duty of the priest officiating to determine who is the presiding authority present; thus, whenever the sacrament is administered, members of the Aaronic Priesthood officiating will have a lesson in Church government.
        When the sacrament is given first to the presiding authority, those officiating may pass the sacrament consecutively to members of the Church who are sitting on the rostrum and in the audience.
        To answer the many questions which have been asked concerning this procedure, we offer the following additional information:
        “The Presiding Officer to receive the sacrament first will always be the highest authority, or ranking member, who is sitting on the stand, and who is from among the following priesthood authorities: (1) General Authorities of the Church, i.e., The First Presidency, Council of the Twelve, Patriarch to the Church, Assistants to the Council of the Twelve, First Seven Presidents of the Seventy, Presiding Bishopric; (2) Stake President and Counselors; (3) Stake High Council; (4) Ward Bishop and Counselors.”
        We emphasize the last paragraph in the above quotation. No other officers should be recognized first in the passing of the sacrament. It is not a matter of honoring those who come among us as special visitors: It is a matter of recognizing the presiding authority or high councilman who is sitting on the stand, and passing the sacrament to him first as a becoming gesture of respect and as a sound lesson in Church government.

        • Current practice today (from the Handbook): “The bishop (or a counselor in his absence) presides at the sacrament meeting unless a member of the stake presidency, an Area Seventy, or a General Authority is sitting on the stand. A high councilor does not preside and does not receive the sacrament first.”

  11. I do not disagree with Elder Hales’s comments that “when we are baptized, we “take upon [us] the name of Christ” and enter “into the covenant with God that [we will] be obedient unto the end of [our] lives.” However, the Book of Mormon is not so clear on this doctrine. In fact, it may teach this doctrine differently.
    Alma Sr. taught: “what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him” (Mosiah 18:10). It sounds like the covenant that he spoke of was made prior to their baptism, and that the baptism was merely a “witness” of the covenant. When baptizing Helam Alma said: “I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body” (Mosiah 18:13).
    We also read that Limhi and his people “had entered into a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments” without the benefit of baptism (Mosiah 21:31). Additionally, we read: “since the coming of Ammon, king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people, to serve him and keep his commandments. And it came to pass that king Limhi and many of his people were desirous to be baptized; but there was none in the land that had authority from God. And Ammon declined doing this thing, considering himself an unworthy servant” (Mosiah 21:32-33). Their baptism only came after they had joined the Nephites in Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:17), and well after they had entered into the covenant.
    Further, during King Benjamin’s speech it appears that the people likewise entered into a covenant with God and “had taken upon them the name of Christ,” to “be obedient unto the end of your lives” (Mosiah 5:8 and 6:2). There is no mention of baptism at the time of this covenant.
    So, it appears that the covenant is separate from the act of baptism. This does not minimize the ordinance of baptism. It is a necessary witness or testimony of the covenant. Instead, I believe that it elevates the covenant. Many of those hearing King Benjamin’s speech had no doubt already been baptized. The covenant can and should be made throughout our lives, without the necessity of baptism or rebaptism. This is essential in the missionary efforts of the church. New converts can and should covenant with God even before their baptism, like Limhi and his people. Their lives need to be on the path of change well before they are baptized.

  12. Ugo Wrote: “One such practice during the first years of the LDS Church was the collective kneeling during the blessing of bread and wine, a practice that the Community of Christ has retained to this day.”
    More than likely this practice of communal kneeling was derived from Moroni 4:2. “And they did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ.” It appears that the members of the church, at least during the time of Mormon, knelt together with the Elder or priest “administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church.”
    By the way, I can still remember as a young priest in Southern California raising my right arm to the square as I said the sacramental prayer.

  13. An interesting talk but some troubling comments and noticeable absences.
    1. Brother Perego writes at page one, middle of first paragraph: “However, it appears that the sacrament as an extension of the ordinance of baptism, as currently understood in LDS theology, was not taught by the New Testament church nor in early Mormonism.” Such a comment implies that we have ALL that was said by Jesus Christ while on earth and as a Ressurected Being and by the original Apostles as well as ALL that was said by the early leaders of this dispensation. We obviously do not have all. While there may be little evidence of such written teachings, I have a very hard time believing that Jesus Christ and the early Apostles and Disciples in the Americas, after receiving the Holy Ghost, and partaking of the sacrament with the Risen Jesus as well as the early leaders of this dispensation did not know and did not teach of the interrelationship of baptism and the sacrament. Using Brother Perego’s type of analysis, since the temple ceremony is not in the Bible and not in the Doctrine & Covenants, it must not have been taught. Certainly Elder Bednar’s recent General Conference talk of the interrelationship of Baptism, the Holy Ghost and the sacrament, which talk was given after Brother Perego’s talk, has reminded us of the interrelationships.
    2. Brother Perego writes on page 6 in the first paragraph that “local leaders introduced excessive formalities” and later in the same paragraph “military-like posture and manner of walking,” implying that these were Church-wide sanctioned practices. Admittedly, some local leaders and boys did this (and some still do it today in my ward). However local practice and church-wide doctrine are very, very different. After seeing such practices, the Sacrament policy of the Church in the present Handbook is very clear: keep it simple. Quotes from the Handbook 2, which was published in 2010 prior to Brother Peregeo’s talk would be approprirate, which are in Section 20.4: “Ties and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance.” And “[t]he passing of the sacrament should be natural and unobtrusive, not rigid or overly formal. Those who pass the sacrament should not be required to assume any special posture or action, such as holding the left hand behind the back.”
    By not mentioning the present, established protocol of the Sacrament, which was published in 2010 and is well in the public domain, the article innappropiatly focuses on some past local controversial customs which have been corrected, which is surprising for a Church type of article.

    • Thank you for the valuable comments and feedback. I truly appreciated them and they gave me a chance to look over again at some of the sources I used for this article to make sure that I did not miss something important or overstated myself. I am sorry if you found certain parts of this article troubling. I just want to reassure you that what I wrote reflects my own personal reasoning and observations and I do not claim that my conclusions are error-free.
      Regarding the points in your comments, please allow me to elaborate.
      1. I agree with you that we don’t have in the Standard Works all that the Lord has revealed to his disciples. In fact, I think I am trying to be careful by stating that I am basing what I am writing on what it has survived in the scriptures pertaining to the sacrament because that is ALL we have from them. I also agree that we don’t have the temple ceremonies in the scriptures, but as far as I personally understand it, they were never meant to be recorded and transmitted publicly to the world in general. We do have however some interesting parallelisms between the Savior’s post mortal visit to His disciples in Jerusalem and the need for the Saints in the early years of the restored Church to move to Ohio and build a House for the Lord, which I am inclined to think has to do with the historical frame work for timing of when temple ordinances were revealed and taught. Most importantly, I am basing my own conclusions on Elder Neal Andersen’s 2015 teaching that “renewing our baptismal covenants [in reference to the sacrament] is not found in the scriptures”. I am not the one making that claim and I am sure that this apostle is also aware that we do not have ALL of Christ’s teachings in the scriptures.
      Regarding Elder Bednar’s recent April 2016 General Conference address, I just read it again to make sure that I did not misunderstood his argument. Just like you say, he talks about the fundamental interrelationship between the ordinances of baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost and the sacrament, but I see it more as a list individual ordinances, each with a vital role in our personal spiritual PROGRESS and not necessarily as a LOOKING BACK to something (the baptism) we have already received. In his own words, “The ordinances of baptism by immersion, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament are not isolated and discrete events; rather, they are elements in an interrelated and additive pattern of redemptive progress. Each successive ordinance elevates and enlarges our spiritual purpose, desire, and performance. The Father’s plan, the Savior’s Atonement, and the ordinances of the gospel provide the grace we need to press forward and progress line upon line and precept upon precept toward our eternal destiny.” Elder Bednar speaks about “additive”, “progress” and “succession” just like we know it in the Church. The sacrament is meant to be administrated to those that have been previously baptized, and the Holy Ghost is given after and not before the baptism by water. As we mature spiritually, we become eligible for additional ordinances (including the priesthood and temple ordinances), which purpose is to bring us closer to Christ. The argument brought up by Elder Andersen was simply that the sacrament should not be viewed solely as a renewal of another ordinance (we are not stuck in a loop), but as an ordinance on its own as a step up from, or added to that of baptism. I view Elder Bednar’s talk as an expansion of what Elder Andersen taught in 2015, not as a contradiction (I am not implying that this is how you see it, but I want to reassure you that I agree with Elder Bednar’s explanation and I don’t see what I wrote to be contrary to his teachings). I will ask if a footnote can be added with a reference to Elder Bednar’s talk. Thank you for pointing this out to me.
      2. I am in total agreement with what you wrote and I should have done perhaps a better job in referencing to the Priesthood Handbook of Instructions (which I am going to try to do now). In my defense, please note the quote by Elder Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used in the present article, which clearly refer to the Handbook on the matter of Sacrament practices and formalism: “Since the administration of President Heber J. Grant, the First Presidency has emphasized the precaution through the General Handbook of Instructions to avoid any formalism, or uniformity in procedures. These instructions apply to the dress of Aaronic Priesthood youth who pass the sacrament. Boys should be neat and clean, but not required to dress uniformly.” The talk is from 1988, but it reflects the current position of the Church on the matter as contained in more details in the Priesthood Handbook. My point was to talk about formalities and practices at the beginning of the 20th century, followed by a period where Church leaders instructed the general membership to move away from excessive formalities. This has not changed to the present day, although wording in the Priesthood Handbook might be more clear now than a few years ago on the matter (I do include the Priesthood Handbook of Instruction as footnote 4, but based on your comment I will ask to have section 20.4 added to Elder Haight’s talks in footnote 34).
      In summary, since the focus of this article on Church History is “the changing forms of the sacrament”, I feel that it was necessary to mention past practices and how they have changed overtime. I did not purposely focused only on the past and ignored the present, as successive citations in my article indicated a change in instructions and position by more recent Church leaders on the matter (see Elder Haight’s talk for example).
      Thank you again for your comment and I will ask to have a couple of footnotes added so that the article will be “less troubling”.

      • Dear Brother Perego,
        Thank you for your very interesting article regarding the relationship between baptism and partaking of the sacrament.
        As the Saviour states in 3rd Nephi 18:1-14 the bread is to be given to those who, “believe and are baptised”, the wine given to those who, “repent and are baptised”, doing “more or less” than this comes with the penalty that the “gates of hell” are open to recieve us.
        This being a direct commandment with such a severe penalty, do you have any knowledge as to where the practise of giving the sacrament to anyone in attendance(regardless as to whether they are members or not) as stated in Hanbook 2 “Instructions to Bishops”, as well as allowing our unbaptised children, as sanctioned in Bruce R. McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine”, “chidren are entitled and encouraged to partake of the sacrament to prefigure the time when they can partake of it after baptism”, originated?
        D&C 20: 68-71 also states that the sacrament can only be partaken of after baptism and only by those who have reached the age of accountability and are capable of repentance.
        I would welcome any insight and thank you for considering my observations.

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