Many years ago as a young missionary in Canada, I was impressed with a scripture that a craftsman had skillfully carved onto the front of the sacrament table of the branch in Montreal: “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
In that little branch, members of the Aaronic Priesthood, in both dress and demeanor, reminded the Saints of our Savior’s instructions regarding this most meaningful and sacred ordinance. Those carved words are still impressed upon my mind each Sunday as the sacrament is being passed: “This do in remembrance of me.”
As the Lord’s covenant people, we arrive at our sacrament meetings a few minutes early to show reverence and to ponder this sacred ordinance. In those moments, as we come to church prepared to partake, we follow Paul’s counsel to the Saints in the Roman province of Corinth: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).
The sacrament represents the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a holy and sacred ordinance to be administered in a prescribed way by worthy priesthood holders and partaken of by worthy Latter-day Saints. Careful attention is given in a dignified manner to the preparation, blessing, and passing of the sacrament.
Paul reminded the Saints that the sacrament had been instituted at a pivotal point in the meridian of time as Jesus sat at the Feast of the Passover with His Twelve Apostles.
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
“After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25).
Here the old law, the Mosaic law, would be fulfilled, as the new covenant—even a higher law—would be instituted. The ordinance of the sacrament will continue at least until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, when our Savior will partake of the sacrament with His Saints (see 1 Corinthians 11:26; D&C 27:5–14).
The sacrificial lamb prepared for the Last Supper was an essential part of the annual Passover feast. As the Twelve Apostles were eating, Jesus, the Paschal Lamb Himself, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and then gave it to His disciples (see Matthew 26:26).
In the New World, after showing the Nephites the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, the risen Lord instituted the sacrament, saying:
“And 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 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 18:6–7).
Of the cup He said: “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 18:11).
The Savior also told the Nephites, “He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.” After the multitude had partaken of the sacrament, the record tells us, “they were filled with the Spirit” (3 Nephi 20:8–9).
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught:
“Before the world was organized, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises. …
“The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord. …
“… Partaking of the sacrament worthily gives us an opportunity for spiritual growth. …
“… If we were to become casual in partaking of the sacrament, we would lose the opportunity for spiritual growth.”1
Paul taught the young Church at Corinth that its members might be “weak and sickly” and that “many sleep” because they partake “unworthily, … not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:29, 30). The Savior declared, “Whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul” (3 Nephi 18:29).
“Behold, I am Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ.
“Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips” (D&C 63:60–61).
Do we eat and drink to the salvation of our souls? Do we come away from this “sacred moment in a holy place”2 filled?
The Lord has said, “It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake” of the sacrament (D&C 20:75). If it is expedient to the Lord, it is absolutely vital to us!
Our Savior, in cleansing our inner vessel, will not leave us empty, weak, and sickly, but He will fill us with His love and the power to resist temptation. Those who come unto Christ become as Christ as they exercise faith in Him and partake of “the bread of life” and of “living water” (John 4:10; 6:35).
On April 6, 1830, as the first Saints of this dispensation met to organize the Church, they included in their first official meeting the ordinance of the sacrament, as outlined by the Lord (see D&C 20:75–79).
As members of the Church, we understand that our own personal redemption comes only through our Savior, Jesus Christ. We declare and testify to the world that He atoned for our sins by perfect obedience to the will of the Father. We can receive God’s greatest gift, eternal life, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the restored gospel.
We also understand Father Lehi’s teaching to his son Jacob when he said, “How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8).
May we eat and drink so that we no longer hunger and thirst spiritually. And may we be filled with the Spirit of the Lord each Sabbath day as we partake in remembrance of Him, that we might be whole and one with Him.