Handbook 2:
Administering the Church

 

20.4 Sacrament

 20.4.1

General Guidelines

Church members meet on the Sabbath to worship God and partake of the sacrament (see D&C 20:75; 59:9). During this holy ordinance, they partake of bread and water in remembrance of the Savior’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood and to renew their covenants (see Matthew 26:26–28; Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 14:20–25; Luke 22:15–20; 3 Nephi 18; Moroni 6:6).

Under the direction of the bishopric, priesthood holders bless the sacrament and pass it to members of the congregation during each sacrament meeting. Aaronic Priesthood holders usually perform these duties. Under the direction of the bishopric, the deacons quorum president has the privilege and responsibility to invite others to help pass the sacrament. When there are not enough deacons, he counsels with a member of the bishopric to determine who may be asked to assist.

Generally, teachers and priests in the Aaronic Priesthood should be invited to pass the sacrament before Melchizedek Priesthood holders are invited to do so. Where there are enough Aaronic Priesthood holders, Melchizedek Priesthood holders should not be invited to bless and pass the sacrament on a regular schedule.

Every priesthood holder who participates in this ordinance should understand that he is acting on behalf of the Lord. The bishopric encourages priesthood holders to ponder the Savior’s Atonement as they prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament. The bishopric also ensures that priesthood holders have a reverent, dignified manner as they participate in this ordinance.

Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. 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. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church.

The sacred nature of this ordinance justifies the greatest care and preparation to ensure order and reverence. Assignments to bless and pass the sacrament should be made in advance. Those who participate should be seated reverently before the meeting begins.

The 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. The process of passing the sacrament should not call attention to itself or detract from the purpose of the ordinance.

Priesthood holders should wash their hands thoroughly with soap, a disposable towelette, or another cleanser before preparing, blessing, or passing the sacrament.

A priesthood holder who has committed a serious transgression should not prepare, bless, or pass the sacrament until he has repented and resolved the matter with his bishop.

Although the sacrament is for Church members, the bishopric should not announce that it will be passed to members only, and nothing should be done to prevent nonmembers from partaking of it.

 20.4.2

Preparing the Sacrament

Teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may prepare the sacrament. Before the meeting, those who prepare the sacrament ensure that bread trays with unbroken bread, water trays with cups filled with fresh water, and tablecloths are in place. After the meeting, these brethren clear away the trays and tablecloths.

Sacrament tablecloths should be white, nontransparent, clean, and pressed. Sacrament trays should be kept clean. Sacrament trays and cups are available from Church Distribution Services.

 20.4.3

Blessing and Passing the Sacrament

Priests and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may bless the sacrament. Deacons, teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may pass the sacrament.

As the congregation sings the sacrament hymn, the priesthood holders who will bless the sacrament reverently stand, remove the cloth that covers the bread trays, and break the bread into bite-sized pieces. When they finish breaking the bread, they sit down and join in singing the hymn. Vocal solos or instrumental music may not replace this hymn.

Following the hymn, the person who blesses the bread kneels and offers the sacrament prayer for the bread. The sacrament prayers were revealed by the Lord (see D&C 20:77, 79; Moroni 4–5). The bishop makes sure they are spoken clearly, accurately, and with dignity. If the person who blesses the sacrament makes an error in the wording but corrects it himself, no further correction is required. If the person does not correct an error, the bishop indicates that he should repeat the prayer correctly. In doing so, the bishop should be careful to avoid causing embarrassment or distracting from the sacred nature of the ordinance.

After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the bread to the congregation in a reverent and orderly manner. The presiding officer receives the sacrament first. 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.

While the presiding officer is receiving the sacrament, others who are passing the sacrament may walk to their designated places.

After a priesthood holder hands a sacrament tray to a member, others may pass the tray from one to another for convenience.

When brethren finish passing the bread, they return the trays to the sacrament table. Those officiating at the sacrament table place the cloth over the bread trays and uncover the water trays. The person who blesses the water then kneels and offers the sacrament prayer for the water (see D&C 20:79), substituting the word water for wine.

After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the water to the congregation. When they finish, they return the trays to the sacrament table, wait for the officiators to cover the trays, then reverently take their seats.

Everyone who attends the meeting should be reverent during the entire ordinance of blessing and passing the sacrament.

No music should be played during the prayer, while the sacrament is being passed, or as a postlude after the sacrament is passed.

 20.4.4

Sacrament for Members Who Are Unable to Attend

See “Sacrament Services in Unusual Situations” in 18.2.2.