The Pattern for the Sacrament: As Given by 3 Nephi 18


Bread and Wine:

The first thing Jesus did when instituting the ordinance of remembrance of his body and blood was to command his newly called twelve Nephite disciples to gather together bread and wine:

and it came to pass
that Jesus commanded his disciples
that they should bring forth some bread and wine
unto him

The bread is broken and blessed, and it is given in remembrance of the body of Jesus, which he had shown [one-by-one] to every Nephite gathered to the temple.  The wine is shared from a common cup, and it is given in remembrance of the blood of Jesus, which he shed for each-and-every-one of his Father’s children.

Both the bread and wine [in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus], act as a witness/testimony, unto the Father, that those who believe and have been baptized in the name of Christ do always remember him and are willing to do that which he has commanded us to do.

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 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
the ye do always remember me

The use of symbols in gospels ordinances are not meant to be esoteric, multi-layered, or take a life-time of study to fully appreciate.  One symbol [a man-made or naturally-occuring object] is given to suggest to the mind one truth/reality.  True gospel symbols are assigned by revelation in such a way as to be easily associated with the gospel truth they point to.  The Lord reveals them through prophets so that believers will use them to obtain, develop, and maintain faith.

The bread as a symbol is just, physically-speaking, ground grain-flour, salt, water, and yeast — but it re-presents to our minds, spiritually-speaking, the body of Christ that was broken through the suffering he endured for our sins.  The wine as a symbol is just, physically-speaking, fermented grape juice — but it re-presents to our minds, spiritually-speaking, the blood of Christ that he shed for the sins of the world.

We can use other symbols if it is expedient to fit other conditions found among a group of believers, but the associated gospel truth must still be the same.  So, while D&C 27 [verse 2-5] explains that we’re free to use other symbols for the body and blood of Jesus, it can be dangerous to do so without good, revealed reasons [e.g., your enemies are poisoning your wine supply].  This is because the God-given, gospel-based symbol easily points the mind to the associated truth — e.g., red wine looks like blood and tastes bitter [the “bitter cup”].  Therefore, while there’s nothing wrong with using a liquid like water [for example] as the symbol for the blood of Christ — the danger is that, over time, the addition of new meanings beyond the one gospel meaning will occur [assigning “water-based” meanings to the symbol, e.g. the waters of baptism, living waters springing-up to everlasting life].  And then, more dangerously, substitution will then take place and the original meaning [the blood of Christ] will be lost, so if left unchecked, a body of believers would end-up not thinking about Christ’s atoning blood at all during their ordinance.

Seated upon the Earth: 

To prepare the multitude of those who were gathered together to receive Jesus, he commanded that they should seat themselves upon the ground:

and while [the disciples] were gone for bread and wine
[Jesus] commanded the multitude
that they should sit themselves down
upon the earth

Contact with the earth is also the position in which Jesus taught the Nephites to pray.

and it came to pass
that when they had knelt upon the ground
Jesus groaned within himself
and said

father
I am troubled
because of the wickedness
of the people of the house of Israel

and when he had said these words
he himself also knelt upon the earth
and behold
he prayed unto the father
and the things which he prayed cannot be written
and the multitude did bear record who heard him
and after this manner do they bear record

the eye hath never seen
neither hath the ear heard
before so great and marvelous things
as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the father
and no tongue can speak
neither can there be written by any man
neither can the hearts of men conceive
so great and marvelous things
as we both saw and heard Jesus speak
and no one can conceive of the joy
which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray
for us
unto the father

and it came to pass
that when Jesus had made an end of praying
unto the father
he arose
but so great was the joy of the multitude
that they were overcome

and the twelve did teach the multitude
and behold
they did cause that the multitude should kneel down
upon the face of the earth
and should pray unto the father
in the name of Jesus

and behold
they were encircled about
as if it were by fire
and it came down from the sky
and the multitude did witness it
and did bear record
and angels did come down
out of the sky
and did minister unto them
and it came to pass
that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples
behold
Jesus came
and stood in the middle
and ministered unto them
and it came to pass
that he spake unto the multitude
and commanded them
that they should kneel down
again upon the earth
and also that his disciples should kneel down
upon the earth
and it came to pass
that when they had all knelt down
upon the earth
he commanded his disciples
that they should pray

The people mentioned in the scriptures who assume a standing position while praying are hypocrites and the Zoramites:

and when thou prayest
thou shalt not do as the hypocrites
for they love to pray standing 
in the synagogues
and in the corners of the streets
that they may be seen by others
amen
I say unto you
they have their reward

and

for they had a place built
up in the center of their synagogue
a place for standing
which was high above the head
and the top thereof would only admit one person
therefore
whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand
upon the top thereof
and stretch forth his hands towards the sky
and cry with a loud voice

Kneeling down upon the earth, then, is the pattern for both the congregation gathered to partake of the bread and wine, as well as for the one ordained from among them to bless and administer the bread and wine to the multitude.

Until they were filled:

The narrative of the administration of the bread and wine in 3 Nephi 18 never moves forward until the group that’s eating or drinking “is filled”.  Jesus keeps all else on hold and doesn’t move-on until those being ministered to are filled:

and when the disciples had come with bread and wine
[Jesus] took of the bread
and brake
and blessed it
and he gave unto the disciples
and commanded that they should eat
and when they had eaten
and were filled
he commanded that they should give unto the multitude
and when the multitude had eaten
and were filled
he said unto the disciples

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

Being “filled” is the hinge on which the pattern given for this ordinance moves.  The whole focus and goal is centered on gathering a group of people who have repented and been baptized in the name of Christ together and having them share a meal of bread and wine together, in which all of them eat and drink until they are filled.  A lesson in “commensality”, which means literally, “to share a table“.

The one ministering to the group:

and when the disciples had come with bread and wine
he took of the bread and brake and blessed it
and he gave unto the disciples
and commanded that they should eat

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 it came to pass
that they did so
and did drink of it and were filled

The pattern, then, that Jesus showed unto the Nephite disciples was of one man [Jesus] ministering to a group [His disciples].  This is different than the pattern of Jesus instructing the twelve [a group] to give unto the multitude [a group] to eat and drink.  It was the former pattern [that of one man ministering to a group] that Jesus commanded the disciples to continually do among the church of Christ.

when the multitude had eaten
and were filled
he said unto the disciples

behold
there shall be one ordained among you
and to him will I give power
that he shall break bread
and bless it
and give it unto the people of my church
unto all those who shall believe
and be baptized in my name
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

So, though Jesus commanded his group of twelve disciples to minister the bread and wine to a multitude — that appears to have been a special case reserved for the particular circumstances of this meeting at Bountiful.  The pattern that Jesus commanded to be instituted among those who believe and are baptized in his name is that of one man being ordained to stand in similitude of the one Christ, and minister bread and wine to a multitude in similitude of the Christ’s broken body and shed blood.

The pattern given in 3 Nephi 18 is of an ordinance in which a body of believers in Christ gather together, sit themselves down upon the earth, ordain/set-apart one person from among the group to bless and distribute bread and wine, in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus, to every member of the group until each one is filled with bread and with wine.

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Sacred, Set-Apart Space


The Creative Activity of Elohim:

Genesis 1 is the description of the creative activity of a being called אֱלֹהִים or “elohim” or, as we commonly put it in English — God.  The creative act of these personages [I favor the plural because “elohim” is a plural noun] is characterized by:

  • acting via speaking
  • creating via “bara” — which is division or separation
  • forming man and woman simultaneously
  • culminating their creation with the separation of Saturday from all other days [Sabbath]

which can be contrasted to the creative activity in Genesis 2 of a being called יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים or “YHVH god” — the LORD God, who:

  • acted hands-on — forming from dirt, breathing into things, watering the ground, etc.
  • formed man as His image, and formed woman as an appendage to man

Setting Aside a Sacred Portion or Sacred Period:

It is believed that Genesis 1 was written by/for the priestly class of Israel — where Gods’ creative action [in Genesis 1] consists of dividing, containing, and separating.  The priests believed their role in Israeli society was defined by their separation [קֹדֶשׁ or “kodesh“] from the other tribes — in the same way that the larger nation believed their role in the larger family of nations to be defined through their separation from “the others”, their peculiarity or holiness.

So — when we look through Genesis 1, we see that there is a primordial darkness that exists that the Gods did not create.  Rather, in the text, They contain it.  So that after introducing “Light” — Day is created as a space that’s been cleared within the primeval darkness.  Likewise, “waters” appear in Genesis 1 as a pre-existent element that were not created, but were contained/restrained within certain bounds through the introduction of the ordered “Dry Land” within the chaos that was “The Deep”.  And just as “Light” is a space cleared within the infinitely existing “darkness” — so to is “Time” a space cleared within eternity by Gods’ chronometers:  the sun, moon, planets, and stars.

Regular, everyday existence for people can often feel flat or 1-dimentional when an essence of a separate/sacred ritual space is not present.  A “disenchanted” feeling emerges when we don’t allow space for “sacred” time and “sacred” spaces.  The basic idea of “sacred” — or “holy” — is the idea of an off-limits, walled-off portion that isn’t allowed the same degree of free-access as the “profane” [the regular, the common].

So it is important that we, as the elohim of our own daily narratives and lives, enter into our profane, material existence [into our own darkness and chaotic “troubled waters”] and “bara” us some sacred space and some sacred time — some periods for set-apart activity — some holy habits.

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