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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13 Comments

  1. I think you brought this all together nicely. I especially like the part about kneeling down on the earth when praying. Since reading this, the Spirit has confirmed to me that vocal prayer on one’s knees is, indeed, a principle of the ancient gospel and that if the opportunity presents itself, prayer should always be done on the knees.

  2. “on your knees or on your feet but never on your seat”

    where ate you getting that the wine should be from the same cup? i agree out ought to be but i don’t see that any where in this chapter

  3. where ate you getting that the wine should be from the same cup? i agree out ought to be but i don’t see that any where in this chapter

    Verse 8:

    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

    the cup” and “drink of it” both suggest a single cup was used.

  4. I just wanted to thank you Justin for not mentioning “renewing our covenants”.
    We hear that expression so often and to me, it has no doctrinal/scriptural basis.

    What are your thoughts about “And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”
    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I was wondering if “His Spirit” is like the Holy Ghost/Spirit of something else (…really Christ’s spirit ?)

  5. I just wanted to thank you Justin for not mentioning “renewing our covenants”.

    We hear that expression so often and to me, it has no doctrinal/scriptural basis.

    Yeah — I didn’t want to write a post about what the sacrament tends to mean to modern LDS. Rather, I was interested in writing only a descriptive account of what I read in 3 Nephi 18. Because I think that’s the pattern the Lord has set — and it’s best to evaluate our current practices against His template.

    What are your thoughts about “And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I was wondering if “His Spirit” is like the Holy Ghost/Spirit of something else (…really Christ’s spirit ?)

    I believe that such uses “my spirit” in the scriptures refer to the Holy Ghost. Though there may be some instances where the term could refer to the Light of Christ — I believe that it most often refers to the “Spirit of God”, as in the Spirit sent forth from the presence of God [i.e., the Holy Ghost]. And either way, I don’t think we find that term, in such contexts, ever refers to the personal spirit body of Jesus Christ [expect where it’s obvious, as in Ether 3:16].

    So I take:

    and if ye do always remember me
    ye shall have my spirit to be with you

    from verses 7 and 11 to mean:

    and if ye do always remember me
    ye shall have the holy ghost to be with you

  6. Anarchist, you said, “…I especially like the part about kneeling down on the earth when praying. Since reading this, the Spirit has confirmed to me that vocal prayer on one’s knees is, indeed, a principle of the ancient gospel and that if the opportunity presents itself, prayer should always be done on the knees.”

    I just came across your comment today, and I have been struggling with the this very concept lately, that of “traditional” verbal, kneeling prayer.

    I’m just wondering your about your thoughts, or comments specific to what you said, and the “true order of prayer” (as offered in the endowment–and with alternative interpretations such as those discussed in The Temple Book and Not Secret But Sacred — Yes, I know that both books are considered “apostate”) and the commandment to “pray always” … and, seriously, just wanting to understand prayer, communion, and being at one with Christ and Father more significantly through the day and in my life.

    What is prayer? How is it truly done, as to always have that door open, or always be in their presence? I know that the type of prayer that is typically referred to (ie. verbal, on the knees, upon the ground) is important! But I sincerely feel that there is something deeper.

    When Adam builds the altar, kneels upon the earth and offers up his verbal (repetitious?) prayer, it appears that “the god of this world” is the one who answers (whereas Father’s plan appears to be “true messengers)?

    I know that you (Anarchist) and others have written quite a lot of articles, if this is something you have already discussed, maybe you could leave a link? I have looked at a number of articles here that have been extremely helpful. Just wondering if you, or any of the other individuals who typically post, might have some additional thoughts. If maybe you don’t feel that the comment would be appropriate to post, i would certainly be open to email. Thank you.

  7. I love the true order of prayer, I was back at the temple for the first time in a while the other day and the power the is real. The wrist is very sensitive to touch and energy, and holding hands for upwards of 30-40 seconds will lead to a big oxytocin release, which feels great and causes bonding and imprinting. I think holding hands and being united in your words is beautiful, also, the duty of being voice is more important and more humbling when everyone has to repeat what you say. people are less inclined to pray amiss in that situation.

    it is very true, at least in my mind, that building altars and saying the same thing over and over is asking for th god of this world, “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,” the gods created a beautiful perfect world and declared it good, the garden was better than any temple ever built, and I believe it is still that way today. Jesuschose to endow his apostles on a mountain, appear to Moses on a mountain, appear to Joseph in a forest, and said things that everyone else considered to be blasphemy against the temple.

    I think prayer is like communication with anyone else, the more you get to know the gods the more intimate and personal and spontaneous your conversations might be. Jesus prayed in a short precise and informal way most of the time. there have been some studies on the effect prayer has on the brain, the first few minutes not much happens, but after a while you basically get high off brain chemicals and hormones.

  8. Im curious how you fit this into other scriptures in Moroni and D and C that state the ELDERS of the church are the administer the sacrament? it tends to a plural reference of people involved there. or do you think thats possibly referring to elders in general being the one acting as Christ as in one elder in each church fulfilling that role? I really hadnt thought of sacrament had to be passed this particular way you brought up. I will say Ive been sadly ignoring a prompting lately to reread this section of scripture I guess Ill get on that even though I should have already.

    I do agree we do the sacrament all wrong and your blog post on this was quite well done. and no I dont think like most probably do that these are just silly details I highly doubt God gave useless commandments out of sheer boredom.

  9. Im curious how you fit this into other scriptures in Moroni and D and C that state the ELDERS of the church are the administer the sacrament?

    It appears to me that the “one ordained among you” that Jesus talks about in 3 Nephi is chosen from among the group of elders in a particular congregation.

    So it is only elders of the church that can be the one ordained among a congregation to administer the sacrament to them — showing himself to be a pattern/type for Christ for the people, drawing their minds to Jesus by breaking and blessing bread and blessing the cup of wine in a perfect re-presentation of how He blessed and passed bread and wine to the 12 Nephite disciples.

  10. Interesting and worthwhile to note that while the blessing pronounced upon the bread (body) involves acceptance of commandments and following them to the best of one’s ability, the blessing for the wine (spirit) does not even make mention of commandments. Now that is something to “always remember”.

  11. What’s the lesson you draw from that? Does only the body need to obey the commandments, but the spirit does not?

  12. Well the laws of physics only apply to the physical, of course. We know this yet we base all of our doing and being off of these laws. Even when we try and grasp at something beyond, we hold everything to the same measure…the arm of flesh. The spirit is ideally unrestrained by all that.

  13. That’s a good thought, I like that.


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