The Lord’s love for me — and for each one of us — comes across loud and clear in the simplicity of the Sacramental Prayers in the Book of Mormon. These prayers may be found in the book of Moroni, in chapters 4 and 5.
In this article, my hope is merely to begin to unpack the Christian meaning to Mormons of the Sacrament. In other words, to try to explain the Lord’s love which the Sacrament makes manifest is the purpose of this brief comment. In doing so, the Christianity of the Book of Mormon may be made manifest.
To that end, I would like to sketch very briefly how the Sacramental Prayers in the Book of Mormon effectively solve –effectively heal– a split in understanding between Western versus Eastern Christianity about the Sacrament. (The Sacrament is often referred to as the Eucharist in other Christian Churches).
A Resonance with Eastern Christianity and the Book of Mormon.
Eastern Christianity — for example, the Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox Churches — has in this matter stayed characteristically closer to primitive Christianity. When the early Christian church father Ignatius of Antioch spoke of the Sacrament as “the medicine of immortality” he was giving voice to the way in which Eastern Christians value the Sacrament as imparting to the recipient the deifying presence of the Spirit.
Responsibly received, our weekly renewal as commanded by the Lord to partake of the Sacrament grants us heightened powers of obedience, that we may always have his Spirit to be with” us.
Scholars have pointed out how, in the earliest Greek and Aramaic forms, the invocation of the Spirit — epiclesis — upon the Saints gathered was understood as the power to depart from these earliest Sacrament Meetings to go forth. The power is spiritual help we would not otherwise have in our efforts to live a more perfect life. As in the primitive Christian churches, the prayers in The Book of Mormon also promise us spiritual power.
Specifically, as we renew our covenants and promise to take the Son’s name upon us, we “may” be blessed to more perfectly conform our lives to the pattern of the Savior’s life. As the Sacrament Prayers states, our witness to Heavenly Father is to always remember his Son Jesus Christ, and to “keep his commandments.”
The Sacrament then concludes with a prayer of petition on our behalf that we “may always have his Spirit to be with” us. Moroni 4:3 and 5:2.
The Empowering of the Holy Spirit.
What the Sacrament Prayers state in terms of our receipt of the power for living a Christian life is something along the following lines. If we promise to keep the Lord’s commandments, then we are demonstrating to Heavenly Father our willingness to be responsible to His gift of an empowering grace that can then cooperate with our efforts towards obedience to more perfectly obey Him. Spirit is always a gift. A gift always refers to God’s grace. And the gift of God’s grace in the Sacrament must be responsibly received on our part. We additionally pray for the gift of the Spirit in all aspects of our lives; its relevance is not confined to the Sacrament.
To summarize thus far, viewed in this light, the Sacrament is blessing and responsibility. It nourishes us for continued progress in the Gospel. The Sacrament can enable all obedience, and this progress in loving obedience is further aided by the command that we take the Sacrament often.
It must surely have been foreseen by Heavenly Father, from before the foundations of the world, that His Only Begotten had need to partake of the power of the Sacrament so closely to the Lord’s obedience to the Father’s will in finishing the Atonement. All of our reflection on the Sacrament, if it stems from that occasion of the Lord Himself partaking, takes us back to gratitude to Heavenly Father.
This sacred gratitude includes how His Church blesses our lives, blessing us in so many ways.
I am grateful that God creates in my life, just as He does with every man, woman and child, the opportunity after repenting and participating in the Sacrament, a brand new history with Him. What I mean here is that the power of the Sacrament allows me –and you! — to participate again in His purposes in whatever ways that the week ahead of us may bring. With fresh spiritual power, I am again refreshed for the opportunity of activity in the life and work of the Lord.
The Sacrament in the Present Age.
We all, apparently, live in an anxiety-drenched time.
At least so omnipresent media pundits assume and then announce to us. And where there is heightened anxiety, can the results of stress and discouragement be far behind?
Am I the only one – I know that in fact I am not — or does it seem to others that our sin nowadays all too easily occasions further sin? By the time Sacrament Meeting rolls around again, it is too often the case I am drained; my spiritual morale from the Sunday before has been taken from me in surprisingly powerful ways.
By reflecting on our need for repentance and forgiveness in those quiet, prayerful moments, the Spirit gives us the power to center ourselves no matter whatever confusion we might feel immersed.
In such moments there is also another dimension to the Sacrament that we should bring to mind.
When the power of the Priesthood consecrates the sacred emblems of the Sacrament and we partake, not only are we granted power from the Holy Spirit for a more perfect obedience. But additionally, participating worthily in the Sacrament is coupled with another blessing: the renewal of our baptism covenants. This includes God’s pardon of our sins — just as at baptism.
God is actively planning in the lives of each one of us, which is one reason He instituted the Sacrament. Besides the power we receive from the Sacrament, participation in the Sacrament is also effective for God’s renewed pardon of our sins.
<p style="margin-bottom: 0.
0001pt; line-height: normal; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; text-align: left;”>Clarification from an Important Mormon Theological Journal.
Sacramental forgiveness is clearly set forth as a truth of the Restored Gospel by Elder Dallin Oaks in an article in “The Friend,” in August 1999.
“No one lives without sin after his or her baptism,” remarked Elder Oaks.
“How grateful we are that the Lord has provided a process for each baptized member of His Church to be cleansed from the soil of sin.”
“The sacrament is an essential part of that process,” states Elder Oaks.
Elder Oaks provides us an analogy to make clear the theological point he is making. He relates how by working in his backyard one day, Elder Oak became covered with dirt from digging. When his yard work was completed, he returned to his home and washed away all of the dirt.
Elder Oaks concludes by stating the Sacrament can do to sin what cleaning up did to dirt. And though I first read Elder Oaks’ article 14 years ago, I remember it as if yesterday-such was the testimony of the Sacrament this article left on me.
Because of the availability of God’s pardon as Elder Oaks outlines, this Sacramental pardon of our sins places on members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a solemn and serious duty of preparation to partake of the Mormon Eucharist.
And not only are the blessings imparted by the bread and water of the Sacrament denied if taken unworthily. There may in fact be adverse consequences. Certainly each of the Book of Mormon and the New Testament very candidly discourage participation in the Sacrament – as well as Baptism — by an unworthy Church Member guilty of serious disobedience.
Ashby D Boyle II is President of George Wythe University.