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The True Sacrament
by J.J. Dewey
by J.J. Dewey
The next terrible step the Nephites took was to “deny the more parts of his gospel.” Now the Church today isn’t doing that, is it?
Is it? Think again. When people deny the truth, do they ever admit that they are denying it? All people at all times maintain they are right - especially religious people. So what parts of the gospel are denied?
To get a clear picture, let us ask ourselves what the Nephites denied? Do you suppose that the Nephites denied that Christ ever came or that revelation was received in the past? A few probably did, but most insisted they were true believers. That was too basic. Do you suppose they denied that the early saints had wrought many miracles and that angels appeared unto many? No. Do you suppose they denied that revelation was possible in their day? Probably not. Then what did they deny?
They denied the gifts of the Holy Ghost when it was manifested in their presence. Those who were devoid of the spirit were resentful of the spiritual gifts manifested through the righteous “and they did despise them because of the many miracles which were wrought among them.” (Verse 29) Today members are constantly warned by the authorities to not expect the spectacular and to shy away from it - that this is the devil’s way.
I would say the first vision was pretty spectacular, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t that mean that if you met a man like Joseph Smith today, you would be warned to stay away from him? Be assured it would. Like the Nephites of old, the LDS do not deny that spiritual manifestations can occur, but when they do occur among the saints, they are ridiculed; and if there be any revelation from ordinary members, or non members, it is ridiculed as being from the devil.
Another mistake the Nephites made, which seemed quite harmless to them, yet was abhorred by the prophets, was, “They did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.” (4 Nephi v. 27)
The prophets have always been quite strict concerning the Lord’s body, for those who take the sacrament make up the spiritual body of Christ and if a part of that body is not purified, then it is not in reality the Lord’s body-for He will not claim it and the Spirit will be withheld. This is why the Church was commanded, “The Elders or Priests are to have sufficient time to expound all things concerning the Church of Christ, previous to their partaking of the sacrament.” (D&C 20:68)
Mormon warned, “See that ye partake not of the sacrament unworthily.” (Mormon 9:29) Paul warned, “Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” [Referring to the sleep of death] (I Cor. 11:27-30)
One would think that having strong statements as these before us would induce the Church to keeping the sacrament in order, for who wants to be guilty of the Lord’s body? But to the consternation of all the holy beings in heaven, the Church views these scriptures as if they never were and the sacrament is set up so anyone who does not partake stands out like a sore thumb and thus because of embarrassment many partake against his conscience.
Today, just as in the days of the Nephites, the sacrament is given to all, worthy or not, to the retrogression of their souls, and more especially, the souls of the shepherds who allow it. Just as the abuse of this commandment caused a hampering of the circulation of the spirit of the Lord among the Nephites, so has it among the Latter-Day Saints today.
Many members today who sincerely believe they feel the Spirit at the Sacrament meetings would be amazed at what they would feel if they were to actually experience an outpouring of the living Spirit by renewing their covenants with saints who are pure in heart.
So what is the solution here? Should the authorities regularly interrogate members and watch for iniquity? No. That would amplify the problem.
Instead the church needs to change the situation so no one feels pressure to take the sacrament when they do not feel a desire or inner peace in doing so. As the situation exists now a member stands out like a sore thumb when he does not partake so he takes of it whether he feels like it or not to avoid embarrassment.
There are two possible solutions here.
First, the attendance at the sacrament is viewed by many as a commandment, or at least something that should be accomplished if at all possible.
On the contrary, it is a commandment that members should not partake if they feel uncomfortable in any way about it. Therefore, the authorities should apply no weight of authority around the idea of attending any meeting where the sacrament is passed. Members should feel no pressure to attend a meeting where their sense of guilt may increase rather than decrease.
If anything, members should be encouraged to attend meetings where they learn something. The sacrament should only be partaken of when the member desires it and is in a state of spiritual peace.
Secondly, they should move the sacrament from the beginning of the meeting to the end. Then instead of making the meeting continuous they should have a fifteen minute break before the sacrament is blessed and passed. During this break many who do not take the sacrament seriously would head for home and those who do not feel comfortable in taking it could leave without drawing a lot of suspicion about their unworthiness and thus avoid embarrassment.
The ones who stay and partake would then be those who desire it and are partaking for the sake of communion only.
An even better situation would be to have members meet in small groups in homes with trusted friends in groups of twelve or less to partake and commune with the Spirit. The person would thus have to make an effort to attend and partake, and among friends it is more difficult to pretend that all is well with you when it is not.
The fact is that if a person has a barrier between himself and the Spirit he will not feel much desire to take the sacrament and thus if an effort has to be made to receive it he will generally not make that effort if any guilt is present.
On the other hand, the way it is now, you’d think that all the Latter Day Saints are truly all saints all the time for maybe about one out of a thousand will refuse the pressure to partake of the sacrament worthy or not.
There is a major problem with this approach. A group as a whole can only ascend in the spirit to the level of the weakest link. To obtain the true value of the sacrament the situation must be created so the weak links will bow out through their own free will.
One final thing that needs to be done is to make full use of the symbolism of the sacrament as they did in the time of Christ:
“And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
"And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
"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 when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.” (3 Nephi 18:1-4)Even though water will do the trick if no suitable wine is available, we see that the Master has always used wine when administering the sacrament in the old world as well as the new. In addition he states:
“The hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth…” (D&C 27:5)
Notice that when he comes again that he does not say he will drink water with us as is the case in the church today, but “the fruit of the vine.” Obviously, the Lord prefers decent wine if available for the communion.
Because of the power of symbols. Think of it. All the ordinances are highly symbolic and as such make certain impressions upon the mind that direct our attention toward the spirit. Wine was first used as a sacrament because the color was a symbol of the blood, or the life of Christ, and the satisfying taste represents the fullness that the spirit brings.
An ounce of water just leaves the partaker flat by comparison. It is true that water can be used if decent wine is not available, but in this day and age there is no reason that we cannot have wine to drink that is not made by an “enemy,” as the scripture says.
There is something else of importance to note. Notice that after Jesus blessed the sacrament that he does not give it to the whole group, but first to his twelve disciples. The reason he did this was he was sure that these twelve were close to the Spirit and that when they, as a small group, partook of the sacrament that there was no weakest link and that they would be filled with the Spirit. Then after the Spirit descended, these twelve gave the sacrament to the multitude.
What does this tell us?
It teaches us that those who pass the sacrament should not be young boys with no thought of spiritual matters on their mind, but spirit infused mature disciples of the Master.
Brigham Young agreed:
“I dare not even call a man to be a deacon, ...unless he has a family.' It is not the business of an ignorant young man, of no experience in family matters to inquire into the circumstances of families....” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 89.)A final thing to note is this. The Book of Mormon tells us that the Nephites ate and drank until they “were filled.”
History tells us that early Christians did the same thing.
Is there a difference in effect between eating a bite of bread and eating until you are satisfied? Is there a difference between drinking a swallow of water and a full glass of wine?
There is a big difference. Eating and drinking to a fullness is a symbol of ascending to the fullness of the Spirit in obtaining the stature of Christ. A fulfilling sacrament gives the member a much greater opportunity to contemplate for a longer more intensive period as he eats and drinks.
There is always a symbolic truth to be learned from the actions of a people. What is the meaning of changing the sacrament from eating bread and drinking wine until one is full to taking a swallow of tasteless water and a tiny piece of bread?
The meaning is obvious. Instead of being filled with the quality taste of the spirit, as symbolized by good wine, they are given a swallow of tasteless water symbolizing that little spirit and no discernment of quality is there.
Instead of eating bread (the body of Christ) until full they take less than a bite leaving them yet hungering for the true presence and work of Christ.
May we all partake of the body of Christ by being one with the body of Christ and drink of His One Spirit.
-Copyright J.J. Dewey, used with permission.
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