2. Understand the Symbolism of the Sacrament (S. Michael Wilcox)
I used to wonder why the sacrament involved two symbols— wouldn’t one be sufficient to remind us of the Savior’s gift? It took a number of years before I realized there was wonderful symbolism in the use of both bread and water, and that the associated symbolism had a deeper meaning than the Savior’s body and blood.
As a result of the Fall, two deaths entered the world— spiritual and physical. Because man is subject to spiritual death, we are cut off from the presence of the Father; because of physical death, our spirits leave our mortal bodies when our time in mortality is finished. Both are in a certain manner catastrophic. Our spirits long for eternal union with God as well as eternal union with our physical bodies. That these unions may be everlasting, Christ came into the world. Each symbol of the sacrament reminds us of Jesus’ victory over both deaths—the bread a reminder of His victory over physical death, the water a reminder of His victory over spiritual death.
Doctrine and Covenants 27 helps us see the distinction between the two symbols. While on his way to procure the emblems of the sacrament, Joseph Smith received the revelation recorded in Section 27 that gives instruction regarding the sacrament. Notice what the Lord says: “I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins” (D&C 27:2, emphasis added).
The last part of this verse indicates the two main things Christ did for us that we are to remember. Jesus laid down His body that He might take it up again and thus bring to us all the gift of the Resurrection. He also shed His blood that we might receive a remission of our sins through the compassion and mercy of the Atonement.
We sense this same distinction when the Savior taught the Nephites and Lamanites at the temple in Bountiful. There was one emblem for the Resurrection and one for the Atonement. When teaching about the bread, the Savior told the people they were to administer the bread “unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name. . . . And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you” (3 Nephi 18:5,7 emphasis added).