For Moroni to engrave the sacrament prayers on the plates is a testimony that the sacrament was an essential, not an optional, part of their worship.
Moroni’s inspired inclusion of the sacrament prayers gives us the opportunity to examine each prayer more closely and to look for depth and meaning in each phrase. As we ponder what might be most important to the Lord, we might ponder the things He has asked us to repeat. Although we are baptized only once, our recommitment to our baptismal covenants is performed weekly through the sacrament. Although we receive our temple endowment only once, as we return to the temple to act as
Brother Gary Poll suggested that if Heavenly Father had a favorite scripture, He might arrange it so that His people would hear it often, so that the person uttering the scripture might be kneeling, and so that all listening would have their eyes closed. What is in these prayers Moroni recorded that is so important and so timeless?
“O God, the Eternal Father.”Would you like to hear something interesting? Guess how many times the phrase Eternal Father appears in the King James Bible? Zero. Not once. (The phrase Everlasting Father appears in Isaiah 9:6, but it is referring to Christ.) Interestingly, Eternal Father appears 13 times in the Book of Mormon. We believe that God really is our Father in Heaven, that He is eternally our Father, and, in the sacrament prayers, we address Him as such. Our first article of faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” In the sacrament prayers, we address the Eternal Father, the Father of the spirits of all men (see Hebrews 12:9), and the Father of Jesus Christ.
“We ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ.” Jesus is our advocate with the Father. He told the Nephites, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19). In keeping with the Savior’s instructions, we offer this prayer, and all other prayers, to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ.
“To bless and sanctify this bread.” We may recall that Jesus fed five thousand with loaves and fishes, and many in the multitude followed Him in hopes that He would feed them again. The next day, Jesus spoke to those who sought Him during the night. They asked Him if He was going to be like Moses, since Moses gave them manna. Jesus replied, “Moses didn’t give you the manna.” He continued (my paraphrase), “Your fathers ate manna and they are all dead. I could give you bread that, if you ate it, you would never die.” Their response was, not surprisingly, “Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (see John 6:34–35). In this context, it is interesting to remember that the word Bethlehem means “house of bread,” which of course is Jesus’ birthplace.
“To the souls of all those who partake of it.” When we bless our food or refreshments, we often use the wording “to nourish and strengthen our bodies.” But blessing the sacrament to our souls is different. Jesus said if we ate of the bread of life, we would never hunger again! Clearly, He was talking about bread for the soul, or for the spirit and body together. The scriptures teach that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Thus, the manna of the Old Testament was sent to nourish and strengthen bodies, but the bread of life of the New Testament is for the nourishment of body and spirit, or, in other words, for the soul. Jesus taught the Nephites, “He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled” (3 Nephi 20:8).
“That they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son.” Each Sunday, when I hear the priest use the words “in remembrance of the body of thy Son,” my favorite thing to “remember” is the empty tomb. Because Jesus rose again, we will all rise again. My parents always taught me that I was supposed to think about Jesus during the sacrament. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what to think about. Today, my favorite thing to remember about Jesus’ body is that it was gone when the disciples came to the tomb. In the words of the angel, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
“And witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.” What does “take upon them” mean? Well, when you were born, your parents gave you a name. When you’re born again, you take upon yourself the name of Christ. When you covenant to live the life of a disciple of Christ, it’s as if you’re saying, “Hey, everyone, do you want to see what Latter-day Saints are all about? Watch me. Do you want to see how we treat people, even those who can’t do us any good? Watch me. Do you want to see what kind of movies we see and how we talk and dress? Watch me.” At times, we might be tempted to say, “I’m trying, but don’t watch me too closely!” We are all imperfect, which is why we return to the sacrament table week after week.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave us a call to action when he taught that the name of Christ might also mean the work of Christ:
What does the name of Christ and that covenant mean? The most frequent single meaning of the scriptures that refer to the name of the Lord seem to mean the work of the Lord, His work, His atonement, His mission. . . . Everyone who covenants that they are willing to take upon them the name of Christ is saying, “I will handle my share of that great mission, and my share is what I am called to do.” (April 2015 Training Meeting on the Sabbath and the Sacrament)
Look at the front cover of your scriptures. Is your name embossed there? If so, we might say that your scriptures have “taken your name upon them.” What does that mean? It means those scriptures belong to you. In the same way, when we take upon us the name of Christ, we belong to Him. The Lord told Alma the Elder, “Blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine” (Mosiah 26:18). It’s nice to know that when we put His name on us, we belong to Him.
Sister Jean A. Stevens taught:
Covenants with God help us to know who we really are. They connect us to Him in a personal way through which we come to feel our value in His sight and our place in His kingdom. In a way we can’t fully comprehend, we are known and loved individually by Him. (“Covenant Daughters of God,” Ensign, November 2014, 115)
“And always remember him.” Remember is a very important word. President Spencer W. Kimball taught:
When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be “remember.” Because all of you have made covenants—you know what to do and you know how to do it—our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day—to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that they “may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.” Nobody should ever forget to go to sacrament meeting. “Remember” is the word. “Remember is the program” (“Circles of Exaltation,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. , 12)
It’s interesting how often the Book of Mormon uses the word remember. It uses remember to describe the righteous: “Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them” (Alma 62:50). And it uses remember to describe the wicked: “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God” (1 Nephi 17:45). Next time you go through the Book of Mormon, watch for the word remember and its opposite, forget—you’ll be impressed!
“And keep his commandments which he hath given them.” Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Keeping all the commandments is a pretty tall order. For mortal and fallen man, it’s impossible. But that is exactly why we take the sacrament so often. Brother Stephen E. Robinson taught:
In many denominations, it would be thought odd that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is offered every week. Yet Latter-day Saints know that imperfect beings must regularly reaffirm their personal goal of perfection, being justified in the meantime by the atonement of Christ. Accordingly, each week we come before the Lord as we prepare for the sacrament and say essentially, “Heavenly Father, I wasn’t perfect again this week, but I repent of my sins and reaffirm my commitment to keep all the commandments. I promise to go back and try again with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I still want and need the cleansing that comes through faith, repentance, and baptism. Please extend my contract, my covenant of baptism, and grant me the continued blessings of the Atonement and the companionship of the Holy Ghost.” (Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News , 52)
“That they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” Near the conclusion of Jesus’ visit with the righteous Nephites and Lamanites, the multitude of 2500 looked upon Jesus as if asking Him to tarry with them, but Jesus told them He couldn’t stay: “Behold, my time is at hand,” He said, and “now I go unto the Father” (3 Nephi 17:1, 4).
We don’t know what kind of time constraints pressed upon the Savior of the world, but Jesus assured the multitude that although He couldn’t stay personally, they could always have His Spirit to be with them through partaking of the sacrament (see 3 Nephi 18:7,11). Elder Bruce C. Hafen observed that the promise was first made not in the words of a prayer uttered by a priest, but in the Savior’s own voice:
In introducing the sacrament to the Nephites, Christ said, “And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:11). So Christ first spoke the sacrament prayer as He personally taught what the sacrament is. And the promised “with you” is more than a formal prayer; it is His voice, speaking His promise of constant companionship to each of us. (Spiritually Anchored in Unsettled Times , 34)
For each of us in our time, and for Moroni individually in his, our feelings of being alone are answered with His promise of always being with us. Perhaps Moroni, like Elder Neal A. Maxwell on Okinawa, administered the sacrament to himself and felt the promised companionship of the Lord. Interestingly, while a teenage Neal A. Maxwell crouched alone in a foxhole far from home, another boy on the same island also struggled to survive, but the Lord was “with them,” and His eyes were upon them both. Elder Maxwell later reported:
Unknown to me then was how the ravages of the battle on Okinawa were affecting an eight-year-old Okinawan boy, Kensei Nagamine. His father and brother were killed in the Battle of Shuri, and his pregnant mother was able to take her five children, including this youthful son, to the north end of the island and comparative safety, even as they were repeatedly machine gunned by fighter planes many times. Though unaware, an eighteen- and an eight-year-old were then only miles apart. Many years later we met; by then he was the president of the Okinawa Stake. It was my privilege later on (after his tour as stake president) to call him as patriarch to the Okinawa Stake. He is now President Nagamine of the Tokyo temple! Surely the Lord had His eyes upon him long ago! (One More Strain of Praise , 105)
What a comfort to think of the sacrament as a divine answer to loneliness and a reminder that His eyes are upon all of His children.
Lead image from Shutterstock
The prophet Moroni, who spent at least the last 20 years of his life alone and wandering to avoid being captured and killed, has in the latter days become one of the symbols of our religion. His statue watches over nearly every temple and has been depicted on the cover of millions of copies of the Book of Mormon in dozens of languages.
In this book, best-selling author John Bytheway suggests that Moroni's last words were both intensely personal and universally applicable. In the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon we discover a wonderful formula for surviving today's turbulent times.