Latter-day Saint Life

The Sacrament: Why Do We Take the Bread Before the Water?


The sacrament is an ordinance that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can partake of every week. We take the bread and the water to remember our Savior and to renew the covenants we made with God at baptism. While the doctrine may be clear as to why we take it, does the order of partaking of the sacrament bread and water really matter? 

Christ is the way, and He showed us the way when He was on this earth. If we choose to follow the Savior, and we call ourselves His disciples, we should try our best to follow the ordinance of the sacrament just as He did, in the way that He did. In John 13:15, Christ says:

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you.”

Looking at it from a scriptural standpoint, there are two major occurrences where Christ instituted the sacrament. One is mentioned in the Bible during the last supper with Christ’s apostles. Luke 22:19-20 reads:

"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."

The second occurrence is in the Book of Mormon, when Jesus Christ passed the sacrament amongst the Nephites. He told His disciples:

"Behold there shall one be 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 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 if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you. "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" (3 Nephi 18: 5, 7-8).

We follow this example of administering and receiving the sacrament similarly in our day. While we may understand why we take the sacrament bread and water, does the order of it matter?

Bishop E. Kent Pulsipher said about the passing of the sacrament: 

“Though emphasis is placed on the renewing of our souls and covenant-making, the order and procedure as outlined by the Lord should be followed. ‘And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done’ (3 Ne. 18:6). The perfect order of the ordinance is emphasized by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he received by revelation the ‘precise’ day upon which the Church would be organized (D&C 20, preface). This section and other scriptures also provide the exact words of the sacrament prayers (D&C 20:77, 79; Moro. 4:3, Moro. 5:2) and the order in which the bread and wine (later water) were to be administered. Perhaps the slight difference in wording between the two prayers suggests a progressive commitment. The blessing on the bread says, ‘that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.’ The blessing on the water reads, ‘that they do always remember him.’”

Ordinances are a sacred act performed under priesthood authority. When we strive to fulfill our covenants with exactness, we can receive blessings and protection, just as the stripling warriors did when they “did obey every word of command with exactness." 

However, more than the order of the sacrament we need to remember and focus on why we partake of the sacrament. We need to remember the symbolic nature of the bread and water, which represents Christ’s flesh and blood. Doctrine and Covenants 27:2 states:  

“For, behold, 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.”

It’s up to each individual to engage in a sacred spiritual experience while partaking of the sacrament. In anAugust 2004 Ensign article, President Nelson outlined that each member of the Church bears the responsibility for the spiritual enrichment they receive from a sacrament meeting. 

Ultimately, we take the sacrament because of what Christ did for us. It is a reminder of His perfect Atonement. 

“We commemorate His Atonement in a very personal way. We bring a broken heart and a contrite spirit to our sacrament meeting. It is the highlight of our Sabbath-day observance,” said Russel M. Nelson.

In the April 2019 general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland emphasized the importance of the sacrament. He said, “Brothers and sisters, this hour ordained of the Lord is the most sacred hour of our week. By commandment, we gather for the most universally received ordinance in the Church. It is in memory of Him who asked if the cup He was about to drink could pass, only to press on because He knew that for our sake it could not pass.”

Lead image from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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