When Jesus instituted the ordinance of the sacrament at the conclusion of the Last Supper, the New Testament accounts do not record what He actually said.
Likewise, when Jesus appeared to the Nephites in America, the prophet Mormon does not record (3 Nephi 18; 20:1-9; 26:13) the words of blessing spoken by the Lord or his chosen disciples. It was not until nearly 400 years after Christ’s resurrection that Moroni (the last living Nephite prophet) described the origin of these prayers: “The manner of their elders and priests administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church; and they administered it according to the commandments of Christ; wherefore we know the manner to be true” (Moroni 4:1). The actual sacrament prayers Jesus taught are reproduced in Moroni 4:3 and 5:2.
When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830, the Lord confirmed that these same prayers (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77; 79) should again be spoken in administering the sacrament. As members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ commemorate Easter Sunday on April 21, 2019, they will repeat what they do nearly every Sabbath day—partake of the emblems of the sacrament that have been blessed by the priesthood according to Christ’s divinely commanded prayers.
Activities: Consider memorizing these sacred prayers. Specifically review and study what is written in the scriptures and what Church leaders have said about the ordinance of the sacrament. Another strategy could be to analyze the sacramental prayers phrase-by-phrase, pondering their divine words. Below are a few ideas for starting such an approach.
“O God, the Eternal Father”
The opening two words follow the pattern of prayer common since the times of Adam: prayers were “offered by the patriarchs to God” (Bible Dictionary, Prayer). The word Eternal clarifies the everlasting nature of God. The use of Father follows the new order of prayer that Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:9-13). Concerning the Lord’s Prayer, James E. Talmage elaborates: “This is the earliest Biblical scripture giving instruction, permission, or warrant, for addressing God directly as ‘Our Father.’ Therein is expressed the reconciliation which the human family, estranged through sin, may attain by the means provided through the well beloved Son” (Jesus the Christ, p. 223).
“We Ask Thee”
John S. Tanner has this reaction to these words: “The sacrament is communal. We partake of it along with others who are united with us by shared baptismal covenants and by the mutual need to repent and recommit. To partake of the sacrament is to formally participate in fellowship with the Saints” (“Reflections on the Sacrament Prayers,” Ensign, April 1986).
With respect to the word thee, President Dallin H. Oaks advocates the use of thee, thou, thy, and thine when praying: “The men whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators have consistently taught and urged English-speaking members of our Church to phrase their petitions to the Almighty in the special language of prayer” (“The Language of Prayer,” Ensign, May1993).
“In the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ”
The use of the Savior’s holy name follows the order of prayer and priesthood blessings taught by Jesus: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). President Russell M. Nelson has recently reaffirmed: “If we as a people and as individuals are to have access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ—to cleanse and heal us, to strengthen and magnify us, and ultimately to exalt us—we must clearly acknowledge Him as the source of that power” (“The Correct Name of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2018, 11).
“To bless and sanctify this bread [water] to the souls of all those who partake [drink] of it”
The sacred emblems are blessed for all—for everyone partaking.
How to become pure and holy was demonstrated by righteous souls in the days of Helaman: “they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).
“That they may eat [do it] in remembrance of the body [blood] of thy Son”
Elder James J. Hamula clarifies why the remembrance of both emblems is important: “Thus, with bread and water, we are reminded of Christ’s Redemption of us from death and sin. The sequence of bread first and water second is not inconsequential. In partaking of the bread, we are reminded of our own inevitable personal resurrection, which consists of more than just the restoration of body and spirit. By the power of the Resurrection, all of us will be restored to the presence of God. … While every one of us will return to the presence of God, not every one of us will remain with Him. …In partaking of the sacramental water, we are taught how we may be made clean from sin and transgression and thus stand in the presence of God. By the shedding of His innocent blood, Jesus Christ satisfied the demands of justice for every sin and transgression. He then offers to make us clean if we will have faith in Him sufficient to repent; accept all the ordinances and covenants of salvation, beginning with baptism; and receive the Holy Ghost” (“The Sacrament and the Atonement,” Ensign, November 2014).
“And witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing”
President Dallin H. Oaks explains some key ideas about witnessing: “What does it mean to be ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus’?
Surely this includes keeping his commandments and serving him. But wouldn’t it also include bearing witness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, to believers and nonbelievers alike? …All of us need to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus. …To those who are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, I say there has never been a greater need for us to profess our faith, privately and publicly” (“Witnesses of Christ,” Ensign, November, 1990).
“To take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments”
Sister Bonnie Oscarson encourages young women to ponder the sacramental covenants each Sunday: “When we are baptized we make sacred promises to ‘stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death’ (Mosiah 18:9). Baptism is the gate by which we enter the kingdom of God, and by entering that gate we agree to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and keep all of God’s commandments. This ordinance is so significant and important that we are asked to think about it, review our actions, and then renew that promise each Sunday in our sacrament meetings as we partake of the sacrament. Essentially, each and every week we have the opportunity to ask ourselves, ‘How am I doing?’ It is the only ordinance I can think of where we are asked to formally recommit to living up to our promises on a regular basis” (“Sister Oscarson: Young Women How Are We Doing,” Church News, 25 November 2013).
“That they may always have his Spirit to be with them”
President Russell M. Nelson explains how to be guided by the Spirit: “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work. To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek.
Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May, 2018)
After the priest concludes each of the sacramental prayers with the prescribed amen, the members of the congregation denote their acceptance of these prayers by adding their communal “amen.” President Henry B. Eyring illuminates the importance of this single word: “Each time we say the word amen when that prayer is offered on our behalf, we pledge that by partaking of the bread, we are willing to take upon us the holy name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. In turn, we are promised that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. Because of these promises, the Savior is the rock upon which we can stand safely and without fear in every storm we face” (“Try, Try, Try,” Ensign, November 2018).