Is there some particular significance in the order of bread and water in the sacrament?

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“Is there some particular significance in the order of bread and water in the sacrament?” Tambuli, Oct.–Nov. 1985, 25

As a deacon, I would like to know if there is some particular significance in the order of bread and water in the sacrament. If I find someone who missed the bread, would it be all right for him to have the water first, or should I return for bread?

E. Kent Pulsipher, bishop, Sandy 20th Ward, Sandy Utah East Stake

You ask an important question about a sacred subject. It indicates that, as a deacon, you are approaching your ordained office and duties with insight and inspired promptings. It is wonderful when the receivers of the Aaronic Priesthood feel deeply the importance of the Lord’s errand they are on.

Aaronic Priesthood brethren properly preparing, passing, and blessing the emblems of the sacrament can be a great motivational image to the younger members of the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ personally instituted the sacrament during the evening of the Last Supper (Matt. 26:26–28). This noteworthy event briefly preceded his crucifixion and resurrection. Sacrificial offerings were ended and replaced by the offering of a broken heart and contrite spirit. New covenants were instituted, to be effected at the time of repentance and baptism and renewed while partaking of the sacrament bread and water each week (D&C 20:71–74). These covenants include a recognition of the sacrifice of Christ in shedding blood and suffering in the flesh, taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ, and witnessing that we remember him always and keep his commandments which he has given us (D&C 20:76–79). A promised consequence is, “that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.”

Regarding the sacrament meeting, the setting in which the sacrament is administered, President Joseph Fielding Smith has stated: “In my judgment, the sacrament meeting is the most sacred, the most holy, of all the meetings of the Church” (Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 2: chapter 18, subheading 6).

In April 1983 general conference, Elder David B. Haight spoke on the sacrament and reflected on the importance of singing the sacramental hymn as a contributor to personal change. “We were learning in our youth that to feel of the Spirit we must experience a change in our hearts, and to be in harmony on this sacred occasion required our singing the sacrament hymns. As we personally sang the words, our souls were better prepared to understand this sacred ordinance” (General Conference, April 1983.)

Regarding the procedure, in 3 Nephi: 18 the Lord enters into some detail as to the order and format of the ordinance:

“And it came to pass that Jesus commanded His disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.

“… 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.

“… 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 Ne. 18:1, 3, 4, 8).

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.”

This sacred part of our worship experience, if carried out properly, will not only bless our lives as youth, but will prepare us for additional “precise” covenants and ordinances to be experienced in the temples of the Lord and will identify us as “disciples of Christ.”