Chapter 20: The Sacrament, a Memorial Ordinance

“Chapter 20: The Sacrament, a Memorial Ordinance,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 53–55

“20: Sacrament,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 53–55

Chapter 20

The Sacrament, a Memorial Ordinance


The sacrament is an ordinance instituted to remind members of the Church of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. The Saints have been commanded to partake of the sacrament often to show their willingness to take upon themselves the name of Christ and always remember Him (see Dallin H. Oaks, in Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 101–5; or Ensign, May 1985, 80–83).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament as a memorial ordinance.

    1. Jesus taught His disciples the nature and purpose of the ordinance of the sacrament (see Matthew 26:26–29; 3 Nephi 18:1–11).

    2. We partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice (see 3 Nephi 18:6–7; Moroni 6:6; D&C 27:2; 1 Corinthians 11:24–26).

  2. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a covenant with God.

    1. We are instructed to learn the meaning of the sacrament before we partake of it (see D&C 20:68).

    2. When we partake of the sacrament, we renew the covenant of baptism, which is to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep all of His commandments (see D&C 20:77, 79; Moroni 4:3; 5:2).

    3. In turn, the Savior covenants with us that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see 3 Nephi 18:11; D&C 20:77, 79).

    4. We are commanded to partake of the sacrament frequently (see D&C 20:75; Moroni 6:6).

    5. As with all of God’s covenants with us, we must faithfully observe the covenant of the sacrament if we would realize its benefits (see D&C 42:78; 82:10).

  3. The bread and the water are important symbols.

    1. Jesus called Himself the “bread of life” and the source of “living water” (John 6:35; 4:10).

    2. The bread represents the Savior’s broken flesh, and the wine (or fruit of the vine) represents His spilled blood (see Matthew 26:26–28; JST, Matthew 26:22–25; JST, Mark 14:20–25; D&C 27:5).

    3. In the revealed sacramental prayer, the bread and the water are sanctified to our souls, and if we are worthy, we are filled with the Holy Ghost (see 3 Nephi 20:8–9).

    4. The emblems of the sacrament are blessed and administered by those who have authority (see D&C 20:46, 76; 3 Nephi 18:5).

    5. The emblems used in the sacrament are less important than the reason we partake of them; thus, water is now used instead of wine in the sacrament service (see D&C 27:2).

  4. Standards and safeguards are given regarding those who would take the sacrament.

    1. The sacrament is for those who have covenanted with God (see 3 Nephi 18:4–5).

    2. Transgressors are not to partake until they have made reconciliation for sin (see D&C 46:4–5).

    3. Those in authority are not to permit unrepentant transgressors to partake of the sacrament (see 3 Nephi 18:28–30).

    4. Before partaking of the sacrament, each person is to determine his own worthiness (see 1 Corinthians 11:28).

    5. To partake unworthily of the sacrament can result in spiritual sickness and condemnation (see 1 Corinthians 11:27–30).

Supporting Statements

  1. Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament as a memorial ordinance.

    • “The institution of the Lord’s supper is strong evidence of the divinity and foreknowledge of the Savior, and what could be more impressive and powerful to call to mind the sublime sacrifice he made than that of partaking of broken bread to remember his body; and drinking from the cup to remember his blood that was shed for all for the remission of sins? Jesus knew that abstract teaching might easily be forgotten, that men would remember the concrete better, and hence many of his excellent lessons were given in parables, and that this the greatest event might be vividly impressed on all, he gave this glorious ordinance in a tangible form, to look at and partake of” (Anthon H. Lund, in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 13).

    • “The Savior emphasized that the tangible bread and water of the Sacrament were to remind us continually of the sacrifice he made for us and for renewal of our covenants of righteousness. The Sabbath day, one in seven, is set apart that we may be reminded of our spiritual duties and, on Easter Sunday once a year, that we may remember the resurrection of the Lord” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 220).

  2. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a covenant with God.

    • “I have often wondered if we fully realize the significance and importance of the covenants we make in partaking of these emblems in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It is our duty carefully and thoughtfully to consider the nature of these prayers, when we hear them offered in our meetings. There are four very important things we covenant to do each time we partake of these emblems, and in partaking, there is the token that we subscribe fully to the obligations, and thus they become binding upon us. These are as follows:

      “1. We eat in remembrance of the body of Jesus Christ, promising that we will always remember his wounded body slain upon the cross.

      “2. We drink in remembrance of the blood which was shed for the sins of the world, which atoned for the transgression of Adam, and which frees us from our own sins on condition of our true repentance.

      “3. We covenant that we will be willing to take upon us the name of the Son and always remember him. In keeping this covenant we promise that we will be called by his name and never do anything that would bring shame or reproach upon that name.

      “4. We covenant that we will keep his commandments which he has given us, not one commandment, but that we will be willing to ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.’

      “If we will do these things, then we are promised the continual guidance of the Holy Ghost, and if we will not do these things, we will not have that guidance” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:344–45).

    • “Baptism is for the remission of sins. Those who are baptized worthily have their sins remitted because of the shedding of the blood of Christ. Their garments are washed in the blood of the Lamb. When they thereafter partake worthily of the sacrament, they renew the covenant made in the waters of baptism. The two covenants are the same” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 386).

    • “In the present dispensation, at the time of the organization of the Church, the Lord said: ‘It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus.’ Then follow the exact words which are to be used in blessing the bread and the wine, or water, which by revelation has been substituted for wine.

      “To meet together often for this purpose is a requirement made of members of the Church, which is just as binding upon them in its observance as the requirement in relation to any other principle or ordinance of the gospel. No member of the Church who refuses to observe this sacred ordinance can retain the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:338).

    • “Do you think a man who comes into the sacrament service in the spirit of prayer, humility, and worship, and who partakes of these emblems representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ, will knowingly break the commandments of the Lord? If a man fully realizes what it means when he partakes of the sacrament, that he covenants to take upon him the name of Jesus Christ and to always remember him and keep his commandments, and this vow is renewed week by week—do you think such a man will fail to pay his tithing? Do you think such a man will break the Sabbath day or disregard the Word of Wisdom? Do you think he will fail to be prayerful, and that he will not attend his quorum duties and other duties in the Church? It seems to me that such a thing as a violation of these sacred principles and duties is impossible when a man knows what it means to make such vows week by week unto the Lord and before the saints” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1929, 62–63).

    Sacrament tray with water
  3. The bread and the water are important symbols.

    • “Since he is the Bread of Life (meaning the Son of God), which came down from the Father, and since men must eat this spiritual bread in order to gain salvation, it follows that eternal life is gained only by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God, or in other words, eternal life is gained only by accepting Jesus as the Christ and keeping his commandments.

      “To eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God is, first, to accept him in the most literal and full sense, with no reservation whatever, as the personal offspring in the flesh of the Eternal Father; and, secondly, it is to keep the commandments of the Son by accepting his gospel, joining his Church, and enduring in obedience and righteousness unto the end. Those who by this course eat his flesh and drink his blood shall have eternal life, meaning exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. …

      “… To keep his saints in constant remembrance of their obligation to accept and obey him—or in other words, to eat his flesh and drink his blood—the Lord has given them the sacramental ordinance. This ordinance, performed in remembrance of his broken flesh and spilled blood, is the means provided for men, formally and repeatedly, to assert their belief in the divinity of Christ, and to affirm their determination to serve him and keep his commandments; or, in other words, in this ordinance—in a spiritual, but not a literal sense—men eat his flesh and drink his blood” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:358; italics added).

    • “For the thirsty and choking traveler in a desert wilderness to find water, is to find life, to find an escape from agonizing death; similarly, the weary pilgrim traveling through the wilderness of mortality saves himself eternally by drinking from the wells of living water found in the gospel.

      “Living water is the words of eternal life, the message of salvation” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:151).

    • “Jesus, celebrating the Feast of the Passover, thus dignifying and fulfilling the law to the full, initiated the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Sacrifice stopped and sacrament started. It was the end of the old era, the beginning of the new. Sacrifice looked forward to the shed blood and bruised flesh of the Lamb of God. The sacrament was to be in remembrance of his spilt blood and broken flesh, the emblems, bread and wine, typifying such as completely as had the shedding of the blood of animals in their days” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:719–20).

    • “There has been considerable difference of opinion in regard to his meaning of the phrase, ‘This is my body,’ when he said to his disciples, ‘Take, eat, this is my body,’ and also when he gave to them the cup and said, ‘Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ [Matthew 26:26–28]. A great number of Christian sects and denominations claim that this did not signify that the bread and wine were emblems, but that we partake really of his flesh and blood, in the administration of the sacrament. … This is not our opinion. We believe that the bread and wine are simply emblems of his body and blood. If we could imagine ourselves in that sacred room where he and his disciples were having the last evening together, where they partook of the paschal meal, and where he instituted this holy ordinance, we should see him then standing before the disciples, saying to them of the bread, ‘This is my body,’ and of the contents of the cup, ‘This is my blood,’ and yet we should see him standing in the full vigor of health and the blood circulating in his veins. It was not his blood in the cup, for he calls it at the very same time, ‘this fruit of the vine.’ It was wine he gave unto them, but it represented his blood that was to be shed for the remission of sins” (Lund, in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 13).

  4. Standards and safeguards are given regarding those who would take the sacrament.

    • “Before partaking of this sacrament, our hearts should be pure; our hands should be clean; we should be divested of all enmity toward our associates; we should be at peace with our fellow men; and we should have in our hearts a desire to do the will of our Father and to keep all of His commandments. If we do this, partaking of the sacrament will be a blessing to us and will renew our spiritual strength” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1908, 35).

    • “How long do you suppose a man may partake of this ordinance unworthily, and the Lord not withdraw His Spirit from him? How long will he thus trifle with sacred things, and the Lord not give him over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption! … Therefore our hearts ought to be humble, and we to repent of our sins, and put away evil from among us” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 2:204).

    • “The sacrament is for the Saints, for those who have actually made covenants at the waters of baptism. …

      “If a person, not a member of the Church, is in the congregation, we do not forbid him partaking of it, but would properly advise that the sacrament is for the renewing of covenants. And, since he has not made the true covenant of baptism or temple covenant, he is exempt. However, his partaking of the sacrament if he is clean and worthy and devout would not bring upon him any condemnation as it would for those who have made solemn covenants and then have ignored or defied them” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 226–27).

Asian Saints taking the sacrament