I don’t think we understand the sacrament in the least. I think it hasn’t even crossed our minds what is going on with it. Our explanations of it just don’t match up with the scriptures.
The point of this post is not to explain what is missing, it is simply to point out how completely we fail to understand the sacrament, myself included. We will not ask, seek, and knock to understand that which we think we already know.
We all know that the sacrament was initiated at the last supper. We all know that, but I am not sure that is actually true, for we read:
JST Genesis 14:17 And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he break bread and blest it; and he blest the wine, he being the priest of the most high God,
18 And he gave to Abram, and he blessed him, and said, Blessed Abram, thou art a man of the most high God, possessor of heaven and of earth;
Our understanding of the sacrament fails to carry the weight that it is given in the scriptures. For instance, if Christ was coming to visit us, we would hope for divine teaching from him. But what the account in 3 Nephi says is that he “did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them”.
3 Nephi 26:13 Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.
When we read this verse, it is clear there is something going on that we do not understand. Some may think that the issue is merely that “the gospel is simple”. But God understands the weight of his actions, and the weight he places on the sacrament, where he actually comes down from heaven oft to give it to his people, is so far outside the realm of what we understand the sacrament to be that we can only conclude that we don’t have the faintest idea what the sacrament really is, or what it really means to partake of it.
And it sounds like that same weight will be given to the sacrament at Christ’s second coming. He doesn’t talk about ministering to us in the temple ordinances, he talks about doing the same thing he did with the Nephites: offering us the bread and wine in person. Most of D&C 27 is a divine guest list of those who Christ will partake of the sacrament with in the resurrection.
Doctrine & Covenants 27:4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;
I won’t give the rest of the chapter, but verses 6 to 13 enumerate prophets who will be invited to this sacrament and verse 14 adds that “all those whom my Father hath given my out of the world” will also be included. It is the second coming version of his administering the sacrament to the Nephites.
Consider Christ’s words in John 6. The weight that the Savior puts on partaking of his flesh and blood is miles away from what we understand it to be.
John 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up in the resurrection of the just at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
Can we read the words written there and comprehend them? “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” Wow. Just, wow. We don’t have the least idea what the sacrament is all about. The phrase “dwelleth in me, and I in him” is a phrase Christ elsewhere uses for explaining his connection with the Father. He says things like “the Father that dwelleth in me: he doeth the works”, as well as “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me”.
We are not living up to our privileges in other regards, and that makes it impossible to partake of the intended privilege offered by the sacrament. After all, obtaining our privileges is a matter of living up to them – it is a question of how we live.
I conclude with the words of the Sacrament prayers. I am not sure whether this prayer has ever been answered in this dispensation in the fullest sense that God intends, simply because we have not lived up to it yet.
D&C 20:77 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
79 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.