The Sacrament (Communion, Eucharist, Holy Supper, et al) is the only ordinance of the gospel that we repeat over and over for ourself. Every other ordinance we perform, we do so once for ourself, then we repeat for the dead—for those who have gone before us. Why is that? What is it about the Sacrament that makes it different from every other ordinance in the gospel?
I believe it is because the Sacrament is the culmination of the repentance process. As we go through our week, every one of us sins. Sometimes (hopefully most of the time) it is a series of little sins. Other times (hopefully rarely) it is a more serious sin. Regardless, partaking of the Sacrament is the final step in declaring our desire to repent, accept the Atoning Sacrifice of the Savior in our life and be forgiven. Yes, there are other steps involved in repentance (such as speaking to the Bishop for certain sins, paying restitution, or apologizing as required), but it all ends with the Sacrament. If we have repented correctly and fully, then when we partake of the Sacrament, we will be clean. Just as clean as when we came out of the waters of baptism.
We find the doctrinal foundation for the Sacrament in the New Testament.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 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)
We get a second witness of the Sacrament when Christ visited the Nephites as recorded in 3 Nephi 18:1-14.
“And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him. And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth. And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, 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. And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the 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 uno the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe in my name. And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you. 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, and they did drink, and they were filled. And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness 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 I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock. But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them. Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.
What a powerful passage of scripture. We are blessed to have the Savior’s words describing the importance of the Sacrament. We are further blessed with a third & fourth witness of the Sacrament by Moroni & Joseph Smith. I group these two together because they record nearly identical words regarding the Sacrament (see Moroni 4, 5 & D&C 20:77, 79)
The question then becomes how do we observe the Sacrament? What do we do in our life that makes the Sacrament effective? We can simply go to church, mumble the songs, rest our eyes while someone prays, and then eat the bread/drink the water, or we could invite the Spirit by raising our voices in songs of praise, invite our Father in Heaven to the meeting by actively praying in our heart while someone voices the words, and then completing the repentance process by thoughtfully partaking of the bread and water.
I have heard a couple of times recently that our observance of the Sabbath day (and of the Sacrament in particular) needs to begin on Saturday. We need to prepare our hearts and minds to partake of the sacred emblems early. We should pray for the spirit to witness to us. We should honestly repent and ask for forgiveness. We should seek after a spiritual experience as we partake of the Sacrament.
This ordinance represents the most difficult act of the Savior. The bread represents his body. It is broken on the tray to symbolize his broken body. We should not casually take of the bread. The water represents his blood. The blood he freely spilled in the Garden of Gethsemane. We are told that his agony was so great he sweat great drops of blood. We should not casually take of the water.
My witness to you is that the Sacrament should be far more sacred, far more spiritual, far more important to us than we treat it. Nothing else we do on the Sabbath day comes close to the importance of worthily partaking of the Sacrament. Nothing else we do during the week is as important as the partaking of the Sacrament. The scriptures tell us that if we bring “…one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of [the] Father” (D&C 18:15).
Every ordinance in the gospel is designed to bring souls to Christ. But only one ordinance is designed to make sure that every other ordinance is still effective in our life. Without the Sacrament every single week, we would be disqualified from receiving the blessings of Exaltation.
Through sin, we nullify every ordinance we have partaken of.
Through the Sacrament, we renew every ordinance we have partaken of.
Through the Sacrament, we enable one soul (our soul) to return to the Father.
If we treat our Endowment in the Temple with great reverence, then we should treat the Sacrament with equal reverence. If we treasure our Sealing in the Temple as the greatest day of our life, then we should treat the Sacrament with the same joy. If we desire to return to our Father in Heaven in the Celestial Kingdom to live forever with our family, then we must partake of the Sacrament and renew the covenants we’ve made with our Father in Heaven.
Be honest in your prayers, be earnest in repenting. Ponder on the Savior each time you partake of the bread and water.