Mormon Monday: On Sacrament and Symbolism

I would like to share a few thoughts I have had recently as I have pondered upon the Sacrament and its symbolism and what it represents in our lives.  These observations may, perhaps, be obvious to others, but I have come to these conclusions after long periods of pondering upon the subject of the Sacrament.

 To begin with, some clarification of terms for those who may not be familiar with Mormonism.  In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we use the term Sacrament to refer to what is called Eucharist or Communion in other Christian Churches.  It is the symbolic remembrance of Christ, modeled after the Last Supper where Christ gave his Disciples bread and wine and commanded them to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.

 I have long wondered why it was that there are two parts of the Sacrament, the bread and the wine (or water in modern Mormonism).  The scriptures that describe Christ’s implementation of the Sacrament explain that the bread is to be eaten in remembrance of his body, and the wine (or water) is to be drunk in remembrance of his blood.  So, the question becomes, why do we remember both the body and the blood of Christ?  Is there a difference?  Do they teach us different things about the Atonement?

 I believe that we have two parts of the Sacrament, the bread and water, representing the body and blood of Christ, because the Sacrament is to remind us and teach us of the Atonement, which does indeed have two parts.  I was reminded of this, and finally made this connection between the two parts of the Atonement and the two parts of the Sacrament, as I was looking at a puzzle that I picked up on my mission that teaches the Plan of Salvation.

Click for larger image.
Click for larger image.

I love this little thing, and my wife has recently so wonderfully applied her graphic design skills to take a scanned version of this and translate the German from the original I had on my mission to English, so that I can use it in lessons and such now. I love this because it teaches the Plan of Salvation so simply, yet so wonderfully. We start out as little people on the left, but our goal is to one day return to our Father in Heaven.  There are two great pits that separate us from God:  Physical Death and Spiritual Death.  To help us overcome both of these, God has sent his Son and through the Atonement of Christ we have bridges that span those gaps.

 First: to span the gap caused by Physical Death, we have been given a bridge: the Resurrection of Christ.  This overcomes physical death for all.  Everyone who has ever lived, and thus will eventually die, will also eventually be resurrected and have their bodies and their spirits reunited.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

 As we take the bread, we remember the body of Christ.  We remember that he gave up his body to be crucified and to die physically, and then he took up his body again in the resurrection.  His body is the symbol of the resurrection from the dead which we all will have part in.

 The second gap is Sin, or Spiritual Death.  These are the actions that we take that separate us from the presence of God.  Where physical death is the consequence of the Fall of Adam, which introduced mortality into the world, and we are not responsible for that, Christ has freely paid the price and built our bridge to cross the gap caused by physical death.  But, spiritual death is the death that we bring about in our own lives by our own sin and disobedience. But, God is merciful and has provided us with a bridge to cross this gap as well.  But, where the first bridge was pre-made and is freely available to all, the second bridge comes to us in pieces that we must assemble and build ourselves.

 The pieces of the second bridge are:  First, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; Second, Repentance; Third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; Fourth, Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost; and Fifth, Keeping the Commandments.  Again, this bridge is given to us by Jesus Christ, and were it not for his Atonement, which makes forgiveness of sin possible, we would not have these bridge pieces available to us.  And this is my favorite part of having this puzzle, of laying this all out as I explain the principles of the Gospel of Christ.  Once we have built our bridge, and crossed it, what would happen if we were to not keep a commandment?  What would happen to our bridge if that last piece were taken away, if we sinned and did not keep all of the commandments as we should?  Without that last piece, the bridge would fall and we would again have a gap of Spiritual Death separating us from God.  But, we still have the pieces and can build our bridge again.

 We need to again have Faith in Jesus Christ, Repent of our sin, and, though we are not Baptized again, we do have the opportunity each Sunday at Church to partake of the Sacrament, which not only reminds us of Christ and his Atonement, but also renews our Baptismal covenant.  Each week, then, it is as if we are re-baptized, and then we are promised that we will always have his spirit be with us, enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then we need to strive to keep the commandments.

 And so, as we partake of the Sacrament, with its two distinct parts, and we think on the bread and the water as representative of the body and the blood of Christ, we think on the two aspects of the Atonement and what they both provide for us.  Through the body of Christ, through his death and resurrection, we receive the promise that we will all one day be resurrected and have our bodies and our spirits reunited so that we can stand again in the presence of God.  And we think on the blood of Christ, which was shed as he suffered in Gethsemane, atoning for our sins so that we might not suffer if we repent. By the body of Christ we overcome Physical Death and by the blood of Christ we overcome our own Spiritual Deaths, as often as we repent.

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