Personal Response by Karen Merkley
Mormons partake of the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper–initiated by Jesus Christ–every Sunday, as Catholics partake of Communion. We have in common our love of the Lord, and our belief that He would have us partake of this emblem of His love, sacrifice and atonement.
In addition to partaking of the Sacrament as the emblem of Christ’s sacrifice and as an ordinance through which members of the Church renew their baptismal covenants, Mormons do so in a prescribed manner, which was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith, and is recorded in a book of revelations known as The Doctrine and Covenants–a scriptural record of the Lord’s instructions to Joseph as the Lord’s Church was restored to the earth.
For Mormons, the prescribed manner of administering the blessing of the bread is set forth as follows:
“And the elder or priest shall administer it; and after this manner shall he administer it-he shall kneel with the church and call upon the Father in solemn prayer, saying:
“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.”
The manner of administering the wine or water is set forth as follows:
“He shall take the cup also, and say:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this [water] 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” (D&C 20:76-79).
In Mormon Sacrament services, deacons (12-year-olds) and teachers (14-year olds), holding the Aaronic priesthood, pass the Sacrament to individual members of the congregation. Mormons stay seated in their pews as the Sacrament is passed to them by the priesthood bearers while Catholics stand and go to the front of the chapel to partake of Communion. The actual blessing of the Sacrament is performed by priests (16-year olds) or elders, holding the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood.
For both Mormons and Catholics, the Sacrament offers Mormons a chance to reflect on the atonement, on their lives, and the Savior’s love. While there is music and spiritual instruction in each Mormon Sacrament Meeting, the ordinance of the Sacrament supercedes all of those in importance. The purpose of the Sacrament includes coming to the Savior with a broken heart and contrite spirit, asking for forgiveness, witnessing to Him our willingness to obey; serving Him through partaking worthily; renewing our baptismal covenants with Him, showing our faith in His atoning sacrifice and enabling grace, and worshipping Him.
While we do share some of the same approaches to the Sacrament with the Catholic community, we also differ in some respects. Mormons do not believe, for example, in the literal transubstantiation of the Sacrament emblems as do our Catholic friends. While we understand that the Lord referenced the Sacrament as a type of his body and blood bruised and broken for our sins, we do not believe that the bread and water are actually transformed miraculously into those elements. We see the reference symbolically.
Mormons believe that Christ Himself instituted the sacramental ordinance when He shared His Last Supper with His apostles. The symbolic cup of wine and broken bread had been partaken of every Passover since the Exodus from Egypt to symbolize redemption. The Savior informed His apostles that from this point on, the bread and wine would represent His blood and body, shed for us in His pivotal act of redemption. No longer would Christ’s followers look forward to redemption; instead, they would look back, and partake of the bread and wine in remembrance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Mormons also assert and believe that the authority to administer ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth by God the Father and Jesus Christ themselves, through a modern appearance of His resurrected apostles to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, commissioned to confer that authority on His modern servants. Mormons believe that the authority to act in God’s name ceased after the martyrdom and death of the apostles in His day, and needed to be restored. Catholics affirm that Peter held the keys and that they were actually unbroken.
Friends of all faiths are invited to join Mormons for sacrament meetings. If you are interested in finding one close to you, please feel free to visit www.mormon.org to find a meetinghouse close to you.