The Savior introduced the sacrament on His last evening as He gathered His Apostles around Him in an upstairs room. He knew that He would soon die and that this was the last time He would meet with the Apostles whom He dearly loved. He gave them the holy priesthood ordinance to help them remember His great atoning sacrifice and keep His commandments. After His Resurrection, Jesus Christ came to the people who lived on the American continent and taught them the same ordinance. When the Church of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days, Christ once again commanded His people to partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Him.
Christ wants His people to meet together often to partake of the sacrament and renew sacred covenants. The broken bread and water represent His flesh and blood, which He sacrificed for the good of all mankind. The scriptures contain instructions for the administration of the sacrament. It is administered by those who hold the necessary priesthood authority. A priest or a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood breaks bread into pieces, kneels, and blesses it (see D0ctrine and Covenants 20:76). A deacon or other priesthood holder then passes the sacramental bread to the congregation. A priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder then blesses the water, which is also passed to the congregation. When Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament, He used bread and wine, but He said in latter-day revelation that it really doesn't matter what we eat and drink during the sacrament as long as we do it in remembrance of Him (see Doctrine and Covenants 27:2-3). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses water instead of wine - a practice for which I am very grateful when dealing with children.
Jesus Christ revealed the exact words for the prayers on the sacrament, both of which are very beautiful. We should listen carefully to them and strive to understand the promises we make as well as what is promised to us. The following prayer is offered on the bread: "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" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).
The prayer on the water is as follows: "O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine [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" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:79).
The sacrament ordinance is performed in a simple and reverent manner. Each time we participate in this ordinance, we renew covenants with God. These covenants are clearly stated in the prayers on the bread and water. Since a covenant is a sacred promise between God and His children, it is important for us to know what the covenants are as well as what they mean.
When we covenant to be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, it shows that we are willing to be identified with Christ and His Church. We also make a commitment to serve Christ and our fellowman and to bring honor to His name. When we covenant to always remember Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to make sure that all our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions will be influenced by Christ and His mission. When we promise to keep His commandments, we commit to keep all of them instead of choosing which ones we will obey.
We take these obligations upon ourselves when we are baptized (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:37; Mosiah 18:6-10), and we renew our baptismal covenants each time we partake of the sacrament. The pattern for partaking of the sacrament was given by Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 18:1-2). When we follow this pattern of repenting of our sins and believing in His name, we gain a remission of our sins (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 26:24).
God's part of the covenant promises that if we keep our covenants, we will have His Spirit with us always. The Spirit brings knowledge, faith, power, and righteousness enough to gain eternal life.
Because the sacrament is such a sacred ordinance, we should prepare ourselves spiritually prior to the experience. In fact, the Lord has commanded that no one should partake of the sacrament without being worthy of doing so. This means that we should repent of our sins before we take the sacrament. During the sacrament service, we should be prayerful and reverent, keeping our minds off worldly things. This is a good opportunity to examine our lives and look for ways to improve and to become more committed to keeping the commandments.
Perfection is not required in order to partake of the sacrament, but a spirit of repentance should be in our hearts. Partaking of the sacrament with a pure heart brings the promised blessings from God. Worthily partaking of the sacrament increases our spiritual strength because it helps us to grow closer to God. I am grateful for the opportunity to renew my covenants on a weekly basis. I like the idea of starting each week with a clean slate.