As always, use the Official Gospel Doctrine Manual in your preparation, these ideas are supplemental.
1 – “I make not myself known to the Lamanites” Moroni’s strategy for staying alive is to avoid his enemies. We can liken Moroni’s strategy to our own survival. Recovering alcoholics do not go into bars, and those who struggle to swim avoid deep water. We don’t go where we are tempted, we don’t go where we are weak, we will not “make ourselves known to our enemies.”
2 – “their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves” Once the Nephites were destroyed, Satan wasn’t through. His goal is to send spirits, whoever they are, out of this world unprepared to meet God, so he turned his attention to the Lamanites and enraged them to fight among themselves (see Alma 48:23).
4 – “I write a few more things” Moroni, although alone, found a righteous purpose and pursued it. His audience was yet unborn, but he wanted his testimony preserved. Aren’t we glad he continued to write? What did he tell us? Oh, nothing really, just how to bless, how to baptize, how to administer the sacrament, how to run the church, His father’s discourse on faith, hope and charity, and, of course, Moroni’s promise. Aren’t we fortunate that Moroni continued to write?
2 – “ye shall give the Holy Ghost” The importance of having the Holy Ghost cannot be overstated. As Moroni proceeds to share “a few more things,” he chooses first to speak of the importance of the Holy Ghost and how it was conferred. The Lord used strong words to describe the importance of the Holy Spirit in D&C 121:
God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now; Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory (D&C 121:26-27).
2 – “they laid their hands upon them” Priesthood power is received by the laying on of hands, by those who have previously had hands laid upon them. Priesthood power is not bestowed by receiving a religious degree, or by simply sensing a “call” (see John 15:16, Hebrews 5:4). Those who hold the priesthood have a “Line of Authority” listing their priesthood predecessors. When John Wesley laid his hands on Thomas Coke and made him a bishop, John Wesley’s brother, Charles Wesley (who wrote the words to, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Rejoice the Lord is King) composed a poem questioning his brother’s actions and challenging his authority:
How easily are bishops made
By man’s or woman’s whim;
Wesley his hands has laid on Coke
But who laid hands on him?”
Moroni 4-5 The Sacrament Prayers
Here’s are some insights about the Sacrament Prayers from my book, “Honoring the Priesthood:”
The Lord’s Favorite Scripture
Brother Gary L. Poll once suggested that if Heavenly Father had a favorite scripture, “he might arrange it so that his people would hear it often. He might arrange it so that the person repeating the scripture would have the priesthood, and would be kneeling; and those listening to the scripture would have their eyes closed” (A Dozen Ideas for Teaching the Book of Mormon with Power [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, August 1997], audiocassette).
As you might have guessed, Brother Poll was suggesting that the prayers offered over the sacrament, usually by members of the Aaronic Priesthood, could be Heavenly Father’s favorite scripture. In this chapter, we’ll talk about the prayers phrase by phrase as we look at them a little closer.
The Blessing on the Bread:
“O God, the Eternal Father.” Our first article of faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” In the sacrament prayers, we address the Eternal Father, the Father of the spirits of all men (Hebrews 12:9), and the Father of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“We ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ.” Jesus is our advocate with the Father. He told the Nephites, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19). In keeping with the Savior’s instructions, we offer this prayer, and all other prayers, to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ.
“To bless and sanctify this bread.” If you fed five thousand people a free lunch, do you think they would follow you? After Jesus fed the five thousand with loaves and fishes, many in the multitude followed him in hopes that he would feed them again. The next day, Jesus spoke to those who sought him during the night. He told them not to seek for food that perishes but for food that endures. These people didn’t have refrigerators or preservatives, and they must have been excited to hear about food that never goes bad. So they said to the Savior, “Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:34–35).
“To the souls of all those who partake of it.” When we bless our food or refreshments, we often use the wording “to nourish and strengthen our bodies.” But blessing the sacrament to our souls is different. Jesus said if we ate of the bread of life, we would never hunger again! Clearly, he was talking about bread for the soul, or for the spirit and body together. The scriptures teach that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Thus, the manna of the Old Testament was sent to nourish and strengthen bodies, but the bread of life of the New Testament is for the nourishment of body and spirit, or, in other words, for the soul. Jesus taught the Nephites, “He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled” (3 Nephi 20:8).
“That they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son.” This portion of the sacrament prayer has meant more to me in the past few years than ever before in my life. My father has Parkinson’s disease and now relies on a wife, a walker, and a wheelchair to get around. Each Sunday, when I hear the priest use the words “in remembrance of the body of thy Son,” I choose to remember the empty tomb. I’m so happy to know that Jesus was resurrected. Because he rose again, we will all rise again. Someday, I will see my earthly father with my earthly mother. He’ll be standing straight and tall, with no walker and no wheelchair. My parents always taught me that I was supposed to “think about Jesus” during the sacrament. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what to think about. Today, my favorite thing to remember about Jesus’ body is that it was gone when the disciples came to the tomb. In the words of the angel, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
“And witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son.” What does “take upon us” mean? Well, when you were born, your parents gave you a name. When you’re born again, you take upon you the name of Christ. When you covenant to live the life of a disciple of Christ, it’s as if you’re saying, “Hey, everyone, do you want to see what Latter- day Saints are all about? Watch me. Do you want to see how we treat people? Even people who don’t do us any good? Watch me. Do you want to see what kind of movies we see and how we talk and dress? Watch me.” Taking upon us the name of Christ is a huge responsibility! Perhaps taking his name upon us has another meaning as well. Look at the front cover of your scriptures. Is your name embossed there? If so, we might say that your scriptures have “taken your name upon them.” What does that mean? It means those scriptures belong to you. In the same way, when we take upon us the name of Christ, we belong to him. The Lord told Alma the Elder, “Blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine” (Mosiah 26:18). It’s nice to know that we are his! He has put his name on us, and we belong to him.
“And always remember him.” Remember is a very important word. President Spencer W. Kimball taught: When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants— you know what to do and you know how to do it— our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day— to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that they “may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.” Nobody should ever forget to go to sacrament meeting. Remember is the word. Remember is the program (“Circles of Exaltation,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982], 12).
It’s interesting how often the Book of Mormon uses the word remember. It uses remember to describe the righteous: “Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them” (Alma 62:50). And it uses remember to describe the wicked: “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God” (1 Nephi 17:45).
Elder Gerald N. Lund once told a story I will never forget. I remember it every time I hear the priests pray. He told of a magazine article that described “belaying,” a backup system rock climbers use to prevent accidents. Each climber wears a harness that is connected to his climbing partner with rope. Once a climber has ascended the rock and is secure in his position, he places special mechanical devices into the crevices and irregularities in the rock so that he can support not only his own weight but also the weight of his partner. When everything is in place, the belayer calls down to his partner, “You’re on belay.” Brother Lund shared this story from a magazine article about the experience of an expert climber named Czenzcush:
Belaying has brought Czenzcush his best and worst moments in mountain climbing. Czenzcush once fell from a high precipice, yanking out three mechanical supports, and pulling his belayer off a ledge. He was stopped upside- down, ten feet from the ground when his spread- eagled belayer arrested the fall with the strength of his outstretched arms and digging his fingers into the rock. “Don saved my life,” says, Czenzcush. “How do you respond to a guy like that? Do you give him a used climbing rope for Christmas? No. You just remember him. You just always remember him (Eric G. Anderson, “The Vertical Limit,” Private Practice, November 1979, 21, as cited in Gerald N. Lund, Helping Students Understand the Events of the Atoning Sacrifice [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1992], audiocassette).
The sacrament prayers remind us how we should respond to someone who stretched out his arms and saved us from the Fall. We just remember him. We just always remember him.
“And keep his commandments which he has given them.” Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Keeping all the commandments is a pretty tall order. For mortal and fallen man, it’s impossible. But that is exactly why we take the sacrament so often. Brother Stephen E. Robinson taught:
Because conversion and repentance are not once and- for- all events, and because we cannot keep all the commandments all the time, the covenant must be renewed and reaffirmed on a regular basis. Fallen beings like ourselves need to be reminded of the covenant we made and the commitment we expressed at baptism. We need frequent opportunities for course corrections. In many denominations, it would be thought odd that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is offered every week. Yet Latter- day Saints know that imperfect beings must regularly reaffirm their personal goal of perfection, being justified in the meantime by the atonement of Christ. Accordingly, each week we come before the Lord as we prepare for the sacrament and say essentially, “Heavenly Father, I wasn’t perfect again this week, but I repent of my sins and reaffirm my commitment to keep all the commandments. I promise to go back and try again with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I still want and need the cleansing that comes through faith, repentance, and baptism. Please extend my contract, my covenant of baptism, and grant me the continued blessings of the Atonement and the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992], 52).
“That they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” I can’t think of anything your parents or bishop would want more for you than that the Lord’s spirit always be with you. With the Lord’s spirit, you will be protected and guided beyond your own abilities. Having the Lord’s spirit is perhaps the greatest blessing that comes to us as we take his name upon us and always remember him. President George Q. Cannon taught: When we went forth into the waters of baptism and covenanted with our Father in Heaven to serve Him and keep His commandments, He bound Himself also by covenant to us that He would never desert us, never leave us to ourselves, never forget us, that in the midst of trials and hardships, when everything was arrayed against us, He would be near unto us and would sustain us (Gospel Truth— Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, ed. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974], 1:170).
If the Lord asks us to always remember him, we can be sure that because he is perfect, he always remembers us. “Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (1 Nephi 21:15– 16). It’s nice to know that he always remembers us, and wants us to remember him, so that we can have his spirit with us.
The Blessing on the Water:
The prayer over the water is similar to the prayer over the bread in that it addresses the Eternal Father in the name of Christ and asks him to bless and sanctify the water to the souls of all who partake of it.
“In remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them.” The blood of Christ is often referred to as the cleansing agent through which our sins are washed away. Jesus taught, “And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end” (3 Nephi 27:19). I used to think that the next five words in the prayer, “which was shed for them,” were simply a reminder that Jesus performed the Atonement for us and shed his blood in the process. But the Bible Dictionary explains, “The atoning power of a sacrifice was in the blood because it was regarded as containing the life of the animal and because the sacrifice was a type of the great sacrifice who is Jesus Christ (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The scripture says that ‘almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus worked out a perfect atonement by the shedding of his own blood” (Bible Dictionary, 626). Those five extra words, “which was shed for them,” are vital, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission! Like the ancient sacrifices that shed blood as a type of things to come, the blood of Jesus was shed for the remission of our sins.
“That they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him.” In the prayer over the bread, we “witness” that we are willing to take upon us the name of Christ, always remember him, and keep his commandments. In the prayer over the water, the wording is different: we do not covenant that we are willing to always remember him but that we do always remember him. It sounds to me like we must remember right now, in the present, and perhaps even in the recent past, and not just commit to some future effort. In both prayers, we covenant to remember. President Marion G. Romney remarked, “It is said of President Wilford Woodruff that while the sacrament was being passed, his lips could be observed in silent motion as he repeated to himself over and over again, “I do remember thee, I do remember thee” (“Reverence,” Ensign, October 1976, 3).
Why Are There Two Prayers? One prayer is for the bread, the other for the water. Because of Jesus’ body, represented by the bread, every single person will be resurrected and live forever. That’s immortality. Because of Jesus’ blood, represented by the water, those who repent and keep their covenants can again live with the Father and the Son. That’s eternal life. Immortality and eternal life are not the same thing. Immortality means you won’t ever die. Everyone will have that because everyone will be resurrected. Eternal life is the kind of life God lives, which is made possible by the Atonement. With that in mind, read Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory— to bring to pass the immortality [the bread] and eternal life [the water] of man.” I suppose the best answer to the question of why the Lord gave two sacrament prayers is that he designed the ordinance that way. But we can also see that there is a difference between what was accomplished by Jesus’ body and by Jesus’ blood. (John Bytheway, Honoring the Priesthood, [Deseret Book, 2002], 37-50.
Moroni 6 is like a mini “Handbook of Instructions.” Moroni wanted us to know how the church was administered in ancient times, and the practices and procedures we use today are for similar purposes.
1-3 – “now I speak concerning baptism” Moroni speaks about the qualifications for baptism. A similar description appears in Mosiah 18. After Alma the Elder escaped from King Noah, he gathered the believers at the Waters of Mormon and asked them a series of questions, kind of a “baptismal interview:”
Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord…?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland observed: “This declaration by Alma at the Waters of Mormon still stands as the most complete scriptural statement on record as to what the newly baptized commit to do and be.” (Christ and the New Covenant, [Deseret Book, 1997], 106.)
4 – “after they were received unto baptism” Baptism is a starting point, not an ending point. After baptism, member must “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20).
“They were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken.” They made a record! They kept roll! Why would they do that?
“that they might be remembered.” Nobody wants to be forgotten, and the Lord requires the Church to remember people and to care for them and love them. That’s where home and visiting teachers come in! We help the bishop by letting all members know they are important, and that they will not be forgotten.
“and nourished by the good word of God.” When we share our home and visiting teaching message and our testimonies, we give the spirit of the Lord the opportunity to warm the hearts of those we visit. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that every new member needs a friend, a responsibility, and to be nourished by the good word of God.
“To keep them in the right way.” Home and visiting teachers can ask family members how they’re doing and if they need any help. Home and visiting teachers can remind them of their baptismal covenants and of their opportunity to attend church and renew their covenants.
“To keep them continually watchful unto prayer.” Home and visiting teachers can pray with the family and encourage the family to hold regular family prayer. The duties of priests and teachers (who, although they are young, also have assignments to home teach) are described in D&C 20:46-47:
The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
Seventeen year-old William Cahoon was called to be a ward teacher (or home teacher) to the prophet Joseph Smith, and shares this story:
I was called and ordained to act as a teacher to visit the families of the Saints. I got along very well till I found that I was obliged to call and pay a visit to the Prophet. Being young, only about seventeen years of age, I felt my weakness in visiting the Prophet and his family in the capacity of a teacher. I almost felt like shrinking from duty. Finally I went to his door and knocked, and in a minute the Prophet came to the door. I stood there trembling, and said to him, “Brother Joseph, I have come to visit you in the capacity of a teacher, if it is convenient for you.”
He said, “Brother William, come right in, I am glad to see you; sit down in that chair there and I will go and call my family in.”
They soon came in and took seats. He then said, “Brother William, I submit myself and family into your hands.”
He then took his seat. “Now Brother William,” said he, “ask all the questions you feel like.”
By this time all my fears and trembling had ceased, and I said, “Brother Joseph, are you trying to live your religion?”
He answered, “Yes.”
I then said, “Do you pray in your family?”
He said, “Yes.”
“Do you teach your family the principles of the gospel?”
He replied, “Yes, I am trying to do it.”
“Do you ask a blessing on your food?”
He answered, “Yes.”
“Are you trying to live in peace and harmony with all your family?”
He said that he was.
I then turned to Sister Emma, his wife, and said, “Sister Emma, are you trying to live your religion? Do you teach your children to obey their parents? Do you try to teach them to pray?”
To all these questions she answered, “Yes, I am trying to do so.”
I then turned to Joseph and said, “I am now through with my questions as a teacher; and now if you have any instructions to give, I shall be happy to receive them.”
He said, “God bless you, Brother William; and if you are humble and faithful, you shall have power to settle all difficulties that may come before you in the capacity of a teacher.”
As a teacher, I then left my parting blessing upon him and his family and took my departure. (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet, pp. 132-33)
5 – “to speak one with another” This little phrase carries a lot of meaning. In our church, we have a lay clergy – in other words, we do not have a full-time minister who prepares a sermon each week, but in our worship services, all are expected to participate and contribute. Assignments and callings for speaking and for teaching are constantly changing and we speak “one with another concerning the welfare of [our] souls.”
6 – “to partake of bread and wine” Our worship centers around partaking of the sacrament and renewing our covenants. Everything else is secondary. D&C 59:9 explains, “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.” How merciful of the Lord, to allow us to partake of the sacrament and feel its renewing power not just twice a year, but each Sunday! Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained:
Now, if you feel too spiritually maimed to come to the feast, please realize that the Church is not a monastery for perfect people, though all of us ought to be striving on the road to godliness. No, at least one aspect of the Church is more like a hospital or an aid station, provided for those who are ill and want to get well, where one can get an infusion of spiritual nutrition and a supply of sustaining water in order to keep on climbing. – Ensign, November 1997, 64.
7 – “if they repented not and confessed not” In ancient and in modern times, The Lord’s children make mistakes. This verse refers to what we call today “disciplinary councils.” Elder M. Russell Ballard explained:
Members sometimes ask why Church disciplinary councils are held. The purpose is threefold: (1) to save the soul of the transgressor; (2) to protect the innocent; and (3) to safeguard the Church’s purity, integrity, and good name. – Counseling with our Councils, 138.
Great consideration is given regarding the confidentiality of the decisions of a Church disciplinary council. No announcement is ever made when a member is placed on formal probation. Decisions to disfellowship or excommunicate are generally not announced publicly unless the transgression is widely known, the transgressor’s behavior constitutes a threat to the Church or the community, or an announcement is necessary to dispel rumors. Even when an announcement is made, it is limited to a general statement of the outcome. – Counseling With Our Councils, 141-142.
8 – “as oft as they repented … they were forgiven” The Lord is eager to forgive sins. In D&C 61:2, the Lord says, “I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” Also, notice the footnote to Mosiah 26:30: “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.”
9 – “after the manner of the workings of the spirit” Occasionally, I’ve attended a stake conference where the presiding authority has taken over the program, and invited people from the congregation to come and bear their testimony, or made some other changes. Whoever is presiding at the meeting, or in other words, whoever holds the keys, is entitled to change things around as inspired to do so.
Many years ago, as a member of a student ward, I attended a large priesthood training meeting in the Marriott Center at BYU. During one of the hymns, a few members of the congregation decided to stand while singing. Others joined them. Still others, sitting around the large arena saw those who were standing and also came to their feet. Soon, a good portion of the congregation was standing. There was no invitation from the chorister or from those conducting to stand, people just decided to stand on their own. I will never forget what happened next. After the hymn was over, Elder M. Russell Ballard, who was presiding at the meeting stood and addressed us. He commented on how some stood during the hymn, and how others did not. He pointed out that he had remained seated throughout. Then he said, “I would like to teach you a principle. Always watch the presiding authority.” He explained that he did not stand, and that if any of us were wondering what was proper to do, we should always watch the presiding authority, and do what he did. I will never forget the lesson and the principle. Random members of the congregation are not in charge of the meeting. The presiding authority is.