FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.
Mormon ordinances/Sacrament/Method of administration
Method of administering the Latter-day Saint sacrament
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Why do Mormons use water instead of wine for their sacrament services?
- Question: Why does the presiding Mormon authority receive the sacrament before the rest of the congregation?
Question: Why do Mormons use water instead of wine for their sacrament services?
Latter-day Saints understand and accept the symbolism of wine, as used by the Savior at the Last Supper and in communion services among other Christian churches
Latter-day Saints understand and accept the symbolism of wine, as used by the Savior at the Last Supper and in communion services among other Christian churches. The color of wine closely matches that of blood, and is an apt symbol for the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the redemption of the human race.
The Latter-day Saint use of water in its sacramental services stems from scriptural authorization given in 1830, followed by an institutional change in the early 20th century.
Four months after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (then called The Church of Christ) was established, Joseph Smith received the following divine manifestation:
Early in the month of August , Newel Knight and his wife paid us a visit, at my place at Harmony, Penn[sylvania]; and as neither his wife nor mine had been as yet confirmed, and it was proposed that we should confirm them, and partake together of the sacrament, before he and his wife should leave us.— In order to prepare for this; I set out to go to procure some wine for the occasion, but had gone but <only> a short distance when I was met by a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation; the first paragraph of which was written at this time, and the remainder in the September following.
Revelation given at Harmony Penn, August 1830.
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God and your redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful. For behold I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat, or what you shall drink, when ye partake of the sacrament if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory; remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins: wherefore a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine, neither strong drink of your enemies: wherefore you shall partake of none, except it is made new among you, yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
2 Behold this is wisdom in me: wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth.
The Lord's revelation that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins" (D&C 27:1-2) gave the Saints permission to substitute any emblems for the original bread and wine, if circumstances warranted.
Beginning in 1902 President Smith began institutional reforms to require greater adherence to the Word of Wisdom
Joseph Smith's revelation of The Word of Wisdom allows for wine to be used for the sacrament: "Inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make." (D&C 89:5-6, emphasis added.)
Latter-day Saints continued to use wine in their sacramental services throughout the 19th century. During this same time the Word of Wisdom was not enforced as rigorously as it is today, and social drinking of wine and other alcoholic beverages was not uncommon among Latter-day Saints (although leaders often counseled against it).
Various American temperance movements since the mid-18th century had called for a ban on the sale and use of alcohol. The third wave of this movement began in 1893 and culminated with national prohibition in 1919. Among the supporters of complete abstinence were LDS Church Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. Beginning in 1902 President Smith began institutional reforms to require greater adherence to the Word of Wisdom. "In keeping with the change in emphasis, the First Presidency and Twelve substituted water for wine in the sacrament in their temple meetings, apparently beginning July 5, 1906." Local Latter-day Saint congregations followed suit soon after, a practice that remains to this day.
Some early Christians used both water and wine in the sacrament
It is noteworthy that some early Christians used both water and wine in the sacrament. Justin Martyr (ca. 140 A.D.) recorded:
On Sunday we hold a meeting in one place for all who live in the cities or the country nearby. The teachings of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time is available. When the reader has finished, the president gives a talk urging and inviting us to imitate all these good examples. We then all stand together and send up our prayers. As noted before, bread, wine and water is brought forth after our prayer. The president also sends up prayers and thanksgivings. The people unitedly give their consent by saying, "Amen." The administration takes place, and each one receives what has been blessed with gratefulness. The deacons also administer to those not present... We all choose Sunday for our communal gathering because it is the first day, on which God created the universe by transforming the darkness and the basic elements, and because Jesus Christ—our Redeeming Savior—rose from the dead on the same day.
This practice was also mentioned by Pope Julius I (A.D. 337) in a decree which stated: "But if necessary let the cluster be pressed into the cup and water mingled with it." This practice of mixing wine and water may be related to the fact that both blood and water were shed on the cross. John recorded that, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34). John later recorded that, "there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one" (1 Jn. 5:8). In like manner baptism by water was also related by Paul to Christ's death (Romans 6:3-5).
Samuele Bacchiocchi, a non-Mormon scholar, has observed that
An investigation... of such Jewish Christian sects as the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, the Elkesaites, and the Encratites, might provide considerable support for abstinence from fermented wine in the Apostolic Church. The fact that some of these sects went to the extreme of rejecting altogether both fermented and unfermented wine using only water, even in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, suggests the existence of a prevailing concern for abstinence in the Apostolic Church.
It also suggests that early Christians understood that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or drink when [partaking] of the sacrament" (D&C 27:1-2).
Later developments in Christianity: Some Christians felt it was permissible to modify the observance of the sacrament even without direction from the Lord
Catholics at a much later period also substituted the Eucharist for the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, believing that it would literally be turned into the flesh and blood of the Lord.
Although the latter practice was introduced during a period of what the LDS understand to be the apostasy from the fulness of gospel doctrine and authority, it nonetheless shows that some Christians felt it was permissible to modify the observance of the sacrament even without direction from the Lord.
The LDS sacrament service is observed often and within the guidelines given by the Lord as prescribed in LDS scriptures (See John 6:53-54; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30; Moroni 4-5:; D&C 20:75-79; 27:1-4). Early Christian practices are useful illustrations of the fact that LDS practice is not foreign to Christianity generally, but the LDS rely on scripture and the teachings of modern prophets for their forms of worship.
Latter-day Saints emphatically affirm our reliance on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins
Latter-day Saints emphatically affirm our reliance on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins as attested to in the Bible (Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Jn 1:7;Revelation 7:14) and modern scripture (1 Nephi 12:10; Mosiah 3:7,11; 4:2; Alma 5:21,27; 21:9;24:13; 34:36; Helaman 27:19; Ether 13:10; Moroni 4:1;5:2; 10:33; D&C 20:40; 27:2; 76:69; Moses 6:62).
Even the sacrament prayer given at the beginning of the administration of the water affirms the symbolism of the atoning blood. It states in part: "... bless and sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them..." (D&C 20:79).
By partaking of the sacrament first, the presiding officer is signaling or communicating to the congregation that the ordinance has been performed properly
The practice of passing the sacrament first to the presiding leader is a practice that started about 100 years ago in the Church. There are at least two reasons for which the presiding authority is passed the sacrament first:
- All ordinances take place under the direction of priesthood keys. For example, if I am a member of a ward and a priesthood holder, this does not mean that I can have a sacrament service on my own. The only person who can authorize that is the person that holds the keys for me--and that is my bishop.Thus, by partaking of the sacrament first, the presiding officer is signaling or communicating to the congregation that the ordinance has been performed properly--that the person who blessed it was ordained, authorized, and approved to do so. It also demonstrates that the prayer was offered properly, etc.
- The second reason is that those who are led by someone holding keys have a right to know that that person is living worthy. Thus, they can witness the renewal of that person's covenants with the sacrament.
The practice is, however, a tradition: The ordinance is still valid even if the tradition is not followed
There are, for example, stories of Church authorities who passed the sacrament to the congregation before partaking of it themselves.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- History, circa June 1839–circa 1841 (Draft 2): 51–52 (cf. History of the Church 1:106–07). The shorter version of this revelation—now canonized as D&C 27:1-5—was first recorded in the early 1830s in Revelation Book 1: 35–36, then published in 1833 in The Evening and the Morning Star 1/10 (March 1833) and in The Book of Commandments as chapter XXVIII (p. 60). It was combined with another revelation and published in a longer version in 1835 as Doctrine and Covenants chapter L (pp. 179–81) and in an expanded reprint of Evening and Morning Star 1/10 (March 1833; reprinted May 1836): 155. The longer (1835) version is now D&C 27.
- In 1861 Brigham Young sent 309 Mormon families to settle in Utah's "Dixie" region, where they would produce, among other crops, wine for the sacrament. (Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 [Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1958]: 216.) President Young remarked publicly that he "anticipate[d] the day when we can have the privilege of using, at our sacraments pure wine, produced within our borders." ("Remarks by President Brigham Young, Tabernacle, G[reat].S[alt].L[ake]. City, June 4, 1864," The Deseret News 13/39 (22 June 1864): 302. off-site link.) By the 1870s Church vineyards were producing "as much as 3,000 gallons per year," however, "by the turn of the [20th] century, most of the vines had been pulled on the advice of church authorities…" (Great Basin Kingdom, 222).
- See "Temperance movement in the United States." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 January 2016. off-site link
- Thomas G. Alexander, "The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14/3 (autumn 1981): 79. off-site PDF
- Justin Martyr, "First Apology," in ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)?:65–67. ANF ToC off-site This volume; cited by Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 231. ISBN 0937892068.
- Gratian, De Consecratione, Pars III, Dist. 2, c. 7, as cited by Leon C. Field, Oinos: A Discussion of the Bible Wine Question (New York, 1883), 91, and Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible : A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 109–110. ISBN 1930987072.
- Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible : A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 181. ISBN 1930987072.
- See Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 241. GL direct link or James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of our Fathers (T A N Books & Publishers, 1980), 235–250. ISBN 0895551586.
- This wiki article was originally based upon Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004),131–133. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786. It has been subsequently edited by FairMormon Answers wiki editors.