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Question: Why does the presiding Mormon authority receive the sacrament before the rest of the congregation?
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.