Of These Emblems We Partake
By Keith Lionel Brown
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) members have the opportunity to renew those covenants which they make at the time of their baptism as they partake of the sacrament each Sunday in remembrance of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. As they partake of the sacred emblems they have a chance to reflect upon what the atonement means to them personally, and they also realize that the bread is symbolic of Christ’s body which was broken for them, and the water is symbolic of His precious blood which was shed for them. This sacred ordinance is performed in accordance with the scriptures found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26:
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
The Savior emphasized the significance of the emblems that are used in the Sacrament and promised that those who partake of the emblems in remembrance of Him would always have His Spirit to be with them. This is recorded in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) in 3 Nephi 18:6-11 when Christ instituted the Sacrament among an ancient group of people known as the Nephites:
And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you. And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it. And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
And when the disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
What The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refers to as the Sacrament, the Catholic Church refers to as the Holy Eucharist. Catholics understand the significance of the emblems used in the Eucharist, but they differ from the Latter-day Saints in that they believe that during the Eucharist the elements that are used retain only the appearance, taste, and texture of bread and wine, but the underlying essence of those elements are miraculously and literally changed into the body of Christ Himself. Catholicism teaches that the Godhead is indivisible; therefore every particle of bread and every drop of wine that is changed is identical in substance with the divinity, body, and blood of the Savior. This belief is known as transubstantiation.
The Catholic teaching of transubstantiation is based on the words of Jesus to his disciples, when He instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as recorded in the Bible in Matthew 26:26-28 and Mark 14:22-24. In Matthew 26:26-28 are recorded these words:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
And in Mark 14:22-24 are recorded these words:
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many.
In these verses the Savior is not saying that the bread and wine are literally His flesh and blood. He is instead using hyperbole (an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally). The use of hyperbole is common in Semitic cultures and languages even to this day.
The Bible is also full of this kind of rhetorical device. Some examples of this are: (1) Matthew 5:29, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee…” – this does not mean that a person is to literally pluck out their own eye, but rather he is to eliminate the cause of temptation; (2) Matthew 6:3, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” – this does not mean that a person literally should not let his right hand know what his left hand is doing, but rather when a person gives alms, he should do so without drawing attention to himself, so that it will not appear as though he is boasting or bragging about his “charitableness.”; (3) Matthew 23:24, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” – this does not mean that these guides literally swallow camels, but rather they spend too much time focusing on the things that matter least, instead of the things that matter the most.; and (4) Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” – this does not mean that a person should literally hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, or even himself in order to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, but rather it means that he should be willing to put the Gospel above all other considerations. A misconstrued reading or interpretation of any of these scriptures could lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
In the Bible, in John 6:53-63 Christ explains the meaning of His own hyperbole so that no one would have any excuse for misunderstanding what He said:
Then Jesus said unto them, verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, this is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
What the Master was saying to His disciples, He says to us all. The words that are recorded in the above verses were not meant to be taken literally, but rather metaphorically and spiritually. It is the literal words that He speaks that are “spirit and life”, and not the literal eating of His flesh and the literal drinking of His blood.
In the scripture references given earlier (Matthew 26:26-28 and Mark 14:22-24), it is to be understood that the bread and the wine are not the literal flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, or that a person must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to be saved, but rather the bread and the wine are emblems of His flesh and blood. They are a memorial of His literal suffering for each one of us, and are to be taken in remembrance of His literal sacrifice through the atonement. It is just as the prophet Isaiah foretold, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, literally suffered, bled, and died. He became the literal sacrificial Lamb for the slaughter, paying sin’s ransom with His very life. As a person partakes of the Holy Communion as it is referred to in Protestantism, the Holy Eucharist as it is referred to in Catholicism, or the Sacrament as it is referred to in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they partake not of Christ’s literal body and blood, but of sacred emblems that represent His body which was broken, and His precious blood that was shed for them.