Understanding the Sacrament Through the Savior's Words | 3 Nephi 1-7 | Come Follow Me

In 3 Nephi 8:1-12 we are taught about the importance of the Sacrament and its function. The first couple of verses showcase Jesus Christ showcasing how to partake of the Sacrament in the manner in which he wants. In the later verses, he teaches of its importance:

10 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.

11 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.

12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.


When the Savior was alive, he enacted a similar way of teaching the importance of the Sacrament with his own disciples during what is known as the Last Supper. In the book, Learning at the Feet of the Savior by David Ridges and Taylor Halverson, they discuss why the Last Supper was so important and how we can apply the teachings of Christ in our lives and to others. To first understand the Last Supper though, one must understand the context and setting of it:


What was the Last Supper and why was it so special? There are many reasons. First, this was the last earthly meal that Jesus had with His disciples before His death and resurrection. Second, Jesus taught beautiful truths that still resonate today. For example, His sacrifice constituted a “new” testament, in other words, a new covenant. Third, Jesus initiated the ritual of the sacrament whereby we partake of the tokens or symbols of His sacrifice (originally bread and wine representing His body and blood) to enter in to the New Testament. Fourth, as a good Jew, Jesus was celebrating the yearly Passover meal to commemorate God saving His people from Egyptian bondage at the expense of sacrificed lambs, or the first born in Egypt.



What thoughts must have filled Jesus’s mind as He partook of the sacrificial meat of the Passover lamb knowing that it represented His upcoming final and last sacrifice whereby the Lamb of God would be sacrificed once and for all to bring life to the relationship between God and His people? Fifth, and perhaps often overlooked, even though it may be the most significant aspect of Jesus’s last meal, Jesus identified Himself as the New Testament. Most of us are aware that one of the basic meanings of the word testament is “witness.” For example, the Book of Mormon received a subtitle some decades ago, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” to complement the existing Old Testament and New Testament. The Book of  Mormon subtitle means “another witness of Jesus Christ” to complement the witnesses that the Old Testament and the New Testament bear of Jesus Christ.


The word testament is the Latin translation of the ancient Hebrew word for “covenant.” Jerome, the fourth-century priest who translated the Old and New Testament into Latin, decided that the Latin word testament (such as in “last will and testament”) best represented the Hebrew word for “covenant.” However, what we miss by using the word testament is the understanding that covenants are the animating force of God’s plan of happiness.


The scriptures are written to convey God’s covenant with His people and the consequences of living or ignoring that covenant. If “testament” is better translated as “covenant,” what is the original old covenant as found in the Old Testament? That old covenant was the Mosaic law whereby God’s people employed animal sacrifices (or other sacrifices) to access the atoning power of God’s love so they could be in a close covenantal relationship with Him. God entered into a covenant with His people at Sinai because He wanted to be their God and He wanted them to be His people.


The covenant established the terms and obligations for both parties. The ritually sacrificed animal enlivened the covenant and symbolically brought the force of the covenant to life. Without the animal sacrifice, the covenant was moot. And without the covenant, the people could not be in a close relationship to God.


They would be barred from His presence.


If the old covenant was delivered to the Israelites at Mount Sinai at the time of Moses, and mediated through the sacrifices that endured for centuries afterward, then what is the New Testament, that is, what is the new covenant? Jesus answered that during the Last Supper. He is the New Covenant.


Jesus is the sacrificial lamb that opens the door to relationship with God and atones and heals the breach that exists between God and His children. No longer are animal sacrifices and their attendant rituals required to maintain relationship with God. Instead, God is with Jesus, a relationship that will never be broken. We are invited into that relationship through the grace of Jesus Christ. If we are one with Jesus, we are then one with God. What is expected of us? To regularly witness of the new covenant by consuming Jesus, or symbolically participating in His broken flesh and blood.