Lately I’ve been rethinking an assumption I made years ago when comparing and contrasting The Book of Commandments (1833) and The Doctrine and Covenants (1835).
The original version of Section 20 provided the same baptismal prayer that Jesus instructed the Nephites to use while the Doctrine and Covenants re-worded the revelation and offered something different.
BoC/3rd Nephi: “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
D&C: “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
I determined this was a result of the apostasy that occurred shortly before the publication of The Doctrine and Covenants, and that the new baptismal wording represented a lesser baptism than the one originally instructed.
However, does a commission really denote less value? The D&C still insisted that the person administering baptism still needed to be called of God and have authority from Jesus Christ! So why change the wording? What was God trying to tell us?
Is it possible God was hinting that the exact wording didn’t matter?
The only reason I beg the question now is due to a deeper understanding I came to while studying Section 124 where it reveals the startling fact that baptisms (post-1835) were still acceptable to God and would continue to be acceptable so long as the church wasn’t rejected after the sufficient time given to fulfill the commandment to build the Nauvoo House.
This was a paradigm shift for me because I previously assumed that baptisms had to be performed explicitly as directed in 3rd Nephi or the ordinance would not be valid.
If I’m not careful, sometimes my insistent objective to never diverge from the scriptures can create a blind spot. I never once considered that the sacramental prayers could vary—not even if only by a single word. One thing I respected and thought highly of during LDS meetings was the culture of verifying the sacramental prayer to be exact before passing it. It never occurred to me that perhaps the blessings for bread and wine were not given by way of commandment, but as teaching tools.
The sacramental prayers related to us by Moroni at the end of The Book of Mormon is of course the prayer used in the church. Something that stood out to me very recently while reading the scriptures was that the final book—which contains these prayers—was seemingly written as an after-thought.
Moroni is in fact surprised to still be writing: “I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished.” So he decides to write, “a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of God.”
Interestingly enough, The Book of Moroni is targeted directly to the Lamanites, the remnants/descendants of the Nephite people, who as a tribal group will not receive the fulness of the gospel until after Zion is established when the marvellous work reaches its next step and the work of the Father commences. (3rd Nephi 21:26)
It is the will of God that we have The Book of Moroni to glean insights from today, but the full power of it will be realized by the Lamanites.
If we are to repeat the sacramental prayers exactly as recorded by Moroni, why would those prayers only be included in a book written to be of worth specifically unto the Lamanites? Those prayers are not found elsewhere, not even when Jesus himself instituted the sacrament among the Nephites and commanded them to always observe it.
Although I have not come to an emphatic conclusion on this, I currently suspect that repeating the sacramental prayers word-for-word is not necessary. This practice may very well even detract from sanctity of the ordinance.
D&C 20 and Moroni 5-6 tell us the sacrament is done correctly by following the proper manner established. It is that very same word that Jesus uses when he taught how to pray: “After this manner therefore pray ye…” When the Lord’s prayer was given we know he didn’t mean for us to just repeat the same prayer as him.
I think it would be quite the revelation to find out that the manner and example of prayer given by Christ was akin to the manner of the sacramental prayers.
After all of this time believing ourselves to be so enlightened in our dismissal and disapproval of the Christian practices of repeating the same prayers, how humbling would it be to then discover this whole time we have unknowingly been using “vain repetitions” all the same as those we’ve looked down on?
I have always felt strongly that the sacrament was not attended to correctly. Both D&C 20 and Moroni 5 imply that the entire church is kneeling during the blessings. It’s also very likely to conclude the kneeling didn’t stop there but continues for the entire administration. Does looking at the baptismal and sacramental prayers in the same way as the Lord’s prayer discount this? Amazingly not.
3rd Nephi 18: “And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.” (verse 3)
Take note that this is a commandment! Regardless of circumstance we must all be on the earth, not sitting cozily in a chair. Of course those able to will bow down on their knees.
The only divergence “manner” can provide in this instance is for those not able to kneel. The commandment is not for kneeling specifically, but for all to sit down on the ground. The Lord has commanded this.
This I can be certain of.
It appears from 3rd Nephi 18:5 that someone is to be specifically ordained by priesthood authority to administer the sacrament. To him will Jesus give power to fulfill this commandment. So when the proper channels of priesthood authority flow once again, the sacrament will properly be attended to. When that day happens we will not only be certain of the clear commandment to lower ourselves to the earth…we will hear the sacramental prayers exactly as God intends, because the one doing so will have the power from Jesus Christ to attend to it in righteousness.
The true sacrament will only emerge once we have been correctly baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ. For now we must prepare ourselves by knowing each and every commandment clearly defined by scripture—so that when true servants of God come forth we will recognize them. The apostasy has left us with many unanswered questions, but we have no reason to doubt that God has provided everything we need to know to recognize the light when it shines again.