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3 Nephi 18: 15

 
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him.”
 
The caution is always added to “watch and pray always.” It is not enough to fall into the correct way. You must prevent, at every turn, a misstep taking you off that path.
 
The devil always tempts to “do more or less” than we are instructed. To accomplish his desired results, the devil only needs to persuade you to do a little more, or do a little less, and he will have succeeded. He does not need to cut you off by a great big sin when a small one will work just as well.
 
Lately, we’ve been looking carefully at the details of the account of the sacrament among the Nephites. As with anything, varying this by “more or less” is a temptation. That temptation comes from the devil. He knows better than any of us that changing ordinances is intended to rob them of their efficacy.
 
When good intentions lead to the conclusion that you can or ought to change an ordinance in any particular, it does not matter how well intended the underlying reason is for the change. The purpose is to defile. As Isaiah put it: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isa. 24: 5.)  For what reason would you change the Lord’s ordinances:

-People are not interested in them?
-People are offended by them?
-They seem to include unimportant details?
-They seem to conflict with your understanding of another scripture?
-The performance is uninspiring to the skeptical mind?
-The performance can be improved by a change?
-They seem to hold no real meaning?
-They can have better acceptance if altered?
-People no longer know or understand them?
-People just don’t care enough to observe the details?
 
Perhaps there are ten-thousand reasons for making a change. Maybe you are not tempted by all, but just one of those reasons. But so long as there is one reason which persuades you, that is enough. The devil knows he must only persuade you on one point, one time to get you to change the ordinance. Once he has managed that, he has robbed the ordinance of power, defiled the earth because of its inhabitants, persuaded you to transgress the law, and destroyed the everlasting covenant.
 
This is a wonderful teaching from Christ. He would like us to be ever watchful precisely because the devil intends to interrupt the Gospel every time it appears on the earth. In general, it takes less than 200 years for an apostasy to set in among the people chosen by God to receive a dispensation of the Gospel. Only in a few isolated instances, among a few people, have there been occasions where the ordinances remained unchanged. Those people successfully resisted every argument presented in favor of changing the ordinances and breaking the covenant with God.

The goal of our adversary is to lead us into captivity. When we lose the key to knowledge because we forfeit the light given by ordinance to us, then we struggle about in the dark. Left to your own reasoning, it is possible to establish all kinds of aberrations, calling bad good, and the light darkness.  Then only isolated voices remain to challenge the overwhelming majority who believe they have improved things by their tampering.

 
This pattern is warned against by the Lord. He lays bare the source of such things. It is all of the devil. He is the architect of that ruin.
 
So it is with the entire sermon the Lord has delivered, along with the new ordinance He has just introduced. The whole is meant to be understood and followed. It is the path back to truth and light. It was meant to become our guide, our way of life. For the most part, we have very good reasons why we do not follow it.

3 Nephi 18: 14

 
“Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.”
 
The Lord’s whole purpose is to bless us. He offers blessings freely. But we will not accept them. We refuse to offer an acceptable sacrifice before the Lord. It will be a long time yet before the sons of Levi offer an offering in righteousness to the Lord. (See D&C 13: 1JS-H 1: 69.) The sacramental offering is a type of the earlier Levitical offerings.
 
However, when an acceptable offering has been made, the Lord will always bless those who keep the commandments respecting His ordinances.

Changing these things in the least robs the ordinances of the very power they were intended to confer. (Isa. 24: 5.)
 
If you keep His commandments, the inevitable result is a blessing from Him. The greatest of these blessings is, of course, to be remembered by Him in the day of judgment. The next greatest is to always have His Spirit to be with you.
 
It is of note that Christ points to the Father in all things, and therefore points to the Father in this teaching, as well. The commandments He teaches are those “which the Father hath commanded [Him] that [He] should give unto you.” In every respect the Son points to the Father. It is always the Father’s will and the Father’s glory Christ seeks to uphold. (Moses 4: 2.)
 
The Son seeks our glory and exaltation, while giving credit to the Father for all He does. Though the Savior occupies the central role in the process, He serves others. Selflessly He instructs us on how we may be blessed and glorified. Selflessly He points to the Father as the one to receive your testimony by obedience. Selflessly He explains the Father is the one who has commanded these things. But through it all, it is Christ who has been the messenger of salvation. He is the one whose sacrifice made possible our redemption. It is Christ whose body and blood we must partake for redemption. It is Christ of whom the Father testifies. (See, e.g., 3 Nephi 11: 7Matt. 17: 5Luke 9: 35.) Christ bears testimony of the Father. The Father bears record of the Son. In one eternal round, they form a circle. It is Christ’s work and the Father’s commandment which invites us to join in that circle and become one with Them.
 
How simple the ways provided for us in this condescension of God. How plain the way has been given. Yet we find reasons to do “more or less” than what is asked. For that we forfeit blessings which might otherwise have been ours.
 
This is powerful material. Assuming we decide to “do” rather than to “say.”

3 Nephi 18: 12-13

3 Nephi 18: 12-13:

“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. But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.”
 
The Lord again returns to the earlier sermon’s language and meaning. He reiterates how building upon the rock belonging to Him is done by observing the ordinances established by Him.
 
You should not do “more” than He has commanded.
 
You must not do “less” than He has instructed.
 
You must do as He has commanded, instructed, and shown. He does it to provide by His example, the way it is to be done.

If we err it is not because He failed to teach. He has made it plain to us that we may know the way to follow.

When we do more or less, we find ourselves in the sand, and no longer standing upon Him, the Rock of Heaven. (Moses 7: 53.)

Those finding themselves in the tempest of this life, tossed about by the turbulence of the sins and errors found at every turn, will fall if they are not built upon Him, the Rock of Heaven. They cannot withstand the storm because they are not anchored in Him who has the power to endure, to preserve and to save. They may cry out “Lord, Lord” but they did not do what He said. He will respond He never knew them. To be known by Him in that day will require the testimony before the Father to have been made. For the means by which He can recognize and protect them from the gates of hell is found in that testimony before the Father, given as a result of this ordinance.
 
The way is plain, simple, even easy. It is marked by Him at every turn. There is no great elusive mountain to climb. If we fail, it is because we are unwilling to look to Him and be saved. It is because we despise the simplicity of it all, and look for something more. We refuse to look upon Him who alone can save. (1 Nephi 17: 41.)
 
It is always amusing to see those who wrongly conclude that the Lord has abandoned His people because they fail to experience any power from Him.  They do not do what the Lord commands, then they fail to receive the blessing He promised. When it is not received, they blame Him. When all along it was their own failure to do as He commanded that caused their problems. (D&C 58: 31-33.)
 
Those who claim to be His, calling out “Lord, Lord,” but who do not do what He has instructed cannot blame the Lord. They have only themselves to blame.

3 Nephi 18: 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.”
 
The prayer pronounced upon the sacrament reflects these same aspirations. However, this is not a petition in prayer, but a promise from the Lord. He affirms that for those who have “repented” of their sins, and “are baptized” in His name, He promises a result.
 
When, having done as He has asked, a person remembers His blood through this ordinance, bearing in mind that it was shed “for you” then you can properly “witness unto the Father.” The witness you make to the Father by this remembrance is that “ye do always remember Christ.”
 
This memorial before the Father, when done right, results in the promise of Christ that “ye shall always have His spirit to be with you.”
This is a covenant. This is the Lord promising. His word cannot fail. He is establishing for you the means by which you can have as your guide and companion His Spirit. His light. His presence in your life.
 
This is more intimate than touching His side, hands and feet. This is to have His Spirit within your touch at all times. You become an extension of Him, properly taking His name upon you. For you are then, indeed, a Christian.
 
He will christen or anoint you, not with the symbol of oil, but with the reality of His Spirit. This anointing is the real thing, of which the oil was meant only to testify.
 
The Holy Ghost was intended to become a companion at the time of baptism. The Spirit of Christ is intended to become a companion in your very person as well. When there are two members of the Godhead represented in your living person, then it is the Father who receives this testimony of you, about you, by you and for you. You become His, for these three are one.

There is more going on here than an ordinance and a testimony. This is the means by which a link is formed that can and will result in the Father taking that which is corruptible and changing it into that which is incorruptible. Though, like Christ, a man or woman may be required to lay down their life, they shall have power given them to take it up again. For that which has been touched by the incorruptible power of His Spirit cannot be left without hope in the grave. All such people die firm in the knowledge they are promised a glorious resurrection. (D&C 138: 14.)

This, then, is eternal life.

3 Nephi 18: 10

3 Nephi 18: 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.”
The phrasing is ambiguous but becomes clear from context. The reference to “big-D” disciples actually introduces the ambiguity. If the printer had left it “little-d” disciples then the meaning would be clear. The “thing which ye have done” is a reference to partaking of the wine. By introducing the “big-D” disciple term it can change the entire thing to be “the thing which ye have done” is to pass the sacrament, rather than to partake of it.

Well, the “thing which ye have done” that prompts the Lord to proclaim “Blessed are ye” is to have symbolically partaken of His blood. They have a part of Him by having eaten of His flesh and drank of His blood. They are now among those who demonstrate they hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are disciples indeed. Followers of the Master. Obedient to Him and willing to take His name upon them.

This is again identified as a “witness unto the Father” rather than a witness unto anyone else. It is not even a witness unto Christ. Nor is it a witness unto one another. It is a witness unto the Father.
This sacred event marks the testimony of faith by those who follow the Lord as a witness to the Father. These people prove they have faith in, and will obey His Son. The Father provided the Son as the Redeemer of all mankind. The only way back into the exalted state of the Father is through the saving sacrifice of the Son. It was the Son who opened the door for that return by the burdens He assumed while in His mortal body. He came under the same circumstances we did. He was separated from the Father by the veil. He suffered weaknesses of the body. He suffered the temptations of mankind, and He gave them no heed. (D&C 20: 22.) This made it possible for Him to bring many others to glory. (Heb. 2: 10.)
To have part in His glory, we must partake of His flesh and blood. Both symbolically by our own bodies being made a living sacrifice, (Romans 12: 1) and through ordinance by partaking of the symbols of His life, death, resurrection. For the body of Christ rose from the dead, and we have that same hope. If we are to follow Him, we must be like Him. Taking upon ourselves His flesh and blood is not optional. It must be done to testify to the Father, who alone accepts us into His family. If we think to take upon us the name of Christ, but fail to have this witness before the Father, then we have failed to secure the required testimony before the Father.
This is a required process for those who are His.

3 Nephi 18: 9

 
“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.”
 
Partaking of the broken bread filled the disciples, and then the multitude, so again drinking the wine filled both.
What were they filled with?
 
Since this is an ordinance where the promised result is to “have His Spirit to be with them,” (3 Nephi 18: 7) is any meaning of “filled” adequate apart from being filled with His Spirit? Clearly this ceremony is not performed to merely fill the belly. It hearkens back to His promise to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that they are to be filled. What the Lord presents in ceremony is the fulfillment of the earlier promise in His sermon. There is a beautiful symmetry to His sermon, His promise, the catalyst ordinance, and the reality of being “filled” which is missing from the New Testament record. In this respect, as in so many others, the Book of Mormon is the preferred, and more revealing account of the Lord’s ministry.
 
The Lord’s work is to bring about redemption for mankind. He redeems. In ceremony, and now in reality, He is working with a multitude to bring about their preparation and redemption. It is a Master Teacher, proving by His words and deeds, that He knows how to lead souls to salvation.
 
It is of interest that the record prepared by Mormon in such a painstaking effort takes the time to include these details for our instruction. They are intended not merely as history, but also as a guide. The plan of salvation is to be shared, so that others may follow it and themselves be “filled” with His Spirit.
Now note the prayers all refer to Christ’s Spirit. This is something apart from the Holy Ghost. It is Christ’s Spirit which is to “always be with them.”

What does it mean to have Christ’s Spirit to be with you? To guide you?

 
This is an important point, and worthy of some discussion by Joseph in The Lectures on Faith.  If you haven’t revisited that little book and that discussion for a while, you may want to do that. I’ve recommended that it be read once a year. The Lectures on Faith was added to the scriptures as part of the Doctrine and Covenants. It was subsequently removed without a Church vote to agree to its removal. However, the new publications adding sections were sustained, and the tradition we have is that by sustaining the new versions with additions, it implies we also sustained the deletions. Therefore, they stand removed. Despite that, it is worth another read through, much like reading any scripture, it should happen at least annually.
 
The Spirit of Christ is also referred to in Section 84: 45-47. It is also described using the word “light” instead of His Spirit, in Section 88: 5-13. If you read those carefully you realize that connecting with His Spirit or His light will also put you in contact with everything else governed by Him. He is the light which “enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;” 
 
This is why Joseph commented that the closer a man draws to God the clearer his understanding will be on all subjects. Greater light means clearer perception. It involves discerning between truth and error. It allows you to see what is dark, and who is dark, and what is light and who is filled with light. The light of a person’s countenance is upon them, and if the Lord’s Spirit fills you then you can see others just as He sees them.
 
It was His Spirit that enabled the Nephites to become one. With it, Zion becomes possible. Without it, Zion is only a theory to be abused and misunderstood. Without it, Zion is a vain ambition of conspiring men. It will not come to pass. With His Spirit, Zion is inevitable, because He will bring again Zion. If you would like to see the course of this doomed people changed at least as to your part, then these teachings and following these ordinances are the means by which the Lord’s Spirit becomes available to you.

3 Nephi 18: 8

3 Nephi 18: 8:

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.”

In this description we do not have mention of the blessing pronounced upon the wine. Moroni will later clarify that it was blessed and provide us the words of His blessing: “The manner of administering the wine—Behold, they took the cup, and said: O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” (Moroni 5: 1-2.)

Once again it is a “command” to partake. The Lord, knowing how critical this act is for salvation and a testimony before the Father, makes it a command that the disciples drink of it.

Wine was generally either purple or red. Our blood is purple when deprived of oxygen in our veins, and red when filled with oxygen in our arteries. These two colors of blood inside our bodies are akin to the predominate colors of wine.

Once again it is the disciples who partake first. Then, after having partaken, they pass it to the multitude. This illustrates the practice of receiving it before being able to pass it to others. It is not possible to pass along what has not first been received. This is true of all the Lord’s ordinances. It is one of the reasons Alma rebaptized himself the instant he first began to baptize others. (Mosiah 18: 14.) Those who bless are to be sanctified by partaking, then they pass the sacrament as sanctified ministers. Those who are passing are not more important, but rather they are first purified. Then those to whom they minister may receive the ordinance from those who are already clean. 

 
Our modern practice is to pass the sacrament first to the “presiding authority” who is present. The presiding authority (who is always mentioned at the beginning of the meeting) is identified, and then the priests who pass the sacrament bring it to that person first. After he partakes, the sacrament is passed to others. We show great deference to authority in our system. In the Third Nephi events presided over by the Lord, He shows great deference to purity.
The Lord’s commandment to the disciples is followed by the instruction to provide the wine to the multitude “that they might drink.” The ones officiating are “commanded,” whereas the multitude is provided the opportunity to follow by example. Instead of a “commandment” to the multitude, there is an invitation. Clearly the Lord understands the importance of example and respects free will. Those who want to follow Him closest will be told what they must do. Then others are invited to follow of their own free will, and not by compulsion.
 
This systematic progression begins with knowledge of the Lord. They met Him.  They felt the prints in His side, hands and feet. They had no veil separating them from Him. Yet, despite this knowledge, He walks them through ordinances where they qualify to return permanently to His presence. The ordinances are important enough for the Risen Lord to personally conduct and instruct on how to perform them. It is not merely what we believe, nor what we understand, but it is also what we do that matters. We must follow Him and His Divinely ordained ordinances. But to do so we need to perform them as He has instructed.
 
We require a priest to repeat the entire sacrament prayer if he gets a word wrong or adds a word while pronouncing the blessing. In this we show how exact we believe the ordinance is to be followed. That is a proposition with which I wholly agree. We should perform it in every particular as the Lord has instructed. When we do, then the promise of having His Spirit to always be with us is realized.

3 Nephi 18: 6-7

“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.”

If the last post did not make the matter clear enough, the Lord emphasizes here the formula He has provided in this ordinance:

-“Always observe to do.” It is to be done, and when it is done it is to be done in an “observant” way.

-“Even as I have done.” His example is intended to clarify and define the manner the ordinance is to be observed. He regulates it by what He has done.
-“Even as I have broken bread and blessed it.” The manner, the process, the gestures of breaking it first and then blessing it second, are to be followed exactly.
-“And given it unto you.” When it is broken, then blessed, those who qualify by having repented and been baptized receive it as a gift or token from Christ. It is His body.

Now the Lord clarifies in explanation what He has earlier clarified in the blessing: This is to be done “in remembrance of [His] body.” It is through His body that He, the living sacrifice, shows us the way. A loving God has died for us. His body is a testimony of life, obedience, sacrifice, cruelty, forgiveness, death, resurrection, immortality, power and glory. When you remember His life you should remember all that is associated with it.

Here the Lord reminds the Nephites they are to remember the body “which [He] has shown unto [them].” The sacred embrace and ceremony of recognition (a term I coined in The Second Comforter), should return to the mind of those present whenever they received the bread again. The Lord could give no greater testimony of what He had done, who He was, and how He served them than by showing to them His risen body still bearing the marks of crucifixion.

The act is intended to be a “testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember [Him].” The act of testifying is not composed merely of the act of eating the bread. To actually testify to the Father you must:
1.  Repent
2.  Be baptized
3.  Receive the bread after it has been properly blessed with power
4.  Remember His body and the ten things symbolized through it

This is the acceptable sacrifice the Father will receive as a “testimony” of Christ.

Should you perform this, then you will receive power to “have [His] Spirit to be with you.”

These are simple steps. They are possible to be performed. When they are, the Father receives the act as a testimony before Him of the truth that you do always remember His Son. It will be recorded in heaven, and will be a witness for your salvation in the Day of Judgment.

These are solemn things. It is clear enough that we accomplish these things. But it is not clear how often they are performed, even in a church, which at one time, conducted a ceremony twice each Sunday, and today conducts it once each Sunday.

It is interesting the Lord should give us language that makes “observing to do” and “as He has done” a required part of the process. Those words are probably best when viewed in their clearest meaning, and accomplished with exactitude. Though He measures our hearts, when instructions are given in simplicity, one fair measure of the heart is how closely we follow the instruction.

Since the result is to have His Spirit to be with you, it should be a simple matter to determine by reflection if you have His Spirit as your companion. If you can feel that He is always with you, then you have an acceptable testimony to the Father. If you do not, then perhaps you should revisit the steps He has provided to see what you might improve. There is a law irrevocably decreed before the foundation of the world upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we receive any blessing from the Lord, it is by obedience to the law upon which the blessing is provided. Therefore, it makes sense that you can determine the extent to which you have followed the formula by the result promised. Having Christ’s Spirit to be with you is  significant enough proof that you should know the truth of the matter. Since you know the means by which to judge, see that you judge the matter correctly. (Moroni 7: 18.)

3 Nephi 18: 5

3 Nephi 18: 5:

And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.”

Notice now the “multitude” takes part in eating the bread and “were filled.”  This raises the question of how they were filled. Were their stomachs filled because of the amount they ate? Did they eat until they were filled, or did they get filled on just a small amount of bread? Or was this a spiritual filling where each heart was touched and each person’s countenance before the Lord filled with light?

This is a group which has just a few hours before engaged in a “hosanna shout” before the Lord. (3 Nephi 11: 17.) Now, however, they are “filled.” It is a profound moment with deep significance.

The Lord then tells the disciples that “there shall be one ordained among you” to break the bread. Notice it is “one.” All twelve have been asked to pass the sacrament to the multitude, but from among them “shall one be ordained” to receive “power that he shall break bread and bless it.” Why would only “one” be chosen to do this? All twelve had been given the power to baptize. (3 Nephi 11: 21-22.) Only one of them is to bless the sacrament. What does that suggest about the sanctity of the sacrament, if it is performed in the correct manner? Should it be viewed as a “higher ordinance” because of the more exclusive reservation of the “power” conferred by the Lord? What does that tell us about the manner we ought to proceed? Have we missed something in our reading of these verses?

Now the record is written by Nephi. (3 Nephi 1: 2.) He is the first one called by the Lord. (3 Nephi 11: 18.) He is the first one given power to baptize by the Lord. (3 Nephi 11: 18-21.) But the identity of the person given “power that he shall break bread and bless it” is not recorded. We can know it is Nephi because he was always the one given the other power first. More to the point, however, we can know it was him because he kept the record. Had it been another, he would have told us. But since it was him, he declined to draw further attention to himself. Identifying himself previously was necessary for the narrative to be complete. Here, however, identifying himself would call undue attention. As a humble follower of Christ, it was not appropriate for him to do so, therefore the disciple is unnamed in our account.

Why is “power [to] break bread and bless it” conferred separately from the power to baptize? In our Section 20, the authority is coextensive. (See D&C 20: 38-39, 46.) Why does the Lord separate it among the Nephites? Since we have this account, does it add any instruction for us about the significance of the sacrament?

Sometimes we neglect things because of our familiarity with them. We presume wrongly that we understand them because of their frequent repetition. Here, however, the sacrament seems to take on greater significance. It achieves a pinnacle that exceeds even touching the risen Lord.

When we share food with one another, we become part of the same material.  We share substance. When a meal is shared, life is shared. We become one of the same substance.

The substance which binds us is the “body of Christ” in symbol. Christ “broke” the bread before it was blessed. What does breaking the bread symbolize about Christ? How is His broken body intended to unite us with one another, and with Him?

Why is the broken bread distributed to those who “shall believe and be baptized in my name?” Does the order matter? Can a person be baptized before they believe, later come to believe, and then receive the sacrament correctly? Or must they come to believe first, then receive baptism second, before it is proper to partake of the sacrament? We’ve been working our way through the Lord’s commandments deliberately trying to unlock their specific requirements. They are simple. They can be done by anyone. But they are specific and should be followed in the same manner the Lord instituted them. This is the “straight path” which He says is narrow and few will find. Perhaps it is not found because we proceed with inexactitude to do what He has laid out before us with exactness.

The Lord occupies the role as Master and as Example. He bids us to follow Him. And He tells us His way is plain. If we confuse it, muddle it, and fail to do it as He has asked us to do, then it is not His failure, but ours. He has made it clear that He respects no one, but is open to all. But it is open on the exact terms. And some times the terms are exacting.