Moroni 5


MDC Contents



 Moroni 5:1

1  The manner of administering the wine—Behold, they took the cup, and said:


The ordinance of the sacrament has two components, bread and wine, or at least some liquid that is represented by the cup. The New Testament model clearly shows the combination of bread and the cup in the Last Supper scenario, as well as in tradition (Paul F. Bradshaw. The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 69).


The model available for the Sacrament in the Book of Mormon is very certainly a particular instance, that of the appearance of the Savior in Bountiful, where Mormon records that the sacramental meal is introduced to the gathered Nephites. In contrast to the description on the covenant of the bread discussed in the commentary on Moroni 4, we have a less clear correspondence between the covenantal description and the prayer language given in Moroni 5 for the blessing on the wine:


3 Nephi 18:8-10

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.

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.

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.


In Mormon’s description of the event, we still have the essential retention of the covenant of obeying the commandments. Of course that particular phrase is explicit in the blessing on the bread, but only implied by the parallel “do always remember him” that we find in the wine-blessing. The similarities and dissimilarities of the descriptive record in 3 Nephi and the proscriptive record in Moroni suggest that while the language in Moroni is fixed, it was not necessarily a repetition of a fixed phrase in the original plate record. It must be remembered that Mormon and Moroni are writing late in the Nephite practice, and both of them would be familiar with the sacramental prayers as Moroni records them. Therefore, the similarities in language that we find in the blessing on the bread have an equal chance of being influenced from Mormon/Moroni’s familiarity with the fixed-language practice as that the fixed-language was inherited from the 3 Nephi event as originally recorded.


The development of the sacrament as a liturgical form in early Old World Christianity tells us that there is a certain evolutionary development of the rite. While the base model of the sacrament is certainly the Last Supper, there is only a tenuous relationship between developed Christian practice and the Pashal nature of that Last Supper. Where the Last Supper is conducted in the context of a Passover meal, it is clear that later Christian practice was completely disassociated with the Paschal meal, even though the event retains the Passover symbolism of the salvation of mankind through the sacrifice of the Savior as a representation of the Paschal lamb. At the very least, the Christian practice is represented very early as occurring with much greater frequency than the annual Passover meal. (Paul F. Bradshaw. The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 65).


In the Book of Mormon we have room for a similar development from a form that is contextually similar to a combination of the feeding of the multitudes and the institution of the sacrament. Note the contextual presentation of the sacrament in 3 Nephi. Prior to the introduction of the sacramental symbol, there is a feeding until sated:


3 Nephi 18:1-6

1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.

2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.

3 And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.

4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.

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.

6 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.


In the known available model for Nephite sacramental practice, there is the presence of the two symbolic elements, that of bread and wine. However, the original distribution is a feeding event, and the emphasis is placed on eating until each has had his fill. This would appear to parallel the early Christian practice of the agape feast during which the sacrament was presented. It would also appear that a similar parallel development occurs in the New World where the symbolic aspects of the sacrament are emphasized and codified separately from the meal, In the Book of Mormon case, this is represented by the fixed-form prayers that Moroni presents, that are not explicitly given for the 3 Nephi event.


Moroni 5:2

2  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.


[O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ]: The prayers over the bread and the wine are clearly designed to be companion prayers. The sacrament in its Old World and New World institution consisted of dual elements combined into a single liturgical event. Both bread and wine constitute the dual aspects of the single worship event. That close correlation, yet the obvious difference and separation of the two, leads to the development of formal prayer in which the sameness of the event is represented in the parallel language, and the symbolic difference is represented in the alteration of the language. Thus we have the opening petition in precisely the same language as the opening formula found in the blessing on the bread in Moroni 4.


[to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it]: The language of the next petition phrase is parallel to that of the blessing on the bread, with the clear alteration of the language to make it appropriate for the change from the bread to the wine. Other than the substance that is being blessed and sanctified, the petition for the substance remains identical to that of the bread. The parallelism of the phrasing emphasizes to the listeners the sameness of the two prayers, and therefore of the two different symbols. The bread and the wine might be two different things, but they are part of the same sacrament.


[that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them]: This phrase is likewise parallel, allowing for the required changes for the different symbol that is being blessed. In this case, the wine and the blood are correlated.  What is important in this prayer, however, is that there is a tag line added to the remembrance of the symbol. The blood is not remembered in the body but is remembered as having been shed. This is blood outside the body. The imagery is clearly sacrificial. For the Old World the imagery would be related to the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb. We do not know what the Nephite Passover might have looked like, but we certainly know that they lived in a world suffused with the idea of sacrifice for the benefit of humanity. The emphasis on the shed blood would certainly evoke the sacrifice-for-mankind aspect of the Christ’s atonement.


In the Old World, the association of wine with the sacrament would have an added symbolic association of color. Assuming a red-grape wine, the color of the liquid would allow for a further association between the liquid and the blood. While this is a comforting symbolic correspondence, it is certainly not the only important connection. In the examination of the New Testament context for the blessing on the bread, we noted the Savior’s symbolic presentation of himself as the “bread of life.” (see the commentary following Moroni 4:3 and the text of John 6:48-58).


The symbolic association in the New Testament is between Christ and a liquid, not specifically wine. In the extra-sacramental references, we have Christ associated with living water, not wine. In the same basic context in which John introduces Jesus as the “bread of life” (and in an explicitly sacramental formulation), we have Jesus as the “water of life”:


John 4:10-14

10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.


Of course the explicit reference to eating and drinking the symbolic body of Christ is absent in this discussion with the woman at the well, but we should remember that the explicit correlation to the bread of life included the drinking of the blood:


John 6:53-54

53 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.

54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.


The implied association between the body/person of Christ and the water of life is made explicit in the Revelation of John:


Revelation 21:6

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.


Thus in Johnannine language, Christ is symbolically two important elements, the bread of life and the water of life. While there is a blood/wine correlation, the more important symbolic correlation transcends the blood/wine correlation and is seen in the connection of Jesus to the water of life. Interestingly, there is modern research that indicates that wine was not always a critical aspect of early Old World Christian sacramental practice. There are instances of the use of water as part of the early Christian practice, and the very fact that Iraneus, Clement, and other early fathers see fit to argue against the use of water in the cup suggests that it was a widespread practice, although one that fell from favor in the more “accepted” line of Christian practice. (Paul F. Bradshaw. The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 68-9).


The use of water in early Christian liturgies would be completely consistent with the Johnannine symbolism of the water of life. Indeed, the presence of both substance and liquid as life-giving substances may be related to the common understanding of the symbols of the Tree of Life. Tree of Life symbolism may have become an undercurrent in the Bible after the explicit mention in Genesis, but the images continue through the Old, and possibly the New Testament. The substance of the Tree of Life was certainly the fruit, and represented by the bread (although manna had become the more present symbol for the bread of life). In addition to the fruit of the Tree of Life, early symbolic associations also included a liquid as part of the Tree of Life complex, and both the fruit and the liquid yield the benefit of the Tree, which is life.


"Whether in masculine or feminine terms, the palm tree was from early times a symbol and literal source of sacrament, in that the earliest wine was made from the dates, and was in Babylonia known as the “drink of life.” (Goodenough, Erwin B. Jewish Symbols in the Graeco-Roman Period. 12 vol. New York: Pantheon Books. 1958. 7:94).


In the early symbolic associations, wine was not the blood-red liquid, but rather any wine. The important association was not color, but the symbolic connection between the wine and the Tree of Life. Wine began as a drink associated with the tree of life, and it was absorbed into Israel with that relation. However, the use of grapes in wine and the intoxicating properties of tie drink caused an interesting transformation in Hebrew Legend.


“The oldest and most prevalent view identifies the forbidden fruit with the grape, which goes back to an old mythological idea that the wine is the beverage of the gods." (Ginzberg, Louis. The Legends of the Jews. 7 vol. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. 1909. 5:97).


The apparent anomaly of the drink which caused the Fall being used in the Last Supper is explained in Ginzberg’s note: “the fruit which brought sin into the world will become a 'healing' in the world to come (Ginzberg, Louis. The Legends of the Jews. 7 vol. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. 1909, 5:98).


This "healing," or life-quality of wine is the aspect which appears in later iconography.


"The ritualistic use of bread and wine, especially the latter, has never been lost from Jewish life, so that grapes, cups, and vines, on synagogues and graves, and even as part of the special cluster of ritual symbols, commonly appear. These suggest that wine had a more important share in the hope of immortality than apparently associated with the other symbols that one would suspect from Medieval Orthodox writings. ("Symbolism, Jewish." In: Encyclopaedia Judaica. 19 vol. Jerusalem: Macmillan Co. 1971, 15:570).


There is a symbolic association between wine and the Tree of Life that must have carried over into the Old World understanding of the liquid that was associated with the “living water” that Christ would provide. Since this symbolic complex was not necessarily related to the color of the liquid, and John could explicitly tie water to the living liquid Christ represented, it should be no surprise that many early Christian communities saw fit to use the symbolism of the living water as the sacramental liquid rather than the color association. Of course, this shift from wine to water is also present in modern LDS practice, although the shift from wine to water in modern liturgical practice was not specifically related to the living water symbolism (see DC 27:1-3).


[that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father]: The beginning of the covenant promise is also parallel in language between the blessings on the bread and the water.


[that they do always remember him]: The remembrance phrase is very similar, but in the blessing on the wine it is missing the companion phrase “and keep his commandments which he hath given them.” This should not be assumed to indicate that this particular promise is absent from the wine-covenant. Rather, it is subsumed in the covenant of remembrance.


“From the perspective of the Nephites, remembrance included active participation in some form. For them, it meant recalling not simply with the mind but also with the heart. To remember was to place the event upon the heart, or to turn the heart toward God—to repent or return to him and his ways as righteous forefathers had done. As in the Hebrew Bible, remembering often carries the meaning of acting in obedience to God's commands. Remembering God and thereby prospering so as to be lifted up at the last day (as in 3 Nephi 15:1 and Alma 38:5) are contrasted with forgetting and then perishing, or being cut off from God's presence (as at Alma 37:13 and 42:11). These opposites remind us of the grand law of opposition Lehi described in 2 Nephi 2. (Louis Midgley, “The Ways of Remembrance.” John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, eds., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991], 170.)


[that they may have his Spirit to be with them.  Amen.]: The only difference in the closing phrase is the absence of the word “always” that is present in the blessing on the bread. Once again, this should not be considered a substantive change, and especially should not be seen as an alteration of the fundamental meaning of the promise of the blessing of the Spirit. These two sacramental prayers are intended to be publicly presented as a set, and therefore they complement each other, and imply continuity in the covenants and blessings through the significant parallels in language.


Textual: This is the end of a chapter in the 1830 edition.








by Brant Gardner. Copyright 2002