Section 27: The Sacrament Emblems
The first four verses of this section were received in August 1830, and the remaining verses were received the following month, in September 1830 while Joseph was in Fayette in connection with a church conference being held there. To be more precise, those materials that were received in August 1830 included the first four verses, verse 5 through the word “Moroni,” the first part of verse 13 through the word “rejoice,” verse 14, and finally, these words from verse 18: “and be faithful until I come.”
Early in August 1830 Newel Knight and his wife, Sally, visited Joseph and Emma in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Both Sally Knight and Emma had been baptized June 28, 1830, in Colesville, but a mob had broken up the service, and they were unable to be confirmed members of the Church at that time. Therefore, during the visit in Harmony, plans were made for their confirmation service. During a confirmation service the sacrament was administered. As part of their preparation for this event, Joseph set out to procure wine to be used in the sacrament service. On his way he was met by a heavenly messenger who instructed him that it was not necessary to purchase wine from those in Harmony who were persecuting him, and that it really did not matter what was used for the emblems of the sacrament so long as they were partaken with an eye single to the glory of God and in remembrance of him. Joseph was further instructed to make his own wine with grape juice.
The story of what then happened is interesting. Joseph did obtain some grapes and squeezed them himself. This was in August, and grapes aren’t really ripe until October. The juice that Joseph thus obtained was so bad that water was used for the confirmation service. In addition to the Smiths and the Knights, John Whitmer was also present at the service.
Fermented grape juice or wine continued to be used as the sacramental emblem. Even section 89, the Word of Wisdom, condones the use of wine for the sacrament. Over the years we have evolved to the use of water, particularly after the turn of the century, because water is plentiful, available, inexpensive, and easy to prepare. Since 1906 the Church has used water exclusively.
During the second part of this section the Lord promises that in the future there will be a great meeting during which the sacrament will be administered. This meeting will be attended by the Lord, Joseph, and several great prophets. Presumably this meeting will take place at the second coming of the Lord. Perhaps it is the meeting to occur at Adam-ondi-Ahman (see commentary for section 45).
D&C 27 The Sacrament Emblems
D&C 27:15-18 The full armor of God.
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.
verse 1 “whose word is quick” Quick here does not mean swift but rather means something living and alive. Thus, to be quickened by the Spirit means to be given spiritual life. The world of the Lord is quick and powerful because it is a source of life, energy, and real power.
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
verse 2 “it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament” Because the emblems of the sacrament are symbolic rather than mystically connected to the physical body and blood of the Lord, any food or liquid may, with permission of priesthood leaders, be used as the emblems by which we remember him. Some Christians believe that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, which the believers then really eat and drink. This is the doctrine of transubstantiation, a doctrine which the Church does not accept. In the Latter-day Saint view, after the emblems have been blessed, the bread is still bread and the water is still water, although they have been consecrated for a particular use as symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood, and in that capacity they are treated with respect.
3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;
4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
verses 3-4 The commandment in these verses is not against using wine for the sacrament, which practice continued for some time, but against buying sacramental wine from the enemies of the Church. Apparently the Lord’s warning here was intended to protect Joseph from designing persons who would adulterate the wine and therefore attempt to poison Joseph and the other saints who partook of it. Joseph is counseled to use only wine that was made by the saints—“made new among you.” Some have interpreted this as a commandment to use only grape juice rather than fermented wine for the sacrament, but this cannot be correct, because the Church continued to use fermented sacramental wine both in Kirtland and in Nauvoo.
verses 5-14 We have records indicating that each of the great prophets mentioned in these verses (with the possible exception of those mentioned in verse 10) ministered to the Prophet Joseph and restored some aspect of the gospel through him—particularly keys of authority. Perhaps these are the prophets who, at the meeting to be held at Adam-ondi-Ahman, will return their keys to Adam, who will in turn give them to the Savior. Then Christ will hold all of them, and he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords during the Millennium.
5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;
verse 5 “I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth” When Jesus blessed the wine at the Last supper, he told his disciples, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). Most translators take “new” in this passage to mean “anew” or “again.” Elder John Taylor noted, “In partaking of the sacrament we not only commemorate the death and sufferings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but we also shadow forth the time when he will come again and when we shall meet and eat bread with him in the kingdom of God” (JD, 14:185). This great sacrament meeting, or perhaps this series of sacrament meetings, following the second coming is sometimes referred to as “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9; D&C 58:11; 65:3), and it may be similar to the sacrament meeting the resurrected Lord held with the Nephites when he visited them (3 Nephi 20:1-9).
This could refer to several visitations that the Savior will make to the saints as the time of the Millennium nears. For instance, there is the grand gathering at Adam-ondi-Ahman at which Adam will preside over his family (D&C 116). Perhaps there are other such meetings at which the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper will be administered and the Savior will be present.
“Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon” We have discussed previously the fact that the prophet Moroni holds the keys for our dispensation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the record of the stick of Ephraim or the stick of Joseph (Ezekiel 37:15-19).
“Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of the everlasting gospel” See the commentary for D&C 1:23.
“the stick of Ephraim” This phrase refers to Ezekiel 37:15-17. There is a fine point of distinction which should be made here. Technically, the two “sticks” are symbolic of the descendants or “houses” of Ephraim and Judah who had divided into two separate kingdoms and were, in Ezekiel’s time, bitter enemies. The “sticks” are not, technically, symbolic of the records of the two kingdoms. Thus, Ezekiel’s prophecy, on one level at least, is about the prophesied gathering and reconciliation of the houses of Ephraim and Judah, the northern and southern kingdoms, which together comprise all of Israel, including the Book of Mormon people and the Jews. Moroni is correctly said here to hold “the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim,” that is, the record of the house of Ephraim, which is the Book of Mormon.
In contemporary LDS usage this fine distinction has been lost, and it is customary to speak of the Book of Mormon itself as the stick of Ephraim, rather than as the record of the stick of Ephraim. This usage is perhaps defensible, however, for the Bible and the Book of Mormon, as separate histories now joined, may themselves symbolize the two houses that have been separated but are soon to be joined as the union of their records foreshadows. Moreover, the term sticks, or writing tablets, makes no sense as a symbol for houses or descendants without some connection to their written records.
Speculation over how a “stick” could be thought of as scripture has led some to think the term refers to scrolls or tally sticks. Others note that in ancient Babylonia, where Ezekiel prophesied, scribes typically wrote not only on clay tablets and parchments but also on boards covered with wax. Wax writing boards were so easy to make and so practical to use that scribes used them for many different kinds of records, including business, religious, literary, military, and so forth. Scholars further note that the “stick” upon which Ezekiel wrote is translated from the Hebrew word ets, which means literally a tree, wood, or something wooden and could therefore be referring to a wax writing board. Other actions by Ezekiel seem to parallel what Babylonian scribes did when they wrote on writing boards. For example, he followed the Babylonian practice of writing the owner’s name on each board: “For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then . . . for Joseph, the stick [board] of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions” (Ezekiel 37:17).
6 And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days;
verse 6 Whenever the name Elias is mentioned in any of our scripture, consider three possible meanings:
- There is a specific person named Elias—the prophet Noah. His name is Elias in the same sense that Adam’s name is Michael. This knowledge comes from a sermon Joseph gave to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1839 (HC, 3:386). In this sermon he taught that Gabriel is Noah. In D&C 27:7 we will learn that Elias is the messenger who visited Zacharias to announce that his wife, Elisabeth, would bear a son. Hence, Elias is Gabriel is Noah.
- The name Elias may be used as a title. The Prophet Noah accomplished one of the most important feats of restoration in the history of the earth following the Flood. Noah was thus given the keys of restoration or of preparing the way for the Savior and for the gospel. Hence when anyone does restorative or preparative kinds of work, he is really doing the work of Noah and may be called an Elias. An example is John the Baptist whose major role was in preparing the way for Christ and in setting the stage for the restoration of the gospel. Thus he is accorded the title—an “Elias.” Other examples of Eliases in this final dispensation include Moroni, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah, Raphael, and Michael (D&C 13; 110; 128:19-21).
- The Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Elijah is Elias. Generally, in the New Testament when the name Elias is used it refers to the prophet Elijah.
In this particular verse the Lord refers to “Elias” as one who will bring “to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.” There is no single Elias who fits this description regardless of how we define Elias. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has taught us that the Elias referred to in D&C 27 is not one man, but rather a composite group of Eliases whose combined mission it was to restore all keys and powers of the priesthood in this final dispensation (Mormon Doctrine, 221).
7 And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias;
verse 7 This verse refers to Gabriel or Noah as Elias, the angel who visited Zacharias.
8 Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron;
9 And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse;
10 And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain;
verse 10 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are often called “the fathers” (D&C 2:2) or “the patriarchs” (Greek for “first fathers” or “ruling fathers”).
“the promises remain” The promises of the Lord are extended to the house of Israel by virtue of the Abrahamic covenant, made originally with Abraham and extended through Isaac and to Jacob and the house of Israel. For the particulars of the Abrahamic covenant see the commentary for 1 Nephi 14:8 in Learning to Love the Book of Mormon.
11 And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days;
verse 11 This is an important verse in that it is the first to make clear that Michael is Adam and is also called the “ancient of days.” Michael is Hebrew for “who is like God.”
12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;
verse 12 This verse summarizes the separate items that Peter, James, and John restored to earth. All of it is easily understandable—the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of that priesthood including the keys of the apostleship—except for the phrase “and of the same things which I revealed unto them.” The ambiguity of this phrase has led some to speculate that this phrase may refer to sacred ordinances.
13 Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;
verse 13 Herein we are taught that we do have the appropriate keys, the authority to preside, and that this is the last or final dispensation—the dispensation of the “fulness of times.” David W. Patten, one of the first apostles and martyrs of this dispensation, said of the “dispensation of the fulness of times” that it “is made up of all the dispensations that ever have been given since the world began . . . in the which all things shall be fulfilled that have been spoken of since the earth was made” (HC, 3:51).
“for the last times; and for the fulness of times” These two phrases, both of which refer to our present dispensation, have a shade of different meaning. The phrase “last times” emphasizes the character of this as the last in a series of many basically similar dispensations. The phrase “fulness of times” emphasizes the unique nature of this dispensation as the one in which all things will be restored, the final gathering and restoration of Israel will take place, and all the words and promises of the Lord to other dispensations will be fulfilled.
14 And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.
verse 14 Those who have entered into the gospel covenant and hence are sons and daughters of Christ. They have gathered out of the world to the Lord’s earthly kingdom. This may well refer to all of us in the Lord’s latter-day kingdom. Perhaps we too will have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament with the Savior in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman!
verses 15-18 These verses deal with the metaphor of taking upon ourselves the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17). The loins, heart, feet, and head represent those four parts of the body and four realms of human activity in which we are most at risk from evil influence. The loins symbolize procreative power. The heart symbolizes our conduct and what we love. The feet symbolize our course, our objectives, and our goals, and the head symbolizes our thoughts. When truth girds our loins, we are modest and virtuous, knowing the true significance and purpose of these powers. When the breastplate of righteousness covers our heart, our desires will be proper at all times and we will love righteousness. When our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, we will walk in holy paths. And when our head is covered with the helmet of salvation, our thinking will be enlightened by knowledge of the Lord’s great plan. Additionally, the shield of faith will deflect the doubts that scoffers and critics will throw our way. Finally, our only weapon, and the only one we need, will be the sword of the Spirit, with which we can reach, touch, and cut to the quick those with whom we come in contact (see, Feet Shod With the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace, 2-7; Reeve, “Whole Armor of God,” 193).
15 Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand.
verse 15 “gird up your loins” See the commentary for D&C 36:8.
16 Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you;
verse 16 “mine angels” The word angel (Greek angelos or Hebrew malach) in the Bible is simply the generic word for a messenger. So anyone authorized to bring a message from the presence of God is an “angel,” whether they are spirits, translated, or resurrected beings.
17 Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;
18 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen.
verse 18 “ye shall be caught up” At the time of the Lord’s second coming, the righteous who are still on the earth, and some of the dead who will come forth on the earth in a resurrected state, will be physically caught up from the earth before it is cleansed by fire (see D&C 88:96-98; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). The purpose for being caught up is not to be taken away to heaven or anywhere else, but to avoid the conflagration which will consume the wicked (who are not caught up) and everything else that is telestial upon the earth. Christ is coming here to rule and reign upon a cleansed earth. Compare that to Matthew 6:10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” After the great cleansing by fire, mortal saints will live out their appointed days upon the earth and then be changed to resurrected glory in the blink of an eye (see D&C 63:50-51). For further discussion of the Millennium, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 30, The Millennium.
According to Joseph Smith, “Christ and the resurrected saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it” (TPJS, 268).
- Michael J. Preece