As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we recognize those words as part of the prayer given upon the broken bread used in the Sacrament. In other churches this ceremony is known as the Eucharist, communion, the Lord's supper, eating with the Lord, partaking of the Lord's elements, or other similar titles. Yet, regardless of its name, it commemorates the atoning sacrifice which our Savior, Jesus Christ, offered for our sins.
In the Catholic faith, it is believed that when the priest offers the blessing upon the Holy Communion, the "bread" actually becomes, in reality, the body of Christ, and the wine actually becomes, in reality, the blood of Christ. However, among most other Christian denominations, the bread and wine only represents, or symbolizes, or is an emblem of the body and blood of Christ which He offered as a sacrifice for our sins. This symbolism is further increased as the bread is ripped and torn apart, representing Christ's body as its flesh was ripped and torn apart by the cruel lashings, the crown of thorns and the nails which caused gashing wounds in His hands and feet.
As Latter-day Saints, this is how we regard the bread and water. But the Sacrament means much more to us than just the atoning sacrifice which Christ so willingly endured. It represents a covenant that we make with our Savior. It symbolizes our commitment to do certain things. It is a reminder of the oath we took when we were baptized.
If this is so, then it's important that we understand exactly what that covenant is, and what exactly was the oath we took at baptism. The Sacrament prayer explains what we have agreed to and what we can expect for our faithfulness to that agreement.
The very first thing we do in that prayer is ask God, our eternal Father, "to bless and sanctify this bread [and water] to the souls of all those who partake of it." Throughout both the Old and New Testament, the concept of someone giving or receiving a blessing is quite common. In a religious sense, a blessing is the asking of a special favor from God. We can ask God to bless us, or grant us the benefit of having good health, wisdom, or other things we desire. In the Sacrament prayer we are specifically asking God to "bless... this bread." and "bless... this water." In other words, we are asking a blessing upon the bread and water itself. Furthermore, we are also asking God to sanctify the bread and water as well. The word sanctify simply means "to make holy."
But why are we asking God to bless the bread and water to make it holy? The prayer tells us that we do it for the sake of "the souls of all those who partake of it." Thus as we partake of these emblems properly, we too may become blessed and sanctified.
But how does it bless us and make us holy? The prayer explains, "that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son," and "of the blood of thy Son." Thus, the bread and water becomes a blessing from God to us as we partake of it in a attitude of remembering why Christ so willingly allowed His flesh to be ripped and torn from His body and His blood to be so freely spilled. As the apostle Paul stated, the gospel in its fullness is a blessing (Romans 15:29), and the gospel is all about the atonement which Christ made for our sins. Therefore, when we partake of the bread and water we are acknowledging that blessing, and, are also asking God to bless us again.
However, we must ask ourselves the question, what happens if we take the emblems of Christ's torn, ripped and bloodied body without remembering why He so painfully sacrificed it? The prayer very specifically states that the blessing is only upon those who "eat in remembrance of the body [and blood] of [God's] Son." Which means, that those who partake of the sacrament without consciously thinking about what the bread and water represents, are not entitled to the asked for blessings.
As we partake of the bread, there is a very specific promise we voluntarily agree to keep. That promise is that we "witness unto thee, O God the eternal Father, that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of Christ."
As we take the ripped piece of bread, that a priesthood holder has asked God to bless and make holy for the benefit of those who are eating it, we are showing, or witnessing to God, that we, of our own free agency, do voluntarily and willingly agree to take upon us the name of Christ.
But what does it mean to take upon us the name of Christ?
Perhaps we can understand it better by way of an illustration. When a female child is born, her parents consciously think about what name to give her. However, whether they think long and hard or short and easy, she automatically is also given the family name. If the family name is "Smith," and her parents call her "Mary Jean" then she is known as "Mary Jean Smith." What that name implies is that she is "Mary Jean" of the household of "Smith"
However, in time, Mary Jean will one day meet a young man whom she'll fall in love with. If his name happens to be John Brown, that means he is "John" of the household of "Brown." If John loves Mary as much as she loves him, it won't be long before wedding plans are made, and, after some preparations, the day will finally arrive for the wedding ceremony. As the ceremony proceeds, Mary gazes longingly and lovingly at the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Then she hears the words, "Do you Mary Jean Smith, take John Brown to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, cherish, and obey, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth?" With full convinction of heart she solemnly, sincerely, and desirously says, "I do."
Upon the completion of that simply ceremony, Mary Jean leaves behind her old family name of "Smith" and proudly takes upon her the name of her husband's family. From that point on, she agrees to be known as "Mary Jean Brown," or, in other words, "Mary Jean" of the household of "Brown."
Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. That is a family relationship. Jesus belongs to the household of God. On several occasions Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a wedding. In each of these instances it is understood that He is the bridegroom. In D&C 33:17,18 we're told, "Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom-- For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly. Even so. Amen."
If Christ is the bridegroom, then he is the husband. Therefore, those who want to be His, must take upon them His name. That is, they willingly and intentionally take upon themselves His family name. As Paul stated, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
Baptism is the wedding ceremony. But before baptism we came to know Jesus and fell in love with Him. As a result of our love for Him, and because of His great love for us, we made a conscious, deliberate decision that we wanted to be with Him for the rest of our life. And so, with conviction of heart, we solemnly, sincerely, and desirously pledged, before God and witnesses, that we would love, honor, cherish, and obey our bridegroom, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, for time and for all eternity.
At the moment of baptism, we took upon ourselves the name of Christ. From that point forward, we belong to Christ and became a member of His family. From that time forth, we gladly and proudly took upon ourselves the name of "Christian."
Paul taught, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:22-25).
Christ is our Husband. Christ is our Head. Christ is our Master. He loved us first and gave Himself for us. Now it's our turn to show our love by giving ourselves to Him. At our baptism we pledge to be His servants and agree to submit ourselves to Him. When we take the Sacrament, we renew that baptismal vow where we promised to love, honor, cherish and obey Christ. When we take the Sacrament it's a time to reflect on what it means to be part of God's family, whose name we now bear.
When we take the bread and the water, we also make another promise or covenant "to always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us]." To many, this may seem like an impossible task. How can we keep all the commandments God has given when most of us don't even know what all of them are?
There's an easy way to remedy this problem. Rather than focusing on specific commandments, it's much simpler if we understand the principle of what He expects of us.
What does our Father do for a living? The answer is, He lives to save His children. That's what His work is. As such, our Father operates a world-wide business. He doesn't manufacture anything and He doesn't have a product to sell, but He is in the business of saving souls. However, like any business, He needs workers who are willing to toil in the fields to bring souls to Christ.
Whenever someone applies for employment there are two things that need to be addressed. The first is, What does the company expect from us? And the second is, What will the company give us in return? In most instances, the employee agrees to work a certain number of hours performing certain specified duties. In exchange for this labor, the company agrees to pay the employee what they feel is an appropriate wage, along with various benefits. If both parties accept each other's offer, then a contract, or covenant, is entered into between the two parties.
Most businesses have something called a "position description," (or PD) which lists the various duties the employee is expected to perform. However, in most PDs, the last description of obligation usually had a catch-all phrase that says something like "and will perform other duties as assigned." The intent of this contract is that the employee is agreeing to help the company become successful and profitable.
Jesus told His disciples, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together" (John 4:34-36).
Jesus seeks to do the will of His Father. However, He is more than just an average employee. He is the head supervisor of our Father's business. He oversees and guides all the work. He then asks, "Who will help Me do the will of my Father?" Those who have been baptized have entered into a work agreement with Christ to do whatsoever things He commands us. At our baptism, we not only agreed to live according to certain standards but we also agreed to do "other duties as assigned." It is Christ who assigns us our duties. Some He calls to prepare the ground for planting. Some he calls to sow the seed. Others he calls to water, weed and nourish the tender sprouts. Still others are called to prune and trim the growing plants. When the harvest is ready he calls others to reap.
No one job is more important than another. They are all needed and necessary. And those who do their duty with all their heart, mind, and soul will receive the same wages, regardless of what task they were assigned. What God offers to pay those who diligently serve Him is the gift of eternal life. As He told us in D&C 14:7, "And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God."
The commitment we make at the time of our baptism is to do all we can to build up God's business. At the time of our baptism we agreed to accept whatever job Christ assigns us. Whether we're called to teach a Sunday School class, keep attendance in Primary, serve as visiting or home teachers, or whether we're called to preside as bishops, stake presidents or General Authorities, each job is just as essential and therefore, just as important to the overall success of our Father's business. As such, regardless of our calling, when we were baptized, we agreed to dedicate our time, talents, possessions, and all that the Lord has given us or anything He may yet give us to the building up of His business. In exchange for our faithful service, God has promised us blessings while here on earth and treasures in heaven when we retire from our labors.
When we take the sacrament, we're witnessing before God that we are still willing to do whatsoever tasks He assigns us in helping His business become successful and profitable. As used in this sense, the word "profitable" means helping people become saved and exalted. That's what the Lord meant when He said, "Hearken, O ye people of my church; for verily I say unto you that these things were spoken unto you for your profit and learning" (D&C 46:1). "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
The sacrament represents the emblems of Christ's atonement. But more than that, for Latter-day Saints, it also symbolizes our commitment to His cause. Our Father once asked, "Whom shall I send?" When we take the sacrament we are answering yet again, "Here am I, send me" (Abraham 3:27).