Friday, March 20, 2009

Non-Members and the Sacrament

It is our responsibility to explain the promises we make when we partake of the sacrament to those who are visiting. It is their decision whether or not to partake, based on their willingness to make those commitments.

We sometimes forget that, while the sacrament is a renewal of our baptismal covenants, it also is accessible to those who have not been baptized (like our children) - and, therefore, for them it is not a renewal. For our children, it functions more as a preparatory promise. The sacrament is not limited to our unbaptized, as if it was something only for the "righteous children's club". It is a sign of commitment, for us, to baptismal covenants already made, and for others, non-baptismal promises already made or willing to be made. If I allow my 5-year-old to partake and not my devout, adult, Christian friends, I think that says more about me than about them.

Should non-members partake? Let me ask a different question:

If they are willing to make the promises inherent in the sacrament prayer, and if they are living their best to the extent of their knowledge, why should they not partake?


Joe said...

I couldn't agree more!

Unknown said...

I'm Catholic and an investigator of your faith. When I attended Sacrament Meeting, I did not partake of the Sacrament. One, I wasn't sure if it was permitted in your religion (having not been baptized LDS), and two, out of respect for my own baptized faith, I felt that I accept Communion in my own church, where I have made the sacrament, and until I convert or completely renounce my Catholic faith, that it was inappropriate to partake of the LDS Sacrament.

Those were just my thoughts at the moment that the plate was being passed.

BTW, I love your blog and more importantly, your comments on all the various blogs I read on the bloggernacle. I have been investigating for over 2 years now, which seems like a long time, but with the weight of such a decision, well, time is inconsequential. Your comments are so well-thought out and reasoned. I appreciate your view points and the time and energy you put into them.


Papa D said...

Stay out of trouble, Joe. I ask your aunt about you at least twice a month. *grin*

Aileen, you probably have no idea how much your comment means to me. I also think your reasoning for not partaking is respectful and well-considered - and I appreciate that greatly. In no way am I saying non-members "should" partake; I'm saying that anyone who is sincere and willing to make the covenants associated with the sacrament should be allowed to partake IF they so desire.

I also should add, in the interest of full disclosure, that the view in the Church is divided on this point. Frankly, I don't think many have considered the relation between unbaptized children and non-members, and my view probably is the minority view church-wide. Hence, my motivation to write this post. *grin*

Papa D said...

Oh, and Aileen, I absolutely LOVE the following quote:

"with the weight of such a decision, well, time is inconsequential."

My son should be receiving his mission call in a week or so, and I shared your comment with him - emphasizing especially this part. I told him that he might or might not have a Mission President or Assistant to the President or Zone Leader who loses sight of what you said and gets caught up in numbers and/or "programs", and I emphasized that each person he will meet and teach will have an individual timetable that he needs to honor.

I hope he never forgets that, since I also believe, when it comes right down to it, that time is inconsequential.

Bruce in Montana said...

The scriptures aren't real clear on non-members and children partaking. However, they are very clear on members who are unworthy partaking.

Anonymous said...

Concerning this post, I think that Jesus has already given us instruction and a standard:

"And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
"For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
"Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall ministure unto him of my flesh and blood. (3 Nephi 18:28-30).

Concerning children taking the sacrament. (Given they are under the age of 8). Even though they have not yet made the covenant, and they don't need to renew it with the sacrament; they do not partake unworthily. It is impossible for them to do so as they have not yet reached the age of accountablity.

Christ explains the status of Children, "Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin;..." (Moroni 8:8)

I don't think that this is given to be exclusive or judgemental, but there is order in God's kingdom. Jesus Christ does want us all to partake of the sacrament, but it has to be done in the right way.

Papa D said...

choc, I can see two meanings for that passage:

1) Nobody should partake who has not been baptized;

2) Nobody should partake who is unrepentant. Those people need to repent, and, since they are doing so in order to join the group of believers (the Church), they also should be baptized. When they do that, they can partake.

I know the standard interpretation is the first one, but I also can't label all non-members as "unrepentant" - which is the fundamental disqualifier in that passage. I know WAY too many humble, sincere, repentant Christians to believe that the description in that passage applies to them.

I think we need to consider something (that I believe is important) about how that Book of Mormon society is different than ours:

We live in a society where people can honestly accept the exact covenants in the sacrament prayer but not be baptized members of our Church, simply because there are multiple denominations from which to choose. In the Book of Mormon, there really was only one Christian choice, so ANYONE who was not baptized by default did not believe in Jesus, as the Christ. Iow, anyone who believed in Christ could partake of the sacrament, since everyone who believed in Christ belonged to the exact same church.

I believe STRONGLY in reading scripture carefully and doing two things, in the following order:

1) Parsing the words carefully to determine, to the best of my ability, the literal meaning void of interpretation and outside of any contextual setting;

2) Placing the words into the actual context of the time in which they were recorded.

Doing ONLY the first leads logically to the common belief - that only members of the Church may partake of the sacrament. Doing the latter, however, leads me to believe that it is referring much more broadly to the idea of all who believe in Jesus as the Christ and try their best to follow him.

I might be wrong in that conclusion, but it makes the most sense to me when the entire setting of that passage is considered.

Unknown said...


I probably take "investigating" to a whole new level. I'm reading BoM, of course, but also Sunstone, Dialogue, Ensign, tons of blogs, conference talks, and lots of books. I'm midway through Rough Stone Rolling currently. I have yet to even meet with a missionary!

I don't want to highjack your post and comments b/c I could write about this whole process for what seems like forever. Let me just say this, I didn't want to meet with missionaries b/c I didn't want the pressure. I knew that I didn't want to call the missionaries until I was ready, and quite honestly, could speak intelligently with them. Now at this point, I wonder if I can go straight to meeting with the Bishop. :) I joke.

Interestingly, for some reason, yesterday I awoke feeling strongly that I could schedule the missionary discussions. I went online to fill out the form to have missionaries contact you and no matter how many times I filled it out and tried to send it, I continued to get an error message. Perhaps it is not yet time.

Anonymous said...

I agree - that we need to be 1. repentant AND 2. Baptized to partake of the sacrament worthily.
"if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood. (3 Nephi 18:30).

The standard of interpretation of this scripture is that we must be doing BOTH - it is not an "or" situation. There are many people who have been baptized in the church who may not, for a time, partake of the sacrament - as they may be in the process of repenting of a sin that requires some priesthood help. I feel like Christ is explaining that it is not enough to be repentant. Nor is it enough to be baptized. We must be BOTH repentant and baptized. That's why he says "and."

I also think that it is impossible for us to understand the Book of Mormon in the context of which it was written. The passage given in 3 Nephi was given more than 2000 years ago. We cannot and do not understand their customs or culture. Yet it is applicable for our day.

And for our salvation, it does not matter what their culture was like in comparison to ours.

We know that Mormon saw our day, was following the instruction of God and the Holy Ghost while fulfilling his duty to abridge the Book of Mormon, and that what he recorded in the Book of Mormon was for us, specifically.

Besides this, the methods for administering the sacrament are given in the Doctrine and Covenants - modern Day revelation -(section 20)- which explain that people must be baptized, then the Sacrament is to be administered to "the Church." Additionally, in the sacramental prayers, we are promised that, "[we] may always have His Spirit to be with [us]." This is impossible if we have not yet received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The only way to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost is by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by proper priesthood authority.

Finally, I guess, then, I wonder - what is the need for baptism? What is the need for making any covenant? And why would someone want to partake of the sacrament if they don't want to make the covenant that it is meant to renew?

I do not want to wish to be exlusive to others - in that I do think that the gospel is available for all; however, I think it is important to keep in mind that there is an order to God's Kingdom, and that Order has been set forth in the scriptures. Heavenly Father and Jesus want all of us to come to Them, but it cannot be simply on our terms or in our own way - there is a right way. It has been laid out for us in the scriptures - which were given to us specifically for our time.

Anyways, I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm just answering the question that you gave in the blog: "Should non-members partake? Let me ask a different question:

If they are willing to make the promises inherent in the sacrament prayer, and if they are living their best to the extent of their knowledge, why should they not partake? "

Papa D said...

choc, I understand and respect that completely - and I'm not about to agitate in any way for the general standard to be changed. I actually believe that's the ideal. I'm just saying that if it's OK for our children to partake, then I have a hard time justifying not allowing believing, repentant Christians to partake also. If we are going to restrict them, I believe we need to stop allowing our children to partake.

Frankly, that's my core issue here - being doctrinally and rationally consistent. Either we restrict it to only those who have been baptized, or we allow all to partake if they sincerely feel they can agree to the conditions in the prayers. I think it has to be one or the other.

Papa D said...

BTW, I should have made that clearer in the post. I bolded both statements about children, since that was my focus, but I should have specified it more explicitly.

Matsby said...

(excelent topic/discussion)

Anonymous said...

I've been collecting lessons on the Sacrament from old church manuals for a post in connection with the upcoming Sunday School lesson on the Sacrament. They seem to be in agreement that a non-member who partakes of the Sacrament with humility is not under any condemnation. Besides, anyone who innocently partakes of the Sacrament -- "innocently" in the sense that he has not been taught otherwise and lacks a full understanding -- isn't guilty of breaking any law: knowledge and willfull disobedience are necessary for that. The condemnation is for those of us who have been taught what "worthiness" means and who take the Sacrament unworthily or carelessly.

Ryan said...

I've actually thought a lot about this as well, but more from the side of my young children. It just doesn't seem right to have, say, a 1 year-old "partake" of the Sacrament when it's obvious they see it only as a snack.