Porting the Sacrament

September 28, 2007 | 20 comments

Did you know Buzz Aldrin took Episcopalian communion on the moon? Apparently he kitted the stuff up from earth where he’d had his priest bless it.

That got me thinking. Our priests (and elders and high priests) bless the sacrament outside of church all the time. But is there any precedent for blessing the sacrament and then porting it elsewhere? I’m not familiar with any. What’s the theological significance of not doing that? If I show up to the chapel after the first sacrament prayer has been said, should I refrain from taking the bread?

20 Responses to Porting the Sacrament

  1. Kyle R. on September 28, 2007 at 4:46 am

    Funnily enough I was discussing the sacrament at an LDS ward 3 weeks ago with an LDS friend we go with.

    I asked him if it had to be bread at all. He said he didn’t think so, because the spirit of the law always trumps the letter of the law, and that as long as the sacrament was blessed properly and taken in the right spirit, none of the other conditions mattered. He told a story of how some LDS Germans during the war wound up in a ditch in a field taking the sacrament with blessed apple slices, because it was all they could find on that particular day.

  2. lamonte on September 28, 2007 at 8:09 am

    One obvious distinction in the Buzz Aldrin story is that he, personally, did not have priesthood authority to administer the sacrament and so he relied on an ordained priest to perform that ordinance whereas an LDS priesthood holder would be able to administer the sacrament on the moon (with the bishop’s permission, of course). It seems that administering the sacrament rather than just taking it in a far away place such as the moon is far more interesting. ;-) It also seems more appropriate and meaningful to actually take the sacrament moments after hearing the blessing and witnessing the administration rather than to have those functions performed hours or even days prior to the actual partaking. But ultimately it seems the ultimate meaning and effectiveness of partaking is contingent upon ones individual experience and spiritual frame of mind.

  3. marcus on September 28, 2007 at 8:56 am

    I think the key to the sacrament is the ordinance itself, which includes both prayers and the physical tokens representing our renewed commitments. The bread and water, even after they’ve been blessed, aren’t sufficient for the ordinance to take place. If they were, we could just deliver bread to those who can’t make it to church, instead of performing the ordinance multiple times each Sunday, in those people’s homes/hospital rooms.

    Kyle R — There was an article in one of the church magazines several years ago about LDS POWs during WWII, who performed the ordinance with potato skins, because that was all they could scrounge.

  4. Ardis Parshall on September 28, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Another point that suggests that it isn’t the blessed emblems alone that constitute the ordinance in the absence of prayers and priesthood authority is that surplus blessed bread and water are not disposed of in any ceremonial way (not eaten by the priest or placed in a reliquary or burned, or otherwise treated as if they were holy of themselves). In other words, a packet of bread and water in an LDS astronaut’s personal gear is only leftover bread and water, not a mystical, sacred substance.

  5. Kyle R. on September 28, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Marcus, I’m wondering now if the potato skins skins story isn’t perhaps the chinese whispers original of the apple slices version I got told.

    The fact that there’s no preciousity over the blessed emblems apart from their spiritual function and that “surplus blessed bread and water are not disposed of in any ceremonial way” is not only practical and focuses on the important thing but also avoids what would otherwise start to seem a bit idolatrous.

  6. Amira on September 28, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Well, that might be an idea, especially for women who are living in places where there are no priesthood holders. Or if there’s only one priesthood holder and he doesn’t have special permission to bless the sacrament. Although I’ve never really known why just one man isn’t allowed to bless the sacrament, say for his own family, without permission.

    Still, it’s probably a bit much. :) I’m more inclined to think that it’s just leftover bread

  7. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Excellent points, all.

    Kyle R.,
    its not just cultural pragmatism. See http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/27/2#2

    AEP and others,
    I think you’re probably right that the experience of participating in the sacrament prayer is part of the ordinance, but that makes me think it would not be appropriate to take the sacrament if you come in late and miss the prayer. Am I right?

  8. John Taber on September 28, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Don Lind once administered the sacrament for himself while on the space shuttle.

  9. Ardis Parshall on September 28, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I don’t know whether there is any doctrine or policy statement on that, Adam, but it does seem inappropriate to me. Similarly, I wouldn’t take the water if I had missed the bread. It just seems incomplete. And my mind wouldn’t be in the right place running late like that and without a moment to center my thoughts — it would be a perfunctory, outward show in that case, wouldn’t it?

  10. quandmeme on September 28, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I think the community worship aspect is quickly lost in our paradigm of myob spirituality. As a teenager I visited the Yellowstone park ward one weekend at the height of summer and was asked to help administer that day. They ran out of water for the aaronic priesthood who were last to partake. I decided it would be least disruptive to just say the prayer back in their large preparation room so we didn’t have to parade out bless it and give it to the 5 five or so of the aaronic priesthood left. It all ended up taking even longer as the bishop asked us to do it again in the presence of the congregation.
    In providing the sacrament to one, bed ridden member, on other occasions, though we bless it just for that one person. Perhaps that is the congregation in that instance.

    In a totally different part of the world (makes me seem like such a globetrotter!) a member who was a sea captain and handn’t had the sacrament for several weeks got caught in traffic driving from a port on the Indian Ocean to our meeting house on the Arabian Gulf. So after hours of driving, missed the prayer and didn’t get to partake. In that case the branch president had us redo the sacrament just for him before we went to Sunday school. I think now that both leaders acted appropriately, but I haven’t read the handbook on it.

    What I take from it is that it is both a communal worship and highly individual. Just because the bread and water had been blessed for someone else, doesn’t mean that it will serve the purpose for one who wasn’t there for the whole ordinance (participating in the prayer is not severable from the act of taking the emblem), and the opposite, that steps are not just for the individual, but we do it in remembrance of Him as a congregation, not just for a matter of efficiency, but because _gathering_ is a part of the worship to, no matter how small our “congregation” is.

  11. Kyle R. on September 28, 2007 at 11:40 am

    #7 Adam, not sure what you mean that you think that I meant but thanks very much for the scripture reference: it’s an exact answer to my bread question. On the other issue, I’m obviously not taking the sacrament when I myself sit in an LDS meeting but think it would feel funny taking it without having been there for the blessing. It would feel like picking up the sacrament at a Drive Thru.

  12. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 11:46 am

    John Taber,
    do you have any more information on that?

  13. Mike Parker on September 28, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Did you know Buzz Aldrin took Episcopalian communion on the moon? Apparently he kitted the stuff up from earth where he’d had his priest bless it.

    This was beautifully portrayed in episode 6 of the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. Worth getting on DVD.

  14. Ardis Parshall on September 28, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    John Taber is absolutely right:

    Kathleen Maughan Lind, Don Lind, Mormon Astronaut, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985. 171-172:

    “Since our flight lasted a full week, we were in orbit on the Sabbath. The experiments went on around-the-clock and did not observe a day of rest. Nevertheless, I was able to shift the schedule enough to have a short time for my own private sacrament meeting on Sunday, May 5 [1985]. My bishop, Melvin DeSpain, had given me permission to hold a sacrament service on the last Sunday before liftoff when I was in quarantine as well as the Sunday that I would be on orbit.

    “The orbital sacrament service presented some problems. The first was the sacrament prayers. I had taken a complete set of the standard works aboard Challenger with me. They had been sent to me by the Church News and the First Presidency, and were to be presented to the Museum of Church History and Art. However, they were stored where they were not accessible, so I could not use them for the sacrament prayers. Since we are counseled not to recite the prayers from memory, I had to find some way to include a copy of the prayers in the official Flight Data File — the library of procedures we have on board. That was really rather easy. One Flight Data File volume is my personal reference notebook, so I copied the prayers into the section used for diagrams of auroral forms and communication procedures arranged at the last minute.

    “The second technical problem concerning the sacrament was how to follow the scriptural direction, “After this manner shall he administer it — he shall kneel.” (D&C 20:76.) In weightlessness, kneeling is not easily accomplished. However, I managed to solve that problem. For privacy, I had planned to hold my sacrament meeting in my sleep station, a compartment much like a spartan Pullman berth. By kneeling on what might be thought of as the ceiling, and resting my shoulders against my sleeping bag, I could maintain the standard reverent “kneeling” position — if I didn’t worry about up and down. In a way, this orientation had a special meaning for me. I know that looking upward toward heaven is only symbolic of looking toward our Father in heaven, since I don’t know where Kolob is located on the celestial sphere. However, I was strangely taken by the thought that never before had I been able to kneel to show reverence and at the same instant face heavenward toward my Eternal Father.

    “The whole experience was extremely moving and very spiritual, filled with that special closeness to the Lord that I normally can feel only in the temples and a few other very special places. I suspect that this will always be the most memorable and special sacrament service of my life.”

  15. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Awesome. I’ll probably make a post of that someday, Ardis P.

  16. Ardis Parshall on September 28, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Be sure to give John Taber the credit for bringing it to your attention, Adam G.– I wouldn’t have remembered it without his prompting, and I hope, John, you don’t mind my butting in to save you the typing.

  17. California Condor on September 28, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Does anyone think we’ll ever have a temple on the moon?

  18. JKC on September 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Sure Aldrin wasn’t an ordained priest, but maybe he could have had one of the quaker moonmen bless the wafer.

  19. John Taber on September 28, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Not a problem.

    And thanks for that citation, confirming Brother Lind only needed permission from his bishop. I once got into a back-and-forth with someone on SRM who claimed that he would have needed permission from the various area presidencies in whose jurisdiction the shuttle traveled, etc. That didn’t quite sound right to me.

  20. Chris O'Keefe on September 28, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    I’ve got two things to add:
    First, in terms of “permission” and porting the sacrament, I spent eight months in Morocco. Unsure of the presence of any sort of congregation there, I asked my bishop (I was in a BYU student ward at the time) if I could bless the sacrament for myself. I was verbally given permission, and once or twice did this. It turned out that there was a small group of saints there, so I didn’t do this often. I was shortly called by the Area President to be his “representative” in Morocco. Myself and a Congolese convert were often the only Priesthood holders in attendance. The only other one we knew about was frequently out of town.

    I think those of you who connect the emblems of the sacrament with the prayer are right, though. I suppose I could have taken eight months’ worth of blessed bread and water, but that doesn’t seem to be the procedure. Is there anybody else who’s spent significant time in an area with minimal church presence and can talk more about this?

    Second, in terms of worship in space, wired magazine has an interesting piece about Muslim astronauts pointing toward Mecca. Located here: http://www.wired.com/science/space/news/2007/09/mecca_in_orbit


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