Comparing the Sacrament/Communion between the LDS & RLDS

By: Guest
March 28, 2014

This the first post from commenter Markag.  Growing up RLDS, he converted to the LDS Church in 1999, a few years prior to the RLDS name change to the Community of Christ.  He gives some insights into differences between LDS and RLDS/CoC worship practices.

There are a few similarities and differences of the service conducted by the two Churches.  In the LDS Church, the Sacrament is passed every regularly scheduled Sunday meeting. Communion in the CoC is traditionally, but not limited to, the 1st Sunday of the month.  Both churches have opening/closing hymns, followed by prayers.  In the CoC, at least one hymn will be on the subject of the meeting. The CoC will have a Communion Address (one speaker) and special music occurring before the Sacrament portion of the service. Meditation music is played during the uncovering/preparation/serving of the emblems. The LDS observe in silence during the administration of the sacrament.
For now, the Sacrament prayers are alike, except that the CoC refers to “wine” no matter what the liquid is. There are proposals to make the Sacrament prayers gender-neutral, but no actual text suggestions have been made.  Any Priesthood holder in the LDS Church can serve the Sacrament, but in the CoC it must be delivered by someone who has at least the office of Priest.

LDS allows small children to partake of the sacrament, but in the Community of Christ, children should be at least 8 years old to partake.

The LDS Sacrament is meant for baptized members, but there are exceptions. Small children of member families are served. Since 1994 the CoC practice open communion, so anyone can partake, even non-members.  There are also exceptions; children under age 8 are usually not served in the Community of Christ.  In the CoC, a ”pastoral prayer” by the presiding priesthood member is often given following the Sacrament portion of the service.

Since the CoC service is monthly, the Sacrament emblems can be carried to the homes of sick/shut-ins who have requested it. LDS homes, with the Bishop’s permission (and proper priesthood authority), can conduct a Sacrament service in their individual home. I once did so when we were trapped by tropical-storm flooding and it was very spiritual.  

The CoC service will also receive donations for their “oblation fund”, similar to the LDS fast offering.
Do you have any questions or thoughts concerning LDS/CoC worship practices?

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23 Responses to Comparing the Sacrament/Communion between the LDS & RLDS

  1. Andrew S on March 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    I think this is a great post (I am a sucker for any post that compares/contrasts us brighamite LDS folks from our nearest siblings in the restoration), but I feel that from reading posts by John Hamer, Firetag, etc., that there could be a larger post (or even a series) about other differences between the churches. Maybe I misunderstand and am over-exaggerating the differences, but it seems that we could drill down to some pretty basic differences that make big changes to the ‘feels’ of the different churches.

    For example, Mark writes:

    Any Priesthood holder in the LDS Church can serve the Sacrament, but in the CoC it must be delivered by someone who has at least the office of Priest.

    This is a big difference in itself (since my experience in the LDS church is that priests and above try to run far away from actually passing the sacrament…you might only see it if all the teachers and deacons are out that Sunday.

    BUT

    Doesn’t it understate a difference between the churches? Priesthood is not really culturally analogous between the two churches…

    isn’t it true that the makeup of the priesthood differs pretty substantially between the churches as well? Not even talking about women having priesthood, it is my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) that in Community of Christ, priesthood is less prevalent among the membership. In the LDS church, pretty much every male at 12 is going to get the priesthood if he is worthy…but in CofChrist, my understanding is far fewer members are ordained.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

    It would be interesting to see differences on these sorts of issues, which LDS folks might “take for granted”.

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  2. Frank Pellett on March 28, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    In LDS, the Sacrament is also taken to those who can’t attend, if requested. Also, Sacrament is served to any, since we don’t assume membership status or if families believe unbaptized children should partake regardless.

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  3. Rich Brown on March 28, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    The 2004 World Conference requested the CofC First Presidency to come up with contemporary-language Communion prayers, which may be used at the discretion of the presiding officer (and/or worship planner). The old prayers based on D. and C. 17 may still be used. There are also now combined prayers for use with bread and wine in both traditional and contemporary forms. They’re not quite “gender-neutral” but do reflect a significant change, I think.

    Blessing on the Bread
    (contemporary language)

    Eternal God, we ask you in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who receive it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of your Son, and witness to you, O God, that they are willing to take upon them the name of your Son, and always remember him, and keep the commandments which he has given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

    Blessing on the Wine
    (contemporary language)

    Eternal God, we ask you in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who receive it, that they may drink in remembrance of the blood of your Son which was shed for them, that they may witness to you, O God, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

    Combined Prayer on the Bread and Wine
    (based on Doctrine and Covenants 17)

    O God, the eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread and wine to the souls of all those who partake of them, that they may eat and drink in remembrance of the body and blood of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

    Combined Prayer on the Bread and Wine
    (contemporary language)

    Eternal God, we ask you in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread and wine to the souls of all those who receive them, that they may eat and drink in remembrance of the body and blood of your Son, and witness to you, O God, that they are willing to take upon them the name of your Son, and always remember him and keep the commandments which he has given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

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  4. Mormon Heretic on March 28, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I will say that I’m hoping that Mark continues this as a series of posts. I think it will be awesome to compare and contrast. I’ve always wondered about the differences, and didn’t realize that communion is only once per month. I’m also curious if lay member give talks as they do in the LDS Church.

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  5. Earl Parsons on March 28, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Thanks for this post. I also like learning about our theological cousins.

    I’m interested why in the CoC children under 8 are not served communion. I’ve met a few LDS who don’t think unbaptized children should take the sacrament because they can’t renew a baptismal covenant they haven’t made yet. I’ve also seen this applied to people who aren’t baptized members. I’m not sure what official policy is.

    Lately I’ve thought that the idea of renewing our baptismal covenants with the sacrament is a helpful, if un-scriptural, way to understand the role the sacrament plays in our lives and worship. But I think the idea is taken too far when we use it to bar children or people who aren’t baptized members from participating. My theory is that among the LDS banning the sacrament is a cultural invention not based in scriptures. I’m curious to know the CoC rationale to see if it jives with my theory.

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  6. Mormon Heretic on March 28, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I’m also curious if the CoC uses both wine or water? If wine, is it grape juice, or the alcoholic stuff? If water, who decides–the local congregation? Do they use water if someone forgot to bring the wine?

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  7. Angela C on March 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    I’ve sometimes wondered about our practice of giving the sacrament to children under age 8, particularly when the fingers that were just shoved inside their nostrils are now rooting around in our common tray of torn bread.

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  8. Rich Brown on March 28, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Andrew S (#1) is right to suggest that there might be many significant differences between priesthood in the LDS and CofC churches. It would certainly warrant greater examination than can be offered in the comments section here. A good place to begin regarding CofC priesthood ministry is this link to the church’s website.

    Yes, the percentage of priesthood to the general membership is probably lower than in the LDS church. But it’s something of an apples-and-oranges comparison, I think, in part because the LDS priesthood is only for males while in the CofC it’s open to men and women. BTW, beginning next week the CofC in the USA will join our national churches in Canada and Australia in opening priesthood to people who have same-gender orientation. The sacrament of marriage will also be opened to those with same-gender orientation, at least in places where civil law permits it. The moderators here at W&T have invited me to contribute occasionally, and this week I’ve been writing a blog on this subject which may be posted here soon.

    The CofC uses unfermented grape juice and bread, never wine with alcohol. I’ve been in worship services (such as in camp settings) where some other kind of juice is used, but those are very rare exceptions. The sacrament is open and offered to everyone who has accepted the lordship of Christ in their life, and this can include children under the age of eight in non-CofC families. We still require baptism before children of CofC parents receive Communion. I’ve always thought that could lead to awkward moments but it really hasn’t.

    There’s no express restriction on non-priesthood members giving the Communion address, but as a general rule this is something offered by a priesthood member. In my own congregation we often involve children, youth, and non-priesthood adults in various worship roles.

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  9. Jared on March 28, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    #7 Angela C

    LOL Just last week I took the sacrament bread which was prepared and blessed by a young man (high school age) who I know is mildly retarded. I noticed that he picked his nose prior to breaking the bread. When the bread he prepares arrives it is in very small, tightly wadded pieces. I admit, I’m distracted by this but stuff it out.

    I also learned that in days gone by that the sacrament water was in 1/2 quart containers and was passed around so members could take a sip and then pass it on.

    I prefer the way we’re doing it nowadays.Its possible what I learned is incorrect. I was told this by a man who was born around 1875. Of course he is long gone, but my conversation with him remains with me. Maybe MH has something on this or can look into it.

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  10. Jared on March 28, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    #9 correction

    “stuff it out” should be “tough it out”

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  11. Douglas on March 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    #7 – over THAT you’re worried about cross-contamination? It wouldn’t bother me if the Aaronic PH, in set up, the bread breaking, and the passing, were to wear food service apparel including aprons, gloves, face masks, and hair nets. Have a pair of tongs on each tray to deal with finger fiddling. Sure, it’d look freaky, but hey, if you’re REALLY worried about transmittal of disease…

    Interestingly enough, it took understandable concerns over the “Spanish Flu” epidemic of 1918-9, which probably killed more persons that did World War I(known then as the “Great” War) to evoke change in the communal cup method of administering the liquid part of the Sacrament. Even President Joseph F. Smith was a casualty of that epidemic.

    http://blogs.standard.net/the-political-surf/2013/05/06/mormon-one-size-for-all-sacramental-goblet-was-a-casualty-of-the-progressive-era/

    Those who recall “Demolition Man” ought to recall the hilarious “sex” scene between Spartan (Stallone) and Huxley (Bullock), which has in this dystopia taken normal sexual interaction “viral”. Naturally, Spartan finds this weird and tries to talk Huxley into the more “traditional” method…Huxley’s reaction is telling, though it stretches the concept of suspension of disbelief:

    So at least the writers of that movie postulated how fear of disease, in the wake of an epidemic, can evoke profound societal change. Going from a common chalice to 12 y.o. boys carrying first bread pieces and then water, in disposable small plastic cups, is a relatively small adjustment. It’s what the Sacrament MEANS that’s more important, not the convention of how disbursed.

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  12. mark gibson on March 28, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    WOW! I take a nap (I’m a night-jobber) and already have 9 responses. Thanks to all. My job doesn’t give me much opportunity to witness so I’m glad to share in this manner.

    Andrew S. #1 Yes, priesthood callings/duties are very different between the two. For instance, I’ve seen elderly men who remained deacons all their life, and women whose first priesthood calling was an Elder.

    MH #4 Lay members in the CoC do not give sermons, but it’s possible that it occurs under some other type of designation.

    Earl #5 The bottom line for both Churches should be “do as the spirit leads”.

    MH #6 Store-bought grape juice if available. Coconut milk in some island congregations. Bread and juice were forgotten for an outdoor service and we partook of doughnuts/kool-aid.
    I see the logic in using water; it’s common to all cultures.

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  13. Dan Jeffers on March 28, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    Andrew S.’ #1. My wife and I are co-pastors of a CofC congregation in Independence with twenty-five adult members regularly attending, fourteen women and eleven men; twenty of the twenty-five are priesthood members. Nine of the eleven men are ordained, all as Elders (one of the Elders is a High Priest); eleven of the fourteen women are ordained, eight as Elders, two as Deacons and one as a Teacher.
    I think there’s a trend in the C of C is toward the bulk of priesthood being Elders (here, not counting High Priests as Elders), for two reasons: i) Aaronic offices, in practice, are used as apprenticeships, so there are fewer lifelong holders of those offices than in the past, and ii) there are fewer High Priests because we know longer have stakes, which usually had eighteen High Priests for the high council, presidency and bishopric. High priests fill those roles in mission centers (which replaced stakes), but there are not as many mission centers as there were stakes.

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  14. Mormon Heretic on March 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    Jared,

    Frances Menlove told a story about her grandfather getting the communal cup changed. I did a post a while back, http://www.wheatandtares.org/12570/growing-up-uncorrelated/

    The second story, which I love to tell, is about my grandfather, another pre-Correlation Mormon. He was also a bacteriologist and a dedicated empiricist. Just as Henry Eyring did, he liked to say that “in this Church we don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true.” Grand-dad went to see the bishop one Sunday and explained to him that he knew Sister Brown had tuberculosis, and besides, who knows what other diseases were running around the ward? Even without these known ailments, the practice of passing one large sacrament cup down the row with each person taking a sip was unsanitary in the extreme.

    “Brother Greaves,” the bishop huffed, “do you really think that God would allow his sacred water, which has been blessed by the priesthood, to cause disease, to make people sick?”

    “Bishop”, my grandfather replied, “do you really think that God would have given us brains if he didn’t expect us to use them?”

    The bishop suggested that he go home and repent. My grandfather’s reply to that suggestion was “Horse feathers!”

    My grandfather helped get the practice changed. My memory is that Elder John A. Widtsoe, another scientist, was his ally. He thought the moral of the story was this: ”See, even though Church authorities sometimes act like jackasses, the Church has a way of righting itself.” Grand-dad had a little of J. Golden Kimball’s salty style.

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  15. Mormon Heretic on March 28, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    When I was a priest, we had alcohol wipes that we were supposed to use immediately before we broke bread. I don’t know if this is common in all wards. (I suspect the communal cup got changed between WW1 and WW2. I suspect the Spanish Flu of 1918 was a major catalyst.

    Mark or Rich, does the CoC ever use water for communion?

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  16. Rich Brown on March 28, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    MH: I don’t ever recall seeing water used for Communion in the CofC.

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  17. Kevin Barney on March 28, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Anyone interested in comparisons between LDS and CoC practice could do worse than to reach out to John Hamer, who is CoC but also knowledgeable about the LDS tradition.

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  18. Douglas on March 28, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    #15 – THAT was a good practice. Nowadays we have hand sanitizer, which could be purchased along with the Church’s janitorial supplies, and a foot-powered dispenser in the Sacrament preparation closet. Not just a reasonable sanitation measure, it’d also teach these kids some decency. You’d be shocked at some of the utter lack of sanitation and common sense that one sees even in doing some home teaching, let alone going along on a visit from “Social Services”. More a case of ignorance and failure to teach good habits.

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  19. Jeff Spector on March 28, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Mark, thanks for your post. i know I’ve enjoyed the discussion on the differences even if i am somewhat confused by them at times.

    I remember one Priest running his fingers through his hair to push it back and then proceed to break the bread. That was an especially hard day to take the sacrament.

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  20. Mormon Heretic on March 29, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    Donuts and koolaid for communion–I wonder if there were a lot of puckered faces? Seems like milk would be a better choice than koolaid. :)

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  21. MB on March 29, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    From the Handbook of Instructions, Book 2:

    “Priesthood holders should wash their hands thoroughly with soap, a disposable towelette, or another cleanser before preparing, blessing, or passing the sacrament.”

    “Although the sacrament is for Church members, the bishopric should not announce that it will be passed to members only, and nothing should be done to prevent nonmembers from partaking of it.”

    So, yes, wash your hands and keep them clean before you touch that bread. And yes, if you wish to partake with us, we’re okay with that.

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  22. […] The CoJCoL-dS might learn some lessons from the sister church the Community of Christ. […]

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  23. Doug on May 13, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    I enjoyed this post.
    In my C of C congregation in North Carolina, we have a very nice custom for Communion that I have seen in some other C of C congregations as well. When we are ready for Communion, the Priesthood member will stand to say the blessings, while the congregation kneels at their seats during the prayers. It is a humbling experience that adds even more meaning to the event.
    We always use grape juice and never water.
    And, Andrew S., you might want to check out a website called Latter -day Seekers, it has some ideas on the differences between the two from a C of C perspective.

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