You Shall Have My Word : Exploring the Text of the Doctrine & Covenants
Salt Lake City, UT ; Provo, UT
Deseret Book ; Religious Studies Center, BYU
On June 22, 1836, Joseph Smith escorted his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, and aunt Clarissa to Painesville, Ohio, where these sisters would await their husbands’ return from a mission to the eastern states. Upon arrival, Joseph “broke bread” and administered the Lord’s Supper “after the ancient order.” The company then ate and drank until “they satisfied their appetites.” According to George Q. Cannon, former member of the First Presidency, in the early years of the Church between 1830 and 1844, the “bread and the wine were not passed as is the custom now among us. It was an actual supper.” He believed that “this would be the proper manner to administer this ordinance now if circumstances permitted”; however, congregations apparently outgrew this approach.
Other aspects of the ordinance also underwent significant refinement since the first formal and official instructions in the Articles and Covenants of the Church, now section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This early revelation did not outline the Lord’s Supper in great detail, leaving most of the procedural aspects and understanding of the ordinance open to influences from Joseph Smith’s and other early leaders’ religious backgrounds and cultural surroundings. As a result, the sacrament was irregularly and inconsistently administered during the first years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This paper is an effort to understand what the Lord’s Supper meant to early members as well as an attempt to piece together—from the Doctrine and Covenants and other early records—the order and sequence of distributing the bread and wine in the LDS Church between 1830 and 1844. [From the text]