Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

RS/MP Lesson 23: “The Sacrament” (Gospel Principles Manual) -RC

Posted by Robert C. on December 11, 2010

First, I think the JST for Matthew 26:22 that is cited early in the lesson is interesting because it adds the notion of “ransom” to the sacrament: “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you.” How are we to understand the term “ransom” here?

The Book of Mormon of Mormon only uses the term “ransom” twice (according to my lds.org search): 2 Nephi 8:10 quoting Isaiah, and Alma 52:8. In Alma 52:8, we read that Moroni keeps prisoners “as a ransom for those whom the Lamanites had taken.” This seems consistent with the Greek term used in the New Testament for ransom, “lytron”, which means “the price for redeeming” that is “paid for slaves [or] captives.” Essentially Christ has paid the price of our sins so that we don’t have to. The sacrament, in essence, should disrupt an economic understanding of our own sins. Rather than having to pay for our own sins, Christ pays and then gives us the gift of salvation. It is, in this sense, that “salvation is free” (2 Ne 2:4).

But, lest this notion of free grace sound sound too Evangelical or Protestant here, let’s think about the role of works and worthiness in all of this. In a later part of the lesson 3 Nephi 18:28-29 is cited:

[Y]e shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily . . . . 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.

The root term “unworthy” is repeated 3 times here. What does it mean?

One place to look for a better understanding of what worthiness might mean is Luke 21:36. There Christ is talking about the need to look for the signs of the times, and we read, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy.” This “always” is similar to the covenant and promise in the sacrament to “always remember him . . . that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” This passage in Luke, indeed, seems relevant to the sacrament. Returning to Luke 21, then, we read in verse 34,

[T]ake heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting [overindulgence], and drunkennss, and cares of this life, and so that day comes upon your unawares.

I think this idea of the “cares of this life” is especially interesting. What are the cares of this life and how can they prevent us from “always remember[ing] him”?

One possible way to think about this question is in terms of a focus on money and economic-based relations. As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m reading a book about human motivation and new studies and efforts to move from a reward-based way of leading, managing, thinking and living to a more autonomous, purpose-based approach. The advice of the book as it pertains to parenting is, for example, not to establish a close tie between a child’s allowance and his or her chores. The reason is that a tight chores-allowance linkage fosters a more extrinsically-motivated type of personality and outlook on the world. Better, the book argues, is to encourage and preserve the child-like, inborn desire to pursue excellence and better oneself via intrinsic motivation.

It is worth thinking about the way that Christ’s atonement, which we commemorate with the sacrament, can serve as a disruption of an economic way of understanding actions/works and rewards/punishments. Christ paid the price of our sins, so we don’t have to worry about the price of our sins, or the rewards for our good works. Rather, we can lose ourselves in service to others—and, by so doing, remember him always and always have his spirit to be with us….

4 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 23: “The Sacrament” (Gospel Principles Manual) -RC”

  1. Kim said

    I am wondering if you would share the title and author of the book you are reading on human motivation–it sounds very interesting. Thank you for your thought provoking posts, I really appreciate them!

  2. Robert C. said

    Sure (I was simply in a hurry getting this posted and didn’t have time so I linked to the other post instead):

    Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. You can find a review of the book here, and a 10 minute animated video summary of the book here.

  3. Jim F. said

    Robert, thank you for doing what I said I would do and then didn’t do. You are a good person, through and through.

  4. kirkcaudle said

    Good as always Robert.

    I really liked the connection between 3 Nephi 18:28-29 and Luke 21:34-36. Of course we all get carried away by the “cares of the world” on one level or another. However, there seems to be a very fine line when those cares start to make us “unworthy.” These three verses really have me thinking more about what worthiness really is. I am going to bring these ideas to my class on Sunday.

    Also, I love the last sentence of your post. Very nicely put.

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