In our elders quorum class on Sunday, we were discussing ordinances. At one point, we came to the ordinance of the Sacrament, and someone read the following from the manual.
The ordinance of the sacrament reminds us of the promises we made when we were baptized. We renew our baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament. As we partake of the bread and water, we remember our Savior’s life and His sacrifice. We remember our promise to follow Him. When taken worthily, the sacrament is a source of spiritual strength. It helps us develop greater power to keep the commandments. With sincere repentance it helps cleanse us of the sins we commit after baptism.
I disagree with two points in that paragraph: the idea that the Sacrament has cleansing properties and the idea that we renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
First, beyond baptism of water and fire, the only spiritual cleansing available is through sincere repentance.
Second, the baptism and sacrament covenants are different. Consider the covenant elements listed in Mosiah 18:
- Desire to come into the fold of God
- Desire to be called his people
- Willing to bear one another’s burdens
- Willing to mourn with those who mourn
- Willing to comfort those who need comfort
- Willing to stand as witnesses of God at all times, in all things, and in all places
- Serve God
- Keep God’s commandments
Also consider the covenant that King Benjamin’s people made (Mosiah 5). Arguably not a baptismal covenant per se, but they did want to start new new lives, which is one purpose of baptism:
- Do God’s will
- Be obedient to God’s commandments
Now compare the sacramental covenant (D&C 20):
- Take upon us the name of Jesus
- Always remember Jesus
- Keep Jesus’s commandments
It seems the only similarity between the two covenants is keeping the commandments. I think it is misguided to say that the sacramental covenant is a renewal of the baptismal covenant. In fact, I think it is this line of thinking that leads to the idea that the sacrament has a cleansing effect on us. I also think this line of thinking undervalues the other parts of the baptismal covenant.