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ARTHUR - Regarding the stay at home orders recently in place, some members are suggesting that those without priesthood in the home to administer the sacrament, should be able to partake the sacrament through an online ordinance. Is there any theological reason for not participating in such an online sacrament ordinance? Do those holding the priesthood need to physically be in the presence of the partakers as they administer the sacrament?
JOEL - First of all the Sacrament, while an important enabling ordinance, is not a saving ordiances, so going without it for a while will not jeopardize our eternal life.While working Sundays in a hospital I would sometimes go a couple of months without taking the sacrament.
Having said that we have been told that we should gather together often to partake of the Sacrament.
"It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus;" (D&C 20: 75)
Some might agrue that the breaking of the bread doesn't have to be included as part of the ordiannce and therefore could be done by members at home and then by using Zoom or some other electronic media over the internet, have the priesthood holders bless the sacrament for the homebound members. There is however some evidence in the scriptures that the breaking of the bread is part of the ordinance. In the Book of Mormon it says:
1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
3 And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name." (3 Ne. 18: 1-5)
This specifically refers to having the required power to break the bread and physically give it to the church member. This could not be done by any church member at home that does not hold the priesthood.
Another argument some have proposed is that members who have Celiac disease are allowed to bring their own substitue that is already broken to be used in Sacrament ordinance:
"Members may provide allergen-free bread or another broken bread-like substitute in a sealed plastic bag or cup. They give this to a priesthood holder to place on a separate tray. The bishopric helps those who pass the sacrament know which members to whom the allergen-free item should be passed. The bishopric may modify the procedure as necessary." (Church Handbook 18.9.3)
So it sounds like the gluten free substitute does not have to be broken by the Priest, so why does the bread the rest of the members get have to be broken by them as well?
There is still the issue of having the priesthood holders being physically present while performing the ordinance. There is no precedent for a remote ordinance. The person officiating the ordinance is always physically present. It took the physical laying on of hands by resurrected/translated beings to restore the priesthood to Joseph Smith, opening the way for ordinances to be performed on Earth. When a person is baptized and confirmed; when a healing blessing is given; when temple ordiances are performed there is a physical presence involving both the priesthood holding officiator and the recipient(or proxy) of the ordinance. A priesthood holder being physically present serves as a witness by an authorized person who can assure the ordinance is being performed correctly. All other ordinances have priesthood holders physically present to preside and stand as witnesses.
Besides all this the main reason a priesthood holder should be physically present to administer the Sacrament is simply because our church leaders have told us to do it that way. Their recent communication regarding the Covid-19 issue says:
"Members may provide their own bread and water. However, preparing the sacrament should be done by the authorized priesthood holder(s). The priesthood holder(s) administering the sacrament must be in the same location as those who receive it when they break the bread, say the prayers, and pass the emblems. In unusual circumstances when the sacrament is not available, members can be comforted by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood." (Directions for Essential Ordinances, Blessings, and Other Church Functions, 16 Apr 2020)
We should follow the direction given to us by our church leaders regarding the performance of priesthood ordininces, until they give us further direction regarding any changes to established policies.
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