D&C 20: 77-79 — LeGrand Baker — Sacrament as Covenant
Alma 22:15-30 tells a story that can help us understand the sacramental covenant.
15 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
16 But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.
17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. (Alma 22:15-18. Italics added)
It is apparent to me that to “give up” and to “give away” are not the same things. To “give up” is a passive approach. It is to abandon, to surrender, to desist from, to discontinue.
It may require some effort. It can be difficult, but the difficulty is to achieve the passivity. For example if one gives up smoking one may have to exercise a good deal of willpower in order to discontinue, but the willpower is directed toward inactivity. Another example: To give up telling lies is not the same as to seek to tell the truth, because not telling a lie does not impose the burden of saying anything at all. (If one determines to tell the truth, that would be a major change for the better, but it is also something different from simply giving up the habit of telling lies.)
Repentance is “giving away” one’s sins. The sins are forever there and they carry consequences. But both the sin and the consequence can be “given away” to the Saviour who will accept their burden and pay their price.
To give away is never passive, but always active. If you and I are sitting by a desk and my dollar bill is on the desk, and you take it, that’s stealing. If I proffer it to you and you don’t accept it, but I give it anyway, that’s throwing it at you, not giving it to you. If you do not accept I cannot give away, because throwing it at you is not the same as giving.
To give away requires action on the part of both persons, and that action always presupposes a written, spoken, implied or symbolic contract or covenant. An example of an implied covenant is that if you invite me to lunch (give me food), I could not accept your invitation without also accepting the implied covenant that you would pay for it and I won’t have to. An example of a written covenant is that if I wish to give you my car, I must go to the court house and fill out the necessary paper work. If you accept, you also accept the burden of paying the future taxes on the car.
As I understand it, The ordinance of baptism functions like that paper work in the courthouse. It is the formality of giving our sins to the Saviour. For us the meaning of the contract is that our sins may go into remission. It evokes the blessings of the atonement to put the sins in remission. The word initially meant a diminution of force or effect, a slackening of energy— like putting cancer in remission— and therefore making the sins inoperative. -The Saviour accepts the burden of the sins so that it will not weight us down as we seek to turn our lives around. “Repent” literally means to turn around and go the other way. To use the example above: repentance not only means that we stop telling falsehoods, but also to begin telling the truth and testify of it.
Repentance is giving one’s sins to the Saviour. The ordinance of baptism is literally a transfer of ownership.
Repentance is a maturation process. It requires persistence, refining, and re-refining. It requires both the gift of the atonement, and a knowing response on our part to the tutoring of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit teaches us how to repent and it cleanses us from those sins, then teaches us more and cleanses, and teaches and cleanses, ad infinitum. Thus, by the Spirit, our spirits are refined. As Moroni explained,
And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost… (Moroni 6:4)
That principle is taught to us weekly in the covenant of these words:
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat inremembrance of the body 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 [willing to] always remember him and [willing to] keep his commandments which he has given them; that [to the end that:] they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (D&C 20:77 bold added)
Being thus committed by covenant, our cleansing is again renewed by water that represents the Saviour’s blood— the cleansing waters of life.
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (D&C 20:79 bold and italics added)
I suppose that to understand this whole principle most clearly, one must simply take the Saviour at his word when he summed up it up to the Nephites. There, the first Beatitude (the one that is left out of the New Testament) might be translated into today’s terms as simply, “Blessed are those who follow the Prophet and the Brethren.” It reads,
1 …. Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.
2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins. (3 Nephi 12:1-2)