June 10-16 - "Not as I Will, but as Thou Wilt"
Vintage Sacrament Sets (early 20th century)
clockwise from top left: bread tray (12 inches high, 9.5 inches tray diameter); pitcher (15.25 inches high with lid closed, 7 inches base diameter); large cup (4.75 inches high, 3.75 inches rim diameter); water tray (5.5 inches high, 16 inches long); glass cup (1.75 inches high, 1.25 inches rim diameter); and silver cup (1.5 inches high, 1.25 inches rim diameter)
Collection of MarJean and Blaine Wilcox
Photograph by Katherine Nelson
Used with permission of the collectors
Latter-day Saint Sunday worship centers around partaking the sacrament. “We commemorate His Atonement in a very personal way,” President Russell M. Nelson said in 2004. “We bring a broken heart and a contrite spirit to our sacrament meeting. It is the highlight of our Sabbath-day observance” (“Worshiping at Sacrament Meeting,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 26). The tools to pass the bread and water have evolved in the last century. In the photo of vintage sacrament sets above, an evolution is on display: from a communal silver cup to individual silver cups (precipitated by the tuberculosis epidemic in the early 20th century) and then to individual glass cups. The pitcher shown has a hinged lid that was opened when the sacrament prayer was offered and then closed again. In some places, the entire congregation knelt as the prayers were pronounced. The footed bread tray included filigree detailing (circa 1929). Because of tarnishing, all of these silver-plated objects required constant cleaning, and the Relief Society and young women largely handled those duties.
Based on advertisements in Church publications of the period, bishops were urged to purchase the silver sets to “help the missionary work along.” For example, the silver water tray (circa 1930) with three dozen glasses cost $16.00. Gradually, the sacrament sets were replaced by pleated paper cups and then plastic ones, and trays for bread and water changed from silver to molded plastic to stainless steel. But some older members today recall that in the 1950s, the silver sets were still in use. The owner of the sets photographed above told the anecdote that as the communal cup was passed down the row, from person to person, members were aware of germs, and so they took a sip near one of the handles. The problem was that everybody used the same strategy.
How does looking at these once used sacrament sets help increase your understanding of the sanctity of the sacramental ordinance?
While the implements used in presenting the sacrament to the congregation have changed over time, the contents of those implements have remained the same. Today, just as in the early days of the Church, we use ordinary water and plain bread as tokens of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. Similarly, in other areas of the Church, while the doctrine has remained constant, the policies have altered over time. How does an understanding of doctrine vs. policy guide you in following Jesus?
What can you do to strengthen your focus on the sacrament in your personal Sunday worship?