CLICK HERE to read 3 Nephi 18.
As the Savior had done in Jerusalem, He also did with the Nephites. He instituted the sacrament to remind the people of the atonement He had provided and the covenants they had made. Teaching the disciples about the Aaronic Priesthood and the physical ministry for the people, He commanded them to go get bread and wine (verse 1) and had the people sit down and wait (verse 2). When the disciples brought the bread and wine, He blessed it and gave it to the disciples (verse 3). Then He told the disciples to give it to the people (verse 4). Through this, the Savior continued teaching them about the Priesthood, which was to act under His authority and by His power (verse 5).
He commanded the people to continue remembering their covenants according to the same pattern (verse 6). First, eating the bread (verse 7):
And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me, ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
Then drinking of the cup (verses 8-9):
Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
So still today we take sacrament, the bread and water, to remember the atonement of the Savior, and what He has done for us, and our willingness to be obedient to Him, and participate in “The Great Exchange” of Isaiah 22. This reminds us of Alma’s Big Talk back in Alma 5:
It was the letting go of who I was trying to force me to be, it was the stopping behaviors that were making me someone I was not, and it was the submitting to my Father – not in an oppressive, legalistic kind of way, but in a tender and gentle way that only comes from trusting one who loves you.
The more we do this, the more we are working that Great Exchange from Isaiah 22, where we let go of what is not of God (and so also surrender the burden, or message, of curse upon us) and receive His righteousness (and so also receive His promises and blessings). It is His righteousness, not mine. He gives it to me, molds me into it, fills me with it.
This is how He sanctifies me, by the work and power of the Atonement, not by anything I deserve or have earned.
As He makes me holy, I become one of His people, His family, His tribe.
As I am transformed, His light reflects in me. His Spirit fills me. My face shines with His light.
It also reminds us of the review of the plan of salvation in 1 Nephi 14. There can be no exchange if we are not willing, but our willingness is immediately blessed by the presence of His Spirit who teaches us how to be obedient in the way we said we were willing to be (verses 10-11). If we have His Spirit with us, we will remain in Him because we are at-one (verse 12). No matter what happens, no matter how hard life gets, no matter what swirls around us, we will be with Him – long as we keep His Spirit with us by being obedient to it (verse 13).
That is our blessing for willingness to be obedient: His Spirit that helps us to actually do it (verse 14).
The more we rely on the Spirit, the more obedient we can become, and that moves us closer and closer to our Father. Nothing can pull us away, other than being led away by listening to temptations instead of the Spirit (verse 15). We have His example before us, that leads us like Light instead of the darkness of temptation (verse 16).
This is what the Savior taught the people (verse 17):
Ye must watch and pray always, lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he must sift you as wheat. Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name; and whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you (verses 18-20).
We do not ask our Heavenly Father for things that are not according to His will or plan or law. But if we are aligned with Him, working to carry out His plan, and keeping His law, then we may ask for anything we need it and will be provided according to this promise.
He also says we should pray together as families, and that this will bless us – both parents and children (verse 21). He says we should meet together often (verse 22), and welcome others and pray for them (verse 23). We are to be a Light, just as He has been a light for us (verses 24-25).
Then the Savior taught the disciples (verse 26), telling them He had another commandment for them (verse 27). He spoke about discipline, and about how we must prepare for sacrament by being worthy of it (verse 28). This is important because the blessing is receiving the Spirit to help us be obedient, as we have stated we are willing to do. We do not come to sacrament perfect and without mistakes, but we do come focused on the atonement of the Savior and claim it with true repentance and gratitude. We do not take sacrament carelessly or without effort on our part for true repentance (verse 29). When some are disciplined and not permitted to take sacrament, we still welcome them and minister unto them and pray for them (verse 30). We know that they can be healed as we ourselves have been healed, as any of us can be healed, when we come to Him “with full purpose of heart” (verse 32). He teaches us these things and the Order of the Priesthood so that we might all agree and understand and have no disputations among us (verse 34), for confusion is not of God.
Then, as if to remind the people that the atonement is an ongoing process, the Savior tells the people He must go to advocate for them before the Father (verse 35). The Savior said farewell to each disciple, giving them the sign of His authority (verse 36) and “the power to give the Holy Ghost” (Melchizedek Priesthood). When this was finished, He “departed from them, and ascended into heaven” (verse 39).