“I Have Broken Bread and Blessed It and Given It Unto You in Remembrance of My Body”

Alan C. Miner

Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that the Book of Mormon teaches that some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas practiced the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus' life to atone for the sins of the world (3 Nephi 18:2-9). The true followers of Christ partook of the bread in remembrance of the body of Christ which was slain for us, and drank the wine in remembrance of his blood which was shed for us. To those who worthily partake of the sacrament the Lord promised to send "his spirit to be with them" (Moroni chapters 4 and 5).

The ancient American prophet Moroni, who recorded the sacramental prayers in the Book of Mormon, ended his record by documenting that his people had become depraved and degenerate, and had perverted the principles of the Gospel and had even become cannibals (Moroni 9:7-15).

With this in mind it is interesting that among the writings of the Quiche Maya there is a strange legend that tells of eating the flesh of a God who had died:

And when he had died, thereupon they broke up his body . . . distributed and divided [it] up among all . . . And afterwards it was divided up among them, to each in his order, each year when they ate it. [Each] year [those of] two neighborhoods ate it, and also the old men of two tribal temples And when they divided up among themselves his body [made of] amaranth seed dough, [it was broken up] exceeding small, very fine, as small as seeds. The youths ate it. And [of] this which they ate, it was said: "The god is eaten," and of those who ate it, it was said: "they guard the god."

A Spanish writer, Jose de Acosta, was sent as a missionary to America in 1571. After his return to Spain, he published a history. Writing about the ancient American version of the sacrament, he assumed that it was introduced by the Devil as a counterfeit to the true sacrament: "In what manner hath the Devil labored in Mexico to counterfeit the feast of the Holy Sacrament and communion used in the holy church." (cited in Cheesman, The World of the Book of Mormon, pp. 17, 74.)

The fact that the Spanish assumed that Satan instituted the New World sacrament shows that the Native Americans did not copy the sacrament from the Spanish priests. Herera and Ondegardo, reaffirming the conclusion of Acosta, felt sure that the devil had counterfeited the "sacrament of confession" among the ancient Americans. [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 43]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary