Mormon ordinances/Sacrament/Uses water instead of wine

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    Why do Mormons use water instead of wine for its sacrament services?

Questions and Answers

Question: Why does the LDS Church use water instead of wine for its sacrament services?

Use of water instead of wine

As a precaution against enemies of the Church poisoning or adulterating the wine sold to the Saints, a change was authorized by the Lord.[1] The Lord revealed, "that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins" (D&C 27:1-2).

The command throughout the scriptures is not to partake of the bread and wine but rather of the bread and the cup

It is interesting to note that the command throughout the scriptures was not to partake of the bread and wine but rather of the bread and the cup (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25-26). It therefore appears that it was not the wine that was being emphasized but the "bitter cup" (D&C 19:18) of which Christ would partake (Matthew 20:22-23; Matthew 26:27,39,42; Mark 10:38; Mark 14:23,36; Luke 22:17,20,42; John 18:11; 1 Corinthians 10:21; 1 Corinthians 11:25). This is also in conformity with the Old Testament usage of the term "cup" to symbolize suffering (Psalm 11:6; Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17,22; Jeremiah 25:15,17; Jeremiah 49:12).[2]

Some early Christians used both water and wine in the sacrament

It is noteworthy that some early Christians used both water and wine in the sacrament. Justin Martyr (ca. 140 A.D.) recorded:

On Sunday we hold a meeting in one place for all who live in the cities or the country nearby. The teachings of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time is available. When the reader has finished, the president gives a talk urging and inviting us to imitate all these good examples. We then all stand together and send up our prayers. As noted before, bread, wine and water is brought forth after our prayer. The president also sends up prayers and thanksgivings. The people unitedly give their consent by saying, "Amen." The administration takes place, and each one receives what has been blessed with gratefulness. The deacons also administer to those not present... We all choose Sunday for our communal gathering because it is the first day, on which God created the universe by transforming the darkness and the basic elements, and because Jesus Christ—our Redeeming Savior—rose from the dead on the same day.[3]

This practice was also mentioned by Pope Julius I (A.D. 337) in a decree which stated: "But if necessary let the cluster be pressed into the cup and water mingled with it."[4] This practice of mixing wine and water may be related to the fact that both blood and water were shed on the cross. John recorded that, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34). John later recorded that, "there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one" (1 Jn. 5:8). In like manner baptism by water was also related by Paul to Christ's death (Romans 6:3-5).

Samuele Bacchiocchi, a non-Mormon scholar, has observed that

An investigation... of such Jewish Christian sects as the Ebionites, the Nazarenes, the Elkesaites, and the Encratites, might provide considerable support for abstinence from fermented wine in the Apostolic Church. The fact that some of these sects went to the extreme of rejecting altogether both fermented and unfermented wine using only water, even in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, suggests the existence of a prevailing concern for abstinence in the Apostolic Church.[5]

It also suggests that early Christians understood that "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or drink when [partaking] of the sacrament" (D&C 27:1-2).

Later developments in Christianity

Catholics at a much later period also substituted the Eucharist for the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, believing that it would literally be turned into the flesh and blood of the Lord.[6]

Although the latter practice was introduced during a period of what the LDS understand to be the apostasy from the fulness of gospel doctrine and authority, it nonetheless shows that some Christians felt it was permissible to modify the observance of the sacrament even without direction from the Lord.

The Doctrine and Covenants allows for wine to be used for the sacrament, despite the Word of Wisdom's prohibitions on alcohol (see D&C 89:5-6).

The LDS sacrament service is observed often and within the guidelines given by the Lord as prescribed in LDS scriptures (See John 6:53-54; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30; Moroni 4-5:; D&C 20:75-79; 27:1-4). Early Christian practices are useful illustrations of the fact that LDS practice is not foreign to Christianity generally, but the LDS rely on scripture and the teachings of modern prophets for their forms of worship.

Latter-day Saints emphatically affirm our reliance on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins

Latter-day Saints emphatically affirm our reliance on the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins as attested to in the Bible (Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Jn 1:7;Revelation 7:14) and modern scripture (1 Nephi 12:10; Mosiah 3:7,11; 4:2; Alma 5:21,27; 21:9;24:13; 34:36; Helaman 27:19; Ether 13:10; Moroni 4:1;5:2; 10:33; D&C 20:40; 27:2; 76:69; Moses 6:62).[7]

Even the sacrament prayer given at the beginning of the administration of the water affirms the symbolism of the atoning blood. It states in part: "... bless and sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them..." (D&C 20:79).

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


  1. History of the Church, 1:106–108. Volume 1 link See also Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:132; Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 55.
  2. See also James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1983[1915]), 620, note 8.
  3. Justin Martyr, "First Apology," in ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)?:65–67. ANF ToC off-site This volume; cited by Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 231. ISBN 0937892068.
  4. Gratian, De Consecratione, Pars III, Dist. 2, c. 7, as cited by Leon C. Field, Oinos: A Discussion of the Bible Wine Question (New York, 1883), 91, and Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible : A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 109–110. ISBN 1930987072.
  5. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible : A Biblical Study on the Use of Alcoholic Beverages (Biblical Perspectives, 1989), 181. ISBN 1930987072.
  6. See Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 241. GL direct link or James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of our Fathers (T A N Books & Publishers, 1980), 235–250. ISBN 0895551586.
  7. This wiki article was originally based upon Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004),131–133. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786. It has been subsequently edited by FairMormon Answers wiki editors.

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