Last Sunday, as I was sliding into a pew in time for sacrament meeting, one of the ward leaders motioned me over. Did I have any bread at home? Well, do they say ya’ll in Texas? Of course I did, I always do. There was no bread for the sacrament, and could I run home and get some? I did. I rushed home, grabbed the loaf in the cupboard and got back to the church with my bread. That loaf was one of my prized recipes, a 100% whole wheat loaf made with wheat that I ground and buttermilk I cultured myself. And because I don’t have a grinder, I am currently using my blender and sieve; it takes a little extra time, but how else am I to use the small silo of wheat in my house? It is good bread. And good bread is worth it to me. And oh, I do so love good bread. The crackly crust and chewy crumb of a perfect loaf is heaven to me.
I can’t extend that same love to all bread. It may seem sacrilege that even think of it, but the often cheap, plastic-sleeved bread typically brought in each week for the sacrament at church is hard for me to swallow. The token to remember Christ is most often chemically preserved, bleached and bromated bread, and a bit of a distraction for me. I have to choose to stop thinking about it—is that bad? I know what D&C 27:2 says, but I still feel that when it is something that has substance in my life, shouldn’t the bread that symbolized it have some as well? Should the bread we use for the sacrament matter; or am I overthinking this one?
Back to that Sabbath morning. I got back to church with the bread. The ward had been stalling. The first speaker was up when I popped into the chapel and passed my loaf over to the priests waiting at the sacrament table. The priest accepted it and looked down in confusion and exited the room. The loaf I brought was unsliced. A young men’s leader follows after the priest, where he found him in the prep room, trying to slice the loaf. That young man had never dealt with an unsliced loaf of bread before—it didn’t occurred to him to break it, as the Savior broke the first sacramental loaf.
I love the symbolism of the whole loaf being broken; Christ’s body being broken for us, and then we as the body of Christ taking in pieces of that whole unto ourselves, that as we come together as saints, we are unified in Christ. Sliced bread has changed all that; we don’t see the breaking of whole loaves so much anymore, and even when I brought one, it was a source of befuddlement. The priest sliced that loaf, brought it back into the chapel and proceeded with the regularly scheduled program. I was humored and then humbled.
As the bread was broken and passed it felt very personal. It was the work of my own hands, but really a small and simple thing made of basic things. But it was the blessing and breaking that made my good bread into something more, and not just for me alone. What I had made was good, but the blessing from God made it sacred, and then shared. A small thing that I had done, blessed to become the sacrament for so many. That was holy.
Real bread—flour, salt, liquid, and leavening—is a sacred thing to me, evidence that transformation is possible. Simple ingredients when properly combined and worked become something so much more. I think that is why I love baking so dearly. I take ingredients and change them irreversibly; through grinding, sifting, mixing, kneading, shaping, rising and a shock of heat they become a new thing, chemically changing in the process, insomuch that the final product does not resemble the raw materials at all. The original ingredients become something more. I’ve promised myself that when my son is older and assigned to bring the bread, I will be making it with him. I want him to understand transformation more fully, to see the simple ingredients become so much more, to sift, work and shape them, change them into something new. He should know that true change is possible, understand why bread is the exculent symbol of God above all other food.
In the scriptures we read more about bread than any other food; there are more than 100 references to it. There is even a recipe for it. People unite to break bread. God gave the Israelites daily bread. Bread has been a reward, reminder, and a blessing. Christ blessed the five thousand that hungered with miraculous bread and told them that He was the true bread to satisfy their souls. Bread is the symbol because it has meaning. We eat bread by the sweat of our brow to live. It is life, as Christ is ours. Bread is a result of changes, work, and unity; coming to Christ is a similar process.
Week after week, I am regularly offering my very simple raw materials, trying to transform them to be enough, hoping to be something better than I have been. And as my bread was blessed as the sacrament table, I am too. I am changed. There is meaning in bread; I feel it as I take the sacrament, crush it between my teeth and break it down with the moisture of my tongue, and take in the miracle of change.
Should the bread we use for the sacrament matter? What is bread to you? Do you make it or buy it? (No judgment on that one—I have done both at different stages).