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).

Sandra

(Co-Editor-in-Chief) Her writings have appeared in Gastronomica, The Exponent, Reader’s Digest, and Segullah. She makes her home in California where she runs without shoes, foster parents, cooks professionally, and struggles to take pictures with her eyes open.

21 Comments

  1. Amira

    January 23, 2012

    Love this.

    We’ve had to be a little flexible with our bread at times when someone has accidently eaten the last slice for breakfast and there’s no bread left for our at-home sacrament. Of course, when we just need it for five people, it’s not too hard to work out. In many ways I just am grateful that I can have the sacrament at all- most of my LDS friends here cannot.

    But yes, beyond that, I do think the bread matters. I love that you could bring your own homemade loaf of bread (especially one that you had to work more to make). We usually use naan for the sacrament and it can’t get more simple or basic than that. I make naan in the US, but I love being able to buy it fresh and hot out of a tandir. That’s something I cannot recreate in a US kitchen and while I’m usually a homemade bread snob, I’m delighted to buy it here.

  2. KDA

    January 23, 2012

    Jesus’ teaching are so powerful because he uses familiar objects to convey unfamiliar concepts. But these everyday objects can have multiple meanings. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, bread is used as symbol of decay. The hero of this epic quests first for pleasure, then fame and then for immortality (and finally for community building). As part of his quest for immortality, Gilgamesh meets a wise man, Utnapishtim, who challenges Gilgamesh to stay awake as a means for gaining immortality. To mark the passing of time, Utnapishtim’s wife makes a loaf of bread for each day. Gilgamesh fails to stay awake, and the bread’s various states of decay demonstrate the passing of time. Gilgamesh laments:

    0 woe! What do I do now, where do I go now?
    Death has devoured my body,
    Death dwells in my body,
    Wherever I go, wherever I look, there stands Death!

    I sometimes make bread. And I sometimes make naan (the George Foreman grill does a good job with naan). And I also compost–which invites me to think about decay and rebirth. While I’m working in my kitchen, I think about how bread marks the passing of time, and how tenuous or mortality is. This motivates me to sieze the day and to have more humility in recognition of my temporal nature. It is through the paradox of rebirth coming out of decay that we celebrate the sacrament.

    These images resonate in multiple ways that provide rich “food for thought.” Thank you for adding more layers to this rich image, Sandra.

  3. Anita

    January 23, 2012

    Thanks for this lovely slice of writing–I can almost smell the fresh-baked bread scent as I read.
    I remember reading about one of my husband’s pioneer ancestors who baked the Sacrament bread in his ward every week for 31 years, and how moved I was by that small, faithful act of devotion.

  4. JkFrome

    January 23, 2012

    One year, the three Laurels in my ward took turns baking the Sacrament bread as a PP project. Each girl made it for six weeks. They learned to make good bread, and they learned to spend hours on a Saturday contemplating the meaning of that bread. The whole atmosphere of the Sacrament service changed in our ward to a more serious, centered one. It was interesting how knowing that someone had labored personally over the bread helped us to be more thoughtful of Christ’s labors while the young priesthood holders administered the ordinance. It was a very interesting experience.

  5. Paula

    January 23, 2012

    This is such a beautiful piece of writing that I don’t know what else I could add. I often wonder about the symbolism of the bread when it comes to the sacrament. The Savior himself said, “I am the bread of life.” Why did He choose bread as that symbol? In my own pondering on the subject over the years I’ve realized a couple of things. First of all, every culture in the world,that I can think of, has some sort of bread as a staple. It may not be made with yeast and wheat but it is bread. The other thing that I’ve thought of that if the bread is prepared properly, it can provide many of the nutrients needed to sustain life.

    Back to your idea about the type of bread used for the sacrament. I read that during World War 2 the German saints used potato peels for the sacrament. There was a shortage of ingredients used for making bread. The saints, being resourceful, used what they had available to them. Was their use of the potato peels appropriate? Yes! It was the thought and intent to provide this sacred ordinance to the members that matter. I do agree that having to gag down some slimy piece of manufactured nothingness is more than I can take. I try not to think about it and focus on the sacrament itself. It would be wonderful if the bread would taste like something I would want to eat but that isn’t always the option.

    What a great idea that those Young Women had to make the bread for the sacrament. I may pass it along to my daughter. She needs an idea for her personal progress.

    I don’t have the time to make homemade bread all the time but I do make it at least once a month. My family savors that bread. It is wonderful to have that ability to do it on a daily basis.

  6. FoxyJ

    January 23, 2012

    I have an inordinate fondness for squishy, chemical-filled mass-produced bread. It makes perfect grilled cheese sandwiches and toast.I buy it right now or I make homemade white bread because I have a child that has trouble when she eats too much fiber. When she is potty trained and I don’t have to deal with it, then we’ll go back to heartier multi-grain bread. My problem is that when I make homemade bread, we can eat a loaf in a day or two, but when we buy it, it can sit on the counter for up to a week. I work and I don’t have time to make bread that often.

    Even though I have a weird love for white bread, I really do love wheat bread, and sourdough, and rye, and really any kind of bread. When I was on my mission I lived in an apartment upstairs from a bakery, and that was just torture. This was in a country where people don’t make their own bread–they stop by the bakery for a fresh loaf each day for lunch.

    I will be honest and admit that I’ve never noticed or thought much about the bread for the sacrament. I think that the idea of having someone make it seems like a good one and it would be meaningful for those who participate in this way.

  7. de Pizan

    January 23, 2012

    As someone with celiac and other food sensitivities, I’m always faced with a dilemma when the bread comes around. It would be better for my body if I just passed it on, but I don’t like missing out on that part of the sacrament. So generally I break off a tiny crumb of the bread as my portion.

  8. Deborah

    January 23, 2012

    “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.”

    Beautiful.

  9. Matt

    January 23, 2012

    @de Pizan,

    We have a few members with Celiac in our ward. One of them brings rice crackers each week and gives them to the priests. The crackers are put on one of the trays and blessed along with the bread. One deacon is assigned to take that specific tray to those who need it before doing his regular route.

    Just a thought–maybe something to talk about with your bishop.

  10. Ana of the Nine Kids

    January 23, 2012

    I bake bread too–really, really good bread. So when my son became a teacher and it was his turn to bring the bread, I wasn’t sure if he should bring one of our loaves of homemade goodness or if we should buy a loaf of “air” (my husband and I hold all varieties of “Wonder” bread in more or less derision.) I was concerned that bringing our bread would be a distraction so for awhile we just brought the same kind of bread everyone else did. But after awhile I quit doing that–partly because it was a pain to try and remember to buy it. I figured everyone could just deal. One Saturday I had been experimenting with putting applesauce and cinnamon in bread and unbeknownst to me, my son grabbed one of those loaves on his turn to bring the bread the next day. It wasn’t until I took my portion of the sacrament and tasted the faint cinnamon taste that I realized what he’d done. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud!

  11. mormonhermitmom

    January 23, 2012

    I love it when someone brings homemade bread for the sacrament. There are so many different flavors and textures and they are all good.

    I remember reading a soldier’s account that during one war (can’t remember which one) he used a soda cracker when it was just him and one or two other soldiers trying to have the sacrament in a hole in the ground. That gets me each time I hear it.

    We had a celiac family in our ward. They had their own tray of gluten free bread blessed along with the others. I’m sure anyone with a special diet can arrange a similar situation with the bishop/priests.

    I bake my own bread except for days when I am especially busy or I know I won’t have time. The kids prefer my bread to store bought, as do I, but the store bought doesn’t go bad as fast. Thankfully the homemade bread goes pretty fast so it doesn’t often go “yeasty” before we eat it.

  12. Charise

    January 23, 2012

    I love to bake bread, in fact, my kids think that store-bought Wonder bread is a special treat. I know, weird and a little disturbing. I would love one or two of these fabulous recipes, as I have just a few recipe standbys that work really well, and would love to add to my repertoire.

  13. kim

    January 23, 2012

    What beautiful sentiments…thank you!

    As the size of our family has shrunk, we don’t consume nearly the amount of bread we did in the past, but I do enjoy baking bread quite often…even if I’m tempted to eat a whole loaf fresh from the oven by myself!

    The idea of homemade bread for the sacrament is an interesting one. What a kind service it would be to make this every week for your ward.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen firsthand how it got ugly once-upon-a-time in our ward. It turned into a competition…who ground their own wheat vs. who didn’t and who made 100% whole wheat vs. part white flour. Nasty stuff and sad.

  14. Sandra

    January 23, 2012

    Amira- I love that you bring naan for the sacrament. I love how that personalizes that for you.
    KDA- I am unfamiliar with that epic- I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.
    Anita- 31 years is amazing. wow.

    And to those who talked about YW in their ward making bread- fantastic. I would love to see the YM do it too. It is a good experience for anyone.

    I am sorry for those with intolerance and celiac’s that make the sacrament tricky- but like D&C 27:2 says- it doesn’t matter what you use- but the spirit- You shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t eat the bread- and ask to have something that works for you.

    Ana- that’s funny.
    Charise- I love lots recipes- I rotate several- but this is the one I make most often: http://www.section89.com/2011/02/buttermilk-bread-giveaway.html
    Kim- That is weird and awful that it got that way. No one should be made to feel bad over such small things. I make all of the above kinds of bread- and like them all. And I would love to make the bread more often- but not every week and not for 31 years (like Anita’s relative).

  15. Lonna

    January 23, 2012

    You touched a spot tender to me. My husband and I love homemade bread, especially freshly ground whole wheat bread. There’s not much better than that in the world. I, too, have donated it for the sacrament and felt humbled also as it was blessed and passed. I also have taught the YW in the ward how to make bread and use it for the sacrament.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts.

  16. Sunni

    January 23, 2012

    Well felt, thought, and written. Sacred experience worth recording.

    I am okay with any bread for the sacrament as long as it is fresh and not freezer burnt.

  17. Catherine A.

    January 24, 2012

    Sandra, this is breathtaking. I loved the thought of breaking the loaf, the untouched, whole and beautiful offering you brought to the table. And that it changed you. I too love the symbol of bread but you brought it into new dimensions for me. Made me want to bake bread, and eat the bread differently. Simply beautiful. Thank you.

  18. Kristine A

    January 24, 2012

    I appreciated the symbolism of this article. It made me think, thank you. I can see how it would make it more meaningful to you.

    I see a little danger in starting to care what is used during the sacrament. I can also see how maybe others could take it to an extreme and ‘look beyond the mark’. I’ve heard of a ward where turns were given and women compared and some thought derisively if store bread were brought and some campaigned to be the only one bringing it. Or thinking only such and such recipe should be used. Bread became a distraction from the Savior. A source of pride and contention. Sad huh.

  19. Jennifer B.

    January 24, 2012

    Beautiful thoughts and writing. Thank you!

  20. JG

    January 24, 2012

    Once when we lived overseas (Germany) and were going to a Serviceman’s branch, the sacrament bread was forgotten. The branch was a long way away from the base where we lived and although someone went to get the bread, they took so long to get back to the branch (we sang many sacrament hymns while we waited!) that one of the YW leaders suggested we use the chocolate chip cookies she brought for her class. The cookies were blessed, broken and passed. I can remember how happy we all were to have the sacrament, and how, after that, at least for a little while, bread seemed pretty plain!

  21. Mara @ {A Blog About Love} - from Brooklyn

    January 31, 2012

    I loved this post. So beautifully written. I am gluten free. There are a few GF people in the ward, and so the Young Men put a few pieces of GF bread on a tray, separated from the rest. Sometimes the assigned deacon gets confused & doesn’t find me in the crowd and I go breadless. So I can say fully…that the bread doesn’t matter (unless you let it). The broken bread is a beautiful symbol, yes. But the real meaning is not in the bread itself or in the ingredients or color of the bread or the time it took to prepare the bread…the real meaning is in what Christ wants to remind us to do….it all takes place in our hearts, not our mouths. 🙂

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