The administration of the sacrament is so standardized now that it is easy to forget that we used to do it quite differently. At various times it was standard to pass the water in large goblets, each one taking a sip from the common cup (or taking a deep thirst-quenching quaff, which drew condemnation from the pulpit); or to bless both bread and water at once and to pass them together; to pass the sacrament while speakers were preaching or while music was playing; to pass the sacrament in Sunday School as well as Sacrament Meeting, preceded by a “Sacrament Gem” recited in unison; and other practices that would be unfamiliar today.
In 1923, Bishop Joseph H. Lake of the Salt Lake 16th Ward wrote out his ward’s standard procedure, for the advice of his brother bishops. As familiar as the procedure seems in most aspects, there are still a few small surprises here:
1. We have one faithful sister to provide the bread for every sacrament service. She never fails in her duty; she is clean, makes the bread with her own hands, and bakes it in her own oven, so that we know that the sacred emblem which it later becomes is pure in every respect.
2. The bread is put upon the sacrament table in slices, no crusts, and is ready for breaking by those officiating, before the meeting commences.
3. The water is prepared for use by the janitor of the house immediately before meeting time, so that it will be as cold as possible when used. In order to save time he has been instructed to have it in all readiness, except for the blessing upon it. It is placed upon the table in the individual glasses with a good supply in larger cups, in case of an extra large attendance.
4. The bread is broken during the opening exercises of the meeting, and is put upon eight trays ready for passing.
5. The water in the individual glasses is carried in trays, in our ward eight in number, 36 glasses to a tray.
6. Eight individuals thus pass the sacrament, but we have two others who pass empty trays to gather the glasses so as to save time.
7. The trays and glasses are sterilized after each meeting, or immediately before the one following.
8. The table used for holding the trays is a long one. It is placed just in front of the stand or pulpit where it and those officiating may be seen by everybody. A clean, white cloth is used to cover it before the service; it is removed by those officiating.
9. A place to wash hands, with towel and soap, has been provided for those who officiate and administer the sacrament.
10. The Priests only officiate in the administration of the sacrament, unless, of course, the required number (3) are not present. They have been assigned the work, and have assumed the responsibility with a great deal of satisfaction, not only to us, but to themselves. We have about 12 active priests in the ward and nearly all have had the privilege more than once to do this service. They are all young men between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one.
11. Only deacons aid the Priests in the administration of the sacrament. Like the Priests, they have done remarkably well. Ten are required for each service, and very rarely have we had occasion to call upon teachers or priests.
12. Three chairs are provided for the officiating priests in front of the sacrament table. They take their places before meeting begins. During the second song all three arise at once. The center one who presides, directs his assistants to break a certain number of trays of bread. This is completed by the close of the song and the three priests sit down together. At the proper time the center priest directs either the one on the right or the left to bless the bread; the other one is instructed at the proper time to bless the water. A card with the words printed on its sides is provided in case the wording is not known. Of course, the priests are encouraged to learn by heart the blessings. Again the three priests arise and each passes a number of trays to the deacons, who assist them in serving, first, of course, the bread and then the water. After the congregation has been served two of the priests serve the deacons, then the presiding priest serves his two assistants, then himself.
13. The deacons occupy the first bench. It is reserved for them. They are convenient to the sacrament table and also to the bishopric. The deacons all arise at the same time. Each has a definite section of the house to pass to. They wait in the aisle until all have completed the serving, then in line and in step they march to their places where the trays are taken by the priests and put in order upon the table and where they are served with the sacrament; then they all sit down together. The order and method of the whole process is striking, because it causes less confusion and more reverence than if it were done in a more informal way. There is a certain precision about the matter which we believe is desirable.
(“Method of Administering the Sacrament,” The Improvement Era, August 1923, 938-939)