|A portrait of Esarhaddon on a stele.|
You can never tell what neat little things you’ll find lying around in ancient archives. For example, the archives of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (who reigned from 681–669 BC) contains a text (Simo Parpola calls it a “Meal of Covenant”) that reads as follows.
The word of Ištar of Arbela to Esarhaddon, king of Assyria: Come, gods, my fathers and brothers, [enter] the cove[nant . . .] (Break) [She placed] a slice . . . on the [ter]race and gave them water from a cooler to drink. She filled a flagon of one seah with water from the cooler and gave it to them with the words: “In your hearts say, ‘Ištar is slight,’ and you will go to your cities and districts, eat (your) bread and forget this covenant. (But when) you drink from this water, you will remember me and keep this covenant which I have made on behalf of Esarhaddon.”
(Simo Parpola, ed., State Archives of Assyria, Volume IX, Assyrian Prophecies [Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1997], 25.)
Compare this with the liturgical prayers of Moroni 4–5.
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
The idea of participating in a ritual meal to remember covenants with a deity is thus not unique to the Nephites of AD 420 or the Latter-day Saints of AD 2014. Also, while it was Jesus that instituted the sacrament amongst the Nephites (cf. 3 Nephi 18), this idea of a ritual meal goes back much earlier.