“7. Melchizedek Priesthood,” Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2019)
“7. Melchizedek Priesthood,” Handbook 2
The priesthood is the power and authority of God. It is conferred upon worthy male members of the Church. Those who hold priesthood keys direct the administration of the ordinances of the gospel, the preaching of the gospel, and the government of the kingdom of God on the earth.
The Melchizedek Priesthood holds “the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:18).
For more information about the purposes of the priesthood and priesthood keys, see chapter 2.
The offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood are elder, high priest, patriarch, Seventy, and Apostle. Each priesthood office has rights and responsibilities of service, including authority to administer priesthood ordinances. This chapter contains information for leaders of elders and high priests. For information about ordination to the offices of elder and high priest, see 20.7.
Worthy brethren may receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained elders when they are at least 18 years old. The rights and responsibilities of elders are revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 20:38–45; 42:44; 46:2; and 107:11–12. Elders also hold the authority of deacons, teachers, and priests.
Brethren are ordained high priests when they are called to a stake presidency, high council, or bishopric or when otherwise determined by the stake president. The rights and responsibilities of high priests are to preside and to hold all the authority of elders (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:10).
Brethren in districts are not ordained to the office of high priest.
A priesthood quorum is an organized group of brethren. The primary purposes of quorums are to serve others, build unity and brotherhood, and instruct members in doctrines, principles, and duties.
Apostles and Seventies are organized into quorums at the general Church level.
Each stake has one high priests quorum. The stake presidency is the presidency of that quorum. Members of that quorum are the high priests who currently serve in the following callings: the stake president and his counselors, bishops in the stake and their counselors, high councilors, and functioning patriarchs. Clerks, executive secretaries, and branch presidencies are not members of the high priests quorum.
On Sundays, members of the high priests quorum meet with the elders quorum if they are not assigned elsewhere.
Each ward has one or more elders quorums. The elders quorum includes all elders and prospective elders in the ward. It also includes high priests who are not currently serving in the following callings: the stake president and his counselors, the bishop and his counselors, high councilors, and functioning patriarchs. Members of the elders quorum—whether elders, seventies, or high priests—retain their current priesthood office.
Members of temple, mission, and missionary training center presidencies are members of their ward elders quorum.
If a ward has an unusually large number of active Melchizedek Priesthood holders, the stake presidency may organize an additional elders quorum (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:89). In such instances, each quorum should have a balance in age, experience, and priesthood office and strength.
Elders are ordained high priests when they are called to serve as a stake president or one of his counselors, as a bishop or one of his counselors (for an exception, see “Leadership” in Handbook 1, 9.1.6), on the high council, or at other times as recommended by the bishop and approved by the stake president.
The stake president is the presiding high priest in the stake. He and his counselors comprise the stake high priests quorum presidency.
The stake president oversees the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordinations to the offices of elder and high priest (see Handbook 1, 16.7.1).
The stake president calls an elder or a high priest in each ward to be the elders quorum president. Before calling a new elders quorum president, the stake president consults with the bishop of the ward. The bishop may recommend whom to call.
The stake president, an assigned counselor, or an assigned high councilor calls counselors in the elders quorum presidency. The elders quorum president, in consultation with the bishop, may recommend counselors. He may recommend either high priests or elders as counselors.
All recommendations for calling members of elders quorum presidencies require the approval of the stake presidency and high council.
After a new elders quorum president or a counselor in an elders quorum presidency is called, a member of the stake presidency or an assigned high councilor presents him in sacrament meeting for a sustaining vote of ward members. Those who serve in other elders quorum callings, including secretary, are called by a member of the quorum presidency, with the bishop’s prior approval (see 7.3.3–5). A member of the quorum presidency presents them in a quorum meeting for a sustaining vote.
The stake president sets apart a new elders quorum president and confers the keys of his calling. A member of the stake presidency or high council sets apart counselors to the elders quorum president.
For information about elders quorum callings in branches in missions, see the Chart of Callings in chapter 19.
Under the direction of the stake presidency, high councilors help oversee the work of the Church in the stake. Their responsibilities relating to elders quorums are described in 15.3.1.
This chapter focuses on administering the elders quorum in a way that strengthens individuals and families. Melchizedek Priesthood leaders should frequently review chapter 3, which outlines general principles of leadership. These principles include preparing spiritually, participating in councils, ministering to others, and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The bishop is the presiding high priest in the ward. He and his counselors work closely with the elders quorum president in watching over quorum members and their families, building strength in the quorum, and ensuring that the work of the priesthood is accomplished.
The elders quorum president is directly responsible to the stake presidency. However, the bishop, as the presiding high priest in the ward, also meets regularly with the elders quorum president. The bishop counsels with him and gives direction about how to serve and bless ward members, working in harmony with all ward organizations. The bishop asks him to report on his responsibilities, including the efforts of ministering brothers.
The elders quorum presidency presides over, sits in council with, and teaches quorum members (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:89). They direct the efforts of the quorum to advance the work of salvation in the ward (see chapter 5). The bishop may assign them to lead member missionary work and temple and family history work in the ward (see 5.1.1; 5.4.1). The bishop may also assign the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies to lead activation and convert retention efforts in the ward (see 5.2.2; 5.3.1). They receive instruction from the stake presidency, assigned members of the high council, and the bishop.
The elders quorum president has the following responsibilities:
He serves as a ward officer and member of the ward council. As a member of this council, he participates in efforts to build faith and strengthen individuals and families (see chapter 4).
He teaches quorum members their duties, using this handbook as a resource.
In consultation with the bishop, he submits recommendations for brethren to be called to serve as counselors in the elders quorum presidency. He also submits recommendations to the bishop for brethren to be called to serve as secretaries, as teachers, and in other elders quorum callings. In making these recommendations, he follows the guidelines in 19.1.1 and 19.1.2.
He oversees the records, reports, budget, and finances of the quorum. The quorum secretary helps with this responsibility.
The elders quorum presidency has the following responsibilities. The elders quorum president assigns his counselors to oversee some of these responsibilities. No more than two counselors may be called.
They encourage quorum members to fulfill their priesthood duties, especially their duties as husbands and fathers. Quorum leaders fulfill this responsibility during quorum meetings and during interviews and visits with quorum members.
They coordinate ministering with the Relief Society presidency, organize and oversee the work of ministering brothers, and hold ministering interviews.
The bishop may assign them to lead member missionary work and temple and family history work in the ward (see 5.1.1 and 5.4.1). Generally, the elders quorum president delegates these assignments to his counselors. When assigned these responsibilities, the member of the elders quorum presidency who leads member missionary work acts in the role of ward mission leader or supervises a ward mission leader. Similarly, another member of the presidency acts as the ward temple and family history leader or supervises a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who is called to that responsibility. These brethren may be invited to attend ward council meetings as needed.
They hold elders quorum presidency meetings.
They visit or interview quorum members at least once a year. They discuss priesthood duties and the well-being of the priesthood holder and his family. This visit or interview should not be combined with a ministering interview in which a companion is present.
They may organize quorum members to carry out the work of the quorum and to fulfill assignments given in ward council meeting (see 7.3.5).
They help prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood (see 7.6).
With approval from the bishop, they may occasionally plan activities. These activities should comply with the guidelines in chapter 13 and should be coordinated with the ward council.
As assigned by the bishop, they work with parents and Aaronic Priesthood quorum advisers to help 17- and 18-year-old young men prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and progress from the priests quorum to the elders quorum.
The elders quorum president assigns one of his counselors to coordinate the quorum’s efforts with the young single adult men in the ward. If the ward has a young single adult committee, this counselor serves on the committee. (See 16.3.3 and 16.3.4.)
With the bishop’s approval, the elders quorum president or one of his counselors calls and sets apart an elder or a high priest to serve as elders quorum secretary. The quorum secretary has the following responsibilities:
He consults with quorum leaders to prepare agendas for presidency meetings. He attends these meetings, takes notes, and keeps track of assignments.
He may schedule ministering interviews for the elders quorum president and his counselors.
Each quarter, he compiles a report of quorum meeting attendance and ministering interviews held. He reviews this report with the elders quorum president and submits it to the ward clerk.
If the quorum plans activities that will involve expenses, the secretary helps leaders prepare an annual budget and account for expenses.
With the bishop’s approval, the elders quorum president or one of his counselors may call and set apart one or more elders or high priests to serve as elders quorum teachers.
Quorum leaders assign them to teach doctrine and lead discussions during priesthood meeting. Leaders also encourage them to attend teacher council meetings (see 5.5.7). Teachers follow the principles outlined in 5.5.4.
The callings in this section are optional. The bishop and elders quorum president may decide that these positions are not needed, or they may feel that additional callings are needed. The elders quorum presidency recommends brethren to serve in these callings. With the bishop’s approval, the elders quorum president or one of his counselors extends these callings.
The elders quorum presidency may call one or more assistant secretaries to help with secretary responsibilities (see 7.3.3). Prospective elders may serve as assistant secretaries.
If the presidency needs additional help organizing ministering interviews and preparing the quarterly report (see 7.4), they may counsel with the bishop about calling one or more ministering secretaries. Ministering secretaries do not conduct ministering interviews. Prospective elders may serve as ministering secretaries.
As needed, the elders quorum presidency may call a quorum member to coordinate service. Assistants may also be called.
As needed, the elders quorum presidency may call a quorum member to coordinate activities that are not held on Sunday. Assistants may also be called.
As needed, the elders quorum presidency may call or assign quorum members to help accomplish the work of salvation. For example, they may counsel with the bishop about calling members to assist with strengthening young single adults, doing temple and family history work, and sharing the gospel. Brethren with short-term assignments do not need to be called and set apart. Brethren who lead or serve in long-term assignments are called and set apart by a member of the elders quorum presidency.
The Savior showed by example what it means to minister as He served out of love for His Father and for His Father’s children (see John 15:9–10). He loved, taught, prayed for, comforted, and blessed those around Him, inviting all to follow Him (see Mark 8:34). Ministering brothers prayerfully seek to serve as He would. To provide such care, each member household has priesthood brethren assigned as ministering brothers to watch over the family or individuals who live there (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:47, 59).
Elders quorum presidencies instruct ministering brothers in how to care for and strengthen families and individuals. Presidency members can give this instruction in ministering interviews or in Sunday meetings.
Serving as a ministering brother is a priesthood responsibility of teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders. Accordingly, ministering brothers are assigned by priesthood leaders. They are not called, sustained, or set apart.
Because stake presidencies and bishoprics are responsible for all members of the stake or ward, these brethren are not generally assigned as ministering brothers to specific individuals or families. High councilors and functioning patriarchs may be assigned, based on local circumstances, as determined by the stake president. If they are assigned, a member of the elders quorum presidency makes the assignment.
Members of the stake high priests quorum, their wives, and their families have ministering brothers and sisters assigned to them by their elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies, under the direction of the bishop.
Ministering brothers represent the Lord, the bishop, and quorum leaders. They “visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:51). They are assigned to families and individuals to “watch over … and be with and strengthen them” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:53). They “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:59).
Ministering brothers seek to be led by the Spirit as they provide Christlike caring. They counsel with those they are assigned and seek inspiration about how best to meet their needs, using the time and resources available.
Ministering brothers are flexible in how they minister. They customize their contacts, service, and any messages to meet the needs of members. Personal visits are important when they can be made. Ministering brothers may also reach out through phone calls, texts, emails, letters, contacts at church, attendance at family events, and service.
Meeting individual needs starts with prayerful consideration and with a conversation with the assigned individuals and families. Ministering brothers listen so they can understand how best to serve. They discuss the frequency and type of contact members desire. They also discuss the kind of messages members would like.
Ministering brothers can be an important source of help to members. Some ways are listed below:
They help members strengthen their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
They help members prepare for their next ordinance. They may help parents ensure that their children are blessed, baptized, and confirmed. They may also help parents ensure that their sons have the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon them and are ordained to priesthood offices at the appropriate ages.
They become acquainted with members’ interests and needs, and they recognize special events in their lives.
They offer help when members are unemployed, ill, lonely, moving, or have other needs.
They help members become self-reliant.
Ministering is a coordinated effort between the elders quorum and the Relief Society. Working under the direction of the bishop, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies prayerfully coordinate ministering as follows:
The elders quorum presidency recommends to the bishop ministering companionships and ministering assignments for the individuals and families of the ward. The Relief Society presidency recommends ministering companionships and ministering assignments for Relief Society sisters. Elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies discuss specific assignments before recommending them to the bishop.
As appropriate, the ministering brothers and sisters of an individual or family may discuss together their efforts to meet needs. When necessary, they may contact their quorum or Relief Society presidencies for additional help and resources.
Members of the elders quorum presidency hold interviews with ministering brothers at least quarterly (see 7.4.4).
Elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies meet together at least quarterly to discuss the strengths and needs of individuals and families learned through ministering interviews. Elders quorum and Relief Society presidents share in the responsibility of organizing and conducting the meeting. As needed, the presidencies work together to coordinate ministering assignments.
Following that meeting, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents meet together quarterly with the bishop to address the needs of individuals and families. They may also discuss changes in ministering assignments and obtain the bishop’s approval for their recommendations.
As needed, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents discuss with the ward council the strengths and needs identified in ministering interviews. Members of the ward council make plans to serve and bless ward members.
The elders quorum presidency prayerfully recommends to the bishop assignments for ministering brothers to care for individuals and families in the ward. Presidency members discuss the strengths and needs of individuals and families. They recommend dedicated ministering brothers for new members, less-active members who may be receptive, and others such as single parents, widows, and widowers.
After the bishop has given approval, a member of the elders quorum presidency meets with ministering brothers to give them their assignments and to counsel about the strengths, needs, and challenges of those to whom the brothers minister. This conversation may take place in a ministering interview or whenever needed.
The elders quorum presidency normally assigns brothers into companionships of two. A married couple may be assigned to minister together if that would most effectively meet the needs of a particular individual or family.
Teachers and priests serve as companions to Melchizedek Priesthood holders. After consulting with parents and leaders, a member of the elders quorum presidency extends ministering assignments to teachers and priests.
The guideline that two responsible adults be present with youth does not apply to the assignment of ministering companions. However, under the direction of their bishop, leaders should use wisdom and seek inspiration when assigning youth as companions to adults.
Adult companions should avoid situations that might be misunderstood. They should use care regarding isolated one-on-one situations so that youth have a safe and rewarding experience with ministering. Additionally, leaders should use wisdom in not assigning youth to difficult home or family situations.
When youth are assigned to a companion who is not a parent, leaders should confirm that parents do not object to the assignment.
Elders quorum leaders in young single adult wards recommend to the bishop ministering brothers for each member in the ward. Single members who live together as roommates may have the same ministering brothers. However, ministering brothers should focus on serving the individuals and should report on each person separately.
With approval from the mission president, leaders may consider asking full-time missionaries to help with ministering on a limited basis. The mission president communicates this approval to the stake president, who informs bishops. When such approval is given, full-time missionaries are assigned primarily to visit new members, part-member families, and less-active members.
Members of the elders quorum presidency hold interviews with companionships of ministering brothers (including teachers and priests, as circumstances are appropriate) at least once each quarter. Interviews may be held throughout the quarter and need not be long to be effective.
Preferably, these interviews are held in person and with both members of the companionship. A married couple assigned to minister together can meet with elders quorum leaders, Relief Society leaders, or both.
Ministering interviews are held to:
Counsel about the strengths, needs, and challenges of assigned families and individuals.
Determine what needs the elders quorum, Relief Society, ward council, and others might assist with.
Teach and encourage ministering brothers.
Between interviews, ministering brothers communicate information as needed—in person or through phone calls, texts, or emails. They share confidential information only with the elders quorum president or directly with the bishop.
Each quarter, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidents meet together with the bishop to address the needs of individuals and families. As needed, they also coordinate ministering assignments. The elders quorum or Relief Society president reports urgent needs to the bishop immediately.
Welfare is central to the work of the elders quorum.
Under the bishop’s direction, the elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies share the following welfare responsibilities:
They teach principles of temporal and spiritual self-reliance.
They care for the poor and needy and encourage members to give service.
They help individuals and families become self-reliant and find solutions to short-term and long-term welfare concerns.
For more information on these welfare responsibilities, see chapter 6.
A prospective elder is a male Church member age 19 or older who does not hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. Married brethren who are younger than 19 and do not hold the Melchizedek Priesthood are also prospective elders.
The elders quorum presidency helps prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
These leaders assign dedicated ministering brothers to prospective elders. If prospective elders have been ordained to the office of teacher or priest, leaders may assign them to serve as ministering brothers.
Elders quorum leaders invite prospective elders to attend quorum meetings and activities.
Helping prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood should be among leaders’ highest priorities because it strengthens families and prepares couples for temple marriage. Prospective elders should be ordained as soon as they are reasonably prepared, without unnecessary waiting periods.
The elders quorum president ensures that prospective elders are taught the following principles in preparation to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood:
The restoration of the priesthood and priesthood keys through the Prophet Joseph Smith
The oath and covenant of the priesthood (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–44)
The responsibilities of husbands and fathers
The duties of an elder and the purposes of priesthood quorums
The purposes of priesthood ordinances and blessings and how to perform those ordinances and blessings (see chapter 20 and the Family Guidebook)
Leaders may teach these principles one-on-one, or they may organize a class held outside of regular Sunday meetings for prospective elders in the ward, in multiple wards, or in the stake. They may assign ministering brothers to help provide this instruction. They may also offer the instruction as part of a temple preparation seminar (see 5.4.5). As needed, the stake president may assign a member of the high council to help elders quorum leaders with this responsibility.
Resources to help prospective elders prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood may include the following:
The Family Guidebook
Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lessons 1–4 and 9
Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part B, lessons 1–6.
The bishop counsels with the elders quorum presidency and with the ward council to identify prospective elders who should have the highest priority for receiving this preparation. Eighteen-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holders who have not otherwise been prepared may be included.
In helping a prospective elder prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, the bishop follows the instructions in Handbook 1, 16.7.1.
The elders quorum president serves as a member of the ward council (see chapter 4).
The elders quorum presidency holds a presidency meeting regularly. The quorum president presides at the meeting and conducts it. The quorum secretary attends, takes notes, and keeps track of assignments. A high councilor assigned to the ward may attend periodically.
The agenda may include the following items:
Plan ways to strengthen quorum members and their families, including prospective elders.
Read and discuss scripture passages and instructions from Church leaders that relate to the responsibilities of priesthood leaders.
Discuss the temporal and spiritual needs of individuals and families and plan ways to help meet those needs.
Review information from ministering interviews about efforts to watch over and minister to individuals and families in the ward. Discuss ministering assignments and efforts and adjust them as needed. Plan how to improve.
Discuss efforts related to missionary work and temple and family history work in the ward. Plan ways to accomplish this work.
Plan quorum meetings and discuss ways to improve them.
Review attendance records and discuss ways to encourage participation in quorum meetings.
Review counsel and assignments from the bishop, the ward council, and the stake presidency. Plan ways to follow the counsel and fulfill the assignments.
Plan ways to build quorum unity, including service and other quorum activities.
The stake presidency convenes a stake priesthood leadership meeting in connection with each stake conference (see 18.3.1, item 2). The presidency also convenes one other stake priesthood leadership meeting during the year, for a total of three such meetings annually. Elders quorum presidencies and secretaries attend.
Elders quorum meetings are held on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. They last 50 minutes. The purposes of these meetings are to conduct business, learn priesthood duties, strengthen individuals and families, study the gospel of Jesus Christ, counsel together, and organize to meet local needs. Leaders prayerfully plan the meetings to accomplish these purposes.
Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders do not meet together for opening exercises but gather in their respective quorum meetings.
The elders quorum president presides over the meeting unless a person who presides over him is present. A member of the quorum presidency conducts.
Quorum meetings begin with a brief welcome, a reminder of the Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families home study materials for that day and the following week, and any quorum business. The remainder of the meeting is used for gospel instruction and discussion.
Lessons in quorum meetings focus on messages from the most recent general conference. Teaching suggestions are found in the May and November issues of the Ensign and Liahona, on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, and in the Gospel Library app.
First-Sunday council meetings are discontinued. However, as needed, elders quorums may use part of a Sunday meeting to counsel about a specific topic.
Members of the stake high priests quorum meet with the elders quorum if they are not assigned elsewhere. In addition, the bishop may invite an 18-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holder to meet with the elders quorum.
Elders quorum meetings do not begin with a hymn or prayer, but they conclude with a prayer. Hymns may be used to enhance a lesson as appropriate.
The stake presidency convenes a high priests quorum meeting for all high priests in the quorum at least once a year. During this meeting they teach quorum members the doctrine of the gospel (see Alma 13:1–6), instruct them in their duties, and conduct quorum business. An annual meeting of all ordained high priests in the stake is no longer held.
The following publications provide instructions on performing ordinances and blessings:
Chapter 20 in this handbook
Family Guidebook, pages 18–25
Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part B, pages 42–47
Using these publications, priesthood leaders teach brethren how to perform ordinances and blessings. Leaders ensure that each priesthood holder has the Family Guidebook or Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part B, so he can have his own copy of these instructions.
Leaders should not produce or use other publications that give instructions for ordinances, blessings, or prayers unless the First Presidency has authorized such publications.
Brethren who may have special needs include those who are ill, elderly, widowed, divorced, homebound, or bereaved and those who care for chronically ill family members. Members of the elders quorum should offer help.
Brethren who have these and other special challenges may come to their elders quorum president with their concerns. He should listen, offer love and encouragement, and maintain confidentiality. If he learns of possible concerns with worthiness or sensitive family matters, he refers the person to the bishop.
When a death occurs in the ward, the bishop may ask the elders quorum president to contact the family to give comfort, assess needs, and offer assistance. He may request similar assistance from the Relief Society president. Elders quorum and Relief Society leaders coordinate these efforts.
The bishop may also ask elders quorum leaders to help make preparations for the funeral service. For additional information about funerals, see 18.6.
If possible, deceased members who were endowed should be buried in temple clothing. In some circumstances, the bishop may ask the elders quorum president to assign an endowed man to dress or oversee the proper dressing of a deceased endowed man. These leaders ensure that the assignment is given to a person who will not find it objectionable. For additional instructions on dressing deceased members in temple clothing, the bishop may refer to Handbook 1, 3.5.9.
The elders quorum president, ministering brothers, and other brethren continue to offer support, comfort, and assistance to the bereaved during the period of adjustment following the death.