Military Members
Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings
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“Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings,” Principles of the Gospel (2014)

“Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings,” Principles of the Gospel

Priesthood Ordinances and Blessings

An ordinance is a sacred act, such as baptism, that is performed by the authority of the priesthood. The ordinances of baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek Priesthood ordination (for men), the temple endowment, and temple sealing are required for exaltation for all accountable persons. These are called the saving ordinances. As part of each saving ordinance, the recipient makes covenants with God.

Priesthood blessings are important for the blessing, comfort, and encouragement of God’s children.

Brethren who perform ordinances and blessings should prepare themselves by living worthily and striving to be guided by the Holy Spirit. They should perform each ordinance or blessing in a dignified manner, making sure it meets the following requirements:

  1. It should be performed in the name of Jesus Christ.

  2. It should be performed by the authority of the priesthood.

  3. It should be performed with any necessary procedures, such as using specified words or using consecrated oil.

  4. If necessary according to the instructions in this section, it should be authorized by the presiding authority who holds the proper keys (normally the bishop or branch president or the stake or mission president).

To perform or participate in an ordinance or blessing, brethren must have the necessary priesthood authority and be worthy. Those who participate are usually limited to a few, including priesthood leaders, close family members, and close associates such as home teachers. Priesthood holders are cautioned against inviting large groups of brethren to participate in an ordinance or blessing.

When several brethren participate in an ordinance or blessing, each one places his right hand lightly on the person’s head (or under the baby being blessed) and his left hand on the shoulder of the brother to his left.

Leaders encourage worthy brethren who hold the necessary priesthood to perform or participate in ordinances and blessings for their family members.

Family members are often invited to attend when a person receives an ordinance or blessing.

Priesthood leaders teach brethren how to perform ordinances and blessings according to the guidelines in this book. They should also refer to the current Church handbook, which includes additional instructions about their administrative duties regarding ordinances and blessings. The handbook is printed for the use of Church leaders, and it is also available on LDS.org. Leaders should not produce or use other publications that give instructions for ordinances, blessings, or prayers unless the First Presidency has authorized such publications.

Naming and Blessing Children

“Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name” (D&C 20:70). In conformity with this revelation, only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate in naming and blessing children. This blessing requires authorization of the presiding authority, normally the bishop or branch president.

Children are normally named and blessed during fast and testimony meeting in the ward or branch where the parents are members of record.

When blessing a baby, Melchizedek Priesthood holders gather in a circle and place their hands under the baby. When blessing an older child, brethren place their hands lightly on the child’s head. The person who gives the blessing:

  1. Addresses Heavenly Father.

  2. States that the blessing is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Gives the child a name.

  4. Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.

  5. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Baptism

With the authorization of the presiding authority, a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder may perform the ordinance of baptism. In a ward or branch, the presiding authority is the bishop or branch president. In a military service member group outside the boundaries of a stake or mission, the Area President may authorize the group leader or a Latter-day Saint chaplain to interview baptismal candidates and oversee baptisms.

Although it is appropriate for both the candidate and the priesthood bearer performing the baptism to wear white, this is not necessary when circumstances prohibit white clothing.

Two priests or Melchizedek Priesthood holders witness each baptism to make sure it is performed properly. The baptism must be repeated if the words are not spoken exactly as given in Doctrine and Covenants 20:73 or if part of a person’s body or clothing is not immersed completely.

To perform a baptism, a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder:

  1. Stands in the water with the person to be baptized.

  2. Holds the person’s right wrist with his left hand (for convenience and safety); the person being baptized holds the priesthood holder’s left wrist with his or her left hand.

  3. Raises his right arm to the square.

  4. States the person’s full name and says, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” (D&C 20:73).

  5. Has the person hold his or her nose with the right hand (for convenience); then the priesthood holder places his right hand high on the person’s back and immerses the person completely, including the person’s clothing.

  6. Helps the person come up out of the water.

Confirmation

A person receives the ordinance of confirmation after he or she has been baptized (see D&C 20:41). Eight-year-old children whose parents are members of the Church may be confirmed at the baptismal service. All others are confirmed in a sacrament meeting, preferably on the Sunday following their baptism.

With the authorization of the presiding authority, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate in a confirmation. In a ward or branch, the presiding authority is the bishop or branch president. In a military service member group outside the boundaries of a stake or mission, the Area President may authorize the group leader or a Latter-day Saint chaplain to oversee confirmations.

Priesthood holders participating in the ordinance of confirmation place their hands lightly on the person’s head. Then the person who performs the ordinance:

  1. States the person’s full name.

  2. States that the ordinance is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Confirms the person a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  4. Uses the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” (not “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”).

  5. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.

  6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Sacrament

General Guidelines

Church members meet on the Sabbath to worship God and partake of the sacrament (see D&C 20:75; 59:9). During this holy ordinance, they partake of bread and water in remembrance of the Savior’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood and to renew their covenants (see Matthew 26:26–28; Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 14:20–25; Luke 22:15–20; 3 Nephi 18; Moroni 6:6).

The sacrament is administered under the direction of the bishopric or branch presidency. In a service member group, the sacrament is administered under the direction of the group leader. Aaronic Priesthood holders usually perform these duties. However, Melchizedek Priesthood holders may bless and pass the sacrament when there are not enough Aaronic Priesthood brethren.

Priesthood holders who participate in this ordinance should understand that they are acting on behalf of the Lord. They should ponder the Savior’s Atonement as they prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament, and they should have a reverent, dignified manner as they participate. Their personal appearance and attitude should reflect the sacred nature of the ordinance. They should wash their hands thoroughly with soap, a disposable towelette, or another cleanser before preparing, blessing, or passing the sacrament.

The passing of the sacrament should be natural and unobtrusive, not rigid or overly formal. Those who pass the sacrament should not be required to assume any special posture or action, such as holding the left hand behind the back. The process of passing the sacrament should not call attention to itself or detract from the purpose of the ordinance.

A priesthood holder who has committed a serious transgression should not prepare, bless, or pass the sacrament until he has repented and resolved the matter with his bishop or branch president.

Although the sacrament is for Church members, the presiding authority should not announce that it will be passed to members only, and nothing should be done to prevent nonmembers from partaking of it.

Preparing the Sacrament

Teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may prepare the sacrament. Before the meeting, those who prepare the sacrament ensure that bread trays with unbroken bread, water trays with cups filled with fresh water, and tablecloths are in place. After the meeting, these brethren clear away the trays and tablecloths.

Blessing and Passing the Sacrament

Priests and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may bless the sacrament. Deacons, teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may pass the sacrament.

During the sacrament hymn, the priesthood holders who will bless the sacrament reverently stand, remove the cloth that covers the bread trays, and break the bread into bite-sized pieces. When they finish breaking the bread, they sit down and join in singing the hymn.

Following the hymn, the person who blesses the bread kneels and offers the sacrament prayer for the bread. If the person who blesses the sacrament makes an error in the wording but corrects it himself, no further correction is required. If the person does not correct an error, the presiding authority indicates that he should repeat the prayer correctly. In doing so, the presiding authority should be careful to avoid causing embarrassment or distracting from the sacred nature of the ordinance. The prayer on the bread must be given as follows:

“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 has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen” (D&C 20:77).

After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the bread to the congregation and to each other in a reverent and orderly manner. The presiding officer at the sacrament meeting receives the sacrament first.

After a priesthood holder hands a sacrament tray to a member, others may pass the tray from one to another for convenience.

When the brethren finish passing the bread, they return the trays to the sacrament table. Those officiating at the sacrament table replace the cloth over the bread trays and uncover the water trays. The person who blesses the water then kneels and offers the sacrament prayer for the water:

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this [water] 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” (D&C 20:79).

After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the water to the congregation and to each other, again beginning with the presiding officer. When they finish, they return the trays to the sacrament table, wait for the officiators to cover the trays, and then reverently take their seats.

Consecrating Oil

One or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders must consecrate olive oil before it is used to anoint the sick or afflicted. They do not need the authorization of a presiding authority in order to do so. No oil other than olive oil may be used. To consecrate oil, a priesthood holder:

  1. Holds an open container of olive oil.

  2. Addresses Heavenly Father.

  3. States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  4. Consecrates the oil (not the container) and sets it apart for anointing and blessing the sick and afflicted.

  5. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Members should not take consecrated oil internally or apply it on afflicted parts of the body.

Administering to the Sick

Only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may administer to the sick or afflicted. They do not need the authorization of a presiding authority in order to do so. Normally two or more brethren administer to the sick, but one may perform both the anointing and the sealing alone if necessary. If consecrated oil is not available, a blessing may nevertheless be given by the authority of the priesthood without the anointing.

A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood normally should administer to sick members of his family.

Brethren should administer to the sick at the request of the sick person or of those who are vitally concerned so the blessing will be according to their faith (see D&C 24:13–14; 42:43–44, 48–52). Melchizedek Priesthood holders who visit hospitals should not solicit opportunities to administer to the sick.

If a person requests more than one blessing for the same illness, the priesthood holder need not anoint with oil after the first blessing. Instead, he gives a blessing by the laying on of hands and the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Administering to the sick has two parts: anointing with oil and sealing the anointing.

Anointing with Oil

The anointing is done by one Melchizedek Priesthood holder. He:

  1. Puts a drop of consecrated oil on the person’s head.

  2. Places his hands lightly on the person’s head and calls the person by his or her full name.

  3. States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  4. States that he is anointing with oil that has been consecrated for anointing and blessing the sick and afflicted.

  5. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Sealing the Anointing

Normally, two or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands lightly on the head of the person. The one who seals the anointing:

  1. Calls the person by his or her full name.

  2. States that he is sealing the anointing by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.

  4. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Conferring the Priesthood and Ordaining to a Priesthood Office

The stake or mission president oversees the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordinations to the offices of elder and high priest. The bishop or branch president oversees the conferral of the Aaronic Priesthood and ordinations to the offices of deacon, teacher, and priest. In a military service member group outside of stake or mission boundaries, the Area President may authorize the group leader or a Latter-day Saint chaplain to interview brethren and oversee the conferral of the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood and ordinations to the offices of deacon, teacher, priest, and elder.

To ordain an elder, only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may stand in the circle. In the ordination of a high priest, only high priests may stand in the circle. To ordain a deacon, teacher, or priest, only Melchizedek Priesthood holders and priests may stand in the circle.

To perform a priesthood ordination, one or more authorized priesthood holders place their hands lightly on the person’s head. The priesthood bearer who performs the ordination:

  1. Calls the person by his full name.

  2. States the authority by which the ordination is performed (Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood).

  3. Confers the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, unless it has already been conferred.

  4. Ordains the person to an office in the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood and bestows the rights, powers, and authority of that office. (Priesthood keys are not bestowed in conferring the priesthood or ordaining to one of these offices.)

  5. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.

  6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

An ordination is an opportunity to give a blessing. Detailed counsel and instruction are normally provided when a person is taught his duties rather than during the ordination.

An ordination should not be expanded into a formal meeting. It is not necessary to have prayers, testimonies, or instruction when someone is ordained.

Father’s Blessings and Other Blessings of Comfort and Counsel

Father’s blessings and other priesthood blessings are given to provide direction and comfort as guided by the Spirit. Melchizedek Priesthood holders do not need the authorization of a presiding authority in order to administer these blessings.

A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may give father’s blessings to his children. These blessings may be especially helpful when children go to school, go on missions, get married, enter military service, or face special challenges. A family may record a father’s blessing for family records, but these blessings are not preserved in Church records. Parents should encourage their children to seek father’s blessings in times of need.

Melchizedek Priesthood holders also may give blessings of comfort and counsel to other family members and to others who request them.

To give a father’s blessing or another blessing of comfort and counsel, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands lightly on the person’s head. Then the priesthood holder who gives the blessing:

  1. Calls the person by his or her full name.

  2. States that the blessing is performed by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.

  4. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Setting Apart Officers and Teachers

Members who are called to most Church positions should be set apart before they begin serving.

Under the direction of the presiding authority, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate in a setting apart, including a worthy father or husband. These brethren place their hands lightly on the person’s head. Then the priesthood holder who acts as voice:

  1. Calls the person by his or her full name.

  2. States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Sets the person apart to the appropriate office in the stake, ward, quorum, high priests group, or class.

  4. Confers keys if the person is entitled to receive them. (In stakes and wards, only stake presidents, bishops, and quorum presidents receive keys of presidency when they are set apart. The word keys should not be used when setting apart counselors, high councilors, high priests group leaders, presidents of auxiliary organizations, the bishop’s priests quorum assistants, or teachers in an organization.)

  5. Gives words of blessing as the Spirit directs.

  6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

A setting apart is an opportunity to give a blessing. Detailed counsel and instruction are normally provided when a person is taught his or her duties rather than during the setting apart.

A setting apart should not be expanded into a formal meeting. It is not necessary to have prayers, testimonies, or instruction when someone is set apart.

Dedicating Graves

A person who dedicates a grave should hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and be authorized by the priesthood leader who conducts the service. To dedicate a grave, he:

  1. Addresses Heavenly Father.

  2. States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

  3. Dedicates and consecrates the burial plot as the resting place for the body of the deceased.

  4. Prays that the place will be hallowed and protected until the Resurrection (where appropriate).

  5. Asks the Lord to comfort the family and expresses thoughts as the Spirit directs.

  6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

If the family prefers, a graveside prayer rather than a dedicatory prayer may be offered.

If a Church member’s body is cremated, the presiding officer may use his judgment in determining whether to dedicate the place where the ashes are kept. He takes into account the desires of the family, local customs, and local laws. If the place is dedicated, the priesthood holder may adapt the instructions for dedicating a grave.

Funerals and Burials

Funerals and burials are generally conducted by a presiding priesthood leader. Within the limits of military procedure, the service may consist of an opening hymn, a prayer, a few remarks, another hymn, and a closing prayer. The closing prayer may be a dedicatory prayer if the service is held at the graveside.

Hymns expressing hope, life, and the assurance of resurrection should be selected. The remarks should be uplifting, comforting, and reassuring—given according to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Appropriate thoughts may be found in this book under “Resurrection” and “Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Dedicating Homes

Church members may dedicate their homes as sacred edifices where the Holy Spirit can reside and where family members can worship, find safety from the world, grow spiritually, and prepare for eternal family relationships. Homes need not be free of debt to be dedicated. Unlike Church buildings, homes are not consecrated to the Lord.

A Melchizedek Priesthood holder may dedicate a home by the power of the priesthood. If there is not a Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the home, a family might invite a close relative, a home teacher, or another Melchizedek Priesthood holder to dedicate the home. Or a family might gather and offer a prayer that includes the elements mentioned in the preceding paragraph and other words as the Spirit directs.