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The term elders is used in various ways in the Bible. In many instances in the Old Testament it has reference to the older men in a tribe, usually entrusted with the governmental affairs. Their age and experience made their counsel sought often. This was not necessarily a priesthood calling. Gen. 50:7, Ruth 4:2, Matt. 15:2, and Acts 4:5 are examples of this usage.

There were ordained elders in the Melchizedek Priesthood in Old Testament times, as in Ex. 24:9–11 and Num. 11:16. Among the Nephites there were also ordained elders in the priesthood (Alma 4:7, 16; 6:1; Moro. 3:1; 4:1; 6:1, 7). In the New Testament, elders are mentioned as priesthood offices in the church (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 5:1, 17, 19; James 5:14–15). The term elder as used in the New Testament is from the Greek presbyteros. The detailed duties of the ordained elders in the Church today have been defined by latter-day revelation (D&C 20:42–45; 42:44–52; 46:2; 107:12).

Elder is the proper title given to all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Thus an Apostle is an elder in this sense, and it is proper to speak of members of the Quorum of the Twelve or the Quorums of the Seventy by this title (D&C 20:38; see also 1 Pet. 5:1; 2 Jn. 1:1; 3 Jn. 1:1). See also Ministry.