I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

Where does the Church’s practice of setting apart come from?

Rex Allred, executive secretary of the Melchizedek Priesthood General Committee. The priesthood ordinance of setting apart is the formal process of giving authority to members called to labor in specific responsibilities. It involves a specific priesthood procedure, including the laying on of hands. It has been a practice of the Lord’s servants since Old Testament times, even though in some scriptural references it is not clear whether the wording refers to being ordained, set apart, or both. In fact, it may be that earlier dispensations made very little distinction between these two practices.

When Moses desired to appoint a shepherd over the congregation, he was given the appropriate procedure by the Lord:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;

“And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.

“And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.” (Num. 27:18–20.)

In other Old Testament passages, the word separate seems to refer to the procedure of designating someone for the Lord’s work. For example, 1 Chronicles 23:13 [1 Chr. 23:13], we read that “Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.”

In the New Testament we find clearer instances of individuals being set apart. In the ancient Church when seven men were chosen to assist the Apostles, they were “set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:6.) Also, when Barnabas and Saul were selected for the Lord’s work, the Church leaders fasted and prayed, and “the Holy Ghost said [to them], Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2.) The Church leaders then “laid their hands on them,” after which they sent Saul and Barnabas out to do the work. (Acts 13:3.)

In Book of Mormon accounts, the term consecrate seems to be used to report the setting apart of Church officers. In Jacob 1:18–19, we read in Jacob’s own words, “For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi. And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility.” We also read that King Benjamin “consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his people” (Mosiah 6:3) and that Alma the Younger was “consecrated” by his father “to be a high priest over the church of God” (Alma 5:3.)

The Doctrine and Covenants provides the term set apart and sometimes uses the terms set apart and ordain interchangeably. “When the Prophet received the Presidency of the High Priesthood, the history says that he was ordained. Today we would say set apart. They used the term ordain in the early days of the Church for everything, even when sisters were set apart to preside in the Relief Society.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:106.)

Word usage today prescribes that the priesthood be conferred upon men who are ordained to offices in the priesthood, and that men and women be set apart to positions in quorums or auxiliaries.

Generally, all stake priesthood and auxiliary officers and all ward officers and teachers are to be set apart when called to positions in the Church. Home teachers and visiting teachers are not set apart. Settings apart are performed under the direction of the presiding officers of the stake, quorum, or ward. It is usually not appropriate for a husband to set apart his wife to a given position unless he is one of the presiding officers.

A president is always set apart before the counselors are set apart, and he receives the keys of presidency over the quorum or the organization. Counselors do not receive keys. According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Keys go with setting apart and not with ordination. A man receives no keys when he is ordained an elder [or seventy or high priest], but he does when set apart as a quorum president.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 549.)

The ordinance of setting apart is a sweet blessing of the Lord’s church. It not only allows Church members to receive a formal spiritual charge through the laying on of hands when they are called to positions of service, but it also usually includes a verbal blessing as directed by the Spirit. If we live worthily, the Lord will frequently use this ordinance to convey blessings and guidance to us.

Is it necessary to take the sacrament with one’s right hand? Does it really make any difference which hand is used?

Russell M. Nelson, Regional Representative, former general president of the Sunday School. As Rachel lay dying in the pain of childbirth, she named her new son Ben-oni, which in Hebrew means “son of my sorrow” or “distress.” But her bereaved husband, Jacob (Israel), changed the name of their newborn son, perhaps to avoid a repeated reference to her travail and death each time his son’s name might be spoken. The name he chose instead was Benjamin, which in Hebrew means “son at the right (hand).” (See Gen. 35:16–19.) Israel’s great love for his beloved Rachel was signified by this special designation given to Benjamin, his twelfth son.

That the right hand suggests symbolic favor is suggested again in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus said:

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

“And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

“And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:31–34.)

Numerous other scriptural references to the right hand are listed on page 433 of the Topical Guide appended to the new LDS edition of the Bible. These accounts give some background and insight into the symbolic significance of the right hand—a symbolism that appears in the language and other cultural features of the Jewish and Christian world. In Latin, for example, dexter (right) and sinister (left) not only indicated right and left but became the roots for adjectives carrying favorable and unfavorable connotations. The use of the right hand as a symbolic gesture was in time extended to the administration of governmental oaths, and to the courtroom, as witnesses were called to testify under oath.

With this background, we may now focus on the question of which hand to use when partaking of the sacrament.

The word sacrament comes from two Latin stems: sacr meaning “sacred,” and ment meaning “mind.” It implies sacred thoughts of the mind. Even more compelling is the Latin word sacramentum, which literally means “oath or solemn obligation.” Partaking of the sacrament might therefore be thought of as a renewal by oath of the covenant previously made in the waters of baptism. It is a sacred mental moment, including (1) a silent oath manifested by the use of one’s hand, symbolic of the individual’s covenant, and (2) the use of bread and water, symbolic of the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior of the world.

The hand used in partaking of the sacrament would logically be the same hand used in making any other sacred oath. For most of us, that would be the right hand. However, sacramental covenants—and other eternal covenants as well—can be and are made by those who have lost the use of the right hand, or who have no hands at all. Much more important than concern over which hand is used in partaking of the sacrament is that the sacrament be partaken with a deep realization of the atoning sacrifice that the sacrament represents.

Parents are sometimes concerned about which hand their children use to partake of the sacrament. As a means of education, preparation, and training, unbaptized children in the Church are offered the sacrament “to prefigure the covenant they will take upon themselves when they arrive at the years of accountability.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 660.) Therefore, it is very important that they develop a good feeling and a sacred mental attitude about the symbolism and significance of the sacrament. Parents who wish to teach the importance of this sacred experience might make the topic a part of family home evening instruction. Then, if a reminder becomes necessary in a meeting, it may be given quietly, in patience and love.

Partaking of the sacrament is a sacred mental process, and as such it becomes a very personal one for me. I think of the covenants being made between me and Deity as the prayers are pronounced. I think of God offering his Only Begotten Son. I think of the atoning sacrifice of my Savior, Jesus Christ. The sacrament was instituted by him. For all mankind, even me, he offered his flesh and blood and designated the bread and the water as symbolic emblems. Because I have a right hand, I offer it in partaking of the sacrament as an oath, that I will always remember his atoning sacrifice, take his name upon me and remember him, and keep the commandments of God.

This is a sacred privilege for all faithful Saints each Sabbath day.

Should I include my church activities and assignments on my resume?

Dave Hart, director of Career Placement and Cooperative Education, Utah State University. Many job-hunting Church members wrestle with this question as they write resumes. Some wonder if including Church experiences on their resumes will hurt their prospects.

Certainly church-related activities should not be the heart and soul of a resume. They are not the reason for hiring you. Generally, if used, they should be supplemental to other, more pertinent criteria such as educational background, related or professional work experience, honors, and awards. In fact, even Church members would be reluctant to hire someone whose only achievements are in Church settings.

However, most Church experiences can be equated to the world of work. The important thing is to identify the skills and personal characteristics accomplished, learned, or demonstrated in the Church calling. These might include leadership skills such as motivating others, setting goals, solving problems, organizing, teaching, and communicating effectively. All of these skills and characteristics are vital and in great demand in the job market—and employers have a real interest in people possessing them.

On the other hand, statements on a resume indicating that a person was a stake young women’s president or an elder’s quorum president or had served a two-year mission could be meaningless, confusing, and irritating to someone not familiar with the Church.

Note the following examples of well-written statements that show skills and personal characteristics developed or displayed through Church experiences:

“While serving a two-year voluntary mission for my church, I was selected to be a district leader responsible for the activity of fourteen full-time missionaries. I was responsible for motivating, setting goals, evaluating performance, solving problems, and reporting the activity of these missionaries.”

“As president of our local women’s organization in my church while attending college, I worked twelve hours a week to ensure that the organization met its goals. I was responsible for the spiritual and temporal well-being of the thirty-five members. Administratively, I planned meetings, provided instruction, trained leaders and teachers in their duties, organized work projects, provided service to those who had need, planned and organized socials, and reported and evaluated the success of these activities.”

“While serving a voluntary two-year mission in Argentina, I developed the ability to set and accomplish goals. An average day began at 6:00 A.M. and lasted until 10:00 P.M. I developed the ability to share and teach information and ideas that were new and unique to these people. I learned to work with and appreciate people with a wide variety of backgrounds and personalities. I gained a knowledge of Argentina’s customs and culture, and learned to speak Spanish fluently.”

Members should not be apologetic for identifying some excellent experiences they’ve had while serving in the Church. But they should remember to identify what they have accomplished, learned, or demonstrated that relates to the type of job they are applying for. And they should describe their Church experiences in a way that will be understandable and meaningful to others reading the resume.