Handbook 2:
Administering the Church


20.1 General Instructions

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.

Performance of a saving ordinance requires authorization from a priesthood leader who holds the appropriate keys or who functions under the direction of a person who holds those keys. Such authorization is also required for naming and blessing a child, dedicating a grave, giving a patriarchal blessing, and preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament. Melchizedek Priesthood holders may consecrate oil, administer to the sick, give father’s blessings, and give other blessings of comfort and counsel without first seeking authorization from a priesthood leader.

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. 1.

    It should be performed in the name of Jesus Christ.

  2. 2.

    It should be performed by the authority of the priesthood.

  3. 3.

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

  4. 4.

    It should be authorized by the presiding authority who holds the proper keys (normally the bishop or stake president), if necessary according to the instructions in this chapter.

A priesthood leader who oversees an ordinance or blessing ensures that the person who performs it has the necessary priesthood authority, is worthy, and knows and follows the proper procedures. Leaders also seek to make the ordinance or blessing a reverent and spiritual experience.

When ordinances or blessings are performed in sacrament meeting, the bishop ensures that they are performed properly. To avoid embarrassing a priesthood holder, the bishop quietly corrects errors only if essential elements of the ordinance or blessing are incorrect.

Those who give priesthood blessings speak words of blessing (“I [or we] bless you that …”) rather than saying a prayer (“Heavenly Father, please bless this person that …”).


Participation in Ordinances and Blessings

Only brethren who hold the necessary priesthood and are worthy may perform an ordinance or blessing or stand in the circle. Those who participate are usually limited to a few, including priesthood leaders, close family members, and close associates such as home teachers. Inviting large numbers of family, friends, and leaders to assist in an ordinance or blessing is discouraged. When too many participate, it can become cumbersome and detract from the spirit of the ordinance. Those who perform an ordinance and those who preside are the only ones required. Others provide support and sustain the spokesman.

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.

Even though only a limited number of brethren stand in the circle when a person receives an ordinance or blessing, family members are usually invited to attend.

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


Worthiness to Participate in an Ordinance or Blessing

Only a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who is worthy to hold a temple recommend may act as voice in confirming a person a member of the Church, conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood, ordaining a person to an office in that priesthood, or setting apart a person to serve in a Church calling.

As guided by the Spirit and the instructions in the next paragraph, bishops and stake presidents have discretion to allow priesthood holders who are not fully temple worthy to perform or participate in some ordinances and blessings. However, presiding officers should not allow such participation if a priesthood holder has unresolved serious sins.

A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy. Likewise, a bishop may allow a father who is a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder to baptize his children or to ordain his sons to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. A Melchizedek Priesthood holder in similar circumstances may be allowed to stand in the circle for the confirmation of his children, for the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood on his sons, or for the setting apart of his wife or children. However, he may not act as voice.


Performing an Ordinance or Blessing in Another Ward

To act as voice when naming and blessing a child, baptizing or confirming a person, ordaining a person to a priesthood office, or dedicating a grave, a priesthood holder who is outside his own ward should show the presiding officer a current temple recommend or a Recommend to Perform an Ordinance form that is signed by a member of his bishopric.


Performing Ordinances by and for Persons Who Have Disabilities

Guidelines for performing ordinances by and for persons who have disabilities are provided in Handbook 1, 16.1.8 and 16.1.9.

For guidelines on interpreting ordinances for those who are deaf or hearing impaired, see 21.1.26 in this handbook.


Translating Ordinances and Blessings

Guidelines for translating ordinances and blessings are provided in Handbook 1, 16.1.2.


Instructions on Performing Ordinances and Blessings

The following publications provide instructions on performing ordinances and blessings:

  1. 1.

    This chapter of the handbook

  2. 2.

    Family Guidebook, pages 18–25

  3. 3.

    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.


20.10 Setting Apart Officers and Teachers

See 19.4.


20.11 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.


20.12 Patriarchal Blessings


General Guidelines

Every worthy, baptized member is entitled to and should receive a patriarchal blessing, which provides inspired direction from the Lord. Church leaders and parents encourage members to prepare spiritually to obtain their patriarchal blessings.

The bishop or an assigned counselor interviews members who want to receive patriarchal blessings. If a member is worthy, the interviewer issues and signs a Patriarchal Blessing Recommend.

Stake presidents and bishops who need additional information about patriarchal blessings may see the following sources:

Handbook 1, 16.12

Information and Suggestions for Patriarchs

Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: The Patriarch


Receiving a Patriarchal Blessing

Members should go to the patriarch with a prayerful attitude and in Sunday attire. They may fast, but fasting is not required.

Each patriarchal blessing is sacred, confidential, and personal. Therefore, it is given in private except that a limited number of family members may be present.

Church members should not compare blessings and should not share them except with close family members. Patriarchal blessings should not be read in Church meetings or other public gatherings.

If a patriarchal blessing does not include a declaration of lineage, the patriarch may later give an addendum to declare lineage.


Obtaining Copies of Patriarchal Blessings

A person who has received a patriarchal blessing should carefully safeguard the copy he or she receives. However, if this copy is lost or destroyed, another one may be obtained from the patriarch if he still has the original in his binder of blessings. If the original has been sent to Church headquarters, a copy may be obtained from:

Patriarchal Blessings 15 East North Temple Street Salt Lake City, UT 84150-1600 Telephone: 1-801-240-3581

A person who requests a copy of his or her patriarchal blessing should supply his or her full name, membership record number (if available), and birth date. If possible, the person should include the name of the patriarch and the approximate date of the blessing.