Lesson 5: Performing Priesthood Ordinances

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 41–48


The purpose of this lesson is to teach us how to perform priesthood ordinances.

Introduction

The Lord has told us, “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). Priesthood holders should know how to perform priesthood ordinances and be worthy to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost in performing them.

Our ability to bless the lives of others through priesthood ordinances is determined by our faithfulness and obedience. Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “I am sure … that we would see more manifestations of the Spirit of God, for instance in the healing of the sick, if we would live just a little nearer to these fundamental truths [of exercising faith in God by performing our duties as members of the Church]” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:311–12).

Our effectiveness as priesthood holders can also be enhanced by prayer. Before we perform priesthood ordinances we should seek the Lord in prayer. Even fasting may sometimes be necessary in special circumstances. (See Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 31, “Prayer and Fasting.”) If we approach the Lord in the spirit of prayer and fasting and live His teachings to the best of our ability, the Spirit will direct us in our priesthood work.

What Ordinances Can We Perform?

  • What ordinances can we perform through the priesthood offices we hold? (Use the following information to direct the discussion.)

Deacons

Deacons participate in the sacrament ordinance by passing the bread and water to members of the Church.

Teachers

Teachers participate in the sacrament ordinance by preparing the sacrament. They may also pass the sacrament in the absence of deacons.

Priests

Priests participate in the sacrament ordinance by blessing the bread and water. They may help prepare and pass the sacrament when needed. If authorized by the bishop or branch president, priests can perform the ordinance of baptism, confer the Aaronic Priesthood, and ordain others to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood.

Melchizedek Priesthood Holders

Melchizedek Priesthood holders may perform all the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood. In addition, they may bless and name children, confirm members of the Church and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, consecrate oil, administer to the sick, dedicate graves, give father’s blessings to their children, give blessings of guidance and comfort, and confer the Melchizedek Priesthood when authorized by the stake or mission president. Elders may ordain others to the office of elder, and high priests may ordain others to the office of high priest or elder.

How to Perform Ordinances

Brethren who perform priesthood ordinances should prepare themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. They should perform each ordinance in a dignified manner, making sure it meets the following requirements:

  1. 1.

    All ordinances must be performed in the name of Jesus Christ. When a person performs priesthood ordinances, he should realize that he is acting on behalf of the Savior.

  2. 2.

    All ordinances must be performed by the authority of the priesthood. Only brethren who hold the necessary priesthood and are worthy should perform or stand in the circle for an ordinance.

  3. 3.

    The following ordinances must be authorized by the presiding authority who holds the proper keys (normally the bishop or stake president): naming and blessing children, baptizing, confirming, administering the sacrament, conferring the priesthood and ordaining to an office, and dedicating graves. Consecrating oil, administering to the sick, and giving father’s blessings do not need to be authorized by the presiding authority. A man is authorized to perform these ordinances if he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood and is worthy.

  4. 4.

    All ordinances must be performed with their necessary procedures such as using specified words or laying on hands.

“Priesthood leaders teach brethren how to perform ordinances and blessings. Leaders also help fathers be prepared and worthy to perform ordinances and blessings for family members” (Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 171).

  • The following information concerns the basic ordinances of the gospel administered by the priesthood. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, select some of the following ordinances to review with class members.

Naming and Blessing of Children

Under the direction of the presiding authority, only brethren who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood may participate in the ordinance of naming and blessing children (see D&C 20:70). Worthy fathers who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood should be encouraged to bless their own children.

When blessing a baby, brethren 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. 1.

    Addresses Heavenly Father.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

    Gives the child a name.

  4. 4.

    Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.

  5. 5.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Baptism

The ordinance of baptism is performed only by a worthy priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder under the direction of the presiding authority. The priesthood holder:

  1. 1.

    Stands in the water with the person to be baptized.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

    Raises his right arm to the square.

  4. 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. 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. 6.

    Helps the person come up out of the water.

Each baptism must be witnessed by two priests or Melchizedek Priesthood holders, who make sure it is performed properly. The baptism must be repeated if the prayer was not stated accurately or if part of the body or clothing of the person being baptized was not immersed completely.

Confirmation

A person receives the ordinance of confirmation after he or she has been baptized (see D&C 20:41). Under the direction of the bishopric or branch presidency, one or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders may participate in this ordinance. They place their hands lightly on the person’s head. Then the person who performs the ordinance:

  1. 1.

    States the person’s full name.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

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

  4. 4.

    Bestows the gift of the Holy Ghost by saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”

  5. 5.

    Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.

  6. 6.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Sacrament

The sacrament is a very sacred ordinance and is administered under the direction of the bishopric or branch presidency. 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 or if the bishop or branch president occasionally invites them to do so.

Every priesthood holder who participates in this ordinance should understand that he is acting on behalf of the Lord. The personal appearance and attitude of all who participate should reflect the sacred nature of the ordinance. Priesthood holders should wash their hands before preparing, blessing, or passing the sacrament.

Worthy teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may prepare the sacrament. Before the meeting begins, those who prepare the sacrament should make sure that clean bread trays with unbroken bread, clean water trays with cups filled with fresh water, and clean white tablecloths are in place.

Worthy priests and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may bless the sacrament. Worthy deacons, teachers, priests, and Melchizedek Priesthood holders may pass the sacrament.

During the sacrament hymn, the priesthood holders who will bless the sacrament should break the bread into bite-sized pieces. Following the hymn, the person who blesses the bread kneels and offers the sacrament prayer for the bread (see D&C 20:77). The sacrament prayers were revealed by the Lord. The bishop or branch president makes sure that they are spoken clearly, accurately, and with dignity. If the bishop or branch president must correct an error, he should be careful to avoid causing embarrassment or distracting from the sacred nature of the ordinance.

After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the bread to the congregation in a reverent and orderly manner. The presiding officer receives the sacrament first. When 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 kneels and offers the sacrament prayer for the water (see D&C 20:79), substituting the word water for wine. After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the water to the congregation. When they finish, they return the trays to the sacrament table, wait for the officiators to cover the trays, then reverently take their seats.

Conferral of the Priesthood and Ordination to a Priesthood Office

Ordination to an office in the Aaronic Priesthood is done by or under the direction of the bishop or branch president. Ordination to an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood is done by or under the direction of the stake or mission president. 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. 1.

    Calls the person by his full name.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

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

  4. 4.

    Ordains the person to an office in the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood and bestows the rights, powers, and authority of that office.

  5. 5.

    Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.

  6. 6.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Consecration of Oil

One or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders must consecrate olive oil before it is used to anoint the sick or afflicted. No other oil may be used. To do this, a priesthood holder:

  1. 1.

    Holds an open container of olive oil.

  2. 2.

    Addresses Heavenly Father.

  3. 3.

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

  4. 4.

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

  5. 5.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

  • Have each Melchizedek Priesthood holder consecrate some olive oil for himself and for others in the class who may need some in their home.

Administering to the Sick

Only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may administer to the sick or afflicted. Administering to the sick has two parts: (1) anointing with oil and (2) sealing the anointing.

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

  1. 1.

    Puts a small amount of consecrated oil on the person’s head.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

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

  4. 4.

    States that he is anointing with consecrated oil.

  5. 5.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

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

  1. 1.

    Calls the person by his or her full name.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

    Seals the anointing.

  4. 4.

    Gives a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs.

  5. 5.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

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

Dedication of Graves

Graves should be dedicated by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, as authorized by the priesthood officer who conducts the service. To dedicate a grave, he:

  1. 1.

    Addresses Heavenly Father.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

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

  4. 4.

    (Where appropriate) prays that the place may be hallowed and protected until the Resurrection.

  5. 5.

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

  6. 6.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Father’s Blessings and Blessings of Comfort and Counsel

Fathers and others who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood may give blessings of comfort and counsel. Fathers may give their children blessings on special occasions such as when the children enter military service or leave home to go to school or on missions. A family may record a father’s blessing in family records, but it is not preserved in Church records.

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

  1. 1.

    Calls the person by his or her full name.

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

    Blesses the person as the Spirit directs.

  4. 4.

    Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

As priesthood holders, we should prepare ourselves for times when we need to perform ordinances. Being ready to perform priesthood ordinances means that we are living the commandments to the best of our ability and that we understand how to perform the ordinances. Such preparation will bless ourselves and others.

Challenge

Study the procedures for performing ordinances. Set a goal to study one each week. Think of one area in your life in which you can improve your worthiness to perform priesthood ordinances. Resolve to improve your life in that area.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lessons 4, “The Priesthood Quorum,” and 31, “Prayer and Fasting.”

  2. 2.

    Obtain several small bottles of pure olive oil—one for each family represented in the class. This will enable every home to have a bottle of consecrated oil to be used by Melchizedek Priesthood bearers when giving blessings.

  3. 3.

    Plan to move rapidly through the first section of the lesson in order to spend most of the class time discussing the ordinances.

  4. 4.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.