The laying on of hands is the procedure revealed by the Lord for performing many priesthood ordinances, such as confirmation, ordination, setting members apart to serve in callings, administering to the sick, and giving other priesthood blessings (see D&C 42:44; Articles of Faith 1:4–5). Those having the proper priesthood authority place their hands upon the head of the person receiving the ordinance. In doing so, they serve as instruments through whom the Lord blesses His children (see D&C 36:2).
This procedure has always been used by priesthood holders. Adam ordained his righteous male descendants by the laying on of hands (see D&C 107:40–50). When Jacob pronounced blessings on Ephraim and Manasseh, he laid his hands on their heads (see Genesis 48:14–19). Alma “ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God” (Alma 6:1). The Apostles Peter and John bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (see Acts 8:14–17). In this dispensation, John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by the laying on of hands (see Joseph Smith—History 1:68–69).