Elder (Latter Day Saints)
||This article improperly uses one or more religious texts as primary sources without referring to secondary sources that critically analyze them. (December 2010)|
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In the LDS Church, "elder" is considered the introductory—or lowest—office of the Melchizedek priesthood. Every person who receives the Melchizedek priesthood is simultaneously ordained to the office of elder; this may be done to male members who are at least 18 years old. In order to be ordained, the member must be determined to be worthy by his local bishop and stake president. The consent of the priesthood holders of the stake is also required before the ordination is performed, and this is usually done at a semiannual stake conference or an annual general stake priesthood meeting.
According to Latter Day Saint scripture, the duty of an elder is to "teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church." Elders have the authority to administer to and bless the sick and afflicted, to "confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost", to baptize and give others the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood as directed by priesthood leaders, and to take the lead in all meetings as guided by the Holy Spirit. An elder may ordain others to the priesthood offices of deacon, teacher, priest, or elder.
In practice, elders are responsible for many of the day-to-day operations of a ward. They are called to serve in a variety of positions throughout the ward, such as Aaronic priesthood quorum advisors, Young Men leaders, scout leaders, ward mission leader, and Sunday School leadership. Elders and high priests (assisted by teachers and priests) are also responsible for home teaching in the ward.
Elders are organized into quorums that may contain no more than 96 elders. A quorum president, along with two counselors, is called and set apart under the direction of the stake presidency, and generally serves for a number of years, although there is no official policy on the length of service. A secretary is also called to assist the president and his counselors.
All adult men in the ward, whether they are faithful or not, are assigned to either the elders quorum or the high priests group, as directed by the bishop. However, ordained elders and high priests are assigned by default to the quorum or group consistent with their ordination.
The title "Elder" is not normally used as a personal title (e.g., Elder Evans, Elder Johnson), except by the LDS Church's general authorities, area seventies, and full-time male missionaries. Often, full-time missionaries serving within a ward are referred to by the members as "the elders."