Ordinance (Latter Day Saints)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In Mormonism, ordinances are sacred rites and ceremonies that have spiritual meanings. Ordinances can also mean God’s laws and statutes.[1] Mormons believe that certain ordinances involve the formation of a covenant with God. Ordinances are performed by the authority of the priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ. The term has a meaning roughly similar to that of the term "sacrament" in other Christian denominations.

There are numerous Latter Day Saint ordinances, many of which are also practiced by other Christian denominations. Among Mormon ordinances are baptism, confirmation and the sacrament (the Lord's Supper).

Some ordinances that are unique to Mormonism are usually associated with and performed in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). These ordinances include the Endowment and sealings.

Types of ordinances[edit]

Saving ordinances[edit]

A Latter Day Saint confirmation circa 1852.

Saving ordinances are those rituals that are a requirement for exaltation. They are usually performed only once for each individual. However, if a person is excommunicated or removes his or her name from the church membership rolls, all saving ordinances are revoked; if the individual wishes to re-join the church, he or she must receive certain saving ordinances again, beginning with baptism.[2] According to LDS theology, ordinances can be performed vicariously (i.e. post mortem) on behalf of any person who would desire to accept the ordinance but did not receive it. The following constitute the saving ordinances of the LDS Church:

  1. Baptism: Performed by immersion after the age of accountability (age 8), and rebaptism of excommunicated members. Rebaptism was also historically performed for various other purposes, and was especially prominent in the Mormon Reformation.
  2. Confirmation and reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost: Performed by laying hands on the head of a newly baptized member.
  3. Ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods: To qualify, male candidates must be baptized and confirmed. They must be over the age of 12 to receive the Aaronic priesthood, and over the age of 18 to receive the Melchizedek priesthood, and must receive the Aaronic priesthood before the Melchizedek. These requirements are procedural policies and are not followed in work for the dead.[citation needed]
  4. Endowment (including washing and anointing): Candidates must be baptized and confirmed; males must hold the Melchizedek priesthood.
  5. Marriage and sealing to one or more spouses: Candidates must be of legal marriageable age, and have received the Endowment. The LDS Church no longer allows any individual to be sealed to more than one living spouse.
  6. Sealing to parents: There is no minimum age, and no pre-existing ordinance requirements. Live sealings require that members hold a valid temple recommend.
  7. Ritual of the Law of Adoption: An ordinance whereby individuals are sealed by adoption to non-biological fathers. This ordinance is no longer practiced in the mainstream LDS Church, though it is in some fundamentalist groups.[citation needed]
  8. Second anointing: An ordinance performed for a sealed couple, sealing them up to eternal life, and anointing them as kings and queens, priests, and priestesses. The ordinance was originally considered a requirement for exaltation, but it is no longer considered to be required for exaltation and is now considered only a "special blessing" for meritorious service to the Church.[citation needed]
  9. Restoration of blessings: An ordinance which is said to restore one's office in the priesthood, Endowment, and sealings after the person has been excommunicated and then re-baptized.[3][better source needed]

Non-saving ordinances[edit]

Ordinances which are not a requirement for exaltation are referred to as non-saving ordinances. A non-saving ordinance may be performed on behalf of an individual many times; in practice, however, some non-saving ordinances are only performed once per individual. The following constitute the non-saving ordinances of the LDS Church:

  1. Sacrament: This ordinance is usually performed weekly in every church congregation.[4]
  2. Naming and blessing a child: Typically this ordinance is performed shortly after a child's birth; it is usually performed only once for each individual.
  3. Patriarchal blessing: This ordinance is usually performed only once for an individual.
  4. Consecrating oil: This ordinance is performed as needed to provide oil for other ordinances.
  5. Anointing and blessing of the sick and afflicted: These ordinances may be performed on an individual as needed.
  6. Priesthood blessing (including father's blessings): This ordinance may be performed on an individual as needed or requested.
  7. Calling: This ordinance requires that a person having responsibility over a unit or an auxiliary of the church prayerfully seek revelation to determine which individual is to fill particular responsibilities within that organization. If the individual agrees -- and many persons wait to receive spiritual confirmation before agreeing -- then the individual is "called" to the position.
  8. Sustaining: Names of individuals called to responsibilities within the organization of the church are proposed to the congregation for a sustaining vote. Members may covenant to sustain, or raise a hand to dispute, or simply abstain from voting. While the vast majority of proposed callings are unanimously sustained, disputants are invited to discuss their concerns privately with the leader extending the calling, who may then withdraw or extend the calling as proposed. A solemn assembly is a particularly high profile sustaining performed for a new president and prophet of the church.
  9. Setting Apart: Individuals who are called to fulfill positions within the organization of the church are set apart in a priesthood blessing made under the laying on of hands.
  10. Fellowship: When a church member is newly baptised or moves into the geographic boundaries of a ward or branch, the individual's name is presented to the congregation. Members of the congregation are invited to raise their right hands in a covenant and token of fellowship to welcome the member into the congregation.
  11. Dedication of a church building or a temple: This ordinance is performed after the building is completed and paid for; if a building undergoes extensive remodeling, this ordinance may be performed again.
  12. Dedication of a grave: This ordinance is performed immediately before the body is placed in the grave; it is usually performed only once.
  13. Dedication of a land or country for the preaching of the gospel: This ordinance is usually performed before or soon after missionaries begin to preach in a particular country; it is usually performed only once (but may be performed again if missionaries have not been in a particular country for an extended period of time); it is typically performed by an Apostle.
  14. Prayer circle: An antiphonic prayer around an altar, performed as part of the endowment, and also on other occasions by the LDS Church, such as meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Salt Lake Temple. Until the early 20th century, the ordinance was performed in local LDS meetinghouses.
  15. Hosanna Shout: Performed at temple dedications, involving a recitation of praise to God while waving a white handkerchief.
  16. Shaking the dust from the feet: A cursing ordinance against people who reject the teachings of missionaries, or who fail to provide them with food, money, or shelter. It was commonly and sometimes routinely used by Mormon missionaries in the 19th century, but is now rare.
  17. Rebaptism of faithful members: This ordinance is no longer performed in the mainstream LDS church, but was a significant ordinance during the Mormon Reformation.

Temple ordinances[edit]

In the LDS Church there are some ordinances, including the endowment and sealings, that are performed only in temples. With the exception of the second anointing, all temple ordinances are saving ordinances.

The endowment is a sacred ceremony in which the individual is washed and anointed; clothed in a temple garment; and instructed and tested on principles of the plan of salvation.

Sealings are ceremonies in which spouses are sealed to each other, and children to parents, for all eternity as a family unit.

In addition, after LDS Church members enter the temple and receive temple ordinances for themselves, they may return and perform the saving ordinances on behalf of their deceased ancestors. These are performed vicariously or by "proxy" on behalf of the dead, and church members believe that it is up to the deceased to accept or reject the offered ordinance in the spirit world. Only saving ordinances are performed on behalf of deceased persons.

Ordinances on behalf of the dead may be performed only when a deceased person's genealogical information has been submitted to a temple. LDS Church members complete genealogical work for deceased persons and if it is determined an individual has not received some or all of the saving ordinances, the individual's name is submitted to the temple to receive these ordinances by proxy. Optimally, the proxy who stands in will be a descendant of the deceased person, but the ordinance proxy may also be an unrelated volunteer.

Significance of ordinances[edit]

To Latter Day Saints the saving ordinances are seen as necessary, but not sufficient, for salvation. For example, baptism is required for exaltation, but simply having been baptized does not guarantee any eternal reward. The baptized person is expected to be obedient to God's commandments, to repent of any sinful conduct subsequent to baptism, and to receive the other saving ordinances.

An ordinance may be viewed as a physical act signifying a spiritual commitment, or a covenant. Failure to honor that commitment means the ordinance has no effect. However, sincere repentance can restore the blessings associated with the ordinance.

While Latter Day Saints affirm that saving ordinances are necessary for salvation, ordinances are viewed as empowered only by the Grace of Jesus Christ. Mormons do not reject Paul's repeated teaching of salvation only by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8). However, as "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20), works, including ordinances, are necessary to produce the faith in Jesus Christ sufficient to receive his grace.[5]

The emphasis on the physical aspect of the ordinance is the basis for the Mormon practice of performing ordinances vicariously for the dead. Since deceased persons no longer have an earthly existence, they are unable to directly participate in these "saving" ordinances themselves. The physical performance of these ordinances by proxy is seen as fulfillment of the requirement. As with living ordinances, ordinances for the dead are seen as necessary but not sufficient. It is believed that the spirits in the spirit world are offered the teachings of the full gospel of Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to accept or decline vicarious ordinances done on their behalf. Some LDS Church members refer to the reference by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:29 regarding baptism for the dead as evidence that this was a religious practice of ancient tradition that has now been restored by the LDS Church.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ordinances. Scriptures, Study Helps, Guide to the Scriptures. LDS.org (LDS Church)
  2. ^ Apart from baptism and confirmation, the saving ordinances do not actually have to be performed again for a re-admitted person. Rather, a special ordinance called restoration of blessings is performed. This ordinance restores to the person any saving ordinances other than baptism and confirmation that were previously held by the person. It is received by the laying on of hands. Only a general authority, or, in exceptional circumstances, a stake president or mission president acting under the direction of a general authority may perform the ordinance of restoration of blessings.
  3. ^ 2010 Church Handbook of Instruction, Handbook 1, p. 73.
  4. ^ Strictly speaking, this is a non-saving ordinance because a person could be exalted without ever having participated in the sacrament. However, individuals who have been baptized are expected to regularly participate in the sacrament and most Latter-day Saints would probably believe that a person who avoided doing so would not be a serious candidate for exaltation
  5. ^ Neuenschwander, Dennis B. (August 2001), "Ordinances and Covenants", Ensign 
  6. ^ Burton, H. David; Stendahl, Krister (1992). "Baptism for the Dead". In Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. pp. 95–97. ISBN 0-02-879602-0. OCLC 24502140.