Even though there are slight variations on how ordinances are performed from Christ’s dispensation to our own, there is a right way to perform the ordinances. In this lesson we will look at how the basic ordinances were done in Christ’s dispensation and how they are done today. We will also look at the importance of supporting each other in the right way.
Reading Assignment: Moroni 1-6.
Additional reading: “Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1997, 49–50; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 68–73); “Care for New Converts” (Carl B. Pratt, Ensign, Nov. 1997, 11–12; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 11–13).
Moroni’s final words
In Mormon 8:5 we are told that Moroni cannot write any more as he would like to because he is alone and he has no more ore with which to make more plates. But evidently he had a little space left on the plates he already had, because once he finishes presenting the history of the Jaredite nation he finds that he is still alive, and with time on his hands. With this extra opportunity to say some more for the future welfare of the Lamanites, he squeezes in some information about the ordinances as they were given to the Nephites by the Savior. It is only when he finds that he still has more time, and a little bit of space left, that he includes some important writings of his father and gives us his final farewell. But that last bit is the material for next week’s lesson.
All throughout the Book of Mormon we read about the Nephites performing ordinances, like baptism and the laying on of hands. But we are never given the method for these ordinances until Moroni adds them at the very end of the book. Even then he only gives us the method for performing these ordinances as they were delivered to them by Jesus when he came to teach them after His resurrection.
As you read about how the ordinances were to be performed, note that, except for the sacramental prayers, Jesus did not give them exact wording to say. This illustrates that for many of the ordinances it is important to include certain elements, but the exact wording is not prescribed. The sacramental prayers, however, must be stated exactly as given by the Lord. Let’s take a look.
Bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost
After the new member has been baptized (the prayer is not given here), the disciples were told to call the person by name then, while addressing our Father in Heaven in prayer, they were to give the person the gift of the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus. Here is a link to the wording of the confirmation in today’s Church – Confirmation. Here is the directive given to Christ’s disciples in Moroni 2:2.
2 And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.
When you compare the instructions given to Christ’s disciples with those given to Christ’s modern Church, you can see that they are identical in every material aspect.
Ordaining to the priesthood
In Moroni 4 we are told that the steps for ordaining to the priesthood include such basics as the laying on of hands, praying to the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ ordaining them to the office in the priesthood, either teacher or priest. Here is a link to the modern instructions for ordaining to the priesthood – Ordination.
Again, ordinations were done only by those who already had the priesthood, and had the authority to ordain others. In Doctrine and Covenants 20:46-59 you can read more about what the Lord expects of those who receive the Aaronic priesthood. The duties of the priesthood are never fully discussed in the Book of Mormon. We understand the specific responsibilities of the Aaronic priesthood because of modern revelation.
Moroni 4-5 contains the wording of the sacramental prayers. These prayers have been given word for word. If they are not correctly repeated it must be resaid. Originally, the church used wine for the sacrament. Here is the header for Section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, August 1830. In preparation for a religious service at which the sacrament of bread and wine was to be administered, Joseph set out to procure wine. He was met by a heavenly messenger and received this revelation, a portion of which was written at the time and the remainder in the September following. Water is now used instead of wine in the sacramental services of the Church.
Moroni 6 explains the purpose of membership in the Lord’s kingdom. I read these verses again and again before it began to sink in. Every word is so familiar and seemingly self-explanatory that I was missing the obvious.
Let’s start with verse 3. Why do people get baptized? What is expected of the new convert?
3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
The purpose of baptism is no different today than it was 2,000 or 5,000 years ago. We get baptized so that we can take upon ourselves “the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.” There is no other compelling reason to be baptized. This is the end goal for being baptized, to serve Christ to the end.
The problem with baptism is that we have all experienced a change of heart, which requires a change of lifestyle. But changes of lifestyle are difficult to maintain, even in a group of like-minded people. It is especially difficult if you are going at a complete lifestyle change all alone. This is the purpose behind going to meetings – attending church.
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
This is why we go to church each week, to be nourished and kept in the right way. We are reminded that we need to pray and rely on the merits or the atoning power of Christ to be saved. We are reminded each week, in the doctrine we study and listen to, that there is no hope outside of Christ.
This doctrine is the reason why we spend so much effort in trying to nurture the new convert. We need a lot of help in staying the course back to God, but the new convert needs help even more. They have only just made the change, and change is extra difficult to maintain unless there is support and a solid change of heart. The Lord holds each of us responsible for helping others around us to maintain this change of heart. Helping others stay the course helps us also stay the course. Salvation is a group effort, always has been, always will be.