The 3rd Article of Faith states that “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” For a lot of young future missionaries, this statement begs the question: What is an ordinance?
In the LDS Church, we define an ordinance as a sacred, formal ceremony with deep spiritual meaning performed by the authority of the priesthood. The 4th Article of Faith mentions some of these ordinances. “We believe that the first … ordinances of the Gospel are…Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins [and] Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Some ordinances, called saving ordinances, are essential to an individual’s salvation. Other ordinances, while not essential to salvation, nevertheless bless our lives and gives us comfort, encouragement, and guidance in life. Doctrine and Covenants 84:20 teaches us that “in the ordinances [of the priesthood], the power of godliness is manifest.”
Saving ordinances include:
- Confirmation (the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost)
- Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men)
- The temple endowment and initiatory ordinances
- Marriage sealing (temple marriage)
Other ordinances, also performed by priesthood authority but not essential for our salvation, are:
- Naming and blessing children
- Partaking of the Sacrament
- Consecrating oil for administering to the sick
- Administering to the sick and afflicted
- Father’s blessings of comfort and counsel
- Patriarchal blessings
- Dedicating a grave
It will be your purpose as a missionary to bring the people of the world those first saving ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost through confirmation. With each of these saving ordinances, we enter into a solemn covenant with God where we make promises to obey His commandments and God, in turn, promises us salvation and exaltation if we are faithful. Ordinances and covenants help remind us who we are and of our duty to God. The Lord has provided ordinances to help us come unto Him and receive eternal life. When we honor our covenants, He strengthens us spiritually.
Understanding the Importance Saving Ordinances
In the Seminary Basic Doctrines document section 4 on The Atonement of Jesus Christ it says, “Through the Atonement those who repent, obey the commandments, receive the saving ordinances, and keep their covenants will overcome spiritual death and receive the gift of eternal life.”
Basic Doctrines section 8, First Principcles and Ordinances, says, “Baptism by immersion in water by one having authority is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptism is also necessary for a person to enter the celestial kingdom.” This is consistent with what Jesus taught in John 3:5, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Saving Ordinances for the Dead in Temples
Before closing, I should mention one more thing about saving ordinances: In our holy temples, we perform the saving ordinances on behalf of our deceased family and friends. Former Church President Howard W. Hunter said, ”it is pleasing to the Lord when we worthily go to the temple to perform these same saving ordinances for those who have died, many of whom eagerly await the completion of these ordinances in their behalf” (“A Temple-Motivated People,” Ensign, Mar 2004, 38–44). And this is what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said about saving ordinances, missionary work, and temples:
“More than 2,000 years or so ago there was one temple in the Old World and two or three temples in Book of Mormon history, but now temples are multiplying so rapidly we can hardly count them! Add the miracle of the computer, which helps us document our family histories and perform saving ordinances for our dead. Add modern transportation, which allows General Authorities to circle the globe and personally bear witness of the Lord to all the Saints in all the lands. Add that where we cannot go we can now “send,” as the scriptures say, with satellite broadcasts (see D&C 84:62)” (“This, the Greatest of All Dispensations,” Ensign, Jul 2007, 52–58).