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Moroni Chapter 3

One might suppose that Moroni, as he contemplated what he might write further into the Book of Mormon record, felt that not enough had been said about the church. There was after all a church in Book of Mormon times, but precious little has been said about its organization, its officers, or its ordinances. Hence we find some practical counsel in Moroni's writings about such matters.

Moroni chapters 3, 4, and 5 contain instructions regarding the manner in which priests and teachers should be ordained and the manner in which the emblems of the sacrament should be administered. These instructions may well have been given by the resurrected Lord during his visit to the Nephites as evidenced by Moroni 2:1.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, in speaking of the ordinances of salvation, said: "Good conduct without the ordinances of the gospel will neither redeem nor exalt mankind; covenants and the ordinances are essential" (CR, October 1984, 105). Why are ordinances so important? May I suggest three important reasons:

1. God has commanded them (D&C 52:15-16). This fact, in and of itself, should be sufficient reason for our unquestioning compliance. God, however, is never arbitrary in his instructions to us. There are always important reasons underlying his commandments. Perhaps the most important reason for the ordinances is that he intends for them to assist with our spiritual progression. At times they are even the central mechanism for our progression. Ordinances are the earthly manifestations of our entering into covenants with the Lord. It is by a system of covenants that the Lord seeks to lead us back eventually to his presence. An example is the ordinance of the sacrament which has an indispensable role in the process of our sanctification (see "The Role of the Sacrament" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18, Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth).

Perhaps a brief editorial comment is appropriate here. Your author has noted that in the Church there are some members who are inclined to regard ordinances as ends unto themselves. That is, they would regard the completion of the ordinances as one of the primal purposes this earth's existence. After all, did not the Lord say to the apostle John, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). I have even been witness to the suggestion that one may be regarded as "perfect," by a scriptural definition, once one has completed the set of earthly covenants which the Lord requires of us. The implication of this thinking is that there is a spiritual level which we may complete or finish here in this life through our entering into the requisite ordinances, and that once these ordinances have been completed (the covenant entered into), the individual is well on his or her way to exaltation. It may appropriately be pointed out that Evangelical Protestants today seek for this same type of comfort and spiritual reassurance as they "complete" the commandment to confess Christ and accept him as their Savior. Then, they feel, their salvation is virtually secure. It seems clear that ordinances, and the covenants of which they are the earthly manifestations, are a means to an end and not an end unto themselves. The purpose of this earth may be more appropriately stated: we must continually strive to overcome our "natural man" tendencies and rigorously obey the Lord's commands. And especially should we endeavor to become primarily interested in the spiritual and temporal welfare of others first and place ourselves second. In this way, we gradually earn incremental gifts of the Spirit or increments of the divine attributes of God. The all-knowing, Lord, in his wisdom, knows our human proclivities intimately and perfectly. He seems primarily motivated by his yearning to live with us forever in his celestial presence. He has established a series of covenants (with their associated ordinances) because he knows they will be practically helpful in encouraging us to discipline ourselves in obeying the commandments. He is, for example, more interested in our being baptized because of the associated baptismal covenant which we enter into than he is interested in our being baptized just because he commands it. There is no question that he does command us to enter into and accept a prescribed set of covenants with their associated ordinances, and we must comply at the peril of our salvation. But he mainly wants us to diligently deny our natural selves and obey the commandments. This will result in basic spiritual changes in us and may qualify us for celestial resurrection. It is this latter that is his goal He wants us home with him forever.

2. The symbolisms involved with the ordinances are useful teaching reminders.

3. The ordinances serve not only as reminders of the sacred covenants which we have entered into with God, but they also serve to actually renew those covenants.

It may also helpful to the reader to review The Lord's Use of Ritual, volume 3, chapter 29 in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine.

1 The manner which the disciples, who were called the elders of the church, ordained priests and teachers-

verse 1 "the disciples, who were called the elders of the church" The disciples, the twelve apostles, the presiding officers of the church, were also called elders. This terminology accords with the latter-day practice of designating apostles and other general authorities as elders.

2 After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said:

3 In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen.

verse 3 Though the text never makes it clear, it seems likely that the "priests" and "teachers" here spoken of are not officers in the Aaronic priesthood. Rather they are priests and teachers in a more general sense and likely functioned as officers in the Melchizedek priesthood who ministered to the people and taught the gospel.

However, President Joseph Fielding Smith has suggested another formulation: "When the Savior came to the Nephites, he established the church in its fulness among them, and he informed them that former things had passed away, for they were all fulfilled in him. He gave the Nephites all the authority of the priesthood which we exercise today. Therefore we are justified in the belief that not only was the fulness of the Melchizedek priesthood conferred, but also the Aaronic, just as we have it in the Church today; and this Aaronic priesthood remained with them from this time until, through wickedness, all priesthood ceased. We may be assured that in the days of Moroni the Nephites did ordain teachers and priests in the Aaronic priesthood; but before the visit of the Savior they officiated in the Melchizedek priesthood" (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:124, 126).

4 And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.

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