A religious ordinance is an outward performance of a covenant between a person and the Lord. The ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the “Mormon Church”) were dictated directly from the Lord through scriptures and prophets, and they can only be performed by those who have authority from God to bind in heaven what is bound on earth. This authority was had in Jesus Christ’s primitive church and continued by His original apostles, who acted in Christ’s name. That authority was lost over time after the death of the apostles, and it has only recently been restored through God’s heavenly messengers to modern prophets. No other church on earth has received this authority.
As in ancient days, when a baby is born in the Church of Jesus Christ, it is given a “name and a blessing.” The name given is that by which the child will be known during his or her earthly life. The blessing is prophetic and individual. The Elder pronouncing the blessing through the laying on of hands receives it by revelation.
There is no infant baptism in the LDS Church, since little children are innocent and cannot differentiate between right and wrong; nor can they understand the process of repentance. The atonement of Jesus Christ covers the sin of Adam, so babies are born sinless. The second Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ says the following:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
When a child turns eight years old, he or she has reached what Mormons call “the age of accountability.” At that time, the child may choose to be baptized. Converts aged 8 and over can be baptized in adulthood, too. Mormons follow the example and commandment of Christ by baptizing by full immersion in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. At baptism, the person promises to take upon him- or herself the name of Christ, to always remember Him, and to stand as a witness of Christ at all times. In return, the Lord confers the permanent companionship of the Holy Ghost in an ordinance called “confirmation.”
Confirmation is performed soon after baptism. A man holding the higher, or Melchizedek, Priesthood confers the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and pronounces a revelatory blessing. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit as long as the person continues in worthiness. The Holy Ghost cannot dwell in an unclean tabernacle.
Every Sabbath, Latter-day Saints partake of the sacrament, consisting of bread and water, in remembrance of the body and blood of Christ, which were shed for them. The sacrament renews those covenants made at baptism. Continual repentance enables the Latter-day Saint to be worthy to partake.
Higher ordinances are offered in Mormon temples and are for those who truly wish to consecrate their lives as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptisms and confirmations are performed there, but only as work for the dead. Mormons search out their ancestors and perform this work for them. Since the dead live on and still are able to make choices, they can accept or reject this work done for them.
The Endowment is the central higher ordinance performed in the temple, and everyone who is worthy to enter the Mormon temple, receives the endowment ordinance. The endowment is an empowering ordinance that comes with instruction on the Plan of Salvation, including the creation, the fall of Adam and Eve, the saving power of the atonement, and the hope of exaltation. In the temple, Mormons covenant to live morally and righteously and commit to progress in their discipleship of Jesus Christ.
After the endowment, one may participate in “sealing,” the formation of an eternal family. A bride and groom may enter into an eternally-binding marriage covenant in the Mormon temple. Any children born to them after their marriage are automatically sealed to the couple. This is called “being born in the covenant.” If a husband and wife have already been married civilly and have already had children, then the entire family can be sealed together in the Mormon temple. Mormon families sometimes save money for years to be able to travel to a temple to perform these ordinances and establish eternal families.
Ordinances have been given us of God as milestones in our journey into His presence. They are outward manifestations of our inward covenants and are always symbolic of Christ. Once Mormons make covenants it is up to them to keep them for the remainder of mortality. Temple marriage (eternal marriage), for instance, brings the promise of eternal union, only if the husband and wife “endure to the end in righteousness.”
Having entered into all of these covenants myself, I can testify of their transforming power in my life. I am a much different person than I would be, had I not entered into these important and empowering commitments. I have traveled a much more adventurous road than I would have, being led by the spirit of God, and I have done so with the guidance and protection of God. I have enjoyed strength far beyond my own, with the gift of power from on high. I have learned a bit about God and the transcendent nature of the atonement; the spiritual realm has become very real to me. I testify to the spiritual power of these covenants and invite all to come and partake.