Do ordinances change?

Yes, the short answer is yes. But there is a lot to say beyond that. In the last week I have seen a few people point to statements by various church leaders that ordinances [n1] are unchanged from the foundation of the world (insinuating that older ways of doing things are perhaps superior–fundilicious). The thing is, these are the same church leaders that presided over some of the largest changes in our ordinances. Anyway, here is a brief summary of some of the major shifts in just the first five ordinances revealed in the Restoration. Other liturgies experienced perhaps larger changes, but that isn’t the point. All but the last ritual below find anchoring in Moroni’s ecclesiastical and liturgical missives. They are introduced to the church with Joseph Smith’s Articles and Covenants (D&C 20) by way of Oliver Cowdery’s Articles of the Church of Christ.

Baptism
We have long made a case for baptism by immersion and sneered at the Christian world for sprinkling. With the changes to our own liturgies in the last two decades, I think we might be less likely to do that now. Baptism was extremely chaotic during the first fifty years of the church, and there were different baptismal rituals to join the church, to rejoin the church, to recommit to the church, to be healed, to prepare to go to the temple, to join a united order, etc. I think I have six different baptismal prayers in my files, despite the revealed prayer. Then we have the non-canonical details such as what to where, how to hold your hands, and whether there should be witnesses all taking shape over the history of the Restoration. For example, requiring priesthood officers to be witnesses was a change introduced in my lifetime.

Confirmation
Unfortunately, we have very little documentation on how confirmations have been performed. They weren’t rituals that were often recorded. Someone needs to do the work on this, because, while I could probably figure it out, l don’t know when the “receive ye the Holy Ghost” phrase became required.

The Lord’s Supper
I think most church members realize that we used wine for the Lord’s Supper and that the revealed prayers had to be changed to accommodate the water. I imagine that most people don’t realize that there was a period when we didn’t even use the revealed prayers at all. We just sort of free-styled it. There was also a short period when official liturgical instructions required white bread. Also relatively unknown is that the idea of the Lord’s Supper being a renewal of baptismal covenants is non-canonical and a twentieth-century innovation. My hunch is that it arose to fill the hole that ending baptism for the renewal of covenants created.

Ordination
We have a revealed text for ordinations, but we don’t use it. When people started fiddling around with the ordination pattern, John Taylor said it was contrary to scripture, improper, and wrong. So did Lorenzo Snow. However, younger folks carried the day and now we “confer” a priesthood, and then “ordain” to an office. There are several dates you could point to for the formalization of this new pattern. I think 1964 is a solid choice.

Baby Blessings
Baby blessings are really an odd inclusion in the Articles and Covenants. They don’t fit the pattern and are mostly anomalous within the Antebellum context of the Restoration. Naming the child as part of the ritual is non-canonical but documented early on. The idea that fathers should bless their babies is a twentieth century idea.

___________________

  1. Note that the standard use of “ordinance” in the contemporary church is very idiosyncratic and does not transfer to conversations with non-Members. Normally, an ordinance is a law. Think “municipal ordinances.” Missionaries would likely get more cognitive traction with other religious folks if they talked about sacraments.

Comments

  1. keepapitchinin says:

    Would you think of this as a struggle by human prophets to understand divine will, the way we’ve talked about the difficulty of using imperfect human language to record revelation? Or do you think of it more as a developing legalism, maybe an effort to stay as close as possible to the revealed word and prevent corruption of sacraments in the way we imagine happened after the apostolic age?

    (I’m trying to think of how to reassure people who are nervous that some innocent irregularity invalidated an ordinance. I’ve seen letters in response to queries about whether a grown man needs to have his baptism and priesthood ordinations redone because when he was eight somebody baptized him in a bathtub with the baptist standing outside the tub. As far as I can recall, Church leaders have always said that the Lord would accept innocent irregularities — “but be careful to do it correctly from now on.”)

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Those are excellent questions. I think there is likely several things going on at once, like you have said. Extremely complicated. I think that a community is going to find meaning in a particular liturgy at a particular time, and that meaning is likely to be different to a comparative community separated by time and space. The Lord’s Supper is a great example of this, with people going to church in a couple of days to renew their baptismal covenants, with their great-grandparents having done nothing of the sort. But to say that one is the revealed ur-experiance and the other isn’t is, I believe, hubris. I think there have been some, as you say, legalism during certain periods, that has had good intentions. That legalism is part of that meaning-making, I think. I do appreciate that in the temple there has been an effort to let small mistakes slide. I feel like that is seeping out of the temple, which, I imagine, every priest who has had to repeat the sacrament prayer would greatly appreciate.

  3. I’ve heard the quip that the definition of technology is anything that was invented after you turned 21.
    Is it roughly the same thing here? How the ordinances were when you were growing up legit, and any changes to them after that point are signs of a false prophet.

  4. Note re fn 1: While the primary meaning of “ordinance” in English is not the same as in current Mormon-speak, the LDS usage is not unique. Webster’s 1828 dictionary includes:
    “1. A rule established by authority; a permanent rule of action. An ordinance may be a law or statute of sovereign power. In this sense it is often used in the Scriptures. Exodus 15:25. Numbers 10:8. Ezra 3:10. It may also signify a decree, edict or rescript, and the word has sometimes been applied to the statutes of Parliament, but these are usually called acts or laws. In the United States, it is never applied to the acts of Congress, or of a state legislature.
    ….
    4. Established rite or ceremony. Hebrews 9:1. In this sense, baptism and the Lord’s supper are denominated ordinances.”

  5. J. Stapley says:

    JR, in that usage comes from the anti-sacramentalism of protestants. They rejected sacraments, and therefore things like baptism became laws to fulfil.

  6. J. Stapley says:

    …but we actually don’t accept that protestant assertion. We actually think that baptism does something.

  7. Thanks, J. This is excellent background and history, although I have a “tip of the iceberg” feeling about it. We know there have been significant changes in the endowment and other temple ceremonies too, but I find those changes difficult to document and difficult to describe in respectful ways.

    One particular example (that I’d like to document and that raises a question) is that my father told me the endowment once included an abbreviated church meeting we would recognize as a Sacrament Meeting, including the Lord’s Supper kind of sacrament/ordinance. I wonder if there was a shift from thinking of the Lord’s Supper as saving ordinance to thinking of it as renewal, and if any such change coincides with a change in the endowment? I recall my father thinking there was some controversy at the time, some people feeling that the change removed something important from the list of proxy works.

    I am also very interested (in a historical sense) in Church practices of legalism, and to a lesser extent Donatism. My sense is that there have been significant efforts to standardize and make consistent in a before-the-fact way, but that experiences of denying the validity of an ordinance or requiring a do-over are very limited, whether on the basis of form or perceived qualifications of the officiator. We repeat the sacrament prayers and we repeat the baptismal prayer, and we make a practice of watching for full immersion, but not always, not absolutely, and with never in my hearing a question of whether it “counts” if not perfect. In other words, viewed as obligations on the priesthood holder, not a risk or obligation on the patron member receiver.

    The most recent changes are giving rise to a new question as to form. (I don’t even know a label for this one.) That is, when the form changes _after_ my original participation, what should I regard as the correct or true form of my ordinance? And whatever your first answer, is it a permissive thought or a prescriptive thought?

  8. Regarding Protestant anti-sacramentalism, it is worth noting that sacraments were called “works” and that plays into works vs faith debates.

  9. J., yes. I merely point out that our usage is not entirely idiosyncratic and does transfer to conversation with some non-Members, though still requiring explanation if those non-Members take an anti-sacramental view. Some of those I have communicated with on the subject are as unaware of the anti-sacramental view as many LDS are unaware of the primary English meaning of “ordinance.”

  10. Sidebottom says:

    I think that “receive ye the Holy Ghost” has been replaced with “receive the Holy Ghost”. As a missionary twenty-odd years ago we were required to redo the ordinance if we used the offending “ye”.

  11. Left Field says:

    Some passages I read in JFS’s Gospel Doctrine related to this discussion:

    “The conferring of the Priesthood should precede and accompany ordination to office, unless it be possessed by previous bestowal and ordination…

    “Take, for instance, the office of a deacon: the person ordained should have the Aaronic Priesthood conferred on him in connection with his ordination…

    “In ordaining those who have not yet received the Aaronic Priesthood, to any office therein, the words of John the Baptist to Joseph Smith Jr., and Oliver Cowdery, would be appropriate to immediately precede the act ordination. They are: ‘Upon you my fellow servants [servant], in the name of the Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron.’

    “Of course it would not necessarily follow that these exact words should be used, but the language should be consistent with the act of conferring the Aaronic Priesthood. Improvement Era, Vol 4 p. 394, March, 1901.”

    It seems like the distinction between conferral and ordination was in place as early as 1901, at least as far as it concerns JFS. But that was not always the case. An addendum at the back of Gospel Doctrine signed by the First Presidency of Grant, Lund, and Penrose says:

    “Conferring the Priesthood. To prevent disputes over this subject that may arise over the procedure presented on page 136, we draw attention to the fact that until recently, from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ordinations to the Priesthood were directly to the office therein for which the recipient was chosen and appointed, in form substantially as follows:

    “As to the Melchizedek Priesthood–“By authority (or in the authority) of the Holy Priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I (or we) ordain you an Elder, (or Seventy, or High Priest, or Patriarch, or Apostle, as the case may be), in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers, keys and authority pertaining to this office and calling on the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”

    “As to the Lesser Priesthood–“By (or in) the authority of the Holy Priesthood I (or we) lay my (or our) hands upon your head and ordain you a Deacon (or other office in the Lesser Priesthood) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you All the rights, powers, and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Aaronic Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.” In reference to the form of procedure mentioned on page 136, and that set forth in this addendum as adopted by the leading authorities of the Church from the beginning, our beloved and departed President, Joseph F. Smith, when questioned concerning them, decided, as of record, “It is a distinction without a difference,” and “Either will do.”

    “Persons, therefore, who have been ordained in either way hold the right to officiate in all the duties of their respective offices in the Priesthood.”

  12. Not a Cougar says:

    J, thank you so much for this. Do you happen to have citations to primary sources or primers on the various changes to the ordinances? It would be fascinating to read more on this.

  13. J. Stapley says:

    Christian, it is such a tricky situation with the temple. There are sources, but church leaders do not want people digging around. Beyond exposes, which are obviously problematic, there are bits and pieces in various diary, correspondence, and manuscript files. My sense is that the shift in the Lord’s Supper was well on its way before the significant twentieth-century temple reforms. As to your last questions, I honestly don’t have an answer. I imagine that there is some religious studies literature on this type of problem, but I’m not aware of it. I probably should get on that!

    JR, agreed that most religious people don’t have a good handle on what their churchs’ formal beliefs are.

    Sidebottom, thanks for the tip. I haven’t spent much time on Confirmation yet.

    Left Field, there were variants of this from the 1880s (hence John Taylors disapprobation). JFS couldn’t get the Q12 behind his changes, and HJG administration went back to the old ways. But JFS’s relatives were ascendant, and the Q12 switched during the DOM administration. The first published bit on the change was 1964.

    Not a Cougar. I point to a lot of the relevant sources in the introduction of Power of Godliness. There are specific chapters in that on ordination and baby blessings. Justin Bray’s various papers (some of which are fairly inaccessible) have a lot of bit’s on the Lord’s supper. On baptism I would check out Kris’ and my paper on Baptism for Health and Ryan Tobler’s on Baptism for the Dead.

  14. J. Stapley says:

    On baptismal witnesses, see here.

  15. “Also relatively unknown is that the idea of the Lord’s Supper being a renewal of baptismal covenants is non-canonical and a twentieth-century innovation.”

    J. I totally thought this was case as well, but seems Brother Brigham came up with it.

    I had been looking for theological innovations post-JS contemporaries, you’ve done a good job identifying BH Roberts’ harmonization of teachings on eternal intelligence and created spirits.

    I thought LDS sacrament as covenant renewal may have been, but seems it’s not. Haven’t been able to identify anything else.

    Young wrote in 1857 about the sacrament and the members of the Church, “The bread and cup [are for] a renewal of their covenants.”
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/03/i-have-a-question/i-have-a-question?lang=eng#note5

    I could have sworn I saw you cite this before, J. Lemme know if you need the original source

  16. Aussie Mormon says:

    What makes all discussions like this due to the laziness of the english language (and speakers of the english language) we tend not to differentiate between different aspects of the same thing. (I’m not sure if this carries through to members who are speakers of other languages or not.)

    We use “sacrament” to refer to the ordinance as well as what ever food safe symbols are being used at the time.
    We use “endowment” to refer to both the ritual as well as the “endowed from on high” spiritual aspect.
    We use the term “priesthood” to cover the holders of priesthood authority (“the sacrament will be passed by the priesthood”), the authority those holders have (“they have the priesthood”), and the actual power of God.

    Because of this, any changes in the way an ordinance is performed can cause more problems than is necessary. President Nelson (I think it was him) told people to stop using the phrase “the priesthood and the sisters”. If we could get more people to use more specific terms, the physical aspects of the ordinance changing wouldn’t need addressing.

  17. J. Stapley says:

    jpv, there are a few scattered references in the nineteenth century to the Lord’s supper being a time to renew covenants generally. There are a couple of those in 1857, and my sense is that they appear in context of the Mormon Reformation. BY withdrew the sacrament from the people for a number of months, and it only returned after the people repented, recommitted, and were rebaptized (for a renewal of covenants). It appears that the return of the Lord’s Supper was a sign of this renewal as well. But the particular association with the baptismal covenant is, it appears, a twentieth century phenomenon.

    Aussie, all the more complicated by our idiosyncratic definitions. Historically, priesthood is precisely the body of priests.

  18. Aussie Mormon says:

    “Aussie, all the more complicated by our idiosyncratic definitions.”

    Ain’t that the truth.

  19. Chiming in to add my thanks for this J. It’s great and very useful. Thanks also for the pointers to further sources in the comments.

    I was on the Summer Seminar with Terryl Givens a couple of years back and Ugo Perego wrote a paper titled The Changing Forms of the Latter-day Saint Sacrament which was later published by the Interpreter (https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-changing-forms-of-the-latter-day-saint-sacrament/). There he tied the emphasis on renewing covenants to Bruce R McConkie in 1950. Is that your sense too?

    There Ugo also referred to Neil L Andersen’s address at a leadership meeting around the time of the April 2015 General Conference during which he said, “The title “renewing our baptismal covenants” is not found in the scriptures. It’s not inappropriate. Many of you have used it in talks; we have used it in talks. But it is not something that is used in the scriptures, and it can’t be the keynote of what we say about the sacrament.”

    Thanks again, J.

  20. I have often wished that our baptismal ordinance had wording more like that of Alma (Mosiah 18:13): “. . . I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.” . . . or some other equally beautiful wording that describes the covenant signified by the baptism.

  21. Of note: SL temple is temporarily closed causing a backup at other area temples, based on my attempt to attend an endowment this morning, since I have not yet attended in 2019.

  22. Benk, you can’t begin to know how important your comment and pointer to Perego’s talk is to me. Thanks.

  23. J. Stapley says:

    Benk, thanks for bringing that up. That must have been a fun Seminar! I haven’t done the work necessary to make a conclusion. There was lot’s of covenant renewal talk in JFS’s administration along with a push to only do certain ordinances once. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if BRM were a leading proponent of that view. I just looked and it looks like Elder Anderson’s comments were for the leadership training portion of conference that is not published. That is too bad! I’ll read through Ugo’s paper more carefully.

    Eileen, our current prayer is essentially identical to many other Christian baptismal prayers, but there is no question that the Alma prayer is really cool!

  24. Troy Cline says:

    Mormonism would do well to stop the false narrative about the ordinances coming as the direct and unmarred breath of God and finally admit and teach that ordinances are man’s honest attempts to understand, relate to, and communicate the wonders and mysteries of God. As such, there can be great power in the ordinances/rites of all faiths and those of Mormonism hold no unique or inherent saving power or capacity to teach mankind of God’s ways.

  25. J. Stapley says:

    Troy, it isn’t theologically necessary to repudiate exclusive claims when recognizing change. Recognizing change is a mature approach to history, one that many exclusive traditions are able to manage.

  26. J. Stapley says:

    …in other words, your comment, seems about as mature as claims that nothing ever changes.

  27. Great fun. Thanks, J.

  28. Troy Cline says:

    J. Stapley, you state yourself that Mormonism has “sneered at the Christian world” for the way that they carry out particular ordinances. I grew up being taught a Mormonism and believing a Mormonism which equated these changes to the ordinances as part of the apostasy that necessitated a restoration of the one, true church. In other words, though you may not see the connection between exclusivity and recognizing change, the church seems to have made the connection.

  29. J. Stapley says:

    Troy, it is hard for some people to let go of fundamentalism. Thank you for illustrating that point.

  30. Troy Cline says:

    J. Stapley, I let go of fundamentalist Mormonism long ago. It appears that you have as well. The point I am trying to illustrate is that the Church (capital C) has not let go of many aspects of fundamentalist Mormonism which are becoming increasingly difficult to defend.

  31. J. Stapley says:

    Troy, your comments show that you don’t have a particularly good handle of how discussions here work. I’d guess you don’t have a handle on the contemporary church, but it is hard to tell when your trolling. You won’t find support for fundamentalism here, nor patience for people trying to troll. Grow up, read more, or move along.

  32. Troy Cline says:

    J. Stapley, I’m not trolling. I’ve been involved in plenty of discussions here and I have a fine handle on the contemporary church, as I have been an active member my entire life. I know I don’t find support for fundamentalism here. I read blogs like this one for the very fact that they do not support fundamentalism. Are you even reading what I write?? I’ve tried to avoid the condescending tone that you are taking, but you’re making it difficult not to get in the mud with you. The very first sentence that I wrote in response to your post actually supports what you write; which is that the official LDS narrative continues to be one of unchanging ordinances even as the ordinances change in front of our very eyes. The fundamentalist narrative is easily disproven. I’m trying to understand how the church continues to succeed in convincing the church member’s mind that these two seemingly diametrically opposed views can be held at the same time in the same mind. Again, lest I continue to be misunderstood, I see that the ordinances have changed and I acknowledge that you see how the ordinances have changed. Perhaps I’m taking the discussion in a place that you did not intend to go but I’m interested in your opinion – why do you think so many people continue to believe the general idea that the ordinances are unchanged even though the changes are so well-documented?

  33. J. Stapley says:

    Troy, they are not diametrically opposed. Full stop. Exclusive claims are not antagonistic to liturgical evolution. I imagine that most people that have been to the temple in the last 30 years are aware that our liturgies change. People that argue that things should not change or that assert that recognizing change is tantamount to abandoning exclusivity are the fundamentalists.

  34. Troy Cline says:

    J. Stapley, you’re still hung up on my earlier comment about exclusivity. You aren’t reading my comments closely. Perhaps I was wrong to bring up the thing about exclusivity claims because it may have distracted from the discussion about liturgical changes. So let’s forget about whether liturgical changes and exclusivity claims are consistent with one another. What I’m claiming is diametrically opposed is the simultaneous belief in many Mormon’s minds that the ordinances do not change even while they go to the temple and see for themselves that the ordinances do change. Why do you think so many people continue to hold these two diametrically opposed notions in their heads?

  35. J. Stapley says:

    I don’t think they do. Or if they do, they just haven’t thought about it.

  36. Aussie Mormon says:

    J Stapely, although there isn’t a published transcript, Elder Anderson’s quote can be found 3:44 into this video https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/watch/general-conference-leadership-training/2015/04?lang=eng&vid=4775931419001

  37. The LDS church ordinances have changed over time. There should be no disagreement over that.

    Joseph Smith also said that the ordinances shouldn’t be changed our altered. Joseph Smith has been referenced in the past by church leaders in conference as to this regard.

    An important question that many in the bloggernacle are failing to address is what these changes suggest. The changes in the ordinances suggest three things:

    1) The God of Mormonism isn’t immutable and unchanging after all and regularly moves the goalposts. Contrast this with the laws of nature which are actually unchanging.

    2) The leaders are all making this up as they go along. This has been the case since the beginning of Mormonism. There was no restoration of the “fullness” of the gospel. It kept changing and changing according to the whims of leaders, even when they claimed rather disingenuously that Mormon doctrine change and was eternal. Many of the changes to the ordinances, including this most recent one, appears to be in response to social pressures to conform to modern norms of gender equality. And yet leaders have long preached against doing what the “world” says.

    3) The ordinances don’t really matter. They are nothing but litmus tests that leaders use to enforce obedience and continued membership. In spite of the fact that the leaders tell the members to not let an ordinance take place unless the words are said exactly right, the ordinances, much of which are claimed to be God’s words, are changing and being compromised all the time. It isn’t about salvation or helping the dead, it is all about ritual for the living to enforce obedience to the leaders.

  38. Aussie Mormon says:

    Wilson, you seem to be confusing the performance of the ordinance, with the ordinance itself.

    1) Changing how baptism is done doesn’t remove the necessity of it. Hardly moving the goalposts.
    2) The “fullness of the gospel” is explained in 2 Nephi 31 (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of holy ghost, endure to the end). Those are still necessities. Continuing revelation doesn’t change that.
    3) Jesus’ “to fulfil all righteousness” comment applies here.

    Question: Does a person today wearing a white jumpsuit when they are baptised mean they are “more baptised” than someone in Jerusalem where they would have been wearing something scruffier?

  39. Aussie Mormon says:

    that should have been “in Jerusalem during Christ’s ministry”.

  40. J. Stapley says:

    Someone has apparently called open season on simple minded trolls. Look, I’ll just go ahead an delete any more of these that pop up, but for the sake of keeping the record open, Joseph Smith said things were unchanging, and yet clearly changed things. Perhaps it isn’t the changes we are looking at that don’t change? Bye Wilson.

  41. J. Stapley says:

    Also as a side note, when JS used the word “ordinances” he didn’t use the term like we do. He generally used it like John Wesley did (of Methodist fame), though he clearly believed in sacraments. E.g., “We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
    We believe that these ordinances are 1st, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 2d, Repentance; 3d, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; 4th, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [source].

  42. J. Stapley: “I don’t think they do. Or if they do, they just haven’t thought about it.” Precisely. I agree 110%. Most members of the church don’t think about this stuff. They simply accept what is placed in front of them so long as it comes with the stamp of SLC on it. This is why the 1st presidency can say: “Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.” on January 2, 2019 and get away with it. I’m willing to come back and take my licks if somebody can find any prophet saying that temple ordinances will never stop changing. You suggested earlier that I do not understand contemporary Mormonism. On the contrary, while there are more unorthodox Mormons today than at any other time in my memory (thankfully), contemporary Mormonism is still largely fundamentalist. If it were otherwise, more mainstream sources than this would be calling out the 1st presidency for the statement above.

  43. J. Stapley says:

    Troy, unfortunately, we don’t have access to the same archives as the FP. Wish I did. That being said, most religious people, Mormon or not, don’t have spectacular analytical handles of their (or other’s) traditions. However, I’ll disagree with your unsupported assertion that there are more heterodox Mormons today than any other time. I think that is ludicrous. Basically pick any time before 1950. I’d probably place the apex of diversity in beliefs somewhere around 1900. I also disagree with your categorization of the contemporary church’s fundamentalism.

  44. J. @9:46, Did you mean to link to the March 1, 1842 Church History reporting that part of the Wentworth letter? I do not find it quoted in the March 1834 Letter to the Church to which your comment linked. (Maybe I just missed it; that happens.) In the 1834 Letter there are potentially relevant rhetorical questions: “And further, if he [Abel] was accepted of God, what were the ordinances performed further than the offering of the firstlings of the flock? … And is not the gospel the news of redemtion? How could Abel offer a sacrifice and look forward with faith on the Son of God for a remission of his sins, and not understand the gospel? The mere shedding the blood of beasts or offering any thing else in sacrifice, could not procure a remission of sins, except it were performed in faith of something to come, …. And if Abel was taught of the coming of the Son of God, was he not taught of his ordinances? We all admit that the gospel has ordinances, and if so, had it not always ordinances, and were not its ordinances always the same?” Perhaps your link was meant to show JS using “ordinance” just as John Wesley did, and not as in current common LDS usage.

  45. J. Stapley says:

    JR, thanks for noting my bad link! As in the other post it was supposed to be:

    https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/church-history-1-march-1842/4

  46. Thanks for the research.
    I suppose ultimately we believe that the keys of the priesthood are real, and the presiding high priest over the whole priesthood has the prerogative to proclaim how priesthood ordinances are executed. I suppose some people find that a cop-out and can be a “slippery slope” to welcoming all kinds of sloppy and haphazard variations at the whims of the president of the church. We’re not trying to reconstruct ancient rituals as gleaned from ancient texts. We rely on the oracles of the Lord to instruct us how to walk uprightly before God. That has changed over time, and those changes are scriptural, if nothing else from the establishment of the Mosaic law to its discontinuation via fulfillment. Nothing on this list is as drastic as any of that. Perhaps some of the changes are more clerical, perhaps some have doctrinal implications, while some have at least an unfolding of doctrinal understanding, or perhaps even a desire to implement uniformity perhaps at the constriction of doctrinal understanding. Or as I like to say, with tongue firmly planted in cheek – the church is true, it can do whatever it wants…

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