There appears to be, among some of our people, an inadequate conception of the sanctity attending certain of the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood. True, the ministrations of those in authority amongst us are not attended with the pomp and worldly ceremony that characterize the procedure in other so-called churches, but the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in possession of the Priesthood is sufficient to make any and every ordinance administered by due authority within the Church an event of supreme importance.
In performing any such ordinance, the one who officiates speaks and acts, not of himself and of his personal authority, but by virtue of his ordination and appointment as a representative of the powers of heaven. We do not set apart bishops and other officers in the Church, with the show and ceremony of a gala day, as do certain sectarians, nor do we make the ordinance of baptism a spectacular display; but the simplicity of the order established in the Church of Christ ought rather to add to than take from the sacred character of the several ordinances.
An illustration of the fact that many do not understand the full sanctity of certain ordinances is found in the desire some evince to have such repeated.
Until within a few years it was a very general custom in the Church to allow a repetition of the baptismal rite to adults before they entered the temples. This custom, first established by due authority, and for good cause (see The Articles of Faith by Talmage, 144-148) finally came to be regarded by many members of the Church as essential, and indeed, “re-baptism” was generally looked upon, though wrongly, as separate and different from the first ordinance of the gospel – baptism – by which alone may one gain entrance to the Church of Christ. But the most hurtful feature of this misunderstanding was the disposition of some to look upon the repeated baptisms as a sure means of securing forgiveness of sins from time to time, and this might easily have led to the thought that one may sin with comparative impunity if he were baptized at frequent intervals.
This condition has been changed in the Church, and at the present time only those who, having been admitted to the fold of Christ by baptism, afterward stray therefrom or are disfellowshiped or excommunicated by due process of the Church courts, are considered as fit subjects to receive a repetition of the initiatory ordinance. These remarks, it must be understood, have no reference to the baptisms and other ordinances performed in the temples.
In the matter of administering to the sick, according to the order and practice established in the Church, care should be taken to avoid unwarranted repetitions. When an administration is made, and when the blessing pronounced upon the afflicted one has been received, the ordinance should not be repeated, rather let the time be given to prayer and thanksgiving for the manifestation of divine power already granted and realized. No limit should be or can be set to the offering of prayer and the rendering of praise to the Giver of good, for we are specially told to pray without ceasing, and no special authority of the Priesthood or standing in the Church is essential to the offering of prayer; but the actual administration by anointing with oil and by the imposition of hands by those who hold the proper office in the Priesthood is an authoritative ordinance, too sacred in its nature to be performed lightly, or to be repeated loosely when the blessing has been gained.
Another ordinance claiming mention in this connection, though somewhat different from those already cited, is that of naming and blessing infants. In accordance with the rule of the Church, children born to members of the church are taken to the monthly fast meetings in the several wards, and are there blessed and named by or under the direction of the bishopric. It is usual on such an occasion for the Bishop to call upon the father of the child, if he be present, and if he be an Elder, in good standing, to take part with the bishopric in the ordinance. This is in every way proper, for the blessing so pronounced is in the nature of a father’s blessing. Record of the ordinance so performed in the ward meeting is made by the ward clerk.
However, a father, holding the higher Priesthood, may desire to bless and name his child at home, perhaps at an earlier date than would be convenient or possible for mother and babe to attend a fast meeting in the ward. Many Elders desire to perform this ordinance within the circle of their own families on or about the eighth day of the child’s life. This also is proper, for the father, if he be worthy of his Priesthood, has certain rights and authority within his family, comparable to those of the Bishop with relation to the ward. Too often amongst us the head of the family, though he hold the higher Priesthood, fails to magnify his calling as the spiritual head of his household. It would be better if every Elder who is a father rose to the dignity of his position, and officiated in his holy office within his family organization. He may call to his aid any others who are worthy holders of the requisite authority in the Priesthood, but it is his privilege to stand as the head of his household, and to perform the ordinances pertaining to his family.
The question arises, and has recently been presented in specific form, If an Elder performs the ordinance of naming and blessing his own child at home, is it necessary that the ordinance be repeated in the ward meting? We answer, No; the father’s blessing is authoritative, proper, and sufficient. But every such case must be promptly reported to the Bishop of the ward, who will direct the clerk to make full and proper record of the matter, entering the name of the child, with date of birth and blessing, and all data as to parentage, etc., on the books of the ward. It is the duty of the Teachers and Priests in their house to house visitations among the people to see that all such reports are fully and promptly made.
The repetition of the ordinance of naming and blessing children tends to diminish our regard for the authority and sanctity attending the father’s blessing within the household.
But let it not be forgotten that if the child be not blessed and named by due authority at home it should be taken to the fast meeting of the ward on the earliest possible occasion, there to receive the blessing and to have its name duly entered on the books of the Church.
There is also another point in this connection to which attention may profitably be drawn. It is the too frequent use in the ordinary conversation of the Saints of the titles “Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” “Apostle,” etc. These titles are too sacred to be used indiscriminately in our common talk. There are occasions when they are quite proper and in place; but in our everyday conversations it is sufficient honor to address any brother holding the Melchisedek priesthood as Elder. The term Elder is a general one, applying to all those who hold the higher priesthood, whether they be Apostles, Patriarchs, High Priests or Seventies; and to address a brother as Apostle So and So, or Patriarch Such-a-one in the common talk of business and the like, is using titles too sacred to be in place on such occasions. It, in a lesser degree, partakes of the character of that evil of which we are so often warned – the too frequent use of the name of that Holy Being whom we worship, and of His Son, our Redeemer. To avoid this evil the saints in ancient days called the holy priesthood after the great High Priest Melchisedek, while the royal and correct title is, “The priesthood after the order of the Son of God.” The use of all these titles continuously and indiscriminately savors somewhat of blasphemy, and is not pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
[Joseph F. Smith, “The Repetition of Sacred Ordinances,” Juvenile Instructor, 1 January 1903, 18-20.]