We generally think of order as a good thing and its opposite—disarray, mismanagement, or chaos—as a bad thing. Most of us work hard to organize our lives and to fulfill our responsibilities in an orderly way.
Furthermore, when we participate in an organization, we want to see evidence that things have been thought through, that our participation meaningfully contributes to a greater good, and that our efforts are not dissipated by the sloppiness of the people in charge.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the earliest meaning of the word “order” was a “body of persons living under a religious discipline.” The 1828 Websters Dictionary gives many definitions of order, including a “methodical arrangement of things,” a “settled mode of operation,” a “command,” and “government or discipline.”
To create order is to “ordain” (from the Latin ordinare—“put in order, arrange, dispose, appoint”).
In the King James Version of the Bible, many things are ordained, including events (1 Kings 12:32-33), places (1 Chronicles 17:9), the moon and the stars (Psalm 8:3), and peace (Isaiah 26:12). The Bible also speaks of people being ordained as priests, prophets, apostles, and elders (Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 8:3, Jeremiah 1:5, Mark 3:14, John 15:16, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5).
In the Book of Mormon, the word “ordain” is always applied to people. The twelve disciples “were ordained of God, and chosen” (1 Nephi 12:7). Priests, teachers, and elders were ordained to serve in the church (Mosiah 18:18, Mosiah 25:19, Alma 6:1). Several authors speak of people being ordained according to “the holy order of God” (2 Nephi 6:2, Alma 13:1, 6, 8, 10, Alma 49:30).
The prophet Moroni explains the process by which people were ordained:
The manner which the disciples, who were called the elders of the church, ordained priests and teachers—
After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said:
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.
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 (Moroni 3:1-4).
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, people are “ordained” to priesthood offices but are “set apart” to specific callings or responsibilities. Although there are some differences between these two actions, they have a lot in common. In both cases, hands are laid on our head. In both cases, we are given a blessing to begin our service. And as President Russell M. Nelson recently clarified, in both cases, we receive priesthood authority (“Spiritual Treasures,” General Conference, October 2019).
Today, I will be grateful for the order that is brought into the church, into my family, and into my life by callings and priesthood offices. I will remember that ordination (and setting apart) provides structure to help us do the work of the Lord more effectively.