The fifth item of the LDS Articles of Faith states, “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” In other words, in order to preach the Gospel of Christ and be active in that roll, men serving in authoritative positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints must ordain or confirm him. When I was a teenager, it included being interviewed by the Bishop of the ward (congregation) to see if I was ready and worthy to meet such an important “calling.” He would ask personal and general questions before declaring me worthy.
Loren C. Dunn, who held a seat on the First Council of the Seventy, stated in a
…This is part of the revealed procedure in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which takes place from the general to the ward or branch level and which allows every member the opportunity of sustaining a person who has been called to office…The Lord, then, gives us the opportunity to sustain the action of a divine calling and in effect express ourselves if for any reason we may feel otherwise. To sustain is to make the action binding on ourselves and to commit ourselves to support those people whom we have sustained. When a person goes through the sacred act of raising his arm to the square, he should remember, with soberness, that which he has done and commence to act in harmony with his sustaining vote both in public and in private… A calling in the Church is both a personal and a sacred matter, and everyone is entitled to know he or she has been called to act in the name of God in that particular position. Every person in this church has the right to know that he has been called of God. If he does not have that assurance, then I would suggest he give his calling serious, prayerful consideration so that he can receive what he has a right to receive. (Dunn)
Mr. Dunn’s speech is an adequate representation of the LDS beliefs on this subject. Notice the hierarchy, which determines the validity of the “calling.” But where is the authority for it to be done this way? If God calls man to preach the Gospel as Dunn admits, then why is that not sufficient? Why are there more needed, and why is it necessary for man to “sustain” anything, especially in such a ritualistic format?
Christ simply and directly told His eleven disciples, “…All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-20). The disciples were given the calling: go and teach. What was to be their material? Jesus said to teach everything He had commanded them. There was never a “confirmation” or “sustaining” ritual that preceded their preaching the Gospel or fulfilling the ordinances (laws). No one was called upon to lay hands on them. The only authority that was involved was Christ, and doing things in the name of the Godhead.
Consider the time after Christ defeated death and appeared to His eleven as they ate. He commands them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature…” (Mar 16:16). Again, there is no mention or hint of the need for anyone in authority laying hands on them to preach. They were sustained by the word itself and the commandment. Additionally, the only confirmation mentioned were the miracles performed to confirm that what they spoke was truth.
The apostle Paul, who labored continuously for the kingdom of God, imparted sound teaching to Timothy: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:2-3). He did not lay hands on him, though he did teach him. There was no ceremony or ritual. Timothy was told to take what he had learned from Paul, which was the Gospel of Christ, and teach it to faithful men so that they could teach others. The word “faithful” is derived from the Greek word pistoj (pistos) which means “trusting” or “agreeable”. Certainly that is the case when the Great Commission is fulfilled today. The Gospel cannot and will not reach those who are unwilling to hear it.
In another part of the same letter Paul tells Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). There was no ritual, no formality, no special ceremony. Paul told him to preach and Timothy was expected to do it. The only authority came from the One whose doctrine he was to preach.
There are so many instances throughout the inspired writings of the New Testament that allude to preaching and teaching, yet none require someone in an authoritative position to lay hands and “confirm” them before they are able to do it. They were simply taught and became disciples upon their confession of Christ, repenting, and being baptized into His name so to be added to His church. The only times that the laying on of hands is mentioned in the New Testament in an evangelistic context is when the apostles would bestow miraculous gifts to one or more. Its purpose was to confirm the glory of God and God’s power. Since those days of miracles have ceased (1 Cor. 13), one must be careful not to add something to God’s word that is not there.
Dunn, Loren C. We Are Called of God. April 1972. 15 April 2014 http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1972/04/we-are-called-of-god?.