So what is an ordinance? - An ordinance is a sacred rite and ceremony. They consist of acts that have spiritual meanings and they are performed by the authority of the priesthood.
There are 2 kinds of ordinances performed under the Priesthood. Those essential to our Salvation are called “Saving Ordinances” – they are baptism, confirmation, Priesthood Ordination for men, the temple endowment and the marriage sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord.
Other ordinances, such as naming and blessing children, consecrating oil, and administering to the sick and afflicted, are also performed by priesthood authority. While they are not essential to our salvation, they are important for our comfort, guidance, and encouragement.
The 3rd article of faith reads as follows: We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
How long have ordinances been performed on the earth? Answer: a long time.
The sacred ordinances of the gospel as requirements for salvation and exaltation were “instituted from before the foundation of the world.” They have always been an immutable part of the gospel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.”
However after Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection and the Death of the Apostles, the divine authority of the priesthood and the sacred ordinances were changed or lost, and the associated covenants were broken. The Lord revealed His displeasure over this situation in these words in D&C section1:verses15and16 read:
“For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god.”
With the Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord restored His Priesthood to the earth and with the priesthood, the knowledge of the importance, the significance and the necessary keys to administer his sacred ordinances on the earth again. So What blessings do we gain from participating in Gospel Ordinances? In D&C section 84: verses19 to 21 We read,
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. 20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. 21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
So we see that through personal participation in these sacred ordinances- we come to know God and about his Kingdom. For example it would be strange for someone who hasn’t been baptized to enter the temple and perform those sacred ordinances. There is order in the kingdom of God and order in the way we learn about it. It’s first things first, and then, when we are faithful more will be given to us. So we learn line upon line and precept upon precept. We progress from baptism through other ordinances such as confirmation and the ordination of the priesthood all of which leads to and prepares us for the sacred temple ordinances. This is how we gain knowledge about Gods kingdom, in a progressive manner.
Participating in gospel ordinances teach us about the nature of God – When we are baptized we learn in a personal way that God loves us, he forgives us, that he stands by his word the scriptures and other such truths.
So it is that with every other ordinance participated in, more truth is revealed personally.
Another thing we learn is that the Ordinances of Salvation are always associated with Covenants. Eternal covenants are extended or