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Deacons

by Ronald L. Bramble

Twelve-year-old LDS males usually receive the Aaronic Priesthood and are ordained deacons, continuing in that priesthood office until age fourteen. Deacons receive assignments from their bishops that may include distributing the Sacrament to the congregation, serving as messengers, collecting fast offerings, providing assistance to the elderly or disabled, and caring for the meetinghouse and grounds.

Although the exact role of deacons (from the Greek diakonos, or "servant") in the Christian church of the New Testament is not known, tradition indicates that they were ordained to their positions and were ranked below bishops and elders. Their duties apparently involved collecting and distributing alms and waiting on tables. Also, relatively early in the Catholic tradition, deacons may have assisted in the administration of communion and taken the Sacrament to the homes of those who could not attend church. They also maintained church properties and read the gospel lection in Eucharist assembly. While closely associated with bishops in their service at the Sacrament table, deacons were younger and were understood to be in schooling for greater service upon reaching maturity (Shepherd, Vol. 1, pp. 785-86).

The office of deacon was introduced by Joseph Smith at least as early as the Church conference held on June 9, 1830 (D&C 20:39). Some deacons may have been ordained at the organizational meeting on April 6, 1830 (HC 1:79), but the records are not specific.

Latter-day scriptures provide that teachers and deacons are "to warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ" (D&C 20:59) and are to edify one another (D&C 20:85). Deacons may be ordained by any elder or priest at the direction of the local bishop, contingent on a worthiness interview and the sustaining vote of the congregation (D&C 20:39, 48).

Deacons are organized into quorums of twelve or fewer members, with one called as president, two as counselors, and another as secretary (see Priesthood Quorums). The bishopric assigns an adult adviser to teach and help train the quorum members to emulate the example of Jesus Christ in word and deed and helps prepare them for ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood and for missionary service.

Church-sponsored Boy Scout troops provide the major activity program for deacons in the United States and Canada, and give them important learning and leadership experiences (see Scouting).

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Priesthood Organization home page; Aaronic Priesthood home page)

Bibliography

Lowrie, Walter. The Church and its Organization in Primitive and Catholic Times: An Interpretation of Rudolph Sohm's KIRCHENRECHT. New York, 1904.

Palmer, Lee A. The Aaronic Priesthood Through the Centuries. Salt Lake City, 1964.

Shepherd, M. "Deacon." In Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 1. Nashville, Tenn., 1962.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Deacons

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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