"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

Take Sacrament with Right Hand?

by Joseph Fielding Smith

Question: "We have been taught in the Church that we should partake of the sacrament with the right hand. Why is this necessary? In our discussions we do not seem to be able to find anything telling us why this is so. Why is it wrong to partake of the sacrament with the left hand?"

Answer: Questions of this nature are occasionally received. In one case we are informed that some brethren were advocating the partaking of the sacrament with either hand. Moreover, in one stake it was the custom to confirm and ordain persons by the officiators standing in a circle, raising their right hands, and placing their left hands on the heads of candidates to be blessed and ordained. Therefore, it is expedient that something be said about the use of the right hand in performing ordinations and partaking of the sacrament.

The performing of ordinances with the right hand in preference to the left is a well-established custom universally and is not confined to the Church. In various governments where oaths are administered, the candidate for office is asked to raise his right hand. There are occasions when he is sworn to give truthful testimony by placing his right hand on a copy of the Bible. This custom has come down from the beginning, and from many scriptural passages we gather that it has always received divine sanction. When Abraham sent his servant to his kindred to find a wife for Isaac, he had the servant place his right hand under Abraham's thigh and swear to him that he would accomplish this mission.(Genesis 24:2) There are other occasions of similar import. One of the earliest incidents recorded is the blessing Jacob gave his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh was the elder, and as Joseph presented his sons to their grandfather, he presented Manasseh towards Jacob's right hand and Ephraim towards his left hand. The record states that Jacob "guiding his hands wittingly" placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Manasseh. Joseph protested, saying, "Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head." "I know it, my son, I know it:" said Jacob, "he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations."(Ibid., 48:13-19)

When the Egyptians were destroyed in the Red Sea, Israel sang: "Thy right hand, O Lord, is becoming glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. . ."; (Exodus 15:6) and when Israel entered the land of their inheritance, the Lord instructed Moses in offering sacrifice to take the blood of the ram, "and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about." With this ordinance and the sprinkling of the blood and anointing oil upon the altar, Aaron and his sons were "hallowed before the Lord." (See ibid., 29:20-21)


The showing favor to the right hand or side is not something invented by man but was revealed from the heavens in the beginning. To Isaiah the Lord said:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness ….
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:10, 18)


Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am the first, I am also the last.
Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together. (Ibid., 48:12-13)

In the Psalms we read:

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.(Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44)

The Lord, in speaking to his disciples, shortly before his death, said unto them:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or
naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31-46)


There are numerous passages in the scriptures referring to the right hand, indicating that it is a symbol of righteousness and was used in the making of covenants. When the Savior was taken before the high priest, scribes, and elders, the high priest said unto him: "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." In reply to this edict, Jesus said to him:

Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Ibid., 26:63-64)

When Stephen was slain, he looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55)

The right hand or side is called the dexter and the left the sinister. Dexter connotes something favorable; sinister, something unfavorable or unfortunate. It is a well-established practice in the Church to partake of the sacrament with the right hand and also to anoint with the right hand, according to the custom which the scriptures indicate is, and always was, approved by divine injunction.

(See Sacrament; Partaking of the Sacrament family home evening lesson; Basic Beliefs home page; Church Organization and Priesthood Authority home page; Priesthood Organization home page; Priesthood Ordinances home page)



Web LightPlanet

Related Links

Recommended Books


Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.1, p.154-59

Copyright © 1992 by Deseret Book