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Dear Gramps

What does it mean in the scriptures when it says that someone ministered and/or administered to others?  Thanks.





Dear Elliot,

Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives very similar definitions to these terms (the 1828 dictionary helps us understand how words were used when the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants came forth).When a person administers it is usually involves some official capacity.

ADMIN’ISTER, verb transitive [Latin administro, of ad and ministro, to serve or manage.]

1. To act as minister or chief agent, in managing public affairs, under laws or a constitution of government, as a king, president, or other supreme officer. it is used also of absolute monarchs, who rule not in subordination; but is more strictly applicable to limited monarchs and other supreme executive officers, and to governors, vice-roys, judges and the like, who are under the authority of laws. A king or a president administers the government or laws, when he executes them or carries them into effect. A judge administers the laws, when he applies them to particular cases or persons. In short, to administer is to direct the execution or application of laws.

2. To dispense, as to administer justice or the sacrament.

3. To afford, give or furnish; as, to administer relief, that is, to act as the agent. To administer medicine is to direct and cause it to be taken.

4. To give, as an oath; to cause to swear according to law.

ADMIN’ISTER, verb intransitive

1. To contribute; to bring aid or supplies; to add something; as, a shade administers to our comfort.

2. To perform the office of administrator; as, A administers upon the estate of B.”

And while a minister (noun) can be someone with the official role to administer, minister (verb) focuses on serving (especially religiously) and salving.


MIN’ISTER, verb transitive [Latin ministro.] To give; to afford; to supply.

He that ministereth seed to the sower–2 Corinthians 9:10.

That it may minister grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29.

MIN’ISTER, verb intransitive To attend and serve; to perform service in any office, sacred or secular.

I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. Exodus 29:1.

1. To afford supplies; to give things needful; to supply the means of relief; to relieve.

When saw we thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Matthew 25:44.

2. To give medicines.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?

In this sense, we commonly use administer.

There’s a significant overlap in these terms, especially when it comes to church officers who minister and administer in their ministry. For this reason, I generally wouldn’t strain to split these apart in the scriptures except where it’s explicit. Caring for the sick and succoring those in need can be referred to as both ministering and administering to their wants. For an example of where these words are uses differently, turn to the story of Aaron and King Lamoni’s father. After the king has his powerful conversion experience, he rises as though from the dead and speaks to the gathered crowd (the crowd that’s debating the fate of the Aaron).

“And when they saw [the king rise] they greatly marveled, and began to fear. And the king stood forth, and began to minister unto them. And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord. Now … there began to be great murmurings among them because of Aaron and his brethren. But the king stood forth among them and administered unto them. And they were pacified towards Aaron and those who were with him” (Alma 22:23-25, emphasis mine).

The king’s ministering (preaching, witnessing, testifying) converts. The king’s administering (speaking to legal matters, formally clearing Aaron) pacifies.

Jesus called out ministers who administered without ministering.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone”(Matthew 23:23).

Please note that Jesus does not say the minor tithes should be done away with. Don’t “leave the other undone!” The administration is still required. But it is to be run on the principles of judgment, mercy, and faith. “These ought ye to have done!”





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