The elders of Jonas's community act like a city council or governing body. They enforce the rules, determine job assignments, organize family units, host celebrations, declare holidays, and determine who lives or dies. It's simple, really: They do whatever they can to maintain the effectiveness and execution of the policy of Sameness. Jonas, at age eleven, is concerned with what the elders will assign him for his life's work. He is also worried about his friend Asher because Asher is never serious about anything. When discussing these concerns with his mother, she provides an answer that validates her complete trust in the elders, as follows:
"The Elders know Asher. . . . They'll find exactly the right Assignment for him. I don't think you need to worry about him" (17).
His mother's statement shows her complete trust and loyalty to the elders. She, like the others in the community, never questions the elders' methods, what they tell the people, or if they might ever lie to them. It's just not done.
The Giver provides a little more insight into what the elders do when Jonas asks if they often come to him for advice. He replies as follows:
"Rarely. Only when they are faced with something that they have not experienced before. Then they call upon me to use the memories and advise them. But it very seldom happens. Sometimes I wish they'd ask for my wisdom more often—there are so many things I could tell them; things I wish they would change. But they don't want change. Life here is so orderly, so predictable—so painless. It's what they've chosen" (103).
From the description of the elders by the Giver, it is learned that the purpose of the elders is to maintain the status quo; that is to say, to maintain Sameness. They only want the Receiver to hold onto all of the pain for them so they can live out their lives without any extreme emotions or pain.
The job of the elders is to do pretty much everything that is needed to run the community. In particular, we know that the Elders are the ones who decide how various people should be assigned once they become Twelves. We know this because we are told that the Elders have been watching the kids who will soon be Twelves a bunch so they can know what jobs they'd be good for.
We also know that the Elders make rules such as the ones about how old you have to be before you can have your own bike. They also are the ones to decide who can be assigned to care for children.
So they basically make all the decisions in the community.