* This article gives studying and teaching suggestions for ORDINANCES. For suggestions on COVENANTS, check out this article.
It would be interesting to ask those you are teaching what an “ordinance” is and why we need them. I wonder if they would be able to answer with clarity and confidence, or if it is a topic they kind of get, but not totally. This is ok. There is a reason why this is so. According to True to the Faith, “an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood”. The Come Follow Me Lesson titled, “Why are ordinances important?” adds this: “An ordinance is a sacred, formal act that has spiritual meaning.”
As I was studying this topic I knew that I had some notes in one of my scripture journals from a lecture I went to by Robert J. Matthews (a great scripture scholar – you can see his books at Deseret Book HERE). I knew I had referred to this particular page multiple times in the past because he explained some things about ordinances and covenants that really struck me – so I went to search for it again so I could share those notes with you. There were just a few notes about ordinances, but they really impacted me. His talk was about the temple and in my notes it says the following: (My notes are in quotes, and my thoughts are in parenthesis).
– “The temple is filled with ‘mysteries’. A ‘mystery’ is a ‘mystery’ because it must be revealed by revelation. It is not something weird or unusual. If the human mind can figure it out – then it is not a mystery. Mysteries are only revealed through revelation.”
(This is applicable because ordinances and covenants are not easily understood – they are mysteries. One may be able to understand it on a basic level, but they have layers of meaning beyond that. The more we study and receive revelation [line-upon-line], the more meaning those covenants and ordinances will hold. It takes a lot of effort, study, pondering and listening.)
– “The natural man is unable to understand the plan of God without covenants and ordinances.”
(This is really interesting because unless we have really dug in and studied and pondered each ordinance and covenant already, we may not be able to see that point very clearly. But if we have [even a little], we can begin to comprehend how VERY much they teach and direct us. Understanding that we MUST study and ponder in order to start uncovering the meaning of the ordinances is pretty exciting. Also, understanding that they are keys to helping us understand the plan of God can change how we approach studying the ordinances.)
– “Covenants are cemented to you by the performance of an ordinance.”
(This makes more sense when we understand that when a “saving ordinance” is performed, we enter into a covenant with the Lord. So, we make a covenant with God as the ordinance is being performed. Therefore, we better know and understand what that covenant is.) *Note: See the True to the Faith definition for “Ordinance” to learn what a “saving ordinance” is and how it differs from other ordinances.
I really appreciated those insights and helped me understand that if I didn’t understand the spiritual meaning in an ordinance, it was because I needed to work for it. It wasn’t because I wasn’t “spiritual” or “smart”. I just had to go to the right source (and there was A LOT there once I did, and much more yet to learn). That was a pretty exciting realization!
I hope everything above may help you either study or teach about “ordinances”. I really don’t think we could emphasize this topic too much. In fact, every week the young women stand up and recite their theme and say “as we come to accept upon these values, we will be prepared to make and keep sacred COVENANTS, [and] receive the ORDINANCES of the temple…”. How cool would it be if they all really felt how special those lines are and were incredible excited to say them! In fact, it gives a new light to the meaning of the values and where living them will lead them.
If you need a few extra helps for teaching about “ordinances” here is what we have for you:
We put together a REALLY awesome package about ORDINANCES. It includes study aids for understanding ordinances in a general sense, as well as some specific ordinances.
The first part of this package has some display images that you can use as you teach what ordinances are. These images are designed to go with the definition in True to the Faith. Above you can see a suggested way to lay them out and some things you could write on a board (if you are using one). There is a page that comes in the package with the layout suggestions as well (so you can print it easily), but the one in the package has a white background for ink-saving purposes.
Note: As mentioned above, I went straight with the description in True to the Faith and and not my own interpretation of it. In the True to the Faith description, they didn’t include “the sacrament” in the “ordinance” definition. I’m not exactly sure why they didn’t, but I like to keep our illustrations without interpretation on our end so everything is just as they chose to describe it. My guess is that they didn’t include it in the description because they were explaining the difference between saving ordinances and nonessential ordinances (there were other nonessential ordinances they didn’t include as well, but they were showing the difference between the two rather than mentioning every ordinance). The sacrament isn’t a saving ordinance in and of itself, but rather a renewing of a saving ordinance, but it isn’t a nonessential one either – so I think that may be why they didn’t include it because it would have required a lengthier description. That is my guess anyway.
This package also includes 6 study pages. You can see all of the topics above. They really cover a lot of angles and go well with many of the Come Follow Me lessons – which makes great study material for anyone (young or old) and would make great FHE lessons. All of these study pages are designed to help you study the doctrine and write it down in a meaningful way. For example, some have questions that you can use True to the Faith to answer, others are scriptures that you look up and write about, some have places to take notes from various articles from LDS.org. There is really a large variety of approaches to help keep things new, but impactful.
You can find the ORDINANCE package HERE.
You can find the Covenants package and teaching suggestions HERE.
Here are the pamphlets of all of the suggested talks listed in the Come Follow Me Curriculum for July. These are formatted so you can print them back-to-back and fold over like a pamphlet. So, the entire talk fits onto one page. Plus, the paragraphs are numbered which helps in discussions.