Here are some notes from a talk I gave in church a while back. In my church, members of the congregation are sometimes asked to prepare and deliver sermons so that we can learn from each other, and learn more deeply by doing our own preparation and study of the gospel. Some of the following might not make sense to my general readership, but there’s a link at the bottom for more info if you have questions. (This blog is like my journal, so sometimes I’ll put things here that are more for my own records than for any other reason.)
Many of the portions below are taken from a fireside address at Brigham Young University on 27 October 2000 by Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander Of the Presidency of the Seventy. Click here to view the original.
Ordinances and Covenants – Leslie Householder 7/9/2016
I’ve been struggling with memory problems. I know that many of you can relate: I’ll go into the kitchen and forget why I’m there. I’ll go grocery shopping, and even from aisle to aisle I’ll forget what I’m there to get.
Wait – why did I need to go to aisle 7?
If I could just remember my purpose for being there, I could easily do whatever it was I was there to do.
So now, let’s remember the big picture:
We lived in heaven before we came to this earth. We lived with a Heavenly Father, and a Heavenly Mother who loved us, and we were happy. Our Father presented a plan to us, which would allow us to become like him. But it required that we come to earth, forget who we were and where we came from, and to experience things that would test and try us, and help us grow. It’s kind of like being sent away to summer camp.
But our brother Lucifer rebelled against the plan and was rejected. So in his anger, he promised to come down and do all he could to disrupt the plan, and prevent us from returning to our Father in Heaven.
As part of the plan, even though we would forget everything, we would not be without guidance and help.
However, without a memory of who we are and why we’re here, and with the devil’s perfect memory of our divine heritage and his intent to disrupt the plan, we were bound to fail. But our brother Jesus Christ promised to provide a way for us to return anyway.
As we remember who we are any why we’re here (our purpose for being on aisle 7) we can more easily do what we’re here to do.
This is why the focus on Christ. This is why we covenant to always remember Him, and to keep his commandments which he has given us.
All things point to Him. All of our activities, lessons, and objectives should be centered on Him, because in truth, nothing else matters. NOTHING. His way is the only way we can return to our Father.
We understand the Church accomplishes this mission to help people come to Christ “by proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.”
But it’s actually much more specific than that:
Proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and preparing them to receive the ordinances and covenants of the gospel.
Perfecting the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances and covenants of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation.
Redeeming the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth.
The point is, Ordinances were instituted to help us get back.
If we truly understood the role of ordinances in our Heavenly Father’s plan, we would focus all of our best efforts on obtaining the next one. And if we’ve already received them all, our best focus would be on living up to covenants we’ve made in connection with them, and on helping others (both the living and the dead) to obtain them.
Our participation in sacred ordinances teaches much about the order of God’s kingdom and about Him… There is order in the kingdom of God, and there is order in the way we learn about it. To Nephi the Lord said, “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” 2 Ne 28:30
Elsewhere the Lord has stated, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” D&C 50:24
We do not receive everything at one time but receive knowledge of holy things progressively and incrementally, as we are worthy of, and obedient to, such knowledge. From the first ordinance of the kingdom, baptism, we progress through other ordinances such as confirmation and ordination to the priesthood, all of which lead to the most holy of ordinances, which are performed in the temple. Our participation in the sacred ordinances of the gospel orders our knowledge of the kingdom and thereby reveals the nature of God to us.
As sacred ordinances reveal the order of the kingdom of God in a progressive manner, our participation in them reveals to us a knowledge of the personality and character of God that can be gained in no other way.
We come to understand God and his power (remember what perhaps we once knew) by participating in the ordinances.
Worthy participation in sacred gospel ordinances changes our lives and brings blessings and power to us that we would otherwise not enjoy.
The power of the Atonement itself is unlocked by sacred gospel ordinances that are performed under the keys of the priesthood.
Remission of sins is extended through the ordinance of baptism.
Confirmation brings with it the promise of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood opens the way for “every man [to] speak in the name of God” (D&C 1:20) by teaching, blessing, and comforting others.
Worthy participation in the holy ordinances of the temple reveals our eternal possibilities and places us in a position to realize them.
President Brigham Young (1801–77) taught of the temple endowment: “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 302.)
One of the most beautiful yet most common of the gospel ordinances is that of the sacrament. We participate in it literally thousands of times throughout our lives. Yet because of its ever-present nature in our sacrament meetings, we can easily miss its supernal significance. Partaking worthily of the sacrament can bring a weekly endowment of divine power in our lives.
Something that many people may not realize:
Sacred ordinances and the divine authority to administer them did not begin with the Restoration of the gospel and the founding of the modern Church in 1830.
Remember, this Plan of Salvation is as older than the earth itself.
The sacred ordinances of the gospel as requirements for salvation and exaltation were “instituted from before the foundation of the world.” D&C 124:33
They have always been an immutable part of the gospel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 308.
… It is this principle of consistent and unalterable requirements that gives true meaning to the performance of vicarious ordinances in the temple. …baptism for the dead and the recording of such baptisms conform “to the ordinance and preparation that the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel.” D&C 128:5
Through time and apostasy following Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, however, the divine authority of the priesthood and the sacred ordinances were changed or lost, and the associated covenants were broken. The Lord revealed His displeasure over this situation in these words:
“For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god.” D&C 1:15-16
Importance of Family. – The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. And not just our immediate family. We are innately programmed to concern ourselves with our distant ancestry, and eventually we’ll feel the same concern for our distant descendants. It is through this concern that the Lord intends and has prepared a way for the whole family of Adam to be bound together by the saving ordinances and become an eternal family reunited.
Remember why we’re on aisle 7.
This is why our hearts turn. – Spirit of Elijah Malachi 4:5-6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” At the Kirtland Temple, April 3, 1836, Elijah was sent. He appeared to the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery and said, “The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands.” A visit largely unknown to the rest of the world, it nevertheless marked the beginning of a worldwide awakening to an interest in family history records. In Britain, for example, civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths began only one year later in 1837. And within ten years you have the birth of the first genealogical society: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, the oldest and largest genealogical society in the United States, founded in 1845.
If you want to witness people of every kind of background become awakened by the Spirit of Elijah, watch Relative Race (a reality game show), or Who Do You Think You Are (which follows celebrities who are interested in solving mysteries in their family history). You’ll see that the Spirit of Elijah does not just affect members of the church –The Spirit of Elijah has awakened people worldwide to begin gathering and organizing their family history – regardless of their knowledge or understanding of the ultimate significance it will have in terms of their eternal salvation, and that of their progenitors. Everyone’s contribution plays a part in the plan.
Remember, it’s all about the big plan – Everything else is trivia.
If we help the cause, what’s in it for us? John A. Widtsoe said, “I have the feeling … that those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life” (“Genealogical Activities,” p. 104).
Invitation to do something to help further the work:
1) Indexing event – at least 72,000 volunteers index as many records as possible in a 72-hour period, July 15 to 17. (Click here to learn how to Fuel the Find.)
By Jennifer Kerns Davis (as posted here):
A few years ago, I was facing a somewhat challenging research problem in my tree. I had a family pieced together, but I could not extend the mother’s line. I was missing some important bits of data that would help me in my quest. At the time, I had a very busy schedule that would not allow me to spend hours scouring through film or digital images to find the information I needed. I ended up dropping that part of my tree temporarily and focusing on a different part.
About a year later, I decided to revisit this family. After searching indexed records on FamilySearch.org for a few minutes, I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to find a marriage record that named the maiden name of the mother in question, along with her parents. In the time I deferred my search for this family the year before, someone had indexed the exact record I needed! I was so excited! But in my excitement, I didn’t forget to say a little prayer to God, like I usually did, thanking Him for helping me to find the information I needed.
Then it occurred to me—God was not the only person I needed to thank. I suddenly had a strong desire to thank the person who indexed this marriage record just for me to find! But how could I know who that person was? It was impossible for me to know—except that God knew. Then I knew what to do: I prayed to God and asked Him to bless the person who indexed this record, whoever he or she was. I felt an outpouring of love for the indexer.
I suddenly realized that it was not just the indexer that brought this record to me, it was the arbitrator too! There are also people at FamilySearch who get the records ready to publish, and all the others that touched that record—from the camera operator who took the picture of the record right down to the recorder who sat there with my ancestors so many years ago, pen in hand, and wrote down that information that I now had in my hands. None of these people knew me or even knew my name, but they had done something that meant so much to me. The feeling of love and appreciation for all of the contributors to this record overwhelmed me. As I continued my prayer, I prayed that the Lord would bless each of those persons for carrying out their part. Now this has become a regular occurrence for me: whenever I find a record to fill a branch of my family tree, I ask God to please bless the indexer, arbitrator, and everyone else that brought that record to me.
So if you feel an extra lift while you are indexing or arbitrating, this could be why: there are people praying for you, and thanking you for your work. Perhaps you are receiving blessings outside of your indexing work—blessings for your family, blessings of safety, blessings of health. Whatever the extra strength you feel in your personal life because of your service, just remember that there are appreciative people like me cheering you on, thanking you and praying for you.
2) Find/Take/Teach. – Find a family name in your tree at FamilySearch.org – someone who still needs ordinance work. Take their name to the temple for ordinance work (or let someone else take the name if you’re unable to go). Then teach someone else how to do it.
If you think it’s hard to find someone, then you probably haven’t tried very recently. Things have changed. I searched for 20 years to find something new in my tree with no success, and nearly gave up. But with the new tools made available to us in just the last 5 years, our family has since found thousands of names.
There are a number of family history consultants here in the ward available to you, whose job it is to help you find new names in your tree. It’s what we do! And age doesn’t matter:
Scott Ponder in our ward turned 12 last month, and logged in to FamilySearch.org for the first time, hoping to find a family name for his first trip to do baptisms for the dead.
At first, he was the only person in his tree. So he added his mother, and explored the lines that opened up through her. Then he added his father to his tree. That line opened up and he discovered that his great-grandfather needed temple work.
However, when he clicked to reserve the name, it required permission from the nearest living relative (since his great-grandfather was born less than 110 years ago).
Well, it turns out that Scott *IS* the nearest living relative, since his father is deceased, and was the ONLY son of an ONLY son.
It was the first time I’d seen a young person like Scott bear the responsibility of being the nearest living relative of someone whose work is ready to be performed. He was ELEVEN, and did something more eternally significant than I’m sure any of us can comprehend. This is how the Lord works – he invites us to do small things, and promises that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.
This is how the Lord works – he invites us to do small things, and promises that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. (Alma 37:6)
We are promised that as we make an effort to help our deceased family members receive these important ordinances, we will be blessed to receive all the unseen help we will need to do it. Our family bonds will be strengthened, we will also receive help in all our affairs.
I know this to be true. I have experienced it myself. I know that the power of God is manifest in this plan, and in the ordinances that help us stay on the path back to Him. May we order our lives to place a greater priority on the things that really matter, and may we have the strength to eliminate from our lives the things that keep us from doing so. This is my prayer for myself and for each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
To learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons), click here.