Dack Van Orden was born and raised in Idaho Falls, ID. He currently lives in the Houston Texas area where he and his wife are the parents of three daughters and one bonus daughter. He has served in a variety of callings within the Church, most of which have been in various youth callings. His favorite was teaching early morning seminary. He currently serves in the high council as the stake Young Men president.

Enter Dack…

I’d like to start today with a little exercise. Imagine you are driving down a street with several businesses and restaurants along the roadway. I want you to imagine that you can see the business logo, but you can’t see the name of the business. Do you think you could identify which brand or logo belonged to each company or restaurant without seeing the actual name of the company?

Let’s give it a try. So, let’s start driving. In your mind’s eye, I want you to imagine you are driving down the road. Up ahead you see a giant yellow “M” ahead of you with a red background. Do you recognize this restaurant? You should. It is one of the most popular brands on the planet, McDonalds. As you continue down the road you notice that the low gas light just came on in your car as you scan the horizon looking for a gas station you see a yellow seashell with a red border. Is this where you need to stop? Yes, it is. Many of you have already identified this as a Shell gas station.

Let’s do a couple more tougher ones. Today you’re out shopping for shoes. But what brand are you looking for? If you were looking for a pair of Nike’s, could you identify them just by the logo? I think most of us could, but what about a more obscure brand? Can anyone remember the Converse logo? What about Reebok or New Balance? Last one… As you leave the shoe store that day and head back home you decide to drive by the car dealerships just to window shop. We can all dream. The first dealership has four interlocking circles. Do you know what cars are there? The next dealership has a an oval-shaped logo with a blue background, inside is one larger star with five smaller stars off to the right. Any guesses? Finally, you come to the last dealership. This logo has a black stallion with a yellow background. Across the top it has thin green, white and red stripes. This one might be a little too rich for my bank acct.

The Universal Language

I hope you enjoyed this exercise. “Symbols are the universal language. Symbols bring color and strength to language, while deepening and enriching our understandings. Symbols enable us to give conceptual form to ideas and emotions that may otherwise defy the power of words. They take us beyond words” and can bring a full range of emotions.

Symbols are also a big part of our gospel experience of the covenant path. Just like in our exercise of virtually driving down the road and seeing symbols, the covenant path also has different symbols that bring a meaning and depth to the covenants and ordinances we make.

From the time we are immersed in the waters of baptism to the time we kneel at the alter of the temple with the companion of our choice in the ordinance of eternal marriage, every covenant we make will be accompanied with a symbol.

Symbols Are Both Timely and Timeless

While some symbols have very specific meanings, others tend to be more ambiguous in their meaning. Much like the parables we read in the scriptures, symbols can be more timely than timeless. We can’t fixate on what the symbols may or may not mean. Symbols can take on different meanings as we experience different phases of life.

While on the surface it may feel like the Church is unique in using symbols as part of our worship, if we take a moment to look at other religions and cultures, we will see that mankind uses symbolism to enhance their worship. Many religions have ceremonial clothing that is worn during worship services. Some faiths will wear specific clothing as part of their daily worship. Other religions have very specific rituals and practices that they adopt as part of their worship. Anciently we see that as God led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, he repeatedly used symbols. From the Passover to the Tabernacle, Israel was taught through symbols, rituals, and covenants.

As I look back and remember my first experiences with the temple, I was a little surprised at how ritualistic it felt. However, as I continued to go, my spiritual eyes and understanding began to open. I began to find meaning and connection with the covenants I was making. Now as I have come to be married and have children, the temple has become more meaningful and a deeper understanding of the plan of salvation. Going to the temple conditions our spirits to be in the presence of God. The more we attend and participate the more we begin to see through the lens of eternity. There are five fundamental covenants we make in the temple that guide us and teach us to be like God. I believe there is power not just in the covenant we make, but also in the order in which we make them. For the sake of time, we will focus on the endowment and the covenants we make there.

Heartfelt and Willing Obedience

Obedience is the first law of heaven and the cornerstone of all righteousness and progression. In the endowment of the temple, we make a covenant of obedience before we make any other covenants. Saul learned a powerful lesson from Samuel when he chose sacrificing the Amalekite’s sheep and cattle over obeying the commandments given to him. Samuel taught, to obey is better than sacrifice. I think one reason obedience comes first is because it is the starting point where we begin to change our hearts from our own will to the will of God.

In the garden, Adam and Eve made the conscious decision to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This led to them being cast out of the garden. Prior to them being completely cast out, Adam and Eve were taught about the law of obedience. Elder Bednar taught that there are two levels of our obedience. The first is to obey out of a sense of duty or even fear of God. For many of us this is a familiar form of obedience. We may obey parents, leaders, or our employers out of a sense of obligation or fear of getting into trouble. Some may obey traffic laws out of fear of getting a ticket. But Elder Bednar taught, 

“It is a good thing to obey out of a sense of duty; but it is an even greater thing, a more spiritually demanding thing, to obey through love. It is one thing to reluctantly or grudgingly conform to commandments; it is a different thing to joyfully obey”.

He continues,

“It is one thing to perform the outward actions of obedience; it is quite a different thing to become inwardly what the commandments are intended to help us become.”

Progressing from the level of complying obedience to the level and happiness associated with heartfelt and willing obedience does not occur quickly or all at once. There are certainly days in my life that it is more a matter of grit, willpower, and determination. As we progress spiritually and become more and more like the Savior, we learn to internalize the commandments and accept them as our own. What once felt like a restriction or some type of heavenly enforced deprivation, can become a part of who we are. Our love of God and our ability to change through the power of the Atonement our obedience will begin to change from obligation to love.

Sacrifice – From Worldly to Holy

The law of Sacrifice is the second covenant we make in the temple endowment. As they left the garden Adam and Eve were given a commandment to offer the firstlings of their flocks as a sacrifice unto the Lord. The word sacrifice derives from the Latin sacrificium, which is a combination of the words sacer, meaning something set apart from the secular or profane for the use of supernatural powers, and facere, meaning “to make.” Simply put, to sacrifice something means to take something that is worldly and make it holy.

In the case of Adam and Eve’s sacrifice, they were commanded to take the best that their flock could provide and to burn it. This was not an easy ask. This lamb could have been a potential source of food or clothing. They had already invested time, food, and energy into the lamb’s mother. One of the components of sacrifice is that we are learning to do without something that is of value to us. But the angel that appeared to Adam and Eve provided an even deeper meaning of our sacrifices. He explained that Adam and Eve’s sacrifice was a similitude (or a type of) Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

Similarly when we sacrifice our time and energy, when we take something of value to us and we place it on our own alter of sacrifice, we become more Christlike. Sacrificing may also require us to give up a bad habit or practice. It may require us to develop an attribute.

Far too often we sacrifice something we want the most for something we want in the moment. Part of the spiritual training and conditioning that the temple provides for us is learning to see things through an eternal perspective. Sacrificing is also the first step of becoming unselfish and not being self-centered. We begin to think outwardly instead of inwardly. This developmental process of giving our broken hearts and contrite spirits can feel similar to the soreness that comes with stretching and exerting our physical muscles. But with consistent and steady practice, our spiritual muscles will grow and strengthen. Our spirits will begin to teach the natural man within us who is in control.

More Fully Taking Upon Us the Name of Christ

The third covenant we make along the path of our progression is to live the law of the gospel. Christ taught:

“This is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father…that I might be lifted up upon the cross…Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel.” (3 Nephi 27:13–14, 20–21)

It may seem odd at first that we are asked to make this covenant again in the temple since we have already made this covenant in our baptismal covenant. Each of us must be baptized before we enter into the temple. In addition, each week when we take the sacrament, we recommit and renew our baptismal covenant. So why are we asked to covenant to obey the law of the gospel again in the temple?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has explained that in renewing our baptismal covenants by partaking of the emblems of the sacrament,

“we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. [Rather], we witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the [ultimate and] most important sense.”

The baptismal covenant clearly contemplates a future event or events and looks forward to the temple.

In other words, when we are baptized, we start the process of taking upon us the name of Christ. But as we go to the temple and enter into these covenants, we more fully commit to taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. Much like an adoption, when we take the name of Christ upon us, we are born of him and become his sons and daughters. As children of Christ we take on family characteristics, we begin to look and act like our Father. We in reality become more CHRIST-ian, our behavior is more CHRIST-like. This third covenant then becomes a major steppingstone on the path of preparing ourselves to be in the presence of God.

The Guardrail – the Law of Chastity

The fourth covenant we make in the endowment is to live the law of chastity. In its most basic definition, the law of chastity states that an individual will have no sexual relations with anyone except their spouse who they are legally married to.

In my opinion, this covenant above all others is the one that teaches how to become like our Heavenly Father. One of the biggest ways we can be like our Heavenly Father is by creating life. Procreation is the way God moves his great plan of happiness forward. As Spiderman was told by his uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Our Heavenly Father wants us to understand and use that responsibility wisely. He does this by giving us commandments and guidelines that help us to come to understand the power and responsibility of procreation.

But the law of chastity isn’t limited to sexual relationships. With a goal to become like God, chastity encompasses our thoughts, words, and even our dress. As we embrace the whole meaning behind this law, we begin to see how we can apply its principles into our behaviors in all aspects of our lives. Our entertainment, our interactions with each other, and even our language can reflect our understanding of this law.

When I was younger, I used to think, “once I get married, all my law of chastity challenges will go away.” Well, they didn’t. I had to learn to place restrictions and guardrails in place in my life to keep me on the right path. I had to learn self-control and self-mastery. This did not come easy, and it is still a daily battle that I face. But what I have come to learn is that the previous covenants of obedience, sacrifice and living the gospel build upon each other to help me live the law of chastity.

I have learned and am learning that obedience is paramount. I have learned and am learning that living the law of chastity takes sacrifice of my natural man’s desires. I have learned and am learning that I can repent and take upon me the name of Christ and be more Christlike as I strive to live the law of chastity.

Law of Consecration – Expanding Our Souls

The final covenant we make in the endowment of the temple is the law of consecration. The law of consecration is that we will give our time, talents, and energy to the Lord for the building up of His kingdom.

The law of consecration is designed to eliminate our selfishness. This law was initially introduced to the saints by the prophet Joseph Smith, but ultimately, they were unable to consistently live this law. Rather than judge these early saints too harshly, we should look at ourselves to see if are doing any better.

This can be a challenging law to live. It would be very difficult to give everything I earn to the bishop so he could redisperse it to those in need. I think I would really struggle with that. But thankfully, there are ways that we can start to train ourselves to live this law. One way is by living the law of tithing. Paying tithing and fast offerings teaches us to give back to the Church and individuals. We can also practice living the law of consecration in our families. Often running a family home means doing chores and activities for the entire family. How many of us have said, “well those aren’t MY dirty dishes in the sink. Why should I have to do them?” As we learn to work as a family and give of ourselves for the building up of our homes, our circle of capacity will begin to expand to other areas of our life.

We can magnify our church callings and extend ourselves to our ward family. We are learning to give of ourselves and become more like Christ who loved the church and gave himself for it.

Becoming Like Christ

Each temple covenant we make builds upon each other and expands our spiritual muscle to be able to make additional covenants. But Christ doesn’t just want us to do something, he wants us to become something. As we enter into covenants and participate in ordinances, we unlock the power of Godliness in our lives. Our minds and spirit will become enlightened, and we grow to become more and more like our Savior.

How do we help leaders

Pin It on Pinterest