Teaching Like the Temple Teaches

 In a classic address, LDS apostle John A. Widstoe summarized the educational value of temple work:

Another fact has always appealed to me as a strong internal evidence for the truth of temple work. The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also Doctor Talmage’s The House of the Lord) fall clearly into four distinct parts: the preparatory ordinances, the giving of instructions by lectures and representations; covenants; and, finally, tests of knowledge. I doubt that the Prophet Joseph, unlearned and untrained in logic, could of himself have made the thing so logically complete. The candidate for the temple service is prepared, as in any earthly affair, for work to be done. Once prepared he is instructed in the things that he should know. When instructed, he covenants to use the imparted knowledge, and at once the new knowledge, which of itself is dead, leaps into living life. At last, tests are given him, whereby those who are entitled to know may determine whether the man has properly learned the lesson. The brethren and sisters who go through the temple should observe all these things and recognize the wonderful coherence and logical nature of the carefully worked out system, with a beginning and an end, fitting every known law of God and nature, which constitutes temple worship.

The wonderful pedagogy of the temple service, especially appealing to me as a professional teacher, carries with it evidence of the truth of temple work. We go to the temple to be informed and directed, to be built up and to be blessed. How is all this accomplished? First by the spoken word, through lectures and conversations, just as we do in the class room, except with more elaborate care, then by the appeal to the eye by representations by living, moving beings; and by pictorial representations in the wonderfully decorated rooms (as any one may see in Dr. Talmage’s book.) Meanwhile the recipients themselves, the candidates for blessings, engage actively in the temple service as they move from room to room, with the progress of the course of instruction. Altogether our temple worship follows a most excellent pedagogical system. I wish instruction were given so well in every school throughout the land, for we would then teach with more effect than we now do.

Indeed.  As an educator myself, I’ve always been impressed with how effectively the “lesson plan” of the endowment is put together.  I’ve often outlined it in my head as I’ve gone there, wondering if I could reproduce such a complex yet organically coherent structure in my own lessons.  I’ve largely given up on that, though: I realize that the best means for teaching the gospel may not necessarily be the best means for teaching grammar. 

Still, I think examining the pedagogy (teaching strategies and methods) of the temple, in the manner of apostles like Elder Widstoe and Elder Talmage, can assist us in our worship and discipleship.  Continue reading

Finding Christ In the Endowment

I went to the temple today specifically looking for references to Christ in the endowment.  It yielded a rich harvest that warrants much further investigation.  Not even counting every individual reference to Him, there were some pretty significant things I noticed.

The first and last words in the endowment are clear references to the Savior.  Truly, He is Alpha and Omega: even in the temple, Jesus Christ is the beginning and ending of everything.  Literally.

More fascinating still were the major references to the Atonement itself.  I counted five.  (I’d love to attend a session of work there with you sometime and discuss in more detail where I saw these five references and the insightful language the endowment uses to describe it!) 

Of course, this is perfectly natural.  The largest overarching theme of the endowment is the physical and spiritual reconciliation of mankind to God through Christ.  In fact, viewed in that vein, the entire endowment itself could be seen as a symbol of the Atonement.

Temples, Abortion, and Becoming Saviors

I just watched a video that was posted on Facebook about abortion survivor Gianna Jensen.  As I watched her story, this occured to me:

What she’s doing for the unborn is like what we do with temple work.  As a Wikipedia entry explains: “When Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world, He did for people everywhere what they could not do for themselves….Because of Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection, and through the power and authority of the Priesthood, Mormons can do for the dead, what the dead cannot do for themselves.”

Or, as President Gordon B. Hinckley put it: “I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle.”

So, if temple work is the closest we come to following Christ because we’re doing for others what they cannot possibly do for themselves, then the work of advocating for the unborn is just as holy.  Truly, they are in need of saving and are completely helpless to do anything about it themselves.  Just as the dead need us to perform ordinances, and the entire human family needs Jesus Christ to save us from death and sin, millions of unborn babies need us to try to save them.