I thought it could be helpful to others to post a few resources for how I approached this month’s topic, Ordinances and Covenants. I want to both normalize Mormon high church liturgy, and also highlight what is unique and special about our approach. (If you aren’t sure what those words mean, feel no shame because we don’t use them in our day-to-day, though they do nicely describe us. Click the words for simple definitions.) To do this, I showed a series of videos of formal oaths taken in secular contexts.
I have my own laptop and laptop projector (and use a white sheet or the wall for a screen). You’ll need at least a laptop that students can gather around to watch the videos. #techprivilege. Note that the Wifi in LDS meetinghouses blocks YouTube, so you’ll need to download in advance; there are greyish-market tools for doing this.
- Barack Obama inauguration 2009:
- New Bridgeport, MA Police cadet swearing-in (the post-production intro music is epic) (actual swearing in begins at 12:45):
- LAPD Police Cadet swearing-in (includes more detailed commitments than the above New Bridgeport example):
- Prince William and Catherine Middleton wedding vows:
- Physician’s Oath (updated Hippocratic Oath). This very moving recitation happens to be from Grey’s Anatomy. For the youth, I especially like how it begins with an exhortation to always remember the oath:
- Oath of Allegiance for becoming a U.S. Citizen through naturalization. It starts with a roll call of native countries of those present, which is fun to see. The oath starts at 2:42:
- What kinds of occasions call for a formal oath?
- What kind of people/roles call for a formal oath?
- What are common elements of the words of a formal oath?
- What are common elements of the way the formal oaths are administered? (I had in mind things like witnesses, an officiant, repeating of the oath one phrase at a time, raising a hand)
Students will notice some similarities between bits of these videos and what they’ve seen in church settings (Sacrament, baptisms, even baby blessings). Teachers will notice even more similarities with what happens in the temple. Remind students of some of our covenant language by reading the scriptures from the lesson:
- Mosiah 18:8–10; D&C 20:37 (Covenants we make when we are baptized)
- D&C 20:77, 79 (Sacrament prayers)
- D&C 84:33–44 (Oath and covenant of the priesthood)
- Abraham 2:8–11 (Promises made to Abraham as part of the Abrahamic covenant)
- Russell M. Nelson, “Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 86–89
- “The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage,” True to the Faith (2004), 98
- Preach My Gospel (2004), 63–64, 85
This was enough material for the whole lesson. I wanted students to think about their roles as disciples of Christ in terms of public offices that they would hold throughout their lives. Like presidents and police, they act on behalf of a greater authority–representing Jesus Christ–and the words of the oaths commonly reflect our expectation that those with more power and authority than the average person will use that power and authority to act for the service and benefit of others. Covenants are promises that we make with God to undertake these responsibilities. One thing that is different in our covenant language compared to these oaths is that more time is spent talking about the benefits we get–the blessings from God–by virtue of the covenant. We are promised much more than the $400,000/year that the president makes in return. God promises us entrance into His kingdom and all He has. All this should come out in the discussion of the questions above.