067: Rituals, Ordinances, and Covenants

We Latter-day Saints who are experiencing shifts in our faith and spiritual understandings often begin to ask questions about religious practices, including ordinances that we have been taught as being essential to our salvation. Here is an important group of D&C verses that seems to suggest just that:

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:19–22)

This passage can be read at different levels. Is it actually saying that participation in Mormon ordinances are an essential requirement for us if we want to gain the deepest kinds of spiritual insight and empowerment? We participants in this podcast seek to broaden that idea. If we can learn to view ritual in other than purely transactional terms—“If I do this, then I will get that”—are there affirming ways we can view ritual participation and priesthood ordinances and how they can be important aids for our spiritual journeying? Can we imagine different ways we might interpret “the mysteries of the kingdom,” “the key to the knowledge of God,” and “the power of godliness?”

In this episode, I am joined by my friends Mark Crego and Lindsay Pulsipher for a discussion of these things, and more! In the early going, we discuss the nature and structure of rituals of various types and from many wider cultures, and point to what they have in common with each other. We discuss what ritual “is trying to do” and why, to use my phrase from an article I wrote for Sunstone, “ritual makes sense” even as it can’t be the kind of sense that our minds can work out by themselves. In other sections we talk about the transformational qualities of rituals rather than their being something that we must “do” in order to gain salvation or merely as part of the common phrase in today’ church, “making and keeping covenants.” We dial in on how ordinances and rituals, when seen correctly, express the key aspect about God’s covenant with us, which is that God invites us into full relationship and will always welcome us no matter how far we stray. (And, like the chosen people in the Hebrew Bible, stray we will!) In the final portion, we each share ritual moments we’ve had and offer final reflections on what we understand as going on within us during such times.

It’s a terrific discussion with much to chew on! I hope you’ll choose to listen in! 


Dan Wotherspoon, Why Ritual Makes Sense,” Sunstone, Fall 2016

Walter Ciszek, He Leadeth Me (Image, 2014)

Other podcast episodes related to this topic:
The LDS Temple and the Vitality of Ritual Immersion,” Latter-day Faith episode 17, July 2009

Ritual within Mormonism,” Mormon Matters episodes 40–41, July 2011

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