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Jul 7, 2020

Latter-day Saints who are experiencing shifts in their faith and spiritual understandings often begin to ask questions about religious practices, including ordinances that we are 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? The panel in this podcast seeks 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, LDF host Dan Wotherspoon calls on his friends Mark Crego and Lindsay Pulsipher to have a discussion of these things, and more! In the early going, they 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. They discuss what ritual "is trying to do" and why, to use Wotherspoon's phrase, "ritual makes sense" even as it appeals to something deeper in us than what our minds can work out by themselves. In other sections the panel speaks about the transformational qualities of rituals rather than their being something that we must "do" in order to gain salvation or simply as part of "making and keeping covenants." They dial in on how ordinances and ritual, when seen correctly, expresses 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, they each share ritual moments they've had and offer final reflections on what they understand as going on within them during such times.

It's a terrific discussion with much to chew on! Please listen in!