We were going to combine the youth classes last Sunday and have the missionaries show the students how they teach investigators about ordinances and covenants, but we had a transfer in our ward last week, and the missionaries apparently didn't get the message about the lesson plans - so I ended up giving a lesson that was a continuation of our discussion last week about temple ordinances and, in particular, the endowment. I was able to talk with them in more detail about some of the things we simply didn't have time to discuss last week - primarily the Masonic connection and the changes that have occurred over time.
I started by mentioning again how I see the endowment as an interactive play and a series of ordinances (Laws) that represent the covenants we make in this life. We talked about baptism and the administration of the sacrament and how the exact way we perform them (the physical actions involved) isn't set in stone. I gave the example of very large people being baptized and how it might not be possible to get them immersed in the traditional way we envision the ordinance. We talked about different ways the physical actions could be performed - like finding a way to have deeper water available so the people only had to duck their heads to be fully immersed - or having extra people in the font to help lift them from the water - or having the people sit in the water, having someone sit above their legs, having them lie down in the water until they are fully immersed, then having them sit up, move to kneeling, then stand to leave the font - whatever it takes in individual situations to accomplish full immersion. We had the same discussion about the sacrament and how the physical administration can be done in just about any way that makes sense for the congregation / family / person involved.
I then explained Joseph Smith's statement that Mormonism embraces and encompasses all truth and goodness in the world. I had them recite the 13th Article of Faith, focusing on "the admonition of Paul". I asked someone to summarize that part as if they were teaching it to a five-year old in Primary. The summary they liked the best was: "We accept and believe anything that is good and true." I told them that Joseph had an amazing ability to see things that others taught and did and adapt those things into our own practices - like the Masonic aspects of how we perform the ordinances within the endowment. (this also gave me a chance to dispel a couple of misconception about Masons that a student had.)
We talked about the changes in the endowment since it was instituted back in the day. We talked about the length, fabric and styles of the garment - and how things have gotten a lot better for women, especially, than they used to be, even though there still are issues that need to be addressed in that area. We talked about what to do when garments get old and need to be replaced - and most of them understood the basics already, although it was new to some of them. We talked about the length of the endowment ceremony. We talked again (like last week) about the cultural change that led to the changes in the initiatory - that led the current version to resemble a standard Priesthood blessing in form. We discussed the cultural change from a time when members literally had to worry about being killed if they wouldn't talk about the endowment to our day now when they probably won't face that threat - and, in very general terms, about the change in the endowment as a result. We talked about the dropping of the minister from the play and the former reference to specific Christian leaders, especially since we now are a world-wide church in which many members would not understand the former presentation in any meaningful way and where we are trying more openly to work with other denominations in many ways we simply didn't do in the past.
I ended by telling them that more changes wouldn't shock me in the slightest - and that I believe some of the next changes probably will deal with concerns many women have with the current version.
The students won't understand everything when they go to the temple for the first time, but I believe none of them will be shocked or surprised - and I believe that is important.
In Our Ward: Lesson 43: The Shepherds of Israel
20 minutes ago