Chapter 10

Covenants, Ordinances, and Temples in the Plan of Salvation

“Chapter 10: Covenants, Ordinances, and Temples in the Plan of Salvation,” Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261 (2012), 44–47


Heavenly Father has revealed through His prophets the pathway to the celestial kingdom. Obedience to the Author of the plan of salvation, our Heavenly Father, requires diligent observance of His laws, including covenants and ordinances performed in the temple, the house of the Lord.

“Through the work we do in temples, all people who have lived on the earth can have an equal opportunity to receive the fulness of the gospel and the ordinances of salvation so they can inherit a place in the highest degree of celestial glory” (Gospel Principles [2009], 272).

In this lesson students will learn the meaning and importance of covenants and ordinances. They will gain an overview of the covenants and ordinances performed in temples and review some of the blessings that come with faithful temple attendance. Through regular temple attendance, they may receive those blessings themselves and give many people in the spirit world the opportunity to receive those same blessings.

Some Doctrines, Principles, and Gospel Truths

  • A covenant is a solemn agreement between God and man according to God’s terms.

  • Covenants and ordinances of salvation are necessary for exaltation in the celestial kingdom.

  • In the temple, we participate in sacred ordinances and make covenants essential for exaltation.

  • Ordinances for deceased ancestors can only be performed in temples.

  • We are blessed through temple worship.

Suggestions for Teaching

A Covenant Is a Solemn Agreement between God and Man According to God’s Terms

Ask students to use the Bible Dictionary or Guide to the Scriptures to help them determine and write down three or four important ideas about gospel covenants (see Bible Dictionary, “Covenant”; Guide to the Scriptures, “Covenant,” After sufficient time, have students share what they wrote, summarizing their comments on the board.

To help students see that God is the one who establishes the terms or conditions of the covenants we enter into with Him (see statement from Guide to the Scriptures on page 33 in chapter 8 of this manual), consider dividing your class into two groups. Have one group search Mosiah 18:8–10 and Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, 77 and identify the conditions God has established for those who are baptized. Have the other half of the class search Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–39 and identify the conditions God has established for those who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. After students share their findings, ask:

  • Why do you feel it is important that God, rather than men, sets the terms of a covenant? (If students need help, refer them to Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander’s quotation from the student manual under the heading “God determines our covenants with Him” [10.1.2].)

Covenants and Ordinances of Salvation Are Necessary for Exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom

Begin this portion of the lesson by asking:

  • What are some ordinances that are performed in the Church?

Young Man Being Baptized

Gospel Art Book (2009), no. 103

To help students understand the significance of ordinances in the Church, ask them to imagine that instead of baptizing new converts by immersion in water, they were just asked to make a silent promise in their own minds that they will take upon themselves the name of Christ. Then ask:

  • What benefits do you see that come from covenants being entered into by participating in associated ordinances? (Possible answers include: Physical reminders of our covenants help establish the sacred nature of covenants; symbolism in the ordinance teaches important principles.)

Tell students that baptism has been referred to as the gate to eternal life (see 2 Nephi 31:17–18). Individuals who are baptized by proper authority are on the path leading toward celestial glory if they keep their covenants and continue to receive other covenants and ordinances required for exaltation. Ask students to review Elder Neuenschwander’s statement in the student manual under the heading “Eternal covenants have an accompanying ordinance” (10.2.3). Invite a few students to summarize in their own words the truths taught by Elder Neuenschwander. Emphasize that when we participate in ordinances and make covenants with the Lord, we are following an eternal pattern that will lead us back to His presence.

Draw illustrations on the board depicting the sun, the moon, and a star. Circle the sun, and write “Celestial kingdom” under it. Have a student read 1 Corinthians 15:40–42. (Note: The Joseph Smith Translation, footnote 40a reads, “Also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, and bodies telestial; but the glory of the celestial, one; and the terrestrial, another; and the telestial, another.”)

sun, moon, star
  • What was Paul teaching in this analogy about the degrees of glory after the Resurrection?

Divide the class into two groups. Assign one group to study Doctrine and Covenants 88:21–25; assign the other group to study Doctrine and Covenants 88:36–39. Ask students to look for how the degree of glory we qualify for will be determined. Have someone from each group summarize what they learned from the assigned scripture passages. To further reinforce the role of obedience in determining to which kingdom of glory we will be assigned, you might read and discuss Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21 with your class.

Invite students to quietly study John 3:5; 2 Nephi 31:17–18; and Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–52; 130:1–2. As they study, have them look for what the Lord says is required to be exalted in His kingdom.

  • According to these scriptures, what are some requirements to be exalted in the celestial kingdom?

  • How do these scriptures apply to those who did not have the opportunity to be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ in this life?

After students give answers, share the following quotation with your class:

“The celestial kingdom is the highest of the three kingdoms of glory. Those in this kingdom will dwell forever in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. This should be your goal: to inherit celestial glory and to help others receive that great blessing as well. Such a goal is not achieved in one attempt; it is the result of a lifetime of righteousness and constancy of purpose” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 92).

Give students a minute or two to ponder how they might use the covenants they have entered into thus far with the Lord to help them in their journey back to Heavenly Father. Assure students that as they make and keep sacred covenants they are on the path back to Heavenly Father.

In the Temple, We Participate in Sacred Ordinances and Make Covenants Essential for Exaltation

Display a picture of a temple.

  • What feelings do you have when you see or visit the temple?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 124:26–28 regarding the materials for building a temple. Ask students to explain why temples are constructed of the best materials possible.

  • In what ways do you think temples symbolize the celestial kingdom?

  • How do you think temples symbolize our potential as children of God? (We can become peaceful and develop beautiful characteristics; we can qualify for glorious and beautiful celestial bodies in the Resurrection.)

Remind your students that temple ordinances and covenants are sacred. With that in mind, have students read Doctrine and Covenants 124:33, 37–40 and list on the board ordinances that are performed in the temple. Then turn to the student manual under the heading “Ordinances are essential for the dead” (10.3.2) and read together as a class about each of the ordinances students may participate in at the temple. Add a summary statement on the board next to each ordinance listed. (Important note: Because of the sacred nature of temple ordinances, limit class discussion to the material in the student manual. It is not appropriate to discuss these ordinances in detail outside of the temple.) You might consider having students share feelings they have experienced as they have attended the temple.

Conclude this portion of the lesson by having students quietly read and ponder the quotations by President Boyd K. Packer and Elder Russell M. Nelson found in the student manual introduction to chapter 10. Invite students to share any feelings or insights they may have as they ponder these statements. Share your testimony of the crucial nature of temple covenants and your gratitude to the Lord for making them available to us today.

Ordinances for Deceased Ancestors Can Only Be Performed in Temples

Ask if any student can relate the information from the student manual on how baptisms for the dead began in our dispensation. (If not, turn to the student manual and have a student read the information under the heading “Baptism for the dead was restored in the latter days” [10.4.1].) Be sure to emphasize that since that time, work for the dead has only been able to be performed in temples (see D&C 124:29–33). Explain that when you go to the temple for the first time, you go to receive your own endowment. Thereafter, except for your own sealing, each time you perform a temple ordinance it is done vicariously for someone in the spirit world.

Read Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 with your class, and ask:

  • How does this scripture contribute to an understanding of why saving ordinances for the dead can only be performed in temples?

We Are Blessed through Temple Worship

Invite any returned missionaries or students who have been married in the temple to share some of the blessings they have received from temple attendance, or that they have heard other family members or friends share with them.

Have students review the material from the student manual under the heading “We Are Blessed through Temple Worship” (10.5). Ask them to select two or three of the blessings mentioned that they most desire for themselves at this time in their lives. After giving time to review, invite students to share what they selected and why.

Share your feelings and testimony about temple blessings. Encourage students to live worthy of a temple recommend and to worship in the temple as regularly as circumstances permit so they might enjoy these blessings in their lives.