What are Inward Ordinances and Why are they Important?


Faith In God, My Gospel Standards, and The Gift of Giving Life

“That they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”

John 17:3.

I was recently released from serving in Young Women. My new calling is to teach the Valiant 10/11 year old girls.  In addition to that I am also their Activity Day leader.  I have been studying the Faith in God program with new eyes, looking for ways in which it prepares a girl (or boy) to give life.

The entire purpose of the Faith in God program is that each girl and boy of the age of accountability is set on a path that will bring them to know God and Jesus Christ.

The program is split into four sections: “Learning and Living the Gospel,” “Serving Others,” “Developing Talents,” and “Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.”

All of the requirements are identical for a boy and girl until you reach the section on Preparing for Young Women or the Priesthood.  The choice of scriptures for these sections is not a coincidence:

For the soon to be Young Women: “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” D&C 87:8.

And for the soon to be Young Men: “The Priesthood of Aaron . . . is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances” D&C 107:13-14.

Did anyone else catch the significance of comparing these two scriptures next to each other? These young priesthood holders administer in “outward ordinances,” which begs the question, what about the “inward ordinances?”  Inward ordinances happen inside a holy temple, in “holy places.”  There are the washings, anointings, endowments, and sealings we have all been taught about that take place in holy temple buildings.  But we are also told that our body is a temple.  If you have read Heather’s essay, “The Two Veils,” you are aware of some of these inward ordinances: intimacy, conception, pregnancy and birth.  I would add to that list, menstruation and lactation.  These girls are preparing to shed blood as did the Savior.  They are a holy place where ordinance work will take place beginning with menstruation and continuing through other the other inward ordinances.

As our girls become young women we must teach them the sacredness of their bodies and that they are places of holy ordinance work symbolizing the mission of our Savior. (Boys need to be taught their bodies are sacred too.  This could be a whole other post. I’m just concentrating on the role of girls preparing to be young women.) The point I am trying to make is that if we do not teach them what that means they will be confused as to why and how to express the power they hold within them.  Why be modest?  Why avoid harmful substances?  Why keep the Gospel Standards?

It is easy to misunderstand the importance of inward ordinances.  It is easier to understand outward ordinances and their significance because of their apparent visibility but that does not mean they are more important than inward ordinances.  The fact that inward ordinances are so misunderstood speaks to how sacred they truly are. 

As a girl becomes a woman she experiences changes in her body that are symbolic of the Savior’s life giving properties.  Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life.  The curves she develops give her body the strength and shape to carry life within her and bring it into this world.  Hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life. Her breasts grow so that they may eventually be filled with living water to nourish her baby just as the Savior’s living water is meant to nourish us. Her body begins to ovulate and shed blood as did the Christ.  Whether inward or outward we should always, ask ourselves, “in what way does this ordinance testify of Christ and His Atonement?”

Each of the sections within the Faith in God program is preparatory to coming to know God and Jesus Christ.  In order to truly know God we become like our Heavenly Parents.  Part of that is reverencing inward ordinances.  We must help our boys and girls keep baptismal covenants, learn and live the gospel, serve others, develop talents, and prepare for more ordinance work in the young women and priesthood programs.

How do we help our boys and girls understand inward and outward ordinances?

  • Utilize A Parent’s Guide. It is a manual by the church for parents to help with teaching our children about their bodies and intimacy according to their understanding and age.
  • Participate in Faith in God.  Attend scouting or activity days.
  • Celebrate and teach them about the inward ordinances. Consider a coming of age party for your daughter as she nears puberty.
  • Put together a special binder/book of information for your daughter about the changes she will experience. 
  • Attend the new General Women’s Meetings with your daughters (or boys the General Priesthood Meeting with their fathers). It seems God has much in store for our girls and we must be ready to help them understand what is coming. Study both the Women’s and Priesthood sessions.  Teach your daughters and sons what was discussed at both.
  • Listen for those informal, spontaneous moments when you can talk about these topics and bear testimony of their significance.  Don’t have this conversation just once. Leave the lines of communication open for questions.
  • Go on “dates” with your child. They need not be extravagant, they just involve one on one time. 
  • Be aware of how you talk about your body, motherhood, and fatherhood, etc.  Our children tend to mirror our insecurities.

I have already been learning a great deal from these powerful girls who are on the cusp of becoming women.  They are smart.  I have to prepare for their lessons studying not only the primary manual but the adult Sunday school lesson as well.  Their questions are thoughtful and reflective.  I feel a great responsibility to give them what matters most.  I seek the spirit every week as I prepare to teach them.   

I would love to learn from you. What have you done to teach your children or primary kids the significance of inward and outward ordinances?



8 thoughts on “What are Inward Ordinances and Why are they Important?”

  1. Christian McKay Egan

    This is so beautiful!! I am a Mom of two and a half little boys (5 and 2) and soon to be Baby boy#3, and I want to teach my boys to have respect for women as co creators with God. I would love to see another post on teaching this to boys! I love this post so much!

  2. Heather@Women in the Scriptures

    Robyn, I love that scripture about outward ordinances! That is just beautiful! I think that we forget that it doesn’t matter if a woman is a mother or not, she has that power– that inward ordinance capability– within her body! And that is really incredible.

    Lately Rose has been asking me about the difference between boys and girls and it has been so sweet for me to explain to her that BOTH men and women have special bodies… but that girls REALLY have special bodies. It has been so sweet to see her grasp that love of herself so young!

  3. What have I done to teach my Sunday School kids the significance of inward , , , ordinances?” Nothing. Here’s why: “Teachers must ensure that they keep the doctrine pure by teaching gospel truths as the Lord has revealed them. Avoid speculation and private interpretations” (https://www.lds.org/service/teaching-the-gospel/principles-and-methods-of-teaching/teach-the-doctrine?lang=eng). The notion of inward ordinances is speculation; it is not found in Church canon. Every ordinance is outward, or able to be witnessed by others. “In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood” (lds.org/topics/ordinances). Intimacy, conception, pregnancy, birth, menstruation, and lactation may be sacred and meaningful experiences, but they are not ordinances. Elder James E. Faust offered this perspective: “Childbearing is a basic biological and psychological, privileged function of womankind” (“The Sanctity of Life,” Ensign, May 1975).

    It’s disturbing to see so much emphasis being placed on a biological process that’s beyond a young woman’s control. Fortunately, the Church doesn’t do this. There is *no* lesson which teaches that “hair begins to grow and is symbolic of life . . . breasts grow so that they may . . . nourish her baby just as the Savior’s living water is meant to nourish us. Her body begins to ovulate and shed blood as did the Christ.” Those are private interpretations and sadly, they exclude some girls. Can you imagine the feelings of a young woman with amenorrhea or delayed puberty hearing that in a Church class? We should *not* teach that “they are a holy place where ordinance work will take place beginning with menstruation.” For the true meaning of “holy places,” read Ann M. Dibb’s in “Your Holy Places,” (Ensign, May 2013) or Sharon G. Larson’s “Standing in Holy Places” (Ensign, May 2002). These inspired, approved messages teach that holy places result from a young woman’s choices, not her anatomy.

    “These girls are preparing to shed blood as did the Savior.” That’s an unjustifiable comparison. The Savior purposely shed His life’s blood as evidence of His deliberate sacrifice for us. Menstruation is not something a girl does deliberately; it’s what happens to her. The sacrament and other ordinances give both sexes equal opportunity to actively participate in the symbols of Christ’s sacrifice. The greatest offerings of God’s sons and daughters are not related to bodily functions, but rather choices of the mind and spirit. “The great accomplishments of this life are rarely physical. Those attributes by which we shall be judged one day are spiritual (Russell M. Nelson, “The Magnificence of Man,” Ensign, Jan. 1988).

    “If we do not teach them [that they are places of holy ordinance work] . . . they will be confused as to why and how . . . [to] keep the Gospel Standards.” The curriculum already teaches the reasons for gospel standards. It doesn’t need embellishment. Pure doctrine is beautiful, and it’s enough. When I teach my students the sacred privilege and responsibility of parenthood, I hope to keep this in mind: “I have spoken before about the importance of keeping the doctrine of the Church pure, and seeing that it is taught in all of our meetings. I worry about this. Small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 620).

  4. Sue, no worries, this post is food for thought and not intended to declare doctrine. That is why we have this statement on our website and in our book. It applies every time we post:
    Though we have made every attempt to be consistent with the correct doctrine and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Gift of Giving Life and all related media are an expression of many of our own thoughts and reflections upon pondering the truths of the gospel that we treasure. Our book, website, and facebook page are not official declarations of doctrine in regards to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to which we belong and cherish our membership. Please make sure to pray and ponder about everything you read.
    I was using the term “ordinance” loosely in some respect like Jeffrey R. Holland uses the term “sacrament” here:
    “[H]uman intimacy is a sacrament, a very special kind of symbol. For our purpose here today, a sacrament could be any one of a number of gestures or acts or ordinances that unite us with God and his limitless powers. We are imperfect and mortal; he is perfect and immortal. But from time to time indeed, as often as is possible and appropriate we find ways and go to places and create circumstances where we can unite symbolically with him, and in so doing gain access to his power. . .
    These are moments when we quite literally unite our will with God’s will, our spirit with his spirit, where communion through the veil becomes very real. At such moments we not only acknowledge his divinity, but we quite literally take something of that divinity to ourselves. Such are the holy sacraments.” http://students.cs.byu.edu/~mcelwee/jeffrey_r.htm
    I feel the entire process is an expression of divinity within us being that we are created in the image of God. I have enjoyed studying symbolism recently as it relates to the scriptures and gospel. There are so many levels of meaning.
    Certainly not every woman will experience every bit of the female reproductive experience but that does not mean it that its’ significance should not be discussed. Much the same as not everyone will get to be married in this life but that does not mean we shouldn’t teach the importance of eternal marriage.
    As I was studying for my lesson this Sunday, “[T]he Lord’s promises are certain but that blessings do not always come immediately nor always in the way that we expect. Sometimes our blessings are spiritual and come to us in the eternities rather than during this earth life. (See Hebrews 11:13.)” https://www.lds.org/manual/primary-6-old-testament/lesson-9-jehovah-makes-covenants-with-abraham?lang=eng
    I personally await some of these blessings that I look forward to in the eternities.
    It is okay that you do not agree with my thoughts here. I am comfortable with agreeing to disagree.

  5. Hi, I am a little late to the party since I see the other comments here are 7 years old, but I have been doing some studying on “outward ordinances” and found your interesting blog. I found this quote in an article in the Church News about D&C 107 and the roles of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood. It is not exactly along the lines of what you are saying, but I thought you might be interested.
    “Thus the Aaronic Priesthood administers the temporal matters of the Church and the Melchizedek Priesthood administers the spiritual. The Aaronic brings a person into the church of God upon the earth and the Melchizedek brings a person into the presence of God through the gospel and ordinances restored to the Church. Both priesthoods are functioning in the Church today.”
    I take it from this article that “outward” means these ordinances are aimed at those who are outside of the church or at those who, through transgressions great or small, have estranged themselves from the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Baptism brings us into the church and its companion ordinance, the sacrament, restores to us the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We are then prepared for the spiritual blessings that come from the Melchizedek priesthood that eventually bring us into the presence of God.

Comments are closed.