I am not certain as to why, but my family has always liked puzzles.   The children would start one, leaving it out for others to find places for pieces scattered around on the surface.  As parents, we didn’t discipline around getting it done or even talk much about it.  We just would join them in laughter and frustration in the process.  Then over time, like magic, the picture would begin to unfold along with the excitement.  All parents deeply long to start their children on an upward course that leads to their independence and eternal happiness.  What if we applied the same puzzle principles to their learning eternal truths?

Apparently, all believe in some higher power than themselves.  Some claim that it is luck, or a natural power or sequence like evolution or coincidence.  But most believe that it is some kind of intelligence like a god.  We have chosen to believe that God is a perfect person with relationships not just power.  This root-sense or belief about where we started, our ontology, defines, in part who we think we are. Joseph Smith taught, “If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, it is a hard matter to get right.”[1] That is because precepts are linked, one leads to the next or like puzzle pieces that fit together.

The most important start or first piece is to acknowledge that God is our glorious, loving Father who does only those things that will benefit each person He has created. Though we sometimes read about the anger or vengeance of God, where benefit isn’t our first thought, were we to start right by acknowledging His love and motivation to exalt us, those passages are seen as acts of love. For example, if we start with God as a glorious being, we then accept the truth that we unfinished mortals cannot endure His natural glorious presence without suffering destruction.  Also, since God is loving as well as glorious, the misery of hell that would have seemed to be a threat from God imposing a brutal punishment, is reframed as the natural results of our behavior in His glorious presence. His love motivates Him to appeal to any truth that might encourage our change of course in the exercise of our sacred agency to enable that promised personal presence rather than inevitable destruction; like a match in the presence of the sun.

Agency is the second piece we need to understand.  The exercise of agency is the only means by which we can partner in the change of our fallen natures.  The creation of who we are is a partnership between us and our creator.  Our creation is not finished, and He can’t finish us alone.  It is necessary that we be complicit if we are to be trusted in eternity with unlimited power and independence.  But agency is more than the freedom to choose.  It is the freedom to plan an outcome through a chain of choices, which requires knowledge of cause and effect.  We can choose, but in so doing the effect eventually and inevitably follows.  One cannot decouple the effect from the choice; therefore, the exercise of agency requires knowledge; “the truth shall make you free.”  If one cannot personally know the result, then either divine revelation, or faith in those that do know is necessary, because the natural result of a poor choice is a reduction in one’s agency.  Incrementally losing one’s agency through ignorant, or appetite driven choices, is spoken of as being bound by the chains of hell where satan enslaves.[2]

The third piece in the puzzle is the physical body as a key to our progression in eternity as well a test for us though mortality.  It is a double-edged sword.  As it turns out, Father Lehi warns us that the devil can use the appetites of our bodies to enslave us.[3] Yet we are taught that our bodies give us power over satan.[4] Can something have the potential to both over-power AND surrender power?[5] Yes, by using our bodies to receive light and truth through crescendoing agency, we grow in our capacity to repulse the evil one.[6] The truths about the body and how to activate it as a power-tool against evil are found in the symbols of the initiatory portion of the temple endowment[7], The Word of Wisdom[8], and the war chapters of Alma.[9] More on this in piece five.

The fourth piece follows these first three; God’s nature, our agency, and our mortal body.  God cannot save us unless He can engage us in the saving of others. How could we hope to receive the greatest gift of eternal life (a life like His) without being mentored in doing His work.  This second law of heaven[10] is as necessary as the first.  We cannot feel and then abide in God’s unconditional gift of love without loving Him by loving His children as Christ loves.[11]  His grace or light[12] and love is best transmitted as we engage in using His grace to pass that grace on to others.  His grace has always been a “pay it forward” process that He calls “true worship.” [13] He transforms us best by working through us rather than on us.  Elder Uchtdorf said, “The ONLY way we can progress is to help others progress.”

The fifth piece applies to both our parental as well as our neighborly relationships as we share this divine grace with our fellow travelers.  That which God values are the eternal truths that have made Him God.  “Values are caught, not taught!”[14]  Values are the union of heart, mind, and strength; feelings, understanding, and actions.  For Him to share His values with us is to exalt us as we love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength.  I can agree to be taught a value but if I don’t catch it, I won’t feel, think, or act any differently.  I can’t catch a value unless I correctly understand it, am able to do it, and love it — mind, skill, motivation. Catching a value is the result of a proper exercise of agency which requires our engagement.  The bridge that God uses to help us catch values, honor our agency, and engage us is to use symbols[15] and tell stories.  Perhaps most often, it isn’t what is told but HOW it is told that has the lasting and deepest impact.[16]

This raises a question; if God uses and even prescribes the use of symbols and stories, should we be using them to bridge the chasm between us and our children and neighbors, allowing them to “catch” in their own time and way?  Do we preach too much to them, resulting in resistance rather than receptivity.  When the Savior told the story of the Sower, to the confusion of his apostles, he gave some explanation only after they asked for it.  He explained that the use of symbols, parables, and stories is to both conceal and reveal truths to be learned directly from Him through the Spirit.[17]  Then He gave some explanation, but only enough to leave them pondering so they could personally “catch” the deeper and personally appliable values and truths.

Anyone suffering from physical handicap or chronic illness who has experienced the initiatory part of the temple endowment, has perhaps wondered at the application of the blessings pronounced.  Yet these symbols, as mentioned in piece three, when seen through the lens of the spirit as how to protect and even activate specific body parts and capacities in our personal war against evil, deeply inform our choices and research in obtaining our personal word of wisdom revelations.

In His Sermon on the Mount and again at the Nephite temple, Christ concluded with instruction on how to share converting values.  Using the Joseph Smith Translation, here is a possible unfolding as He used symbols to instruct.

JST Matthew 7

1 Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. THIS IS A SEMINAR ON HOW TO TEACH
2 Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment. ONLY DRAW CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THOSE YOU ARE TEACHING, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SPIRIT (SEE DC 11:12)
3-4 And again, ye shall say unto them, Why is it that thou beholdest the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? IN JUDGING, FIRST SEEK TO CHANGE YOURSELF BEFORE CHANGING THEM.
5 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and canst not behold a beam in thine own eye?
6 And Jesus said unto his disciples, Beholdest thou the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the priests, and the Levites? They teach in their synagogues, but do not observe the law, nor the commandments; and all have gone out of the way, and are under sin.
7 Go thou and say unto them, Why teach ye men the law and the commandments, when ye yourselves are the children of corruption?
8 Say unto them, Ye hypocrites, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
9 Go ye into the world, saying unto all, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come nigh unto you. THEN TEACH THEM THE ADVANTAGES OF CHANGE OR REPENTANCE
10 And the mysteries of the kingdom ye shall keep within yourselves; for it is not meet to give that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls unto swine, lest they trample them under their feet. INSTEAD OF TRYING TO IMPRESS THEM WITH YOUR SACRED EXPERIENCES, LOGIC, SIGNS, OR MIRACLE STORIES, WHICH THEY WILL ONLY RECEIVE AS SKEPTICISM…
11 For the world cannot receive that which ye, yourselves, are not able to bear; wherefore ye shall not give your pearls unto them, lest they turn again and rend you.
12 Say unto them, Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. INVITE THEM TO GET THEIR OWN ANSWERS, TESTIMONY, AND MIRACLES BY ASKING, STUDYING, AND DOING.
13 For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened. PROMISE THEM THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES
14 And then said his disciples unto him, They will say unto us, We ourselves are righteous, and need not that any man should teach us. God, we know, heard Moses and some of the prophets; but us he will not hear. IF THEY CLAIM THAT THEY WON’T GET ANY MORE ANSWERS THAN WHAT IS ALREADY GIVEN…
15 And they will say, We have the law for our salvation, and that is sufficient for us.
17 What man among you, having a son, and he shall be standing out, and shall say, Father, open thy house that I may come in and sup with thee, will not say, Come in, my son; for mine is thine, and thine is mine?

18 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

13 ¶ Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:


As can be seen, the invitation given to the apostles in sharing with others begins with setting the teacher’s own mind and spirit in tune with God and then inviting the student to engage that same spirit with the promise of a loving Heavenly Father who wants to share His values with His children.

Story-telling is an art-form that can be learned.  Using symbols takes practice and time.  I used AI[18] to take some simple facts from a family event with instruction to write a value filled story.  It was a good beginning.  I asked AI to write a story using some symbols that would share values with a grandson.  Again, it was a good beginning needing only some refining and personalizing.

Fitting life’s pieces together seems to be a skill needed in the many compartments of our lives, and in the whole as well.   A spirituality-lens helps impart lasting meaning.  Our children and grandchildren have grown in puzzle skills and enjoyment but not because we taught them in any pedagogical methodology.  We just ended up spending time together finding pieces that fit like mini-treasure hunts and micro victories, because someone had started a puzzle.  We took time doing, sharing tricks, and celebrating those victories.  But it was the time together and the final joy of completion that filled us and bound us together.  Is that symbolic too?  I wish that I had applied this to all my parental teaching efforts!

In part two, we will examine God’s instruction to Adam and Eve on how to teach their children using symbols and then how to help others “juice” those symbols for their nutritive value.


[1]  Joseph Smith, Discourse, 7 April 1844, as Published in Times and Seasons

[2] And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. Alma 12:10-11

[3] 2 Nephi 2:29 not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the aevil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to bcaptivate, to bring you down to chell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

[4] “Those who have a body have power over those who do not.” Joseph Smith


[5]  The Lord taught The First Presidency about our relationship to light and truth as the substance of our and His nature (I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. DC 93:2, 29), as a preamble to chastising them, in part, for not bringing up their children in light and truth. (you have continued under this condemnation; You have not taught your children light and truth 93:41-2, 44, 47, 50)

He detailed His incremental reception of the Father‘s light, until receiving the fulness. (…he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; DC 93:12-13)

After describing our beginning and nature as of the same light, He underscores the same need of crescendoing our light unto a like-fulness, first warning us of the consequences of choosing to reject this divine light. ( …here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. …every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. DC 93:31-2) He then makes promises, revealing two keys to aggregating light until it reaches a fullness:

  • He thatkeepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. DC 93:28  See also DC 50:24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
  • Spiritand element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy DC 93:33) Here he identifies the physical body as that key instrument, promising that when it is perfected our light and resultant joy will be full. The Prophet Joseph added that the chaotic matter of mortality, the physical body, is the vessel for light or glory.[5]  (Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory.” (Smith, Teachings, 350–52))

Then note:

Light and truth forsake that evil one. And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, AND because of the tradition of their fathers. DC 93:37, 39

[6]  24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day…

27 Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son.

29 And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.

30 But know this…the spirits shall be subject unto you. DC 50

[7]  When understood as instruction that activates a blessing rather than just an automatic blessing, we see how to protect and prepare each part of our body against the evil schemes that will and do attack us each day and as we age.  If satan can shorten or compromise our years of contribution, of anxious engagement in righteousness of our own will and agency, he has won a battle even if he knows he can’t win the war.

[8]  2 To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days—

3 Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.

4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation.  DC 89

  • The revelation is to each of us.
  • The warnings are principles-bigger umbrellas than the specifics mentioned
  • The warnings are latter-day specifics spanning time until the end.
  • The warnings prepare and protect our spirit and mind from the evils and designs that use our bodies to gain control.

[9] See “Moroni’s War on Addiction” by Joseph Grenny. Also, Meridian Magazine’s five articles by Joseph Grenny beginning here: https://latterdaysaintmag.com/addiction-the-spiritual-battle-of-our-times/ . Parts 4-5 can be accessed here: https://latterdaysaintmag.com/author/josephgrenny/

See Also “Like Dragons Did They Fight” by Maurice W. Harker

[10] This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt 22:38-40

[11] John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

[12] …the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth….The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. DC 93:11, 36

[13]  I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace…you shall receive grace for grace. I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship… DC 93:13,19, 20

[14] Elder David A. Bednar, Ensign 9/2007, p61 – From address to CES 2/3/2006; Quoting Cecil Frank Cheverton

[15] Moses 6:58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:

What follows is symbolism followed by a “therefore” about the Holy Ghost, then verse 63:

:63 behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual;

[16] For example, He includes four creation stories in the scriptures.  Each is in a different context, so he tells it differently, sometimes contradicting one of the other accounts.  But when read in context each account reveals some new importance or focus.  He would later tell us that the actual account of the creation is yet to be told. “Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof” DC 101:32-33

[17] And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. Matt 13:10-17

[18] See https://chat.openai.com as an example of a free utility that I used.