“Each of us has a personal lens through which we view the world. Our lens gives its special tint to all we see. It can suppress some features and emphasize others. It can also reveal things otherwise invisible”. [1]

An example of these lenses through which we all see can be found in a study reported in “Success Mindsets” Ryan Godfredson where he reports three basic mindsets or in Elder Oaks image, lenses through which people see and color their world.  1) The comfort lens is where the value of safety and belonging is primary.  Those in this mindset are dependent on others for their comfort and safety so they prefer to “stand-in” rather than “stand out.”  This lens is found in 65% of the population.  2) The Compete lens is where achievement is a primary paradigm.  These people, making up 34% of the population seek to stand out by choosing independent solutions to excel above their colleagues.  Everything is seen as a competition, so rising above the crowd or winning seems to be the central paradigm of this group, and where the majority of CEO’s are found. 3) Contribute is the central idea in this group.  They are driven by the need to add value to society.  Rather than depending on others or competing independently, they seek interdependence through collaboration.  This group is small, making up only 1% of the population.

Elder Oaks continues where he recommends another lens choice, “Through the lens of spirituality, we can know “the things of God” by “the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:11.)    Elder John A. Widtsoe taught that “there is a spiritual meaning of all human acts and earthly events. … It is the business of man to find the spiritual meaning of earthly things.…”

Choosing this lens of spirituality allows the adopter to give spiritual meaning to all earthly events and things consistent with part 1 of this series.  In the Enoch account of the post-fall history, he shares the conversation where God informs Adam that salvation is a process that includes baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Adam asks God, “Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water?”  It must have seemed non sequitur to Adam for water immersion to be a condition for salvation.  Many years ago, I spoke to one of my friends, years after his baptism as a young teen.  He was no longer active in the church, so I asked him what his experiences had been.  He wondered what I meant by baptism, so I asked if he remembered being immersed in water. He thought a minute and then exclaimed, “I have always wondered why I needed to be dunked in water to be on the ball team.”

Before this conversation with God, Adam and Eve must have experienced many nights of prayer and wondering about their future considering all the changes in their environment and especially in their bodies.  God had given them the option to choose whether to eat the forbidden fruit but had warned them that death would result for which they had not been prepared yet.  Satan had told them they wouldn’t die but would have access to knowledge.  They had witnessed and heard God speak the results of the fall for each of them.  They knew a savior would be provided but how and when?  They must have felt like drowning victims crying for rescue.  They certainly had more questions than answers.  This answer must have seemed too simple; repent – they were ready for that.  Baptism – what??.  And then a gift of The Holy Ghost??  They had acted before it was time and before they received the promised instruction, so they had made a courageous mistake …so why dunk them in water and give them a gift???  The paragraphs that follow (verses 54-57) are vital to our understanding of this new fallen state.  But, important for all the generations that would follow is the instruction that would allow parents to bridge the generation gap that would always risks apostasy.[2]  Note verse 58 including both the what and the how in this vital parental tutorial.

“Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:”

The next five verses contain both information on WHAT to teach and a model and library for HOW to teach:

  1. WHAT – Teach the need of:
    1. Rebirth through baptism and reception of the Holy Ghost
    2. A sort of resumé for the Holy Ghost so that we can both trust and rely on Him for teaching and learning.
    3. The important nature of all creation that serves as a teaching resource library. Here is a sample:
      1. “The Lord Jesus Christ” written in Greek and coded using gematria yields 3,168[3]
      2. At Latitude 31.68° N is found the little town of Bethlehem.
      3. A square drawn around the earth is 31,680 miles.
      4. A circle drawn around the earth and moon measures 31,680 miles.
      5. The perimeter of the two internal rooms of Solomon’s temple representing the Celestial and Terrestrial rooms in modern temples measured 264’ or 3,168”.
  1. HOW –
    1. Teach the vital unknown things and processes using symbols that compare the unknown to the known, tangible, and familiar.
    2. Use anything created by Christ as a type of Christ.[4]
    3. A type is a special symbol that transcends time in that it shows how either things past or future can be active in the present; accessible right now.

The sequence of these five verses seems to have The Lord underlining the importance of using symbols to teach only if done under the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost.  Seen this way, symbols are not a spiritual IQ test[5] but rather an instrument of the Spirit where God teaches lessons directly to the heart, at the layer of information appropriate for each learner at the time suited to them.[6]

“A people can be no greater than its stories.”[7] “Inspiration sometimes comes to us without our even recognizing it. When we write by the Spirit and they read by the Spirit, there is a godly communication between us and them which makes that which we write become meaningful and a source of inspiration to our descendants”[8]

At this point, one may say, “I have a hard enough time understanding symbols, how am I supposed to use them in my story telling?”  Perhaps a short three-step approach to understanding and using symbols could be helpful:

God has used symbols throughout the ages to plant little time bombs that when ignited by time, circumstance, or preparation, exploded meaning and sent value-shrapnel pieces into peoples’ lives.  He chose common simple things to express sometimes complicated details of heavenly applications.  He let generations pass, at times in apostasy, waiting for one boy or girl to “see” saving principles that changed them and sometimes society. We know that the purpose of gathering Israel throughout all generations was to build temples wherein certain things could be revealed that could not be revealed anywhere else.[9]

Elder Widstoe noted: “We live in a world of symbols. No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.” [10]  This can be applied to all symbols whether they are used by God or any of us as we work to share values across relationship chasms.

He continued, “Revelation … is not imposed upon a person; it must be drawn to us by faith, seeking and working. … To the man or woman who goes through the temple, with open eyes, heeding the symbols and the covenants, and making a steady, continuous effort to understand the full meaning, God speaks his word, and revelations come. … The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.” [11]

But building temples was as much about building a temple-worthy people as it was about the structure.  For example, there were three important tools used in the designing and building processes.  These three tools are also essential symbols communicating layers of vital values to receptive minds.  Let’s start the four-step process, as listed above, on these symbols so the Spirit can continue the explosion.  The three tools were a square, a circle, and a straight line.

  1. Recognizing the symbol:
    1. “But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.” Isaiah 34:11 (The cormorant and bittern, owl and raven are not the symbols. They are footnoted in Isaiah as birds.)
    2. “line of confusion”
    3. “stones of emptiness”
  2. Learn all there is about the thing or process.
    1. There is a footnote c which tells us that “stones of emptiness” is Hebrew for “plummet.” This is a plum-line used by builders to determine the perfect vertical which enables them with a compass (an instrument for drawing circles) to determine “the square.”
    2. There are previous Isaiah verses that explain his use of the word stone:
      1. “I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation” Isaiah 28:16
      2. The perfect vertical depends on the weight of the stone. If the stone is Christ, then He sets the standard.
    3. Then verse 17 seems to put these ideas together:
      1. “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet Isaiah 28:17
      2. So, righteousness is a standard set by Christ so that our actions by which we are judged, can be “squared up” or aligned to His standard of righteousness.
  • As seen in 34:11 when the vertical line is empty then a line of confusion results as the line is then subject to winds, etc.
  1. Liken the symbol:
    1. Christ determines my standard without which I am subject to “every wind of doctrine.” When my behavior squares up to His divine standard, I am in a covenant relationship with Him, as shown with the compass to be 90°.
    2. When I raise my arm to the square, I am manifesting my future perfect integrity as a type, or manifestation of that future, as if it were present.[12]
    3. The circle is drawn with the compass and can function to either exclude things outside the circle or include thing in the circle.
    4. A compass is also an instrument that allows us to set a strait course or line towards a determined destination.
    5. Thus, these three tools use to build temples can also be used to build a character that will stand through the eternities consistent with divine standards, truth.
    6. The idea of “temple” is that of a “template” or pattern that can be used over and over, applying it to different circumstances and times. The word in Latin is “templum” or the 90° intersection of two lines. This cross pattern can be then applied to give layered meaning to the atonement, the laws of the gospel, the temple as the place where the divine and the corruptible intersect, where the land of the living and the land of the dead interface, the center of the earth’s four cardinal directions and hence Christ as the center, etc.
    7. As a template the temple is full of template stories that act as patterns in our ascension story back to Father. Note: “they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.” 1Nephi 15:14
      1. These stories give instruction in the “very points of His doctrine” that we might know HOW to come to Him for salvation. These include:
        1. The creation, The Fall, The Atonement, Birth, The Exodus, Ascension, The restoration, and the very structured layout of a strait ordinance pathway with its five laws moving from telestial to celestial.
      2. Seek the Spirit for revelation that will give application to the details of the symbols in our individual lives.

Perhaps the most powerful way we can “teach our children to teach their children” is to create our family stories through traditions and memories during family-life, holidays, vacations, sporting events, etc.. We can fill our stories with the very symbols God restored and then which we relive in, Sunday ordinances, attending the temple, and in the scriptures. Rather than forcing behaviors, we can talk of them as though writing stories.  Good stories contain essential elements[13], are engaging, and entertaining.  Could we use those elements to make our Sabbath days discovery days, or people days instead of rule days, etc.? Scripture study is referred to, by God, as feasting, journeying, ascending, windows, a rod, a sword, a ball-compass with an LED read-out, etc.  Those could be elements of some good stories!! Could temple preparation and attendance be coupled, through imagination, to the joys and prosperity promised by our loving Father?  Etc., Etc….

The generation gap is too dangerous to just let it happen.  Our children are too precious to just hope things will turn out.  We can “teach our children to teach their children”…through stories and symbols – the bridge connecting hearts and souls!


[1]  (CR 4/22, p96–97) Dallin H. Oaks; Conf. Ens 11/ 85

[2] For example, see Mosiah 26:3-5; 3 Nephi 1:29; Judges 2:10

[3] Gematria is the system that acknowledges that in both Hebrew and Greek the characters used for the letters in the alphabet are the same as those used for numbers.  So, A and 1 have the same character.  Therefore, any word can be shown to be the sum of the numbers corresponding to the letters that make up the word.  “The Lord Jesus Christ” in Greek is, “Κ υ ρ ι ο ς   Ι η σ ο υ ς   Χ ρ ι σ τ ο ς” = 20+400+100+10+70+200    10+8+200+70+400+200     600+100+10+200+300+70+200 = 3168

[4] “And 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; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me. Moses 6:63

[5] “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity; but I would give my life for the simplicity the other side of complexity.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

[6] They are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; to whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves; that through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.    DC 76:116-118

[7] Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian emeritus; “There Shall Be a Record Kept among You,” Ensign, Dec. 2007, 30–31.

[8]  Elder Theodore M. Burton; “The Inspiration of a Family Record,” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 17)

[9] “The main object of gathering the people of god in any age to certain places is to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom and teach the people the way of salvation” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 307–308.

[10] “Temple Worship,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1921, p. 62.

[11] Ibid

[12] …teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.” Jarom 1:11

Also: “thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.” Mosiah 3:13

[13] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/complete-guide-to-writing-a-good-story