Karate Kid Perspective on Ordinances

Aug 9, 2013
3 min read

For those who have seen the original Karate Kid movie you’re probably familiar with the famous “wax on, wax off” lesson that Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel. I like the updated version of this lesson presented in the new Karate Kid movie starring Jackie Chan. You might be wondering what this has to do with ordinances – bear with me.

In the first scene, Dre (updated Daniel) enthusiastically approaches Mr. Han (updated Miyagi) and begins by trying to show Mr. Han how “good” he is and what “skills” he already possesses. Go ahead and watch this first clip:

Do we approach God thinking that we have it all figured out? Are we overly-impressed with our own wisdom and skill like Dre who felt like he had to validate himself somehow to Mr. Han? There is a verse in the Book of Mormon that I think is related to this idea:

“And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.” (2 Nephi 9:42)

It is easier to fill an empty vessel than a full one. Are we willing to make ourselves that vulnerable? Are we willing to sell all that we have acquired for the pearl of great price?

Dre thinks that Mr. Han is going to show him all these incredible kung fu moves, but Mr. Han has him do a seemly mundane task over and over again. Dre responds almost immediately with frustration, “Can you just tell me why I’m doing this?” while Mr. Han just keeps ordering him to continue through his routine.

When Dre gets home his mom asks him, “What did you learn?” and he responds, “Nothing”.

In the next clip, we see the wisdom of Mr. Han revealed.

While Dre thought he was just doing a meaningless task, Mr. Han was having him repeat motions that, unbeknownst to Dre, were quietly transforming him. When the master puts the student to the test, he finally realizes that the simple motions he was repeating had fundamentally changed him and he is blown away at what he has become.

But what if Dre ignored his master and didn’t respond to the call to “come here?” Would he have ever realized his potential or would he have walked away thinking that he had received nothing of value for all his faith and efforts? How many depart from the walk of faith, thinking it fruitless, never realizing the growing power beneath the surface, never enduring long enough to have the chance to see it all brought into context by the master?


LDS scholar Hugh Nibley once wrote,

“The ordinances are mere forms. They do not exalt us; they merely prepare us to be ready in case we ever become eligible.” – The Meaning of the Temple,” CWHN 12:26

One of the purposes of ordinances, like the jacket training, is to prepare us to become eligible for the experiences they point to. Baptism is a type of our future resurrection, the sacrament symbolizes our accepting the will of Christ so that we can continue to receive his Spirit. The endowment is a type of our reconciliation to God and acceptance into his presence.

Just like the jacket training, the jacket itself was critical to the development of the skills, but once reality set in and the master received his student, the jacket was cast aside.

What does the Master have in store for us? What is he preparing us for through the ordinances we participate in now and how can our faithfulness and trust in him allow us to be fundamentally changed into something amazing?

What do you think?

  • Have you ever felt like Dre when it comes to ordinances? 
  • Does this comparison have any influence on your perspective on ordinances?
  • Is there anything else you saw in the clips posted that can be associated with ordinances?


  1. Sean Moraffah

    I’m really enjoying your site. My wife and I were recently having a conversation about the repetition of temple ordinances. I’m going to have to share this one with her. Great read. Thanks!

    • Awesome, glad you enjoyed the article!

      The Lord has so much great stuff going on for us. Most of the time we’re too impatient and hard-hearted to receive the good stuff.

  2. James Johnson

    I’m loving this site and ldssymbols.com. I am a symbols and visual design enthusiast like you (I should be a graphic designer but am a gallery oil painter wanting to do figurative pieces for temple interiors). This is a random place to put the broad Thank You, but I just want to thank you for your amazing, visually stimulating and awesomely designed work all around the board. Love it!

    • Thank you, James, that means a lot coming from a fellow designer/artist. I’d love to see some of your work, feel free to post a link in the reply to this comment.

  3. I have been reading the Book of Mormon again and at first it just felt repetitive, I have read it many times. Reading your article has given me a different perspective on my reading and It has changed my attitude towards my reading. Thank you so much for your article, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

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