One of the most cherished doctrines of the latter-day saints is the sealing ordinance whereby families can be sealed forever in the eternities. As a missionary we would sometimes approach people asking them if they would want to be together with their family forever. I distinctly remember the one guy who said “No f***ing way!” Clearly he didn’t have a very happy family life.
As I have searched the scriptures and words of Joseph, however, I get a very different picture of this doctrine and what it truly means to be sealed. Let’s start with the scriptures that talk about sealing.
From the Bible:
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
From the Book of Mormon:
Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
I did this scripture dump to make a point. Where do any of these scriptures talk about a man and wife being sealed together for eternity? Nowhere. And I did not just cherry pick these particular scriptures. Do your own word search on “seal, sealed, or sealing” and you will find the same thing. There is nothing in those two books that say anything about the sealing of a man and a wife together for eternity. They all reference the sealing of one up to eternal life through the holy spirit of promise. Think of this as joining God’s family for eternity. He has brought you permanently into his family and sealed you His through the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost.
Greater clarity as to how this happens can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants.
And verily I say unto you, that they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and rebellious;
And of as many as the Father shall bear record, to you shall be given power to seal them up unto eternal life.
Both of these scriptures were given in late 1831 after the special conference at the Morley Farm. As I have blogged about in my last post “I am not a High Priest,” at this conference high priests were called of God by His voice out of heaven and were granted power to go forth in the cause of Zion. Because of doubting and disputations, and the breaking of the covenant (consecration) they ultimately failed in their first commission.
These scriptures make it clear that when the fulness is on the earth those who are sent forth in priesthood power have the ability and responsibility to seal up unto eternal life worthy individuals identified by the Father. I believe when the “first servants in the last kingdom” return to fulfill their second commission that once again these sealing powers will be manifest.
Again notice that their is no mention of marriage.
D&C 76: 51-54 is very instructive on many levels. It tells us what is required to enter the celestial kingdom.
They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
So, according to this scripture, to enter the celestial realm several things have to happen.
- Receive the testimony of Jesus
- Believe on his name
- Be baptized by immersion after the manner of his burial
- Receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power.
- Overcome by faith and you will be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.
When I read and contemplate these verses I am struck by a couple of things. The first is that at my confirmation I never received the Holy Spirit by one who was sealed unto this power. Were you? I had hands laid upon me by one who was ordained to the priesthood through a patriarchal line, but he was not ever “sealed unto this power.” In the church when we are confirmed we are given the injunction to “receive the Holy Ghost.” This scripture suggests that someone with power will actually GIVE the Holy Ghost. Perhaps this is why we don’t experience the Pentecostal outpourings of spiritual experiences, including the gift of prophecy and tongues, at our baptisms. Remember the story of Simon in Acts 8 when he sought to buy the gift to give the Holy Ghost?:
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
It would appear to me that there is a power to give the gift of the Holy Ghost which is missing today. Of course, we have the influence of the Holy Ghost and the light of Christ, but does anyone truly have the GIFT, meaning the constant, unwavering companionship, with the attendant signs? When the fulness was on the earth people would prophesy, speak in tongues and demonstrate all the fruits of having the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and of the fulness.
And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; Mormon 9:24
The other thing that is missing from the verses in Section 76 is any reference to many of the ordinances that we think are necessary for salvation. No marital sealing ordinance or temple ritual with secret handshakes and passwords. As another witness to the simplicity of the everlasting covenant of baptism of water, and of fire, and of the holy ghost, let’s turn to D&C 88: 3-4 where certain high priests are promised eternal life.
Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
Note that this was given in December 1832 long before Joseph introduced the masonic temple endowment or started teaching the sealing doctrine within the context of polygamy and spiritual wives. Can we reasonably conclude that those ordinances are not necessary for entering the celestial kingdom?
In D&C 124:39, the Lord tells us what His House is for:
Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.
I don’t see anything in that scripture pointing towards a sealing ordinance as currently practiced by modern mormons. Further, the endowment referenced above is an endowment of power, a spiritual endowment in the way Joseph used the term prior to his introduction of the masonic-based ritual in Nauvoo.
Now, up to this point, I have not even addressed Section 132. Why? Because it stands alone in redefining the everlasting covenant, teaching that a man must have multiple wives to be exalted and other doctrines unsubstantiated anywhere else in scripture. Brigham Young placed it in the 1876 edition of the D&C at a time when it was politically expedient to justify polygamy. There are so many things wrong with that “revelation” that I will refer you to this link here for a thorough analysis.
Turning our attention now to the prophecies surrounding Elijah and the sealing powers, Joseph Smith gave a discourse on March 10, 1844 about Elias, Elijah and the Messiah (see History of the Church 6:251-255).
Regarding Elias, he said:
The spirit of Elias is to prepare the way for a greater revelation of God, which is the Priesthood of Elias, or the Priesthood that Aaron was ordained unto. And when God sends a man into the world to prepare for a greater work, holding the keys of the power of Elias, it was called the doctrine of Elias, even from the early ages of the world.
John’s mission was limited to preaching and baptizing: but what he did was legal; and when Jesus Christ came to any of John’s disciples, He baptized them with fire and the Holy Ghost.
Note that Elias was the messenger who restored the keys of the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham, or preparatory gospel in Section 110.
Regarding Elijah he said
Now for Elijah. The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelation, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.
Malachi says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Can anyone truly claim that we have this authority today? As documented earlier in this blog here we are bereft of the fulness, and operating under the preparatory gospel, all the while thinking and believing that we have the fulness. Today I was reading in the LDS priesthood lesson manual on Teachings of Joseph Smith, chapter 26: Elijah and the Restoration of the Sealing Keys. The first quote is as follows:
“How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet.” What the lesson manual fails to point out is that this was said by Joseph on August 18, 1843 in an address about priesthood, over 7 years after Elijah visited the Kirtland Temple! Joseph is speaking in the future tense and talking about a future event, not something that has already happened. He always refers to the coming of Elijah as a future event. After Joseph’s death someone changed it in our doctrine to an event that had already happened. Guess who.
When Elijah comes again to save this generation, it will be with the power to seal up unto eternal life and organize the family of God through the sealing keys at the commencement of the marvelous work yet to come.
From the Nauvoo period forward there was much confusion regarding sealing. Men were running around having women sealed to them in great numbers, chief among them was Wilford Woodruff who had hundreds of dead single women sealed to him, in addition to his 10 plural wives.
Brigham Young records a dream he had in 1847 in which Brother Joseph appeared to him. Brigham asks Joseph the question:
“The Brethren have a great anxiety to understand the law of adoption, or sealing principles; and if you have a word of council for me, I should be glad to receive it.”
Clearly, the fact that Brigham felt compelled to ask this particular question above all other questions he could ask speaks volumes to the confusion in his mind and the minds of his contemporary brethren on the subject of sealing. One would think that if Brigham were actually a prophet he could unlock the key to this mystery himself by asking the Lord and receiving an answer.
Joseph stepped towards me, and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly said:
“Tell the people to be humble & faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord & it will lead them right. Be careful & not turn away the still small voice, it will teach you how to do & where to go, & it will yield the fruits of the Kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.
They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other Spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their Souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the Kingdom of God.
Tell the Brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized in great confusion.”
Joseph then showed me the pattern, how they were in the beginning. This I cannot describe but I saw it, and saw when the Priesthood had been taken from the earth, and how it must be joined together, so that perfect chain from Father Adam to his latest posterity.
Joseph again said “Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it and will lead them just right.”
This is a very interesting exchange on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that Joseph didn’t directly answer the question! He talked repeatedly about the Holy Spirit. Over and over again he reiterates this point. He doesn’t say go and seal yourself to everyone who has a pulse and build your own personal kingdom.
I had heard these quotes over the years about the spirit, but never was aware of the broader context of Brigham’s question. Now knowing from the scriptures that the sealing has to do with having one’s calling and election made sure through the Holy Spirit, this answer makes a lot of sense. It is through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit that one is sealed up unto eternal life. That is what it means to be sealed. We are promised the privilege of being able to re-enter the family of God in his presence with all that implies.
We will all be together as families in the Father’s presence by following the simple precepts of the everlasting covenant–the baptism of water, of fire and of the holy ghost. Nothing “new” needs to be added.
The Lord himself proclaims that this is his doctrine in 3 Nephi 11:35-40:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Paul gives us another witness that we should not be looking beyond the mark:
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Galations 1:9
As you search, may you learn and recognize the true doctrine of sealing and be watching and waiting for the imminent return of the prophet Elijah who shall come with the sealing powers to save this generation.