Editor’s Note- This is the eighth article in a series of excerpts from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s new book, entitled “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.” Links to the full series are found at the end of this article. Color and black-and-white editions of the book are available on Amazon.com and at selected LDS Bookstores (including EbornBooks, BYU Bookstore, and the FAIR LDS Bookstore). An iBooks version is can be purchased from the Apple iBookstore. Downloadable articles and a pdf version of this book are available at www.templethemes.net
Author’s Note: In discussing temple matters, I have tried to follow the model of Hugh W. Nibley, who was, according to his biographer Boyd Jay Petersen, “respectful of the covenants of secrecy safeguarding specific portions of the LDS endowment, usually describing parallels from other cultures without talking specifically about the Mormon ceremony. This approach earned him a great deal of trust from both General Authorities and from Church members” (B. J. Petersen, Nibley, p. 354). For Nibley’s views on confidentiality as it relates to temple ordinances, see, e.g., H. W. Nibley, On the Sacred and the Symbolic, pp. 553-554, 569-572.
In D&C 132, we read the promise that those who accept the covenants of celestial marriage will enjoy “a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” This idea relates to the next set of promised blessings described in D&C 84:34:
They become… the seed of Abraham…
Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins... [that] both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars... This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham...
Of course, being a literal descendant of Abraham does not guarantee the fulfillment of these promises, as they are conditioned upon personal faithfulness to the covenants received: “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are all children of Abraham, are they the seed.... But the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
The blessings of Abraham received through the sealing ordinances are, of course, intended for men and women alike: “Elder McConkie noted that ‘what we say for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we say also for Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, the wives... who with them were true and faithful in all things,’ for, as President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, ‘the Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons.’”
The sealing power exercised in the temple is essential for the redemption of families. By this means, both our posterity and our ancestors and can be linked to us eternally in a restoration of the perfect order that God designed for the happiness of His children before the earth was created. Without these “welding links,” as the Prophet Joseph called them, neither we nor they can be made perfect. Explaining the priority of this work on both sides of the veil, Elder Melvin J. Ballard asked:
Why is it that sometimes only one of a city or household receives the Gospel? It was made known to me that it is because of the righteous dead who had received the Gospel in the spirit world exercising themselves and, in answer to their prayers, elders of the Church were sent to the homes of their posterity that the Gospel might be taught to them, and [that] through their righteousness they might be privileged to have a descendant in the flesh do the work for their dead kindred. I want to say to you that it is with greater intensity that the hearts of the fathers and mothers in the spirit world are turned to their children than that our hearts are turned to them.
Those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work… receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whosoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.
The Spirit of Elijah and the Sealing Power
The blessings of every priesthood ordinance are authoritatively confirmed upon the Saints through the power restored by Elijah in the Kirtland Temple, a power that seals in heaven what is sealed on earth on condition of continued faithfulness. Contrasting the role of the sealing power administered in the “spirit of Elijah” to the preparatory blessings bestowed in the “spirit of Elias,” Joseph Smith said:
This power of Elijah is to that of Elias what, in the architecture of the temple of God, those who seal or cement the stone to their places are to those who cut or hew the stones—the one preparing the way for the other to accomplish the work. By this we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise (i.e., Elijah).
To obtain this sealing is to make our calling and election sure, which we ought to give all diligence to accomplish.
Although it is not unusual for lesser blessings, ordinances, and ordinations to be sealed upon the heads of individuals, the passage just cited makes it clear that the supreme manifestation of the sealing power is when one’s calling and election is “made sure” or, in other words, when one is “sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy.” This is the same idea expressed by King Benjamin when he exhorted his people to be “steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works” that “the Lord God Omnipotent may seal you his.” On the other hand, Amulek testified that the final end of those who “have become subjected to the spirit of the devil,” is that the Adversary “doth seal you his.