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.
Becoming “the Seed of Abraham”:
The Sealing and Healing Power of Elijah
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…
The Blessings of Abraham and the Sealing Ordinances
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.
To be sealed in this ultimate sense requires taking upon ourselves not only the divine name, but also the divine form-just as Jesus Christ was “the express image” of the Father. In former times, seals were the means by which a unique stamp of identity was placed on important documents-the image of the author being transferred, as it were, to the document itself. Similarly, Luke T. Johnson sees the scriptural concept of ?sealing as both an empowering and an “imprinting” process, recalling Alma’s words about receiving God’s “image” in our countenances. Using similar imagery, Paul described his beloved Corinthian saints as “the epistle of Christ…, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” These saints, “with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The Spirit of Elijah As a Divine Healing Power
It is a poignant irony that Elijah, whose name is associated with the eternal binding of families, should have been called to spend so much of his ministry in solitary exile from his people. Fleeing for his life to the brook Cherith at God’s command, with the ravens who fed him as his only companions, he was left to mourn for apostate Israel as the last of his brethren to “remain a prophet of the Lord.” Describing the scene shown below, Naomi Wray writes:
There is an outward wilderness without edges or horizons and there is also an inward wilderness of the womb of the soul.
The heavenly caretakers are fifty ravens beating their wings and forming a large cove sheltering the tiny figure of Elijah seated in meditation. The essence is of the soul rather than the presence of the body. Slate grey of limestone shelter denotes the life of Elijah held in stasis by the blue of the everlasting being of God.
The mighty wings of a multitude of birds seem carved by the ages and the elements from the rocky vastness. Heads and wings and pinion feathers, beaks, and claws, and eyes are all discernible in the craggy portal.
The light of God’s care bathes the forlorn figure of Elijah in icy radiance. Righteous solitude, even with great spiritual support, is a cold experience.
 At the root of this power is love and forgiveness. Madsen continued:This scene gains its relevance to the sealing of families in the realization that the keys restored by Elijah were not given simply to enable priesthood ordinances to be performed with authority. The spirit of Elijah is as much a healing power as it is a sealing power, opening the floodgates of a divine influence that, in the words of Truman G. Madsen, is designed to “bring earth and heaven back together, … to take the estranged and the alienated and the embittered and somehow transform their hearts, and to prepare all of [God’s] family who will to be family, welding them indissolubly in order to greet the Christ.”
[F]orgiveness is the very nature of Christ’s way. I suggest that it may be difficult to forgive your enemies, but it is even more so to forgive your loved ones… It is harder to forgive your loved ones because you care about them and you have to go on living with them, or struggling to, and they can go on hurting you over the years and the decades. But our hearts will never turn to our fathers in the way this spirit of which we have been testifying motivates us to do unless we forgive.
You see, we have inherited all kinds of things… [W]e willingly chose to come into the world, likely in this time and circumstance. And when a young person says to his parents in deepest animosity, “I didn’t ask to be born,” if they give the proper, prophetic answer they will say: “Oh yes, you did. You not only asked for it, you prepared for it, trained for it, were reserved for it…”
[T]his, I take it, is one of the profound meanings of that long, laborious allegory in the book of Jacob, the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees. If you take a wild branch and graft it in to a tame one, if the branch is strong enough it will eventually corrupt and spoil the tree all the way to the roots.But if you take a tame branch and graft it into a wild tree, in due time, if that branch is strong enough, it will heal and regenerate to the very roots. You will then have been an instrument in the sanctification even of your forebears…
To be that kind of branch and achieve that kind of transformation backward and forward is the greatest achievement of this world. But to do it… one must be linked, bound to the Lord Jesus Christ.
No matter what things you may have suffered at the hands of your family, no matter how thoughtless or faithless or even cruel they may have been to you throughout your life, if you have been privileged to receive any of the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant you are called to save them-and this is surely a calling to which you were foreordained in the beginning. Wrote Carlfred Broderick:
In a former era, the Lord sent a flood to destroy unworthy lineages. In this generation, it is my faith that he has sent numerous choice individuals to help purify them….
God actively intervenes in some destructive lineages, assigning a valiant spirit to break the chain of destructiveness in such families. Although these children may suffer innocently as victims of violence, neglect, and exploitation, through the grace of God some find the strength to [neutralize] the poison within themselves, refusing to pass it on to future generations.
Before them were generations of destructive pain; after them the line flows clear and pure. Their children and children’s children will call them blessed. In suffering innocently that others might not suffer, such persons, in some degree, become as “saviors on Mount Zion” by helping to bring salvation to a lineage.
Links to all of the articles in this series-
Part 2 “A Christ-Centered View“
Part 5 “What is the Endowment?”
Part 7 “The Meaning of the Atonement“
Part 13: “Weary Him Until He Blesses You”
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