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Without the prospect of eternal marriage, we Mormons would have little to recommend ourselves to the world. If men and women were to remain single forever, what would be the point of existence? Other religions offer beautiful teachings that have the power to make bad people good and good people better, but without the prospect of eternal marriage and family, these religions amount to nothing more than nice philosophies.
The sealing ordinance is the fundamental purpose of our creation and the creation of the earth. From the outset of the Restoration, we were told that unless husbands and wives and children were sealed together forever, “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at [Jesus’] coming” (D&C 2:3).
To my single friends who long for the blessings of eternal marriage, I reiterate the myriad assurances made by prophets and apostles that your present situation is seasonal. If you remain faithful to every covenant that you have received, you will be offered the fullness of the new and everlasting covenant (“Covenant”), which must culminate with eternal marriage: the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 131:2). If you were born in the new and everlasting covenant, you inherited that right. You received that promise again when you entered into the Covenant by baptism when all three members of the Godhead effectively signed their names to the Covenant. They guaranteed that they would offer you every blessing pertaining to the Covenant.
Let us examine, the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the crowning jewle of the gospel, the covenant upon which exaltation pivots, and the ultimate design of our spiritual and physical births.
In D&C 131, we are clearly taught that eternal marriage is more than the perpetual union of a man and a woman. Eternal marriage is an order of the priesthood-the Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood–that is enjoyed by a husband and a wife. The Patriarchal Order is not a separate priesthood. All priesthood orders, whether Aaronic, Melchizedek or Patriarchal, are defined by designated covenants and laws embraced by the members of the orders.
Thus the scripture says, “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (D&C 131:1-4). What is said of the man also pertains to the woman.
On our earth, we can trace the origin of the Covenant and eternal marriage back to Adam and Eve, who were married by God the Father, whose name is “Eternal” (Moses 7:35), indicating the duration of His life and works.
More recently, we can trace the Covenant and eternal marriage to Abraham and Sarah. With these parents, the Covenant took on additional promises and obligations. In addition to the promise of eternal union and endless lives, the Lord promised them that they and their children had rights of inheritance in promised lands on earth and in heaven and additionally that the children born or adopted into covenant marriages would receive the right to be offered all the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant. These blessings include all gospel covenants, ordinances and priesthood rights, culminating with eternal marriage. The obligation is that the beneficiaries of the Covenant must take the message of the Covenant to the world.
All blessings of the Covenant are celestial and eternal in nature and can only be administered in holy temples. They are so significant that numerous prophets throughout the ages prophesied of the day when Elijah would come and restore them to the earth.
On April 3, 1836, after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey received four glorious visions that are recorded in D&C 110. First, the Savior came to accept the temple, then, signaling the magnificence of the fullness of the new and everlasting covenant that would follow, He declared, “tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out.”
In the next vision, Moses appeared and committed the keys of the gathering of Israel. The purpose of gathering families is always to administer the blessings of the Covenant. We see in Moses’ appearance the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to the fathers that He would search out each of their children and offer them the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant or the Abrahamic Covenant. This promise is inherent in every sealing of husbands and wives, who receive all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Next, Elias appeared and “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham,” the very blessings that we have enumerated, but most especially the ordinance of eternal marriage. Finally, Elijah returned and committed the power to seal on earth and in heaven every facet of the new and everlasting covenant, including marriages.
Monte Nyman wrote: “Upon completion of the Kirtland Temple, the Lord sent Elias and Elijah to restore the patriarchal authority and the sealing power. Elias restored the keys or powers to organize eternal family units through the Abrahamic Covenant, available through temples. Elijah restored the keys or powers to seal this and all other ordinances, making them binding forever.”
God the Father instituted the new and everlasting covenant before the foundation of the world. His purpose was to deliver to His children the “fullness of the Father’s glory” (D&C 132:6). Regarding the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the revelation states conditions in “if-then” clauses (D&C 132).
If a couple-
1.Are married in accordance with the Lord’s word and law.
2.Are married by one who has the keys of the priesthood.
3.Have their marriage sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the ratification of the Holy Ghost.
4.Abide in the covenant.
Then they will-
1.Inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.
2.Pass by the angels to their exaltation.
3.Be gods for all eternity.
4.Have a continuation of the lives-eternal posterity.
So that we do not misunderstand the strict requirements of entering into this order of marriage, the Lord gives three examples of possible marriage covenants.
- Situation 1-(D&C 132:15-17). These people are married by civil authority and covenant with each other for the duration of their lives. Their marriage will not survive death.
- Situation 2-(D&C 132:18). These people are married by civil authority, but commit to each other for time and eternity. Despite their promise, their marriage will not survive death.
- Situation 3-(D&C 132:19-20). This is a man and a woman who are married for time and eternity by proper authority and who remain worthy. Their marriage will survive death and endure eternally.
It’s not a good idea to postpone the decision to marry eternally, if you are able. Elder James E. Talmage taught, “In the resurrection there will be no marrying nor giving in marriage; for all questions of marital status must be settled before that time, under the authority of the Holy Priesthood, which holds the power to seal in marriage for both time and eternity.”
President Spencer W. Kimball gave this forceful warning:
“How final! How frightening! Since we know well that mortal death does not terminate our existence, since we know that we live on and on, how devastating to realize that marriage and family life, so sweet and happy in so many homes, will end with death because we fail to follow God’s instructions or because we reject his word when we understand it. It is clear in the Lord’s announcement that righteous men and women will receive the due rewards of their deeds. They will not be damned in the commonly accepted terminology but will suffer many limitations and deprivations and fail to reach the highest kingdom, if they do not comply. They become ministering servants to those who complied with all laws and lived all commandments… For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.’
“How conclusive! How bounded! How limiting! And we come to realize again as it bears heavily upon us that this time, this life, this mortality is the time to prepare to meet God. How lonely and barren will be the so-called single blessedness throughout eternity! How sad to be separate and single and apart through countless ages when one could by meeting requirements, have happy marriage for eternity in the temple by proper authority and continue on in ever-increasing joy and happiness, growth and development toward Godhood.
“Listen to the Lord again: Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.’
“Brothers and sisters and friends, are you willing to jeopardize your eternities, your great continuing happiness, your privilege to see God and dwell in his presence? For the want of investigation and study and contemplation; because of prejudice, misunderstanding, or lack of knowledge, are you willing to forego these great blessings and privileges? Are you willing to make yourself a widow for eternity or a widower for endless ages-a single, separate individual to live alone and serve others? Are you willing to give up your children when they die or when you expire, and make them orphans? Are you willing to go through eternity alone and solitary when all of the greatest joys you have ever experienced in life could be “added upon” and accentuated, multiplied, and eternalized? Are you willing to ignore and reject these great truths? I sincerely pray you stop today and weigh and measure and then prayerfully proceed to make your happy marriage an eternal one. Our friends, please do not ignore this call. I beg of you, open your eyes and see; unstop your ears and hear. An eternal marriage plus a worthy continuing consecrated life will bring limitless happiness and exaltation.”
Joseph Smith concurred: “Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.”
No effort to qualify for these blessings should be neglected. Elder Delbert L. Stapley said, “As sons and daughters of God, we are required to purify and perfect ourselves in righteousness, otherwise, we cannot be with him nor enjoy eternal lives and glory in his kingdom. To become like God we must possess the powers of Godhood. For such preparation there are important covenants obligations, and ordinances for mankind to receive beyond the requirement of baptism and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. Every person is to receive his or her endowments in the house of the Lord which permit them, if faithful and true, to pass by the angels who stand as sentinels guarding the way to eternal glory in the mansions of God. The everlasting covenant of marriage ordained of God for man and woman, also is to be entered into and the marriage contract sealed eternally by the authority of the Holy Priesthood of God. Otherwise, the highest degree of the celestial kingdom cannot be attained nor Godhood acquired, which exalted condition assures continuation of the lives forever.”
But if we pursue the new and everlasting covenant to its perfect conclusion and enter into and remain worthy of the covenant of eternal marriage, the Lord extends extraordinary promises.
“And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them–Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths… and if ye abide in my covenant…it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.
“Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory” (D&C 132:20-21).
Of these promises, President George Q. Cannon taught, “And when you come to the altar, and the servant of God says, I seal upon you the blessings of the holy resurrection with power to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection clothed with glory, immortality and eternal lives, and I seal upon you the blessings of kingdoms, thrones, principalities, powers, dominions and exaltations, the blessings of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob,’ when the servant of God pronounces these words upon those who come to the altar and he seals the wife to the husband, just as sure as God lives, just as sure as the heavens are above our heads and the earth beneath our feet, so sure will those words be fulfilled upon the heads of those upon whom they are pronounced, if they are faithful to the covenants which they make; and they will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection clothed with glory, immortality and eternal lives.
Elder Delbert L. Stapley made these promises, “How sublime, comprehensive, significant, and important the endowment becomes when we understand it. When one has been endowed according to the order of temple rights and ordinances, then he or she is prepared for eternal sealing of husband to wife, wife to husband, and children to both, by men authorized and possessing the keys of this sealing power. Families thus united may go on to perfection, exaltation, and eternal happiness together.”
Could anything be more glorious or define Mormonism more than eternal marriage?