Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mormon Temple Tour: Family is Eternal

Having finished the washing, anointing, and given the endowment there remains one important ceremony to be done in this life. Men and women must be sealed together as husband and wife, forming a family unit that will last the eternities. In a revelation to Joseph Smith it was revealed, echoing 1 Tim 4:3, "And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made." (Doctrine and Covenants 49:15-17). Marriage was at first considered a temporal condition blessed by God to continue human life. Later, the importance of the bond between husband and wife was revealed to be far more important than a single lifetime.

Recorded in Doc. and Cov. 131:1-4 is a teaching of Joseph Smith about the eternal nature of marriage. It is a necessary part of what is known as "Exaltation" in the Mormon doctrine of Salvation. He stated, "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." Soon after this teaching, Joseph Smith pondered how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon were allowed to have so many wives and concubines. In the controversial revelation of Doc. and Cov. 132,  he was answered that they were under contract obligation to marry them; with any additional marriage past the first not approved or commanded by God to be considered adultery. As for at least the first marriage it reads, "Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory."

Vancouver British Columbia Temple - Sealing Room
As with all holy and eternal ceremonies, marriages or more properly "sealing" are done inside temples. There are rooms set apart for men and women to be made husband and wife, binding them together as a family unit. Not only that, but children both natural and adopted can be sealed to parents. It is a fundamental belief that we are all spiritual (in the sense of relatedness and not necessarily moral equivalence) Sons and Daughters of Heavenly Parents. The temple sealing is the reestablishment of that relationship while it also creates new and more glorious promises.


During the ceremony, a man and woman will face each other and an officiator will bless the union. They will be given advice, as the spirit dictates, on how to sustain the marriage. When finished, the man and woman are considered a couple with the hope they will remain so for eternity as blessed by the Holy Spirit. Similarly, a whole family might be joined in such a sealing if the children are not born to parents that have already had the temple marriage performed. Otherwise, any children born after the marriage sealing are considered under the Covenant. It is in this way that a chain or link can be formed between past and the future relations.

? Temple - Sealing Room
A feature of sealing rooms is two mirrors facing each other. They represent how we existed before coming to mortality and will exist after. It also represents those who came before us and those who will come after, in a never ending chain reaching from eternity to eternity. Former President Wilford Woodruff explained:

The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ have power and efficacy after death; they will bring together men and their wives and children in the family organization and will re-unite them worlds without end. … Unto the Latter-day Saints the sealing ordinances have been revealed, and they will have effect after death, and, as I have said, will re-unite men and women eternally in the family organization. Herein is why these principles are a part of our religion, and by them husbands and wives, parents and children will be re-united until the links in the chain are re-united back to Father Adam. We could not obtain a fullness of celestial glory without this sealing ordinance.
Although some have said, rather irreverently, that Mormon's believe they will some day have their own planet, such has never been taught. It is true that Doc. and Cov. 132:20  boldly declares those who are married in the New and Everlasting Covenant by those given authority and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, "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." Regardless, what that means at the least of what is known is that Exaltation is an act of family creation and expansion. It is in the spirit of Romans 8:15-18 where it says,"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Marriage is a mystery (see Ephesians 5:31-33) of deep importance. Such glory is not for those who are power hungry and wicked as they cannot abide the Celestial laws. Our Father in Heaven will still remain the Supreme Being and we His children, with Jesus our Savior. Sealing represents the most sublime, delicate, expansive, and controversial Mormon doctrines.

This begs the question what happens to those who don't have the chance to get married in the Temple? Will they be punished for something beyond their control? The answer to this is the same as any saving ordinance of the gospel. Those who have done the work for themselves have the opportunity to do it for others who have passed to the next life. That is really the object of attending to temple work more than once. Former President Howard W. Hunter exclaimed:

What a glorious thing it is for us to have the privilege of going to the temple for our own blessings. Then after going to the temple for our own blessings, what a glorious privilege to do the work for those who have gone on before us. This aspect of temple work is an unselfish work. Yet whenever we do temple work for other people, there is a blessing that comes back to us. Thus it should be no surprise to us that the Lord does desire that His people be a temple-motivated people.
Nothing represents that work, particularly to non-Mormons, than baptisms for the dead. Joseph Smith often pondered what the fate of those who didn't get baptized would be. All work had to be done while in mortality, leaving the vast majority of humanity doomed. One of the first revelations to Joseph Smith was a quotation by the Angel Moroni of Malachi 4:5–6  about turning the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the reverse. The temple was the place that Heaven and Earth met, and therefore the living could by proxy (i.e. in their place) do what the dead could not do for themselves.

Atlanta Georgia Temple - Baptismal Font
Twelve oxen have been sculpted under the font since the very first one was built inside the Nauvoo Temple. They represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel who are the Covenant people, and the saviors to the Gentiles. Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and fathers to children is the main work done inside the temple. It is also the purpose of a vast, and sometimes controversial, collection of genealogy by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Former President George Albert Smith prayed in a temple dedication:

We thank thee, O God, for sending Elijah, the ancient prophet, to whom was "… committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse."[Doc. and Cov. 27:9.] We thank thee that he was sent to thy servant, Joseph Smith, to confer the keys and authority of the work for the dead, and to reveal that the plan of salvation embraces the whole of the human family, that the gospel is universal in scope, and that thou art no respecter of persons, having provided for the preaching of the gospel of salvation to both the living and the dead. We are most grateful unto thee that salvation is provided for all who desire to be saved in thy kingdom.
May it be pleasing to thy people to search out the genealogy of their forebears that they may become saviors on Mt. Zion by officiating in thy temples for their kindred dead. We pray also that the spirit of Elijah may rest mightily upon all peoples everywhere that they may be moved upon to gather and make available the genealogy of their ancestors; and that thy faithful children may utilize thy holy temples in which to perform on behalf of the dead all ordinances pertaining to their eternal exaltation.
Records for the work done on behalf of the dead are not kept with those of the living. Each person, in this life or the next, is given the choice to accept or reject the gospel as taught by Mormons. The proxy ordinances are similar to paperwork that must still be signed by the recipient. It is an act of charity done as a gift to past generations.

What message does attending the temple have for Mormons? There are many that can be gleaned from repeated visits. Each one, no matter how simple, is that life exists after death. Indeed, that life like God and Christ is Eternal with no beginning and no end. We can proclaim with Paul, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1 Corinthians 15:19). For Mormons the temple represents here on Earth that hope beyond the veil of our mortality.

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