I love the nature of the First Sunday of the month in Relief Society. It’s a time when we as a presidency get to pray together and reason together about what we want to teach. We base the topic on something that we feel the women in our stewardship may be in need of. Sometimes it’s hard to come to a decision as all of us in the Britannia Ward are so different and there are many lessons we find ourselves learning and teaching as we minister and visit amongst the women in our stewardship. In June, I felt a very strong prompting from the Spirit- and as a presidency we felt unanimously impressed- to teach about the Sealing Ordinance.
I wanted to preface the lesson with a short word. I knew that there were many women in the room struggling with the idea of marriage. It’s talked about so often in a singles ward setting- and somehow along the line the discussion becomes something daunting and dreaded, filled with very little hope. Some of the women had experienced nothing good in their lives related to marriage and had watched parents and loved ones struggle and fail within its perimeters. Some of them were anxious about how marriage could even be possible in their future- for so many different reasons it would be silly to try to list them here. I made a plea for us all to put those reasons and worries in a box just for this next block of teaching. I didn’t want us to talk about them- I certainly didn’t want to try and offer a solution for any of them; that was something only the Spirit was qualified to teach each of us individually.
Instead I wanted us to talk about the doctrine of the highest and most sacred ordinance of the Gospel: the sealing covenant. It was my hope that like me, they would find that in learning more about this sacred promise, they could decide for themselves how to work with Heavenly Father to make this ordinance a part of their lives, regardless of their fears or popular statistics. I testified that this journey of learning was worth our special attention. As always, the women in our class taught the lesson themselves: drawing upon personal experience and testimony of pure doctrine. The following is an admittedly rough version of the lesson.
Brigham Young explained of the sealing Ordinance:
“It lays the foundation for worlds, for angels, and for the Gods; for intelligent beings to be crowned with glory, immortality and eternal lives. In fact, it is the thread which runs from the beginning to the end of the holy Gospel of salvation- of the Gospel of the Son of God; it is from eternity to eternity.”
I recently sat in a sealing room and watched my brother enter into this covenant with God and with his now-wife. I watched his face as the sealer spoke the words of the sealing- reciting eternal promises that sounded incredible and so other-worldly. I’d never seen his face like this before- he was kneeling in the presence of God and he knew what he was covenanting to do. I made a mental note that whenever I knelt in the presence of God like that, I wanted to know and see as much as I could. I wanted to know that I’d done everything I could to prepare for those great promises. I wanted to feel armed with the spirit, confident in my spouses love and devotion to God. I wanted to know that he felt that same confidence in me. I wanted to know that the eternities would be ours because we would be willing to work hard for them. I testify that if you choose to make the study of the sealing ordinance a focus in your life, the repercussions will be felt across the veil. You will come to know your heavenly parents intimately. And, when the time is right for God and for you, you will know what it is to truly kneel in the presence of God.
Part 1: The sealing power is on the earth today
COVENANT: a contract made between God and man. “God in his good pleasure fixes the terms, which man accepts. … The gospel is so arranged that principles and ordinances are received by covenant placing the recipient under strong obligation and responsibility to honor the commitment.”3 In the phrase “cleave unto covenants,” the word cleave means “to adhere firmly and closely” to something.
I had the women in the class study the first section of the handout and ponder the following questions:
1. Why is it important that we learn about the Abrahamic Covenant?
(Comments from the girls included the following:)
We realise that we are a part of Abraham’s covenant- we are his posterity, part of his house of Israel– and are entitled to the same promise when we ourselves are sealed to our spouses.
We realise that we too can have this covenant for ourselves (how vast!)
We realise the importance of seeking the Kingdom of Heaven
When Abraham sought the priesthood and its blessings, he was actively participating in God’s plan to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man- he was in alliance with God
2. Why was Elijah the one to restore the sealing power to the Earth in the latter-days?
(Comment from the girls included:)
To fulfil prophecy (God is orderly, and fulfils His promises)
Nephi saw our day in his great vision: “I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”11
Elijah was translated and never died. Elijah bestowed the sealing keys to the Saviour in his dispensation.
… [I] bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us. (D&C 110, introduction.)
The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.
His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice.
After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.
After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. (D&C 110:1–16.)
It had happened! This signal event went unheeded by the world, but it would influence the destiny of every soul who has ever lived or will live. Things began quietly to happen. The Church became a temple-building church.
The history of the sealing power testifies to our Heavenly Parents’ eternal nature: we are all connected by the fact that we are all their children. On Earth, Abraham was promised the same pattern of family that God experienced himself; there could be no end to the connectedness of His children. This power and privilege is so poignant that God’s sealing power is the highest priesthood authority, and was kept sacred when the priesthood left the earth. We are just as much a part of prophecy as Elijah was– we would be here to find our ancestors and pull them into our family units through the sealing power.
Part II: The Sealing Ordinance is the highest ordinance of the Gospel
We discussed as a group what exactly the sealing power was, and what it entitled us to.
Joseph Fielding Smith
Through the power of this priesthood which Elijah Bestowed, husband and wife may be sealed, or married for eternity; children may be sealed to their parents for eternity; thus the family is made eternal, and death does not separate the members. This is the great principle that will save the world from utter destruction.
The sealing power enables us to enter into the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. (D&C 131:1-4)
D&C 131: 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.
Two of the vital pillars that sustain Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness are marriage and the family. Their lofty significance is underscored by Satan’s relentless efforts to splinter the family and to undermine the significance of temple ordinances, which bind the family together for eternity. The temple sealing has greater meaning as life unfolds. It will help you draw ever closer together and find greater joy and fulfilment in mortality.
- When you promise God to be obedient to the highest order of the priesthood (marriage) He promises that… your marriage will continue forever (the bounds of death do not apply to you… like they do not to God)
D&C 132:15-24 “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 . . . they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.”
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:13–19.)
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.
David B. Haight When sweethearts kneel at the temple altar . . . an eternal family is created. It is to exist throughout all eternity. It may become eternal in its attributes by the constant fidelity of a husband and wife to one another and by their faithfulness to their covenants with their Heavenly Father
- When you promise God to be obedient to the highest order of the priesthood (marriage) He promises that… you will have your family, stretching in both directions from you, joined together in a family organization forever (as God’s family is organized)
Think of Abraham!
- When you promise God to be obedient to the highest order of the priesthood (marriage) He promises that… we will have the opportunity of eternal increase and the opportunity to one day become like God Himself
D&C 132: 19 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 . . . it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first 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.
Part III: What is Required of me (or, what can I do today?)
Regardless of when we enter into this covenant for ourselves, we can make the sealing ordinance the focal point of our lives. I hoped that what we’d covered in the lesson so far would resonate with each sister the importance of this holy ordinance not only in this life but in the eternities. We reviewed Henry Eyring’s simple take,
Everything we do should have celestial marriage as its focus and purpose. That means we must strive to be sealed to an eternal companion in the temple of God.
I love that President Eyring does not specifically include time constraints on his prompting. Every window for personal agency is left wide open. Could one marry initially outside of the covenant, but strive their whole lives to reach that alter this side of the veil or the other? I’d submit that the answer is yes. Only our Heavenly Father can confirm to us personally what path is right for each of us. For some the path will be straight and narrow because we are straight and narrow. For others, it would be rocky, full of twists and turns. What counts is what we each have plugged into our GPS sets. What are we setting our sights on? How can we demonstrate to the Lord that no matter what twists we are destined to travel, we are committed to returning home to Him? While again, this should look personal to each of us, I identified four things that could help us along the road to the sealing altar.
- Seek the blessings of the priesthood as Abraham did
- Be obedient
Obedience has been described as the first law of heaven, and the longer I live, the more convinced of that I become. I never cease to thrill at the story of Helaman and his stripling warriors told in the Book of Mormon. Even though 2,060 of the young men ‘fought most desperately (Alma 57: 19) in battle, not one lost his life. What everyone may not know is that they qualified for this mighty miracle by their obedience. Their leader, Helaman, says of them: ‘They did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness.’ – Elder Creel L. Kofford
3. Prepare by going to the temple, and making covenants with God that teach you how to live with God.
Priesthood manual lesson 32: Before man can be exalted, he must know how to live in the presence of God. He must know how to become exalted. He must learn the laws of heaven and learn to obey those laws. He must demonstrate his willingness to observe and obey before he can ever be counted worthy or receive the power to enter God’s presence. The temple is the only place where this knowledge can be obtained. Therefore, if we want the knowledge that will enable us to enter “the fullness of his glory” we must receive the blessings of the temple. (see also D&C 105:10-12)
In relation to the endowment, President Brigham Young said:
“your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.416)
The endowment then, is to prepare us to live with God, our Eternal Father, in the kingdom It teaches us what we must do and how to do it.
Boyd K. Packer – It is a privilege to enter the holy temple. You should know the things that are required of you and understand the doctrine that underlies the work that is performed in the house of the Lord. This may inspire you to move forward with your individual part of that work. You will gain something of a vision of what lies ahead for those who participate in those sacred ordinances, for those who keep their covenants.
Kent F. Richards – Our responsibility is to “receive” that which our Father offers.4 “For unto him that receiveth it shall be given more abundantly, even power”:5 power to receive all that He can and will give us—now and eternally;6 power to become sons and daughters of God,7 to know “the powers of heaven,”8 to speak in His name,9 and to receive “the power of [His] Spirit.”10 These powers become available personally to each one of us through the ordinances and the covenants of the temple.
4. Do your part and have faith that God will do His.
The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. 1 Nephi 9:6
There’s such a temptation to get bogged down in the details of how this might happen for each of us: we’ve been hurt before, it’s hard to trust, our parents had an unsuccessful marriage, no one is asking me out, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not successful enough- we tend to lose perspective. We become concerned with mortal trappings when we ought to be considering an eternal subject eternally. Maybe it’s more simple than all of that. God is more simple than that! I’m reminded of the tasks he gives to others who are heavy-laden, who feel so little hope that they panic. The Savior tells a blind man to simply wash in a certain pool and he’d see again. The man refused because it was so illogical- it seemed too easy. Moses’ people were instructed to simply look upon his staff with the bronze serpent and they’d be saved from destruction- too many would not simply look!
- Some of our concerns are very real- but maybe we are being asked to simply look.
For my own set of girls- so diverse, with so many individual reservations and also so many glowing testimonies of this principle ordinance, I recognised with caution two main warnings that my presidency had reflected on as we counselled with sisters individually and collectively.
- First: are we focusing too much of our energy on things with very little eternal consequence when we consider this sacred ordinance? I testified that when we kneel before God, we are kneeling before our creator. He knows us. He created us to look the way we do- some of us with crooked noses, some of us genetically programmed to carry a few extra el-bees; He knows exactly how we look under the pile of makeup we wear. Do we have a similar relationship with the man across the altar?
- Second: are we waiting without working? How are we spending this precious time before we kneel in hallowed halls? are we preparing, are we learning, are we contributing to the kingdom?
Sealing Ordinance (entire hand-out)