Last week I was asked by our bishop to present a 10-15 minute portion of a lesson today on the importance of temple work in our combined priesthood/relief society meeting.
Our stake is preparing for a “temple month” theme for January, and our meeting today was meant to inspire us to be thinking about family history, genealogy and temple work and to do more of it. Our bishop wanted me to present some general information about the reason for the temple and why the work performed there is of such supernal import. After my part of the lesson, two sisters were to give instruction on family history work, FamilySearch, indexing, and preparing and submitting names to the temple.
Since I only had about 10 minutes, I considered carefully what I wanted to present to introduce this topic. Below are the notes from my portion of the lesson:
Why is the temple so important?
President Hinckley taught the following in the October 1995 General Conference:
These unique and wonderful buildings, and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship. These ordinances become the most profound expressions of our theology. I urge our people everywhere, with all of the persuasiveness of which I am capable, to live worthy to hold a temple recommend, to secure one and regard it as a precious asset, and to make a greater effort to go to the house of the Lord and partake of the spirit and the blessings to be had therein. I am satisfied that every man or woman who goes to the temple in a spirit of sincerity and faith leaves the house of the Lord a better man or woman. There is need for constant improvement in all of our lives. There is need occasionally to leave the noise and the tumult of the world and step within the walls of a sacred house of God, there to feel His spirit in an environment of holiness and peace.
If every man in this church who has been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood were to qualify himself to hold a temple recommend, and then were to go to the house of the Lord and renew his covenants in solemnity before God and witnesses, we would be a better people. There would be little or no infidelity among us. Divorce would almost entirely disappear. So much of heartache and heartbreak would be avoided. There would be a greater measure of peace and love and happiness in our homes. There would be fewer weeping wives and weeping children. There would be a greater measure of appreciation and of mutual respect among us. And I am confident the Lord would smile with greater favor upon us. ((Gordon B. Hinckley, “Of Missions, Temples, and Stewardship,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 51))
Everything that we do in the Church points us to the temple. It is where we perform the ordinances of exaltation, and learn those things that will help us keep the covenants of exaltation. But not only for us, but every individual who has ever lived must comply with the ordinances of exaltation in order to receive a celestial inheritance and become like our Heavenly Parents.
All Must Obey the Same Laws and Ordinances
Why must every person obey these same ordinances in order to receive exaltation?
These are the cleansing and sanctifying ordinances which ultimately redeem us from our sins and bring us back into the presence of God.
Joseph Smith taught:
Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. . . .
If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord. . . .
All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole. ((Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308-9))
Sealing ordinances are the ultimate blessings found in the temple. All ordinances are preliminary and preparatory to coming to the altar to be sealed in the eternal family relationship ((Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 34)). Everything points us towards being sealed.
Two general ways we refer to sealings (which are related):
1. Sealing of ordinances – D&C 132:7
2. Sealing of persons (husband and wife, children to parents) – D&C 132:18
Dr. Andrew Skinner, dean of Religious Education at BYU, wrote recently about the power of the sealing authority:
The fulness of the authority of the priesthood includes the sealing power. The sealing power is the highest authority and the greatest power on earth. . . .
Some aspects inherent in the sealing power of the priesthood are more perceptible and obvious than others. One dramatic and visible aspect is control over the elements: the sealing and unsealing of the heavens and the invocation and revocation of famine. Thus, the sealing power gives its possessor power over all things on earth and the right and ability to have his actions recognized and ratified in heaven by the Father. It is stunning to realize that the sealing together of husbands, wives, and children is done by the same power that seals shut the heavens or changes the elements of the earth.
Once sealed, husbands, wives, and children are changed – they belong to each other. In a way we cannot explain scientifically or even understand completely, the sealing power welds together a husband, wife, and children for eternity. The sealing power is a real power in the universe. It affects the physical elements; it changes them, whether it be the heavens, the weather, the waters and seas, or the binding together of families. ((Andrew Skinner, Temple Worship, 71-72))
Why Must we be Sealed?
Why are sealings so important? Why must we be sealed together? What are we ultimately doing when we seal people together?
Dr. Skinner writes:
Being sealed together as husband and wife and children is not just a nice thing to do, not just the customary pattern to follow. Being sealed together as an eternal family is the very order of heaven. It is the kind of life our Heavenly Parents live. In other words, the family isn’t just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity. ((Andrew Skinner, Temple Worship, 68))
Elder McConkie also wrote:
All things gain enduring force and validity because of the sealing power. So comprehensive is this power that it embraces ordinances performed for the living and the dead, seals the children on earth to their fathers who went before them and forms the enduring patriarchal chain that will exist eternally among exalted beings. ((Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 683))
When we go to the temple and perform the sealing ordinances for ourselves and our ancestors, we are participating in forming and perpetuating that patriarchal family organization which exists among exalted beings. As D&C 131 states, this is an “order of the priesthood” – it is called the Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood – and it is only organized in the temple by sealing. This is the very reason for the creation of this earth and our mortal life upon it.
Joseph Smith once read Malachi 4:5-6 [also found in D&C 2]:
“I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.
But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washing, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah. ((Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 330))
Elijah appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836 and restored the sealing authority and power to these presiding authorities of the Church.
Importance of Doing Temple Work for our Kindred Dead
Elder Nelson taught in a recent Conference address, “In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter” ((Russell M. Nelson, “Salvation and Exaltation,” April 2008 Conference.)).
How extensive is that family?
In a very real sense, our own exaltation is dependent upon our performing temple ordinance work for our family and ancestors and establishing that patriarchal chain with them through sealings.
Joseph Smith taught:
Every man who wishes to save his father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends, must go through all the ordinances of each one of them separately, the same as for himself, from baptism to ordination, washing and anointings, and receive all the keys and powers of the Priesthood, the same as for himself. ((Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 363))
As Dr. Skinner noted, “President Brigham Young taught that one of the greatest responsibilities we have as mortals is to ensure that temple ordinances are performed for those who have died, so that the chain of generations can be welded together” (Temple Worship, 142):
We are called, as it has been told you, to redeem the nations of the earth. The fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without the fathers. There must be this chain in the holy Priesthood; it must be welded together from the latest generation that lives on the earth back to Father Adam, to bring back all that can be saved and placed where they can receive salvation and a glory in some kingdom. This Priesthood has to do it; this Priesthood is for this purpose. . . . ((Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 407; or Brigham Young, 310))