Posts Tagged sealing

Work for the dead done by the living

In LDS theology, there are certain ordinances that are required to progress; Baptism, Confirmation, The Initiatory (washing and anointing), The Endowment (covenants and instruction on how to enter God’s presence), and Sealing of family relationships to be not only for time but for eternity. Temples have been built, as a house for God, specifically to perform these ordinances for the living and dead. (Chapels, which are more common, are where we go for our weekly worship and learning.)

This is one of the reasons Mormons are heavily invested in genealogy and family history work. We believe that “. . . we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” (D&C 128:18). We believe this to be in accordance with Malachi 4:6 – “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” and 1 Corinthians 15:29 – “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”. So we work to find our dead, that we can serve them by being proxy for them in obtaining these ordinances. This does not obligate them to accept these ordinances, but gives them the opportunity that they might have the choice available to them.

There have been a few arguments against the push for getting more work done. The best one I know of is wondering how we can assume our ancestors would desire these things, believing that we are dishonoring their memory and the lives they have lived or even died for their religion. This concern has brought about a policy that ask we only do work for those we are directly related to. We’ve also been asked that we take extra care in doing work for those who died in the Holocaust, being sure we are a direct descendant. I know of some people who had personal experience with some very bad, even evil behavior from a close relative, and have purposely left them out of their work, only to have it done my some other well meaning person. We do not know how the Atonement will be applied for anyone, but we can still show compassion for others by respecting these wishes.

The other common argument I see is wondering why spend so much time and effort to do this at all, since we will have the entire Millennial Age, when Christ comes again and personally reigns upon the Earth, to do it all. This one has given me much more to think about.

On one side of the complex where I live is a strip of land, about 3-4 feet wide and about 4-500 feet long. When we moved in, there were some awful overgrown bushes on it. These have since been removed and for the past two tears has been left a bit of a lumpy, somewhat weedy, mess. The Home Owners Association hasn’t had the funds to do anything with it, though there have been ideas on what they would like to do with it, such as cover it with gravel or some other cover. The problem is that before anything can be done, the ground has to be cleared and prepared for this.

So, I’ve started digging at it. I’m terribly out of shape, so I can only manage a few feet at a time. It’s going to take weeks if not months to get it done. It could be that someone will come in with some large power digger and do it easily in a day, but that doesn’t matter. As much as I’m doing this work to eventually benefit the community, I’m also doing this for my own benefit.

Temple Ordinance work for the dead is much the same. We gain a closeness to our ancestors by learning about their lives, sitting as proxy for something they cannot do themselves. We can be in symbiosis with our dead, both benefitting from this time we are essentially working together. Doing the work now, even if incomplete and potentially incorrect, also helps make these people more real to us. Is there anyone you can look in the eye now and say, “we’ll get to you eventually”? How would it feel to you to be passed off as one of the less important masses?

Why not wait ’til these people are resurrected and let them do their own work? Aside from strengthening the bond I mentioned before, I think that there is something about these mortal bodies, as opposed to the bodies these people will have when they are resurrected, that is needed for this work to be in effect. For some reason, whatever meta-physical reaction that happens that makes these Ordinances required cannot be done by those resurrected, but can be done, by proxy, by those living and have effect on those once dead. I’ve no idea why or how this is (we can’t even measure spirit and no resurrected person has submitted themselves for testing), but this makes sense to me.

So, in the Millennial Age, there is going to be a lot more demand for the living to do proxy work for the dead. We will have more than 12 Billion people to do the work for, with only the barest fraction done beforehand. The time to get started on this, even if we can only manage a tiny percentage, is now. They need us, and we, even with our modern sensibilities, blessings, and trials, certainly need them.

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Neither marry nor are given in marriage

I’m going to touch on another part of our temple worship that I hope will be changed. This one applies to the LDS marriage and sealing to spouse that is done specifically in the temple. At this time, the woman is asked if she will receive her perspective husband and if she will give herself to him. The man is asked only if he will receive. There have been various reasons given for this inequality by various sealers, working from their own understanding on it. (no, none of them immediately come to mind.)

To me, this inequality can be removed by following the direction given by the Savior for the state of marriage in the afterlife:

And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: (Luke 20:34-35, also in Mark 12:25)

Some have taken this to mean there will be no more marriage. LDS thought takes this to mean that only those that have been sealed together by God (or those given the power to seal), will remain together. I think we should not wait til the resurrection to get to this.

To marry is to take a woman and make her your wife, to give in marriage is to take your daughter and give her to another man as his wife. In neither is the will of the woman considered. She is simply the object of the transaction, to be given and taken as the men see fit. Our usage of giving and receiving (even though the woman now gives herself) is a remnant of this. A sealing for eternity should be about being together as a couple, not as master and property. Just because “this world” has started with women being objects does not mean we need to keep it that way. Rather than asking both in the couple if they give themselves and receive the other (doubling being made an object), we need to remove this part of the marriage and replace it with a simple “do you agree to be sealed to this person for time and all eternity?”

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My thoughts on polygamy

In the early decades of the Church, one of the practices that came from questions about some of the ancient prophets having more than one wife was the practice of polygyny (one man having more than one wife).  Instruction was received by revelation, and it was practiced by a number of the leaders and others in the Church.  This caused some divisions and also had some strong supporters, both of those within and without the practice.  The Church officially discontinued the practice (leaving those marriages already entered into intact) in 1890.  The Church had to further crack down on those entering into these marriages since then by excommunicating those within polygynous marriages, and continues to do so today.  This is not only to remain compliant with US law, since even in countries where polygynous marriage is acceptable and allowed, the Church does not allow its members to marry polygynously to more than one living woman at a time.

The “living” part is the one catch that still bothers some now.  Since we believe that marriage is eternal, it is possible to be married to more than one person at a time, which is polygamy (one person having more than one spouse).  While there have been scriptures that can be interpreted as saying that polygyny is an absolute must for anyone desiring the highest order of Heaven, as well as statements from Prophets that it must be so, we also have statements from all the modern-day Prophets and scriptures that say that is not so.

 

For me, one of the big definitions of the Celestial Kingdom (the highest level of Heaven) is that you won’t be stuck with someone you don’t want to spend forever with.  That means whatever marriages are entered into here, even those sealed in the Temple, will not be enforced not only if either party has not lived up to their covenants required for this level of Heaven, but if any of the parties involved does not want to be part of it.  People will not be “stuck” with their abusers, nor will they be forced to stay in a polygamous marriage (men or women) if they cannot wholeheartedly love every other person in that marriage.  When the time for the ultimate decision comes (of which there may be many), we will all have the clarity of mind to know exactly who these other people are and how we feel in ourselves about being with them forever.  Also, those who decide to break from their Earthly sealings because of sin (not their own) or other reasons will not be without hope of finding the marriage they can be in for Eternity.  There will not be an “odd man (or woman) out” because they couldn’t find someone.  Being alone, and the path where that leads, will be that person’s choice, without lack of knowledge or need for excuse.

I don’t find polygamy to be inherently problematic in this age.  In the past, it has been used to control women, but it has also been used to give women more freedom.  That was a side effect of marriage in general in the past, there the woman was considered the property of the man, either her husband or father.  I don’t think that is the optimal way to view a marriage, or has ever been, and we are still working to move to a more egalitarian and balanced approach to men and women in general.  I believe that we are capable of polygamous marriage, but only if is directed toward that Celestial ideal.

 

My wife and I actually talked about polygamy on our first date.  (We talked for a number of hours, so it was one of many things we talked about, the list of which would show how odd we are.)  Our take is that we could accept it if it were asked of us, but we would each need individual confirmation of it and specific direction on it from the Prophet.  That personal direction is important to us, and we’ve had many experiences where we’ve done things as a family that we each got individual direction on.  I imagine a number of LDS couples have had to discuss it at some point, because of the possibility of death and remarriage, since we do believe in marriage for Eternity, rather than “til death do you part”.  Could I ever find someone I love as much as I love my beautiful wife?  I don’t know.  I’d rather not find out.  I would hope, however, that if my wife ever passed away (perish the thought) that I would only accept as another wife someone who my wife could also love with all her heart.

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Proposing a new way to take names to the Temple

For those who don’t know, the LDS Church has a genealogical system, called FamilySearch, that is an attempt to have one centralized genealogical tree for the entire world, we people can coordinate and share information about their forebears.  Part of this system is also used to track the work we do in our Temples in behalf of the dead (baptism, sealing families together, etc).  When I was last in the Temple (Saturday, thanks to the encouragement of my lovely wife), I had some ideas on what the Church FamilySearch and Temple programs could do to improve the process of taking names of family members to the Temple to do their work.  I’ve no idea how I could get the idea to the people who would need to hear it, but I thought I’d put it down here at least.

Right now, each member can log onto the FamilySearch system, find relatives whose work has not yet been completed, reserve them, and take the list of names they have reserved to the Temple to have them printed before taking each name to the respective proxy work.  Some people have worked to have large stacks of names, which will often take years to complete, while others who do not have their own names will get names from the general “pool” of all names the Church has that need work.

What if, instead of having cards you carry around and occasionally lose, you could go to the desk for the proxy work, scan your Temple Recommend (these had become bar coded a few years ago) and have printed out right then one of the names of family you had reserved?  If you don’t have any family names ready for work, you could instead be given the name of an ancestor of someone in your ward who has not had the time to get their large amount of work done.  Failing the ward level, this could even be expanded to the stake before having to go to the general Church lists.

In the FamilySearch system, this would be as simple as having some process to release the names you had reserved for yourself to the Ward level.  You would get a monthly email showing the names you have reserved, asking of those you’ve reserved more than a month ago if you wish to allow the Ward to do the work, and giving you a list of the names and work of your relatives done in the past month.

I see two big advantages in this.  First, it would help lessen the amount of temple work done for unrelated persons, opting instead for more work for people being currently researched by our members.  Second, it would increase the interaction and closeness of the members of each Ward and Stake.  It would be service not only for the people for whom the work is being done, but for their descendants who did not have the time to do it themselves.

This could work for all ordinances in the Temple, and save the difficulties in finding, keeping, filing, etc, the current papers held by so many LDS genealogists.

Now, just two problems.  How to write it up properly, and how to get it to someone who is in a position to make such changes . . .

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Connecting the family

In the Doctrine & Covenants, an explanation is given to the verse in Malachi about “turning the hearts of children to the fathers”:

Foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fullness of times, for the redemption of the dead, and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming. (D&C 138:48)

This is the reason for the work for the dead, baptism and sealings, that we do in the Temples. All the descendants of Adam will need to be bound together in family relationships. This brings up a variety of issues:

1. Forcing others to become Mormon
While we do baptize as proxy for all of our deceased relatives, whether or not they accept the baptism is their own choice. It is felt that it is better to do the work with the possibility of their rejecting it than to not do the work and have them remain clamoring for it. There was a time when the zeal for getting everyone baptized included random (and not so random) names from various lists, including places like death camps, but it has been repeatedly stressed that you should only do the work for your family, not strangers. Even for immediate family, it should be recommended to talk to those who are living about it before proceeding. If there are objections, then it may have to wait.

2. Sealings to parents or spouses you cannot accept
I’ve seen people worried that they are going to remain sealed to an abusive parent or spouse in the next life because of the sealings that were done at an earlier time. I am sure this is not the case. The Celestial Kingdom will be a place of ultimate joys, not of fear, hostility, or resentment. No matter what sealings were done, no matter what other ordinances were done, they cannot supersede the desire of the people involved. You will not spend forever with a person you cannot stand to be near.

3. Spiritual orphaning
We know that not everyone will accept the Gospel and desire to be sealed for eternity. This creates a minor problem for the others in the relationship. Since these sealings are necessary, it may be needed from time to time for people to be sealed as children to parents who were not their birth parents. I do not believe this will be done lightly, any more than the decision on your placement in your mortal family was done lightly. This should not be anticipated in mortality without all parties alive and in agreement, as we do not know the feelings of those who have passed on, no matter what documents they may have left behind.

Without a great number of records that do not exist or the personal recollections of those who are already dead, we will only be able to scratch the surface of all of the baptism and sealing work that needs to be done. It is, however, important that we do what we can now. It all needs to be done, or as it says in the scripture, the entirety of this world would be a waste.

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