What is the sealing power?
Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
Helaman 10: 7-10
Nephi was trusted with this power because, as it says in verse 5: “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”
Jesus Christ also possessed this power, and exercised it throughout His ministry. All power in heaven and earth was given to Christ while he was here on earth (Matt 28: 18) He extended that power to his servants beginning with the apostle Peter, saying:
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 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.
Matt 16: 18-19
The Prophet Joseph Smith received the keys to use this power from the prophet Elijah in 1836. (See D&C 110) Joseph Smith sealed those keys and powers upon his successors, to our current prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. President Monson is the only person on the earth who possesses the sealing power as given to Elijah and the prophets and apostles of old. While he may delegate those powers to other men throughout the world to make them accessible to us, all those who have received the sealing power can trace their authority back to the prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
How is the sealing power used today?
The primary purpose of the sealing power in our lives today is to be sealed together for time and all eternity in our families. By entering into one of the many temples throughout the world with our families, we are able to stand before a man with this authority, and he declares that our family will be together forever. God honors this declaration on two conditions—that the sealing was offered by someone who possesses the proper authority, and that we honor the promises which we will make with God at that time. They are no different than the covenant we make at baptism—therefore, if we will continue to obey our baptismal covenants, we will always be worthy to be sealed in the temple.
So, what is an eternal family?
In the strictest sense, an eternal family is a husband and wife who have made covenants in the temple to be together for time and all eternity. The children who are born to them after their sealing are born in the covenant, and will automatically be sealed to them if the children accept the gospel for themselves. Children may also be sealed to their parents and choose to become part of an eternal family after their birth.
The Book of Mormon teaches about eternal families in Moroni 8:
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
Being sealed to our families provides us with the blessings we most desire in the Church. Because they are so important, problems and misunderstandings with regards to being sealed can be some of the more painful experiences we have in the Church. I want to address some of these today through questions I know many of us have. I pray that as I address these sensitive subjects that I will be able to provide you with helpful suggestions, peace of mind and heart, needed healing, and a more determined resolution to serve the Lord in his great work of Salvation.
How can the blessings and promises of the sealing power bring me closer to my spouse?
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Genesis 2: 23-24
Christ echoed this same teaching in the New Testament when He taught:
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Matt 19: 4-6
When Christ was teaching this doctrine, he was not referring to marriage. He was referring to something far more permanent. It operates under the assumption that the relationship does not exist until death do you part, but continues after death.
The entire purpose of being sealed is to become united in love and trust with your spouse. It is the opportunity to create an unbreakable bond with someone in a spirit of openness and honesty, sharing yourself with someone you can trust to love and appreciate you for who you are. It is an equal relationship of acceptance and kindness, where any injury felt by one person is felt by the other.
This unity is not necessarily accomplished by becoming the same person. It means to be a complement to each other—to depend on each other, and to be each other’s strength. You may be very different from your spouse, as I have come to recognize that I am a near polar opposite from mine. But in this recognition, I see how very much I need him, and how incomplete my life would be without him. And in many ways, I’m coming to recognize how much he needs me. As it says in 1 Corinthians 11:11:
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
Our minds may be different, but when we agree we are unstoppable. I rely so much on his wisdom and quiet example, and he relies on my affection and determination. For us, being sealed together has provided so much opportunity for growth, and our love for each other is deeper now than it was before we got married. The only hope we have of receiving eternal life is with each other, because together we have so much more to offer the Lord. Being sealed to my husband has put my choices and my future into a very different perspective
What happens if I am not sealed to my family? Will I still be able to be with them after I die?
When we are sealed, we receive a promise to come forth in the first resurrection. In D&C 132: 19, we can read this promise. It’s a very long verse, so I will only read a section of it:
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…
We will all live again after we die because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because He was resurrected, we all shall be resurrected. We will become immortal, never to die again. This will happen regardless of who we are or what we do—it is a free gift to help us overcome death.
However, this does not mean that we will continue together with our families—this blessing is only given to those who decide to be sealed, and who enter the Celestial Kingdom together. When we are sealed, we are promised that we will come forth as a family in the 1st resurrection—but it depends on each family member keeping their part of the promise. We all will be judged, and the fact that we are sealed will not override the decision of our judgment. If we do not keep our promises to the Lord, we have broken our agreement with Him and He is no longer bound to keep up His end of the agreement. (D&C 82:10) We have no guarantee that we will live with Him again, but fortunately He is the only one who will decide our fate. But that is why He makes His expectations exceedingly clear throughout the scriptures, including in John 14: 21:
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
If someone does not want to live in God’s presence according to His laws and commandments, He will not force anyone to do so. In order to achieve an eternal family, all family members must decide together that this is what they want. Alma taught this to his son Corianton when he said:
Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
Alma 42: 27
No one will ever be prevented from coming to God who wants to be in His presence. But the condition will always be that we keep His commandments. (D&C 76: 50-53) If we want no one to be left behind, we have to decide that individually for ourselves, and together as a family. When each family member feels responsible for their part of an eternal family, this is when a family can truly progress together.
What if my family members have chosen not to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and are not sealed to me?
With time and patience, every good person who deserves to live in the presence of God will make it back to His presence. I believe this because I have seen it powerfully enough in my own family.
I was promised that my father would accept the gospel if I would pray for Him and forgive Him for all that has happened between us. This was the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do. My father and I have been estranged for nearly 10 years, and we did not reconcile before his death in 2009. I still struggle to be at peace with him—but that is because of my own weakness. He has since accepted the gospel, has become a priesthood holder, and I trust that he praises God every day for giving Him a second chance. If my father can be baptized, anybody can. If my father has a hope to be sealed to his family, to become a member of an eternal family, every person on this earth can receive that blessing. My father’s life is a testimony that everyone can be saved by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
My mother is not interested in the Church, and at times I wonder if she will ever accept the gospel. But then I remember that she has an entire wonderful family on the other side of the veil waiting for her.
There is a promise in Malachi that reads:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
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.
Malachi 4: 5-6
Joseph Smith expounded on this promise in D&C 128: 18 when he said of our ancestors:
For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.
My mother is the perfect example of someone who cannot be saved without her family. She loves her family more than anything in this world—it’s the closest thing she has to understand what believing in God is really like. She would change her entire life to be with her family forever. And they love her dearly. They reach out to her continually. The times she is most receptive to the gospel are when we are discussing her family history. She loves to talk about it, and to be touched by the lives of her ancestors. She craves that association. When my mother truly understands the doctrine of eternal families, she will be baptized. Because I know her, I can also say with confidence that she will probably refuse to be baptized for any other reason.
In the meantime, I need to continue providing the ordinances of the temple to her family members—linking them to her so that she might receive this blessing. So much depends on us doing our genealogy and family history work. And I know that if the veil could be parted for just a moment, for us to see our kindred dead who have passed on, we would see them all around us—helping their descendants who need to receive the gospel. I love my ancestors, and I know that because of the ordinances of the temple, we will be an eternal family someday.
If there is still a lot of work to do in your family, don’t lose hope. Keep trying. Good things will happen if you are patient and persistent.
What if my family members are sealed to me, but they choose to leave the Church and choose not to live according to the Lord’s standards anymore? Will they still be sealed to me forever?
There is a temptation to think sometimes that as soon as someone decides to leave the Church, or break a commandment—that’s it for them. Especially if they went through the temple—they are punished even more severely for falling short of the glory of God. They don’t qualify for any more help, they get no more blessings, and God is so offended with them that He literally turns His back on them. The justification that comes along with this belief is that we don’t need to do anything to help them because they made their choice. If they want to come back, they’ll come back—and they are only worth our time if they decide to stay.
But the scriptures are full of examples of God doing the exact opposite. God understands that when we push Him away is when we need Him the most. We may wonder if He has forgotten us, or our family members who have strayed, but He NEVER stops trying to save His children. He would never give up on His children because they are precious to Him!
Many times, the help He extends to those who have wandered comes exactly because they ARE sealed to Him and to their families. He has every right to decide to uphold His end of the agreement, even when they have not. I saw Him do this often as a missionary. He wants you all to know that He is still doing this today—here, now—for every family in this ward.
Once when the Lord’s people were so full of iniquity that God could have cast them off forever, He still chose to be patient:
Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off.
1 Nephi 20: 9
It is not up to us to decide who God should try to save, and who has wandered too far for too long. There is NO SUCH THING as too far, or for too long. God doesn’t believe in it, and neither should we. He loves all of His children, and if we could fathom that love enough, we would not be sitting here—content, and sometimes even bored. We would be on our feet, saving souls. And if we are the soul who needs saving, we will be wise and ask for help.
I promise you that if you will approach Our Father in Heaven in prayer, and ask Him what your family needs most in order to become an eternal family, He will answer your prayers. He will instruct you through the Spirit what changes you most need to make to come closer to that goal. If you implement that instruction, I cannot tell you what will happen. But our God is a God of miracles, and I know that at the very least, it will be exactly what you needed all along.
I know that this Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ here on the earth. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet; that he was endowed from on high with the sealing power. I know President Monson holds that sealing power today. If we will make the necessary sacrifices, we all can be sealed to our families forever. I leave my witness with you that Jesus is the Christ. Every good thing that comes into our lives is a blessing from His Atonement.
May we love Him more fervently and with more devotion is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.