Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wife Rule #134: Why I Love Your Mother (to my children) Chapter Ten: The Temple and Eternal Families

I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll covenant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place
Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth:
A family is forever.
--Janice Kapp Perry

So, my precious children, after nine whole chapters of patiently enduring my thoughts, it comes back to the subject of this song--"I Love to See the Temple"--where Sister Perry eloquently states in two short stanzas the entire crux of my passion.

You have sung this song since you were very young. You were blessed to grow up in the shadow of one of the Lord Jesus Christ's magnificent latter-day temples. When we would drive past the temple as a family, sometimes we would sing these words together. We did it for a reason: there is a message in it that your mother and I hoped would sink deep into your hearts.

Holy places have always been part of true Christian worship. From the creation of the Garden of Eden, where God walked and talked with Father Adam and Mother Eve; to the tabernacle in the wilderness, where Moses conversed face to face with the Savior; to the splendor of King Solomon's temple, built to the Lord in the Israelite's promised land; to the restoration of this temple over the passing centuries as required from time to time; to the claiming of the temple at Jerusalem as "my house" by the Savior when He visited it in mortality; till at last, in these latter days, the Lord again commanded His people to build a house to His name:

"Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God." (D&C 109:8, see also v 2-9)

The reasons for the temple listed here were but prelude to revealing the further purposes of the temple. In addition to the tremendous blessings promised above, priesthood keys were bestowed upon the prophet Joseph Smith by heavenly messengers in the first temple at Kirtland, Ohio, after its completion. While praying in the temple the following vision was given to the prophet and one of his companions:

1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
2 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.
3 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:
4 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....
6 Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.
7 For behold, I have accepted this house....
11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
12 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.
13 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:
14 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—
15 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—
16 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 110:1-4,6-7,11-16)

It was the bestowal of these priesthood keys--the keys to gather the Lord's people, to take the blessings of the gospel to all people, and to turn the hearts of the fathers and children who constitute the whole family of Adam to each other--that set in motion the highest and holiest purposes for building latter-day temples.

These keys are closely linked with the power that the Savior bestowed upon Peter: "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 16:19).

It is the key to this power--the power to bind or loose on earth and in heaven, or the sealing power--that was among the highest of gifts bestowed upon Joseph Smith as the prophet of this final dispensation. I think it is safe to say that this sealing power is the reason why all other keys and authority were ultimately given. The binding together of the human family is the grand purpose for the earth and our living in it; without this binding power and the turning of our hearts to the blessings that flow from it, the "whole earth would be utterly wasted" (D&C 2:3).

But why? Why is it so important for families--especially for husbands and wives--to be sealed together in eternal bonds?

Isn't it natural for the God and Father of us all to desire that His family, consisting of the entire human race, should be organized according to His pattern? Isn't it marvelous that among all the precious gifts God has given us for our progression--a beautiful world to live in; marvelous bodies to grow with; the freedom to use our agency and advance; a Savior to provide escape from our sins and from death; and a Church with prophet leaders to teach us law and administer God's ordinances and covenants to us with authority--that God also desires that our progression reach literally to the heights and depths of His celestial pattern of life? Our Eternal Father and Mother desire those blessings for their children which can only be shared as a couple--as husband and wife--and which bring the highest of joys and glories possible. Doesn't Almighty God, among all the titles He could be called, choose to be addressed by His children as our "Eternal Father?" Can you see that the summation of His grand work and glory is to bring us to the same condition in which He dwells, to make eternal fathers and mothers of us all, to share with His children the blessings and glories of eternal life?

The continuation of marriage and family ties throughout eternity is the very purpose of our creation. The blessings and challenges of an endless posterity is the work that gives meaning to existence. The concept of family is truly at the center of everything God is and does.

These highest of blessings are so sacred that the sealing ordinances that initiate the process are only bestowed upon God's children who are ready and willing to accept the accompanying responsibilities that go with them, and are only given in the most sacred of all places. The Lord has designated His holy temples as these sacred places in the latter days, just as in former times, and thus it is that the temple is at the center of the purposes of the latter-day church of Jesus Christ. In the temples we receive our ordinances with sacred covenants to live worthy of the blessings we are promised. To become like our Heavenly Parents, we must learn to live and love like Them--something that can only be accomplished through our own experience, by using our agency--and our covenants help us along the way. We are reminded of these sacred responsibilities and blessings each time we return to the temple, and are fortified in our resolve. We use our agency to both keep our covenants and allow the Savior's grace into our lives, and in partnership with Him we slowly but surely cast off our weakness and reach towards perfection and eternal life together, as a family.

It is only through receiving God's sealing ordinance--and keeping the covenants associated with it--that families can be organized according to God's eternal laws and enjoy everlasting ties, reap eternal love, and fulfill the highest purposes of human potential.

Can you see why your mother and I look back to the day we were sealed in the temple as the greatest day of our lives? Can you see why we hope you will look forward to the day you receive these blessings and covenants for yourselves? Our sealing in the temple has everything to do with why your mother and I love each other like we do. We are married for eternity. There is no end to our commitment to each other, to you children, to our God. Can you see how having a goal of eternal union will strengthen every marriage in mortality? Can you see how the little wrinkles in a marriage fade into insignificance when viewed against the glorious possibilities ahead? Can you see how absolute chastity in preparation for marriage, and absolute fidelity after marriage, are no-brainers? Can you see how being eternally bound as husband and wife, as parent and child, swallows up the sting of death when family members are temporarily separated? Can you see how an eternal perspective on family dictates clear priorities in this life; how the most important work your mother and I will ever do is here in our home, with each other, and with each of you? Can you understand why above all other roles in life, the ones we cherish most are husband and wife, father and mother? Can you see what marvelous, motivating goals your mother and I share? Can you see how viewing a beloved spouse in the light of his or her eternal potential, and his or her eternal impact on your potential, will widen your heart to eternity and increase your love, unbounded?

I love the words of Parley P. Pratt, an early apostle in the church and friend of Joseph Smith, who explained the impact of this beautiful doctrine on his marriage:

“It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness....

“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore....

“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling.... I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever.”
(Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1938), 259–60.)

Yes, my children, I love your mother. The love we share emanates from God and beautifies our lives together as we consistently choose to obey His laws related to love. Thus, love is ultimately a choice that we have each made through use of our individual, God-given agency, motivated by our understanding of divine law and our shared, eternal goals—goals that are outlined in the divine ordinances of the Holy Temple, and which are achieved through keeping temple covenants. Sadly, many in the world never come to understand this vital relationship between God, agency, and love—they believe that love is merely something you “fall into” and perhaps later “fall out of.” They think of it as some kind of cosmic Fate that operates on the souls of men and women, independent of choices they make. Thus, when the familiarity of routine sets in, or when the opposition inherent in this fallen world inevitably comes, without conscious a choice to love, relationships will wither and die. But that is not the way it will be with your mother and me.

In my love for your mother is wrapped up all my hopes, dreams, and aspirations for this life and eternity. Our marriage and our family, including each of you, have already brought me joy beyond anything I could have anticipated. In the common, every-day happenings in our home I have glimpsed the glories of eternity. I am so grateful we are sealed together, as father, mother, sons, and daughters. I intend to spend the rest of my life keeping the covenants I made the day I married your mother. I want each of you close to me forever, as we continue on with each new phase of our unending existence. I want to witness your growth and triumphs. I want to honor my parents by becoming all I can be. And I want to become the king your mother deserves as her companion, just as she strives to be a queen for me.

I love the Savior Jesus Christ. It is through Him--and only through Him--that even a glimmer of hope for these glorious blessings is possible. Never forget that. Never forget that you owe everything to Him. Serious discipleship is the only option that makes any sense. Obey Him. Worship Him. It is His right. He is the only way.

I love God our Eternal Father. It is because of His selflessness, His generosity, His desire to perpetuate the glory and joy that He enjoys, that we exist. He loves us unconditionally and infinitely. He wants the best for us. He gave His only begotten Son in the flesh for our salvation. He will always be there for us--always.

These things are true. I know them through the witness of the Holy Ghost. The truth of it burns in my heart even as I write this for you, my precious children. God lives and has a plan of salvation for the human family, and you know where to find it and what it is. You know the truth that will set you free.

But what about the others?

Part ten of a twelve-chapter essay. Read more: Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Epilogue

1 comment:

Brooke said...

I am eternally grateful for this knowledge and love which I share with you. Amen!