1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. 3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.The key to understanding why the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming is found in the promises made to the fathers. What were the promises God made to our forefathers?
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “What was the promise made to the fathers that was to be fulfilled in the latter days by the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers? It was the promise of the Lord made through Enoch, Isaiah, and the prophets, to the nations of the earth, that the time should come when the dead should be redeemed” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:154). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “God made those promises to the ancient patriarchs—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so forth—and we undoubtedly made them to our own lineal fathers and mothers, those who came to earth before the gospel was restored but whom we promised to provide its saving ordinances” (Christ and the New Covenant , 297).
Purpose of Temple WorkWhat exactly are we doing when we go and do temple work? Yes, we are doing baptisms and ordinance work for the dead, after we have done it for ourselves, but what is the big picture? Remember when I asked the question about how a loving Father could possibly let us out of His sight without first making sure every conceivable effort was made to make it possible for us to return to Him? In every dispensation prior to this one, the prophets knew that at some point the people would reject the gospel message. When they did there was a period of time before the Lord could restore the gospel message again. And again, the prophets knew that at some point the message would be rejected by the children of God. But we shouldn't assume that because of their knowledge that the children of God would reject His message to them that they loved their people and their posterity any less than we love our own. They plead with the Lord for the salvation of the people of their time. The Lord had already put into place a plan whereby all those who had lived in mortality without a proper opportunity to receive the saving ordinances would have that chance. These prophets were promised that during the final dispensation of time, when the gospel would no longer have the threat of being rejected, that the way would be opened for their posterity to receive all those ordinances that would enable them to be saved in the Celestial kingdom. That is what we are doing in the temple. In D&C 128:18 part of the verse says this,
... it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. ...”The keys of the sealing power is not just about baptism for the dead. That is just the tip of the iceberg. The sealing power unites through the priesthood power all the dispensations of mortality. It brings together the purposes of every dispensation into one grand whole, that of saving the whole family of God, whether on this side of the veil or the other side of the veil. God has declared that He will not accept just a few of us back. We stand as a family on this issue. Either we do the work for every one of His children or He will reject the lot of us. What we are starting to do today will only intensify in effort until it becomes the driving force during the millennium. Even then it will take the whole earth a thousand years to complete the work. But complete it we must. In fact, we are being judged on how seriously we take this responsibility.
Full SalvationBeing baptized and confirmed a member of the Lord’s Church offers only a partial salvation. Full salvation requires the covenants made in the temple. We cannot offer full redemption to our ancestors with baptism alone. We must provide them with all the covenants of the temple. In other words, exaltation comes only through the work in the temple, whether we are talking about the living who need to go there for themselves or the dead who need us to go there on their behalf.
No man shall receive the fulness of eternity, of exaltation alone; no woman shall receive that blessing alone; but man and wife, when they receive the sealing power in the temple of the Lord, shall pass on to exaltation, and shall continue and become like the Lord. And that is the destiny of men, that is what the Lord desires for His children.Refer back to lesson 15 for remarks about those who are not able to be sealed to a worthy spouse in this life. A member worthy of exaltation, though sealed to a spouse who does not become worthy, is in the same position as a worthy single person who has never been married. The Lord will straighten it all out so that everyone is happy before we go onto our glory. But no one will be left behind. Our loving Father will not permit it.
ConclusionIt is important to remember that those for whom we are doing work in the temple are not dead. They are alive, just not here. So when we do the work for them as their proxy, they are able to accept or reject our efforts as any living person would. They just don’t happen to necessarily be present in the room at the time the ordinance is done.
This doctrine of salvation for the dead is one of the most glorious principles ever revealed to man. It is the way in which the gospel shall be offered to all men. It establishes the fact that God is no respecter of persons [see Acts 10:34]; that every soul is precious in His sight; and that all men will, in fact and in reality, be judged according to their works.
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To read the full lesson, click here: Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 17: Sealing Power and Temple Blessings