Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

RS/MP Chapter 17: Sealing Power and Temple Blessings (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on September 11, 2014

The lesson can be found online here.

From the life

I like the final quote of this section:

May I remind you that when we dedicate a house to the Lord, what we really do is dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service, with a covenant that we shall use the house in the way he intends that it shall be used.

What does it mean to “dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service with a covenant”? Besides temple work, what other kinds of causes do we dedicate ourselves to (in the Church or in the world)? What benefits do we gain from this kind of dedication?

Without dedication to anything, people tend to become depressed and to lose a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives. Importantly, I don’t mean to suggest that all depression arises from a lack of dedication. Nor does this mean that all dedication is good—dedication to video games or sports or what I’ll call “idle hobbies” can become addictive or distract us away from the work of building God’s kingdom. Nevertheless, understanding how dedication works in other facets of our lives can help us understand what dedication to spiritual causes like temple work might mean.

Also, to me, true dedication includes intrinsic motivation, a genuine excitement about doing the work that differs from merely being resolved to do the work.

1. Elijah restored the sealing power

From the final paragraph of this section:

It is the power which unites for eternity husbands and wives when they enter into marriage according to the eternal plan. It is the authority by which parents obtain the claim of parenthood concerning their children through all eternity and not only for time, which makes eternal the family in the Kingdom of God.

What does the “claim of concerning [our] chilren through all eternity and not only for time” mean?

It’s striking to me how this quote forms a contrast with the struggle we often face in this world to care for our children for the relatively short span of time from when they are infants until they are adults. Thinking about this as an eternal responsibility is both inspiring and daunting. It also makes me think about the importance of being a parent to children even after they are adults: as I’ve grown older, and as my parents have grown older, I’ve come to respect the wisdom and experience of my own parent parents—something I’ve come to cherish more as I realize their mortality is growing increasingly fragile.

2. The sealing authority saves the earth

From the first paragraph in this section:

If this sealing power were not on the earth, then confusion would reign and disorder would take place of order in that day when the Lord shall come. . . .

Where have you seen confusion and disorder in the world or in your life? What caused it? How can it be cured?

I don’t think the sealing power can be linked very directly to all of the disorder we see in the world today, or in our own lives, but I do firmly believe that being dedicated to spiritually edifying work, like temple work or parenting, can have a very significant beneficial effect in terms of overcoming many forms of disorder (including listlessness, which strikes me as a subtle but very common form of disorder these days).

3. We must receive temple ordinances

From the third paragraph of this section:

There are thousands of Latter-day Saints who … are willing to go to meeting, willing to pay their tithing and attend to the regular duties of the Church, but they do not seem to feel or understand the importance of receiving the blessings in the temple of the Lord which will bring them into exaltation. It is a strange thing. People seem to be content just to slide along without taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them and without receiving these necessary covenants that will bring them back into the presence of God as sons and daughters.

Why are we often so content “to just slide along” in the Church, without truly dedicating ourselves to temple work or our temple covenants?

I don’t have any great answers to this question, but this quote from the manual strikes home and inspires me to deepen my dedication to temple work and to my temple covenants.

4. Ordinances for those who have died

From the 7th paragraph in this section:

I have heard it said many times by those who oppose this work that it is impossible for one person to stand vicariously for another. Those who express themselves in this way overlook the fact that the entire work of salvation is a vicarious work, Jesus Christ standing as the propitiator, redeeming us from death, for which we were not responsible, and also redeeming us from the responsibility of our own sins, on condition of our repentance and acceptance of the gospel.

How is temple work like the atonement?

This idea of not just performing service for others, but performing work vicariously is very intriguing. I don’t understand this all that well. But I have a fairly vivid memory of the first time I went to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, and the feeling of awe and reverence that I had regarding those for whom I was being vicariously baptized. It was such a humbling and awesome experience to be standing in for someone else, to do something for them in my own physical body that was necessary and beneficial for them. It strikes me now that this might be the closest thing that I’ll ever experience to the feeling a mother has of carrying a baby in her womb—perhaps a poor analogy in many respects, but somehow the absolute dependence of a baby in the womb on its mother strikes me as having similarities to that sacred feeling of awe I felt doing vicarious ordinances for the first time.

5. Temple work is a labor of love

From the 2nd paragraph of this section:

Those who work for the dead do not expect to receive any earthly remuneration or reward. It is, above all, a work of love, which is begotten in the heart of man through faithful and constant labor in these saving ordinances. There are no financial returns, but there shall be great joy in heaven with those souls whom we have helped to their salvation. It is a work that enlarges the soul of man, broadens his views regarding the welfare of his fellowman, and plants in his heart a love for all the children of our Heavenly Father.

How do the blessings of temple service differ from “financial returns”? How do our motivations for doing temple and family history work differ from our motivation to obtain economic or financial renumeration (in our jobs, for example)?

To me, happiness is only really attainable to the extent that I am able to enjoy the work I am doing. I try to do this by somehow linking everything I do to a spiritual cause that I deeply care about. So, when I’m feeling more in tune with the Spirit, instead of teaching in a way that is focused only on a hope of obtaining good student evaluations, or a fear of obtaining bad student evaluations, I try to pay attention better to the joys and delights of the material itself that I am teaching, so that I have more authentic excitement in the classroom. I also try to pay more careful attention to the particular needs of the students in my classroom. Although in some kinds of work, this “labor of love” attitude is surely easier to foster than others, I think it can be fostered to some extent in all cases, “englarg[ing] the soul of man,” as Pres. Smith says (I recently saw Paper Chase which is a nice and poignant movie about the idea of learning for the sake/love of learning, not for the grade). Most importantly, however, for the purposes of this lesson at least, our experiences of cultivating a labor-of-love mindset can be directly applied to the way that we engage in temple and family history work (and vice versa).

6. From generation to generation

From the last two paragraphs of the lesson:

So we cannot be saved and exalted in the kingdom of God unless we have within our hearts the desire to do this work and perform it so far as it is within our power on behalf of our dead. . . . The Lord bless us and grant that we may have the desire in our hearts to magnify our calling and to serve Him in faithfulness in all these things, is my prayer.

Why does Pres. Smith emphasize desire so much in this concluding section of the lesson?

I’ve typically thought about temple work simply as a matter of a work that must be done, and an obligation that we have to perform. However, I’m struck by how much this lesson addresses the manner in which this work is to be done, and the effects that it is supposed to have (or at least can have) on us, in the here and now (not just the eternities). I pray that we can experience these blessings as we do temple work, and as we cultivate the desire and love of doing this glorious work.

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