Loss of the Sealing Power


While in a sacred place a month ago a friend asked what I thought about “Passing the Heavenly Gift.” I confess that I had not heard of the book or the author, Denver Snuffer. I assume he asked my opinion because he knows that I have reviewed similar books on my blog that focus on controversial issues facing the LDS Church. Denver’s books are not advertised. People learn about them only by word of mouth or through online reviews on sites like mine.

I purchased the book and posted on Facebook that I had done so. Several of my blogging buddies noted it and expressed interest in what I thought. A few days later after my first quick read-through, I wrote “I speed read the first half. Finding no major faults, I devoured the second half (pages 240 to 499) in about four hours. I haven’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in years.” There is something dramatically different about this book.

Don’t leave the church

I also reported that “My focus in reading was to find anything smacking of disloyalty to the brethren or encouraging the members to leave. He came close on the first point but completely negated my concern on the second.” Before I write anything else I want to focus on that second point. I am convinced that Denver Snuffer has his reader’s best interest at heart. I cannot say that about the authors of any other recent book of LDS History I have read. Denver wants us to stay in the Church.

However, Denver Snuffer has caused me to do something no other recent writer of Mormon history has been able to do. He has produced in me a desire to read his book again and again. I want to study it, to research it, to look up many of the quotes, to read what others have said about those quotes. In other words, I am taking seriously Denver’s claims which, although not all unique to his book, are argued more precisely and effectively than any other author I have encountered.

Receive the Second Comforter

I have just completed the second reading of the book and am starting on the third, this time with pen and highlighter in hand. I have read his first book, “The Second Comforter” twice and have purchased each of the intervening six books. I have invested hours reading Denver’s blog from start to finish and have contemplated each of the points he has made there over the years. Other than the scriptures, I have never invested this much time in trying to understand an author’s message.

Everything I have learned about Denver has caused me to contemplate his message more and more. He has asked that we not focus on him, his life or his background. He has asked that we pay attention more to the process he is trying to get us to pass through – a process that if we follow through to completion will have us receive The Second Comforter for ourselves. I like that. I want that. I endorse that. How can you fault a man for wanting to help you come unto Christ? I don’t.

Details lacking in faith-promoting history

In the meantime, you are going to have to pass through some very difficult realizations that, depending on the strength of your relationship with the things of the spirit, may leave you gasping and reaching for help and understanding. If you are not already familiar with things our detractors have written about us you will have a challenging time reading this book. It will make you angry. It will cause you to think of Mr. Snuffer as an apostate and wonder why he hasn’t been excommunicated.

This book is not for everybody. If you are a casual member of the church you will not be interested. If you are not familiar with some of the controversies about our history being discussed on the Internet today, you will be a little shocked at what you read. You may not understand why some of the issues are problems at all if all you have ever learned about our history is what you were taught in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary or even Institute. This is an alternative view of our history.

Sealing power has been lost

I wish I was at the point where I could say that I can vouch for Denver’s accuracy or that I agree with his interpretations. I am not there yet. I suspect it will take me years to arrive at that level. In the meantime, if you have already read Denver’s works, I want to hear from you. I am especially interested in discussion about the two most controversial arguments in his book – the idea that the sealing power is not on the earth at this time and Denver’s interpretation of the fullness of the priesthood.

<Update 4-29-12> Denver has posted on his blog that “I have never said the church does not have the sealing power.” This obviously is in direct conflict with the thesis of this essay and my (and my wife’s) interpretation of the first chapter of his book, especially this line: “The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power.” (p 36) He’s right. He did not say the church does not have the sealing power. Carol and I did not clearly understand the message of his first chapter. <end of update>

I kept looking for Denver to address the implications of the position he is advocating in regards to the work we are doing in the temples. I confess I have so far been disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic discussion of what this means to the thousands, if not millions of members who have spent so much of their time and energy over the years in researching and performing proxy ordinances in the temples for their ancestors. I am one of those individuals and want to know his response.

The work in the temples

In other words, if the sealing power is not on the earth then what hope do my wife and I have that we will be united in the eternities? If the sealing power is not on the earth, then what in the world have I and my mother and sisters been doing for these past forty years in digging and corresponding and compiling the thousands and thousands of family names ensuring that their work was done in the temples? I see this as the single most important issue to be answered.

Because I am so intrigued by what I have learned so far, I am going to give Denver the benefit of the doubt that he has already answered this question satisfactorily and I have simply not yet found it. I am not like some of my online friends who have become disaffected and left the church then complain about how much they resented the loss of their tithing money or that they felt duped when they learned they had been teaching a “sanitized” version of our history.

Section 110 misinterpreted

This idea of the sealing power is central to my feelings about the church and core to the reason why I have spent so many thousands of hours in the temple over the past thirty-five years. No, I don’t feel that my time was wasted if what Denver claims about section 110 is true. Of all the things that could strike at the heart and soul of Mormonism this is it. If you want to hurt a whole lot of good people, tell them that the the work they have been doing in the temples is not valid.

There is one question I would like to ask Denver, but I won’t because I don’t know him and he has made it clear that he gets far too many requests to answer directly. Because I felt strongly about sharing what I was learning from Denver’s books, I asked Carol to read the fist chapter of “Passing the Heavenly Gift” to me as we drove to Southern Utah for a family vacation this weekend. We had one of the most deep and enjoyable gospel discussions we have ever had over the course of several hours.

Exaltation is a family affair

Carol came away from the reading with the distinct impression that Denver was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today no different than any other good Christian church. She read that Brigham Young was only elected to be the President of the Church and that there was no ordination that passed the keys of the kingdom to him or to any of the rest of the twelve. She related her feelings while as a missionary she was taught by her mission president that Joseph ordained and passed the keys of the kingdom on to the twelve before they left on their missions.

Denver, what would you say to my wife, who related while she stood at the Far West temple site with dozens of other missionaries how she felt the spirit bear witness to her soul that Joseph successfully passed the keys of the kingdom on to the apostles before he sent them away on their missions and went on to Carthage jail to seal his testimony with his blood? Would you say that Joseph wasn’t referring to the council of the twelve, but to the council of fifty?

An incomplete ordination

What Denver is writing about is serious business. He is apparently all about getting people to question what they have been taught and what they believe about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says he wants to bring us to Christ but in the process he wants us to rethink what we have been taught and what we believe about the power of priesthood and how it is manifested in our lives. He says the temple will point us to Christ yet says the sealing power is not there.

Am I the first to see the implications of what he is teaching? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong or that I’ve missed the point completely. Tell me that all the thousands of temple workers, so many of them my good friends, are not wasting their time laboring in temples that have been rejected. Tell me that the blessings I have given to my wife and so many others over the years are efficacious even though I have not had my ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon my head.

Receiving the Heavenly Gift

I am not a lawyer, so I can never argue as well as Denver has done. I am a simple member of the church, happy in my faith and grateful to have lived my life in the orthodox manner as taught by my leaders. I have served a mission, been married in the temple, served in bishoprics and high councils for the past twenty-five years and generally loved my time associating with saints of the Lord, who Denver is now calling a fallen and proud people, members of an apostate gentile church.

What do you think? Has Denver taught the truth in his book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” or is he an apostate like some have declared him to be? Is it worth my time to read the rest of his books? Is there a whole lot more that I don’t see yet that will prove Denver to be right? Perhaps I need to re-read his first book again and put the process to the test as he is asking us to do. Is Denver teaching that we need to do in our homes what we are taught in the temple to converse with the Lord through the veil?

I would love to read your opinions.

Changing Requirements of Perfection


After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed.  He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”

He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.

Perfection means completed

The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.

The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”

Flaws and errors removed

I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed.  That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior.  It is not something that I can accomplish on my own.  That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior.  Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets.  I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all.  We will all live again with immortal bodies.  But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.

Requirements of Salvation

So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation.  I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord.  I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction.  They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law.  The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that.  The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people.  I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites.  Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.

Baptism in ancient times

We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized.  When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept.  John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown.  I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world.  We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World.  Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation.  The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.

Temple ordinances required

I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel.  The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength.  Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains.  No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law.  But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday.  That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.

Word of Wisdom for our day

Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.”  Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day.  Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.

Plural Marriage not required

Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement.  We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131.  But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation.  You can read that in section 132, verse 61.  It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery.  It is never worded that a man must take another wife.  Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.

Timing of the Second Anointing

We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we?  We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine.  To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article.  It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years.  I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught.  Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet.  I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing.  To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.

Dormant religious practices

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant.  I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship.  Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet.  Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever.  Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.

Be Faithful to Joseph

I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph.  I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing.  That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe.  After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith.  I believe Joseph.  I trust the brethren who lead this church today.  I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life.  I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership.  Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.

My Interview with Mormon.org


On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org.  There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.

01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?

Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer.  We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work.  We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help.  We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service.  It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.

02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?

The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another.  I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not.  It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that.  To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.  He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.

03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.

Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is.  Think about it!  Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday.  It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God.  I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.

04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.

I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man.  He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed.  But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come.  I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.

05. Why do Mormons go on missions?

I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries.  As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries.  It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism.  I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.

06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?

Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives.  I am a product of all those who came before me.  My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover.  Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation.  We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).

07. How has attending Church services helped you?

One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday.  I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings.  I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior.  I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week.  That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week.  I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.

08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?

Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry.  I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure.  So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members.  I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most.  We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.

09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?

Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding.  Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control.  We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material.  So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!”  It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content.  We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.

10. Could you talk about your baptism?

I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago.  My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance.  I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission.  My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood.  I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back.  I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance.  It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.

11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?

I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior.  I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others.  I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way.  I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion.  I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too.  Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger.  I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life.  The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.

12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity.  Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time.  Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations.  When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift.  The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices.  Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes.  The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.

13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?

There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two.  Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife.  After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy.  I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there.  One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me.  I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family.  I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers.  I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later.  The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.

14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?

My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual.  I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life.  But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family.  We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals.  For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active.  We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community.  The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.

15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?

Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world.  Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary.  I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come.  Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things.  Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be.  The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.

16. What is hope and what do you hope for?

Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life.  Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow.  I hope for a glorious resurrection.  I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life.  Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here.  This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.

17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?

In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life.  Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is.  One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8).  In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted.  Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy.  The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream.  What a great story!

18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?

I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life.  There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift.  The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life.  The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places.  The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered.  The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain.  The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.

19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?

It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life.  For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting.  But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good.  The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him.  And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better.  It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.”  I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.

20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?

One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved.  We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us.  Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes.  Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do.  We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.

21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?

Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome.  For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment.  In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak.  We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come.  We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.

22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life.  Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent).  But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member.  Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors.  When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.

23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?

A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer.  I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers.  And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself.  My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit.  The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer.  I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.

24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?

I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old.  I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher.  Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together.  I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it.  In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family.  No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed.  The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God.  It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us.  The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.

25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?

Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints.  Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy.  We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church.  In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do.  I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis.  These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.

The endowment is more than the ordinances


The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have.  The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.

You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?”  A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.

The redemptive mission of the Savior

In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.

He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.

Receive the Holy Ghost

This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”  This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.

I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it.  Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.

Promise of the Father

One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power.  The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us.  So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.

The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father.  Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created.  It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost.  This fills us with great power.

We must seek this gift

I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed.  I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.

We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer.  We must hunger and thirst after this gift.  As Paul said, we must covet this gift.  It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more.  Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.

Temple ordinances part of the process

We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed.  The temple ordinances serve two purposes.  They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.

Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom.  I believe it is analogous to being born again.  It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost.  The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.

Endowed with power

The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name.  Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.

The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high.  It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.

More than the ordinances

The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple.  The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power.  There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.

The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s.  It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.

Pattern found in Third Nephi

In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem.  Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.

Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world.  They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side.  They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.

Witnesses know for themselves

Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute.  They had seen him and they had touched him.  No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.

And yet they lacked something.  When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.

The endowment begins

It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day.  Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.

Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention.  He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.

In the midst of fire

The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.”  I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times.  This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.

This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire.  The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not.  This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.

To be continued…

There is no middle ground


In the priesthood session of the April 2003 General Conference, President Hinckley delivered a landmark address on the subject of loyalty.   In his remarks he said, “Each of us has to face the truth of the matter—either the church is true, or it is a fraud.  There is no middle ground.  It is the Church and kingdom of God or it is nothing.”

An earlier prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote something similar in the Doctrines of Salvation:Mormonism, as it is called, must stand on the story of Joseph Smith.  He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen.  There is no middle ground.”

There can be no gray area

Referring to the historical events of the area around Palmyra, New York, President Hinckley said: “They either happened or they did not. There can be no gray area, no middle ground.”   In a similar manner, Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order.”

President Benson endorsed this all or nothing view.  He said, “Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon…if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church.”

They were all wrong

Such black and white statements go all the way back to the beginnings of the LDS church.  When the prophet Joseph asked God which church he should join, he “was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong.”  If all the churches of Joseph’s day were wrong, what does that say about the numerous churches of our day?

The Lord later said to Joseph in Section one of the Doctrine and Covenants that the church Joseph organized was “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.”  If you look, you can find dozens of similar statements by prophets and apostles throughout the history of our church, all very bold in their declarations.

Divisive and exclusivist

Of course, statements like these are labeled divisive and exclusivist by many people outside our church, but also, increasingly by members on the fringe of the church, also known as the disaffected Mormon underground.  The DAMU is nothing new.  There have been cultural Mormons and Jack Mormons throughout the history of our church.

Of all the objections to the church that I have encountered over the past few years I have been blogging, this one seems to be the most common and the most offensive.  For some, it is an extremely difficult proposition to accept this black or white, all or nothing approach to truth in religion.  I have spent considerable time pondering why this is so.

Good and truth in all religions

Joseph Smith taught that we accept truth from whatever source it may come.  Joseph F. Smith said, “We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure…”  Modern prophets have said that there is much good and truth in all churches and religions.  This statement doesn’t seem too limiting.

President Hinckley: “We recognize the good in all churches. We recognize the value of religion generally. We say to everyone: live the teachings which you have received from your church. We invite you to come and learn from us, to see if we can add to those teachings and enhance your life and your understanding of things sacred and divine.”

Something unique to add

What can the LDS faith add that is unique and will bless the lives of those who accept its teachings?  The most unique thing we offer can be found in the temples.  It is the sealing power that is exercised to unite families in an eternal bond that will remain in effect after this life is over.  That is an amazing claim that no other church can make.

We teach that the sealing power is a part of the priesthood authority that we claim was delivered to Joseph Smith via angelic messengers.  I don’t know of any other church that asserts that angels have come and ordained their leaders or conferred upon them keys and powers that will bind on earth and in heaven.  That is a fantastic declaration!

Our eternal nature

The older I get, the more important that claim becomes to me.  If I know nothing else, I know that there is a spiritual side of my existence.  I have had too many experiences of a spiritual nature that have helped me to understand this truth.  Others may claim that there is nothing more to man than skin, muscle and bones, but I believe differently.

Because of that very basic and core fundamental belief about myself, I am concerned about what my purpose is in life and what happens after death.  I am so grateful to be a part of a community of faith, a church that believes as I do that life is eternal and that what we do with our lives will have a significant impact on the quality of life hereafter.

Importance of the temples

That belief in life eternal is not unique, but the idea that we can do something to ensure that the relationships we enjoy here continue in the hereafter is very unique indeed.  I have had dialog with visitors to my blog who claim that God would never be so mean as to separate a loving couple who cherished and served each other all their mortal lives.

I’m not going to point you to any statements from church leaders that teach otherwise but I will say this: before you go making claims about how God should behave, you might want to be absolutely sure of what God has said on the subject.  I can’t think of anything about which I would want to be surer.  My eternal happiness depends on it.

Book of Mormon is still the key

Back to the point of the essay and why prophets have said that there can be no middle ground when it comes to things like authority and revelation and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  My mother, who was a convert to the church, once said to me that as an investigator, she could accept everything about it except the Book of Mormon.

It wasn’t until much later in life when she took an Institute class on the subject that she really began to understand just how important it is to our claims of divine origin.  I love the fact that we do not have the plates to “prove” the historicity of the book.  Prophets have taught that the Book of Mormon is a great sifter of those who are honest in heart.

The power of a divine witness

I know there are those who have said that they have tried and failed to obtain a witness of the veracity of the Book of Mormon.  I have had dialog with people both inside and outside the church who have struggled with this.  I confess that I cannot offer a perfect empathy because I received a witness of the truthfulness of the book many years ago.

Because of that divine manifestation to me, not just once but on several occasions, I have never doubted the Book of Mormon, or the claims of the prophet Joseph Smith. I understand why the prophets have said that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and why our claims of divinity rest upon the veracity of that book.  I also agree with the statement that the strength of this church is in the testimony of each member.

The promise of personal revelation

One of my evangelical visitors once called this security that I feel, the Mormon bubble.  He says it is not logical but it makes perfect sense to me.  You can throw out all kinds of arguments about the Book of Abraham, Polyandry, Post-manifesto plural marriage, the Kinderhook Plates or any one a few dozen other things that can be found on the Internet.

None of them bothered me when I first learned about them and none of them do now.  I have written essays on dozens of these objections and have come to the conclusion that they really aren’t the real problem with why people doubt or leave the church.  In my opinion, those who struggle with these doubts have not received personal revelation.

Summary and conclusion

I know that a testimony is a very sacred and personal subject.  I also know that making a generalization like I just did will bring all kinds of protests.  But I stand by it as truth.  If a man has received a witness from God that the Book of Mormon is true then God has a responsibility to help that man as he goes through the ensuing trials of that testimony.

I know that God will help the honest in heart keep their testimonies strong and vibrant.  If we study we are going to find out things that will test our witness.  We will then have the opportunity to strengthen and deepen it.  That’s what opposition is for.  We do not have to wallow in doubt.  But those who doubt are welcome while they work things out.

The blessings of the LDS Temple


Carol and I went to the temple this afternoon and joined with members of our stake in a wonderful chapel session with a member of the temple presidency. I love these sacred moments where we are taught more about the endowment ceremony from one who has been set apart to teach the saints about what the temple really means.

Our visit to the temple today was emotional for me as I thought of both my parents who are now on the other side of the veil. The Los Angeles temple is where I was endowed over thirty years ago. My mother and father took me there and prepared me to understand the sacred blessings that are found there and nowhere else on earth.

In the temple we learn how to deal with the challenges of life better because we are taught the true source of some of those challenges. It is also in the temple where we are united as families through the eternal sealing power of the priesthood. I am so grateful to have been married to my sweetheart in the temple so many years ago.

Mormon Temples and HBO’s Big Love


Throughout history, the Lord has commanded His people to build temples. Temples are literally houses of the Lord. They are holy places of worship where individuals make sacred promises with God. Faithful members of the LDS Church go there often to draw closer to God and to feel his power in their lives in greater abundance. I have been visiting the temple since I was 12.

Because we consider our temples sacred, we require that members of the church prepare themselves to receive the instruction and ritualized ceremony that is found within the walls. Casual members of the church and the general public may visit the temple grounds and the visitor’s centers, but admission is reserved only for those who meet the requirements.

That is why we are concerned that HBO’s Big Love has decided to air an episode of the show in which the temple ceremonies are depicted. We do not feel that the producers can treat the subject with respect that the sacred nature of the temple deserves. Besides, the context of the show is polygamous, which members of the LDS Church have not been for over a hundred years.

Official church response

The LDS Church as an institution has decided to stay out of the dialog other than to present a commentary in the Newsroom that discusses the whole idea of responding to controversy. In short, they have left it up to individual members to decide how they would like to respond. Some have suggested a boycott of AOL, which, like HBO is owned by Time-Warner.

Besides the fact that AOL is already a dying entity, such boycotts seem silly to me. I’m much more inclined to do something that turns this into a missionary opportunity. Thus I joined a Facebook group that is really nothing more than making a statement reminding my Facebook friends that I am LDS, that I am aware of the controversy, and that temples are sacred to me.

Visit the Newsroom to read the Church’s official statement on an upcoming episode of HBO’s Big Love that is said to depict temple ceremonies. You can also read what Larry Richman, director of Church Publications and Media Project Office had to say about it on his blog, LDS Media Talk. If you would like to learn more, watch the video below that explains why we build temples.

For additional information:

1. See Bryce Haymond’s Temple Study blog
2. Statement from HBO on Mormon Chronicles
3. Mormon Soprano on Hollywood Bullies
4. Big discussion over at Feminist Mormon Housewives
5. And another at Mormon Mentality

Death is the door to the spirit world


My dad passed away last week after a relatively short illness of less than six weeks. Dad’s death, about four years after my mother’s death has brought our family closer together. For example, although we always communicate via email at least weekly, I feel a greater desire to stay closer to my brother, who lived with dad over the last year and is now all alone. Death does that to you.

My sisters were wonderful all through dad’s sickness. They took time off from work to be with dad day after day, week after week. I think that’s an amazing demonstration of love on their part. My dad deserved it. I have written about him previously. He was the most unselfish, kind and gentle person I have ever known. Even when dying, he didn’t want us to fuss over him.

A priesthood blessing

As dad was passing through the last few days of his illness, he kept asking my sisters to open the door. At first, they thought he meant that literally and would open the door to the room widely. But he kept saying, “No, the door isn’t open.” Finally my one sister understood what he wanted and called on the priesthood brethren to come give him a blessing and release him from this life.

I wish I could have been there that night but distance kept me away. How grateful I am to know that there are good faithful holders of the priesthood who are willing to come bless a dying man. In less than thirty minutes after the blessing in which he was told that he had completed his mission on this earth, he breathed his last breath and then passed quietly into the spirit world.

Visits from the spirit world

I know you’ve probably read many accounts over the years of people who have been visited by loved ones from the spirit world. If not, I’ll refer you to some sources at the end of this essay. Dad told us many times that mother came to visit him after she died. He spoke often of having talked with her during the last few weeks of his illness. She was anxiously awaiting him there.

The LDS faith is not the only one that teaches of an afterlife, but I think we are fairly unique and precise in our explanations of the spirit world. We have a wealth of teachings and scriptures that attest to the reality and the purpose of the spirit world. It is a place of gathering and waiting for those who have died and have not yet learned all that is needed in preparation for resurrection.

What the spirit world is like

At the time of physical death, the spirit leaves the body and goes to the spirit world, where we will continue to learn and progress. In the spirit world, memories of this life and the knowledge we have gained on Earth will remain with us. Death will not change our personality or our desire for good or evil. We will be about as happy or as unhappy there as we are here and now.

The spirit world is not our final resting place. We are simply there for a time, learning, growing and preparing for the day when our bodies and spirits will be reunited or resurrected, never to die again. That is an amazing thought to contemplate and one that gives me great hope and joy. I am confident that the separation of death is only temporary. We will one day become immortal.

The work of the spirit world

In what is one of those unique teachings of the LDS faith, we believe that there is a great work going on in the spirit world. It is a work of gathering and organizing. It is also a work in which we can be involved here upon the earth. Of course I refer to the work of family history research. Participating in this work now can bring us close to family members living in the spirit world.

Countless thousands of individuals have testified of help they have received from beyond the veil as their hearts have been turned to their fathers in seeking them out. This desire to discover and learn more about the lives of our ancestors is called the Spirit of Elijah and refers to the mission of the prophet Elijah. This is one of the things that was restored through the prophet Joseph.

Seek knowledge of the spirit world

The prophet Joseph taught that we should study diligently about the spirit world. “It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night… If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject.”

Unfortunately, most of us are so busy with the cares of this world that we rarely study or ponder what our life will be like in the spirit world. For many us, our daily work consumes way too much of our energy. We busy ourselves with tasks that have little meaning in the eternities. There is a time for everything, and that includes time to meditate about those in the spirit world.

Seeking out our ancestors

A large part of our faith is temple worship service. I like to call it that because it is a place where we go to be closer to the spirit world and to give service in providing proxy ordinances for those who are living on the other side of the veil. While we don’t worship our ancestors, we are taught that we cannot be made perfect without them. We must be sealed to them in an unbroken chain.

My mother understood this concept well. She was consumed with family history research almost from the day she joined the church. She spent more than half of her life seeking out and finding the names and pertinent dates of our family members. Most of her efforts were directed towards her maternal ancestors, and often told me of special help she received as she sought them out.

The Spirit of Elijah

As mother came closer to death, her sense of urgency in completing the ordinances for those she had discovered was profound. In an almost daily ritual she would call or email and ask me if I had completed the work for some family members that she had submitted. In all, mother was responsible for the ordinances of over 25,000 family members over a forty year period of time.

While I have not been as intense about this passion as my mother, I also keenly feel this sense of urgency to ensure that the ordinances are performed for family members waiting in the spirit world. This is the Spirit of Elijah that is prompting me to do all I can to fulfill my promise to my family, made before I came to this world. That spirit can help each of us if we pray for it.

The door to the spirit world

I loved my dad. I still do. I know where he is. He is with my mother and his own parents. He is nearby. We believe that the spirit world is here on this earth and that the spirits of those who have departed are not far from us. They are concerned for our happiness and welfare. I know dad is at peace now and that is not just an idle wish. I feel it deep within my heart and soul.

Dad suffered a bit before he died but endured it valiantly. He passed through death as he passed through life – without complaint. But dad knew that it was time to go and knew that there was a door through which he must pass. In his case, he needed to hear the words of the brethren of the priesthood telling him that he had completed his life’s work; that he could go through that door.

Summary and conclusion

All men must die. We know that. No matter how much we may get caught up in the things of this world while we are here, there comes a time in everyone’s life in which we contemplate death and what comes next. I am grateful for a faith that teaches me not only of the purpose of life and where I came from, but what will happen to me after I die. I will continue to live.

Death is not the end. It is only a doorway through which we must pass. It is one step in the eternal scheme of things. There is so much more to come after we get to the other side. We continue our journey, learning and preparing for that glorious day of resurrection, when we come forth as perfect, immortal and eternal beings, never to die again. I look forward to that day.

—————————————

For more about the spirit world (from my library):

1. Visits from Beyond the Veil by Marlene Bateman Sullivan, Horizon Publishers, 2002
2. Spirit World Manifestations by Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing and Publishing, 1978
3. Temple Manifestations, by Joseph Heinerman, Magazine Printing and Publishing, 1974
4. The Gateway we call Death, by Russell M. Nelson, Deseret Book, 1995
5. Life after Death, by Robert L. Millet, Deseret Book, 1999
6. Beyond the Veil – vol 1, by Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1988
7. Beyond the Veil – vol 2, by Lee Nelson, Cedar Fort, 1989
8. The Journey beyond Life, by Michele R. Sorensen, Family Affair Books, 1988
9. Life Everlasting, Duane S. Crowther, Bookcraft, 1967
10. Beyond Death’s Door, Brent L. and Wendy C. Top, Bookcraft, 1993

Mormon temple work for Holocaust victims


I know this is old news but a friend whose mother is Jewish asked me about it so I thought I would formalize my response. This is an ongoing problem and both sides have had legitimate difficulties in understanding each other’s position as well as keeping their part of the agreement.

A little background may be helpful. I’m sure you are aware of the LDS Church position on performing ordinances like baptism for those who have died. If not, perhaps a quick review of this doctrine on the Mormon Wiki page from the More Good foundation would be helpful.

In a nutshell, we believe that all people must receive certain ordinances in this life in order to comply with God’s commandments through his prophets. We also believe that these ordinances are only valid when performed by one who is authorized by God using priesthood from Christ.

Proxy ordinances in the temple

A unique doctrine and practice of the LDS Church is performing these ordinances by proxy in the Mormon temples for those who are now living in the spirit world. You’ll note that I do not say that they are dead because I want to emphasize our belief that life goes on after mortality.

As members of the LDS Church, we are encouraged by our leaders to search out and find the records of our ancestors. It is more than genealogy. We call it family history research. It is obviously big in our church and one of the things for which we are well known and respected.

Well, we are respected by most people for this work that we do, but apparently not all as you will find out as you read on. The rule is that we are only supposed to do the research on our own immediate ancestors and their descendants. That’s enough to keep most of us busy for a lifetime.

Records extraction program

We also do what is called records extraction or name extraction. For many years, the LDS Church has been microfilming court records and parish records around the world. In exchange for the permission to film them, we provide copies to the courts and churches free of charge.

This is all supported by our tithing donations, along with the building of all the temples and meetinghouses throughout the world where we offer free family history research library facilities to anyone. In fact, our libraries are used by the public more than they are by the LDS members.

Let’s get back to the records extraction program. As part of this program, the church has microfilmed thousands and thousands of the records of people in Germany, Poland and other European nations. Of course many of them are Jewish and many are holocaust victims.

Direct ancestors only

As a matter of practice, if an LDS member does not bring the names of his own ancestors to the temple to perform the proxy ordinances for them, they are supplied names from the records extraction program. As you can imagine, millions of individuals have been baptized this way.

And therein lies the problem. When descendants of Holocaust victims found out about this they were incensed, and demanded that their names be removed from the records of our church. They felt that it dishonored their ancestors and gave legitimacy to those who deny the Holocaust.

We agreed, and in 1995 a formal agreement was put into place that removed the names of these individuals and mandated a policy that no new ones are to be performed. The policy states that only those who are direct descendants of holocaust victims can submit them for the ordinances.

Agreement with American Gathering

As you can imagine with millions of people contributing to the temple files, this is very hard to enforce. In fact, it has proven to be nearly impossible. Thousands of new names keep popping up every year. There are also some who are doing this on purpose to embarrass the church.

Last November, Mr. Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants decided that the LDS Church was not keeping up with their part of the agreement and went public with a press conference to voice his discontent.

The story was picked up by several national outlets, including CNN, which caused it to be distributed to over a hundred local news organizations. As you can imagine, it caused a big stink, especially among those who were already criticizing us for our stance on Proposition 8.

Family history research

The LDS Church responded immediately with a press release and background material to explain both the doctrine and the practice and our agreement with American Gathering. However, it was too late. Mr. Michel had decided that he would no longer work with the church on this issue.

So there you have it. The church feels that we have been attempting to enforce the agreement in good faith and Mr. Michel has decided that we haven’t. It is a big mess and makes us look bad because we are unable to guarantee that this won’t happen again. The systems just aren’t there.

Interest in family history continues to grow throughout the world. It is an extremely popular pastime or hobby, especially among older people. As a church, we are dedicating enormous resources to sharing the information we have compiled, free of charge, and available online.

LDS church in the spotlight

As always, I stand by the theory that any publicity is good publicity. The LDS Church has been in the spotlight a lot over the past year with Mitt Romney running for President, the polygamist raid in Texas, the Proposition 8 uproar and this blowup over the names of the Holocaust victims.

If you dig into the story even a little bit, you will also discover that someone keeps submitting the names over and over again of those who committed the atrocities. Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun have had their temple work done many times as have Eichmann, Himmler and Goebbels.

I don’t know if this keeps happening because someone wants to embarrass us or if someone who is a legitimate descendant of these individuals has submitted their names. It doesn’t matter. But it does expose an issue that is not well understood even among many members of the church.

Summary and conclusion

Mormons believe that all individuals must receive the ordinances of salvation in order to obey God’s commandments. We believe we are fulfilling promises we made in the life before this to our ancestors when we seek out their information and submit their names for temple ordinances.

It seems that whenever there is a question of having the proxy ordinances performed or not, we will go ahead and perform them with the idea that it will all get sorted out in the spirit world. I can see why this is objectionable to those not of our faith but I will conclude with this thought:

If the Mormons are right and these ordinances are needed for salvation, then why not just go ahead and let them do them? Baptizing them by proxy in the temple doesn’t make them Mormon. They can accept or reject the work done. If we are wrong, then what does it matter?

For additional information:

1. Official LDS church response via Newsroom
2. Background explanation of Temple Baptism
3. Letter from the church to Ernest W. Michel
4. On honoring ancestors by an LDS Apostle
5. Voice of Deseret – includes numerous links
6. Official website of American Gathering
7. Wikipedia article on Baptism for the Dead
8. Deseret News – Mormon Times article
9. FAIR – Temple work for Holocaust victims
10. Official LDS.org – Baptism for the dead

My experience with the temple


I have been impressed with the work Bryce Haymond is doing over at TempleStudy.com. I am particularly pleased with the sacred and reverent manner in which he treats the subject matter. His essays on the temple are thought-provoking and illuminating. I would not have thought that one could find enough material to fill an ongoing blog on Temples, but he has proved otherwise. I should not be surprised. The temple has often been referred to as the Lord’s university.

Bryce’s work has not gone unnoticed. Other bloggers I respect like S.Faux on Mormon Insights have recommended the essays and unique perspectives there. Besides temples in general, you can read about endowments, garments, prayer circles, the veil, ordinances and commentary from Hugh Nibley, one of my favorite LDS scholars. I encourage you to visit Bryce’s site to see for yourself. I could spend hours there and always come away enlightened and uplifted.

It is OK to talk about the temple

In the church we are often hesitant to talk or write about the temple. Some have concluded that since the temple is such a sacred place that it is not appropriate to mention it or discuss what goes on there. I agree that there are aspects of the temple that we do not reveal specifically because we have covenanted to not do so. However, we do ourselves a disservice by not taking time to regularly ponder what the temple means to us and how it can bless our lives.

On the other hand, there are those over the years who have broken their covenants, sharing everything in great detail. Typically those who do so write or speak in such a way that they make a mockery of something that most members of the LDS Church hold very sacred. It is unfortunate that this has occurred but we know that there must be opposition in all things. I have always found the temple to be an awesome and empowering force in my life.

We hold the temple sacred

There is a reason that new members of the church must wait at least a year before participating in the endowment ceremony. We encourage new members to go and perform baptisms for the dead as often as they can and just as soon after baptism as possible. Waiting that year helps the new member to gain an appreciation for the sacredness of the temple that they observe in long-time members. I guess you could call it seasoning and a time to prove faithful.

That’s why it is so important that we who have been endowed be very careful about what we say and how we say it when talking to new members about the temple. They will probably absorb our attitude towards the Lord’s house as they listen to us discuss it among ourselves and as they see how frequently or infrequently we make the effort to go there. First impressions can be very lasting. I hope that we are helping new converts feel that the temple is a great blessing.

Being prepared for the temple

I went to the temple as a youth to participate in baptisms for the dead. I was impressed with the twelve oxen that held up the font in the basement and learned that they represented the twelve tribes of Israel. I remember the feelings that came to me as I entered the house of the Lord for the first time as a new deacon. There was a real difference in the way we talked and the way we acted as soon as we showed our recommend and made our way to the baptistery.

I don’t think I am atypical of most LDS youth in that I probably went to the temple a least every six months during my teenage years. I have fond memories of these experiences and especially enjoyed continuing this practice in the Idaho Falls temple when I went to BYU Idaho after high school. I am convinced that regularly going to the temple in my youth helped prepare me to appreciate the sacred nature of the endowment when I was preparing to go on my mission.

The importance of being worthy

In the church we place a high emphasis on being worthy to enter the house of the Lord. The process of obtaining a temple recommend is not secret and is really quite simple. The Lord has placed the responsibility on his priesthood leaders of ensuring that those who go to the temple are prepared to understand and receive the blessings that are promised there. Those who go for the first time are asked a series of questions from their Bishop and Stake President.

The questions are not designed to intimidate or to test our knowledge of what we will learn in the temple. The interview process is an opportunity for us to express to the Lord’s servants that we believe and have faith in God, our Heavenly Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We are asked if we have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel and if we sustain the prophet and other priesthood leaders. We are also asked if we obey the commandments and if we feel worthy.

Temple preparation classes

When I went to the temple for the first time, there was really no temple preparation class like there is now. It was expected that parents would teach and prepare their children to attend the temple for the first time. That is not feasible in today’s world with so many converts who do not have the benefit of years of exposure to the concepts of the temple through example or through discussion with family. I had parents who taught me about the temple and took me there.

On my way down to the temple, I sat in the back seat and read several essays about the temple that my mother had obtained and wanted me to read. She and my father were very active in attending the temple at this time in their lives and wanted me to understand about symbols and covenants and ritual and sacred things. I had already studied much on my own so what I read that morning was not new, but it impressed me that my mother wanted me to feel prepared.

The endowment ceremony

My first experience in the temple was not a shock and I was not surprised. I had read and been taught about the washing and anointing and clothing in the garment of the Holy Priesthood. There is no doubt that I felt something special as I entered the Garden Room of the Los Angeles Temple to be instructed through the ceremony and ritual there. In those days we did not move from room to room like we do now. That is something I love about the LA Temple today.

As many times as I have sat through the endowment ceremony, I am never disappointed by what I learn there. The first time through was especially enjoyable to be sitting next to my father and to see the smile on my mother’s face as she looked over at me several times. I am always learning something new even though what transpires is the same each time. My parents asked me if I wanted to do another session right away and was pleased to be able to do so.

Married in the Temple

When Carol and I became engaged, we immediately began making plans to be married in the temple. We had both made the decision many years earlier that we would only marry there. I also got the added benefit of marrying a returned missionary so she had been previously endowed and understood the temple. Although our wedding day was a long and eventful day, I will always remember kneeling across the alter to be sealed to my sweetheart.

I was so impressed with the covenant and the promises made as we held hands and were sealed by the authority of the priesthood in the Los Angeles temple. I love that temple. Every time we go there we look in on our sealing room with fondness and discuss what transpired there that day. The room was crowded with family and friends but the thing I remember most is the feeling I had when the words were pronounced. I knew that it was being recorded in heaven.

Vicarious ordinances for others

We have returned to the temple many times over the years to perform ordinances for those living on the other side of the veil. My mother was an avid genealogist and left me the records of thousands of our ancestors for whom we officiated as proxies in the temple ordinances. I have come to appreciate the doctrine of vicarious ordinances more and more as the years have gone by. I have felt that the work I do in the temple is appreciated and pleasing to the Lord.

The Lord has made it clear that baptism and marriage are ordinances that must be performed in mortality. We believe and teach that these ordinances can be accepted by those who have died without the opportunity to receive them here. We also believe that they are necessary in order to progress in the next life. That is why we as a church and as a people invest so much time and money in building temples, in doing family research and in doing proxy ordinances in the temple.

Summary and conclusion

I love the temple. I like to go there often. I especially enjoy our stake day in the temple which we have twice a year. Last year we filled half of the assembly hall on one of the upper floors with nearly a thousand members of our stake in attendance. It was an awesome experience I’ll never forget. I am so blessed to have lived so close to the Los Angeles Temple all my life. I never tire of going there. I have sacred memories of receiving inspiration and revelation there.

I hope to continue to visit the temple on a regular basis. I have more family history work to do. As I get older I ponder more and more about the spirit world and the next life. I want to be able to meet my ancestors and report that I did my best to do my part. They helped me get to the place where I am in my life. I live at a time where the temple is close and I can easily get there. I am so grateful to the Lord for the blessings of the temple. I know they are of an eternal nature.

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