Many Latter day Saints are unfamiliar with the three watches doctrine and the need for a future dispensation and a Marvelous Work that will do away with false doctrines and religious contentions.
For this reason, many have been conditioned to read the prophecy about the Seer and the Spokesman in 2nd Nephi 3 in the context of what took place during the 2nd watch, otherwise referred to as the LDS restoration movement in the 1830’s. It is only natural that one would assume the events of this prophecy were fulfilled back then.
However much of this prophecy actually addresses events pertaining to a future work, even a Marvelous Work that is to take place in the 3rd watch.
One of the most revealing segments in this prophecy is the following passage about how the Seer will ultimately convince the seed of Joseph of Gods word and also how, as a result of his efforts, the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah would grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of doctrinal contentions;
“But a aseer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give bpower to cbring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
12 Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall awrite; and the fruit of the loins of bJudah shall cwrite; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the dconfounding of efalse doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing fpeace among the fruit of thy loins, and gbringing them to the hknowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
13 And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.”
At the time of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith there was much confusion and contention within the church and within the leading quorums of the Church about many doctrines. Obviously, the doctrine of succession was so confusing and contentious that it split the church into several fragments.
Perhaps one of the most poignant examples of doctrinal confusion however has to do with the doctrine of adoption and sealing.
You will recall that during the Nauvoo period, men were sealing other men and their families to themselves, as well as other women in order to build their personal priesthood kingdom. There was a kingdom building zeal wherein people were frantically recruiting others to be sealed into their priesthood line.
Some LDS historians claim women were leaving their husbands for men with higher priesthood authority in hopes of gaining a greater position in this world and a higher exaltation in the next. A religious zeal was manifested that rivaled the modern day recruiting techniques found in network marketing.
Naturally there was a huge amount of pressure on Brigham Young to oversee the doctrine of adoption and sealing as he claimed to have been mentored and authorized by Joseph to oversee this principle and the Temple endowment through which it would eventually be administered.
Brigham actually recorded a dream that he had in 1847 wherein he was visited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In the dream Brigham plead with Joseph to explain the doctrine of adoption and sealing doctrine. He said to Brother Joseph;
“The Brethren have a great anxiety to understand the law of adoption, or sealing principles; and if you have a word of council for me, I should be glad to receive it.”
Of all of the questions that Brother Brigham might have felt compelled to ask the Prophet Joseph Smith, it is interesting that this is what he chose. I believe the question reveals two very important things;
First, Brigham Young was getting lots of questions from his brethren about this doctrine and lots of pressure to provide authoritative answers.
Second, Brigham Young didn’t have the answers. He was in desperate need of guidance. The unexpected visit from the Lords anointed provided him the opportunity to ask the most pressing question on his mind.
Although one might expect the following response to be filled with important details about ordinances, rituals, robes, aprons, garments, signs, tokens, grips, special verbiage, etc., the reply that Brigham got from Joseph is almost unnerving in it’s simplicity;
“Joseph stepped towards me, and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly said”,
“Tell the people to be humble & faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord & it will lead them right. Be careful & not turn away the still small voice, it will teach you how to do & where to go, & it will yield the fruits of the Kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.
They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other Spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their Souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the Kingdom of God.
Tell the Brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized in great confusion.”
Joseph then showed me the pattern, how they were in the beginning. This I cannot describe but I saw it, and saw when the Priesthood had been taken from the earth, and how it must be joined together, so that perfect chain from Father Adam to his latest posterity.
Joseph again said “Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it and will lead them just right.”
Instead of giving instructions about sealing as many people as possible into your priesthood “down line”, or how to properly construct an outward Masonic ritual with secret handshakes and blood oaths, his response was so simple and to the point.
He states no less than seven times that the principle of adoption and the sealing powers have to do with the Spirit!
Some of his remarks have to do with emphasizing the importance of the Spirit, some have to do with how to recognize the spirit and some have to do with identifying the fruits of the Spirit.
Lets itemize the seven point response that Joseph gave to Brigham regarding his request to receive council regarding the most sacred and important doctrine of adoption and the sealing powers;
1- “…be humble & faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord & it will lead them right.”
2- “Be careful & not turn away the still small voice, it will teach you how to do & where to go, & it will yield the fruits of the Kingdom.”
3- “Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.”
4- “They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other Spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their Souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the Kingdom of God.”
5- “Tell the Brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right.”
6- “Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world.”
7- “Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it and will lead them just right.”
I find the response of Joseph Smith to be rather remarkable in contrast to the world view of Mormonism in 1847… for that matter, it’s simplicity and profundity stands out even with the back drop of modern Mormonism.
My son asked me the other day to show him the original scriptural justification for the “families are forever” mantra and associated sealing ordinances of the LDS Church.
His question and the apparent confusion associated with it reminded me of a recent reply someone made to one of my posts;
“it is amazing to me how far contemporary interpretations and teachings have strayed from the original scriptural basis of Malachi’s prophecy (turning hearts of children to fathers, etc.).
It was always strange to me that the ultimate power to turn/bind/seal in earth and heaven was given by the Lord himself (or by his voice) to select prophets, e.g., to Nephi in Helaman 10, yet nowadays is parceled out across the world by men. Moreover, this sacred power was hardly ceremonial, but rather was used to control the elements, move mountains, curse/bless the earth, destroy/create.
Only now, we claim to use such a power to ambiguously “seal” mom, dad, and kids, and we give the whole process the catch-phrase “families are forever” (with nice alliteration to make it roll off your tongue). I feel like my Kool-Aid has been diluted one million-fold.”
After pondering the above observation and my son’s question for a few days I have reflected on the scriptural bases for past and current LDS beliefs pertaining to the sealing powers.
So… how did we begin with the building up of personal priesthood kingdoms via the “sealing power” during the time Brigham Young and the twelve took over leadership of the Church and finally arrive at the “Families are forever” belief that has become the mantra of modern day Mormonism?
I tend to agree with the observation of the short commentary above, The basis for all of these beliefs pertaining to the sealing powers appears to begin with the prophecy of Malachi 4, along with the inspired interpretations from the Prophet Joseph Smith;
“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
to bind, or seal the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
This is perhaps the most powerful scriptural force behind the law of adoption and sealing principles that has evolved in the Church including the “families are forever” doctrine.
The New Testament provides greater clarity to the sealing doctrine spoken of by Malachi and reveals that after a person hears the word of truth and believes and accepts the gospel of salvation, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise;
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the agospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Eph. 1: 13,14
Paul informs us that it is the Holy Spirit of Promise that seals us up to eternal life. This seems consistent with Joseph Smiths response to Brigham Young.
The key to being sealed has to do with the Holy Spirit.
Modern Revelation is also consistent with the New Testament in teaching that it is the Holy Spirit of Promise that seals us up to eternal life, but provides a little more clarity, revealing that the gate through which one must enter before being sealed up unto eternal life is the ordinance of baptism wherein we die in the likeness of Christ’s death and are buried in the water in his name.
In the following passages, we are given the TESTIMONY of the GOSPEL OF CHRIST concerning those who come forth in the resurrection of the JUST.
And we heard the voice, saying: aWrite the vision, for lo, this is the end of the vision of the sufferings of the ungodly.
They are they who received the atestimony of Jesus, and bbelieved on his name and were cbaptized after the dmanner of his burial, being eburied in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
That by akeeping the commandments they might be bwashed and ccleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the dhands of him who is eordained and sealed unto this power;
One might interpret the “commandments” that pertain to the portion of the gospel that is for those of the Church of the Firstborn who come forth in the resurrection of the Just as;
1- Receive the Testimony of Jesus (which requires personal revelation with a spiritual witness of the holy ghost)
2- Continue Believing on his name after receiving the spiritual witness
3- Be Baptized after the manner of his burial, being washed and cleansed from their sins
4- Receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power
5- Overcome the world by FAITH and be SEALED by the Holy Spirit of Promise
One of the things revealed in section 76 is that God uses his anointed servants to dispense the ordinances of the Gospel. One must actually be ordained and sealed unto the power of being able to bestow the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit can seal one up to eternal life once they have overcome the world by faith.
It appears that although the preparatory gospel can be administered by those given authority, even if they are not sealed up to eternal life, and even if they are not justified and cleansed by the gospel, the fullness of the Gospel requires those that dispense the gift of the Holy Ghost to have first been cleansed and sanctified and sealed up to eternal life before they can begin administering the sealing powers.
For this reason, it is essential that God has identified who his servants are that have received the Holy Spirit of Promise.
Notice the following event that took place with certain individuals in 1833 as identified in section 88;
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels arejoice over you; the balms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of cSabbaoth, and are recorded in the dbook of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another aComforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of bpromise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
(This remarkable scripture is just one of many that proves that the fulness of the gospel which is composed of faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, as practiced anciently and in 1833, provided everything necessary to sanctify people and seal them up to eternal life. No additional covenants, ceremonies or rituals were needed.)
Over ten years later, shortly before the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, the Lord provides even more clarity about who is “to hold” the sealing blessings of the Church when the Marvelous Work comes forth;
Verily I say unto you, I now give unto you the aofficers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the bkeys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of mine cOnly Begotten Son.
124 First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a apatriarch unto you, to hold the bsealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of cpromise, whereby ye are dsealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the ehour of temptation that may come upon you. D&C 124: 124
Section 77 gives a great key in identifying an event pertaining to the great sealing powers that will come forth in the end times;
“Q. What are we to understand by the angel aascending from the east, Revelation 7th chapter and 2nd verse?
A. We are to understand that the angel ascending from the east is he to whom is given the seal of the living God over the twelve tribes of bIsrael; wherefore, he crieth unto the four angels having the everlasting gospel, saying: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their cforeheads. And, if you will receive it, this is dElias which was to come to gather together the tribes of Israel and erestore all things.” D&C 77: 9, 14
It should be remembered that Joseph and Sidney and Hyrum all held the same priesthood powers.
And so, it becomes even more obvious and important to realize that the promises and prophecies pertaining to the Seer and the Spokesman bleed over into the 3rd watch, for it is necessary for the Seer, the Spokesman and the other first laborers of the last kingdom to convince the loins of Joseph that the scriptures are true and to the confounding of false doctrines and the laying down of all contentions;
After this is done, those servants will go forth sealing up the righteous unto eternal life by giving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.
The sealing power of the Holy Ghost administered by those who have the spirit and power of Elijah will enable the patriarchal family of God to be reconstructed back into the same order it was created in during the spiritual creation.
At the end of the dream that Brigham had he makes the following observation;
Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit fo the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before the came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are [currently] all disorganized and in great confusion. Joseph then showed me the pattern, how they were in the beginning. This I cannot describe, but I saw it, and saw where the priesthood had been taken from the earth and how it must be joined together, so that there would be a perfect chain from Father Adam to his latest posterity.
Praise the Lord God that he will send his servants to confound all false doctrines and put to rest all contentions, including the confusion pertaining to the sealing power spoken of Elijah the Prophet, spoken of by Malachi.