Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hard Facts About Temple Marriage as a Requirement for Exaltation.

A friend of mine (who is fairly knowledgeable about the church, even though he is not a member) asked me a series of questions after his (member) girlfriend made him read my post on the importance of and necessity for eternal marriage in the temple. Most of his questions dealt with our views on life after death, and they resulted in my seven part series on that subject. After all was said and done, he pinned me down and made me give him this direct answer concerning the hard facts when it comes to the requirements for exaltation. I deliberately elected to employ language which I felt was appropriately vague in my previous post on temple marriage, however he needed a more definite answer. My first post on temple marriage is more eloquent and exhaustive, and so you might find it helpful to review my previous post on Temple Marriage.

Q: I feel like I am missing one thing to tie it all together. Where in scripture (besides D&C 76:50-54,69-70) does it say that you need the saving ordinances performed at the temple (namely marriage) to be allowed into the celestial kingdom?

A: I think that many of your questions in this regard can be answered in D&C Section 132. Specifically verses 15-21 (yes I know how long 19 is, read it anyway). Let me just say that the issue is less one of entry into the celestial kingdom than it is one of receiving all of the blessings that God has in store for us. The greatest of these blessings come through attaining eternal life and exaltation (whenever you see that word in scripture, read: becoming Gods). As you'll see in verses 16-17, it is possible to be saved, and to receive celestial glory, and yet not attain exaltation. Also, I should tell you that the references (in 18-19) to passing (or not being able to pass, as the case may be) appointed angels to inherit God's glory and attain exaltation is a direct reference to the purpose and blessings of the endowment and the covenants that you make upon receiving your endowment.

Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God. And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.

The fact is that marriage for time and all eternity, performed by one who holds the proper authority is a requirement for exaltation. Without it, we cannot hope to attain to the greatest of God’s blessings. So to put a fine point on it, a person cannot possibly hope to fully realize their divine potential if they are not willing to live the principle of eternal marriage.

I think that it is possible to over-emphasize the importance of this principle however, much to the detriment of the other principles and covenants contained within the gospel. To demonstrate this, I find it to be more instructive to examine the whole section, specifically in view of "The new and everlasting covenant". Here I'll give you a leg up on most Mormons, as a lot of relatively uninformed church members think that "THE new and everlasting covenant" mentioned here (and in many other places) refers solely to the marriage covenant (celestial marriage is AN everlasting covenant but it is not THE everlasting covenant as you will see), when in fact it actually refers to the Gospel as a whole, of which the Temple ordinances are only a part.

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God. And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.

Speaking specifically about this passage (esp. the bolded section), Joseph Fielding Smith said:

"Now there is a clear-cut definition in detail of the new and everlasting covenant. It is everything-the fulness of the gospel. So marriage properly performed, baptism, ordination to the priesthood, everything else- every performance that pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise according to his law here given, is a part of the new and everlasting covenant." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 1, 10:158)

In his book, the above is topped with a header that says: "Gospel Covenant Embraces All Covenants". It does not pay to get caught up in legalistic requirements and checklists when it comes to our quest for salvation and exaltation. No amount of ritual or performance on our part will ever guarantee salvation- it is only in and through the merits and mercy and grace of the Redeemer that we can hope to return to the presence of our Father in heaven. That is why I generally choose to emphasize living the principles and ordinances of the Gospel that Christ taught. As we grow through truly living the gospel, and strive to become like Christ (and to be perfected through him), the desire to make these (esp. temple) covenants with God will come as a natural byproduct of our increasing faith and conversion, and a growing desire to please Him.

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