It was once a common practice for faithful LDS Church members to be sealed Church leaders until about the 1890s when President Wilford Woodruff put a stop to the practice. This was known as the Law of Adoption. BYU professor Dr. Richard Bennett will talk to us and tells us about the theological justifications and why church members felt the need to be sealed to church leaders. Bennett makes the case that until Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 of the Spirit World, that many didn’t know the gospel was preached to the dead. How do we better understand the Law of Adoption?
Dick: I don’t think you can talk about the Law of Adoption without understanding the development of the doctrine of the Spirit World and the doctrine of the gospel being taught in the Spirit World, which really doesn’t come to fruition in our doctrine and our history until Joseph F. Smith’s great revelation in 1918 and what was going on in the spirit world. It’s a progressive doctrine about the souls of men and women that are living in the spirit world.
Are they being reclaimed? Are they being taught the gospel? Are they being converted? Are they being forgiven? Are they receiving the fullness of the gospel there?
Baptism for the dead opened that door, to actually begin to do ordinances for the dead. But could we be sealed to our ancestors like we do today? We take it so for granted. You’re just being sealed to your ancestors. Well if they’re not receiving the gospel, we don’t want to take the risk of being sealed to them because what’s going to happen to us if they don’t accept the gospel?
Until it became clear that the fullness of the gospel was being taught to them, the deceased, and that they were receiving the fullness of the ordinances, better be on the safe side and be sealed to a living prophet or a deceased prophet maybe like Joseph Smith and we’ll be sealed. Until we know more clearly what’s going to happen, let’s be sealed to the prophetic priesthood lineage of the prophet Joseph priesthood claim and therefore it’s a done deal. Can I use that term? It’s a safer way than, we don’t know what’s happening to our ancestors. That’s going to change as we learn better and more clearly, especially in 1877 with Wilford Woodruff when he announces that from now on, we’re going to do endowments for the dead. We don’t begin to do endowments for the dead until 1877. That’s 40 years after Nauvoo, 30 years after Nauvoo.
Were you aware that this is why church members were sealed to prophets and other general authorities?
Temple worship has changed significantly over the years. In early Kirtland, many of the Saints spoke in tongues at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Also in Kirtland, the ritual of washing and anointing was first practiced by many of the early saints. In Nauvoo, not only did we have baptisms for the dead, but also many Mormons were Masons, and Masonry was highly influential in the development of temple endowment. In this episode, Dr. Richard Bennett a BYU professor of history and religion will talk to us about the development of many of these early temple practices. Some quotes:
Brigham Young spoke in tongues many times. When they got here out in the [Salt Lake] valley they spoke in tongues. But it’s just gradually been, not replaced, but that other gifts have been emphasized more than the gift of tongues.
The development of the Kirtland Endowment is a progressive one. It doesn’t come immediately. Joseph seemed to indicate something was coming and it created an anticipation of something special at the Kirtland Temple to coordinate with its dedication in April of 1836. Even before that there were what they would call special washings and anointings and washing of the feet as well which began in the Newell K. Whitney store and eventually migrated into the Kirtland Temple. There were a series of what we would today call preliminary ordinances that were given to priesthood holders for preparation for going on missions and as a blessing and a benediction for having worked so hard on the temple.
The signs and symbols that you sometimes see in the temple, whether they are the all-seeing eye, or the geometric symbols have some similarity to Masonry. There’s no question about that. Maybe even some of the clothing has some parallels. But Joseph Smith explained that he did it, he may have borrowed some of it, but for and entirely different reason, something that they were somewhat familiar with but for an entirely different reason. To the best of my knowledge, the differences are very, very stark when it comes to scripture and prophetic and Christian. Masonry is a benevolent and wonderful society, but it’s not necessarily for just the Christians. It’s not a religion.
This next episode is full of surprises! I’ve got 2 sample quotes below! Mormons know that the Kirtland Temple is currently owned by the Community of Christ, rather than the church based in Salt Lake City. Have you ever wondered why the Mormons in Salt Lake City don’t own that temple? I asked Dr. Richard Bennett that question, a BYU professor of Church History and Doctrine, and was really surprised by his answer!
Brigham Young and the Quorum of Twelve made the conscious decision, not publicized to too many people that we needed to sell off the temples…
Have you heard this before?
Dr Bennett also said that the US government, and Missouri actually saved the saints!
We think of Missouri as being the great enemy of the church. It was of course in the 1830s, the expulsion by Governor Boggs and what have you. But as we were moving west, many of the saints went down into Missouri on side trips to work for the season wherever that might be, building fences, harvesting crops. We have an interesting paradox that Missouri saved the Church heading west in 1846-47.
Were you aware of this?
Check out the video and transcript below, or get one on Amazon!