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Sealing & Born in the Covenant: A Guarantee of Heaven? (Part 7)

We’re concluding our conversation with Dr. Jonathan Stapley.  We’re talking about sealings, especially child to parent sealings, such as born in the covenant.  In early Mormonism, these bonds were considered permanent (as Dr. Bill Smith mentioned.)  John D. Lee was sealed as an adopted son of Brigham Young, but Lee also participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  What is his status?

Jonathan:  Brigham Young has to wrestle with this. Well, is this a persevering relationship? And faced with that reality, he says, “No. You guys have to…” He gets up. And he’s like, “Oh, you people that are sealed to me, yes indeed. You can’t get on my coattails. You have to do your work.” Right? But on the one hand, but on the other hand he’s saying, “my kids are totally in.”

We will also talk about the protestant ideas of Calvinism and Arminianism.  How does Mormonism fit in with those paradigms?

Jonathan:  Calvinism is this idea that, you know, to the modern perspective, once you are saved, you are saved always and you cannot fall from grace. And Arminians were like, well, you can certainly backslide.  Like you can be saved and then screw up then backslide. And the challenge is that for everybody, for every Christian, no matter what sort of soft theology you adhere to, is that we all know folks that are burning converts that are regenerated and have the faith. And that also ended up being just complete jerks and falling away, right? And the Calvinists would perhaps say, “Well, he never really was saved in the first place.”  He was never elect.  Right?

And the Methodist, the Arminian would say, well, he was certainly saved, but he then backslid and fell from grace. And the question is, how does that—he explicitly referenced, Joseph Smith explicitly references these two ideas and then places the sealing in between. And I think how one way to think about this is that sealings in as much as they materialized, heaven, they created, literally heaven.  It doesn’t exist anywhere outside of the creation of these sealed networks. If I am sealed into the network of heaven, I have a place there. And then if I backslide, so the discussion with these early sins being persevering, that once you are part of heaven, you cannot be taken away. You persevere in heaven. The idea is, at least in section 132, is that you can backslide, but your place in heaven is still there and there’s strong language that destruction of flesh and, all these, like warnings, right?

Are Mormon sealings considered permanent today?  Are our marriage bonds sealing our children into heaven?

Dr. Stapley discusses child to parent sealings, like born in the covenant. Does this guarantee a child in heaven?
Dr. Stapley discusses child to parent sealings, like born in the covenant. Does this guarantee a child in heaven?

One last thing.  We’ve started a new page at Patreon.  If you would like to watch entire interviews in one session, our first interview with George Throckmorton is now up at Patreon.com/GospelTangents.  For $5/month you can get the whole interview!  Check it out!  Also, please support Gospel Tangents by becoming a monthly subscriber!  For $10/month (click the yellow button at the top of the page here on GospelTangents.com) I will send you a transcript of this and all future interviews!  Or simply go to GospelTangents.com/shop to purchase this or other transcripts.

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Women, Healers in LDS Temples

In the 19th and early 20th century, there are many examples Mormon women healers.  These women used to lay hands on the sick.  By what power did they do this?

GT: I remember as a priest growing up and having the lesson over and over:  priesthood is the power to act in the name of God.

Jonathan:  Okay.

GT: Okay.

Jonathan: That is a common definition.

GT:  A common definition. So, what I heard you say was that women in the 1800s especially, but even into the 20th century, healed both men and women, probably more women than men, but it happened with both genders. They healed by the power of God. But it’s a mistake to call that priesthood.  Is that correct?

Jonathan:  Yeah. So, using today’s definitions to describe historical practice doesn’t work.

GT: Okay.

Jonathan:  It just doesn’t work.

GT: So,  it’s hard to talk about then.

Jonathan: So it’s consequently challenging. Right? So, well then how do we talk about it?

Honestly, this was a fun and challenging conversation.  Stapley says that the term “priesthood” used today, while a definition is “the power of God”, priesthood also implies ecclesiastical authority.  Women can freely utilize “the power of God,” but since they don’t have ecclesiastical authority, it is a mistake to call the healing blessings they did “priesthood.”  For me, the terms “power of God” and “priesthood” were so synonymous, that I didn’t understand the distinction Stapley was making.  Check out how Jonathan clears up my misunderstanding.

He also gives us more information on baptisms for health, and temple healers.  I was not familiar with temple healers.  It turns out that women often fulfilled this (now defunct) practice of a temple healer.

Jonathan:  There are examples of people being baptized in the Kirtland era and being healed upon their baptism, but an actual healing ritual, a designated ritual, baptism for health occurs in Nauvoo. It’s designed to be, I think it envisioned as part of the temple. So, the temple is a place for healing, specifically Joseph Smith envisions it as a place where the sick would come and not only receive an endowment of power and create heaven, but also be physically healed. Baptism for health was an integral piece of that healing liturgy, but it is immediately and ubiquitously performed outside of the temple.

So in the rivers and wherever the Latter-day Saints go from that point forward, baptisms for health are common. As soon as the temples are built, there are regular days for baptisms for health. So, if you’re feeling unwell, you could make a pilgrimage to the temple. One of the temple healers could baptize you for your health.

GT: In the temple?

Jonathan: In the temple, and they kept records. In fact, the single most common temple ritual for many years in the 1880s was baptism for health. So there was more baptisms for health for the living. I should qualify that. The most common ritual for the living in the temples was baptism for health.

Early Mormon women anointed with oil and laid hands on the sick to heal.
Early Mormon women anointed with oil and laid hands on the sick to heal.

You should also check out our previous conversation where we talk about “cosmological priesthood.”  Check out our conversation…..

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Breaking Sealings: Who has the Power?

In a previous conversation with Dr. Bill Smith, we talked about how polygamous sealings were considered nearly permanent.  There are cases in which those can be broken.  After Joseph Smith died, Brigham Young claimed sole possession of the sealing power. Many apostles disagreed. How did it get resolved? Dr. Bill Smith explains in this interview. Does more than one man hold the sealing keys? And who is in charge of breaking sealings?  Is it just one man, or are there several people who can do it?

Bill:  I think that—opinions sort of vary with this but Brigham Young’s divorces where a sealing was involved, I think Brigham Young’s divorces that he granted were taken as dissolving the sealing.

GT:  Theological?  Ok.

Bill:  Which is in perfect harmony with the idea that sealing.  You could do it and you could undo it.

GT:  As prophet he had power to loose.

Bill: Yes, so that’s another big point in the discussion of the book is that in the revelation it’s very clear that only one person at a time has this authority to decide you can be sealed, you can’t be.  Or, you can engage in polygamy, you can’t, kind of thing.  This has all evolved onto a single person.  It even says historically, this is the way it has always been.  I don’t know how serious to take that, but it supports the idea that it’s really a one-man job.  So, who has the authority to decide?  This is a huge issue in succession.  Because obviously the guy who has this one-man authority is the guy to be in charge, right?

At one point, Joseph tries to separate his church presidency from his temple priest position as the one guy.  People don’t like this.  They are worried about it.  They don’t want to accept Hyrum as the church president and Joseph as saying.  Unfortunately, he is addressing a group, a very small group who is acquainted with his temple theology.  The people who aren’t are really upset by this.  “We don’t want Hyrum to be the prophet.  You are.”  He can’t be the prophet.

So, he takes it all back that afternoon.  But yes, he is really speaking to this idea of where things are, and I can’t go into the background here, but his sort of presidency of the High Priesthood sort of vaults him into the position of the one guy.  So, after he has died, after he is dead, the apostles weren’t in that tradition of High Priesthood. They weren’t in there at all.  They try to write themselves in at first, and then they say you can’t really do that.  It doesn’t work.  So, we have to a new tradition about this.

Is adultery grounds for breaking sealings?

Bill:  Adultery is a really touchy point within the revelation.  It’s a little bit confused.  Also, the whole thing is tied up in this idea where I mention in Matthew about the binding and loosing thing.  That is sort of Mark Staker’s thing about Peter, James, and John.  That’s connected in there.  So, the text is not perfectly clear.  That’s another point I try to make about the revelation.

Check out our conversation…..

After Joseph Smith died, Brigham Young claimed only he held the sealing power. Many apostles disagreed. Bill Smith tells how the issue was settled.