Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Today was a special day. As we entered the temple we saw groups of young people going into the baptistry to perform the initial ordinances for those on the other side of the veil. Simultaneously, my son in Wichita was baptizing his daughter, Hanna. Baptism is the door through which we enter the path to eternal life, and is required of all (D&C 128). Hanna’s ancestors to the 7th generation were all baptized by proper authority thanks to the restoration of the priesthood. Their ancestors have been given the same opportunity, thanks to the temples.
The hand washing ceremony during a Navajo wedding is to cleanse body, mind and spirit, before engaging the symbolism of the basket, the corn pollen, the mush, the North Star, and the four directions is part of a formal marriage covenant that creates a family. This is consistent with eternal principles set by the creator and practiced in the temple. “Marriage is ordained of God unto man” (D&C 49:15). The restoration of the priesthood makes forever marriages possible as intended in the beginning. Adam and Eve were joined by God in an eternal marriage, and taught the law of eternal marriage to their children. “If a man marry a wife by... the new and everlasting covenant... by him who is anointed,... it... shall be of full force when they are out of the world (D&C 132:19). This can take place only in the temple by the proper authority, after a series of ceremonies that cleanse and prepare individuals to become united by covenant.
Temple ceremonies give instruction in the ancient traditions of the councils of the gods, the processes of creation, and an eternal perspective of our life before and after our earth life. The ceremonies are rich with symbolism, just like the initiations into any formal society. For example, traditional American Indian names are often spiritually divined, unique to each individual, and/or related to an accomplishment, rite of passage, dream, or life event. Those who give such names are specifically authorized to do so. Those who receive the names are forbidden from sharing the sacred name, except at certain ceremonial times and places. In our tradition, the temple is where we get such sacred names, which are key words to be used only as directed (D&C 130:6-11).
Each phase of the temple ceremony represents different degrees of glory (1 Corinthians 15:40-42). Each level has appropriate covenants and subsequent blessings, but to obtain the highest blessing, one must be sealed in eternal marriage (D&C 131:1-4).
Each temple is marked with the words “Holiness to the Lord”, for a temple is the house of the Lord. We were told that we walked on holy ground, the place where Jesus himself would walk. Every culture has sacred places that are to be treated with respect and honor. Temples are like that for us. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23) “The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance... (D&C 130:3). “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (D&C 130:22).
In the temple today, we all felt special, we felt the love of the people around us, the love of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. May you all seek and find this love.
Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like On Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand, In other words, darling kiss me
Fill my heart with song, Let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for, All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true; In other words, I love you.
Written in 1954 by Bart Howard, this is still a popular swing type first dance song at weddings. It reminds me of my own romance. I remember being overwhelmed with the idea that I would do anything for her, even go to the moon. In the process of living several decades of marriage, I have often gone away, or gone out on a limb, taking risks that have not always paid off. As a result, there are times that I end up on the dark side of that moon, and sometimes she wishes I would stay there! Yet, I never forget the passion that led me to the temple, nor the covenants we made while kneeling across the altar. Maybe returning to the temple to participate in ordinances for others helps keep clear that vision of eternity.
It seems strange that in the same culture that produces such romantic love songs, 50% of first marriages fail, and so many have such little confidence in their relationship that they just move in, without any marriage covenant. The U.S. Census reports that 5.5 million households consist of unmarried partners. There is a gospel solution to the question of love, romance, and relationships.
“Marriage is ordained of God unto man” (D&C 49:15). Adam and Eve were joined by God in an eternal marriage, and taught the law of eternal marriage to their children. “If a man marry a wife by... the new and everlasting covenant... by him who is anointed,... it... shall be of full force when they are out of the world (D&C 132:19). This can take place only in the temple by the proper authority, after a series of ceremonies that cleanse and prepare individuals to become united by covenant. If you are tempted to establish a lesser relationship, remember that Satan is the enemy who leads so many of our people away from this path of happiness.
Satan persuades our people into lesser relationships with lies like, "Everyone does it"; "If it doesn't hurt anybody else, it's all right"; "If you feel all right about it, it's OK"; or "It's the 'in' thing to do." Nephi has given to us the pattern or formula by which Satan operates: "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well, and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none, and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance" (2 Nephi 28:21, 22).
Being true to eternal marriage covenants can help us work harder to have a happy, successful marriage on earth, and raise our children in a path that leads to their happiness on earth. Being sealed in the temple unifies a family throughout the generations. My grandchildren are 7th generation members, born in the covenant of eternal marriage. Our ancestors beyond the 7th generation are sealed to us in the temple. My we all seek the fulness of joy promised to those who are exalted through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
“Fishing is not a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that”. I just spent 10 days in South Texas where this is not a joke, but the way people live. Every home has at least one boat, and some communities are built on the shoreline, each home having its own boat dock. They even excavate canals to provide boat access for the homes that are more inland. I always felt that you could tell a person’s religion by what they do on Sunday. You know what those people are doing on Sunday. Yet all those people have something in common with us: their interest to family. Every home has walls and books and videos and albums dedicated to family photos. We are identified by not only the company we keep, but by our relatives.
We have entered the “holiday season” of family gatherings. This desire to kindle relationships is an eternal principle that extends beyond our immediate relatives to our forebears. The great interest in our day of knowing our ancestors was forseen by Malachi. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:5,6). This passage was clarified by Joseph Smith, who was actually visited by Elijah and given keys for temple work and told that the earth would indeed be cursed unless we make those connections to our ancestors and descendants (D&C 128:16-18).
Yet it is not enough to collect family photos and have gatherings during the holidays. The authority to seal families by the power of the priesthood was restored by Elijah. The temples are built for this purpose. Everyone can contribute the names that go to the temples for this important work. My ancestors collected names and did temple work 7 generations ago during the mid 19th century. In the 1960s there was a push called the “Four Generation” program, in which every family was encouraged to do temple work for at least their grandparents and great grandparents. Since then, those members of my family touched by the spirit of Elijah have been diligent in searching ancient records and sending names to the temple. I always thought that was enough, but there is more to the spirit of Elijah.
I remember in the 1970s when my mother sent copies of the testimonies of my ancestors. What a difference in my attitude! Suddenly these are not just names dutifully submitted, but they are real people with personalities and problems. Now my sister and my daughter are the key people in compiling and publishing these stories for our next family gathering planned by our children. There is hope that the true heritage and identity of our family will persist, as the next generation is clearly touched by the spirit of Elijah. They are gathering stories and names, and attending the temple to perform baptisms and sealings of families, because they have a testimony that this is their family.
May the Spirit of Elijah touch your heart this holiday season as you gather or send greetings to family members. Go one step further. Interview family members and record their testimonies and life histories to pass on to the next generation. Go another step further and submit the names to the temple so your family may be blessed with “a whole and complete and perfect union”.