Last year, after I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting, Christy suggested that I start posting ones that I’ve recently given as part of documenting my beliefs and testimony here on this blog. I thought it was a brilliant idea. A way to have another record of my spiritual thoughts and feelings for posterity. Thanks for allowing me to indulge.
The bishopric member in charge of scheduling talks called and asked that I would speak on May 13th but what I didn’t think about when I said yes was that it would be on Mother’s Day. I tend to get weepy anyway thinking about my sweet mother and then of being a mother to own my children. But then he said that he wanted me to talk about our experiences with adoption and what the temple sealing means to me and my family. It will be a miracle if I make it through this talk without an entire box of Kleenex.
Thankfully, President Henry B. Eyring gave a fantastic talk about families and temple blessings in the Priesthood Session of this last General Conference, so I’ll be drawing on that for many of my thoughts. So, sisters, if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you’ll get a sense of its message here, and brothers, you can really hear it this time if you found yourself napping through it the evening it was first given.
The title of his talk is, “Families under Covenant.” He states “There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Families under Covenant”, General Conference, Apr. 2012) I believe that is true. It is how we endure trials in this life, knowing that our loved ones that have gone before, and those that will come after, will still be linked to us after this life. It’s what makes us strengthen our families here and now so that we can continue those relationships throughout the eternities. It’s what makes us want to be better parents.
There are two parts to understanding the temple sealing that I want to talk about today: 1) that you believe the power binds families and 2) that you have a role in making that happen.
Realizing the magnitude of the sealing power and the effect on my own family has only been strengthened through our experiences of adopting our four children. Because our children came to us through adoption, we had the opportunity to take each one to the temple, to kneel at the altar with them, and be sealed together through priesthood keys for all eternity. Those of you who had children born to you within your temple marriage covenant knew that you would be blessed with that sealing power from the moment they were born. We, who have had the privilege of growing our families through adoption, are given those very same promises. It just takes a little longer before we’re able to receive them. But I believe there are some beautiful spiritual benefits to this process.
It is a holy experience to see your babies, dressed all in white, gathered around you in the House of the Lord. You feel the truthfulness of Gospel and an opening to heaven. I hope I never forget those feelings of peace and happiness I felt with each sealing.
And our children had the unique opportunity of entering the temple. Warren was able to be with us 3 times: for his own sealing, for Maddie’s, and for Jake and Joey’s. I pray that he and all of them will cling to the memories, however faint, that they have of being in the temple and that those feelings will help them make good choices throughout their lives. That they’ll want to return again to make their own temple covenants.
Whether your children were born to your family in the covenant, or whether you also had the opportunity to have your children sealed to you later in the temple, the knowledge of the temple sealing and faith in its blessings should instill in all of us a greater desire to make good choices.
Indeed, our biggest responsibility is saving our families.
President Boyd K. Packer said, “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling—from which they will never be released—is to one another and then to their children.” (President Boyd K. Packer, “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”, General Conference, Apr. 2012)
President Eyring said, “Melchizedek Priesthood holders who are fathers in sealed families have been taught what they must do. There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings. There is nothing more important than honoring the marriage and family covenants you have made or will make in the temples of God.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Families under Covenant”, General Conference, Apr. 2012). I know that the same can be said for mothers.
Talking about a man who had just come back to church, President Eyring described what was necessary for him to receive the temple blessings. “It took faith in Jesus Christ, deep repentance, and a change in his heart…” In truth, that’s what we all need to have in order to enjoy the blessings of the temple.
President Eyring gave specific points that we should follow to ensure that we receive the blessing of an eternal family:
Invite the Holy Ghost as much as you can into your lives and families.
“Gain and keep a sure witness that the keys of the priesthood are with us and held by the President of the Church. Pray for that every day” (Eyring, April 2012).
Our testimonies are not fixed but can ebb and flow depending on the trials and circumstances of our lives. We need to pray for and constantly nourish our testimonies so that we don’t lose sight of our goal.
Second, he says, “husbands you need to love your wife.” And I would add, wives, you need to love your husband. Why would we strive for eternal life with our families and spouses if we don’t love them? Eternity is not in the future. Eternity is now.
“Third,” he says, “enlist the entire family to love each other.” He quotes President Ezra Taft Benson, “In an eternal sense, salvation is a family affair.” Later, President Eyring says, “Another crucial source for that feeling of being loved is love from other children in the family. Consistent care of brothers and sisters for each other will come only with the persistent effort by parents and the help of God.” (Eyring) I see that very clearly in my own family. It pains me to see my children fight or not get along. But part of our jobs as parents is to teach how to be an eternal family. We should nip conflicts in the bud and look for peaceable resolutions. We can be examples of kindness to our children by serving them with love, not just out of duty.
President Eyring taught that the sealing is only complete through the approval of the Holy Ghost, The Holy Spirit of Promise.
He says, “The way to do that is clear. The Holy Spirit of Promise, through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come. Elder Melvin J. Ballard said, ‘We may deceive men but we cannot deceive the Holy Ghost, and our blessings will not be eternal unless they are also sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The Holy Ghost is one who reads the thoughts and hearts of men, and gives his sealing approval to the blessings pronounced upon their heads. Then it is binding, efficacious, and of full force.’”
As with many aspects of the Gospel, understanding that promised blessings (even temple blessings) don’t always come when you expect them is an important part of our spiritual growth. Sometimes they don’t come at all in this life, but are given after. But knowing that they do come, in the Lord’s time, is critical to our ability to endure and stay on the strait and narrow path back to God. We must have faith!
I found this to be true in my own life. When Colin and I were married in the Seattle Temple, we were reminded to multiply and replenish the earth. We wanted children and looked forward to that day, but we knew it was not going to be easy. Medical conditions indicated that bearing our children would be complicated, and most likely not even possible. But we decided not to worry. We knew that children would come to our family somehow.
I remember being in the temple when my good friend, Eileen, asked me if I felt sad or disappointed when I heard some of the words of the temple ordinances about posterity, when having children wasn’t happening for us yet. I told her no. I didn’t have to worry. I knew it would happen. My patriarchal blessing said I would have children. I just didn’t know when.
But we knew that Heavenly Father had a plan for us to be parents. A couple of years into our marriage, we felt impressed to adopt. It was after a combined Relief Society/Priesthood lesson on LDS Family Services and adoption that Colin and I looked at each other and just knew. That was the road we would take. It was a long and sometimes painful road, but we endured.
I remember times throughout the adoption process (with all our children but especially with Maddie because of her heart surgery) wishing that we had that comforting knowledge that they were tied to us forever. Without it, I worried more about mortality and what would happen to our family, to our children not yet legally adopted. When each adoption was finalized and we could take them to the temple, I felt a tremendous amount of peace. As President Eyring said, “…joy came from a feeling that connections with [family] are sure because you are or can be bound to them by priesthood ordinances that God will honor” (Eyring, April 2012). Having that temple ordinance complete for each of our children brings me such peace, knowing that I can handle the trials that may come that would part us from one another in this earth life. Death does not seem as debilitating to me now that all of our children are sealed to us.
I also realize that some of us may have heavy hearts thinking about the temple, and sealing, and eternal families because we have not received some of these blessings (children, marriage, etc.), or we have spouses or children who are not members or have not stayed active in the church. I have that same heartache knowing that my father is not a member of the church and that Colin’s parents have recently divorced. It’s painful thinking that these sealing blessings seem far from our grasp.
But there is always hope. We can cling to the examples from the Book of Mormon that President Eyring reminded us. He said,
“The success [that righteous Lehi and his wife, Sariah] won provide a guide for us. They taught the gospel of Jesus Christ so well and so persistently that children and even some descendants over generations had hearts softened toward God and toward each other. For instance, Nephi and others wrote and reached out to family members who had been their enemies. The Spirit at times softened the hearts of thousands and replaced hatred with love.” Don’t ever give up!
We can only change our own hearts. We can only gain our own testimonies. We must pray and study continually so that we can be strong links in our family chain.
In the end, it is our own actions that will make the difference. In speaking about leading our families in love and righteousness, President Eyring says, “That is a high standard for us, but when we, with faith, control our tempers and subdue our pride, the Holy Ghost gives His approval, and sacred promises and covenants become sure” (Eyring, April 2012).
I am incredibly grateful for the sealing power on the earth today. To me, the adoption was really complete when we knelt at the altar of the temple with each precious child. I know that by working together as a family, we can enjoy the blessings of the temple sealing right now, as well as throughout the eternities.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.