Doctrine and Covenants 2 has but three verses. This article discusses two of them. As usual, the scriptures use simple words, combined in unique ways, to teach profound messages of responsibility, loyalty, and love.
It is not often I quote an entire chapter or section from the scriptures, but as you can see below this whole section has only three verses. After you read these verses I will discuss the priesthood keys restored by Elijah then I will talk about the other three words used in the title of the article, “plant,” “heart,” and “turn.”
1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of the prophet, before the coming of the great and day of the Lord.
2 And shall plant in the hearts of the children the made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
3 If it were not so, the whole would be utterly wasted at his coming.
In order to better understand our three focus words, let’s first see what they have to do with the priesthood as mentioned in verse one.
Elijah’s priesthood responsibilities included being the holder of the keys of the sealing power in the plan of salvation. All throughout the scriptures we see that the Lord has chosen select individuals to possess particular parts of the priesthood keys. They are, in effect, in charge of that part of God’s work in the plan of salvation for the whole of God’s family on earth. Adam was chosen to be the father of the human family, Elijah to hold the sealing keys, Moses held the keys of the gathering of Israel, Joseph Smith held the keys of the Restoration of all things and is the prophet that stands at the head of the final dispensation of time. These are just a few examples of prophets with very specific and important priesthood responsibilities.
In Moses 1:39 the Lord told Moses that His work and His glory was to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Eternal life is God’s life, the kind of life He lives. That life includes eternal increase, which means an eternal association in a family setting. All others who are resurrected will be single forever, but those who return to live with God and receive eternal life will have a spouse and children to bless and exalt (as God did for them), and by whom they will be glorified for eternity.
The sealing power has been given to many prophets over the centuries, but I know of no other time in the history of the world when the blessings of the sealing power have been as widely available and in use as in this last dispensation. This one priesthood power sets this entire dispensation apart from all other dispensations, and it is because of what the full use of the sealing power entails.
When the priesthood seals a couple together as husband and wife, that is just the beginning of their personal family tree. Sometimes we forget to include the fact that if their parents are also sealed together each of their children are already sealed to them, for their children are “born under the covenant.” The covenant referred to is the covenant of marriage that was performed by the ordained and set apart sealer in the temple. This priesthood ordinance binds what is done in the temple in heaven as well as on earth. Based on each person’s personal worthiness, on the day of resurrection when they are given their deserved glory, they will continue as a couple and as a family unit.
Scope of the sealing power
All earthly marriages end at the death of one of the members of the marriage. Only those sealed in the temple have their relationship recognized by God in heaven. We might take these facts for granted today, as those raised in the church are likely members of families who have been sealed together now for multiple generations. Our standing as multi-generational members of an extended family sealing line may be normal for us, for it is all we have ever known. But for those of us who are recently converted, this is a powerful and stunning privilege that was never even a consideration before we joined the church.
When the prophets in the Book of Mormon, for example, were given the sealing power, their sealing power was primarily control over the elements. If they shut up the heavens then it didn’t rain until they opened them again. We have no record of the ancient prophets using the sealing power to make eternal families. For all I know they may have done this, but to do this all the participants have to be holders of the Melchizedek priesthood, and widespread use of the Melchizedek priesthood is also a special trait of the final dispensation of time, that is, our time.
What we do in the temples is a work that has been reserved for the last dispensation alone. Our responsibility in our day is to begin the millennial work of sealing every member of God’s family together through the priesthood power as restored by Elijah to Joseph Smith. This sealing work will be one of the main labors performed by the whole world during the thousand years of the millennium. Whether or not someone had the gospel in mortality, every child of God will have all the priesthood ordinances performed for them so that the family tree of all of God’s children on this planet get done before the work is considered finished. That is a monumental task. It also ensures that every one of God’s children have equal access to all of the blessings of the priesthood and an equal opportunity to accept the gospel of Christ when it is presented to them. God is no respecter of persons. He loves all His children equally.
For those who never heard the gospel message in their time in mortality, they will hear it in the spirit world, before the resurrection, through ordained Melchizedek priesthood holders. This is the work Christ organized during his three days in the spirit world before his own resurrection. There is no blessing we enjoy today that will not be equally available to all of God’s children before the day of judgment. This is the power and the promise of the sealing power as given to the prophet Joseph Smith. It is central to the whole plan of salvation, and Christ directs this work in the temples his prophets have built all over the earth. This is why President Nelson always refers to the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil. For we are truly participating in a work that includes both sides. All of the family history work we do is being done for the sole purpose of providing the information we need in order to seal those people to their family members in the temple.
We live in a unique time in history. Our blessing to be here includes great responsibilities to assist Christ in his work of gathering all of God’s children back into the family of God through covenants. If they leave mortality without having their saving ordinances done then those ordinances will be done by those of us still in mortality when we attend the temple. No soul will be without this sacred work being done either by themselves or by proxy by the time they arrive at judgment day. This is how important the sealing keys are to all of God’s family.
Rather than ask you to go back and reread verse two, I will just put it here so you don’t have to go back and forth on your screen. I have underlined the three words I would like to address, for each of these words is not just a word with a definition, but a concept that has wide application in our life.
2 And shall plant in the hearts of the children the made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
I suspect you might be like me in that I have always glossed over this verse and simplified it in my mind to mean that “we will all become interested in our forefathers and will want to help them by doing their work for them.” That seems easy enough to understand. What I have always left out was my knowledge that God chooses His words carefully, and they often have significance that is available to us if we will just stop and think about the words God and His prophets have chosen to use in writing the scriptures. If you get anything significant out of the the following explanations, I am sure it will be because the Spirit is helping you make connections you may not have thought of before. I hope that happens for you.
I love to plant things. You put them into the best soil conditions you can for starters, but almost everything is guaranteed to die if that is where your efforts end. Seeds, left unattended or put into poor soil are the subject of one of the Savior’s parables, the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3). We are the soil, or should I say our heart is the soil, and the Lord has promised that in the latter days He would plant in the hearts of His children the promises made to their fathers. But what are those promises?
All throughout the Old and New Testaments we read about the promises made to the covenant children of Abraham. After the Lord scatters Israel to the four corners of the earth, after many generations, He will begin a work that will gather covenant Israel’s descendents back into their long lost covenant status. They would once again begin to enjoy the privileges and blessings of living in a state of being on the covenant path to God. This gathering would begin with the ushering in of the last dispensation.
To understand the doctrines behind the gathering let’s look at a quote from a book about the gospel of Christ. Here is the link to the chapter from which I took this quote. Please read slowly and think about what Gerald Hansen, Jr. is saying. When you click the link the name of the book and its editors are at the top of the page. I have also included that information at the bottom of this article.
One of the things that makes the gathering difficult to grasp as a teaching is its subtlety. The simple part of the gathering—that certain peoples gather to certain lands—can, if we are not careful, camouflage its deeper implications. The gospel principle of the gathering of Israel goes far beyond where we will live. Among other things, it teaches Latter-day Saints about their responsibilities in the Lord’s plan, and it emphasizes that exaltation requires temple ordinances. It is a joyful doctrine taught repeatedly by both Old Testament and Nephite prophets to lift up the downtrodden and to bear witness to God’s eventual victory. Or, as Jacob says in the Book of Mormon, he teaches concerning the gathering so that we will “not hang down our heads,” but “cheer up [our] hearts” (2 Nephi 10:20, 23).
A further difficulty for us today in understanding the gathering is a lack of some historical perspective and background knowledge. When the Savior taught the Nephites the doctrine of the gathering, he assumed that they had read their scriptures and already knew concerning such things as the scatterings of Israel and, most importantly, the Abrahamic covenant. As for the scatterings, Jesus mentioned them (3 Nephi 20:13, 27) but did not emphasize them. The Nephites had been taught that God generally scattered Israel after the Israelites had broken their covenants (Hel 7:17–19). Similarly, with the Nephites, Christ only alluded to the Abrahamic covenant without explaining it in detail (3 Nephi 20:25, 27). However, as Latter-day Saints we cannot neglect the covenant God made with Abraham if we have even the least desire to understand the gathering of Israel. Unless we understand what the covenant of Abraham promises to us today, we will probably see the gathering of Israel as nothing more than certain peoples going to certain lands. In reality, the blessings of Abraham—not land—are the central promise of the gathering. We gather to the blessings of Abraham. They are the keys that open the door to salvation. And, understanding these blessings is the key that opens the door to comprehending the doctrine of the gathering.
Scripture tells us that Abraham “sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right to be ordained to administer the same” (Abr 1:2). He was not seeking land, and he was not seeking priesthood office, as we sometimes hear. He was seeking, as President Ezra Taft Benson says, priesthood blessings, meaning temple blessings (8). The most important part of the Abrahamic covenant, both for Abraham and for us, is the gift of temple covenants and blessings.
The promises contained in the gathering of Israel is the promise of the temple covenants, those very covenants that will enable us to become like God. As the article says, the gathering is not just about people coming together to a particular land, though that part does apply to the Jews proper. The main focus of the promises God is planting in our hearts is a desire for something better than what the world has to offer, something higher, that which can only be found in His holy temples.
Like all things planted, having the information or the desire to obtain these blessings is not enough. We have to tend and cultivate that desire by study, prayer, and continual obedience to God’s commandments. Once the desire has been planted in our hearts, we have to do the work to see that the seed is given every opportunity to grow into maturity and bear the fruit we hope to gain from it. This requires time and effort on our part. God does the planting of the desire, but we have to do all the cultivating and tending to that desire in order for it to grow and bear the desired fruit.
This is a pretty simple and self-explanatory concept. Our heart refers to the core of our being, not just to the organ that pumps blood. When we experience great sorrow or grief, we often feel it in our chest, and we might say that our heart is breaking or that we have a heavy heart. When we are elated and feeling great joy it may feel as though our heart will burst out of our chest for it feels swollen with joy and lighter than normal.
Our heart is also the expression of our desires and longings. If we desire sin and evil, someone might refer to us as having a dark, withered, or blackened heart, to express that our desires are all evil in nature. When we are kind, generous, do good continually, and tend to focus on the needs of others, people may refer to us as having a big heart, or that we are kind hearted.
When God says He will turn our hearts to our fathers, He is referring to using that desire for blessings we discussed above in this article to seek out a way to bless the lives of our ancestors. We are, in all reality, one family. We were raised as such in the eternities before coming to earth, and we will be again when we return home to our God. The desires God plants in our heart is that of family. Once we get a taste of what seeking out our ancestors does for us in our heart, we find that it becomes an all-consuming desire. Our happiness, in many ways, is augmented by our ability through our family history efforts to bless the lives of those who have come before us in mortality.
This is my own opinion here, but I fully believe that those of us who were reserved to come here in the latter days have a much higher than normal connection to the other members of our extended family. We are the children who, in the premortal world, were most likely to want to do all in our power for the welfare and salvation of our brothers and sisters. This desire of the heart is what God needs from us at this time. In order to do the gathering of Israel, to prepare for the second coming of the Savior, and to save ourselves, we must set our hearts on winning the salvation of all of God’s children. This is a goal we share in kind with God, Himself. And for that matter, we share this goal with Christ as well. His atoning sacrifice was for this very purpose, to allow the salvation of all mankind. Our temple work and family history work is all part of this glorious plan to bring the opportunities and blessings of salvation to all of God’s children. We get to be saviors on Mt. Zion as we assist the Lord in His work. What a privilege!
I love to occasionally turn to Webster’s 1828 version of the dictionary to see the old-time definition of words. I decided to look up the definition of “repent” and this was my favorite definition.
In theology, to sorrow or be pained for sin, as a violation of God’s holy law, a dishonor to his character and government, and the foulest ingratitude to a Being of infinite benevolence.
Now let me explain why I began this section on turning with a definition of repenting. Why do you think God didn’t just tell us to think about our ancestors? Why did he say our hearts need to turn to them? What is the difference between turning to our ancestors and thinking of them or appreciating them?
I noticed that the word “turn” is used in many scriptures in reference to our relationship with God, as well as with our ancestors. Rather than list many references here, I’ll leave that up to you to go and do some exploring on your own. The list of verses is fascinating. I will mention one verse here, just to illustrate my point. This is Doctrine and Covenants 78:10.
10 Otherwise seeketh to turn their away from the truth, that they become and understand not the things which are prepared for them.
What I am asking you to do here is to look at the definition of “repent” as stated above, and see how it relates to the concept of turning TO God and away from our sins. To repent, according to the above definition, is to feel sorrow and remorse for the offense we give to an infinitely benevolent Father. To fix that offense we have caused him through our behavior, we need to turn to him. That is, we need to face Him and look at Him. We need to make God the focus of our life. To turn to God means we do all in our power to make our relationship with Him the main priority in our life.
This same concept applies to turning our heart to our ancestors. The world has plenty to keep us busy. We are surrounded by noise and distraction at every turn. Our once peaceful homes are now filled with gaming, streaming music, videos, and commercials. God wants us to turn our hearts and focus on the salvation of our family members who came and prepared the way before us. In other words, our priority needs to be turned away from the worldly pursuits and brought to bear on saving our kindred dead.
This idea of turning our hearts is a deep concept, though also simple in some ways. When you love someone, figuratively speaking, if you turn away from them, you abandon your love for them. We, as an eternal family unit have, over the centuries, turn our hearts away from our ancestors. Now God is saying that to honor our covenants with Him we need to turn our hearts back to our forefathers and seek for their salvation, as well as our own.
Who would have thought that there could be so much to think about in three little verses. Actually, we only looked at two verses here. As we study the Doctrine and Covenants this year we will see these concepts of turning our hearts to our ancestors crop up over and over again in a many forms. Watch for them and try to find ways for you to honor your covenants by honoring and fostering that desire God will plant in your heart to help and save your kindred dead. Not only does their salvation depend on it, but our own does as well.
Gerald Hansen Jr., “Gathering to the Temple: Teachings of the Second Day,” in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9–30, This Is My Gospel (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 1993), 211–23
Gerald Hansen, Jr., was instructor of Religion at Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho, when this was published.
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