BIC: What’s the point?

by: Guy Templeton

June 13, 2013

sealingroomFamilies are Forever is an oft-used slogan here in the Church.  We make a big deal that if we are married in the temple, our children will be sealed to us in the next life, and we can be together forever.  But let’s look at this closer.  I was temple married, but I don’t expect my kids to hang out in my celestial living room for the rest of eternity.  Sure, we’ll visit, but I expect that my children will be sealed to their husbands/wives to do what celestial beings do.

I know a couple that couldn’t have any children, so they adopted 4 children from various ethnic backgrounds.  The parents are extremely active in the church.  Their oldest daughter had a child out of wedlock as a young woman, so these parents have guardianship over their grandson who is now 17 years old.  The want to seal the grandson to themselves, (because obviously the mother has no intentions of getting temple-ready), but the mother refuses to allow the sealing to take place.  When the grandson turns 18, he will be able to choose who he wants to be sealed to, and at this point he is choosing to be sealed to his grandparents.

My question is this:  what’s the point?  I expect this young man will probably serve a mission in the next few years, come home, settle down, and probably get sealed to a new bride within 5 years.  With that sealing, he will be worthy of the sealing ordinance, so why do we care if he is sealed to either his mother or his grandparents?  It’s not like he’s going to hang out in his grandparents eternal living room for the rest of eternity, especially if he is worthy of being sealed to his spouse.

And whether a person is Born in the Covenant (BIC) or not, if they live unworthily of the Celestial Kingdom, they won’t be a forever family anyway.  So I ask, what’s the point of being sealed to parents if the real sealing that matters is to one’s spouse?  Is the idea of being sealed to a parent similar to the Catholic idea that infants should be baptized “just in case something happens to prevent it”?  While I love the sealing to spouse ordinance, I question how theologically important sealing to parents is.  What say you?

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38 Responses to BIC: What’s the point?

  1. Paul on June 13, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    “What say you?” I care less about what “I” think and more about what the prophets have taught. For instance, this quotation from Elder Orson Whitney gives me great comfort:

    “You parents of the wilful and the wayward! Don’t give them up. Don’t cast them off. They are not utterly lost. The Shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before they were yours—long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot begin to love them as he loves them. They have but strayed in ignorance from the Path of Right, and God is merciful to ignorance. Only the fulness of knowledge brings the fulness of accountability. Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of his servants, and the Everlasting Gospel is mightier in power to save than our narrow finite minds can comprehend.8
    The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Conference Report, April 1929, 110).

    In the specific example you cite, perhaps sealing the nearly 18-year old grandson is less important than the blessings of sealing the reluctant daughter.

    But clearly from Malachi onward the sealing has been about more than just sealing of husbands and wives. I also doubt we’ll lounge around in celestial living rooms (I hope not, anyway; I don’t enjoy doing that here!) But there is implied some saving power in the parent-child sealing ordinance.

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  2. Jared L. on June 13, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    I think we’re really trying to be sealed to Christ. Wherein the Sacrament where we are *willing* to take upon ourselves Christ’s name, through faithfulness to the sealing covenants is where, I believe, that actually happens.

    Picture the grand “family tree” of sealed families to each other. All with the promised blessings from God the Father and made possible by our Savior. Either as spouses and/or children, we all want to be in that eternal tree.

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  3. Jettboy on June 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    It matters because if you are only sealed to who you are married to, then there is a break in the link. For those who are converts or for some reason can’t be sealed in this life to someone in the past, I am sure that will happen in the millenium. The ultimate goal is to seal the human family back to The Father.

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  4. Brian on June 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    I have never believed the idea that your kids will be saved because of something you did. It is totally against the fundamental idea is agency. Just because somebody said it doesn’t make it so.

    As to the main idea of the OP, if we are to believe the idea that we are all eternal brothers and sisters, what difference does the brief temporal relationship really mean, other than a spousal one ?

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  5. Mormon Heretic on June 13, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    I have to agree with Brian here. If we are punished for our own sins, then how can we save anyone else, especially if God deems them as not worthy of saving?

    I mean we can look at the latest Travis Alexander case. I think he was a convert, but let’s say that he was BIC. Certainly he didn’t deserve to die the way he did, but he wasn’t exactly living a Celestial lifestyle was he? How does BIC help save someone like him?

    I’ve read Richard Bushman and his talk of welding links between generations, but I guess I still don’t understand the concept of why sealing between generations is theologically useful. I mean I know the Malachi scripture, but I guess I just don’t understand why God will smite the earth with a curse because we’re sealing parents to children.

    In Joseph Smith’s day, they didn’t do child-parent sealings–it was more like a pyramid scheme where people (such as John D. Lee) were sealed to general authorities (like Brigham Young.) The reasoning of the day was that if you had more people sealed underneath you, then the more your glory and exaltation in the next life. Wilford Woodruff changed that in about 1890, and we now seal children to parents, but I’m just not clear on why God considers a child-parent (or lay member-GA) sealings useful.

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  6. dba.brotherp on June 13, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    When you stop and think about it, the whole sealing thing doesn’t make much sense unless it is symbolic. I guess that why we have sayings like “in the millennium” or “let the Lord sort it out.” Not to derail the OP but does anyone know if Nephi, Moses, etc, have had their temple work done?

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  7. Rigel Hawthorne on June 13, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    A New Testament Scripture mentions the when the Earthly work is done that the Son will turn the Kingdom over to the Father. Brigham Young taught that before this can be done, there must be a perfect chain of priesthood connecting parents to children and parents to ancestors. Why? I assume it is doctrinally related to the idea of perfection and that the ‘unsealed’ have a tie to mortality remaining. If only those who have escaped all ties of mortality meet the requirements to enter the Kingdom with our Father, then that chain must be complete. This could very well be a symbolic teaching ( as #6 suggests) to encourage as to do ‘all we can do’ prior to being exalted.

    Yes, we could certainly wait until the millennium to do the sealings–much less effort in researching our ancestors would be required when we have frequent communication with messengers from the other side of the veil. But you could compare this to the growth that a missionary acquires from serving a mission—even though we could also say that missionary work will be easier in the Spirit World, so why put time and financial effort into it now. It ultimately comes down to self preparation. Making and keeping temple covenants prepares us for exaltation.

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  8. jks on June 13, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    While I don’t expect my kids to hang out in my celestial living room, the doctrine of eternal families is incredibly important to me as a parent. I have invested a lot of time and energy into raising children that I have an eternal bond with. Although we might end up as “peers” in the hereafter, we will always have the mother-child bond which is solidified by our sealing BIC.
    Asking how the sealing covenant can save someone unworthy is a little like asking how Christ saves us…..we are all actually unworthy. Perhaps it means that even if we have a family member that chooses not to honor covenants, we can still retain the relationship and visit our family members in a lessor kingdom. Our doctrine seems to indicate that people will be in the kingdom that fits who they have chosen to become, so its not like we will be visiting them in hell where they are miserable. To me, the sealing is a promise that the people who we are closest to won’t be lost to us.
    Also, the sealing doctrine indicates that we will be ourselves after we die. We will want the same relationship with those we love and we can continue those relationships.
    What about close friends? I am completely optismistic. The fact that Christ has revealed sealings and relationships after death means he knows these things are important and vital. I can live with the wait and see to understand exactly how my friendship can continue with my best friend….who will still be herself and I will still be me so of course we will hang out sometimes in our celestial living room, or at least call each other on the phone the way we do now since we live in different states.

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  9. IDIAT on June 13, 2013 at 6:53 PM

    I envision sealing connections mostly like the surface of a sphere as opposed to a pyramid, although the timing of when we are born is probably a purposeful thing. My guess is we’ll understand the whole ancestor descendant thing a lot better in the next life. Whether one is BIC or sealed later, the person is entitled to eternal parentage per Handbook 1.

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  10. KT on June 14, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    I have wondered this as well. I see it as symbolic. Other religions believe that people can see other friends and family in the after life too but without the necessity of sealing. Sure prophets have spoken on the necessity of it, but there are a lot of requirements that go into being ‘temple worthy’, like paying $$ to the church. It almost seems a bit of a carrot dangling to help motivate members toward other ends.

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  11. Hedgehog on June 14, 2013 at 3:02 AM

    Several ideas have crossed my mind,
    Frivolously, maybe it’s a scheme to keep us out of mischief, all this research and temple work…
    More seriously, a way to get us to think about our ancestors and the lives they had to live, and on which we are now building, so that come the eternities they do mean something to us as individuals in their own right, and given the emphasis being placed on finding out more about them as opposed to digging out the name and dashing to the temple, that may be part of it.
    I agree with idea that it symbolically connects us all, both across time and as family groups. I think it helps us remember out interconnectedness, and our need for eachother.
    But I can’t imagine a heaven where we’d be forbidden from associating with someone, or visiting someone because there had been no sealing. That’s daft.

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  12. SilverRain on June 14, 2013 at 5:46 AM

    Sealing has to do with the Adamic/Abrahamic covenant. You can understand it much better if you research these two covenants in scripture and through temple attendance. Everything makes more sense. It isn’t really something I care to elaborate on here, though.

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  13. Nick Literski on June 14, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    If you go back to the Mormonism of Joseph Smith and other early leaders, parent-to-child sealing was at it’s greatest effect once the parents had been “sealed up” via the Second Anointing. Having recieved the “Fulness of the Priesthood,” the parents allegedly had the power to bring even their disobedient children into their celestial family—but as “servants,” not exalted beings.

    Sort of like Jane Elizabeth Manning James. She wrote countless letters to the LDS first presidency requesting temple ordinances. At the very least, she asked that she be sealed to the family of Joseph Smith as a “servant,” claiming that Joseph Smith had offered her such. While Wilford Woodruff obviously wouldn’t dignify her with an Endowment or marriage sealing, his journal records that he did perform a sealing ceremony “specially designed” for the occasion, whereby Jane became the eternal servant of the Smith family. I suppose “good help” is hard to find there, and someone has to clean all those chandelliers.

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  14. MH on June 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Silverrain, I’d like to hear more about this Abrahamic covenant, because I find that I just don’t understand it very well, and the comments I’m about to say probably are a bit heretical. I know we look to Abraham as a great prophet, and the founder of monotheism (though Walter Zanger says Abraham wasn’t a true monotheist….), but there’s some things that really bother me about the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. First of all, Abraham: (1) he tried to kill his son, and (2) he sends his other son and wife into the wilderness to die. These aren’t what we would call minor sins today, and they really bother me.

    Isaac: what did he do exactly to deserve praise? He seems kind of blah.

    Jacob: (1) does identity-theft to steal Esau’s birthright. (2) obviously played favorites among his wives (he had 4, but he liked Rachel better than Leah, Joseph best son of all), and his sons were basically juvenile delinquents–they sold Joseph into slavery, pretended he was dead, one son raped his sister, the list goes on.

    So when we look closely at these 3 men in particular, why did God find them “so righteous” that we refer to the Abrahamic covenant? Is it simply that their generations were so wicked that these men stood out in their righteousness? If so, then I think that makes our generation much more righteous than their generation, despite calls from the pulpit that we are so wicked.

    So once again, why do I want to emulate Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as part of the Abrahamic covenant?

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  15. MH on June 14, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    dba.brotherp, I think the answer to you question about Moses, Nephi, etc is that they were sealed while living prior to any apostasy, so there is no temple work that needs to be done for them. (I’m not saying that is historically valid, but I believe that would be the theological position.)

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  16. Hedgehog on June 15, 2013 at 2:00 AM

    Me too MH. So far as I can work out, the whole thing is just further symbolism of us all being one big happy family, complete with all the dysfunction presumably.

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  17. brjones on June 15, 2013 at 4:19 AM

    Can a child who is not sealed to his or her parents be exhalted? Yes. If that child’s parents are faithful will they be exalted? Yes. If they’re all exhalted will they live together in celestial glory? Yes. Ergo, the sealing of one’s children to onesself is factually unnecessary, and of no practical import. Anyone who would argue otherwise needs to show what result such sealing brings about that cannot be effectuated in some other way.

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  18. Douglas on June 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    The “point” is that the grandson shouldn’t be left out of the loop due to his mother’s disobedience. Now, can one NOT be “BIC” and still have a spiritually- blessed life? Yes, certainly. It is essential for salvation, or at least “fire insurance”? No, certainly not. Since the sealing ordinance is an eternal one, we can’t comprehend its full blessing(s) in this life anyway. If we’re in a position to have it, so much the better, and certainly to get sealed, if it’s in our power to do so, IS a commandment (AFAIK, it’s only a “commandment” to do so in this life in the marriage sense).

    There’s also an element of practicality, methinks. Sure, NOW we have some 85 percent of members residing within 200 miles of a temple, a degree of coverage, AFAIK, never attained previously in history. Imagine how often just getting to a temple ONCE and having the opportunity to receive one’s endowments and have the marriage solemnized takes much in terms of costs and logistics. Would it not be an unreasonable burden to require a young couple, especially of limited means, to have to make this arduous trek over and over again every time they’re blessed with a little one? Certainly the faithful would do it if they have to, but it’d impose an unnecessary burden for what it essentially an administrative matter.

    Of course, there are some, much like the Pharisees that boasted to the Savior “WE have Abraham as OUR father” (to which the Savior could make children of Abraham out of rocks…) I got that MANY moons ago, just prior to my mission,that since I was a recent convert and therefore wasn’t ‘BIC’, and my family wasn’t LDS, that somehow it diminished my worth as a prospective mate. Hopefully that attitude was distinctly in the minority.

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  19. Jenn on June 15, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I think my question is: would God actually keep a child from their parents if they weren’t sealed? I have a hard time believing he would. What, does he just keep them in a separate room?
    So the answer is, either it doesn’t matter when it comes to salvation or it may matter but we’ll get it worked out in the millennium in which case it doesn’t really matter right now. I suspect it’s more just a construct that makes us better families in the here-and-now.
    I believe in the beginning of the church, sealing was much more about creating a giant connected chain, a dynasty-based, hierarchical system. This quickly became impractical and these days we focus much more on individual family units.

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  20. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    MG, the Abrahamic covenant requires comprehensive, contextual study. It is a renewal of the Adamic covenant, which was made between Adam/Eve and God after they partook of the fruit and were about to be cast out, and which was built upon later in their lives. It would probably be more accurately described as the covenant of the Atonement.

    Where did you get the idea that covenants were achievements by more perfect people? The framing of your question seems to assume this. Covenants are to help us be better, they are not rewards for good behavior. They are the beginning, not the end of perfection.

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  21. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    Sorry, MH not MG. Autocorrect is killer.

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  22. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    It its clear from comments, that the sealing covenant is vastly misunderstood by most people. I can’t possibly discuss it effectively here, especially Swyping on my phone. But I will say that there is much that can be better understood by studying the nature of covenants in general, as well as the specific sealing covenant. Ask yourself, sealing to what? Sealing in what? What exactly am I promising and is being promised when I am sealed? Who has the agency in the covenant? (Which helps reveal the purpose.) What role do families play in the Atonement?

    It helps to ask these kinds of questions.

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  23. MH on June 16, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Where did you get the idea that covenants were achievements by more perfect people?

    Silverrain, how about D&C 82:10: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

    If we assume that God commanded Abraham and Jacob to do those things I mentioned, they are pretty horrendous. It’s not like they were guilty of speeding on the highway, or didn’t say “thank you” to the store clerk.

    The questions you pose do nothing to help me understand your position. Albert Einstein said that if you can’t explain a concept so your grandmother can understand, you don’t understand it very well. Last year, I posted on atonement theories; the one that resonates most with me probably isn’t endorsed by the Church. When I got my temple recommend renewed, the counselor in the stake presidency asked me to describe the atonement, and I frankly admitted that I didn’t understand it very well, so I bore testimony of the resurrection (which I do understand.) He said that was good enough.

    So please help me understand where you’re coming from, because my studies of the atonement haven’t led me to whatever your conclusion is.

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  24. MH on June 16, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    Silverrain, if you prefer, please feel free to send me a guest post at mormon heretic at gmail dot com if you think the topic is better served as a post rather than a comment. I’d love to hear what you have to say. (But a short comment would be wonderful with a tease to a new post so I can get the gist of what you are trying to say.)

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  25. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    They’re are several things you are actually asking. First, why might God ask us to do otherwise morally reprehensible things. Second, what is a covenant. Third, what is the atonement. Fourth, what is sealing. Each if these could be a serious of blog posts and not touch but lightly on their true natures.

    You misunderstand one thing. I can teach the nature of sealings and their relationship to the Atonement, but I won’t. Not here, not now. What I will say is that the base misconception here seems to be that sealing is a reward, but it isn’t except in the sense that it is a reward and blessing to have the opportunity to make covenants. We must be obedient in order to be prepared to make covenants, but they are not rewards for being obedient.

    Sealing is a covenant. To understand it, it is helpful to ask what it is a covenant for, what promises are being exchanged. But the answers to those questions are not mine to give you at this time.

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  26. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    I also suggest that the scripture in question is postscriptive: describing what happens within a covenant, more than prescriptive: describing what happen in order to be rewarded with a covenant.

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  27. [...] theology: Guy Templeton wonders what is the point of being sealed to one’s parents, and Andrew Hackman gave some examples of how religion sells you things you already had. Alliegator [...]

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  28. Mormon Heretic on June 16, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Each if these could be a serious of blog posts and not touch but lightly on their true natures.

    Well, you have an open invitation. But you’re the one expanding the topic…

    I can teach the nature of sealings and their relationship to the Atonement, but I won’t. Not here, not now.

    Why?

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  29. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Because I don’t have authorization to speak of them here and now.

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  30. SilverRain on June 16, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    I just realized that sounds pretty curt without context….There are many answers which are not particularly special, rather are simple to understand, but a certain amount of work has to be done to get them. Some times and places are appropriate to discuss them, to work for them together. This isn’t one of them. I don’t know why, though I have some irrelevant guesses. If you ask yourself questions like the ones I suggested, and do that work, it is easy to get the answers. They are in the scriptures plainly. You’re wanting me to hand you something that is only useful to you if you work for it. I won’t do that.

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  31. Mormon Heretic on June 16, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    If you ask yourself questions like the ones I suggested, and do that work, it is easy to get the answers.

    Silverrain, I’ve already said, “please help me understand where you’re coming from, because my studies of the atonement haven’t led me to whatever your conclusion is.”

    So I absolutely disagree that it is “in the scriptures plainly.” I’m really curious why you’re being so coy, especially if it is so simple as you say. It is not at all simple to me, and I do think I qualify as one who has “do[ne] that work.”

    I’m not sure why you are so reticent to share, but I won’t badger you any more. The only thing I can come up with is that you think you have some sort of spiritual answer, but are unwilling to share it for whatever reason, and either you think you might be casting pearls here, or you don’t have the vocab to explain it. I’m glad you have an answer that works for you, but I wish you could help me, who often feels that the spirit doesn’t share things so easily. But I’m truly happy that you have an answer that works for you; I just wish I felt so confident in getting that sort of an answer.

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  32. brjones on June 16, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    SilverRain, I don’t know if you work in some kind of teaching capacity, but if not, I don’t recommend you take it up. Your condescension toward MH, who is asking honest questions, is not only distasteful, it’s highly ineffective as a means of either persuasion or conveying information, and as a missionary tool it flat out sucks. Your goal seems to be alternately to make MH feel inferior because he or she isn’t blessed with your higher understanding and to shame him or her for not putting in enough work to be as enlightened as you. The ironic thing about that is for all your comments in this thread, you have yet to make a cogent or convincing point to back up your bald assertions that everyone else just doesn’t understand like you do. If you can’t go into the specifics that would back up your points, then perhaps you should just keep your benevolent sermonizing to the celestial room. Telling someone “you’re wrong but I can’t explain why” is just bushleague.

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  33. Brian on June 16, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    SilverRain’s writing is so pretentious it seems more tongue-in-cheek than serious. I can’t imagine caring about the uber spiritual explanation of Abraham or any other subject.

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  34. SilverRain on June 17, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    I certainly didn’t mean to be condescending or pretentious. In a different setting, I’d be better able to help. My point wasn’t to say I have some mystic, esoteric understanding. I don’t. The only point I wanted to make is that sealing is a covenant, not a reward. That should be clear, since it is a covenant we make in the temple. But what kind of covenant it is specifically is something that is better left to one’s own temple experience or to individual, face-to-face conversations when specifically moved by the Spirit to discuss.

    I can understand why it is frustrating to not have everything I’m suggesting explained in detail, but some things truly are best left to individual study and/or personal, Spirit-led discussion. This is neither. It was probably a mistake for me to chime in here at all, but I sensed some genuine desire to learn something that I have questioned in depth myself, particularly while going through divorce. I certainly didn’t come prepared to teach this, nor put myself in position as a teacher. As I said, I am not currently in a capacity to do that.

    Either way, I wish you the best in learning what you are hoping to learn, MH.

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  35. dba.brotherp on June 17, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    It’s not secret, it’s sacred is indeed frustrating :(

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  36. ji on June 17, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Thanks, SilverRain — I appreciate your inputs here…

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  37. MH on June 17, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    I don’t understand the secret/sacred argument in this conversation at all. We certainly talk about the Tonement/Sealing ordinance/Abrahamic Covenant way more outside the temple than inside, so that’s completely fair game to discuss here. I don’t think we need to invoke temple language to discuss this. If we do, then I’m sunk. Despite going to the temple almost weekly for the past year, and having gone for about 20 years, I haven’t gained any special insights into the sealing ordinance/atonement/Abrahamic Covenant. Pondering on the subject seems incredibly futile to me, and I feel like a spiritual ignoramus. The windows of heaven seem quite closed to me, so I’d appreciate a straight-forward explanation that is so simply given to Silverrain (and Jared, though I know he hasn’t commented on this post.) I guess I’m spiritually-challenged and didn’t get that gift spoken in the D&C.

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  38. Roger on June 18, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Silver Rain, I was gonna blast you for not sharing with the lesser intelligences but then I read your blog and thought better if it. You’ve obviously thought through certain aspects of covenants, particularly their violation, and if you’ve achieved some insight that allows you to cope and persevere, then that is great for you. But MH and others are not lazy-a$$ed shills just because they are looking for answers that square with their study and experience. Like Paul, they see thru a glass darkly. Not bad company.

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