3 Nephi 19:23-29 & John 17 — LeGrand Baker — Eternal Family and Eternal Friendships

3 Nephi 19:23-29
23 And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.
29 Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them (3 Nephi 19:23, 29).

That prayer is essencially the same as the Savior’s great intercessory prayer as is recorded in John 17:

9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:9-11, 20-23).

The revelations to the Prophet Joseph both clarified the meaning of, and emphasized the importance of that oneness. In the first example the Savior equates becoming a son of God with that eternal oneness:

2 I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one (D&C 35:2).

In the second example he makes it unequivocal:

27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine (D&C 38:27).

And in the third example he equates that oneness with eternal glory:

13 For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth—yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one (D&C 29:13).

The oneness of the Gods with the oneness of God’s faithful children in that same family-friendship-relationship is the most beautiful doctrine I know. It is the ultimate product of the Savior’s Atonement, and the ultimate source of joy for Father, and for the Savior, as well as for ourselves.

The minimal requirements for that is that we trust in God; repent; accept those requisite ordinances and covenants that make and keep us clean. and that authorize us to believe {1}; and that we do our part to validate the sealing ordinances by living those covenants and receiving the attendant blessings.

Those are the minimum requirements. However there is one more overriding qualification that enables us to experience the joy of the celestial world. The scriptures repeatedly testify that the ultimate qualification is charity. The society of the celestial world is built upon multiple mutual relationships of unfailing love.

May I tell you my personal feelings—and these are only my opinions—about the meanings of eternal family and of eternal friendships, and why I believe that they are exactly the same thing.

As a boy, I remember hearing church talks about genealogy and how important it is that one be sealed to one’s parents, and they to theirs, etc., etc., in one continuous and beautiful chain until finely we get to Adam . (There was always some wiggle room stuck in those talks, saying that if some ancestor were bad, then his link would not be in the chain, but the chain would be intact anyway.) I think visually, so I visualized that concept this way:

Here is Adam—who looks very funny indeed—from him comes zillions of chains of people, so he looks much like poor old Jacob Marley in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, with chains attached to him in every direction. Or maybe like a porcupine with all those quills coming out. That imagery didn’t make a lot of sense when I was a boy, but it was how I understood what I was taught, so I believed it must be right somehow.

Then one morning, when I was on my mission in England, my companion and I came out of the house just as the sun was coming over the trees. There, in the bushes, was a magnificent spider web, still covered with dew. As the sun shone on it, its pattern sparkled like diamonds. That was my answer! I realized that the idea of chains was very misleading. The sealing relationships do not work that way. Rather, it is like the pattern of the spider web: I am sealed to my parents. My mother is sealed to her parents. Grandma is sealed to her sister, my mother’s Aunt Rinda, who is sealed to her son, who is sealed to his wife, who is sealed to her brother, who is sealed (through his wife) to her parents, ad infinitum. It wasn’t a chain at all. It was a beautiful pattern like that spider web with everyone ultimately sealed to everybody else. I really liked that idea, and I still like its implications. But they go further than just “family.”

I believe that in that same way we are sealed to our “friends.” Let me give you an example:

Jon and Rachel and their children are sealed together as an eternal unit. The children marry and now the original couple are sealed by that same priesthood authority to their children’s spouses and children, this multiplies for generation after generation.

But it works the other way too. Both Jon and Rachel are sealed to their parents and siblings, who are sealed to theirs and to theirs, until a dozen generations back Jon is descended from Rev. John Lathrop who came to America in the 1770’s.

Jon and Rachel have a son who goes on a mission to California where he meets and baptizes a young man who becomes his life-long friend. The new convert’s family also goes back a dozen generations to that same John Lathrop.

The point is that missionary and his convert friend are each sealed to Rev. Lathrop and he is sealed to each of them. The two young friends are part of the same family and are sealed together by the same priesthood authority that seals them to their own parents and siblings.

The practical application of that idea is that because everyone is ultimately related to everyone else, then everyone who is in the celestial kingdom is also sealed to everyone else who is in the celestial kingdom.

I strongly believe that our friendship bonds have similar eternal roots to our family bonds, and that both have a much firmer base than just our short relationships in this life’s experiences. I believe that the love of both family and friends is founded on eternal covenants, originating a very, very long time ago. I believe that friendships that seem to originate here, and become projected into the future eternities, are strong here because they actually began in past eternities. That is, in this world we don’t make new friends, we only recognize old ones.

I liked the spider web imagery of our sealing relationships for many years, but after a while it asked questions it could not answer. The most pressing of those questions was also the most simple: Why was it two dimensional like the spider web? What would happen if it were not two dimensional? That question was answered one day in a conversation with my dear friend Jim Cannon. Jim was explaining to me the mathematical distinctions between a “ball” and a “sphere.” A sphere is like a basketball. It has only outsides and is hollow in the middle. A ball is like the baseball: it is solid throughout. That was the answer to my question. It was not two dimensional, it was three dimensional like a ball. Then Jim tried to explain the mathematical concept of multiple dimensions. And it was like all my lights came on.

It is now my opinion that the system of relationships in the Celestial World is like a multi-dimensional ball. This is why: If it were only a three dimensional ball with the Savior in the center, then that asks, “who is next to him and who is way out on the outside edge?” That question, in that form, does not admit to any answer because the answer to the first part has to be “everyone,” and the answer to the second part has to be “no one.”

But a multi-dimensional ball does not ask that question. This ball is so complex that every individual is next to the Saviour, and every individual is also next to every other individual. It seems to me it has to be that way. Even though my mind does not know how to visualize such a ball, that doesn’t matter because what I have tried to do is use the imagery of physical proximity to describe one’s attitudes of love, and the meaning of the eternal sealing power. So even though the physical juxtapositions I have tried to imagine is not adequate, that analysis is still the only way I can understand how all of Adam’s children can be sealed to gather as one eternal family.

For those who keep their covenants, and whose sealings are validated by the Holy Spirit of Promise, there is only one magnificent eternal family. While the ordinances and covenants are absolutely indispensable to make us a part of that family, in the final analysis it is not the ordinances but our love for each other—charity—our oneness—that is the final sealing power.

The Saviour’s love for us is the eternal constant. Therefore, the only variable is our love for God and for his children. If that statement is correct, then the power to be saved in the Celestial kingdom is equivalent to one’s individual power to personify—to respond to and to be an expression of— to actually be charity — hesed.{2}

If that is true—and I am convinced it is—then the whole matter boils down to the simplest of all possible formulas: Said one way it is this: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Said another way it is the conclusion of Moroni 7, “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”

I truly believe that love is not only the ultimate sealing power, but that, as such, it is also the final qualification for Celestial glory.

Essentially all I have written says only this: All one has to do in order to be saved in the Celestial kingdom is to be the sort of person who is comfortable being sealed to everyone else who is also a part of that multi-dimensional celestial family relationship.


{1} “George A. Smith, while serving in the First Presidency, re- ported: ‘Joseph Smith taught that every man and woman should seek the Lord for wisdom, that they might get knowledge from Him who is the fountain of knowledge; and the promises of the gospel, as revealed, were such as to authorize us to believe, that by taking this course we should gain the object of our pursuit.’” [emphasis added]
(Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Joseph Smith [Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Salt Lake City, Utah, 2007], 266
{The original source in footnote 18: George A. Smith, Deseret News: Semi- Weekly, Nov; 29, 1870, p. 2.}

{2} Hesed is a Hebrew word that means unfailing love based on a prior covenant.


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