John 1:4 — (part 9) — Family and Friends in the Postmortal Spirit World — LeGrand Baker

It seems to me that our life in the postmortal spirit world will be consistent with this one. We will seek for the same sense of fulfillment we sought here, whether good or bad, or somewhere in between, just as Alma said (Alma 34:32-35).

We will still be with family and friends, only we will also be able to renew premortal friendships with people we were not able to associate with them in mortality because they came to this world in a different time and place from when we came.

Our activities will still be about fulfilling the covenants we made earlier in the Council in Heaven and that we renewed in this world. I suppose that is especially true of people who die relitively young, except the burden of their covenants probably had more to do with their duties in the postmortal spirit world than in this one.

In Section 131 it tells of the importance of “the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” Later in that section we learn of marriage by or in the new and everlasting covenant. {1} Marriage is a part of the covenant. That does not diminish the marriage covenant, it only makes it a part of a greater whole. In its totality, the covenant is new because it is renewed in this world, it is everlasting because it is the covenant we made at the Council. Therefore, it includes all that we promised we would do before, during, and after this mortal life.

The importance of keeping the entire covenant is spelled out with great power in the first 14 verses of Section 132 where we learn about the entire new and everlasting covenant.{2}

Family and friends are everything. When Jedediah M. Grant died, Heber C. Kimball spoke at his funeral and told about President Grant’s experiences in the spirit world. This is what he said.

I went to see him one day last week. …. He said to me, brother Heber, I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession, and, of all the dreads that ever came across me, the worst was to have to again return to my body, though I had to do it. But 0, says he, the order and government that were there! When in the spirit world, I saw the order of righteous men and women; beheld them organized in their several grades, and there appeared to be no obstruction to my vision; I could see every man and woman in their grade and order. I looked to see whether there was any disorder there, but there was none; neither could I see any death nor any darkness, disorder or confusion. He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities; and when he looked at them he saw grade after grade, and all were organized and in perfect harmony. We would on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk.” We have many kinds of flowers on the earth, and I suppose those very articles came from heaven, or they would not be here.

After mentioning the things that he bad seen, he spoke of how much he disliked to return and resume his body, after having seen the beauty and glory of the spirit world, where the righteous spirits are gathered together.

Some may marvel at my speaking about these things, for many profess to believe that we have no spiritual existence. But do you not believe that my spirit was organized before it came to my body here? And do you not think there can be houses and gardens, fruit trees, and every other good thing there? The spirits of those things were made, as well as our spirits, and it follows that they can exist upon the same principle.

After speaking of the gardens and the beauty of every thing there, brother Grant said that he felt extremely sorrowful at having to leave so beautiful a place and come back to earth, for he looked upon his body with loathing, but was obliged to enter it again.

He said that after he came back he could look upon his family and see the spirit that was in them, and the darkness that was in them; and that he conversed with them about the Gospel’, and what they should do, and they replied, ” Well, brother Grant, perhaps it is so, and perhaps it is not,” and said that was the state of this people, to a great extent, for many are full of darkness and will not believe me. {3}

The world we enter upon leaving this one is designed to give us every opportunity we did not have in this world. However, there are priesthood and temple ordinances that must be performed here. President Wilford Woodruff reported that when the St. George Temple was completed,

Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.” {4}

Those great men did not request that their temple work be done. It was theirs by right, and they “demanded” that it be taken care of. President Woodruff told that story more fully soon after it happened.

I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, form the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them. {5}

In his journal he recorded that while he was in St. George, on August 22, 23, and 24 he ordained some High Priests rather than elders. Of those, he names George Washington, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus.{6}

Several years later, on March 19, 1894, President Woodruff reported in his journal,

I had a Dream in the night. I met with Benjamin Franklin. I though He was on the Earth. I spent several hours with him and talked over our Endowments. He wanted some more work done for him than had been done which I promised him He should have (2d). I thought then He died and while waiting for burial I awoke. I thought very strange of my Dream. I made up m mind to get 2d Anointing for Benjamin Franklin & George Washington. {7}

Both of those accounts suggest that the spirit world is the same as this one, except the colors, flowers are more beautiful, and the people were organized “in perfect harmony.” We also learned that the men who gave us our freedom still associate with each other and can act in unison. Everything I know about our premortal world, about the importance of this life, and about the worlds to come has only to do with our relationships with God and with his children. Priesthood covenants and ordinances are about sealing those relationships. Priesthood is a function of charity. Charity is expressed in the law of consecration. The quality of our life in the eternities is determined by the quality of our truth/light/love as we develop it during our maturation through linear time. In Doctrine and Covenants 88, after explaining qualifications for the various degrees of glory, the Lord also explained that eternal life is about eternal relationships (D&C 88:15-38)

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.
40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things (D&C 88:39-40).

The Prophet Joseph clarified that in a most beautiful way when he expanded,

1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy (D&C 130:1-2).

I do not believe that our dearest family connections and friendships first happen by accident in this world, nor to I believe they will ever end. Brigham Young once said,

The kingdom of God secures unto the faithful eternal life, with wives, children, and friends, in glory immortal, and in eternal felicity and bliss. Life eternal in His presence is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon His children. {8}

Heber C. Kimball believed the same, and listed Brigham young among his eternal friends. At Jedediah M. Grant’s funeral he expressed his love for his brethren. (Apparently something else was also on his mind that day. His other comments seem rather comical in view of the fact that he had more wives than any other man in Utah.)

I am talking of what I know, and not of what I merely believe; and may the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, rest upon you, my brethren and sisters, and upon our families and every good person. Brother Brigham is my brother, and brother Jedediah is my brother; I loved him, I love those men, God knows I do, better than I ever loved a woman; and I would not give a dime for a man that does not love them better than they love women. A man is a miserable being, if he lets a woman stand between him and his file leaders; he is a fool, and I have no regard for him; he is not fit for the Priesthood.{9}

May I tell you my personal feelings about the meaning of eternal family and of eternal friendships, and why I believe that they are almost exactly the same thing.

As a boy, I remember hearing church talks about genealogy and how important it is that we be sealed to our parents, and they to theirs, etc., etc., in one continuous chain until finely we get to Adam. (There was always some wiggle room in those talks, saying that if some ancestor were bad, then his link would not be in the chain, but the chain would just skip that link and go on intact anyway.) 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. That imagery didn’t make a lot of sense when I was a boy, but it was what I was taught, so I believed it must be right somehow.

As I grew older, I realized that the idea of chains was very misleading, but I did not know what to replace it with. Then, one morning while I was on my mission in England, we came out of our digs to discover a magnificent spider web in the bushes by the driveway. The sun had just come up but the dew was not yet melted away. The sunshine on that dew on that spider web looked like it was arrayed with a thousand sparkling diamonds. It was magnificent. As I contemplated its beauty, I realized that was the answer I was looking for. Our eternal relationships are not like a chain, but like the multiple connections of that beautiful 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 to his wife and thereby to her parents, ad infinitum. It wasn’t a chain at all. It was a pattern like a spider web with everyone ultimately connected to everybody else. I really liked that idea, and I still like its implications.

The practical application of that idea is that because everyone is ultimately related to everyone else, then everyone is also sealed to everyone else. Friendships become family. I am sealed to my tenth great-grandfather John Lathrop who came to America in the 17th century. My dear friend is also sealed to his multi-great grandfather John Lathrop by the same priesthood authority. Through those interconnections (and probably several others) my friend and I are sealed together by the same priesthood power as we are sealed to members of our immediate families. Those connecting points create sealing links so that we are in fact all one very large family.

I strongly believe that friendship bonds are similar to our family bonds, and that both kinds of love have a much firmer base than our short relationships in this world’s experiences. I believe that both kinds of love are founded on eternal covenants, originating a very, very long time ago. I believe that friendships that seem to begin by happenstance here, and will be 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 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 flat? What would happen if it were not two dimensional? The question answered itself. “Flat” really makes only a little more sense than “chains.”

One day I was visiting with my best friend at BYU and he was trying to explain some mathematical principles to me (not an easy task, by the way). He told me the difference between a “sphere” and a “ball.” To theoretical mathematicians they present entirely different problems. A sphere is hollow like a balloon or a basketball. A ball is solid like a baseball or like the earth. Once my head had settled on that concept, he told me how those principles related to theoretical multiple dimensions.

That’s when all my lights came on.

Make the spider web a multidimensional ball with everybody connected to everybody and the Savior in the center. That’s beautiful, but now it asks another question: “Who are on the outside edges? The answer is “No one!” This ball is infinitely multidimensional so everyone is at the center and everyone is next to everyone.

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. If time and distance do not work in the celestial world like they work here, then physical proximity is not the issue. Even though the physical juxtapositions I have tried to imagine are not adequate, that analysis plus a good hug are still the only way I can understand it.

That hug asks the next question. “What is the sealing power.” Obviously, the first answer is the priesthood. The reasoning behind that answer is that God is a God of order, and the sealing authority must be the ordinances of priesthood authority. But that answer does not address the question. Authority and power may not be the same thing. The question is, what is the sealing power.

I do not think the power that seals us to the Saviour is his authority. I believe the power by which he seals us to himself is his love for us. If it is true with him, then it must also be true with us — the power that seals the Saviour to one’s Self is one’s love for him. If it is true of that relationship, then it must be true of all relationships—the eternal sealing power is the love that emanates from each individual — our truth/light/love. The ultimate sealing power is Charity.

The Saviour’s love for us is the eternal constant. The only variables are our love for God and for his children. If that statement is correct, then the power to be saved in the Celestial kingdom is one’s individual power to personify — to respond to and to be an expression of — to BE — Love.

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 the Savior’s words: “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 the only and the ultimate sealing power, and, 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 in that multi-dimensional celestial relationship that is charity. That notion fits this context,

92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.
96 And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one (D&C 76:92-97).

The people in the ball “see as they are seen, and know as they are known.” I suppose that if people are not comfortable being in that situation, they just won’t want to be in the ball.

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FOOTNOTES

{1} D&C 132:19 says “by”; v. 41-42 say “in.”

{2} In the “Scriptures” section of this website you will find, “D&C 132:1-15, new and everlasting covenant, LeGrand Baker.”

{3} Heber C. Kimball, Remarks at the funeral of Jedediah M. Grant, December 4, 1856, Journal of Discourses, 4:135-138. You can find the whole sermon in “Favorite Quotes” in this website.

{4}President Wilford Woodruff, April 10, 1898, Conference Report, 89-90.

{5} Wilford Woodruff, Sunday, September 16, 1877, Journal of Discourses, 19:229.

{6} Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, Typescript in 9 vols. edited by Scott G. Kenney, 7:366-67.

{7} Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, Typescript in 9 vols. edited by Scott G. Kenney, 9:293.

{8} Journal of Discourses, 11: 127.

{9} Heber C. Kimball, Remarks at the funeral of Jedediah M. Grant, December 4, 1856, Journal of Discourses, 4:135-138.

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