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Magical World

Wouldn't it be lovely if, with just a twitch of the nose, life, or any aspect of it could be changed. Instead, positive changes always seem to involve tremendously hard work, determination, and endless setbacks. How lovely it would be to have the powers of Samantha Stephens.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sealing

For years I have taught in different capacities in church service. I love to teach. I have a friend who is a master teacher. She and I used to bounce ideas off each other when we taught in Relief Society. Her motto was: Find the Hook. So we would discuss the topic, discuss the women we'd be teaching, then try to figure out what would draw them in. We came up with several different ways to engage our "students" and we had so much fun teaching. Perhaps that's what gives the illusion of a good teacher--the degree of fun being had by the person in front of the class.

However, in general, when I teach youth, they have a wonderful time ( I see to that), but other adults present will inevitably remark, "Well, that was certainly a different perspective. I hadn't really thought about ______________ in quite that way." Yes, well, I have a different perspective on many things. Which does not make it wrong, just different. I am very careful to make certain that my sources are acceptable (i.e. scriptures, conference addresses, that's pretty much all I use), that I inquire of the Lord prior to and during presentation, and that I avoid personal anecdotes that may be funny, but really have nothing to do with what I'm talking about or will not invite the Spirit.

I've had the opportunity to present lessons, which have included the topic of temple marriage, to youth in two different settings, recently. The first was in the Young Women's organization. The second, in seminary during the Plan of Salvation lesson (which took four days--yeah, we had lots to talk about). In both classes there were members who may or may not get married during their lifetimes. When I went through the presentation suggested in the YW manual, I rejected it point blank for a few reasons:
1. My view of being sealed in the temple has little to do with goo-goo eyes and romance.
2. I do not believe young women will find a story about dying young, knowing you will be with your spouse forever, a motivational force in deciding whether or not to be married in the temple (and I find that kind of sentimentality highly distasteful).
3. The REAL reasons behind the importance of being sealed were not presented to my satisfaction.

So I did bunches of reading and research and tweaking and thinking and praying. Then I put it all together and presented my lesson. It was devoid of starry eyes. It was not about love at first sight. I did not share my own personal love story--nor anyone else's. In fact, we spent little time talking about couples and intimacy. The girls loved it. They asked millions of questions. We still talk about it in other lessons. And, of course, the other leaders said: "What a unique perspective. I hadn't quite considered temple marriage in that way."

Then I had the opportunity to revisit key parts of that lesson as I discussed the Plan of Salvation with my seminary class. This time the lesson was presented to a mixed audience. Again, the reception was sort of amazing. These are beautiful young men and women--bright and intelligent. My son told me later, "Mom, I thought about some things today that I hadn't before." Good. My work here is done.

I can't apologize for my "unique perspective." I worked a lifetime in order to gain it. And so, because it is my perspectve, I am recording it here on my blog. It is, of course, rooted in the LDS faith. It is, of course, religious. It is, of course, part of what motivated me to try to become who I am today. So for me, I am recording my ideas about this topic.

The first thing I wish to say is that I believe the root reason for the importance of being sealed as a unit in the temple is based in choice. That's easy, right? You choose that attractive person you wish to have sex with, then you get married so no one will call you a slut. Actually, there's more than just that "marriage" thing. We existed, prior to coming to earth, in a family unit. We had a Father/Mother/brother/sister relationship. Granted, it was on a pretty huge scale, and there may have been sub-units within that colossal family, but that would be require speculation, and I'm avoiding that.

When we came to earth, that family unit still existed, in some form. But here's the thing: when we lived as spirits within the family, it was not by choice. We were included as family members through the power of our parents, in much the same way we are included in mortal families into which we are born. Some people speculate that we "chose" our earthly families before we came to them, which may be true and certainly presents a very romantic picture, but again, requires speculation, and I do not believe it. I have three children. The youngest two are mine. I felt a spiritual tie to them at their births--with one of them I felt that tie prior to her birth. My oldest son, however, is a gift. He is different physically, spiritually, emotionally, from the rest of his family. I have always known that there was something very special about him. I don't know why I've been privileged to have him be with me in this life. He's like my own personal, mortal, ministering angel. He heals my soul, comforts me with his presence. He is like pure sunshine. But there was no spriritual recognition similar to what I experienced with my other two children. So from my own experience, and simply from pure logic (if, indeed, there is a "one and only" for everyone, what if one of those dies? then who do the children belong to? what if they never find each other? what if one has children out of wedlock? The possibilities for failure with such a fallacious dogma are endless), I do not believe our mortal families were predetermined in the pre-earth life. Such a belief is romantic and beautiful, but bound to fail in any number of circumstances. I prefer reality. So we became members of mortal families, not necessarily (although possibly) by choice. And that caused somewhat of a shift in that spiritual family of our Heavenly parents.

I want to switch gears and talk about temple marriage. First, the marriage part. I would love to say that when people fall in love, those lovely attractions that cause toe curling, jaw clenching, stomach churning, swooning intensity stay around for life--but they don't. And thank goodness for that, because no one enjoys being around two people who are experiencing sexual tension all the time. It's horribly uncomfortable. That attraction serves the purpose of drawing them together--it's up to the couple to see if they can continue after the initial attraction thrust subsides. But that's only a part of the big picture.

One of my seminary students said that, really, being sealed was all about couples. They get married, have children, raise children, then they are a couple once again and forever. Wrong. Absolutely wrong. And it alarms me that this is a prevalent attitude, one we teach our children, and perhaps one we accept throughout the "church". And it's wrong. It's EARTHLY--mortal--for this life only. Yes, it certainly is true that we marry, have children, they leave, and we are a couple again--but then a spouse dies--no longer a couple--oh yeah, they're sealed--but so are the children. Our current earthly existence does not determine our eternal state of being. So I reiterate: sealing blessings are not about husband and wife--husband and wife are but a part of something much larger.

So now we come to Samantha's unique perspective. When we come to earth, one of our beautiful choices is whether or not we want to continue to be a part of that first (and I use that term loosely) spiritual family. And the vehicle used to make that choice is temple marriage. When we are sealed to a spouse, we are also sealed to God and all that he represents eternally. That new sealing incorporates two families, their progenitors, and their posterity, which will be linked to another earthly family unit through another sealing, and another, and another, ad infinitum. And all within those units will have the opportunity to choose to remain within that sealed unit through their choices and actions on earth. Some will have opportunity to accept sealings made in their behalf after death. But the bottom line is that through the sealing ordinance, we are putting back in place that first family, but this time, anyone who remains in that family will do so by choice, not by nature of birth or creation. This includes those who are born "in the covenant" because even though those blessing are provided at birth, the choice of accepting those blessings remains with each individual.

What a beautiful concept. And to me, it helps me understand why my Heavenly Father has instructed our prophets to place such great importance on things like chastity, parenthood, families, purity, and temple work. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God--because He wants us back. He loves His children. He let us go. He hopes we'll choose to return, bound with the sealing bonds to Him.

Is the sealing ordinance about romance? Not in my mind, although that would certainly make parts of marriage "easier". But it IS about love, including but not exclusively, romantic love. It's also about love between parents, siblings, children, and friends, spanning all generations of mortal time, pre-earth life, and the life to come. It's about a loving, wise Father, who understands the needs of His children to choose whether or not they wish to be with Him, to become like Him. But above all, through all, and beneath it all runs a current of deep love from an amazing Father for each one of us. Because no matter how much He wishes for our return, He loves us enough to let us make that choice for ourselves, knowing full well, that not all will choose Him.

So now you have it. My way of thinking outside the box. Perhaps it is only a "unique perspective" for those who are locked into mortality and the finite ideas presented and accepted by many. Perhaps this is important to no one but me. But because it is important to me, especially when I view the circumstances and beauty of my own temple marriage, I post this here, so that I will always remember.

7 Comments:

  • At Sunday, September 10, 2006 12:01:00 PM, Blogger AttemptingthePath said…

    thanks for sharing sam, i loved that post. definitely needed to read that

     
  • At Sunday, September 10, 2006 9:21:00 PM, Blogger Loyalist (with defects) said…

    Sam, Your not alone in your perspective. But you are the first to put into words what both my wife and I have thought and believed for a very long time.

    Thank you.

     
  • At Monday, September 11, 2006 8:50:00 AM, Blogger -L- said…

    You choose that attractive person you wish to have sex with, then you get married so no one will call you a slut.

    Although I can see how this reasoning is compelling to some, I reserve the right to call anyone a slut whenever I feel it is appropriate.

     
  • At Monday, September 11, 2006 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Unusual Dude said…

    I agree with you on so many levels, Samantha. I think that the the idea that our Heavenly Father has a plan for us is widely misunderstood in the LDS church. His plan is to provide a way for us to return to Him, but He leaves the details up to us. If the "plan" included the exact person that I should marry, what if I used my free agency and chose someone else? My single solitary choice would throw everyone else's off track and Heavenly Father would have to start over.

    Doesn't make any sense.

    I use the same reasoning with many of my decisions. What career does He want me to have? Probably one of any number of careers that would make me happy and help me provide for my family. There isn't one single righteous choice. It bugs me when church members imply that there is only one right choice to many of our decisions, and we have to find out which one He wants us to take. What would be the point? I don't see how any learning process would go on if that's how it worked.

    End tangent. Thanks for the good times.

     
  • At Tuesday, September 12, 2006 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    I see that -l- used this quote already, but I'm going to use it again anyway - this: "You choose that attractive person you wish to have sex with, then you get married so no one will call you a slut," made me laugh. Great wording.

    I'm no longer Mormon, but I'm so interested in your perspectives on doctrine. When I was in YW I was always SO FRUSTRATED by stories like the young woman dying young, but sealed forever. WHAT?!?! That certainly didn't make temple marriage/sealing enticing. I could never get any sort of satisfactory answer as to the "why" and the "how" of it all.

    If I understand what you're saying (and I'm not sure I do), the sealing is not so that people can be together in their little family units, but so they can be together in that original family unit. Am I way off target?

    Anyway, I hope you don't mind too much that I've butted in on your blog. I just wanted to see if I understand what you're saying. Also, maybe at least some of the adults who say you have an interesting perspective really do mean it just like that. I hope some of them do.

     
  • At Wednesday, September 13, 2006 11:08:00 AM, Blogger Samantha said…

    ATP: I post things that are positive just for you. It helps take the edge of that wallowing, self-pitying tone I'm so good at.

    Loyalist and Unusual Dude: Good to hear my perspective is not so unique--but then, maybe it's just a gay mormon perspective, after all.

    -L-: You may, indeed, call whomever you wish a slut. I reserve the right to question your feelings of appropriateness.

    Rebecca: Good to hear from you--and you are elevated to the highest level of esteem simply by nature of your gender when it comes to comments on my blog (sorry guys, but I HAVE to encourage the girls).

    One of my problems with lessons in the LDS church is that many of them focus on the sentimental, rather than the spiritual. It's as if we want our congregation to feel something--anything--without regard to value. I reject that as a teacher. If I'm sharing the Lord's message, it has to come from the Lord.

    If I understand what you're saying (and I'm not sure I do), the sealing is not so that people can be together in their little family units, but so they can be together in that original family unit. Am I way off target?

    No, you're dead on target. What would be the point of shoving us all together on this earth if we're simply meant to interact eternally within a limited scope and sphere. YES!! our Father wants us back, and by interconnecting those sealing blessings through past and future, we are allowed to make covenants that will bring us, those we love, family, friends, forebears, children--back to Him. Certainly, the love between spouses is profound, good, and necessary, but it's only a small piece of the big picture--the wonderful picture.

    Anyway, I hope you don't mind too much that I've butted in on your blog.

    Please butt-in anytime. I welcome you and YOUR unique perspective.

     
  • At Wednesday, September 13, 2006 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Thanks! It's always nice to be esteemed, even if it's totally undeserved. Your explanation for sealing is by far the best I've ever heard. Certainly a lot more reasonable than, "Because God says so."

    My sister-in-law (who is Mormon) calls that kind of sentimentality the Gospel of the Warm Fuzzies.

     

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