Sealing slaves to masters, and other proxy problems

After the recent “Bottgate” hullabaloo and opposition to proxy baptisms of Shoah victims, we might have expected a bit of a break. But a new Slate column has again called our attention to skeletons in our communal closet. The column’s author, Max Mueller, is a Ph.D. candidate in religious history at Harvard University and specialist in early Mormon history and race relations. (See my recent podcast interview with him on blacks and the priesthood here.) He writes about the discovery that Thomas Jefferson’s slave Sally Hemings has been sealed by proxy to him. He relates several other troubling historical examples of proxy sealing in a balanced, informative, and sensitive approach that deserves our careful attention. I look forward to other forthcoming responses from those who are more familiar than I am with all of the historical nuances. In this post I’d like to call attention to two specific theological tools Mormons might use to help mitigate these problems.

I don’t yet understand all of the details of Family Search, or the processes of verifying and entering names into the database for proxy work performance. Mueller himself suggests Church leaders “must review who is considered ‘married’ in the Family Search database,”  ostensibly in order to take appropriate action in cancelling or blocking such actions. That sounds like a massive project and it may be more feasible to refine the whole process starting as soon as possible and looking forward.

Once we recognize the illegitimacy of sealing Sally to Thomas (and undoubtedly I personally find it illegitimate, absurd and repugnant), we’re really opening a can of worms. What about all of the other problematic sealings which must have been and will yet be performed on behalf of women who were in abusive relationships with men or vice versa, regardless of their race, and who would look at an eternal union with such a person as terrible bondage as well? What about divorced women whose temple sealings remain intact until and unless they are sealed to someone else in mortality? The “sealing” itself has been the rationale for so remaining, it’s better to be sealed than not, no matter to whom. But this seems to be a policy decision without formal revelations backing it up, and thus more easily reviewed and adjusted.

Two interesting “doctrinal” caveats to all LDS ordinances deserve notice in this discussion, one which Mueller himself mentions, and the other he doesn’t. First, the “agency” issue. All ordinances for the dead are performed with the caveat that the free will choice of the deceased is required in order to make the ordinance efficacious. Mueller highlights this teaching, and recent press releases have emphasized it. But we still need a solid historical treatment of the concept of “agency” being a factor in the acceptance of proxy work in such circumstances. We still need to examine and note all scriptures used to teach that idea, and trace the real-time development of it in our sermons, journals, other records, etc. as closely as we can to find out what its basis is and from whence it grew.

The second doctrinal caveat might be called the “D&C 132:7 clause”:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

According to this verse, God, through the “Holy Spirit of Promise,” is the ultimate catch-all approver of all ordinances performed. This notion is reiterated in several places in LDS manuals and so forth (see here, here, here, etc.) but I’m not sure how well-emphasized it is when we discuss or perform ordinances themselves.

One suggestion might be to introduce this concept directly into ritual practices, including proxy ordinances. Perhaps the issue of the agency of the deceased could also be incorporated into the rituals themselves as well. This would have the advantage of ritually reinforcing the concepts of 1) God being the ultimate gate-keeper on all ordinances, and 2) individual agency as the other key to the process. This could be done in addition to whatever process and policy changes to help fill in the doctrinal or theological justification necessary to prevent overheated imaginations. I’m relying on the idea that changes in the present can be facilitated by drawing on our records themselves for help in visioning a better, clearer, more just Mormon understanding of the afterlife.

Such emphases are also a possible double-edged sword, though. They could also be used to foster a “seal first, ask questions later” attitude. “Well, if God has to approve and the people have to accept, better be safe than sorry.” This could result in a plethora of confusing, sometimes offensive, never-really-coherent sealings all over the place. I’d argue that such a scatter-shot approach is disrespectful to the ordinances and those who ordinances were performed for. But to the extent that ordinances might be easily performed without better gate-keeping makes my personal objections are quite weak.

Thoughts?

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*The image is “Eternal Slave” by Andrès Monreal. 

Comments

  1. Thank you for your thoughts on this Blair. I also thought that the Church couldn’t have fared any better than the treatment Max Mueller gave it with this article about this unfortunate fact. Truly excellent presentation — calm, reasoned, very persuasive. And respectful of Mormon practices.

    The article legitimately points out the ethical problems of sealing slaves to the masters who raped them. I can’t imagine why any individual Mormon thought this was appropriate and took it upon themselves to do this.

    I think it is safe to say that the great majority of Mormons are as surprised to learn of this as anyone else.

  2. pangwitch says:

    i thoguht it had been proven that thomas jeffersons cousin, and not TJ himself, who had the babies w/ sally

  3. Thanks John. It’s hard to imagine a person better suited to address this issue for Slate than Max, really. Honest, pointed, reflective, etc. etc.

  4. The article was the opposite of sensationalistic. You couldn’t have a starker contrast between this and Sweeney’s approach. Neither pulled punches but one was mean-spirited and the other was contextual, respectful and serious.

  5. Nice post. I agree with everything you said and I hope the leadership do set up some kind of system to oversee these ordinances and prevent these obvious errors from slipping through in the future.

  6. kewinters says:

    My grandmother has prohibited my mother from sealing her (grandma) to my grandfather after my mother’s parents are dead. They had a nasty divorce 30 years ago and are still upset. But then who will my mother be sealed to? When a child loves both their biological parents, but the parents don’t love each other, what should be done? Or is being sealed to parents not a big deal? Because as it is discussed in church, it seems like a big deal.

  7. i thoguht it had been proven that thomas jeffersons cousin, and not TJ himself, who had the babies w/ sally

    That is incorrect, pangwitch.

    Thanks for the write-up, Blair. I share your praise for Max’s “balanced, informative, and sensitive approach that deserves our careful attention” and appreciate your efforts to begin/continue that conversation among Latter-day Saints.

  8. But then who will my mother be sealed to? When a child loves both their biological parents, but the parents don’t love each other, what should be done?

    That reaches an interesting aspect of the problem: for whom are the ordinances ultimately done? The biological child has a desire to bring parents back together regardless of their own wishes, with the hope that in the afterlife such disagreements can be overcome and people can become reconciled. But there is the possibility of presumption in deciding to officiate such an ordinance. Perhaps adding explicit caveats to the rituals themselves could help mitigate the problem, is what I’m suggesting as one possibility.

    Overall discussions about the nature of sealings, eternal families, etc. will need to be explored further, as your last question suggests. We’re still working out the details and implications of the great chain of being JS initiated through his revelations.

  9. re # 6, whatever the answer to that question is, it is not directly relevant to the difficult ethical problems that are obvious in sealing a slave to the master who raped her.

    One reason why I find Mueller’s article compelling is that it conveys the idea that this is not meant to be part of the program for sealing a husband and wife together who lived long ago. In fact, we don’t otherwise seal men to their mistresses or a mistress to her lover, so why would a handful of truly overzealous Mormons think it is appropriate to seal men to their slaves whom they raped? Some better controls are evidently necessary because despite the requirement of proof of marriage, somehow these names made it through the system to the point that the name of Biddy Mason, for example, could somehow possibly be now “ready” in the records to be sealed to her rapist master. Thank goodness Mueller notes that this has not actually been done yet and I hope the Church will immediately stop this process from going forward.

  10. Some of the problem is the NFS system assumes that if there are children, clearly the parents are seal-able. I have a couple of ancestors who never married the father (or mother) of their child(ren), and there’s no way to mark that there was never a marriage. I’m not daft enough to seal them anyway, but someone else could easily do so. There is, in fact, no requirement at all for proof of marriage, not in practice.

  11. RE: #3- I agree. I’ve found Max to be honest and thoughtful in his presentations of this and other topics.

  12. re # 10, I thought there needed to be a marriage record or date or something like that?

  13. Not in practice, no. There may be a requirement on paper, but you can put any two people in and marry them, especially if children are present.

  14. If so, those are the types of procedural changes that could be adjusted, I’m thinking here more about some of the doctrinal/scriptural/theological resources we might appeal to in thinking about the efficacy of our ordinances.

  15. I have a testimony of Mormon theology. I do not have a testimony of the industrialisation of Mormon theology.

  16. Interesting topic and one I haven’t considered before. In regard to the sealing of TJ and Sally, is it not possible their decedents joined the church and initiated the sealing? I knew that TJ had a relationship with at least one of his slave but I had never heard anyone categorize it as rape. In any case, the sealing of TJ and Sally seems less of a black-eye than the sealing of Elijah Able to JS.

  17. re # 15, we do seem to have reified the sacred, don’t we? Our policies and approaches came of age in an industrial and, more to the point, corporate age. Our footprint certainly reflects that at this stage in time.

  18. EAG: Max sums it up nicely by pointing out that those relationships between slaves and owners were massively complex and saturated with an unjust power structure against the slave.

    As for the descendants of Jefferson, I doubt that was the case, actually. This seems more like an outcome of celebrity-driven temple work.

    I think you mean Jane Manning James, nit Elijah. See the podcast I linked to with Mueller above for more about that.

  19. We often do seal men to their mistresses, even knowingly, if those relationships produced children.The Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemmings case is easier than most to sift out because the actors are famous and if TJ was the father of Sally’s children, then the relationship almost certainly was one of force or at coercion by one with power over the other’s fate. But as far as policy goes we can’t require proof of marriage before sealing a child’s parents together in order to eliminate the possibility of sealing a rapist to his victim–most often when researching people less famous than Thomas Jefferson and Co., there is no way to prove that a child’s parents were married or common-law married or even that the relationship that produced the child was a consenting one. If there is some evidence that the child is a product of two people, you assume marriage or at least a consenting relationship and seal them to each other before you seal the child to them–proof of marriage is not a requirement, and if it were, many children could not be sealed to their parents, as you are supposed to seal parents together before sealing children to parents. Though this is not the only way around this issue–if the child is illegitimate and the name of father isn’t shown in the records (which is the case for Sally Hemming’s children), you are often advised to seal the child to his maternal grandparents, since you can’t seal a child to a single parent. Perhaps in cases of known rape where the identity of the rapist is known, this could become the standard practice, rather than the if-the-parents-are-known-seal-them-to-each-other practice. As for policing the system to be sure the current policy is being observed–not practical. We will always have church members violating whatever policy is in place.

    As for the idea in the OP, sure, if the ritual were changed to explicitly state that the dead person’s agency was key, that might calm detractors. But I doubt it.

  20. Lord what a can of worms! BHodges, I feel that you and Max have addressed this quite well (I have a soft-spot for him now after listening to him for over 70 mins in your podcast ere long ago) I, myself would be running around round-house kicking people out of frustration. Let me give you my perspective though since I come from an absolutely entirely non-Mormon family. While, yes, there is the agency factor that the person for whom the proxy work is done will ultimately get to “choose their fate” their is still such a thing as tact. It is extremely insulting to perform sealings of those who have been raped (and by the very nature of the relationship, sex with a slave is rape). It is abhorrent at the highest level of vomit that sticks in my throat. Despite agency, I would never dream of sealing someone who I thought would never want to be sealed and anyone with a thinking brain must have realized that this would be the case. Someone just wanted their Temple Brownie Points and it reflects so poorly on the rest of us regardless of Max’s fair and measured treatment.

  21. Marie, calming detractors isn’t the only (or even main) concern that I have, really. The problems you describe seem to me to be the outcome of trying to shoehorn massively complex relationships of the past into a cookie-cutter picture of one man, one woman (or one woman, and another woman, etc.) and child.

  22. “But we still need a solid historical treatment of the concept of “agency” being a factor in the acceptance of proxy work in such circumstances.”
    This.

    Along the lines of the complexity of relationships and sealings, my husband’s grandfather was a terrible man. He raped his daughters and treated the family terribly. It was a dilemma for my MIL and her sisters whether or not to seal her parents. In the end, they decided to do it, confident that the sealing is more meaningful for the family of God, as we are all his children; rather than an eternal nuclear unit that would bind her parents together in an unhappy state forever.

  23. The concept of eternal sealing brought a quick halt to my most standard missionary effort. A colleague of mine was open, respectful, asked thougthful questions and seriously evaluated what she learned. This attitude continued as we attended an open-house for a newly built temple. When the principle of eternal marriage was addressed, I have never seen such an immediate shut down. Apparently, the thought of her former marriage being continued through eternity was more than she could bear.

    RE female slaves being sealed to their masters, my jaundiced belief is that many legitimate marriages throughout history have been virtually indistinguishable from this. When women are married off through arrangements only with their fathers, wives had/have no legal standing apart from their husbands, wives and whatever property they brought to a marriage were/are considered belonging to/owned by their husbands, wives may be treated and/or disposed of according to husbands’ whims, her marriage vows instructed her to *honor and obey,* children of this union belong to the father, how is this much different than slavery? Perhaps only in the sense that she cannot be arbitrarily sold to someone else.

  24. BH: nope, I meant Elijah Able who was sealed to JS as a servant not a spouse. I believe it was later undone. I assumed that was the sealing of masters to their slaves that the OP referred to before I read it

  25. For people far enough removed from the present that the stories of their relationships are only dimly known through surviving records, we have to just do the best we can. I don’t think of it as shoe-horning at all, particularly as in most Mormon families where the relationships are confused, you will have all possible ordinances done to cover all bases (Woman A, who was the lover of Man B and married to Man C and had children with both men is sealed to both men and her children with Man B are sealed to both couple A+B and couple A+C). Known rape is entirely a different matter, I grant you, but unless you can know that there was rape and that the person doing the ordinance knew that there was rape, I don’t know how you can sort out such cases or condemn those doing such ordinances (the case of Jefferson and Hemmings most certainly being inexcusable as the only possible relationship was one of force/coercion). The only way out of this is to require children whose parents cannot be proven to be married to be sealed to single parents rather than to a couple which, given our doctrine about marriage, is unlikely to happen. Emphasizing the agency dimension seems key, and if they changed the ritual itself to play that up, I wouldn’t blink.

  26. EAG: BH: nope, I meant Elijah Able who was sealed to JS as a servant not a spouse.

    I’m not aware of Elijah Abel being sealed to Joseph Smith, do you have a source on that one? I know Jane Manning James was, though, for certain.

  27. I should also say while I’m here that I attended Max Mueller’s lecture on Jane James at the COB a few weeks back and admire his fair-minded engagement with Mormonism, even if he struggles to pronounce “Zarahemla.”

  28. anon #22:
    as we are all his children; rather than an eternal nuclear unit that would bind her parents together in an unhappy state forever.

    Thanks! Such would be the sort of theological reflections that could be joined with scripture, prophetic remarks, and personal stories to try and better navigate this issue.

    charlene:
    Apparently, the thought of her former marriage being continued through eternity was more than she could bear.

    And yet we allow for cancellations of sealings and divorces, though this is evidently harder for women to get than men. But we don’t emphasize it. There’s a default expectation that we’re going to all succeed, a great aspiration, but it may come at the expense of excessive anxiety and heartache when things don’t go as planned.

  29. Reconciliation is the primary impetus behind the project of sealing individuals together into a great human family. The idea that we can be reconciled to one another and to God suggests at once both repentance and forgiveness. It is a uniquely concrete expression of how God uses the Atonement to make the impossible possible. In practice it is also as messy and complicated as the actual relationships out of which the human race grows. Our current understanding of the sealing power and at least some of our practices involving that power are a source of anxiety and pain for many. That doesn’t mean the project is not holy but it does underscore the difficulty of implementing a divine impulse in a profane world. If reconciliation is the goal then we would do well to consider whether our actions in some way perpetuate a wrong.

    The sealing of a slave to her master with whom she had children suggests that the union was acceptable to her then and should now be condoned by God. Where agency was violated, as it would have been in a slave-master relationship, God will not condone the relationship. More importantly, because God has revealed the importance of agency to us, even with limited knowledge we should know that such a relationship us ungodly and not a candidate for the sealing work. In short, it is an unclean thing. It is obviously unfit to be brought to the House of the Lord. The impulse behind such an act cannot make it good or acceptable though it may make it something less than pernicious. But if we allow such acts–now known–to continue, we perpetuate in some measure the evil of slavery by condoning the relationships that arose as a result of a loss of agency.

  30. Chris Kimball says:

    Is Mueller correct when he says “Mormons believe that Hemings has more agency in the afterlife than she did while she was alive.”

    I’m not sure we believe that agency is a “more” and “less” kind of thing. If it is, then slavery is less and emancipation (by law or by death) is more. However, if the suggestion is that Hemings had no agency in life because she was a slave, and “more” in the afterlife, that must be wrong. Agency and control over the body are not synonymous. This could make for a a long discussion, but slavery that controls the body but not the mind is a fairly straightforward counter-example.

    Perhaps more important, the sentence hints at a doctrine that living ordinances are binding but proxy ordinances are conditional. I have certainly heard each stated in separate discussions or statements, but never the two together. For what it’s worth, I was taught otherwise, that ALL ordinances are conditional (source: private conversation with a then Stake President, almost 40 years ago, so probably best put in the “speculative theology” category, and D&C 132:7).

    I submit that any coherent “treatment of the concept of ‘agency’ being a factor in the acceptance of proxy work” will have to deal with living ordinances as well, whether to parallel or contrast.

  31. StillConfused says:

    Coming from a Christian background rather than a Mormon one, I have often wondered if people really think that the sealing stuff is necessary. My ancestors were amazing people. If there is a heaven, they will be there; if there is marriage in heaven, they will have it. No proxy stuff will change that one way or other. I cannot believe that God would institute a practice that was mandatory for getting to heaven (at least a level of it) and not have it readily available to all.

    Even more controversial, I don’t think baptism is necessary to go to heaven. I think baptism is a great way to signify your affiliation with the Christian faith, but I don’t think heaven will be exclusive to Christians. Again, the proxy stuff doesn’t even fit into my equation.

  32. Blair, this is very interesting but leads me to question why all of these ordinances are necessary at all. In reality, the work for the dead is for us anyway right? Maybe 80/20? A common response to messy-work-for-the-dead-questions is – “God will work it all out.” Well, then why doesn’t God just work it out to begin with? For the practical work of giving out time for the salvation of “others”, I can see it as a valuable endeavor. As to its eternal significance? I can’t imagine out feeble efforts making much difference. Its not unlike my bringing me my eye glass – trying his darndest to be helpful. ONly to find then shattered and stepped on.

    The best that God has to give his children – dependent on the precise unification of each of us to a viable partner from the opposite sex? Lord help us all. Paul is rolling in his grave.

  33. it's a series of tubes says:

    Again, the proxy stuff doesn’t even fit into my equation.

    Though not, presumably, with respect to Christ’s suffering as a proxy for you.

  34. “Perhaps more important, the sentence hints at a doctrine that living ordinances are binding but proxy ordinances are conditional.”

    But what about couples in India who are sealed through and arranged marriage? I don’t see how that could be more binding that any proxy ordinance.

  35. For comments tending towards throwing out the entire edifice of proxy ordinances, that may work for you, but it might do well to examine the impulses and implications of such human actions more closely before casting it all aside because of difficulties. The fate of the unevangelized has been part of the theological discussion for centuries. See this episode, for instance:

    http://www.fairblog.org/2011/06/22/fair-conversations-episode-10-john-e-sanders/

    Sam Brown, J. Stapley and others have done brilliant recent work on this subject as well. I see a lot of important power in the idea of sealing people together, especially my immediate family, friends, church members, but I don’t feel the “spirit of Elijah” calling me to seal someone whose name I got off a record from 1472 who may or may not have even been married. That doesn’t lead me, however, to throw the whole project out. To the extent that one believes Joseph Smith’s revelations on this subject were more than weird suggestions we need to thoughtfully engage in questions of maintaining their relevance while being true to the spirit of the actions.

  36. seagullfountain says:

    On the slave/master thing, what about Abraham and Hagar? That union must surely have had an element of coercion about it, and yet …

    I guess I agree to some degree with the comment about marriage in general, historically, being not unlike the slave/master relationship. Even the D&C section quoted (132) has seemed always to me to be coercive to Emma.

  37. seagullfountain says:

    And along those lines (forgive the blasphemy) where, exactly, does the immaculate conception fall on the coercion scales?

  38. Do you mean the virgin birth?

    The Immaculate Conception should not be confused with the Virginity of Mary or the Virgin birth of Jesus; it refers to the conception of Mary by her mother, Saint Anne [free of the taint of original sin].

    wiki

  39. I don’t think a review system for FamilySearch is really possible. You would have to have people trained to go through the millions (billions?) of connections already made, research each one, and make a decision on if the evidence is enough to pass inspection. FamilySearch is starting to do a bit better in peer reviewing with their new system, but while you have people doing cut-and-paste genealogy, you’re going to get some messy results. Having the single tree system has made a major dent in stopping duplicate, and some inappropriate, ordinance work, but it also makes it easier to find work that should not be done.

    But the work does need to be done now. Even if we can only get .1% of the ordinances done and correct, that is a lot further than 0. When the time comes that we have to report the work we’ve done, is it better to say we did our best with what we had, or that we didn’t even try, for fear we’d get it wrong?

  40. stpuid puters :P

  41. John Roberts says:

    It has been the explicit policy of the Church for at least 100 years that a members responsibility in regard to proxy baptisms and sealings is for his/her ancestors, not for the famous or infamous.

    In the recent letter from the First Presidency to Bishops (recently read in the wards) it is noted that temple work is not only a responsibility, but a privilege, and that the keys of administering this work are held by the Prophet.

    With the rise of the internet, and possibly before, there has been a growing tendency among members to discuss more openly the ordinances and experience of the Temple. In addition, there has been greater publicity regarding the ill-advised and unfortunate choices of some LDS members, who possibly misunderstand or have not caught the full vision of this work.

    It is certainly possible for God to do his own work.

    It is also possible that if the temple-recommend holding members of the Church do not get their acts together sometime soon, work for the dead may be suspended in our lifetime, temporarily or permanently, or at least until the 2nd coming.

    There are a number of other areas in which the so-called faithful members of the Church are seriously falling short.

  42. I agree with Marie (10:53 am):

    “in most Mormon families where the relationships are confused, you will have all possible ordinances done to cover all bases”

    However, I have never heard of children of single parents being permitted to be sealed to their grandparents. In practice, the only way to provide a child-parent sealing is to first seal the two parents together. In the hypothetical given by Marie, I don’t think many members of the Church performing these ordinances expect that A, B, and C will all live together in some polyandrous relationship in the eternities; they expect that everything will be sorted out in the next life. At least that is what I think about my g-g-g grandmother who is sealed to each of the 3 men that she was married to in this life.

  43. What FamilySearch really needs is to hire Steve Evans to wield the infamous stick of bannination, worn into a sharper point than ever by years of BCC use, to cast out offending name-submitters with gleeful abandon.

  44. The comments thus far don’t really address the Holy Spirit of Promise. One of the links in the OP point to the church’s Guide to the scriptures and says: “The Holy Ghost is the Holy Spirit of Promise (Acts 2:33). He confirms as acceptable to God the righteous acts, ordinances, and covenants of men. The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept.” See also W. Lowell Castleton, “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, June 1978, 29–30. Query: Does participating in a temple ordinance in mortality foreclose the possiblity of opting out of the ordinance after death? We often talk about the exercise of agency after this life, and how we seal people together by proxy and then let the parties decide if they will accept the ordinance done on their behalf. If Thomas Jefferson (or any other alleged rapist) were to somehow merit going to the CK, why would the victim reject the ordinance presuming he/she is also worthy of the CK? What I’m getting at is who cares what sealing work is done. Ultimately, if ordiance receipient doesn’t merit the CK, the sealing will have no meaningful effect. I don’t feel we should seal people randomly or in well known situations of rape and incest, but at the end of the day, I’d rather err on the side of being a bit liberal with sealings than too conservative. Just because we seal two people by proxy together doesn’t mean they’re suddenly chummy up in the Spirit World.

  45. While we strive to think like Christ, and live like Christ, we do not. I am sorry, but I cannot muster within me enough grace to allow for (or God forbid perform!) proxy sealings for people in such situations. Rape is not only a violation of that agency which God himself counts as precious, but it is a violation of the soul. I challenge anyone here who may disagree to merely visit the Facebook page for the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) I have been on the Speakers Bureau there for several years now and it is not something that the soothing balm of historical distance will remove. Granted, as I have stated, I cannot be as benevolent as all that, and maybe other people can but I have a very sneaking suspicion this wasn’t done out of benevolence. Forgive me if I am incorrect.

  46. Steven,

    The idea that what we do here shouldn’t matter too much because God will sort it all out has been used as an excuse for callous acts before. Excusing our actions under the cover of “we meant well” strikes me as lazy. If we really mean well we will think about the implications of sealing a slave to her master. It isn’t just a problem for the next life or for people who are already dead. It is a profound question of moral import for us. As I stated above, in cases where we have good cause to believe that the relationship was not consensual, we perpetrate the evil further by condoning it in our temples. No doubt God will sort it out–in these cases it is best to let him do so without our help.

  47. Mathew (46) Spot on!

  48. Blair: You suggested that one caveat is that sealings must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. However, this scripture has always confused me. It does not stop there at the Holy Spirit of Promise, but says “by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days . . .”

    How do you intepret the words that follow “Holy Spirit of Promise”? They are confusing, but they seem to suggest that him who is appointed to act as God’s medium (Joseph Smith at that time) had the power to seal, and that it was through the power delegated to him that the Holy Spirit of Promise seals. If I am reading this right, then it would seem that this verse does not contemplate a separate, second sealing or even ratification of sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

  49. I just want to go on record in stating that “holy spirit of promise” is a term that is used differently by different people within and throughout the church hierarchy over time.

  50. J: how dare you historicize things.

  51. As J. notes, that’s exactly why an in-depth analysis of the verses in questions and in context and over time is important. (Same for “agency.”)

  52. I’d ask everyone involved in these discussions to do something that Max failed to do in his expose and that some commenters are failing to do in this thread: “We” didn’t do anything. Individual members of the Church turned these “couples'” names in for temple work. There is no indication of race, much less master-slave relationship, in any paper or computer form, no possible way for the Church or any “we” to be aware of or prevent these inappropriate sealings (with the possible exception of Thomas Jefferson whose name should have triggered some alarm somewhere, at least in the recent past). “We” have been told to do proxy work for our own families, and to do adequate research to ensure that work is done correctly. I do that — I don’t condone the shoddy, lazy, presumptuous, fake research or lack of thought and understanding that leads to these circumstances. Do not include me or my Church in any “we” that refers to temple work done in violation of correct principles.

  53. I don’t disagree with you Ardis (52) but I do think events like this would spawn more forceful pronouncements from the top to absolutely stop stop stop doing this. I was actually just musing a few minutes ago that it is a shame that The Church, and the members always have to “live and die” by the actions of any member who gets some press. It is maddening, and something that no other religion that I can think of suffers from. If a Catholic commits murder, all Catholics don’t suffer, if a Jewish person commits pedophilia only that specific person is condemned, etc.. etc… Actually on further reflection, I would be willing to believe that Muslims have the same problem as well. Perhaps it is a curse of a “lifestyle religion”.

  54. Another doctrinal issue not understood by Max and not mentioned by BHodges: Max considers whether or not any of these people would have wanted temple ordinances, presumably including proxy baptisms, setting aside for the moment the improper sealings. It’s a major tenet of our conception of the space after death that people learn about the gospel, presumably freed of at least some of the difficulties that prevented them accepting it in life (I doubt, for example, that there are counter-cult crusades in the next life that blind people to the truth). Because of that, it is utterly irrelevant whether someone would have welcomed temple ordinances at the time they died. It’s a (lower case) article of faith that many or most people have accepted a gospel they were ignorant of, or resisted, in life.

  55. The “seal the illegitimate child to his maternal grandparents” comment got me thinking about the craziness in the Sally Hemings case. Sally is thought to be the half-sister of Martha Wayles Jefferson, TJ’s wife. How far back that type of relationship went is believed to be Africa before there was a somewhat equal relationship between the matrilineal ancestors. Obviously, there are large gaps in any reasonable sealing of one’s ancestors in cases like this.

  56. Ardis,

    The Church can plausibly say that it didn’t know about the actions of a few rogue members and therefore can’t be responsible their actions. Going forward, however, it will not have that excuse and if it fails to address the problem then the Church will have failed (I submit that reading a letter across the pulpit is not addressing the problem). When we choose to participate in an institution then we accept that its successes and failures will reflect on the individual members as a body. If the problem is widespread then the systemic failure that allowed it to occur in the first place is institutional and belongs to all of us. If that’s the case, then “we” should fix it. I don’t believe the handful of cases we now know about are enough to make a strong case for systemic failure, but I doubt this is limited to the handful of known cases.

  57. Ardis, I don’t disagree with the possibility of post-mortal reconciliation and I agree that a person’s state at the moment of death isn’t considered to be static. These are further theological questions to explore, in this post I only mentioned 2: agency and the holy spirit of promise. I find these particular examples of sealing masters and slaves to be a general breach of the spirit of our ordinances from our admittedly limited perspective.

    For the record I agree with the rogue member view, I happen to think that’s the best explanation. I’m not trying to indict every individual church member of any particular leader. This is an instance where procedure and doctrines seem to clash. This occurred within a system that allowed for that kind of poorly-thought-out action, and frankly I think it was an instance of trifling with sacred ordinances, even if well-intended or not officially directed.

  58. Nonsense, Mathew, not that the church shouldn’t try to find an idiot proof method to protect temple practices, but nonsense that either the church or other members are responsible for the misbehavior of individuals even after the church has taken reasonable steps to prevent that misbehavior. Youdrake all reasonable steps, I suppose, to prevent the theft of your car, and I doubt you would accept responsibility if it is still stolen. I do think there are additional reasonable safeguards the church can implement, but nothing is going to guarantee against fraud and supidity and ignorance of the determinedly uninformed and terminally stupid.

  59. *You take

    Terminally stupid fat fingers

  60. I’m with Ardis. Obviously the church should take reasonable measures and precautions…but other than that, you just can’t legislate stupid. If you make rules so prohibitive that idiocy can’t happen…you will have also restricted the possibility of brilliance…or even reasonable action. does the church really have to take a stand on every little bit of obvious stupidity by one random member?

  61. Ardis, I had a car stolen when I was a teenager. I left the keys in the ignition. True story and–let’s just get this out there–stupid on my part. But the Church ought to bear some responsibility for abuse of temple ordinances because it has effectively left the keys in the ignition. You don’t have to be determinedly uninformed and terminally stupid to seal a slave to a master. You just need to be a lay member with good intentions and a temple recommend. There aren’t currently systems in place that would prevent slave/master sealings and in fact no leader to my knowledge has stated that it shouldn’t happen. I’m the first to admit that the church is in a tough spot here. It wants to make both temple worship and salvific ordinances available to all. The scope of the work for the dead is impossibly ambitious and attempts effectively regulate it will likely be expensive, slow the work and in the aggregate make it less attractive to those who would do it. Finally there is a growing resistance among a portion of the non-Mormon public to proxy work and nothing the church does is likely to placate the most vocal among them. None of which is a particularly good argument for why the Church shouldn’t try to fix the problem. Until it makes a serious attempt there is no question in my mind it bears partial responsibility. The world is full of uninformed and stupid people (I count myself among the set most of the time). Always has been and always will be. We create institutions precisely to save us from ourselves.

  62. Has anyone considered the possibility that the “rogue” members who submitted these names are people who did it so that they could embarrass the Church? There have been plenty of hints and allegations that Helen Radkey herself is responsible directly or indirectly for many of the embarrassing “finds” she has made. Is there no record of who the submitters were? I realize this is not quite germane to Blair’s point(s), but it is to many of the comments.

  63. I understand the reaction of people to the sealing of slaves to masters, and I share the abhorrence for such a practice, but neither I nor any other member (nor the Church) is at fault if another member does something that the Church has said members shouldn’t do – especially if the Church has said it over and over and over and over again (or if it just is so blatantly wrong that the Church shouldn’t be expected to consider it directly). I also understand the inclination to want strict parameters in cases like this, but I don’t want the CHI to resemble the OT in length – and I can see that happening if we start to try to mandate every detail of every possible exception to the idea of teaching correct principles and allowing people to govern themselves.

    The only way I see to solve this problem completely, in theory and within our current common construct, is to require proof that there was an actual marriage and that it wasn’t coerced – and I have absolutely no idea how that could be done. So, all that I see as reasonable is to continue to do what has been done – and perhaps add a layer of verification at the local and temple levels whereby a Family History specialist checks the records used to create the ordinance file and the final file itself and sees if there are any obvious red flags. Even that wouldn’t fix it entirely, but I can’t think of anything else that would be a reasonable improvement.

    Of course, re-envisioning the concept of sealing to focus on sealing everyone to everyone as one great family of God, then letting God and their children work out the ultimate interpersonal relationship details would solve everything in one stroke.

  64. As a corrollary to Ardis’s points, with which I agree, if the most passion for family history one can muster is not for actually doing family history but being outraged about what other people have done, then I call that mock indignation.

    Yes, I am calling out people who don’t do their family history ;)

  65. ricke,
    It seems unlikely in this case. Two names in 1991? No public internet, no way to easily point out the names.

  66. KTB #42: To clarify, the scenario in which you have the option of sealing a child to maternal grandparents is only where the child is illegitimate and no father is known or alleged. And even in that case, if the child’s mother married at some point or if the child had foster/adoptive parents, you can seal the child to any of those couples you feel inspired to–or to the maternal grandparents. If the child were illegitimate and the father’s identity *were* known, you would be advised to seal the parents to each other and the child to them even if they are known to have never married each other, unless there were some strong reason not to (rape would probably be at the top of the list of possible reasons). So I was just proposing that perhaps we should decide to always put cases of known rape/coercion into this “unknown father” category, even when the identity of the father/rapist is known, and forbid the use, in such cases, of the “if the parents are known, seal them together even if you can find no actual marriage proof” standard. So if the rape victim were married at some point in her life, the child of the rape would be sealed as a child of the marriage or if the victim of the rape was not ever married in this life, the child of the rape would be sealed to foster/adoptive parents (if any) or maternal grandparents–all as if the natural father is unknown. In answer to other comments, people aren’t necessarily being lazy in their research when they do such sealings in non-rape non-marriage situations–that’s just what we’re currently told to do, since so many long-ago marriages can’t be proven–and even if the absence of a marriage could be proven, you’d still often be sealing the parents to each other absent some good reason not to.

    The Hemings case would be even trickier to sort out than a typical “unknown father” case, because (if Wikipedia is correct) Sally Heming’s children and Sally Hemings and Sally Hemings’s mother were all products of master/slave relationships and with slaves often being denied the right to marry or keep their families intact, you’d probably have to go searching far back in Sally’s maternal line for a relationship that was both documented and known to be consensual, and to which the children of all those generations could be sealed–back in Africa, likely, where the paper trail usually ends. Horrifying, what these families endured.

    For the record, the policy I’m describing here was from the TempleReady era. TempleReady is now gone, but it’s the most recent policy I know of for “no-father-known” situations. (If someone knows of a more current policy, please let me know.):

    TempleReady Reference Guide, B-3-1: “A deceased child is usually sealed to his or her natural parents. However, where there is justification, a deceased child may also be sealed to adoptive parents, stepparents, foster parents, or grandparents. No special approvals are required.”

  67. That some members so stupid things probably shouldn’t reflect on the Church as a whole, or on the individuals not doing stupid things, but it will. There’s no way around it. People are lazy, people like to take mental shortcuts, people like to group people together in their minds. And with the LDS Church being so institutionalized and hierarchical (not judging here!) it’s a lot easier to take that shortcut. The Church putting some kind of safeguard in place would go a long way in helping with public opinion, imo. On the other hand, people will always complain about other people and no matter what the Church does, people will be upset. Which is why the OP’s suggestions are perhaps more important than safety measures..it’s been interesting to follow the internal debate about sealings in this and other posts.

    Also, I have to say that I am one of the non-Mormons that likes the idea of proxy work – and the God will work it out in the end line. Between those two, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens after death. (Although I don’t mind waiting a while.)

  68. Sharee Hughes says:

    Henry VIII was sealed not only to each of his six wives (sealing done in 1982), but also to his mistress Bessie Blount (sealing done in 1994). Although Henry undoubtedly had a number of mistresses (including the sister of his wife Ann Boleyn), his son by Bessie is the only of his illegitimate children he actually recognized. So perhaps this sealing was done so Henry FitzRoy would have parents to be sealed to. It would not have been a direct descendant of this union who had the work done as FitzRoy died at age 17 and had no issue. However, it still could have been done by a collateral descendant. At any rate, this shows that at times men have been sealed to their mistresses, rightly or wrongly.

  69. Craig M. says:

    I have two comments on this. First, I’m surprised no one else besides Ardis in #52 picked up on this article being an expose. I’m sure Max is a great guy and the article was written professionally, but it was still an expose along the lines of Helen Radkey’s work. I’m not by any means saying Max should be censored or disliked, and acknowledge that if the story was to break it was better through him than others, but let’s not be overly enthusiastic. Max seems to have temporarily slipped from being a scholar into being a reporter, and his comments on informing the church about this a couple weeks ago are peculiar – was he giving them a heads up so he could say they fixed things?

    Second, I see very big problems with sealing slaves to their owners as spouses, but the outrage from some here seems to ignore the complexity of the issue, which has as much to do with sealing children to parents as with sealing “spouses” to one another. Setting aside celebrity ordinances, if you are a “black” person in the United States (as well as many “white” people in the US) you are likely to have these slavery relationships in your family tree. Most of the time they aren’t documentable, but imagining they are, if you take the ordinances literally and seriously you want to be sealed to your ancestors, even if some in the chain were bad. The same goes for those with unmarried ancestors, arranged marriages, and even “legitimate” coerced marriages (which could include many with polygamous ancestors or monogamous – just read J.S. Mill’s The Subjection of Women to see the argument that married white women were little different from slaves in their rights) – there were many illegitimate relationships that we hope will be remedied somehow in the hereafter. If you believe that the chain has to go back, you don’t want to kill off your sealing line in 1850 or whenever the illegitimate relationship took place. I know there are varied degrees of belief on how literal these bonds are or need to be, but cutting off relationships could be seen as quite serious.

  70. Craig M (69) makes some great points. From the middle ages to the Victorian period many (perhaps most in some segments of society) marriages were not consensual, based on our modern view of personal relationships, because they were arranged.

  71. it was still an expose along the lines of Helen Radkey’s work.

    Radkey isn’t taking an analytic approach to Mormon ordinance work, Craig. I think your comparison fails (and to be frank, I think it’s sort of an insult). Max discovered something he deemed worthy of analysis, and that based on his academic training. This is the sort of thing historians do– looking at the past, prodding implications, asking questions. Radkey is literally digging through genealogy in order to embarrass the Church (“make a stink”) and perhaps to make a buck on the side. Max is trying, as a historian, to understand the story. In fact, you raise several interesting similar questions yourself (as I suggested in the original post above), pointing to other coerced or oppressive forms of marriage and thinking about what our ordinances say about those relationships.

  72. How do you prohibit sealing slaves to masters without labeling on the genealogy chart…slave? no thanks. really. what can be done? No more thomas jefferson sealings? as if that’s a very unusual name? or anne frank? Hand check every single record and ask for verification of relationship? sigh. teach correct principles and then legislate them to death.

  73. Craig M. says:

    BHodges, I apologize for potentially being insulting to Max, but the Radkey comparison is simply this: Radkey scouts around for embarrassing actions of church members reflected on family history databases, then leaks the information to the press. Although I would be glad to be told otherwise, I infer that Max also scouted around for this embarrassing information, then gave the story to the press. The difference was that Max wrote the article himself and gave it some context. Better than Radkey, but essentially the same thing. I’m not trying to stick an “anti-Mormon” label on Max or anything (and what I’ve seen from him I’ve generally been impressed with), but trying to point out that high-fives probably aren’t in order. I suppose that I would have felt quite differently if his analysis was part of a book or conference presentation rather than in Slate, going back to my scholar/reporter distinction.

  74. I infer that Max also scouted around for this embarrassing information, then gave the story to the press.

    Based on my personal, although relatively limited, experience with Max and my familiarity with some of the other work he’s done, I assert that your inference simply isn’t accurate. It doesn’t account for the overall approach of Max’s research in general. Taking a wider view of his work, it becomes more clear that Max isn’t interested in just digging up dirt. He’s a historian looking for compelling stories, clues to an overall narrative of religion, race, politics, culture, etc. When a person is researching and writing history you they’re usually re not constantly vetting everything they discover on whether or not it is uncomfortable for the people about whom they’re researching. That said, I don’t doubt that Max has some affection for the LDS Church, but he’s also not a PR representative.

    he difference was that Max wrote the article himself and gave it some context. Better than Radkey, but essentially the same thing.

    I see it as entirely different. There are superficial similarities (both involve proxy work, both became discussions in the press) but to me the differences outweigh the similarities. In fact, his work can be understood as a fruitful possibility; an opportunity for us to take a look at our past and current practices and work through the implications. He’s taking our religion and its past seriously enough to understand it thoughtfully.

    Perhaps the one point I might agree with you about is the venue. A conference paper or journal publication or book chapter on this issue seems like a good option. Many times the press will base something on a newly-published book or something. In this case it was simply part of the press. I don’t know why he chose Slate, other than that they’ve published stuff by him on Mormons and race in the past. I don’t know if the story would have broken from somewhere else, but I suspect if that could have happened I would much rather have Max be the person talking about it, especially given that he speaks as an outsider-insider.

  75. Meldrum the Less says:

    I do not think arranged marriages are entirely a thing of the past. Some of these Nazi Mormons I know are so controlling and degrading to their daughters that the marriages they contract are hardly any less coercive than those of a previous century. They keep their socially isolated teenagers as sleep-deprived zombies with required early morning seminary and send them off to the BYU bubble-in-time and tell the girls they are not worth anything if they are not marrried by spring time. Proposals by your first Christmas are to be celebrated. Many women who later leave the church and their Mormon marriages view the courtship presure-cooker at BYU as something far less than consensual. You know the old wag, YBU- why be you? Be a robot who will do whatever the “evil” church wants including quick marriage to some random Peter Priesthood who will treat you as little more than a modern slave and make more babies as fast as possible so the tithing keeps flowing. I do not believe most BYU marriages are in this category any more, much progress has been made. Nazi Mormons are more likely to have their children rebel than ever before. But I know of a few of my peers and relatives who sadly fit this description or I would not bring it up. How tragic that the undoing of sealings is so difficult. Many women leave and they don’t believe in the sealings any more.The undoing of ill-spent years can never be accomplished.

    Now I hesitate to bring up this next subject, but … On the bottom of one of my family group sheets are two unique female names and they were sealed to the rest of us. But for decades we never could find out what happened to them; if they married, or died, or what. A generation later a journal was discovered that revealed the two females were two favorite sheep. So we are sealed to our livestock. And you know what they say about southern Utah, “where the men are men and the sheep are nervous.” If master-slave relationships are to be sealed, what about these other unspeakable relationships that were more common than you ever want to imagine amongst isolated young Mormon boys. Just asking… Bah, bah, bah…

  76. Craig–I agree with much of what you say regarding the prevalence of coercion of women throughout history and the necessity of often turning a blind eye to this in the context of sealing–and having a lot of faith in the power of the Atonement and forgiveness between individuals to heal families and the whole human family–if our sealing project is to work at all. Human relationships are incredibly messy even in more “normal” families, and for any ordering of the chaos to ultimately work to the satisfaction of everyone, power and grace beyond our current comprehension will be required. But if a person decided to exclude an ancestor for some reason (known rape or forced marriage or whatever), that need not close off the sealing line beyond that child, as I explained in a previous comment. If the only children a man had were known to be the product of cruelty, it seems to me it would be reasonable to consider his line childless and add it to the “dead ends” project (all those scads of lines that dead-ended when descendents ran out, and will have to be linked in through descendency research). I’m sure the ancestors of a rapist, looking down on the situation, wouldn’t be offended that their descendent’s particularly cruel manner of fathering children–and then likely abandoning them–got him and his ancestors set aside in the sealing project for the time being. And the “sorting it out” that we say God is going to have to do in the end can splice that severed branch back in and help heal those emotional rifts if it ultimately needs to be that way.

    But the fact remains: even if a church member decided to exclude an ancestor’s biological parent based on the manner in which he/she became a parent or for other cruelty/neglect, once you get more than a few generations back you’d be hard pressed to gather the necessary info to make a determination one way or the other. And even if you do have some information about that, how do you ever know that you have the full story? Assumed future grace is necessary for it to work at all, so we usually err on the side of inclusion.

  77. Marie: not sure if I’ve directly responded to you yet, but thank you for your really interesting contributions. You’re giving me a lot to think about in terms of practical application.

  78. My family history essentially dies prior to my great-grandparents anyway so thankfully I don’t have to deal with any forced marriages or coerced relationships, etc… This topic is actually making me ill. I am inclined to stop dead in the mud, throw my hands up, and let God handle it without my help. I am not sealed to anyone anyway, so if I ever even wind up making it to the CK I’ll be over in the corner by myself regardless.

  79. Going WAY back to comment 6, though my comment will be relevant to other observations as well. I had a child in my first, failed marriage, and when I married Bruce, I wanted to have my daughter adopted to US. I wrote to the Church and was told that my daughter was under the same BIC blessings as anyone else. In a story I wrote, I used the phrase, “She was tethered to God on a broken promise.” Seems to me that the doctrine isn’t so much sealing families up forever as we picture in Primary, but sealing us all individually to covenants which, according to our faithfulness, seal us to even greater possibilities. I agree that our temple work is mostly for us. Nonetheless, a name is a sacred thing–particularly in the temple–and doing temple work for someone who wouldn’t want it is a violation–which suggests that we do need to research and not just present names but histories and our own relationships with those for whom we serve as proxies.. I’m much more aware of the Biddy Smith Mason case than the others Max mentions, and I know that Biddy chose NOT to go with her master when she was given a choice. I want that choice honored.

  80. It would change things dramatically if we were required to take our research documents to the temple itself in order to get clearance to perform marriage sealings in a face-to-face approval process – including proving our descent from those we are intending to seal in marriage. Also, I wouldn’t ooppose language in the sealing ordinance specifying a sealing to “parents / spouse of mutual choice” or some simliar wording. Not a thing would have to change in our basic theology for either of those things to happen.

    All other vicarious ordinances could be conducted for anyone (with some mandated exceptions) – focusing on the general salvation of the family of God.

  81. I am not sure how many of you are from non-member families, (i.e. no journals) so I cannot imagine how you would prove that you are a relative of someone from any decent amount of time back. I was talking with my mother before, and I really can’t even prove that I am related to my 2nd cousin 3rd time removed (or some nonsense relation like that) and we live in the age of documentation. I had a hell of a time even getting a record of my baptism from when I was 3 months old.

  82. Ugh.

    And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

    Sounds like God is a lawyer. (If God is a layer, can we love him?) I suppose that it would be way to interpretive to suggest that Joseph let his legal self intrude into a situation which should not have been overly legal? And why, if the president of the Church holds the keys, can he not go to the temple and hold a General Service, sealing every family together that wants to be sealed? Why does every name have to be spoken? Is the sealing power limited to the individual, name by name, basis?

    The D&C does not make it clear that it cannot be done. If it cannot be done it should have been very legally spelled out, as any good legal document should have been written, covering all contingencies.

    For the living it makes sense to enter into this contract because it does focus the mind and heart mightily concerning the meaning of eternity and those sacred bonds. Anyway, I have always assumed that the ordinances for the dead are much more for the living than the dead (let the dead bury the dead…etc.), a ritual for the focusing of our minds on eternity and the gift of life, and sacrifice, given to us by our ancestors. We all know, and have faith in, the idea that the errors of our sealing will be “fixed” at some future date.

  83. lawyer, not layer!

  84. Monticello says:

    Has anyone considered the possibility that Jefferson and Hemings loved each other? Some of Jefferson’s love letters to Hemings would make some people blush.

  85. Old Crow says:

    I understand that sealings are sealings into the family of God. There may be ancestors who are unworthy or unbelieving and will therefore not benefit from the sealings done in their behalf. This being the case and the chain of sealings then broken in a family, faithful recipients will not be left out. They will still be sealed into the family of God even if their spouses and other family members choose a different path. As the single Mother of an adopted child, I am not allowed to be sealed to my child because there is no father for my child to be sealed to. For Sally to be sealed to her children, a father had to be named. What other choice is there? It seems to be the best solution in a difficult situation.

  86. #85 I was planning on adopting as a single parent, so now I have a lot of thinking to do. I think I would rather die than be in another relationship but I have never felt that should impact whether I become a parent. If the goal of sealing is indeed to merely seal us all to God as some in here have mentioned, then why on Earth would a single parent be unable to be sealed to their child? These two things are so alarmingly incongrous. Does someone have any insight or an answer?

  87. I hate that my previous post is riddled with spelling errors. I may never visit this site on my iPod Touch again since I apparently cannot type correctly on it.

    Sorry for the side note…

  88. Old Crow says:

    EOR I have single friends who have adopted children from El Salvador. The children were allowed to be sealed to their living grandparents…or in other words to their mother’s parents. In family history, sometimes a mother and child are found but no father or marriage and I understand these children are then sealed to their mother……but after their death.

  89. My parents are not Mormon so the child cannot be sealed to them either. Thanks for the info. I think I still have quite a bit of thinking to do.

  90. It really bothers me when people assert, or assume, that slave women could have “loved” their rapist masters. Imagine if a woman was incarcerated in this country, and was having sex with a guard. Bad right? But…what if they are in love? I think we can all agree the position for the woman is basically, “sleep with the guard or he can make bad things happen to you.” He has the power. He can change your roommate, your job, your access to your family, a whole host of things. Now, maybe the woman does have some feelings for the guard, but that doesn’t make it anything less than coerced sex, i.e., rape. Hopefully these situations are rare, but they do happen. Anyone see any parallels here?

  91. I guess that should be “cellmates,” not “roommates.” And I also want to add that even if the woman did genuinely love her master, that still doesn’t make it right. You love her? Set her free and offer to marry her. Otherwise, how can it be anything other than a vast imbalance of power?

  92. Molly, yes, pretty much.

    EOR, etc., yes, these are difficult questions, and it is best to keep in mind our present sealing policies aren’t set in stone, and have not been static over time, and are not immune to adjustment in the future. Hang in there, keep working through the ideas.

  93. Did Zina Huntington have a choice not to be sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity and By for life rather than go with her husband, Lyn Jacobs?

  94. Noel, sure.

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