Christopher Waddell: Sometimes it’s just hard to think about Jesus #ldsconf

Bishop Waddell tells us that we must not expect our faith to protect us from sorrow. But peace of mind can be present during the storms of life. The key is to keep our focus on the Christ.

“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ.” (D&C 19:22-3)

Learn, listen, walk form the structural audit of the sermon.

Learn: go to the house of the Lord.

Listen: follow prophetic counsel.

Walk: repent and walk with Christ.

I would like to complicate his narrative just a bit in a couple of spots. First let me say that I appreciated the reference to Gethsemane AND the Cross. That is important. As Elder Holland has noted several times, the Cross was the culmination of atonement, of the way of bringing repentance to salvation. The mention of the “garden tomb” is probably just a phrase that came to mind, but it demonstrates some historic prejudice rooted in anti-Cathoic feeling, and moreover, it is almost surely fantasy as regards the tomb of Christ.

Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Christopher Waddell.

Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, Christopher Waddell.

One other point comes from bishop Waddell’s story of sealing as comfort in regard to his Learn signpost.

Bishop Waddell tells of visiting a stake conference in South America and encountering a couple who had only a few weeks previous lost an infant in death. Even though the couple had been sealed in the temple, they were under the impression that they would have to journey again to the temple to have their child sealed to them, a prohibitively expensive and likely impossible repeat journey. The bishop explained the concept of “born in the covenant” to an astonished brother.

Amazed, he asked if this was really true, and I confirmed that it was. He then asked if I would be willing to speak with his wife, who had been inconsolable during the two weeks since his son’s death. Sunday afternoon, following the conference, I met with Sister Tumiri and explained this glorious doctrine to her as well. With the pain of her loss still fresh, but now with a glimmer of hope, she tearfully asked, “will I really be able to hold my little boy in my arms again…is he really mine, forever?” I assured her that as she kept her covenants, the sealing power found in the temple, effective because of the authority of Jesus Christ, would indeed allow her to be with her son again, and hold him in her arms.

As I belong to the unfortunate club of having a dead child, there are a few points that I’d like to expand on. The first is the emphasis on theological pessimism. “if she kept her covenants.” I think a very important point here is the notion of sealing parents and children has never been closeted in joint faithfulness. And of course in the case of an infant, there is no applicable faith clause. How sealing is preserved in that case is not clear, but the idea is embedded in the way we consider sealing dissolution: each has a blessing, independent of the other, as odd as this may sound.

A trickier thing is how the news impacted the sister. Everyone experiences grief in different ways. Establishing an expectation that sealing negates that grief in part or whole places a stumbling block in the way of many grieving loved ones. For many, mortal grief is not relieved by the notion of sealing, and scripture acknowledges such differences.

Finally, the idea that children will be resurrected as children has a very problematic history, one that I have studied with some depth. I don’t think establishing an expectation of infants returned to faithful parents as infants is bad or even wrong. I’m sure it may be classed as “doctrine” whatever that means in Mormonism. But historically it is problematic. Perhaps it is innocuous because it feels good to many, and can’t by definition, be tested (like much of faith).

I’m not critical of the speech. I think it has much to offer. But there are some aspects that deserve discussion, more than those I’ve singled out here.


  1. My initial thought was that whoever taught this young family could have done a better job with temple prep. If they didn’t know that the son born after the sealing would be automatically sealed to them, that’s because someone had the opportunity to tell them, but didn’t. So much unnecessary anguish could have been prevented.

  2. Joni, that’s a good point. It supports the notion that teaching is by no means uniform.

  3. frank mcleskey says:

    I that it is unconscionable for the LDS to tout their theology/doctrine that only members who keep their covenants will be with family members in the hereafter- that is in no Bible scripture and in fact is contradicted by Jesus Himself. When He said I go to prepare a place for you He meant it for everyone who belongs to Him and there are millions upon millions beyond Mormonism who will be with the Lord. Why put God in a theology “box” and think you know who are His. I trust His word and thus am assured members of my family will be in the Heavenlies together.

  4. Frank, “there are millions upon millions beyond Mormonism who will be with the Lord.” I share that faith.

  5. Frank: my basis for rejecting the idea is the line from the D&C that even the lowest degree of glory (the telestial) will be *better* than our current mortal earth life. We live in families here on earth; Catholics and Muslims and atheists love their spouses and children just as much as Mormons do (on average, anyway). There is *no way* God can offer the non-celestial levels of exaltation a *better* experience than mortality while simultaneously taking away families.

  6. WVS, Please expand on this: “the notion of sealing parents and children has never been closeted in joint faithfulness.” That is the exact opposite of the joint faithfulness teaching (with respect at least to adults and their parents) that I have encountered repeatedly among my parents’ generation and mine. Are there any “official” sources for either of these opposites?

  7. A Happy Hubby says:

    I also had the thought of “what? Her child is going to be resurrected as an adult, not as a needy child needing to be ‘raised’ by their resurrected parents from earth.

    But then again, I am struggling why God would start with “by default everyone is going to be deprived of their closest relations after you die no matter how you lived your life UNLESS some man has said a few words saying you can”. I just can’t get my head around such a God.

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