I posted 2 more interesting conversations with BYU professor Dr. Richard Bennett this week. I must say that I was real surprised to hear him tell me that Spiritualism may have influenced the idea to do endowments for the dead. You can listen here, iTunes, or YouTube.
Spiritualism, the practice of communing with the dead, adulterated today by Ouija boards and things like this and telekinesis and paranormal, but Spiritualism is well-known in American history as flowering after the Civil War with so many dead and lost and the great desire of many families to know what happened to their sons or their fathers or their brothers.
In the 1870s there’s a lot of comment by general authorities, leaders of the church, particularly Orson Pratt about this is a counterfeit, but it has its place. We understand why people are seeking the dead. Was that a factor in the beginning of endowments for the dead for the church in 1877? I claim that it may have been one of the factors to begin to address how we really think about them. There is redemption for the dead but it’s not that way. So was it a factor? I argue that it probably was one of the factors.
Have you ever heard this before?
We also discussed why early Mormons chose to be sealed to general authorities like Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and others, rather than their ancestors as we do today.
Baptism for the dead opened that door, to actually begin to do ordinances for the dead. But could we be sealed to our ancestors like we do today? We take it so for granted. You’re just being sealed to your ancestors. Well if they’re not receiving the gospel, we don’t want to take the risk of being sealed to them because what’s going to happen to us if they don’t accept the gospel?
Until it became clear that the fullness of the gospel was being taught to them, the deceased, and that they were receiving the fullness of the ordinances, better be on the safe side and be sealed to a living prophet or a deceased prophet maybe like Joseph Smith and we’ll be sealed. Until we know more clearly what’s going to happen, let’s be sealed to the prophetic priesthood lineage of the prophet Joseph priesthood claim and therefore it’s a done deal. Can I use that term? It’s a safer way than, we don’t know what’s happening to our ancestors. That’s going to change as we learn better and more clearly, especially in 1877 with Wilford Woodruff when he announces that from now on, we’re going to do endowments for the dead. We don’t begin to do endowments for the dead until 1877. That’s 40 years after Nauvoo, 30 years after Nauvoo.
I don’t think you can talk about the Law of Adoption without understanding the development of the doctrine of the Spirit World and the doctrine of the gospel being taught in the Spirit World, which really doesn’t come to fruition in our doctrine and our history until Joseph F. Smith’s great revelation in 1918 and what was going on in the spirit world. It’s a progressive doctrine about the souls of men and women that are living in the spirit world.
Were you aware that this is why church members were sealed to prophets and other general authorities? What are your thoughts on these changes in temple ordinances?