Dr. Jonathan Stapley devotes an entire chapter in his book, The Power of Godliness, to baby blessings. Given that baby blessings are not considered salvific, why spend so much time on that? Jonathan says it was his favorite chapter of the book!
Jonathan: There’s this exchange of letters between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer in Zion. Whitmer is the ward clerk. He has a Book of Remembrance. Book of Remembrance is the book that Adam creates. And so, he has this sacred document in which he is to inscribe the inheritance of Zion. And if you come to Zion, you receive an inheritance, that is your inheritance for time and eternity, while the earth shall stand and in eternity when it’s renewed. When babies are blessed, their name is written in the Book of Remembrance and they receive this inheritance. They’re essentially brought into this salvific community where salvation is no longer an individual affair. But it’s not really an individual affair in Mormonism ever. But this explicitly communal salvation, in Zion that’s just really remarkable and that Zion essentially fails. The Zion project, burns, and the saints moved to Illinois. And we have the Nauvoo Temple liturgy and the cosmological priesthood that reorders the world and universe of Latter-day Saints. We see the baby blessing becoming an annunciation of children’s sealed position in the cosmological priesthood.
Had you considered that? That leads us to talking about sealings, especially child to parent sealings, such as born in the covenant. In early Mormonism, these bonds were considered permanent (as Dr. Bill Smith mentioned.) John D. Lee was sealed as an adopted son of Brigham Young, but Lee also participated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. What is his status?
Jonathan: Brigham Young has to wrestle with this. Well, is this a persevering relationship? And faced with that reality, he says, “No. You guys have to…” He gets up. And he’s like, “Oh, you people that are sealed to me, yes indeed. You can’t get on my coattails. You have to do your work.” Right? But on the one hand, but on the other hand he’s saying, “my kids are totally in.”
We will also talk about the protestant ideas of Calvinism and Arminianism. How does Mormonism fit in with those paradigms?
Jonathan: Calvinism is this idea that, you know, to the modern perspective, once you are saved, you are saved always and you cannot fall from grace. And Arminians were like, well, you can certainly backslide. Like you can be saved and then screw up then backslide. And the challenge is that for everybody, for every Christian, no matter what sort of soft theology you adhere to, is that we all know folks that are burning converts that are regenerated and have the faith. And that also ended up being just complete jerks and falling away, right? And the Calvinists would perhaps say, “Well, he never really was saved in the first place.” He was never elect. Right?
And the Methodist, the Arminian would say, well, he was certainly saved, but he then backslid and fell from grace. And the question is, how does that—he explicitly referenced, Joseph Smith explicitly references these two ideas and then places the sealing in between. And I think how one way to think about this is that sealings in as much as they materialized, heaven, they created, literally heaven. It doesn’t exist anywhere outside of the creation of these sealed networks. If I am sealed into the network of heaven, I have a place there. And then if I backslide, so the discussion with these early sins being persevering, that once you are part of heaven, you cannot be taken away. You persevere in heaven. The idea is, at least in section 132, is that you can backslide, but your place in heaven is still there and there’s strong language that destruction of flesh and, all these, like warnings, right?
Are Mormon sealings considered permanent today? Are our marriage bonds sealing our children into heaven? What do you think? Can BIC save children in heaven?