Tomorrow, I am teaching Elder’s Quorum lesson #38 “Eternal Families”- and have decided, after reading Jonathan Stapley’s incredible article this week, to review the history thereof. Sadly, I don’t have Sam Brown’s accompanying article, so am relying on Gordon Irving’s earlier work for that piece of it.
Anyway, here is my simple timeline for my lesson (emphasis on my trying to keep it simple). Can anyone with access to Sam’s article, or with direct knowledge, help me out and make sure I don’t have any outdated concepts in my history. (like no adoptions before 1845 or the role of the concept of polygamy)
1830- Joseph Smith founds the Church.
1832- The concept of salvation is revealed to include three degrees of glory, the highest requiring Baptism to be included in God’s family. It is revealed that Jesus preached to them that were dead. (D&C 76)
1836-Those who died without opportunity to receive the Gospel are eligible for the Celestial Kingdom. (HC 2:380-81)
1837- Those who are baptized are adopted into God’s family. (P. Pratt, A voice of warning)
1840- Joseph teaches that the saints can be baptized for and in behalf of those who are dead.
1842- Joseph teaches that baptism for the dead links generations together.
1843- The highest degree of salvation consists of family connections, the concept of being sealed for time and all eternity as a couple is introduced, and it is announced that when the temple is completed, children can be sealed to parents therein. Other ordinances, like endowment and sealing are performed in Smith’s upper room of the Red Brick Store. Those initiated into this include Emma and the Q12. This group forms a new quorum of the priesthood, including the women.
1844- Exaltation dependent on being part of the great family chain extending back to Adam and Eve. Children that are born in the covenant are a part of the great chain. When we are sealed together we are adopted into the great chain. (also referred to as the Patriarchal Chain or Patriarchal Priesthood) Joseph Smith dies before temple is completed.
1845- Temple Completed. Over 5k endowments performed, over 1k sealings, and ~100 adoptions. Adoption is a sealing of one man to another as a son to a father. Ex.- Wilford Woodruff sealed to Brigham Young. This is done, because at this time, no post-mortal ordaining to the priesthood. Similar to reasoning for polygamy, it is about connecting people to the great chain.
1847- Brigham Young, traveling west, is not sure he understands adoption. He is frustrated because adoption has become a social status symbol, with the more people adopted to you increasing your status, (this is because adoption is being treated as a social obligation to support the father in the adoptive relationship by the son). Brigham prays for revelation and has a vision of Joseph Smith who explains it as a method of organizing God’s family in the heavens.
1848-1877- Brigham preaches against those seeking to increase their stature via adoption, and holds it as an ordinance that can only be done in the temple (sealings and endowments were, at that time, allowed in other venues), and that it would not be fully realized until the millennium. In this time, there is much confusion about the ordinance and how the eternal family organization works.
1877- St. George Temple is dedicated. Ordinance of Adoption is performed therein. Practice becomes, over time, that adoption is the term used for any sealing of parent to child not born in the covenant, and further that a father who does not have the priesthood cannot be an adoptive father. It is general practice that general authorities are sealed back to Joseph Smith, and the other people are mainly sealed to general authorities. Brigham Young passes away.
1877-1894- Heber C. Kimball and John Taylor are on record wondering why they cannot be adopted to their own family lines. There is still concern about adoptive family size as a status symbol. John Taylor requires first presidency approval for any adoption ordinance.
1894- Wilford Woodruff, in general conference, calls for adoptions not to be done to general authorities, but to those who were our biological parents, and only when we got as far back as possible, would adoption to Joseph Smith be done. Genealogical Society of Utah formed, beginning modern family history as we know it. Adoption is better understood, not as a pyramid, but as all being adopted into God’s family as an interconnected network.
1918- Joseph F. Smith has a vision of Christ’s visit to the spirit world, recorded in D&C 138, which adds nuance to the importance of our work in the spirit world and of the greater eternal family.
1918-2011- Members are often reminded that no member suffers for being unable to be sealed to a spouse in this life. (Lorenzo Snow, Boyd K. Packer, Spencer W. Kimball) Members are taught that children with parents that leave the church do not lose their “Born in the Covenant” Status. (Ezra Taft Benson)