NCT reader question: Eternal families paradox?

April 15, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 9:46 am   Category: Theology

One of our regular readers/participants, V the K, sent me this email recently. I figured I would put it up for all to respond:

I brought up this question in Sunday School yesterday, and no one had an answer for it beyond “there are just some things we don’t understand.” I wondered if you knew where it might have been addressed before. I did a search on New Cool Thang, but did not see it discussed. Here is the paradox:

1. Families are eternal, and once sealed together families are together for eternity.
2. BUT: After judgment, some of us are assigned to the Celestial Kingdom, some to the Terrestrial, and some to the Telestial.

OK, so if I’m judged worthy of the terrestrial Kingdom and one of my sons is assigned to the Celestial Kingdom and another to the Telestial Kingdom, then we’ve been separated, haven’t we?

I appreciate any insight you can bring to bear on this.


  1. Here is my take on it. As I understand the teaching of Joseph Smith we have all already lived forever and I assume it was together prior to our coming here. So we arrive here born into earthly families; the question is what happens to those family organizations after this life. As I understand the covenants, none of us are actually sealed to our spouses yet — rather we have a promise of a seal if we fully keep our covenants. Yes, I realize that conditional aspect of family sealings could put a kink in the feel-good message of forever families we like to focus on, but as I mentioned, it seems to me that we already have been together forever and it is hard to deny the conditional aspect of some blessings.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2008 @ 9:53 am

  2. The question asked causes me to ponder the idea of progression between kingdoms. I’ve wondered about since joining the church. The information I’ve seen about this idea is conflicted, some past GA’s have argued on this idea’s behalf and some against. However, there is an often repeated promise that if we do all we can as parents and live worthily, we will have our children with us even if they stray. I cannot see this as possible if there is no eventual progression from lower to higher kingdoms. Plus, what is the purpose of the inhabitants of higher kingdoms ministering to thos in lesser kingdoms if they cannot ever progress? Maybe the together forever part happens after we’ve all learned whatever it is that is necessary to progress, hopefully sooner than later.

    Comment by john scherer — April 15, 2008 @ 10:04 am

  3. Geoff J. is correct. Any ordinance is conditional upon faithfulness of the parties involved. The sealing ordinance qualifies us to have the Holy Spirit of Promise ratify and confirm the promises of the ordinance. So, the simple answer is: “Yes. You have been separated – because one or more of you have not met the conditions necessary to enjoy the promised blessing.” As I understand, the links in the family chain will only join those who have been true and faithful in all the things required; i.e., the patriarchal order may skip a generation or two, etc. But, because of the eternal nature of our being, we will know what has been done is right.

    Comment by mondo cool — April 15, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  4. Depends on which era we are talking about. Before the Law of Adoption was repealed in 1894, the doctrine was that you could only live in the Celestial Kingdom by being sealed to someone that was there. Folks like BY and HCK believed that they had enough power to bring their wayward children into the Celestial Kingdom with them (think about Joseph’s discourse about being tricky and sealing as many as we can to us).

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 15, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  5. I was once taught that those in the higher kingdoms could visit those in the lower kingdoms, but not vice versa. So the family would be intact with people living in Utah being able to visit people in californina, but not vice versa. ;-)

    Comment by John — April 15, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  6. Here is an answer to a similar question:

    “What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce? What happens to the children in the next life?”

    James A. Cullimore, “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Dec. 1975, 14–15

    Answer/Elder James A. Cullimore

    As to the first question, “What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce?” we should understand that there is no such thing as a temple divorce. What we refer to as a temple divorce is in fact a cancellation of a temple sealing. When a couple is married in the temple, they not only satisfy the law of the land as to a legal civil marriage, but they are also sealed for time and all eternity in an eternal relationship.

    A civil divorce nullifies the marriage so far as the civil law is concerned, but only by a mandate of the president of the Church can the sealing of the couple be cancelled. A cancellation of the sealing is what we are really referring to when we talk about a temple divorce.

    When one has been granted a civil divorce after his temple sealing, he must be cleared by the First Presidency before he can be granted a temple recommend by his bishop. After a divorce clearance has been granted by the First Presidency, an application for a cancellation of the temple sealing might be made to the president of the Church. Normally it is the woman who seeks a cancellation of sealing. Since a woman cannot be sealed to two men at the same time, she must have a cancellation of sealing from one before she can be sealed to another.

    As to the next question, “What happens to the children in the next life when there has been a cancellation of sealing of the parents?” it is understood that in the case of a cancellation of the sealing of the woman to the man, this does not cancel the sealing of the children to the parents, since they were born in the covenant, which is a birthright blessing. They remain in the status of the sealing to their parents and can never be sealed to anyone else. The decision as to with whom they will go will be determined by the Lord in the hereafter.

    Regarding being born in the covenant the General Handbook of Instructions states, “Children born in the covenant cannot be sealed to anyone, but belong to their natural parents. This rule is not altered by adoption, consent of the natural parents, request of the child after becoming of age or death of the natural parents.” (P. 101.)

    It should be kept in mind that to be born in the covenant is a birthright blessing, and that if a child remains worthy in this life of celestial blessings, regardless of the actions of his parents, he is assured of that birthright and is guaranteed eternal parentage. One’s worthiness in this life through living the gospel and keeping the commandments, in this as in all things, is the key to eternal life.

    Comment by Rick — April 15, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  7. I disagree with statement one of the email. Families are only eternal if they live worthily of it regardless of whether they have been sealed or not. Therefore, I see no paradox.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 15, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  8. Part of the answer may turn on how we define the eternal family. If the eternal family consists of a husband, wife and kids, sealing the parents and children makes no eternal sense in practice, to me at least. (It makes for a nice picture, but falls apart under a little scrutiny.) For the purpose of this hypo, assume everyone makes it to the CK. If the eternal family includes children, what does it mean that I am sealed to my parents and my wife is sealed to her parents? Am I still the property of my sealed parents, with some type of obligations to them? Do I return to my parents as their BIC child and does my wife return to her parents as their BIC child? What effect will that have on my temple marriage? Do I return to my parents, to whom I sealed, to complete our eternal family and does my wife return to her parents to complete that eternal family? If so, what effect will that have on my temple marriage? Can I bring my wife with me, and if so, where does that leave her dad? Can my FIL call my wife home as his sealed daughter and do I have to go with her? (Man, I hope not.) As I see it, the parent-child sealing is almost meaningless in the CK, or any other kingdom. It may bestow something special in this life in families blessed with these covenants (I happen to think it does); but, as I see it now, it holds little if any value in the CK or any other kingdom. As I understand things, the parent child sealing and husband-wfie sealing are really incompatible, to the extent the sealing binds a person to another person. And that applies regardless of the kingdom a parent and his or her child are assigned.

    Comment by rbc — April 15, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

  9. rbc,

    Your hypothetical makes not sense to me. If everyone is together in the celestial kingdom then we could all live as couples in one big happy extended family right?

    The issues is what happens when family members end up in different kingdoms and the majority opinion stated so far has been that sealings don’t count in the absence of freely living the celestial law.


    The problem is that the comments to the contrary that Stapley mentioned in #4 get trotted out regularly in GC still. That causes the paradox unless we are willing to dismiss those comments as inaccurate theological statements intended to comfort the grieving.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

  10. Here is the quote by Orson F. Whitney that we hear most often on the subject (including from President Faust):

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared-and he never taught more comforting doctrine-that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Conference Report, April 1929)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  11. In a sense if in Celestial glory we have the right to association then Celestial marriage and sealing is a bit anti-climatic. However one could argue that’s true of marriage in general. Knowing that the kind of commitment and association we can have here applies there is poignant though. And goes well beyond being able to associate with whom we wish.

    Comment by Clark — April 15, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  12. Geoff, that statement of Whitney is based on one version of Joseph’s August 13, 1843 sermon at the death of Judge Higby. In other versions of the same sermon, however, the promise is made conditional.

    See The Words of Joseph Smith page 300 n. 19:

    “When the Church historians amalgamated the entries from the Joseph Smith Diary and the William Clayton Diary to create the version of this discourse that was published, the passage that the blessings conferred by the ordinance of sealing parents and children was unconditional. The wording of the published version suggests that the children of parents who receive the fullness of the priesthood can never fall. This previously unpublished, more complete account of the Prophet’s idea does contain a conditional. Clearly this is a more reasonable and consistent doctrine: if it were not for such a conditional, the concept would contradict significant doctrines taught by Joseph Smith, not the least of which would be a contradiction of his article of faith that ‘men will be punished for their own sins.’ “

    Comment by Randy B. — April 15, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  13. I believe that the quote cited by Orson Whitney (and since recited by others) is actually a misquote from Joseph. I cannot put my hands on it where I am, but in the multiple accounts of Joseph’s address listed in WJS, one of the hearers recorded a key phrase that was omitted by the “official” version, i.e., that children would be saved by their parents’ sealing “if the children did not transgress.” This phrase makes the sealing doctrine coherent with the doctrine of agency, among others.

    Comment by Rick — April 15, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  14. By the way, I’d link to the passage in The Words of Joseph Smith, but it looks like the BYU Religious Study Center must have taken it off their website.


    (Fortunately, I downloaded the book when they first put it up.)

    Comment by Randy B. — April 15, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  15. Nice pull on the quote Geoff.

    Personally I think that applies well and great until final judgement. So I think it is true enough in the here and now but is not absolute.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 15, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  16. I see three possible ways to reconcile the paradox:

    1. The Whitney quote is simply wrong. Even if it does not represent Joseph’s teaching, it has been repeated often enough in recent years that it seems to represent the current teaching of the Church. Hence, dismissing it as inaccurate is a risky venture.

    2. There is progression between kingdoms. Despite that view’s popularity on this site, I would point out that the inevitability of the progression implied by the Whitney quote severely impinges upon the child’s free will–another concept that is popular on this site. You can’t have it both ways.

    3. The kingdoms are not defined geographically, but rather by the nature of the beings who inhabit them (e.g., the plant “kingdom” and the animal “kingdom”). That analogy can’t be carried very far, but does illustrate how we might be misinterpreting the term “kingdom”.

    Comment by Last Lemming — April 15, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

  17. I agree that the promise of eternal family is conditional. And also that it loses some of its charm once you think about the details.

    However, all is not lost. If you (or one you love) cannot be with your family in the celestial kingdom, you can always hang out with Stapley’s family in the terrestrial. Or with mine in the telestial.

    Comment by Matt Jacobsen — April 15, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

  18. Whew. Glad I downloaded before it went down as well. I wonder why they took it down?

    Comment by Clark — April 15, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

  19. For those interested, here are some versions of what Joseph Smith actually said in that August 13 1843 sermon:

    A measure of this sealing is to confirm upon their head in common with Elijah the doctrine of election or the covenant with Abraham — which which when a Father & mother of a family have entered into their children who have not transgressed are secured by the seal wherewith the Parents have been sealed.
    (Howard and Martha Coray notebook; WoJS 241)

    Judge Higbee would say that covenants either there or here must be made in view of eternity and the Covenant sealed on the fore heads of the Parents secured the children from falling that they shall all sit upon thrones as one with the God-head joint Heirs of God with Jesus Christ

    This principle is revealed also through the covenant of Abraham and his children This is also the blessing and consolation of the Mourners
    (Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items”; WoJS 241)

    Also where it says and they shall seal the servants of God in their foreheads &c it means to seal the blessing on their heads meaning the everlasting covenant thereby making their calling & election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother it secures their posterity so that they cannot be lost but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father.
    (William Clayton Diary; WoJS 242)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

  20. re: 9

    If we all end up as couples, and I agree we do, what is the point of sealing kids to parents?

    Comment by rbc — April 15, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  21. Speak for yourself (#17), tele-boy!

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 15, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  22. rbc: and I agree we do, what is the point of sealing kids to parents?

    Hehe. I have no idea. Maybe it has marketing value here on earth…?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  23. LL (#16),

    I vote for all of the above. I think the idea is theologically untenable because it would require overriding free will. But I do think that with progression between kingdoms and eternally persistent free will something similar to the notion Elder Whitney was pushing is possible via our never giving up on our loved ones throughout all eternity.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 15, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

  24. Nineteenth century leaders described those being born in the covenant or those who were adopted in the temple as being “legal heirs” to the priesthood. If you are not “legal heir” then you are a bastard.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 15, 2008 @ 5:48 pm

  25. …I would also add that being an heir to the priesthood was a requirement for the formal designation of exaltation (priests/priestesses).

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 15, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  26. …then you are a bastard.

    Classic Orson Pratt.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 15, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  27. re: 22, Would that marketing strategy be “bait and switch?” It is common to hear, even during GC at times, and often expressed very emotionally, that families are sealed together forever, even though it doesn’t really quite work out that way.

    Comment by rbc — April 16, 2008 @ 3:55 am

  28. Geoff:

    There is a song that might go well with this post. Something like – if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. :)

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 16, 2008 @ 5:33 am

  29. My basic understanding of why parents are sealed to children is that the whole of the human family can be linked in “one great chain”. I think a lot of the value of this is lost as the Church forgets our roots in patriarchy. Even now, I have trouble wrapping my brain around the traditionalist ideas inherent to it.

    Personally, I think a modern reason for these ordinances is for the comforting of parents who’s lost their children, that they will have them again in eternity.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2008 @ 7:36 am

  30. rbc: Would that marketing strategy be “bait and switch?”

    No, no it wouldn’t. Bait and switch means deceiving people with false promises. I don’t see any of that here. If several generations of a family all become celestial people with their spouses then they will indeed be together forever right? Where’s the switch in that scenario? True, we would all be adults so age differences would presumably go away, but I fail to see what you are getting so bent out of shape about with that.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2008 @ 8:36 am

  31. re: 30 I’m not the least bit bent out of shape, and if my comments come across that way, I apologize. Perhaps bait and switch was too strong a term with its implication of dishonesty, which I don’t think is the case. While said in jest, I happen to think #28 captures it very well. In the CK, or any other kingdom, we will be free to develop new relationship(s) or strengthen existing relationship(s) in any way we want, regardless of any sealing that may have occurred in this life. (Which raises the question of the possibility of voluntarily terminating a sealing in the next life or even in the spirit world. What happens if my wife pre-deceases me and meets someone in the spirit world, before I get there, and with whom she falls in love and would rather be with? Can she terminate our sealing from the other side, and boy will I be in for a surprise if she can. For me the reverse scenario is easy, at least as I understand things now-I simply add another wife: at least easy in theory, much different in practice.)

    Comment by rbc — April 16, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  32. Here’s Pres. Faust’s take on the Whitney quote:

    “A principle in this statement that is often overlooked is that they must fully repent and “suffer for their sins” and “pay their debt to justice.” I recognize that now is the time “to prepare to meet God.” 9 If the repentance of the wayward children does not happen in this life, is it still possible for the cords of the sealing to be strong enough for them yet to work out their repentance? In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,

    “‘And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.’

    “We remember that the prodigal son wasted his inheritance, and when it was all gone he came back to his father’s house. There he was welcomed back into the family, but his inheritance was spent. 11 Mercy will not rob justice, and the sealing power of faithful parents will only claim wayward children upon the condition of their repentance and Christ’s Atonement. Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is much more. It must be fully earned. The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in His mercy.”

    The conference talk is here:

    Comment by britain — April 16, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  33. Now my take on the subject is more like this:

    A sealed family is only sealed because of what it means about the parents: They are parents who truly have lived worthy of their sealing and can use the power of God to bring their children home, like Alma the Elder did.

    Naturally, I’m talking about a level of righteousness beyond the promise of a sealing if faithful. Couples would need their calling and election made sure in order to have the same power Jacob had (“trees obey us”) and Nephi had (cause a drought) to intervene in their children’s lives.

    I believe these are the “tentacles of divine providence” that Joseph referred to.

    Still, you don’t have to have your calling and election made sure to petition the Lord for intervening in your children’s lives. Indeed, you probably won’t ever have your calling and election made sure unless you do!

    Comment by britain — April 16, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  34. Interesting take britain. I think it works well if we assume progression between kingdoms. But it is less feasible for the no progression between kingdoms crowd (unless they are willing to basically give up on the idea of free will — something a shocklingly large number of people seem willing to do…)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2008 @ 11:10 am

  35. Geoff, I think the “no progression” group doesn’t necassarily mean the “no interaction” group, or am I misunderstanding you?

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  36. I don’t really understand what you mean Matt.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  37. Geoff, it is a common view that Celestial beings can visit Terrestrial and Telestial but not vice versa. I suspect that’s Matt’s point.

    Comment by Clark — April 16, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  38. I get that point Clark, but who would count such visiting rights as being “together forever”?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  39. In reference to the idea that we are saved as couples and not whole families – just live long enough here and you will start to experience that. My wife and I are just a couple again – 6 kids later – but we are a wholly different couple than we were when we started out 30 years ago. We live alone in our own ‘kingdom’ but are closely associated with other ‘kingdoms’ that are beautifully separate from ours, yet part of ours. We aren’t really ‘saved as couples’only, but are saved as couples who are bound with other couples in some heirarchal/patriarchal way.

    Comment by Hal — April 16, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  40. I don’t think we fully understand what being together forever really means.

    I mean, if it’s just being able to enjoy one another’s company, what’s the point of the sealing? We’ve got our pop culture idea of heaven already providing that for free!

    If it means a couple can continue to have children, then why does being sealed to your children from mortality matter? In this case, it’s an eternal marriage that counts, not a sealed nuclear family.

    If the patriarchal order is the real reason behind it, what does that really mean? That my father will continue to preside over my brother and I, and I’ll preside over my children? But if we’re all living in the Celestial Kingdom, why can’t the Lord preside personally? Isn’t that even the point of the personal millenial reign?

    And at that point, if we are really one with Christ the way He is one with the Father, isn’t one exalted patriarch as good as another? (I guess that’s why the Lord doesn’t have to preside personally to each member of the Celestial Kingdom.)

    So, it seems to me, that being sealed together has more to do with problems & solutions here in mortality, with a promise of “happily ever after” if you follow the Lord’s plan.

    Comment by britain — April 16, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  41. Geoff #38, I’ll grant you it doesn’t add up to some romanticized notion of together forever for the no progression between kingdoms group.

    If I took the no progression stance, I’d probably qualify it with some caveats as to what it meant to be in seperate degrees of glory. I mean, it seems to me that if the degrees of glory are primarily a message to us about our relative closeness to God the Father, the same things that would keep us from interacting with him as a celestial being (his perfectness causing us to shrink away) would happen with other celestial beings. (If I would shrink away from my Heavenly Father, wouldn’t I also shrink from my immortal celestial mother?)

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  42. Matt,

    What you are describing (being ministering angels to relatives in lower kingdoms in a no-progression between kingdoms universe) not only doesn’t “add up to some romanticized notion of together forever”, it doesn’t pass the sniff test to be considered anything like together forever. Rather, it mostly sound like not together forever to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  43. britain (#40),

    Good points all around. I will point to this post about some old ideas that would at least explain why being sealed to a spouse could be necessary.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  44. Thanks for the link. Those are good quotes, especially the Snow quote.

    But just to be clear, being sealed to a spouse is the only part that I think I do understand. It’s the part about being sealed to our children that only makes sense to me in an “Alma the Elder has connections that will enable Alma the Younger to be humbled” sort of way.

    Comment by britain — April 16, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  45. Thanks for the replies. I’m still confused… but I like the tentacles thing.

    Comment by V the K — April 16, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  46. No theology is complete without tentacles! :)

    Comment by britain — April 17, 2008 @ 8:18 am

  47. I believe that being sealed to our spouse is more meaningful than being sealed to our children. IN an eternal sense, these children belong to Heavenly Father more than to us. In a way we are babysitting for Him during mortality.

    It may be different when we are having our own spirit children :)

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 17, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  48. As something to think about for those who are thinking of Spousal Sealing about Parent Child Sealing, it’s interesting to note that the sealed union in the Godhead we know the most about is between a Father and a Son, rather than Husband and Wife.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 17, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  49. I don’t read all the posts here at NCT so I apologize if you have talked about this in an older post. But from what I can understand one of the main purposes behind Sealing, is for the resurrection, and enabling our ancestors to help us in this life.

    I thought this was what Joseph Smith was doing with the Sealing of all the early apostles, and others, as his Sons. So when the Resurrection happens, Christ will resurrect Joseph, who in turn resurrects everyone sealed to him, on down the line. So we will actually be resurrecting our children who are sealed to us. That is one reason for the sealing.

    As far as the sealing to be eternal families, I feel personally this is just a big happy warm and fuzzy feel good thing. Which practicality lies in what I just explained.

    Comment by Dallas — April 17, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  50. Dallas:

    Isn’t resurrection going to be universal, whether one is sealed or not?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 17, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  51. Ultimately, yes, but in what order? Who gets to be risen in the morning – and by whom? Who has to wait until the end?

    Comment by britain — April 17, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  52. Re # 50:

    Yes, the resurrection is universal. But at what time during the Millennium will this occur? The millennium is a time for temple work and therefore sealings. Giving everyone a chance to have the temple work done and be sealed, so they can also be resurrected.

    Comment by Dallas — April 18, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  53. 47:

    But what if the flow of blessings the sealing sets up between parents and children is two-way? What if the sealing not only passes the blessings of the fathers to the children, but also sets up a scheme whereby every good thing the child does adds to the glory and honor of the parents?

    Comment by JimD — April 18, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  54. Although not directly addressing the question at hand, I have a similar question. I have heard it taught that couples who both go to the same kingdom other than the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (the second kingdom in the celestial kingdom for example) will never see each other again, because they are required to lived not only “singly” but “separately.” This brings up an interesting question, is God going to keep track of where they are so that they don’t run into each other? Also, what if with time they come to care for someone else, will they also be separated so that there is no “living together”? Some have suggested that the second and third celestial kingdoms are sexually segregated, one for males and one for females. If the intent is to keep people who love each other apart, what about gay people? Will they be put a group consisting only of the other sex. I think the teaching is all a bunch of foolishness, but it is taught by some. Does anyone have an authorative source for the idea that those who were married and still love each other will not be allowed to associate with one another because they were not saved in the highest kingdom?

    Comment by Dennison — April 21, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

  55. As a follow-up, some crank in another forum is insisting that polygamy in the afterlife is a “secret doctrine” of the church. Has anyone else ever heard this?

    Comment by V the K — April 23, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  56. V the K,

    It is not accurate to say it is a “secret doctrine” of the church. Whether or not polygamy will be practice in heaven is an open question. Many early leaders of the church made very strong statements about polygamy being required for exaltation. As is natural, when polygamy was in widespread practice it was “magnified” in importance, just as it was downplayed after it was discontinued. Part of that is simply human nature. Another interesting aspect is that for many years pressure was growing nationally to make polygamy illegal and use that to squash the Mormons out in Utah. The LDS position at the time was that they had a constitutional right to practice polygamy because it was part of their religion. Making polygamy a saving doctrine tied to exaltation strengthed that argument and this was another factor playing into the statements of some of the early leaders.

    Even though the practice of polygamy was discountinued around the turn of the century, we continue to allow one man to marry a second wife for eternity if the first wife has passed away. This, of course, could imply that there is polygamy in heaven. However, some members, like Eugene England, have argued that polygamy will not exist in the celestial kingdom (I linked to his paper in this post). The thing is, this is hardly a secret doctrine. It is openly discussed in papers like the one I just referred to and it gets discussed in the bloggernacle all the time. To emphasize how frequently this comes up, I need look no further than a post from this week to find a post that mentions the possibility of polygamy in heaven.

    Hope that helps.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 23, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  57. This is an interesting discussion. While reading this I had the idea occur to me that perhaps the degrees of glory are not separate places, but separate stages of our soul. Maybe we will all be together in one space, able to interact with each other, but we all feel internally different, according to what kingdom we are assigned to. A ‘kingdom’ may not necessarily be a specific place in space.

    Comment by Innocent bystander — April 24, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  58. Dallin Oaks in his PBS interview seems to leave the question somewhat open. Here is the question he was asked and how he responded.

    HW: There still is some confusion that polygamy is definitively and unequivocally disallowed in this world. What will happen in the next? There is a perception that polygamy is part of the afterlife. Could you talk a little about that?

    DHO: If I talked about that I’d be making doctrinal statements where the prophet has not chosen to make doctrinal statements, so I think I shouldn’t say anything except to affirm that a lot of people, myself included, are in multiple-marriage situations. Look at the significance of that. There are a lot of people that live on this earth that have been married to more than one person. Sometimes those marriages have ended with death; sometimes they’ve ended with divorce. What does the next life mean to them in relation to a covenant they once made and so on? I don’t think those people have much of an answer for that question. It might not bother them because they don’t believe that people will live as married couples in the next life. And if they don’t make and live for the covenants to do that, [as for themselves] they’re right! But for people who live in the belief, as I do, that marriage relations can be for eternity, then you must say, “What will life be in the next life, when you’re married to more than one wife for eternity?” I have to say I don’t know. But I know that I’ve made those covenants, and I believe if I am true to the covenants that the blessing that’s anticipated here will be realized in the next life. How? Why, I don’t know.

    Comment by Dennison — April 24, 2008 @ 2:40 pm