In which I ask a Seventy a question

May 3, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 9:35 pm   Category: Life

A few months ago, I enjoyed being in a Question and Answer session with Elder Anderson of the Presidency of the Seventy, as our stake was split, This weekend he has returned as we are being moved from our stake into another Stake, which is also splitting. Having anticipated this meeting for some time, I began compiling a list of questions I’d ask him, some about things like the second anointing, others about theodicies, others still about the atonement and pre-mortal life, but this morning, I felt a strong prompting to ask my wife what to ask, and she laid out her concern, which I am sure our sisters over at Zelophehad’s Daughters could empathize with. So feeling prompted by the Spirit, I asked Elder Anderson tonight in the Stake General Priesthood meeting:


Elder Anderson, you mentioned the recent publicity we’ve been receiving, and the response to that. One thing we had not anticipated was the response from the members of the church. In the Temple, we know that a man who is sealed to his wife, can be sealed to another woman after his wife has past on. How do we assure our wives that they are not inferior and are loved equally by their Father in Heaven?

I did my best to write down his response:

We don’t know totally, and we may never know.

(At this point, he turned the time over to an Area Authority Seventy, as is his custom, to address me. The Area Authority ventured an opinion about the number of righteous men and women, but was very humbly rebuked by Elder Anderson, gently telling him to say it was his opinion and not doctrine, at which point the Area Authority fell back to “We don’t know”. I should mention that the Area Authority was a very likeable man, and I was impressed by Elder Anderson’s gentleway of softly correcting him. I also like dthe Area Authority because he encouraged reading with our children and emphasized that just reading the scriptures didn’t count, saying we needed to be more well rounded than that. Anyway, I digress. Elder Anderson then continued)

I honestly don’t know. In my late teens I was at a conference, surrounded by African Americans asking me questions about the priesthood. I gave an answer then the best I could. Frankly, looking back, I am embarrassed by it. (I think he was trying to imply he did not want to venture another opinion as such) We have three Apostles who are currently sealed to more than one woman. Will the Lord continue this practice, we don’t know. We have to go forward with Faith. There is a scripture, which reads, “Even as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, God’s ways are higher than our ways.” I don’t know. I trust the First Presidency and that God is directing the Church. (At this point, a man in the congregation raised his hand, to which Elder Anderson joking said, oh you know? And the man said he did not, but having a wife and four daughters, a scripture that has always brought comfort to him was in the New Testament, reminding us we do not know what Heaven is going to be like, nor do we understand it. Another man ventured forth that I should just tell my wife I love her and the Lord will give us what is best. Yet another man from the congregation said he was sealed to two women, and needs to constantly assure his second wife that he loves her and is sealed to her for eternity. Then Elder Anderson reclaimed control of the meeting.)

The Lord loves us, he loves us more than we can explain. It reminds me of President Hinckley being interviewed in Australia. A reporter asked him about the Lorenzo Snow Couplet. And President Hinckley responded, “That’s a nice couplet” … Let’s not simplify our eternal existence too much. We don’t know everything. We know that life continues after death. (He listed several things we know, but I was unable to keep up and write them all down.) We know the power of the ordinances. We must keep our minds centered on those things that we do know.

And then Elder Anderson closed the meeting. Afterwards, a man approached me and told me the Church Handbook of Instructions for the Temple says if a woman is passed away and had multiple husbands, she is sealed to all of them. Another man came up and said his wife had been asking the same thing, and thanked me for having the courage to ask. I went and thanked Elder Anderson for his time, and he asked my name and smiled. My Father in Law joked that he’d send the Danites after me.

The music was wonderful and it was a good meeting. I felt like I did what the spirit had asked me to do.

Then we went to Quiznos for dinner.


  1. Matt,

    Thanks for reporting this interesting exchange. I like the part about Elder Anderson shutting down speculations about how many men and women will be in heaven.

    I am not sure how to ask my next question and have it come across correctly. I am wondering what you hope to get out of asking a seventy a question such as the one you asked. Do you think he is likely to have the answer to a question like that? Are you simply curious to see how he will respond? What is your purpose in asking the question? I am curious.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 3, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  2. he asked my name and smiled

    Doh! That can only mean that he has been tracking all of our doings here at NCT and immediately recognized you as the infamous Matt W…

    Comment by Geoff J — May 3, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

  3. Jacob J:

    My intention was to let my wife know I love her and take her concerns seriously. Sometimes, it is comforting to hear a general authority say they don’t know, and see how they respond. And like I said in my post, I felt and followed a prompting.

    Geoff J:
    Worse: He’ll google me

    Comment by Matt W. — May 4, 2008 @ 5:28 am

  4. Being eternally sealed to more than one woman wasn’t a problem when the Church openly practiced polygamy. The problem now is that the Church wants to combine a public posture of affirming eternal monogamy with the practice of allowing eternal sealings to more than one woman.

    Comment by Dave — May 4, 2008 @ 5:48 am

  5. If “we do not know what Heaven is going to be like, nor do we understand it”, then why are we trying so hard to get there?

    For instance: I do not want to be a “king” – I do not want subjects nor servants, nor to be worshipped; I want equals.

    Comment by ed42 — May 4, 2008 @ 7:57 am

  6. I agree with the first statement in #1. I am really glad that it seems the GA’s are moving away from folklore and speculation on serious questions.

    Comment by Ben — May 4, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  7. With regard to the comment:”If “we do not know what Heaven is going to be like, nor do we understand it”, then why are we trying so hard to get there?”

    We want to go there because our Father-in-Heaven is our creator, he knows everything including what will make us most happy, and he wants us to go there because of the happiness it will bring.

    Those who do not believe that God is all knowing or all loving really don’t believe anything.

    Comment by Dennison — May 4, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  8. This has got me thinking what I would ask a GA. For the questions I can think of, however, I can also imagine the responses – stock PA responses, gospel generalities, and elaborate ‘I don’t knows’.

    I wonder what question you could ask that would actually produce the most interesting answer.

    Comment by Eric Russell — May 4, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

  9. Wikipedia says there were two parts of the Church Handbook of Instructions that were revised in 2006 (before that the latest revisions were in 1998). The two newly-revised handbooks are Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics and Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders: Section 9: Temple and Family History Work. Could these contain the new instructions about multiple sealings? And just to be clear, are we saying that everyone in the church with a temple recommend was always eligible, if they lost spouse to whom they were sealed, to then be sealed for time only to a new spouse? And then was it men, but not women, who for most of the twentieth century were allowed to be sealed for time and eternity to more than one spouse–as long as only one of those spouses was living at a time? And are we saying the “three Apostles who are currently sealed to more than one woman” are sealed for time and eternity to their new spouses? And are we interpreting the comment from the man who said the handbook had been changed to mean that women, perhaps since 2006, can be sealed to more than one man, but only if all the parties are already dead?

    Comment by Sterling — May 4, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  10. I really wish someone would verify whether a woman can be sealed to multiple men.

    All I’ve heard so far are family anecdotes – “well my aunt June…”

    Can anyone please verify this?

    Comment by Seth R. — May 4, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  11. I like the part about Elder Anderson shutting down speculations

    Really? Are you sure you don’t mean “shutting down speculations by authority figures whose opinions will likely be mistaken for doctrine?” Cuz otherwise, you guys are out of business.

    I really wish someone would verify whether a woman can be sealed to multiple men.

    I cannot cite chapter and verse, but the stuff about sealing dead women to all of their husbands was the received wisdom in my household at least since 1998 and possibly earlier.

    Comment by Last Lemming — May 4, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  12. Seth,

    This change was made by David O. McKay. I am not sure what sort of source would count as verifying it for you, but probably Stapley can give us a good source. I remember that Eugene England referred to this in his Dialogue paper on polygamy not existing in the celestial kingdom. As I understand it, the policy does not allow women to be sealed to more than one man while the women are still living, but in cases where a woman is now dead and was married to more than one man, we don’t know who to seal them to. In those cases, McKay said we should just seal the woman to both (or multiple) men and let God straighten it out on the other side.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 4, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  13. I should add that the received wisdom does not entail those women being sealed for eternity to all of their husbands. We simply perform the ordinances now and let them choose who they want to be sealed to when the time comes.

    Comment by Last Lemming — May 4, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  14. LL,

    Cuz otherwise, you guys are out of business.

    Ha! Good point. As you suggest, I only like to see smackdown on speculation when it is directed at authority figures pontificating in an official capacity.

    Or, perhaps more truthfully, I like it when I happen to disagree with the speculation, as is the case in this example.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 4, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  15. From the Current 2006 CHI, page 86

    Deceased Women:

    A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life. However, if she was sealed to a husband during her life, all her husbands must be deceased before she may be sealed to a husband to whom she was not sealed during life.

    I guess I should actually read this book they gave me.

    If it matters, I got the distinct impression today that Elder Anderson asked my name so he could pray for me…

    Comment by Matt W. — May 4, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  16. There you go. Nice job Matt, you will be my new Stapley.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 4, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  17. Hmmm.

    Well that stinks.

    OK, thanks.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 4, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  18. Matt: I got the distinct impression today that Elder Anderson asked my name so he could pray for me…


    Seth: Well that stinks.

    Huh? I’m confused why that stinks.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 4, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  19. Women can be sealed to more than one man and entire families can be sealed together. So what? The goal is for everyone to be sealed to everyone. The goal is for everyone to be in a family relationship that is mutually exalting.

    Comment by Blake — May 4, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  20. Blake says what I was thinking. Are we sure there’s a relationship between being sealed to a person and being an afterlife spouse to that person?

    Comment by Eric Russell — May 4, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

  21. It stinks because it leaves the inherent inequality of LDS polygamy intact. I really do think the idea that a woman cannot be ultimately sealed to more than one man is going to be one of those things bound for the theological dustbin. Too bad it hasn’t happened yet apparently.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 4, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

  22. Seth, I’m not sure how you come to that conclussion. What is “ultimate sealing” anyway? I haven’t participated in an ultimate sealing, just the plain vanilla kind.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 4, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  23. This is an timely post since my stake is being reorganized in a few weeks and one of the apostles is coming to our area and holding a YSA fireside, and I’ll bet there will be a Q&A portion.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — May 4, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

  24. I meant who you end up with for the eternities of course Matt. Or were you just being funny?

    Comment by Seth R. — May 4, 2008 @ 7:19 pm

  25. Seth,

    I think his point is that the very idea of “who you end up with” is chock full of unverifiable theological assumptions. See Blake’s #19.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 4, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  26. Jacob: Thinking about it more, I guess part of the reason I asked a question this time is I felt pushed by my peers.

    On a more serious note, I just found out one of my friends brought an investigator to the meeting and is somewhat perturbed with me….

    Comment by Matt W. — May 4, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  27. Well I can at least say I already knew what his answer would be to most any theological question you might post. To quote myself:

    Of course Elder Anderson probably doesn’t know the answers to most theological questions people might pose to him to begin with so the correct answer might be “I don’t know” or “God hasn’t clarified that for us yet”

    Comment by Geoff J — May 4, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  28. Matt, if he brought a green investigator to an inside-chat with a general authority and the established Priesthood, that’s his own fault. These kind of candid events are not tailored for the Gospel Essentials crowd.

    But somehow, I think the investigator will survive it.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 4, 2008 @ 8:28 pm

  29. Geoff, I’m sympathetic to Blake’s #19 myself. But I’m not sure that’s how it’s going to shake-out. At least, not with the particular sealing of marriage.

    General family sealings? Yes. I think it’s a safe doctrinal position to say the entire human family is meant to be sealed together as family.

    Marital sealings? I’m skeptical. I think they will certainly be more free and unrestricted than what we currently are used to. But I have a hard time seeing a Celestial free-for-all on marriages in the cards. Sorry.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 4, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  30. Seth,

    I agree with your point about marital sealings. I think the issue is that if questions surrounding women sealed to multiple men are to be “sorted out” on the other side then it is also very possible that men sealed to multiple women will also need to be “sorted out” on the other side. I took Matt’s #22 to be a variation of the “we have no idea how it all really works over there” theme that Elder Anderson used. So that means there is not necessarily bad news at all as you suggested in #17. (For the record I happen to believe with Eugene England that monogamy is the order of heaven — see here and here for more theological discussion on that general subject)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 4, 2008 @ 8:38 pm

  31. I was recently at a stake conference with Bishop Edgely. He was asked a question and his response that the question was a specific question, and he could not answer it because he was a general authority – not a specific authority. He was half serious and half funny. I thought it was a great reply.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 5, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  32. Geoff J,

    I happen to believe with Eugene England that monogamy is the order of heaven

    Nick Literski posted Mosiah Hancock’s vision here. He saw the Father on His throne with His wives on His left side, all shining in glory.

    We were created in pairs, male and female but none of the females sided with Lucifer resulting in a ratio of two females to every male after Satan and his followers were all cast down.

    This is the first time I have encountered this vision and I am not sure what to make of it. What are your thoughts?

    Comment by Howard — May 5, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  33. Howard, I think Bro. Hancock was mistaken.

    We were created in pairs, male and female but none of the females sided with Lucifer

    Hehe. What on earth are you talking about? If you base that speculation on fact that the term “sons of perdition” is used, that is about as flimsy of a theological foundation as I can imagine.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 5, 2008 @ 9:39 am

  34. Howard, that’s an interesting vision by Mosiah Hancock, and BiV brings up an interesting statement by Joseph F. Smith (Ie- no daughters of perdition). I’d lie to explore the veracity of these statements before I respond.


    Comment by Matt W. — May 5, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  35. Geoff,

    From Mosiah Hancock’s vision:

    each pair seemed to have been created mates.

    No females took part against the Father and the Son, but all took sides in their favor, except the. neutral ones already mentioned.

    Did you read it?

    Comment by Howard — May 5, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  36. I admittedly just skimmed it Howard. (You nabbed me!) But I now see where that assertion comes from.

    I take Brother Hancock’s theological opinions about as seriously as I might take the theological opinion of some eccentric high priest in my ward. In short, I think he is full of baloney.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 5, 2008 @ 11:31 am

  37. eccentric high priest

    This really made me laugh. I’m trying to imagine a high priest in your quorum more eccentric than you!

    Comment by Matt W. — May 5, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  38. To my dissapointment, the only source I could find for the “no daughters of perdition” Joseph F. Smith quote was Quinn, right next to a quote from Wilford Woodruff that there would definitely be daughters of perdition…

    go figure…

    Sorry Howard.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 5, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  39. Well, I guess it’s not going to be On-line, is it. Where is Stapers when you need him???

    Comment by BiV — May 6, 2008 @ 12:31 am

  40. Wow–that vision is really something! Maybe no females followed Lucifer because the rebellious ones were (of course) feminists, and didn’t want to follow a male. ;)

    But back to the original post, I wanted to say that I appreciate your raising the question. Not because I’m hoping for a definitive answer–I doubt a seventy is in a position to offer one–but simply because it means something to me to know that my concerns are occasionally getting some airtime. (I mean, outside of the bloggernacle, where I realize some might complain that they’re actually getting excessive airtime . . .)

    Comment by Lynnette — May 11, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

  41. Lynette, It was interesting to me that quite a number of men came up to me and said their wive’s had expressed similar concerns to them. People in my family think I am crazy, but I sincerely believe I was spiritually prompted.

    I am interested to know if it alleviates your concerns at all that THe Handbook says what it says (comment 15) about women being sealed to all their husbands (making them pretty much a man’s equal.)

    Comment by Matt W. — May 11, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  42. Sorry about the delayed response. I just came back to this today.

    Just my two cents, but rather than defining gender equality as having the same circumstances and opportunities, it should be defined as having the circumstances and opportunities that best allow for gender-specific fulfillment.

    Men and women are not fulfilled by the same circumstances, behaviors and roles.

    Having a degree in Family Studies, it doesn’t take long to understand that a woman’s inherent nature is different than a man’s, generally speaking. That includes spiritual, physical and emotional nature.

    I don’t want to open a hornet’s nest, by my observations include one that women identify psychologically and spiritually with one man. It is against their ‘celestial’ nature for them to be with more than one man. (Mortal circumstances may necessitate that a woman have more than one man, but not more than one man at a time.) There are secular studies that hint at this idea.

    Why would we defy that celestial nature of women? Why would we encourage them into a man’s role that would not bring them the most fulfillment? Only by living a female role will women find the most fulfillment.

    The equality is in achieving fulfillment – not in specific behaviors or roles.

    Comment by littlejon — May 26, 2008 @ 9:26 am

  43. littlejon:

    I am not sure what proof there is that the “inherent nature” of men and women are different, if by this you mean eternal characteristics of being, and not items which are attached to our fallen nature.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 27, 2008 @ 2:22 pm

  44. Matt, I’m referring to the eternal characteristics of being, as manifested in the best of human nature. These eternal characteristics are not expressed in the fallen nature of human beings of either gender. A bit of study and observation of the best of humankind shows that the higher characteristics of each gender differ and that each finds fulfillment by enhancing those characteristics and playing out roles based on those unique characteristics. Fulfillment and happiness are not achieved by attempting to play out a role contrary to eternal characteristics.

    Comment by littlejon — May 27, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

  45. THe issue I guess I take with such a statement is that it seems to be based on some knowledge you have of the eternal characteristics of gender we have, which while obvious to you, are not obvious to me.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 28, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  46. Oh, bother. You could say that about almost any statement on this site. Just study scripture, people and psychology a bit and you can gain similar insights. I thought it was fairly common knowledge among people I’ve discussed this with. People more intelligent than me have expressed similar thoughts.

    Comment by littlejon — May 28, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  47. Great information :)

    Comment by Jospeh Cuesta — May 16, 2012 @ 5:54 am

  48. No daughters of perdition, from Brigham Young:

    A few remarks on woman. She is the glory of the man, but she is not at the head in all the creations of God. Pertaining to his children on this earth, she is not accountable for the sins that are in the world. God requires obedience for man, he is Lord of creation, and at his hand the sins of the world will be required. Could the female portions of the human family fully understand this, they would see that they are objects of tender mercy, and greatly blessed. This no doubt on a casual view appears to my sisters a glorious doctrine for them; and some might be tempted in their ignorance to take unwarrantable liberties, corrupt themselves with sin, and then take shelter under the doctrine that man alone is culpable for the sins they commit.

    There are, however, restrictions placed upon woman. I will quote a passage of scripture to illustrate this. “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” When the crime was thus atoned for, then was she free, and prepared to receive in full the blessings she otherwise would have received had she not committed sin. Women must atone for sins committed by the volition of her own choice, but she will never become an angel to the Devil, and sin so far as to place herself beyond the reach of mercy. She will suffer all that she has strength to suffer according to the venality of her sins.

    Comment by Log — May 16, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  49. LOL!!! This thread is the best! Wanna hear a woman’s take on the Mosiah Hancock’s vision of premortal life? It actually provides some closure for those of us left wondering: why polygamy in the first place? If you haven’t already seen this, feel free to check it out. It’s part of a series of posts building off of each other to fit the pieces of the plural marriage puzzle together.

    Comment by Amanda — January 23, 2015 @ 1:59 pm