Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declarations 1 and 2
For: “All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, and expectations, that are not made, entered into, and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed. . . are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in or after the resurrection from the dead ” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:7). President Thomas S. Monson holds the keys of the sealing ordinances today.
II. The Doctrines of Baptism for the Dead and of Priesthood
“The first thing that entered into my mind was that I had a mother in the spirit world. She died when I was 14 months old. I never knew [my] mother” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church--Wilford Woodruff, 185: http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-wilford-woodruff/chapter-18?lang=eng).
III. The 1978 Revelation on Priesthood: A "Fully Sufficient Answer"
We turn now to 4 May 1978 and 1 June 1978 and to the matter of Official Declaration 2, the Revelation on Priesthood:
"At the end of the joint meeting of the Presidency and Twelve on May 4 , when the priesthood policy was discussed, [Elder] LeGrand Richards asked permission to make a statement. He then reported:
'I saw during the meeting a man seated in a chair above the organ, bearded and dressed in white, having the appearance of Wilford Woodruff. . . . I am not a visionary man. . . . This was not imagination. . . . It might be that I was privileged to see him because I am the only one here who had seen President Woodruff in person.' "
"President Kimball also later said, I felt an overwhelming spirit there, a rushing flood of unity such as we had never had before.' And he knew that the fully sufficient answer had come.
Emotion overflowed as the group lingered. When someone reminded President Kimball of the earlier appearance of Wilford Woodruff to LeGrand Richards in the room, Spencer said he thought it natural: 'President Woodruff would have been very much interested, because he went through something of the same sort of experience' with the Manifesto" (Edward L. Kimball, BYU Studies, "Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood," 52-3; 59).
President Woodruff's favorite hymn was "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," which includes the following thoughts:
Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take;
The Clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his works in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
We need not apologize for God's mysterious ways, however embarrassing these may prove to us. Better to suffer so, than to make of God's ways a trivial journey.
Young Joseph Smith struggled for two years prior to receiving the First Vision, and was "upbraided not." And the long pleadings for knowledge about the priesthood chastened the prophetic soul of President Spencer W. Kimball. Yet the revelation came not as a rebuke: Official Declaration 2 speaks five times of blessings; it speaks of privileges and promises and temples. No one was chastened; though--as ever--our ignorance was replaced with added light.
I do not propose to speak to the history of plural marriage nor of the role of the Manifesto (Official Declaration 1) in ending the practice. The above remarks contemplate the doctrine of the keys of the sealing power, whereby approved ordinances alone are made binding and efficacious by the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Even then, the recipient of the sacrament retains full right of reception or refusal.) All other ordinances, no matter where performed or by whom--and no matter the temporary record--are illegal, null, and void in the sight of the Church and in the sight of God. An attempted baptism for the dead becomes a far different thing than an offering or a record "worthy of all acceptation" (Doctrine and Covenants 128:24).
Initial misunderstandings are only to be expected, but for writers, possibly through neglect of accessible sources, to continue to ignore the plain doctrines about priesthood keys, sealing powers, baptisms, and "a house of order" becomes tantamount to misrepresentation.
The readily available revelations published by the Prophet Joseph Smith over 150 years ago that have bearing on proxy work, or baptism for the dead include: Doctrine and Covenants 110, 124, 127, 128, 132, 137 (and 138: President Joseph F. Smith). See also 1 Corinthians 15:29, the Pauline basis for proxy baptism. Recent articles in the Deseret News treat the latest statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about unauthorized baptisms for the dead, including facts about the latest technology to block illegal submissions of names. The real news, of course, is that the dead live on in a world of eternal opportunity and that God continues to speak through His authorized servants today.
The Latter-day Saint people, who overflow with all but boundless admiration for our Jewish brothers and sisters, are outraged by unauthorized baptisms for the dead. Besides, such illegal actions (and by illegal I mean actions which invoke God's name and authority in vain), instantaneously become yet another club for our non-Jewish critics with which to beat us over the head. The following articles show some understanding of Mormon doctrine within the American Jewish community:
"Outraged by Mormon Proxy Baptism? Not this Jew," 29 Feb. 2010, patriotpost.us
Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, 29 Feb. 2012, "Mormon Ritual is no Threat to Jews."