(Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.)
No power arms parents of wayward children more than temple covenants and ordinances. But sadly, we often leave them latent, underdeveloped or misunderstood. If we had any idea of the power available to us, nothing could keep us from the temple.
Without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.—D&C 84:20–21
“Lee,” a father from Idaho, attributed his children’s change to a growing appreciation of temple worship.
My wife, Jeannie, and I have a large family. All our children are active in the Church except two. Why these two, we do not know. A few years ago, when my wife and I felt the family hemorrhaging and did not know how to stop it, a good friend approached me with a question. “Have you put the temple to work for you?” I had no idea what he meant. Jeannie and I had always attended the temple, and, over the years, we had heard teachers and Church leaders speak of the temple’s power and promised great blessings. But I had never considered how to access that power to obtain the blessings. My friend challenged me to fast and go to the temple “as a student,” praying for further light and knowledge. He pointed out scriptures to me that indicate the power of the temple covenants and ordinances. He told me that I had been given all the tools that I needed to help my family if I would just learn to use them.
I admit that I had never thought of temple service beyond fulfilling an assignment to do work for the dead. But Jeannie and I were so desperate that we were willing to try anything. Within the week, we decided to fast and go to the temple to pray for instructions. I can still remember that day in the temple. I don’t think I had ever paid so close attention to the temple ceremony. Later, when my wife and I prayed, we had a profound experience. Suddenly, it was as though all the lights turned on. Scripture after scripture raced through our minds, all of them connected to the common fabric of the temple.
For the next weeks and months, we pored over the scriptures seeking more information. We were astonished that there was a mountain of information we had missed. We felt as though we were reading the scriptures for the first time. Line upon line, we formulated a plan to try and help our children by implementing temple principles. We realized that prophets had applied these same principles to call back and bless their people, and because God is a consistent God, we could expect the same results.
Thereafter, Jeannie and I made the temple central to our worship. We attended more often and with a new purpose—to receive more instructions and to seek blessings for our children. We came to realize that all priesthood ordinances are principles of power that have intended and practical uses. To access that power, a person must make and keep sacred covenants.
Amazingly, as Jeannie and I focused more on the temple, we noticed changes beginning to occur in our wayward children. Their rough exterior softened. Their tough defensive armor began to show cracks. Thoughts began to enter their minds that caused them to ask us penetrating questions. Unanticipated kindnesses were shown to them from Church members, which caused them to feel gratitude. They began to feel more keenly the consequences of their actions. They began to communicate with us more, and in a non-combative way.
We are still in the process; we haven’t gotten them home yet. But we notice enough positive evidence that we are sure that it is only a matter of time. Now, when Jeannie and I pray, we feel more empowered to ask for and receive an answer, and more empowered to ask for help from heaven. We had never before realized the power of the temple, but now we are sure that as we continue to apply its principles, we will eventually reclaim our children.
Adam and Eve Set the Example
There is great power in the temple—power to ask for and receive blessings. Adam and Eve exemplified the pattern of asking and receiving. Finding themselves estranged from God, they offered mighty prayer at an altar in a temple setting to seek for reconciliation and for knowledge and power in order to be brought back into God’s presence.
Angels were immediately dispatched to observe Adam and Eve’s obedience as our first parents endured testing over a period of time. Then, when God had determined that they had qualified for the blessings they were seeking, the veil was rent and heavenly messengers appeared providing deliverance, knowledge of God, power to ask Him questions directly, and power to return to His presence.
This is a journey that every fallen person must make. No power except the Melchizedek Priesthood can bring an individual to God and teach that individual how to ask for and receive the revelation required to successfully make the journey.
As Adam and Eve approached God in mighty faith and prayer, they received His assurance that a Savior would redeem them and their children. As Abraham and Sarah approached God in mighty faith and prayer, they received the new and everlasting covenant with the promise that this covenant (i) would be offered to their family as a perpetual right—the right to all gospel blessings, including the eternal marriage with the promise of eternal posterity.
These parents—Adam and Eve and Abraham and Sarah—should be the models for every husband and wife. The blessings they secured for us, their children, culminate in the temple. Like them, we should seek the blessings associated with the temple so that we might be able to petition heaven in mighty prayer and secure the promise of the Savior’s grace and the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant for our family.
Now that Adam and Eve had repented and were redeemed, they were empowered to become the messengers of redemption to their children. Working with God and angels, they labored all their days to teach their family the plan of salvation. They gained the power to do this redemptive work through temple covenants and ordinances. Once that they were endowed with that knowledge and power, they were better able to help rescue their children from the effects of the Fall and to bring them back into the presence of God.(ii)
Thus, by the Savior’s power of redemption and by the power of the new and everlasting covenant, we are rescued from our fallen state and then empowered to help with the work of redemption among our family and others.
The Priesthood’s Process of Salvation Taught by Prophets
The scriptures teach us essential truths about the process of salvation: “Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God.” (iii) What did Moses plainly teach the people? According to the Doctrine and Covenants, he taught the following principles:
And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. (iv)
That is, the Melchizedek Priesthood has two grand functions: (1) It enables men to administrate the kingdom of God, and (2) It gives both men and women the ability, through priesthood ordinances, to (among other things) access power to (a) receive personal revelation from God, (b) learn about God, and (c) eventually see God. Moreover, these ordinances, properly understood and used, lead to the increased ability to ask God directly for knowledge and blessings. (v)
• What are “the mysteries of the kingdom”? Things that only can be learned through personal revelation.
• What is the “key of the knowledge of God”? The temple covenants and ordinances—keys (vi)—which, when exercised in righteousness in the right way, time and place, open the door to revelation from God, about God, and to ultimately introduce us to God. (Note: these keys are not administrative priesthood keys)
• What is the “power of godliness”? Again, it is the covenants and ordinances, those keys that give us power to become godly or God-like. This power has to do with the receipt of the patriarchal order of the priesthood, the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which a husband and wife enter into as part of the marriage sealing.
This order, which includes all other temple blessings, gives a couple all of the necessary knowledge and power to become like God—godly— including the power to bind their children to themselves and the power to help save them. Additionally, inherent in the patriarchal order of the priesthood is the power of eternal lives.
• How is the “power of godliness” manifested, or how does it function? Through the “ordinances thereof”—that is, through the temple ordinances.
• What is the ultimate purpose of the “power of godliness”? To enable men to see the face of God and live forever in the family unit—to be where He is, to do His works, to live His life style, and to know Him, which is to be like Him in every way. (vii)
Therefore, it is in the temple where covenants, ordinances, knowledge, and power pertaining to the priesthood (including the patriarchal order of the priesthood) are received and ultimately made sure. Clearly, for both men and women, temple blessings contain a treasury of knowledge and power which enable them to ask for and receive blessings, especially in behalf of those they love.
Speaking of temple blessings as containing the greater power to ask and receive, Sister Bathsheba Smith, second general president of the Relief Society, said, “When speaking in one of our general fast meetings, [Joseph Smith] said that we did not know how to pray to have our prayers answered. But when I and my husband had our endowments . . . Joseph Smith presiding, he taught us the order of prayer.”(viii) Sister Smith was not talking about prayer as a sacred sequence of steps, but rather as a power flowing from a priesthood order.
Melchizedek—A Model for Parents
Melchizedek means “King of righteousness.”(ix) The Encyclopedia of Mormonism describes Melchizedek as an “example of righteousness and the namesake of the higher priesthood,” and states that Melchizedek “represents the scriptural ideal of one who obtains the power of God through faith, repentance, and sacred ordinances, for the purpose of inspiring and blessing his fellow beings.”(x) That this righteous man gained power from heaven(xi) to rescue his wicked people and turn them back to God so that they in turn could obtain heaven should be of primary interest to parents of wayward children.
By what power did Melchizedek accomplish this monumental work? The answer to this question is our key to being able to do the same.
Melchizedek was both the king (leader of the kingdom) and high priest (leader of the Church) of Salem(xii), which was the later location of Jerusalem. Melchizedek is described as “a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.”(xiii) His people, which we assume would have included his family, had “waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness.”(xiv) We parents immediately appreciate Melchizedek’s dilemma. What Melchizedek needed to rescue his people was both priesthood authority and priesthood power.
By righteousness Melchizedek qualified to be ordained to the priesthood. He “exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God.”(xv) Now he was authorized by God to work redeeming miracles among his wicked people. But power in the priesthood comes by sanctification. Therefore, Melchizedek sanctified himself and gained great power to bless others. By the power of the priesthood, he gave blessings, preached repentance, and administered the priesthood ordinances “that thereby [these ordinances] the people might look forward on the Son of God . . . for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.”(xvi)
As a result of his efforts, Melchizedek was able to successfully call his people back to God: “And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days.”(xvii) Melchizedek became known as “the Prince of peace,” (xviii) which, of course, is a title also attributed to Abraham (xix) and Jesus Christ.
The titles King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace are representative of what a Melchizedek Priesthood holder should strive to become. Ultimately, because of the righteousness and priesthood of Melchizedek, his “people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven,”(xx) which is exactly what we parents want for our children. In striving to obtain these blessings for our children, we can look to Melchizedek as he looked to Christ:
So righteous and faithful was Melchizedek in the execution of his high priestly duties that he became a prototype of Jesus Christ (Heb.
7:15). The Book of Mormon prophet Alma said of him, “Now, there were many [high priests] before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater” (Alma 13:19). The Doctrine and Covenants states that Melchizedek was “such a great high priest” that the higher priesthood was called after his name. “Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too-frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in the ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:2–4; italics in original). (xxi)
Today, a worthy man may have the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him, but he cannot enter into “the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood [which] is patriarchal authority” (xxii) unless he is married in the temple. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Celestial marriage is an ‘order of the priesthood.’” (xxiii)
By receiving the patriarchal priesthood, a man becomes a type of Melchizedek, that is, a king of righteousness and a priest unto God. Following this pattern, a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood holder, as a king, has the authority to reign in righteousness over his kingdom (family), as did King Melchizedek. Also, a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood holder is a priest unto the Most High God. Like Melchizedek, that man now has the power to preach repentance, give blessings, and bring his family to the saving priesthood ordinances “that thereby [they] might look forward on the Son of God . . . for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.” (xxvi) As a king and a priest, a Melchizedek Priesthood holder has the power to establish peace in his family, which peace is the “rest of the Lord.” Thus he becomes a prince of peace to his wife and children.
Likewise, because the priesthood power to which we are referring is of the patriarchal order received in the temple, it is available to both men and women. Elder James E. Talmage said,
In the sacred endowments associated with the ordinances pertaining to the House of the Lord, woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood. When the frailties and imperfections of mortality are left behind, in the glorified state of the blessed hereafter, husband and wife will administer in their respective stations, seeing and understanding alike, and co-operating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. Then shall woman be recompensed in rich measure for all the [cultural and historical] injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality. Then shall woman reign by Divine right, a queen in the resplendent realm of her glorified state, even as exalted man shall stand, priest and king unto the Most High God. Mortal eye cannot see nor mind comprehend the beauty, glory, and majesty of a righteous woman made perfect in the celestial kingdom of God.” (xxv)
Of course a man cannot become a king unless he has a queen, and vice versa, and they together have a kingdom. As men become kings and priests by entering into this order of the priesthood, women become queens and priestesses in that same order. Together they partake of the temple priesthood ordinances and are thus jointly empowered to do the work of Melchizedek among their family—their kingdom.
It was this “order” [of the priesthood], coupled with faith, that gave Melchizedek the power and knowledge that influenced his people to repent and become worthy to be with God . . . Those ordained to this order were to “have power, by faith,” and, according to “the will of the Son of God,” to work miracles. Ultimately, those in this order were “to stand in the presence of God” (JST Gen. 14:30–31). This was accomplished by participating in the ordinances of this order. (xxvi)
Parents who recommit themselves to temple attendance and covenants and who strive to comprehend, appreciate and harness the power of the temple ordinances arm themselves do the godly work that only the Gods can do: the work of redemption for wayward souls.
Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.
In writing this article, I ran the risk on discouraging single parents, who cannot draw upon the support of a spouse or join together in exercising the inherent powers of the sealing.
Please understand that the gospel is not mechanical; rather, it usually functions on the principles of faith and grace. We do what we can with what we have, and Christ always makes up the difference. Equal blessings come to those of equal faith, who equally trust the Lord.
i. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, “New and Everlasting Covenant,” 529.
ii. See John A. Widstoe, Program of the Church, 78.
iii. D&C 84:23.
iv. D&C 84:19–22.
v. See D&C 124:95.
vi. See D&C 124:95.
vii. See D&C 132:24.
viii. Bathsheba Smith, Juvenile Instructor 27, 1 June 1892, 345.
ix. Hebrews 7:2.
x. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Melchizedek,” 879–880.
xi. See JST Genesis 14:34.
xii. See Genesis 14:18.
xiii. JST Genesis 14:26.
xiv. Alma 13:17.
xv. Alma 13:18.
xvi. Alma 13:16.
xvii. Alma 13:18.
xviii. JST Genesis 14:33.
xix. See Abraham 1:2.
xx. JST Genesis 14:34.
xxi. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Melchizedek,” 879–880.
xxii. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood,” 1067.
xxiii. Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 312.
xxiv. Alma 13:16.
xxv. James E. Talmage, “The Eternity of Sex,” Young Woman’s Journal 25, October 1914, 602–603, comments added.
xxvi. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Melchizedek,” 879–880, emphasis added.