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This Malachi passage is repeated in every single one of the standard works:
Comparing the repeated passages reveals the consistency of the message with one exception. When Moroni spoke during his first night with the young Joseph Smith, he clarified that turning the hearts was more than just a stroll down memory lane. Moroni said that the restoration of the sealing keys would furnish the means of having ancient promises, received by our ancestors, planted into our hearts so that our hearts would turn to our father’s yet to be fulfilled promises.
Later the Prophet would explain that the word “turn” should be translated as “seal or bind.”1 The ancient promises, once planted into our hearts would draw us to perform the necessary ordinances that would bind us to those ancestors and thereby claim their promises as our own. But what ancient promises, and how would they motivate us to make time for the research and then the temple?
The promises most oft referenced in the scriptures are those made to Abraham. Are those of any modern consequence, or do they furnish any motivation to us today? Searching all references to those promises can be done by beginning in the Book of Abraham and then following the footnotes. By so doing, fifteen promises can be identified, though some may overlap in application.
Planting is only a beginning that must be followed with much care and cultivation. Listing them and finding modern application is then a necessary exercise if the planting is going to eventually yield its potential fruit.
Some promises are self-explanatory and speak to us directly like, “bless thee above measure.” Let’s ponder a few of the promises needing expansion or historical context, searching for application that would personally matter.
The first promise (make you a great nation) sounds unique to Abraham, but what is required to make a nation anyway? Answer: Lots of people, an organization, a place, etc. Each of us can’t be a nation, could we? And, how would that matter to my life’s choices?
Let’s pretend that the Millennium were to begin tomorrow so we delineate one thousand years. If we counted each generation as twenty years and if you were to have two children and each of them had two, etc. for the 50 generations (1000/20), how many children would call you their ancestor? That is 250 = 1,125,899,906,842,620. That is one QUADRILLION, one hundred twenty-five TRILLION, etc. That is a number that is so large we can scarcely relate. It is certainly enough to form a nation!
The thought of a multitudinous posterity, whose lives and knowledge are shaped or influenced by our choices, causes some serious reflection. None of us lives in isolation. We cannot make selfish choices without rippling consequences that will last for generations!!
The fourth promise (thou shalt be a blessing to thy seed) brings hope to any grandparent and soothes the angst of the first. For example, to have a bad temper that you work to correct and for which you work to repent bringing joy and peace until you watch your children acting out your bad temper now growing in them. None of us wants to be a cursing to our posterity. This promise is one we all would want to plant and have grow, bearing fruit.
Number seven (land for seed, forever) seems like a real estate promise. Perhaps it is as we each work to provide a home for our families. But it is even more powerful than that, considering that “forever” takes us beyond this life. If we are given land on this earth as an eternal inheritance, and the earth becomes a Celestial Kingdom,2 then this is a powerful promise.
Number ten (Everlasting covenant relationship with God) is so exciting! If you were to have a covenant relationship with the prophet, then it would give you 24/7 access to him. You could call and he would prioritize your call over everything and everyone else, like he would for his wife and children. A covenant is more than just a business agreement:
“Alma knew the covenant was not like a business deal—“you do this for God, and God will do this for you”—but it was an opportunity for them to become his, to become God’s people. Every covenant with God is an opportunity to draw closer to him. To anyone who reflects for a moment on what they have already felt of the love of God, to have that bond made stronger and that relationship closer is an irresistible offer.” Henry B. Eyring; Making Covenants with God; September 08, 1996 BYU Fireside
Number eleven (to possess the gate of your enemy) sounds archaic especially since we don’t usually think in terms of enemies attacking us or vice versa. But there was once a gentleman who was accused of harming a person whose family decided to sue him for more than he could ever possibly pay. He was innocent but the evidence didn’t bode well for his case. Prayerfully he took the problem to the Lord. The next months were roller coaster months until in the end everything fell apart in the case – he was given the gate of this enemy. He could have turned the tables and sued them for various social bruises he had incurred but chose not to. The enemy attack disappeared from all memory or legal and social records. We may not know of our personal enemies other than satan who wants our misery. Controlling his gate, his access for attacking us, is no small promise. Planting it in our hearts and cultivating it to fruition would be very worthwhile especially in light of how God has planned the generational links and inter-relationships. (more later)
Number twelve (put my name upon thee) is another that needs scriptural context. To have the name of God set upon us sounds like our baptismal covenant to “be willing to take upon us His name.” President Oaks elaborated:
“It is significant that when we partake of the sacrament, we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the most important sense.
What future event or events could this covenant contemplate? The scriptures suggest two sacred possibilities, one concerning the authority of God, especially as exercised in the temples, and the other—closely related—concerning exaltation in the celestial kingdom….
According to this meaning, by partaking of the sacrament we witness our willingness to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Savior when he chooses to confer them upon us.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Conference April 1985
Modern revelation clearly specifies this knowledge and power bequeathed in the temple as the knowledge of God and the power of Godliness.3 This is the faith and power to exalt what we create.4
The HOW is an interesting and purposeful process quietly built into the plan of happiness waiting for us to discover its power. When the apostle Paul spoke of Abraham as one of twenty-one examples of faith and faithfulness, he twice mentioned this puzzling reality:
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises…” Hebrew 11:13
“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:” Hebrews 11:39
Then as if to answer the reader’s unspoken query, Paul uses language that will be used in a latter-day revelation to provide the answer to the end of the Elijah prophecy, “that else the world would be smitten” or wasted.
“God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:40
“For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also;” DC 128:18
Joseph Smith would later declare, “We cannot be perfect without the fathers, we must have revelation from them…” TPJS p338
The linking of the generations, including the final fulfilling of ancient promises, is required so that the necessary on-going, daily revelation inherent in this intergenerational collaboration,5 by which He “will gather together in one, all things,”6 through this ministering of angels, can finish the work of the at-one-ment, “less the whole earth be wasted at His coming.”7
Are there other promises made by God to your specific ancestors that you could plant in your heart, and for which they will aid you in bringing them to fruition, as you provide the saving ordinances for them?
1 The word “turn,” here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission? Or how is it to be fulfilled? By…going forth and receiving all the ordinances… in behalf of their progenitors who are dead and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted… here in is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children …which fulfills the mission of Elijah. Joseph Smith HC 6:183-4
2 DC 88:19-20 After it (the earth) hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
3 DC 84:19-20 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.
4 Moses 1:39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
5 I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings… those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond and are still engaged in the work for the salvation of the souls of men… and will not be deprived in the spirit world from looking down upon the results of their own labors, efforts and mission… to help to redeem and to reclaim the children of the Father from their sins. They see the temptations and the evils that beset us in life and the proneness of mortal beings to yield to temptation and to wrong doing; hence their solicitude for us and their love for us and their desire for our well- being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves. Joseph Fielding Smith; CR 4/1917
6 DC 27:13 I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;
7 JSH 1:39 see chart #1 above
DC 5:18 the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. DC 133:49 so great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame, and the moon shall withhold its light, and the stars shall be hurled from their places. 53 In all their afflictions he was afflicted. And the angel of his presence saved them ; and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old; (also Isaiah 63:9; Abraham 1:15)