The Lord explained the doctrine of sealing, or principle of binding on earth and in heaven, to Joseph Smith by at least 1838 and possibly by 1831. Beginning in the fall of 1842 through 1843, the Lord revealed much to the Saints about the nature of Deity and life after death (comprising Doctrine and Covenants sections 127-132).
The Latter-day Saints rejoiced to know God’s merciful plan of salvation enabled their deceased family members an opportunity to learn of Jesus Christ and be saved. Families relationships could be eternal. This revolutionary knowledge eradicated the tradition of ages.
Each Latter-day Saint in Joseph’s day needed to gain confirmation from the Holy Ghost. In our day, we have the same opportunity to pray to God and know His truth, too.
Following are quotes from Joseph’s contemporaries about the eternal nature of the family.
Eliza R. Snow
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare;
Truth is reason—truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence—
When I lay this mortal by
Father, mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
“My Father in Heaven” October 1845 later becoming “O My Father”
Susan Young Gates
“An interesting sidelight is given to this time through a possible glimpse of the thought-kernel which grew into such fragrant bloom in the full-voiced poem of Sister Snow.
“It was told by Aunt Zina D. Young to the writer as to many others during her life. Father Huntington lost his wife under the most trying circumstances. Her children were left desolate.
“One day, when her daughter Zina was speaking with the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the loss of her mother and her intense grief, she asked the question:
‘Will I know my mother as my mother when I get over on the Other Side?’
‘Certainly you will,’ was the instant reply of the Prophet. ‘More than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.’
‘And have I then a Mother in Heaven?’ exclaimed the astonished girl.
‘You assuredly have. How could a Father claim His title unless there were also a Mother to share that parenthood?’
It was about this time that Sister Snow learned the same glorious truth from the same inspired lips, and at once she was moved to express her own great joy and gratitude in the moving words of the hymn, ‘O my Father.’”
(History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from November 1869 to June 1910 (Salt Lake City: General Board of the Y.L.M.I.A., 1911), p. 16, footnote).
“What,” says one, “do you mean we should understand that Deity consists of man and woman?” Most certainly I do.
“If I believe anything that God has ever said about himself . . . I must believe that deity consists of man and woman . . . there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way” (Journal of Discourses, 19:269–70, March 3, 1878).
Heber C. Kimball
“This brings to my mind the vision that Joseph Smith had, when he saw Adam open the gate of the Celestial City and admit the people one by one. He then saw Father Adam conduct them to the throne one by one, when they were crowned Kings and Priests of God” (Journal of Discourses 9:40).
Spirits of the Dead in the Spirit World
Joseph F. Smith
“I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever…They see the temptations and 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.
“If we can see, by the enlightening influence of the Spirit of God and through the words that have been spoken by the holy prophets of God beyond the veil that separates us from the spirit world, surely those who have passed beyond can see more clearly through the veil back here to us than it is possible for us to see to them from our sphere of action.
“We are not separated from them…We cannot forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we cannot dissolve, or free ourselves from” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 430-31).
“The dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them. We have a mission to perform for and in their behalf; we have a certain work to do in order to liberate those who, because of the ignorance and the unfavorable circumstances in which they were placed while here, are unprepared for eternal life.
“We have to open the door for them, by performing ordinances which they cannot perform for themselves and which are essential to their release from the ‘prison-house’ to come forth and live according to God in the spirit and be judged according to men in the flesh” (Journal of Discourses 19:264).
“The work for our dead…should not be neglected. We should avail ourselves of those sacred and potent ordinances of the gospel which have been revealed as essential to the happiness, salvation and redemption of those who have lived in this world when they could not learn the gospel and have died without the knowledge of it and are waiting for us their children, who are living in an age when these, ordinances can be performed, to do this work necessary for their release from the prison-house.
“Through our efforts in their behalf their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upon them and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties” (Conference Report, October 1916, p.6).
“Others are operating with us, I mean all the men of God who ever lived, and they are as much interested was we are, and a good deal more, for they know more, and ‘they without us cannot be made perfect,’ neither can we be perfected without them” (Journal of Discourses 17:213).
“The more light we have, the more revelations of God we have, the more we shall prize these privileges. It is a great blessing that we stand in the flesh in this last dispensation and fulness of times; and where we can open our hearts to understand these blessings, all of us will labor, as far as we have opportunity, to attend to this duty for our dead.
“I do not want to go into the spirit world and meet with my progenitors and have them say to me, ‘You held the keys of my redemption and my salvation and you neglected to do this work, and I am not redeemed” (Conference 1891, Millennial Star vol. 53, p. 405).
“If the veil were lifted off the face of the Latter-day Saints and they could see and know the things of God as they do who are laboring for the salvation of the human family who are in the spirit world…, this whole people, with very few, if any, exceptions, would lose all interest in the riches of the world, and instead thereof their whole desires and labors would be directed to redeem their dead” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 152).
“This entire continent is the land of Zion, and the time will come when there will be temples established over every portion of the land, and we will go into these temples and work for our kindred dead night and day, that the work of the Lord may be speedily accomplished, that Jesus may come and present the kingdom to His Father” (Millennial Star, 61:546).
Sealing Work in Temples
“God is looking upon us and has called us to be saviors upon Mount Zion. And what does a savior mean? It means a person who saves somebody. Would we be saviors if we did not save somebody? I think not. Could we save anyone if we did not build temples? No, we could not; for God would not accept our offerings and sacrifices” (Journal of Discourses, 22:308).
“We live in a very important generation. We are blessed with power and authority, holding the Holy Priesthood by the commandment of God to stand upon the earth and redeem both the living and the dead. If we did not do it, we should be damned and cut off from the earth, and the God of Israel would raise up a people who would do it”
“It takes just as much to save a dead man as a living man” (Journal of Discourses 19:228).
“We are building temples to the names of the Lord. What are we building them for? That we may enter in and redeem our dead.” (Journal of Discourses 22:209).
“We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as they can get it. This is the will of the Lord to His people.”
“Brethren, is it not strange, and should not we be ashamed of ourselves, that after receiving the words of life, and coming to a knowledge of glory and immortality and eternal lives; instead of pressing forward and preparing ourselves for these blessings, we slacken our pace, close our eyes, and sink into a state of drowsiness?
“Brethren, most of you hold high and important positions in this kingdom, indeed, but few men have lived on the earth that were placed in so important and responsible situations; the salvation of the present world, also many generations past and generations to come look to you for life, exaltation and happiness.”
Joseph F. Smith
“To my mind, there isn’t anything to great and so glorious in this world as to labor for the salvation of the living and for the redemption of the dead” (YWJ 23:130, January 1912).
Two Visions of the Spirit World
Before his death, Jedediah Grant shared a vision of the spirit world with his friend Heber C. Kimball.
“He said to me, brother Heber I have been into the spirit world two nights in succession… But O, the order and government that were there!
“When in the spirit world, I saw the order of righteous men and women; beheld them organized in their several grades, and there appeared to be no obstruction to my vision. I could see every man woman in their grade and order.
“I looked to see whether was any disorder there, but there was none; neither could I see any death nor any darkness, disorder or confusion. He said that the people he there saw were organized in family capacities; and when he looked at them he saw grade after grade, and all were organized in perfect harmony.
“He would mention one item after another and say, Why it is just as brother Brigham says it is; it is just as he has told us many a time.
“He saw the righteous gathered together in the spirit world, and there were no wicked spirits among them…To my astonishment’ he said, ‘When I looked at families there was a deficiency in some, there was a lack, for I saw families that would not be permitted together, because they had not honored their calling here.’
“He saw his wife, Caroline and his daughter, who both had died, there well in the spirit…. He asked her where Joseph and Hyrum were; she replied, they have gone away ahead to perform and transact business for us.
“He also spoke of the buildings he saw there …saying that ‘the temple erected by Solomon was much inferior to the most ordinary buildings he saw in the spirit world. I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there.
“I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon each stalk.’
“After mentioning the things he had seen he spoke of how much he disliked to return and resume his body after having seen the beauty and glory of the spirit world, where the righteous spirits are gathered together” (Journal of Discourses 4:135-136).
From Manchester, England, quoted in a letter from Brigham Young to his wife Mary Ann Young.
“I am desposed to wright you a vision in this or some other letter that I shall send. It is concerning David W. Patten’s minestry in the world whare he has gone. it gives my heart joy inexspersable.
“I will now give you the vision Sister Booth sayes she heard a voice saying she must goe to Paridice, then she was cared away in the vision.
“I Ann Booth, Wife of Robert Booth of the Town of Manchster, England, had the following vision of the 12 day of march in the year of our Lord 1840. Being caried away in a vision to the Place of departed spirits I saw 12 Prisons, one above another, very large, and built of solid stone.
“On arriving at the door of the uppermost prison I beheld one of the 12 apostles of the Lamb who had been martyred in America, standing at the door of the Prison holding a key in his hand with which he opened, unlocked the door and went in and I followed him.
“He appeared to be of a large size, thick set, dark hair, dark eyes, and eyebrows of a smiling countenance, and on his head was a crown of gold or something brighter. He was dressed in a long, white robe, with the sleeves plaited from the shoulder down to the hand.
“Upon his breast ware four stars apparently like gold, or brighter, and a golden girdle about his Loins. His feet were bare from above the ankles downward and his hands were also bare.
“As he entered the prison he seemed to stand about 3 feet from the floor (which was of Marble) as if the place was not worthy for him to stand upon.
“A very brilliant and glorious light surrounded him, while the rest of the prison was dark, but his light was peculiar to himself and did not reflect upon others who were in the prison who were surrounded with a gloom of darkness.
“On the right hand of the door stood John Wesley, who on seeing the glorious personage, raised his hands and shouted ‘glory, honer, praise, and Power be ascribed unto God and the Lamb forever and ever. Deliverance has come.’
“The Apostle then commenced to preach the Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands, when the hundreds of prisoners gave a shout with a loud voice saying ‘Glory be to God for ever and ever’.
“The marble floor was then removed and a River of water clear as crystal seemed to flow in its place. The Apostle then called to John Wesley by name who came forward quickly and both went down in to [text unreadable] and the Apostle Baptized him and coming up out of the water he laid his hands upon him for the gift of the Holy Ghost, at the same time ordaining him to the Priesthood of Aaron.
“The Apostle then retired to the place ware he first stood, and John Wesley then proceeded to Baptize a man by the name of Kilbham and next John Madison and Wm. Scott and John Tongue, who were Methodist Preachers with whom I had been acquainted personally.
“The next he Baptized was my grand father Edmond Whitehead. The next was my uncle John Whitehead, and the next was my sister Elizabath Oland, the next was Joseph Lancashere. Next Samuel Robinson Robinson and the next was my own Mother.
“All these had lived and died Methodist and I had had been personally acquainted with them all. And after this he Baptized all the Prisoners amounting to many hundreds.
“After they were all Baptized, the Apostle laid his hands on them all and confirmed them. Then instantly the darkness dispersed and they ware all surrounded and enveloped in a brilliant light, such as surrounded the Apostle at the first. And they all lifted up their voices with one accord giving glory to God for deliverance.
“My grandfather then came to me and blessed me saying ‘the Lord bless you forever and ever. art thou come to see us delivered? My mother then came to me and clasped me in hir arms and kissed me three times and said ‘the Lord Almighty Bless the for ever and ever.
“I then awoke out of my vision and felt so happy and rejoiced that I could not lay in bed. I awoke my husband. We got up. I then took the Bible and opened it to three different places: first to Isaiah 24:22. The next was John 1:5. The third time I opened the Bible was 1 Peter 3:18-20.
“Not being acquainted with these texts of scripture and opening to each of them providently, I was astonished beyond measure.
“I would further state that at the time I had the vision I had never heard of the death of David Patten whom I have since learned was one of the twelve Apostles of the Later-day Saints in America and was martyred in the late persecution in the fall of 1838.
“But in the vision I knew that it was an Apostle who had been slain in America. I here by solemnly testify that I actually saw and heard in the vision what I have related and I give my name and set my seal in witness to same, well knowing that I must stand before the Judgment seat of Christ and answer to this testimony, amen & amen.” (Spelling modernized. Missionary Letters of Brigham Young to his wife; BYU Studies Vol 38 No. 22 1999; pgs. 178-81)