Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cracks in the Sidewalk: A Family Story

The sidewalk that led the way from my childhood home to the nearby elementary school was plagued with cracks of every shape and size. Some had filled with grass or made a home for a colony of ants. Others were barren except for some crumbling cement and debris, used only to give the children that passed by one more crack to avoid if, as the game goes, they were to prevent their mothers' backs from breaking.

In the years that have passed since plodding along that sidewalk each day to school, I've learned that there are measures that can be taken to prevent a sidewalk from cracking. While things like the type of concrete or size of sidewalk blocks can make some difference, more than 90 percent of sidewalk cracks can be prevented by using a chemical sealant. Sealing a clean sidewalk creates a protective barrier that repels damaging liquids like water and motor oil while binding the concrete together to guard against extreme temperatures or invading plants.

Sealing a sidewalk has a very similar result to sealing food in cans or plastic bags. Whether at home or in a factory, canned and packaged foods are sealed in a container that keeps out the oxygen and insects that could harm or decay the food while preserving the good stuff (like homemade strawberry jam, if you're lucky). Sealing the good stuff in and the bad stuff out allows food to last much longer while retaining its nutritional value; or for a sidewalk to stay strong and smooth, as the case may be.

Two thousand years ago, before cement sidewalks or canned foods, Jesus Christ taught his disciples about a type of seal that protects and preserves our families and ourselves. To Peter the Savior promised that he would, 'give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Matthew 16:19).

The sealing power promised to Peter is the ability to preserve earthly things into a heavenly sphere. Christ uses the metaphor of a key to illustrate that only those who have received the priesthood can gain access to this sealing power. Like the wax seals used on correspondence at the time, keys not only protect and preserve the contents of a room or storage chest but are also indicative of position and authority backed by a government or church (which is why many government leaders, including the president of the United States, often still stand behind a podium bearing the seal of their office when giving important speeches). Those authorized to seal in heaven and on earth act with the endorsement and backing of the Creator of the universe.

Peter, to whom Christ promised the sealing power, used this power to lead the ancient church and raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 1-12).

Nephi, the prophet on the American continent just prior to the birth of Christ, sealed the heavens and stopped a war with the terrible famine that ensued. He called down rain to end the famine after the people had repented. He was told the sealing power could flatten a mountain at his word (Helaman 10:7-10; 11).

Elijah also used the sealing power to create a great famine and turn the people from idolatry. He raised a boy from the dead and called fire down from heaven that consumed the priests of Baal and his drowned sacrifice (1 Kings 17-18).

The most important use for the sealing power is its ability to bind together generations and create a protective barrier around us and our families. King Benjamin taught that if we would, 'be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life' (Mosiah 5:15). Embedded in the covenant of baptism is a promise to be unified with Christ in this way through our faithfulness (D&C 20:77-79).

Families are sealed together for time and for eternity in holy temples. This ordinance carries the promise that the marriage and family relationships we have on earth will be preserved into the heavenly sphere beyond the veil of death. Our marriage or sealing in the temple bears the promise of unity with God, our Heavenly Father, and that we can be united with Him and with our families for all eternity.

Elder Scott has taught that, like the seal on a cement sidewalk, 'the temple sealing has greater meaning as life unfolds. It will help you draw ever closer together and find greater joy and fulfillment in mortality' (April 2011). If we are faithful, the sealing power can bring us joy in this life and unity with our families forever after.

The sealing keys spoken of by Christ, promised to Peter and entrusted to prophets throughout the ages are on the earth today. In keeping with His pattern, God has vested these powers in his living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who then delegates the use of these keys throughout the world. The blessings of the sealing power are readily available to us through holy temples and the priesthood authority found in the stakes of Zion.

In a figurative but nonetheless very real way, each of us walking the path of life paves a sidewalk behind us for our children and grandchildren who come after us. Before we can apply the blessings of the sealing power, we must make sure our lives are as clean as newly-poured concrete or a bottle ready for the jam. We can clean off any disqualifying and undermining spots as we repent and come unto Christ.

As we are found worthy by our bishops, as judges in Israel, and as we continue to live faithfully, we can be bound to Christ and to our families through the sealing power of the priesthood. We can be protected from the devil's assault on families and preserve our righteousness. We can pave a sidewalk for our children that is without spots or cracks that they can follow to come closer to their Savior.

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