Most Latter-day Saints recognize that Jesus Christ is central to ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament. Do we also see the Savior at the very center of temple sealings? That’s something I’ve been pondering while studying Doctrine and Covenants 132, part of this week’s Come, Follow Me readings.
A few years ago, I had an insight during a temple sealing that helped me see even more deeply how Jesus Christ is central to this ordinance. If you’ve been in a sealing room before, you’ve noticed that the altar is placed in the center of the room. For millennia, altars have pointed to the death of Jesus Christ. For example, Abraham “built an altar … and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar” (Genesis 22:9), which was “a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (Jacob 4:5).1
Elder Bruce C. Hafen described a time when he sealed a couple in the temple: “I invited them to the altar, and as the groom took the bride by the hand, I realized that they were about to place upon that altar of sacrifice their own broken hearts and contrite spirits—an offering of themselves to each other and to God in emulation of Christ’s sacrifice for them.”
Picture the scene described by Elder Hafen: the husband and wife are on opposite sides of the altar. The bride and groom take each other by the hand, ready to sacrifice themselves to each other as Christ sacrificed himself for each of them. Whether one thinks of the altar or the hands clasped together on the altar, the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is literally at the center of the sealing ordinance: He is the example to the man and woman of sacrificing one’s will for the benefit of another. When a husband and wife are sealed together in the temple, their marriage is no longer just about a man and a woman—the Savior is a central third party.
I have personally felt spiritual power by contemplating how Christ’s Crucifixion is an essential component of, and a model for, my own marriage. His selfless example motivates me to give more in marriage. Considering the Crucifixion symbolism in a temple sealing eliminates the justifications for trivial arguments.
I acknowledge that not everybody will be sealed in the temple, and some of those who are sealed will face serious marital challenges. As Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “I express my love and compassion … to those women and men who have not had the opportunity to marry according to God’s law. The unrealized dreams of life are difficult to understand if viewed only from the perspective of mortality. As the Lord’s servant, I promise you that as you are faithful to Jesus Christ and your covenants, you will receive compensating blessings in this life and your righteous desires in the eternal time line of the Lord.”
Because the Savior demonstrated his love on the cross, husbands and wives have a model of powerful Christlike love. This helps us better understand Ephesians 5:25, which also connects marriage to Christ’s death: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Regardless of our mood on any given day, we can choose to love our spouse as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The Savior’s love is symbolically at the center of a temple sealing and can be at the heart of married life.
To learn more about Christ’s central role in temple sealings, watch the video below by John Hilton III.
The ideas in this article are drawn from Considering the Cross: How Calvary Connects Us with Christ, by John Hilton III.
1. Moses similarly alluded to the altar as a symbol of Christ’s death when he instructed Aaron to “go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering . . . and make an atonement for thyself, and for the people” (Leviticus 9:7). Generations later, priests slaughtered animals and “made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel” (2 Chronicles 29:24).