Question: Why were men sealed to other men during the early days of the Church?

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Question: Why were men sealed to other men during the early days of the Church?

19th century Mormons had a great many differences in their understanding of sealings and their role from our understanding today

The sealing ordinance, as it is practiced today, is performed between a husband and wife and between children to their parents. However, in the early days of the Church, Joseph Smith and other men were sealed directly to each other. 19th century Mormons had a great many differences in their understanding of sealings and their role from our understanding today. One of things that is different is the idea of who could be sealed to whom.

The early Church required that in order to be sealed, you had to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood if you were male

In the early Church, they had a requirement that to be sealed you had to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood if you were a man. The problem was, until 1894, the Church did not practice proxy ordination to the priesthood for deceased men. This comes as a bit of a surprise to many members. What it means is that until 1894, genealogical work wasn't that much of a priority in the Church, and for the vast majority of members (whose fathers had died without ever being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood) they couldn't be sealed to their parent.

The sealings of Adoption were done as an early substitute for the later child to parent sealings that are performed now

Without this idea of connection all of humanity together through sealings following the biological family tree, the Church practiced something called a sealing of Adoption - where you would be sealed to another member of the Church (to create that connective fabric). In 1894, we changed all of this. And (not coincidentally) the Utah Genealogical Society is formed, and we began doing that work in earnest. In the last couple of years of the 19th century, there was a huge number of sealing cancellations, as people cancelled their sealings of adoption and were sealed to their own parents (who finally had their own proxy temple work completed - baptisms, ordinations, endowments and now sealings).

In this way, those early man to man (and woman to man) sealings of adoption were done as an early substitute for the later son (and daughter) to parent sealings that we now do routinely. And so this was simply one of the developmental steps in our (collective) understanding that changed over time. I suspect that we might have seen this change sooner, but, part of our struggle (and we sometimes forget this) is that with the forced eviction from Nauvoo and the trek west, we had some fairly large gaps in the members access to temples and all of the temple ordinances. We really enjoy a greater freedom to participate in the temple today (with both numbers of temples and geographic proximity) than they had (and as a side note, when we look at that year - 1894 - it comes just a year after the Salt Lake Temple dedication in early 1893).


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