Nephi’s opening words in the Book of Mormon state that he had been born of goodly parents. In one-half of the first verse he mentions that he was taught in the learning of his father, then writes about his father for several more chapters, recording Lehi’s prophetic calling, his visions, dreams and tremendous revelations.
It seems shortsighted to assume that Nephi’s gratitude to his parents was entirely for his education, rather than the tremendous spiritual heritage of being the son of a prophet of God. The first event recorded in the Book of Mormon was Lehi’s vision where he was privileged to look into heaven and see:
God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (1 Nephi 1:8)
Nephi, living now in the Americas, was writing as an older, matured and powerful prophet himself. He understood the wonderful heritage his righteous parents had bequeathed him. It is no wonder he began the record of his life by recording his father’s prophetic calling.
There is a powerful tie between one who has his calling and election made sure, and his posterity. Nephi understood this fully, and in writing the account of his own ministry, could scarcely begin without paying proper tribute to his parents to whom he owed so much. Indeed his opening words still publish his gratitude and respect twenty-five hundred years later, for he understood clearly that his great blessings were in large part due to the promises made to his father, Lehi.
Joseph Smith, the prophet of the restoration, explained:
“The servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.” (Smith, Teachings, 321)
Notice that the seal is placed upon the heads of the parents when they have their calling and election made sure, not when they are married in the temple. Elder McConkie adds this valuable insight when commenting upon the above quotation:
“‘The servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.’ (Teachings, p. 321.) Thus if both parents and children have their calling and election made sure, none so involved shall be lost; all shall come forth to an inheritance of glory and exaltation in the kingdom of God.” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:493)
Families are eternal in nature, which means their structure predates this world. In other words, they were organized before the world was created. The foreknowledge of God gave Him power to assign celestial children to celestial parents. Perhaps even then we did not realize the full import of those familial relationships, nor the powerful wisdom and purpose of those assignments.
When a person makes their calling and election sure in this life their children become participants in those same blessings. To say it differently, when those great promises are given to a parent, one of the great blessings associated therewith is the revealed knowledge that their children are of like spiritual virtue, and similarly foreordained to make their calling and election sure. These are more than good kids, they are spirits foreknown by the Lord, to be the elect of God. The parent is unaware of this until the promises are given, of course. Nevertheless, it occurs.
My perception of the process is this: When the promises are given to the parent, the children are promised exaltation by virtue of the children’s righteousness. The children’s righteousness is both premortal and future, as is the parent’s to a large degree. These children are celestial in their own right, and their eventual reward is secured by their own righteousness. What is secured by the parent’s righteousness is the privilege of being a parent of these valiant spirits. In other words, the children and parent are sealed together by virtue of their combined righteousness. The children are exalted by virtue of their own righteousness.
It should be apparent that these children are not “predestined” to such greatness, but may through their own disobedience fail to measure up to the promised blessings. Still, known that your exaltation extends to your children and grandchildren is of supreme comfort, and a source of great spiritual power.
Consider the account of Alma the Younger, son of the prophet Alma, who had been persecuting the church and fighting against God. Finally the Lord sent an angel to arrest Alma’s decay and spoke these words to the wayward son:
“Behold, the Lord has heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith . . . And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.” (Mosiah 27:14, 16)
This divine communiqué had an immediate and lasting effect upon Alma’s son. He mended his ways and in due time became a prophet in his own right.
How many distraught parents do you suspect have begged the Lord to intervene in their children’s lives but received no such miraculous relief from the Lord? Understanding that God is no respecter of persons, and is absolutely, eternally just and fair, why is it that Alma’s son got what appears to be preferential treatment? The angel gives the answer in explaining why he had come: “That the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.”
Why did Alma have this faith which was sufficient to open the heavens and call forth angels? It is my belief that the larger part his extraordinary faith was because he had heard the Lord’s own voice promising him eternal life, for himself and his posterity. Therefore, in spite of his son’s evil behavior he knew his son’s true celestial nature.
God’s sending forth an angel did not result in Alma the younger receiving an unfair advantage, it resulted in Alma the elder receiving blessings he had been promised, and Alma the younger taking his premortally promised place. Alma the elder had perfect faith that he could make this request because of the Lord’s own words, and did so with tremendous faith and impact.
Laman and Lemuel, the sons of the prophet Lehi, were similarly unrighteous and their father undoubtedly prayed as fervently, and with equal faith as did Alma the great High Priest. The Lord sent angels to Laman and Lemuel as well, and gave them numerous, undeniable witnesses, all of which they eventually rejected. While the scriptures are silent on this subject, it appears that children thus sealed up by promises to their parents may willfully reject their own promise and position. It may be this principle which is echoed in the words of the angel to Alma the younger: “Even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.” (2 Nephi 27:16). Even though the angel had come from the presence of God to call Alma’s son to repentance, Alma the younger could still choose to be cast off if he desired, but it would be in the face of the absolute knowledge that he was choosing evil rather than good. The most inviolate principle of this life is our God-given agency with which we choose our own reward. This agency remains fully operative in all of God’s children regardless of their parents’ righteousness.
– Brother John
— John Pontius, “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”