Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel


Joseph Smith, history, revelation, Eternal Family, family

Document Type



“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” So begins L . P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between. This statement reminds religious educators to study history as it unfolded and to avoid presentism, or “an attitude toward the past dominated by present-day attitudes and experiences.” Latter-day Saint doctrines did not spring up fully formed, as we have them today. The historical record shows that Joseph Smith did not begin with a full understanding of the doctrines of eternal families and sealing ordinances as we teach them today. In fact, the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated a revelation on 6 August 1833 that the Lord “will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12). Joseph Smith was searching for answers to complex questions such as how life continues after death, how family and friends can secure salvation in the afterlife (especially without receiving the ordinances of salvation on earth), and what role our ancestors play in our own salvation. We conclude that although Joseph Smith recorded many revelations and visitations by heavenly messengers, he reasoned through the process of how to implement doctrines pertaining to the eternal family, particularly the sealing ordinances. As with other parts of the Restoration, Joseph Smith continued to develop deeper understandings of Malachi’s prophecies, Elijah’s mission, temple ordinances, and sealings.