The apostle Paul explained that one of the reasons why God "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" is so we could "all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11,13).
The idea of unity among the followers of Christ is a constant theme throughout all the scriptures. During His last meal on earth Jesus prayed that His disciples should be one in the same way that He and His Father are one (John 17:21). In the Book of Mormon when the prophet Alma established the church he commanded the members that "there should be no contention one with another, but that they should… [have] their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another" (Mosiah 18:21). When the resurrected Christ appeared to the Nephites He likewise admonished them for their lack of unity by explaining, "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention" (3 Nephi 11:29). In our day the Lord has declared, "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C38:27). "I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one" (D&C35:2).
Because of the often repeated references in the scriptures for us to be united in the gospel it appears that this concept is of great importance in God's plan of salvation. And if that is so then it is important for us to understand this principle as fully as we can.
The first and most obvious reason for Christ's followers to be united has to do with establishing peace and harmony. One of the stated goals of the gospel is to bring man a fullness of joy (John 15:11; 1 John 1:4; 2 Nephi 9:18; 3 Nephi 28:10), but that can't happen if disunity exists among men. Disagreements among people in any walk of life can easily lead to hard feelings, strife, and conflict. When that happens, peace, love, and goodwill towards others is replaced by bitterness, anger, and resentment. These are not the fruits of the Spirit and those who are not filled with the Spirit will not inherit the kingdom of God. Thus, unity in faith is an essential requirement for salvation for without it there can be none.
Closely associated with this is a second reason for unity. Jesus taught, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand… He that is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:25, 30). Our Father in heaven rules over a kingdom and He also has a perfect plan for the salvation for His children. When we are not in agreement with that plan then we are in opposition to God and in rebellion against His kingdom.
In all ages, whenever there are disagreements between Christians about what we believe it tends to tear us apart rather than bringing us closer together. Paul repeatedly complained about members of the church in his day who were teaching false doctrines and leading others astray. And in our day most of the thousands of Christian denomination that currently exist were established precisely because someone disagreed with what their pastor was teaching and decided to break away to start their own church. As we have just read, Paul explained that one of the reasons why God gave us some apostles and prophets is to help us come to a unity of the faith.
Because of the disunity among believers in Christ we see Christianity splintered into tens of thousands of individual faiths, each one preaching a different version of the gospel, each one seeking to convert people to their own faith, and each one contending with all the others. In 1820 it was this lack of unity that caused a young fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith to wonder which of all the religious sects was right. Today there are many people who still have that same question.
As a result of this disunity, Christianity is not as strong as it could be. Image how many more converts there would be if every Christian missionary taught the same gospel. Because that's not the case, many people run to and fro, listening to every wind of doctrine, seeking to find the truth about God's salvation but never being able to come to a firm knowledge of it. And, in their confusion, they either never settle on one faith or they get discouraged and stop attending church all together. When that happens, the kingdom of God diminishes rather than grows.
Our Father in heaven has a tremendous work to do in saving His children and that work can only be accomplished if there is a unity of purpose among those who have pledged their loyalty and allegiance to Him. Thus, the command to "be one" includes being united with God in helping Him carry out His plan to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man. When our goal, ideals, and aspirations are not the same as God's then we're working to divide His kingdom and make it weaker rather than helping to build it up and make it stronger.
That brings us to the next reason for unity with is its strength. We've all heard the saying, "United we stand; divided we fall." This is exemplified by the symbol used by the ancient Roman Empire which was a battle ax wrapped tightly with a bundle of sticks. Each stick by itself is easily broken but when bound closely together, it becomes nearly impossible to break any of them. Thus, this emblem symbolized the military strength of the Roman army through unity.
And the same principle applies to any organization. When people are bound together by a common cause, their unity of purpose and commitment to the same ideals, goals, and objectives can help them overcome any obstacles they face. But when that unity is missing, it is easy for their spirits to be broken and for them to be defeated in achieving their goals.
Besides the strength it brings, unity also makes it possible to get things accomplished. A group of people trying to build a house without coordinating their efforts will fail to accomplish their task. To be successful in their endeavor, many individuals must work together, sharing their individual skills and talents in a coordinated way. Without such cooperation much work may be done but the building will not be properly completed.
The same principle applies to the kingdom of God. The Lord has explained, "For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby" (D&C 46:11, 12). Each of us has a role to play in building up the kingdom of God here on earth and it takes the combined efforts of everyone working together in a united way to do that. Without unity of purpose the work of salvation is hampered and the salvation of man is frustrated. Thus, it is not enough just to be a believer in Christ but it is mandatory that we be united with Christ in furthering His work.
However, while all of these reasons are important, there is yet another aspect of unity in the gospel that is rarely discussed but is of greater importance than all the others.
Commenting on Malachi 3:5,6 which reads "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse," Joseph Smith explained "that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time" (D&C 128:18).
When speaking about baptism for the dead, the apostle Paul wrote, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifiest (apparent) that he is excepted (exempted), which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:24-29).
Both of these verses of scripture talk about all things - both in heaven and earth, whether it be people, powers, dispensation, and glories - being brought together into one, whole, complete, and perfect union under Christ's authority and rule. And after Christ has gathered all things together in one then He will subject Himself unto the Father, who put all things under Him. What this means is that once Christ has gathered all things under Him and has made it complete and whole then He will present it to the Father. And, in both verses, redeeming the dead is an important part of this uniting together of all things.
Joseph Smith further explained that if the dead are not redeemed then neither are we, in which case, the earth will be smitten with a curse. Why? Because, the earth was specifically created to allow us the opportunity to achieve exaltation. If our life in mortality isn't able to do that then our existence here on earth will become a curse to us rather than a blessing.
In the temples of the Lord, a husband and wife are "sealed" to each other for time and for all eternity. But, why? If, in civil ceremonies, a man and woman are "married" until death do they part then why aren't they simply "married" for time and all eternity in the temple? Why must they also be "sealed" to one another? More than that, children are also "sealed" to their parents. Yet, in life, children don't need to be sealed in order to belong to their parents, so why is it necessary to "seal" them to their parents for eternity? In addition to that, when these children are married in the temple they are sealed again, but this time to their spouse. In this way there is a sealing link formed connecting one generation to the next.
The purpose of doing work for the dead is not just to baptize them in case they've accepted the gospel on the other side but to do all the work necessary to have them sealed to each other and to their children. In this way there is a welding together of parents to their children from Adam and Eve, our first parents, all the way down to the last set of parents. As Paul has told us, it is Christ's responsibility to unite all things into one whole, complete, and perfect union under His authority, and when He has completed this task then He will present it to the Father. But, according to the scriptures, if this uniting of the human race all the way back to Adam is not done then the earth will be smitten with a curse and the plan of salvation will have failed.
However, other organizations can have unity without "sealing" their members together. In fact, even in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the members are not "sealed" to one another even though they are commanded to be united in the faith. The question this raises is: Why is it so absolutely essential to our salvation to have family units sealed together in one continuous chain from the days of Adam down to the last day? Why can't we live in heaven as husbands and wives, enjoying the company of our grown children and grandchildren in the resurrection without being sealed to one another?
After telling us why God gave us some apostles and prophets Paul then gave the answer to this question when he said, "the whole body [is] fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself" (Ephesians 4:16).
Paul amplified on this subject to the Corinthians when he said, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ… For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where [would be] the hearing? If the whole [body] were hearing, where [would be] the smelling?... And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness… God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
As Christians we belong to the "body of Christ" (Romans 12:5) and, as such, we are all fitted together into one living organism. Just as the body has many parts - arms, hands, legs, feet, head, ears, eyes, nose, heart, lungs, stomach, etc. - we don't think of them individually but consider them collectively as being one because they all function together to make the entire body work. As Paul put it, they are all "joined together and compacted" with each part supplying the needs of the whole.
The word "compacted" as used by Paul in this verse means "united, joined together, incorporated into one." A car without sparkplugs won't run and neither will it run without a battery, but a sparkplug or a battery by itself is not a car. In the same way, although the body is made up of many different parts, no individual part is the body. The hand cannot say it doesn't need the ear and neither can the foot say it doesn't need the eye. They must all work together to form a complete and whole living organism.
Paul says that the same is true of the "body" of Christ. In the church we are not working alone on our own salvation but rather each of us belongs to a living, breathing family organism where every member has an important role to play to insure that the entire family body remains healthy and alive. As such, every member is needed to make the church of God whole and complete. That is why it is so vitally important that we redeem our deceased ancestors. We can only be whole and perfect if we're all saved together because they without us and us without them are incomplete. If both the dead and the living aren't redeemed then Christ cannot bring all things together under His authority, which is what the plan of salvation calls for. And if He can't do that then our life here on earth will have been for nothing and our belief in Christ will have been in vain.
Just as in the human body, we are all interdependent on one another because what happens to one member affects all the other members. If the foot is injured, the rest of the body must compensate for its loss thereby putting extra strain on certain muscles, which, in turn, puts extra pressure on other systems of the body. In the same way, what happens to one person affects many others. Each of our lives is like a tapestry that is made up of many threads from the lives of others. Since each thread is necessary to the overall picture, by removing or changing even just one thread, we either change or create an imperfection in that picture.
To illustrate this point, all we need to do is look at how one atoning sacrifice by Christ on the cross has affected the lives of every person who has or will live here on earth. In the same way, the writings of one apostle named Paul has had a profound effect on billions of people over the past 2,000 years. In a smaller sense, there are countless stories of how a faithful home teacher's efforts to activate one inactive member of the Church resulted in that member becoming a bishop or stake president, who, in turn, then had an effect on hundreds of other people.
In my own life, my grandfather was a staunch Catholic and raised my father, Tony, in that faith. When Tony met my mother, her father was a devout Lutheran who told Tony that what the Catholics believed was wrong according to what the Bible taught. To prove that what the Catholics taught was true, Tony began to study the Bible for the first time in his life and, before long, he came to the conclusion that the Catholics did not follow Christ's teachings. However, he became just as convinced that the Lutherans didn't follow it either. This then started Tony on a life-long study of the Bible but, to his dying day, he never found a church who taught the gospel as he understood it, and that included the LDS church.
I grew up listening to my father debate with people about the Bible and listened to many sermons he preached directly to me. But, it was that love for the word of God that he instilled within me that made me interested in religion, which then was instrumental in me talking with the LDS missionaries when they approached me while I was serving in the military far from my father's presence. When I joined the Church my father lectured me about how those "Mormon's" didn't follow God's word but by then I had a firm testimony that they did and subsequently I raised my children in the LDS faith. As a result of that raising, I have a son who married in the temple and they are now teaching their children in the LDS faith.
Had my paternal grandfather not been a staunch Catholic then neither would my father have been. In that case, he would not have felt the need to disprove the beliefs of his future father-in-law. And, if that had not happened then I would not have grown up with a strong belief in the Bible, in which case, I would not have been very receptive to talking with the LDS missionaries. But, without talking to them it seems unlikely that I would have joined the Church and would not have raised my children in the LDS faith. Therefore, because of the kind of person my grandfather was, unknowingly and perhaps indirectly, he has had a profound effect on my grandchildren whom he never knew.
And the same principle works for evil. Saddam Hussein was raised by a brutal step-father named Ibrahim Hassan, who physically abused him during his growing up years. He also forced Saddam to steal chickens and sheep so he could sell them to make money. It was from his step-father that Saddam learned how to be brutal himself, how to be selfish, cunning, deceitful and vengeful. Even though there were many other events in his life that had a profound effect upon his attitude and disposition, it is safe to say that had Saddam had a different upbringing that taught him kindness, tolerance, and self-sacrifice, his life would have been very different. Thus, what one man did to his step-son eventually affected the lives of tens of thousands of people and even affected the course of human history.
And it is precisely because our lives are all so interconnected with one another that the principle of unity is an extremely important and necessary part of God's plan for the salvation of His children because if we're not working with God to help Him bring about the immortality and eternal life of each person we come in contact with then we're tearing down what He's trying to build up.
While God allows disunity to exist here on earth among His children, it cannot be allowed in the least degree among those who live in heaven. Those who have demonstrated that they are not willing to be united in thought, deed, and heart with God's will cannot enter His kingdom because of the negative consequences their disunity will have on everyone else. That is why God has said, "if ye are not one ye are not mine."
But the need for unity goes much farther than that. To enter into the celestial kingdom only requires being baptized and remaining faithful and valiant to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In heaven, the angels gladly obey God's commandments and carry out His every word to perfection. But, although they are all working together in unity to accomplish a common goal, they do not need to be sealed to one another in order for them to succeed in their endeavors. The only people who must be sealed to someone else are those who inherit the highest degree of heaven, which we referred to as exaltation.
These are they who inherit all that the Father has and become like Him in power, might, dominion, and glory. These are they who have the power of eternal lives, where they are able to have a continuation of seed forever. As such, they will have the ability to affect the lives of an infinite number of spirit children in ways that no one else can. And it is especially because of this ability that only those who are completely united in every way with Christ will be allowed to enter into this degree of heaven because the consequences of any disunity there would be catastrophic on an immeasurably infinite scale.
But that still doesn't explain why exalted beings must be sealed to one another in a family chain.
As stated before, on earth every organization, including Christ's church, works best when people are united, but they can do that without being sealed to one another. However, it appears that among exalted beings there is a higher standard of unity that requires each person to be linked and connected to one another in a way that is not found on earth.
To understand why this must be so, we need to go back to Paul's analogy of the human body. In an organization, there are many members who work together but they are all individuals. If one person leaves the organization it doesn't have an adverse effect on any of the others. However, even though the body is made up of many parts, we cannot separate any one part from the rest of the body without damaging the body itself. Every part is not only needed but is necessary for the proper functioning of the entire body.
While we may give names to each part of the body, such as the hand, it is not distinct from the rest of the body. Instead, it is directly connected to the arm which is directly connected to the shoulder which is directly attached to the skeletal frame making all of these parts one entity. And the skin acts like a covering that incorporates all these parts into one body. As we look at each cell we see the same situation. While there are many parts that make each cell function properly, they are all "sealed" within a membrane that encapsulates all of them and within which they all work together for the preservation of the cell itself. If we take away just one of those parts the entire cell is unable to properly function.
It appears that those who become exalted are united into one functioning organization much like the body is united into one living organism. Since only exalted beings inherit all that God has and become like Him, then they are the only ones who truly become the sons of God and belong to His eternal family. All those who don't belong to this family merely act as servants of God. On the other hand, exalted beings are partners with God who participate in, contribute to, and are intimately involved with helping Him further His work.
Because of this partnership relationship each exalted person must be connected to the family of God in a way that makes them literally part of the whole. That is to say, while there may be many members, there is only one family of God that consists of all members being an essential and primary part of the whole, just as the hand, eye, heart, lungs, and thousands of other parts are essential in making the human body whole and complete. The process which unites and directly connects all family members into one body is known as "sealing" and it is in this way that they literally become one.
And, as we look at the structure of these sealings, we also get a little better understanding of what the primary purpose is of having the family of God united in this manner.
In the temples of the Lord, people are not sealed to one another based on position, power, or even righteousness. Instead, they are connected (sealed, linked, joined) to one another in family units as husband and wives, and as parents and children, in an unbroken line of ancestry with Adam, the father of us all, at the head. Furthermore, what we see is each father presiding or having jurisdiction and authority over those children who came after him through their lineage.
However, standing above Adam in authority is Christ. As such, He is not only the head of the entire exalted family of God but all things are united under His authority. Therefore, just as the head controls the entire body so also Jesus will control the "body of Christ." In this way all members will work together and each will do their part for the entire body as the head directs.
However, the specific formation of this family structure is significant because it gives us a glimpse into the reason why exalted beings must be sealed to one another.
As already stated, this eternal family of God is not just a group of righteous individuals working together for the common good of the whole but rather it is a series of families, arranged in an orderly system of connecting generations. When viewed from an overall perspective this grouping seems very similar in structure to the DNA in our cells.
DNA is the blueprint for the body that tells each individual cell what, how, when, and where to form. What makes a human different from a chimpanzee or any other animal is the instructions contained in their DNA. From the time that a female egg is fertilized, it is the DNA that gives instruction to every aspect of the new child's growth, so that every part of the developing body is precisely and perfectly formed at its proper time in its proper place according to a master plan that is contained within the DNA of the fertilized egg. Furthermore, this DNA is "sealed" within each cell where it works in conjunction with all the other parts of the cell.
Growth comes from one cell replicating itself by splitting and dividing into two identical cells. However, under the direction of the DNA, within a short period of time as one cell divides itself, the newly created cell is different from its parent thereby making some cells become the heart, while other cells become lungs, and still others form other organs. And all of this growth is carried out in an orderly and systematic manner according to a precise timetable that is encoded within the DNA.
The fact that exalted beings are "sealed" together in a very precise and orderly pattern of one generation being linked both to the one above and the one below them, and, knowing that everything God does is for a wise and necessary reason, this order of sealing seems to strongly suggest there is a wise and necessary reason why the family of God must be formed in this manner.
While we may not fully understand all the reasons for this structure, we do know that exalted beings will duplicate themselves by having spirit offspring who will then need to be raised, trained, and prepared to become exalted beings themselves, thus repeating the pattern that has preceded them.
If this sealing of families among exalted beings is a blueprint for duplicating the family of God, then it would appear that the raising of a new generation of spirits will not be done in a haphazard, unorganized manner with each exalted parent working independently from all the others. Instead, the indications are that each heavenly parent will work together with other heavenly parents in coordinating their efforts so that the growth and development of this new generation happens in a systematic and orderly manner with Jesus Christ at the head, directing, instructing, and supervising this effort according to an eternal master plan.
While we are all commanded to be united in the faith, in the resurrection the idea of unity is taken to a higher, more expanded level. Those who cannot be one with God here in mortality under limited rules of unity will never be able to exist under the rules of unity that must be obeyed by exalted beings. Since families on earth are independent of one another and raise their children as they see fit, there is no need to seal them together in this life into one family structure. However, the fact that families must be sealed together in the eternities strongly suggests that this is a condition that is required to exist only in heaven but not on earth.