Last year in Sunday School, as we were finishing up the Doctrine and Covenants, the teacher asked us what the spirit of Elijah meant to us. I immediately thought: “the spirit of adoption.” I’m not sure where that thought came from, but I have continued to think about it in the past few months.
We know that Elijah was sent to reveal the priesthood, which includes the priesthood power to seal children to parents. This includes, of course, the sealing of adopted children to parents.
We also know “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,” as the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote. The welding link is temple work for the dead. Why is this so necessary?
Work for the dead will continue throughout the millenium. Our goal is to perform the necessary ordinances for all human beings who have ever been born on this earth. This means that in the end, all of those who accept these ordinances will be linked in one enormous family network. Perhaps this is necessary, and not just a byproduct of the necessity of offering ordinances to all God’s children for mercy’s sake. Perhaps to inherit celestial glory I really need to be sealed to father Adam and mother Eve.
Like most Mormons who have received a patriarchal blessing, I have been told that I am a descendent of Israel, through one of his sons. When I was young, I was sure that this meant that I was directly descended from him. I learned later that patriarchal blessings could also say that a person had been adopted into one of the twelve tribes of Israel. My own blessing did not talk about adoption, but since my family has been in this church for quite a while, maybe it was one of my blood ancestors who was adopted. (I have never tried to find old patriarchal blessings to see if any of my ancestors were told that they were adopted into the house of Israel.)
This idea bothered me a bit, because I wanted to think of myself as a literal descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Of course, according to some scholars, I probably am, and so are you. But that’s another discussion.) But after thinking to myself in Sunday School that the spirit of Elijah is the spirit of adoption, I am bothered much less.
I don’t have to be related to someone by blood for them to be important to me, or for me to think of them as my people. None of my blood relatives fought in the Revolutionary War, but there is still one side I consider my own. Likewise the Civil War. None of my kin fought to preserve the Union, but I feel a kinship somehow to those who lived and died to make men free.
As I walk through the streets of Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, I see monuments and memorials to the sacrifices and struggles of great men and women, and I am compelled to pause and reverently thank God for what they did. I thank God that I have inherited the land that they built. Even if I have no relation to George Washington or Abigail Adams or Abraham Lincoln, I consider them my spiritual ancestors. I have adopted them as my forbears. Even if I am not related to them, even if I am not sealed to them, these are my people.
Who are your spiritual ancestors? Who have you adopted?