On May 19th, 2002, Tom Phillips and his wife were invited to the Preston England temple to participate in a little known ordinance referred to as the Second Anointing. In this ordinance, a faithful member’s “calling and election are made sure”. Most members of the Church have never heard of this ordinance, and those that have know that is veiled in even more sacred secrecy than the typical endowment ceremony. These two ordinances have a direct relationship. The endowment ceremony is taught to be preparatory to receiving eternal life and exaltation. Those that receive the Second Anointing believe that this secondary ordinance actually bestows it.
The Second Anointing is reserved only for the most tried and true faithful members of the Church. While it was much more common during the early beginnings of the Church (there was even Second Anointing work for the dead!), John Taylor and subsequent presidents of the Church scaled back the practice, and for a time it was limited only to the leadership of the church.
The Second Anointing bestows several blessings, including the sealing power to bind and loose, curse and bless, the bestowal of the Holy Spirit of Promise, the blessing to live as long as it is desirable for yourself, the blessing that you will attain Godhood, the power to be a member of a Godhead, and being sealed up to eternal life. This ordinance is also reserved for couples, and at the end of the ordinance the wife will wash the feet of the husband. She then places her hands on her husband’s head and gives him a blessing as the Spirit directs (See? Women do have the priesthood as long as they get married and literally wash the dirt off their husband’s feet!).
So what insight does this provide into the thinking of modern day Apostles? Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who received the Second Anointing, is quoted in this Ensign article:
“To have one’s calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father’s kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence to sit with Christ in his throne, even as he is ‘set down’ with his ‘Father in his throne.’ (Rev. 3:21.) (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Bookcraft, 1973, 3:330–31.)
As Elder McConkie goes on to indicate, the “unconditional guarantee” means that a person’s actions have been fully approved, that “there are no more conditions to be met by the obedient person.” (P. 335.) When one has been thus sealed up unto eternal life, he is “sealed up against all manner of sin except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and the shedding of innocent blood.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:46.)
In Laman’s terms, those that have received the second anointing have already been saved. In their minds, they have already achieved exaltation. They believe that they have already had their judgement day. The rest of their life is simply to be a blessing to the Church and to further God’s broader mission of “saving” his children. They no longer are accountable for any sins they may commit in the eternities.
If you have already had your judgement day, how does that affect your actions? If you had been blessed to be the member of a Godhead, how accountable would you feel to the membership of the Church?
Lying for the Lord, hypocritically disobeying scripture, disavowing past prophets, banning gay couples’ straight children baptisms, denying women greater participation in both priesthood and non-priesthood functions, manipulating and hiding Church history, lack of transparency with how sacred funds are spent, the excommunication of dissenters, and no venue for members to express dissatisfaction all are of little consequence if you are no longer concerned with personal righteousness and are only concerned with growing the kingdom and the greater good. Better that a few perish than a whole nation dwindle in unbelief, right?
Again, in their minds, God has already sealed them up to exaltation. Any “sin” they happen to commit no longer has eternal consequences. If a few people suffer or have a problem with a decision you make, of what consequence is that to you? God hasn’t made their calling and election sure, and why would God seal you up to exaltation if you were capable of making a grave error? As long as you don’t deny the Holy Ghost or murder someone, God is taking care of it. The ends have already been justified, so the means don’t really matter much.
The basis of the Church is not Jesus Christ – plenty of churches have Jesus. The basis of the Church isn’t the Book of Mormon – plenty of break-off churches have the Book of Mormon. The basis of the Church is authority, and that same authority teaches that the first law of heaven is obedience. That authority and obedience has often been on the wrong side of history, and often not lived up to the same eternal standards like equality, honesty, and love that it espouses. Nothing is more Pharisaical that teaching morality while also believing you are above an obligation to it.
Are these men malicious? I don’t think so. Even the worst among us often feel that their actions are justified. And it is a similar situation here. The apostles are products of their time. If they were only our grandparents, homophobia would not be a surprise. Condescending tones or the belief that their life experience trumps facts, science, and your own experience would not be surprising. In fact, we probably would laugh it off.
However when these men, who are simply products of their time, believe that their personal feelings are also the mind and will of God, it’s no laughing matter. Though in some aspects they have great advice to give, their advice is not unique to them (just look how often they reference C.S. Lewis). Throughout history, people’s lives are destroyed because of things they say. Some people’s lives even end early. When these men not only believe that they are not accountable to members of the Church but they are also not accountable to their own doctrine, any collateral damage in building up the Kingdom will just be an unfortunate but necessary consequence.
Meanwhile, other Second Anointing blessings seem to be less effective. Presidents of the Church seem to die at completely normal ages and sometimes live past what would be considered “desirable”. Despite having the power to seal on Earth and in Heaven, prophecies fail and blessings by Apostles that someone will be healed end up not coming to pass. And if anyone would have been cursed, it would be John Dehlin, and he seems to be doing well enough.
Based on the lack of fruits, I think it is safe to say that the Second Anointing is a false promise. In the infinitesimal chance I am wrong, I am sure Elder Oaks, who lived his life sealed to more than one woman, will stand in front of me with his wives as a new member of a Godhood and gladly tell me how wrong I was.
But there is no reason to believe that I am wrong, no reason to believe polygamist-God Dallin Oaks will rebuke me when I die, and no reason to believe that these men have any moral or God-given authority to teach me how to live my life.