What is the Holy Spirit of Promise?
June 1978

“What is the Holy Spirit of Promise?” New Era, June 1978, 29–30

“I’ve heard that before a temple marriage is eternalized, it must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Who may seal it?”

Answer/Brother W. Lowell Castleton

In President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book Doctrines of Salvation, he states, “I will make an explanation of the expression ‘Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.’ This does not have reference to marriage for time and eternity only, but to every ordinance and blessing of the gospel. Baptism into the Church is sealed by this Spirit, likewise confirmation, ordination, and all ordinances as well as marriage for time and all eternity.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft 1955, vol. 2, p. 94.)

The meaning of this expression is set forth in one of the most impressive, and in some respects the most remarkable, vision ever given to man. This was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith on February 16, 1832, and is known as section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In it he says, “And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.

“And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness.” (D&C 76:19–20.)

Concerning those who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just, the Lord said, “They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

“That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

“And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.” (D&C 76:51–53.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine clarifies this further. He states, “The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Spirit promised the saints, or in other words the Holy Ghost. This name-title is used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost, that is, the power given him to ratify and approve the righteous acts of men so that those acts will be binding on earth and in heaven. ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations,’ must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.’ (D&C 132:7.)

“To seal is to ratify, to justify, or to approve. Thus an act which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise is one which is ratified by the Holy Ghost; it is one which is approved by the Lord; and the person who has taken the obligation upon himself is justified by the Spirit in the thing he has done. The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive divine approbation. They are ‘sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.’ (D&C 76:53.) If they are not just and true and worthy the ratifying seal is withheld. …

“The operation and power of the Holy Spirit of Promise is best illustrated by the ordinance and contract of baptism. An unworthy candidate for baptism might deceive the elders and get the ordinance performed, but no one can lie to the Holy Ghost and get by undetected. Accordingly, the baptism of an unworthy and unrepentant person would not be sealed by the Spirit; it would not be ratified by the Holy Ghost; the unworthy person would not be justified by the Spirit in his actions. If thereafter he became worthy through repentance and obedience, the seal would then be put in force. Similarly, if a worthy person is baptized, with the ratifying approval of the Holy Ghost attending the performance, the seal may be broken by subsequent sin.

“These principles also apply to every other ordinance and performance in the Church. Thus if both parties are ‘just and true,’ if they are worthy, a ratifying seal is placed on their temple marriage; if they are unworthy, they are not justified by the Spirit and the ratification of the Holy Ghost is withheld. Subsequent worthiness will put the seal in force, and unrighteousness will break any seal.

“Even if a person progresses to that state of near-perfection in which his calling and election is made sure, in which he is ‘sealed up unto eternal life’ (D&C 131:5; D&C 132:18–26), in which he receives ‘the promise … of eternal life’ (D&C 88:3–4), in which he is ‘sealed up unto the day of redemption’ (D&C 124:124; Eph. 1:13)—yet with it all, these great promises are secured only if the ‘performances’ are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.” (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1966, pp. 361–62.)

As to the question, “Who may seal it?” the Lord also makes this clear in the revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 55:2–3, wherein the Lord tells William W. Phelps that he shall be ordained an elder unto this church, and then says, “And on whomsoever you shall lay your hands, if they are contrite before me, you shall have power to give the Holy Spirit.” (D&C 55:2–3; Italics added.) Every worthy member of the Church who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has the power to bestow these blessings when he acts under the direction of those in authority over him and is worthy. This is the key.

  • Former President, Oakland Temple