The Washing of the Feet, Bearing the Name of Christ, and Being Sealed Up Unto Eternal Life:
While reclining at the Passover table, Jesus and His Apostles ate the meal and presumably observed the rites that attended that ceremony. He then introduced the ordinance of the washing of feet. After doing so, He questioned them, “Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12.)
What He had done was to perform an ordinance found only in holy places where those who are to bear His name are cleansed from “the blood [and sins] of this wicked generation.” (See D&C 88:74‑75, 137‑41.) This was a manifestation of the Savior’s supreme love “to seal his friends up unto eternal life in his Father’s kingdom.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979‑81, 4:48.) Elder David B. Haight, “Remembering the Savior’s Atonement,”(The Ensign (April 1988), pp. 7‑8.)
We Take Upon Us His Name When We Receive the Highest Blessings of the Gospel:
Our witness [during the partaking of the sacrament] that we are willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ has several different meanings. Some of these meanings are obvious, and well within the understanding of our children. Others are only evident to those who have searched the scriptures and pondered the wonders of eternal life. . . .
A third meaning appeals to the understanding of those mature enough to know that a follower of Christ is obligated to serve him. . . .
There are other meanings as well, deeper meanings that the more mature members of the Church should understand and ponder as he or she partakes of the sacrament.
It is significant that when we partake of the sacrament we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the most important sense.
What future event or events could this covenant contemplate? The scriptures suggest two sacred possibilities, once concerning the authority of God, especially as exercised in the temples, and the other closely related concerning exaltation in the celestial kingdom.
The name of God is sacred. . . . All . . . references to ancient and modern temples as houses for “the name” of the Lord obviously involve something far more significant than a mere inscription of his sacred name on the structure. The scriptures speak of the Lord’s putting his name in a temple because he gives authority for his name to be used in the sacred ordinances of that house. That is the meaning of the Prophet’s reference to the Lord’s putting his name upon his people in that holy house. (See D&C 109:26.)
Willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ can therefore be understood as willingness to take upon us the authority of Jesus Christ. According to this meaning, by partaking of the sacrament we witness our willingness to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Savior when he chooses to confer them upon us.
. . . [T]hose who exercise faith in the sacred name of Jesus Christ and repent of their sins and enter into his covenant and keep his commandments (see Mosiah 5:8) can lay claim on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those who do so will be called by his name at the last day. . . .
According to this meaning, when we witness our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, we are signifying our commitment to do all that we can to achieve eternal life in the kingdom of our Father. We are expressing our candidacy our determination to strive for exaltation in the celestial kingdom.
Those who are found worthy to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ at the last day are described in the great revelations recorded in the ninety‑third and seventy‑sixth sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here the Savior revealed to Joseph Smith that in due time, if we keep the commandments of God, we can receive the “fulness” of the Father. (D&C 93:19‑20.) Here the Savior bears record that “all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the [Father], and are the church of the Firstborn.” (D&C 93:22.) “They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things. . . . Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods” who “shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.” (D&C 76:55, 58, 62.) “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” (John 17:3; see also D&C 88:4‑5.) This is the ultimate significance of taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. . . .
[O]ur witness [in the sacrament] relates to some future event or status who attainment is not self‑assumed, but depends on the authority or initiative of the Savior himself. . . .
[Among other meanings also, this] is what we should ponder as we partake of the sacred emblems of the sacrament. As we do so, we glory in the mission of the risen Lord, who lived and taught and suffered and died and rose again that all mankind might have immortality and eternal life. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Taking Upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ,” The Ensign (May1985), pp. 80‑83 (italics in the original).
Jesus Washing the Apostles’ Feet
Now before the feast of the apassover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he bloved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the aheart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus aknowing that the Father had given all bthings into his hands, and that he was ccome from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to awash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. aPeter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I bwash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is aclean every whit: and ye are bclean, but not all. For he knew who should abetray him; therefore said he, Ye are not ball clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me aMaster and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and aMaster, have bwashed your feet; ye also ought to cwash one another’s dfeet. For I have given you an aexample, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, ahappy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:1–17)
And again we bear record—for we asaw and heard, and this is the btestimony of the cgospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the djust— They are they who received the atestimony of Jesus, and bbelieved on his name and were cbaptized after the dmanner of his burial, being eburied in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given— That by akeeping the commandments they might be bwashed and ccleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the dhands of him who is eordained and sealed unto this power; And who aovercome by faith, and are bsealed by the Holy Spirit of cpromise, which the Father dsheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
They are they who are the achurch of the bFirstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given aall things—They are they who are apriests and bkings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; and are apriests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of bEnoch, which was after the corder of the Only Begotten Son.
Wherefore, as it is written, they are agods, even the bsons of cGod—Wherefore, aall things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall aovercome all things. (D&C 76:50–60)
The ordinance of washing of feet is performed in the temple, for it is a restored ordinance, but it is part of the culminating sealing ordinances which are reserved for those who make their calling and election sure through faith. Temple scholar Matthew Brown has offered this:
The Lord mentioned in a revelation on 1 November 1831 that he had granted unto his disciples the authority to “seal both on earth and in heaven” (D&C 1:8). During the same month he indicated that God the Father would reveal to his servants who should be sealed up “unto eternal life” by this power (D&C 68:12). The ordinance of the washing of feet was then introduced by the Lord as the means whereby someone could be rendered “clean from the blood of this generation” (D&C 88:138-141), and when Joseph Smith administered this ordinance, he stated that those who received it were not only “clean” in a ritual sense but were also “sealed up unto eternal life” (HC, 1:323-24; see also MD, 829-32).1
Indeed, the Prophet Joseph had this to say on the sacred occasion, in language that mirrors D&C 132:26:
On the 23rd of January, we again assembled in conference; when, after much speaking, singing, praying, and praising God, all in tongues, we proceeded to the washing of feet (according to the practice recorded in the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel), as commanded of the Lord. Each Elder washed his own feet first, after which I girded myself with a towel and washed the feet of all of them, wiping them with the towel with which I was girded. . . . At the close of the scene, Brother Frederick G. Williams, being moved upon by the Holy Ghost, washed my feet in token of his fixed determination to be with me in suffering, or in journeying, in life or in death, and to be continually on my right hand; in which I accepted him in the name of the Lord.
I then said to the Elders, As I have done so do ye; wash ye, therefore, one another’s feet; and by the power of the Holy Ghost I pronounced them all clean from the blood of this generation; but if any of them should sin wilfully after they were thus cleansed, and sealed up unto eternal life, they should be given over unto the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.2
Dr. Daniel H. Ludlow has also given us some insight:
This ordinance of the gospel has been restored in this dispensation. When the School of the Prophets was organized, the Lord indicated that the members should “be received by the ordinance of the washing of feet, for unto this end [that ye might be clean from the blood of this generation] was the ordinance of the washing of feet instituted.” (D&C 88:139.) The ordinance of washing of the feet has now been incorporated in the ordinances that are revealed to be administered in the Lord’s house.3
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has also taught:
Washing of feet is a gospel ordinance; it is a holy and sacred rite, one performed by the saints in the seclusion of their temple sanctuaries. It is not done before the world or for worldly people. . . .
As part of the restoration of all things, the ordinance of washing of feet has been restored in the dispensation of the fulness of times. In keeping with the standard pattern of revealing principles and practices line upon line and precept upon precept, the Lord revealed his will concerning the washing of feet little by little until the full knowledge of the endowment and all temple ordinances had been given. . . .
Thus the knowledge relative to the washing of feet has been revealed step by step in this day until a full knowledge is now incorporated in the revealed ordinances of the Lord’s house. Obviously the apostate peoples of the world, being without revelation to guide them, cannot comply with our Lord’s command given on the occasion of the last supper.4
It is enlightening that originally the traditional church hymn “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning!“, which was sung at the dedication of the Kirtland temple, had these words as one of the verses:
We’ll wash and be washed,and with oil be anointed, Withal not omitting the washing of feet; For he that receiveth his penny appointed Must surely be clean at the harvest of wheat.5
And again, the ordinance of washing feet is to be administered by the president, or presiding elder of the church. It is to be commenced with prayer; and after partaking of abread and wine, he is to gird himself according to the bpattern given in the thirteenth chapter of John’s testimony concerning me. Amen. (D&C 88:140–141)
Elder James E. Talmage’s Description of the Purpose of the Holy of Holies of the Salt Lake Temple:
This room is reserved for the higher ordinances in the Priesthood relating to the exaltation of both living and dead. (The House of the Lord (1968 ed.), p. 163.)
From Joseph Fielding Smith’s Way To Perfection:
Each person baptized into the Church is under obligation to keep the commandments of the Lord. He is under covenant, for baptism is a “new and an everlasting covenant.” (D.C. 22: 1.) When he has proved himself by a worthy life, having been faithful in all things required of him, then it is his privilege to receive other covenants and to take upon himself other obligations which will make of him an heir, and he will become a member of the “Church of the Firstborn.” Into his hands “the Father has given all things.” He will be a priest and a king, receiving of the Father’s fulness [sic] and of his glory. Is this worth having? It cannot be obtained without some effort. It cannot be obtained without knowledge of the things of God. ***** And the fulness [sic] of these blessings can only be obtained in the temple of the Lord! (Way To Perfection, 1931 ed., p. 208.)
In an interview with Elder Theodore Burton on December 8, 1966 he told Kenneth W. Godfrey that the complete Nauvoo temple book was in the Salt Lake Temple. He further stated that in this book was the full ceremony relative to giving second endowments. This ceremony is confidential and only given to a person when called by the First Presidency of the Church. He also stated that temple work is done differently today than it was then in that not as many people receive their second endowments. (pg.210 W. Dean Belnap “Notebooks”, 1966)
In this regard, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “No man shall receive the FULNESS [sic] OF ETERNITY, of exaltation, alone; no woman shall receive that blessing alone; but man and wife, when they RECEIVE THE SEALING POWER IN THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD, if they thereafter keep all the commandments, shall pass on to exaltation, and shall continue and become like the Lord, and That is the destiny of men; that is what the Lord desires for his children.” (D.S. 2:44) 221. Commitment, p. 16; 1982 ed., by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone.
By Susan McMurray
The following compilation is my attempt to present in chronological order insightful extracts from authorized publications which answer a question oft asked of me: “What is the Second Anointing?” No source is cited that was not approved for publication by the First Presidency of the Church at the time of original publication.
Elder James E. Talmage’s Description of the Purpose of the Holy of Holies of the Salt Lake Temple:
This room is reserved for the higher ordinances in the Priesthood relating to the exaltation of both living and dead. – The House of the Lord (1968 ed.), p. 163.