As this discussion has gone on at my answers site, and I don't publish comments on that site, I thought it best to put the subject up here so that anyone wishing to discuss it further can express their thoughts.
There is a doctrine that has come forward claiming that if righteous parents are sealed to their children in the temple then even if their children go astray that they will at some point return and gain eternal life. The claim is that the sealing will make this happen. Furthermore it is quoted that this change can even take place in the eternities.
Quotes are proposed from General Authorities as supporting this idea. Let's look at those quotes and the case of Alma the younger.
“The world is reserved unto burning in the last days. He shall send Elijah the prophet, and he shall reveal the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers. Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 321).
“Let the father and mother, who are members of this Church and Kingdom, take a righteous course, and strive with all their might never to do a wrong, but to do good all their lives; if they have one child or one hundred children, if they conduct themselves towards them as they should, binding them to the Lord by their faith and prayers, I care not where those children go, they are bound up to their parents by an everlasting tie, and no power of earth or hell can separate them from their parents in eternity; they will return again to the fountain from whence they sprang.” (Brigham Young, JD 11:215).
Gordon B. Hinckley:
"May you be blessed, each of you. May there be love and peace and gladness in your homes. I leave my blessing upon you. May there be food on your table, clothing on your backs, shelter over your heads and a sense of security and peace and love among your children, precious children every one of them, even those who may have strayed. I hope you don't lose patience with them; I hope you go on praying for them, and I don't hesitate to promise that if you do so, the Lord will touch their hearts and bring them back to you with love and respect and appreciation.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Prophet Returns To 'beloved England', LDS Church News, 1995, 09/02/95).
Spencer W. Kimball:
“I have sometimes seen children of good families rebel, resist, stray, sin, and even actually fight God. In this they bring sorrow to their parents, who have done their best to ... teach and live as examples. But I have repeatedly seen many of these same children ... repent... The reason I believe this can take place is that, despite all the adverse winds to which these people have been subjected, they have been influenced still more, and much more than they realized, by the current of life in the homes in which they were reared. When, in later years, they feel a longing to recreate in their own families the same atmosphere they enjoyed as children, they are likely to turn to the faith that gave meaning to their parents lives.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, Ocean Currents and Family Influences, Ensign (CR), November 1974, p.110).
Additionally the following thought was presented by someone in favor of the absolute sealing idea _
"Alma the younger lived a very sinful life. Then, an angel appeared to him and he received a miraculous conversion. Was it the angel that changed his heart? No. Alma 36:17 presents that he was “harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy to the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ…” So it was his memory of his childhood and the joy he felt then when his father taught him the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wayward children in Mortality (physical world or spirit world) will remember their childhood of joy if and only if their parents taught them well and the parents have sufficient faith."
Joseph Smith's symbolic statement presents the idea of magic sealings - go to the temple, have some symbols done, be a reasonable person and your children are guaranteed to be magically saved at some point in eternity. The idea presented in the latter quotes, however, isn't reflecting the simplistic idea Joseph has presented. The latter idea presented here is actually supported in Scripture and based on sound logic. I'm not suggesting Joseph was wrong, as such. I'm proposing that his view of it was extremely basic and needed enlarging to find what was really on his mind.
So let's have a look at it.
Joseph Smith's statement is obviously shrouded in symbolism. Talk of "destroying angels," "four quarters of the earth," "sealed in their foreheads," etc are things to come to understand the meaning of. Fortunately the Scriptures do help us in this regard to some degree. But those ideas are interpretable (thus arguable). I personally am sure that the talk of sealing in the forehead means that the mind has taken it in and the person's mind won't be changed: They have set their course. Thus their election is secured.
I'd like to start with how Brigham sees this. He presents that if parents who have accepted the full truth, live a righteous life (by God's standard), strive with all their might to never do evil but to do good continually, strive to have their children grow up with a full faith in Christ and teaching them to pray sincerely, that even though their children may stray they will eventually be drawn back by that upbringing.
This sounds far more God like than being saved by magic and symbols (as it has been interpreted by some). Brother Hinkley and Brother Kimball's statements reflect Brigham's logic.
As to Alma the Younger, I also had my wayward years (I always believed in Christ however) and I know that my mother continually prayed for me. I know my mother's prayers are very effective. It took 3 years of wayward research for me to wake up. So I have no doubt that these things happen. Yet I must add that I was not sealed in the temple at that stage. I had never even entered a temple; and was not born under the covenant of a sealing. My mother's prayers were effective and the whole thing went that way without any "sealing power." I would like to believe that it is a guaranteed, as Brigham says. Scriptural support does exist for children turning out right as being guaranteed where the right person is the parent.
"For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him." Genesis 18:19
So God is saying that Abraham's children were guaranteed to come out right.
Yet it should be noted that both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young have said nothing about these children changing in the eternities. Anyone taking it to mean so would be doing such off his own bat, unless he can support such from Scripture. D&C 76 etc etc etc disagree with changes occurring to people's outcomes later. Now is the time for man to prepare to meet God.
IF some GA accepts an extreme interpretation of this I would have to refer to the following _
President Harold B. Lee, when president of the church, in a European area conference:
"If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth." [emphasis mine] The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24-26, 1973, with Reports and Discourses, 69.
Of course the catch 22 of this statement is that it can't be wrong. If it is then that makes it right, because it was made by the president of the church. And if he is wrong then that makes him right.
So we need to look to the Standard Works and judge this idea. Here it gains both support for what they are saying (though not the idea of a magical sealing power) and opposition.
"...for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:5-6
This proposes that the evil acts of parents do come upon the children in effect to the third and fourth generation after them. Therefore as all things have an equal good and bad side, it stands that the same is true for good that parents do. Thus it is true that the good acts of the parents come upon the children to the third and fourth generation. And so Joseph Smith's statement surely must have been based on this inference.
Yet for any today to take this as an absolute, has Scriptural opposition. The second verse quoted above in Exodus demonstrates that those who love him receive mercy. So what if a person has evil parents but becomes righteous? Don't they get this mercy? And if so then the reverse must also apply.
Were the sins of Terah passed on to Abraham? From a spiritual sense it would certainly seem not. Were the sins of Levi passed on to Moses? Spiritually, no! For while God declared that they were passed on to those generations, righteousness eliminates the cursing from spiritual consequences.
"Again, when I say to the wicked, you shall surely die; if he turns from this sin, and does that which is lawful and right....he shall not die." Ezek 33:14-15 (also note verses 13 for the adverse).
So even if God declares a cursing or blessing it isn't absolute if there is a change to the opposite lifestyle. If a son of righteous parents does evil don't his children fit under the curse of Exodus 20:5-6 (quoted above)? So then are we to believe that this evil son, who has placed a 4 generation curse on his descendants, is going to go to the Celestial? And this because his parents placed a one generation blessing upon him that he can't transgress from, whatever he does?
Adam was the great archangel Michael in the pre-existence. Surely then his children will all be saved into the Celestial kingdom if we are to take these statements as absolutes.
Yet in regard Cain the Lord said,
"If you do well, you shall be accepted. And if you do not well sin lies at the door, and Satan desires to have you; and except you shall listen to my commandments, I will deliver you up, and it shall be to you according to his desire. And you shall rule over him; For from this time forward you shall be the father of his lies; you shall be called Perdition; for you were also before the world." Moses 5:23-24
Should we regard that such will be in the Celestial kingdom afterward: That the tentacles have reached out to save Cain?
What of Lehi and Sariah with Laman and Lemuel? Are we to believe that we will be with Laman and Lemuel in the Celestial kingdom?
Or can a person commit the unpardonable sin and then be saved into the Celestial kingdom because his father and mother were good people?
And what of Alma's statement? _
"You can't say, when you are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. No, you can't say this; for that same spirit which possesses your bodies at the time that you go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For see, if you have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, look, you have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he does seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord has withdrawn from you, and has no place in you, and the devil has all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked." Alma 34:34-35
Clearly Alma is declaring that those who turn away from God and won't change back in this life, have set their course, and WON'T change it back later.
Joseph Smith received a revelation recorded in D&C 76. The only people it declares to be going to hell are those who will be in the telestial kingdom (those going to outer darkness are stated to just be in a permanent state of woe, which isn't the same hell state).
"These are they who are thrust down to hell. These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work. These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestial." verses 84-86
Note it states that they will not receive a fulness in the eternal world. No talk of them moving onto a fulness at some stage of eternity.
In regard these it goes on further to state,
"For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared; And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end." D&C 76:111-112
Two things stand out here. One is that they receive a mansion according to their works. Not the works of their parents being taken into account also. The second is that they cannot move up into the Celestial kingdom - "worlds without end."
So we have seen that making these things Joseph Smith has stated into an inevitability; proposing some magical "sealing power" that will make people become righteous again later on, is to take words to an extreme. These Scripture texts opposing such an interpretation are only a few that I could think of with almost no effort. The list of Scripture texts opposing such an extreme interpretation seem almost endless to me.