Five days ago I sat in the Salt Lake Temple (in downtown Salt Lake City) and watched, in the official capacity of a witness, as my son was married to a remarkable young lady. The ceremony was simple but the profound promises and the sense of eternal significance perfused the whole event. Mothers, fathers, and many others wept. Even brothers sniffled. The bride and groom were overcome by it all. And as I sat just a few feet from the altar trying to control my own emotions, I began to sense an importance of the event that I could not readily place my finger on.
I was (and continue to be) very well aware of the binding nature of temple covenants. But this was the first time in my life that I began to catch a glimpse, at a deeper personal level, of something more. Over the next few days I came to appreciate that I was sensing the expansion of my dominion.
This may sound a bit egotistical. Dominion, after all, is a word that we normally associate with power and wealth. I was not experiencing these things in the least. (Quite the contrary, in fact, as I was in one sense losing an immediate member of the household, and it was costing me quite a bit of money!) But then the inspiring passages in the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants came into my mind:
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (The italics are mine.)
Now the first definition of the Oxford English Dictionary under dominion refers to a piece of land, a domain. A king’s dominion included the territory he ruled. It also meant the things that occupied that land, often including the possessions of people and even individual persons themselves.
But at its root, dominion refers to something that seems much simpler and more humble. It refers to a household, the Latin domus. And it is this meaning that worked its way into my understanding and clarified my joy. My household was growing, and I had (and still have) all the confidence in the world that the two lovely young people in front of me would be instruments in that expansion. They were part of my eternal dominion and I couldn’t help but love them for that.
Now what stands out so obviously to me about this scriptural dominion is its basis in individual agency. There is no element here of tyrannical rule or of an enforced sovereignty. This is a dominion that comes without “compulsory means”.
Now I am no legal scholar but as I understand real estate agreements, our land is owned and ultimately protected by compulsion, or at least the threat of compulsion. If I trespass on someone’s land, or fail to make payments on my own, I can be compelled to make recompense or face punishment.
On the other hand, everlasting dominion (in its scriptural sense) is not based on this use of force. It comes on its own. Or maybe it would be better to say that it comes as a natural (even inevitable) part of living virtuously and charitably.
This was all a surprise to me. I have often been saddened by my lack of an immediate inheritance of land. My brother and sisters all live in the same town I grew up in. I am the only member of the family that has moved around a great deal. And I have often longed for a place – transcending generations – of fruitful land that would partly define me and my descendants. This is the kind of dominion I have often thought about. I still do, in fact.
But I learned something new last Tuesday that I wasn’t expecting, when I entered the temple. You see I have attended other wedding ceremonies – wonderful ceremonies. They reminded me of my own marriage and of the wonderful woman that is my own eternal companion. But this was the first time I really sensed the bigger picture. I became more than just a husband and father. Or maybe I should say that I sensed more truly what it means to be an eternal husband and father. It isn’t something that I can easily put into words.
After all the promise accompanying this dominion is that it comes with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It truly is something that must be experienced in order to appreciate. It is part of gaining an eternal perspective.
Maybe at some time in the future these two kinds of dominion will dovetail into a fuller eternal dominion full of family, faith and landscape. In the meantime I think I’ll just enjoy this part of getting older, and watch my family grow.