Part three in our seven part series taken from Elder McConkie's famous talk, The Seven Deadly Heresies, covers the doctrine of Celestial Marriage. The Seven Deadly Heresies can be accessed here. Elder McConkie continues:
Heresy three: There are those who say that temple marriage assures us of an eventual exaltation. Some have supposed that couples married in the temple who commit all manner of sin, and who then pay the penalty, will gain their exaltation eventually.
This notion is contrary to the whole system and plan that the Lord has ordained, a system under which we are privileged to work out our salvation with fear and trembling before him. If we believe and obey, if we enter the waters of baptism and make solemn covenants with the Lord to keep his commandments, we thereby get on a strait and narrow path that leads from the gate of repentance and baptism to a reward that is called eternal life. And if we traverse the length of the path going upward and forward and onward, keeping the commandments, loving the Lord, and doing all that we ought to do, eventually we will be inheritors of that reward.
And in exactly and precisely the same sense, celestial marriage is a gate that puts us on a path leading to exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is in that highest realm of glory and dignity and honor hereafter that the family unit continues. Those who inherit a place in the highest heaven receive the reward that is named eternal life. Baptism is a gate; celestial marriage is a gate. When we get on the paths of which I speak, we are then obligated to keep the commandments. My suggestion in this field is that you go to the temple and listen to a ceremony of celestial marriage, paying particular and especial attention to the words, and learn what the promises are that are given. And you will learn that all of the promises given are conditioned upon subsequent compliance with all of the terms and conditions of that order of matrimony.
Unlike some of the previous heresies listed by Elder McConkie, I feel that he is right on with this one. The culture within the church has sometimes propagated, among other things, the idea that once one is sealed in the temple that the have essentially already received their place in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom. A closer reading of D&C 132:19 will clear up this point.
"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word (celestial marriage in the temple), which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection..."
In other words, if one is married in the temple and that marriage is sealed by the Holy Ghost and by the proper priesthood holder, then the promise of eternal life is guaranteed. These individuals have there calling and election made sure and have a knowledge in this life that they will attain that highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, even in this life, with the exception of committing the unpardonable sin and shedding innocent blood. That knowledge is described as having the more sure word of prophecy, which according to the Prophet is knowing that one is sealed up unto eternal life (D&C 131:5). See also Mosiah 26:20.