12 Things I Learned About Family History and Temple Work from LDS General Conference
In the recent LDS General Conference, church leaders spoke about a wide range of topics that comforted, taught, and inspired us. Many of the talks focused on personal conversion and our relationship with the Savior. Many other messages were about strengthening families and how we can improve our relationships with each other.
As a family history consultant in my ward, the insights shared about why we should do family history research and proxy temple work for our ancestors especially stood out to me. Here are twelve of the lessons I drew from the messages that pertained to family history:
1 – We can experience extraordinary tender mercies from the Lord when we participate in temple and family history work.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson, in his talk about the keys and authority of the priesthood, told a story about the serendipitous experience of a mother and her children who stopped as they were leaving the temple baptistry to help someone with completing ordinances for the deceased family members he had researched. As the children were baptized by proxy for the man’s ancestors, their mother recognized the ancestor’s names as her own. She and the man were distant cousins!
2 – We can strengthen youth who come from complex family backgrounds by encouraging them in family history research.
In his talk “Whoso Receiveth Them, Receiveth Me,” Elder Neil L. Anderson shared the experience of two young men whose parents are divorced. They have not received permission to be baptized, but when their ward goes to the temple to do baptisms, they go next door to the family history center to research their ancestors.
3 – Many on the other side are desperately waiting to be sealed to their living family members.
If we are spiritually in tune, we may even hear their pleadings in a dream, like President Russell M. Nelson. His talk during the Priesthood session poignantly reminds us of how important it is for us to live worthy of temple blessings in order to be reunited with our loved ones.
The sad story of Elder Nelson’s attempts to save Laural Ann and Gay Lynn Hatfield through heart surgery turned into a joyful story when their father, now 88, and brother, responded to Elder Nelson’s invitation to become temple worthy. The deceased girls and mother were sealed to their living father and brother in the Payson Temple not long ago.
Elder Quentin L. Cook shared a story on this subject also. A family was being sealed in the temple. One of their daughters had passed away at a young age. One of the temple workers saw her image in the temple mirrors. She wanted to be included in her family’s sealing ordinance. Elder Cook said, “Never underestimate the assistance provided in temples from the other side of the veil.”
4 – We can change our family history by cultivating loving relationships with our family members.
The kindness and compassion we show now creates a legacy for future generations.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “The way you treat your wife or children or parents or siblings may influence generations to come. What legacy do you want to leave your posterity? One of harshness, vengeance, anger, fear, or isolation?
“Or one of love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, spiritual growth, and unity?”
5 – We have been given unique opportunities and resources allowing us to focus time and effort on family history and temple work.
Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “The Lord has prospered our people and provided the resources and prophetic guidance so we can be valiant in attending to our temple responsibilities for both the living and the dead. …
“The combination of increased numbers of temples and advanced technology to fulfill our sacred family history responsibilities for our ancestors makes this the most blessed time in all history.”
6 – As we do family history research and proxy temple work, we are literally fulfilling an ancient prophecy from Obadiah 1:21.
Elder Cook said, “I rejoice in the extraordinary faithfulness of our youth in indexing and finding their ancestors and then doing the baptism and confirmation work in the temple.
“You are literally among the prophesied saviors on Mount Zion.”
7 – Because eternal families are only organized in temples (while stakes, wards, etc. are done in chapels), we know that relationships within families and with our ancestors are especially sacred to the Lord.
Elder Cook said, “Church leaders organize stakes, wards, quorums, Church auxiliaries, missions, and so forth in our chapels and other buildings.
“The Lord organizes eternal families only in temples.”
8 – The eternally reflecting mirrors in temple sealing rooms can provide us precious perspective about our place between previous and future generations and the connections we have to them.
“These reflected images help us contemplate parents, grandparents, and all previous generations. They help us recognize the sacred covenants that connect us to all generations that follow. This is incredibly significant, and it starts when you see yourself in the temple.”
9 – Remembering stories from our family history can be a significant way to acknowledge God’s hand in our lives and remember the Savior daily.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong said, “Family histories, family traditions, and family ties help us savor remembrance of things past while providing future patterns and hope.”
10 – As we select which memories we actively remember and share, we create a living book of remembrance that has potential to help our posterity.
We should select stories of faith and gratitude to include in our personal narrative.
Elder Gong said, “Have you ever thought of yourself as your own living book of remembrance—reflecting what and how you choose to remember? … We can remember those who give us a chance, and a second chance, with honesty, kindness, patience, and encouragement. And we can become someone others remember when they most needed help.
“Gratefully remembering the assistance of others and the Spirit’s guiding influence is a way we remember Him. It is a way we count our many blessings and see what God hath done.”
11 – To be motivated to do family history research, we first need to experience temple blessings in our own lives.
As we fully experience these temple blessings, our hearts will be turned to our deceased family members.
Elder Kent F. Richards said, “As we feel the blessings of the temple in our own lives, our hearts turn to our families, both living and dead.”
He described some of the temple blessings that we may experience: being close to the Savior, feeling peace and happiness, receiving sacredness, power and strength, and receiving strength to overcome temptations.
12 – A powerful way for people of all ages to serve their ancestors in the temple is to officiate in ordinances for them, not just stand as proxy.
Elder Richards said, “Nearly 100 years ago, Apostle John A. Widtsoe taught: “We need more workers to accomplish [this] wonderful work. … We need more converts to temple work, drawn from all ages. … The time has come, … in this new temple movement, to bring into active service all the people, of all ages. … Temple work is … of as much benefit to the young and the active, as it is to the aged, who have laid behind them many of the burdens of life.
“Serving in the temple is a rich and powerful experience for people of all ages. Even some newly married couples are serving together. President Nelson has taught, “Service in the temple … is a sublime activity for a family.” As ordinance workers, in addition to receiving ordinances for your ancestors, you can also officiate in ordinances for them.”