Family History Blesses the Living as Well as the Dead
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Family history is as much a blessing for the living as it is for the dead.
- To encourage families to participate in family history together, temples are now implementing “family temple time” to allow families to schedule a time to go to the temple.
“It’s true that even active members are undergoing continuing conversion. Many attend the temple regularly, but they might be missing some of the blessings of the temple work if they are not taking their own family names with them.” —Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy
“Family history should be a source of joy and peace in our lives,” Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy said during a session of RootsTech’s Family Discovery Day held in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on February 14.
In a session titled “Gathering, Healing, and Sealing Families,” Elder Packer joined Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy to speak of the important role family history work can play in a family, in a ward, and at a stake level. Sister Neill F. Marriott of the Young Women general presidency moderated the event.
“Finding our kindred dead and performing temple ordinances for them is a divinely appointed responsibility,” said Elder Packer, who is the Executive Director of the Church’s Family History Department. “It is necessary for our salvation as well as for our ancestors and our descendants, ‘for we without [our ancestors] cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.’”
Leaders spoke of the joy families will find as they research their family history and then take those names to the temple—together.
Drawing from the teachings of Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Packer shared three steps of family history work.
First, individuals can find their ancestors through FamilySearch and other resources. Second, once those names have been found, members have the responsibility to take them to the temple or to share them with others to take to the temple to perform ordinances on the ancestors’ behalf. Third, once members have found family names and taken them to the temple, they can teach their family and others how to do the same.
“When possible, go to the temple as a family,” Elder Packer taught.
Recognizing that the three steps shared by Elder Cook are simple, Elder Packer said, “Many people are still hesitant to begin or have concerns.” Because of that, he invited the other Church leaders to talk about ways members can overcome hurdles in the way of doing family history work.
For those who think all of their family history work has been done, Elder Richards, who serves as the Executive Director of the Temple Department, shared his own experience of using Family Tree and Ancestry.com to be able to extend his family lines, finding family even after generations of family members have been involved in compiling family history.
“I was wrong,” he said. “The temple work for my direct ancestors may be largely completed, but using FamilyTree and Ancestry, I have been able to extend some of those family lines. The new tools on FamilySearch.org have made searching for related descendants much easier.”
He said that for him and his family, it has been a wonderful experience taking those names to the temple.
“Once you personally experience the blessings of family history and temple work, you will be better able to teach and encourage others to participate,” he said. “And as more people participate, we will come closer to reaching our goal of members supplying all the names for their temple worship.”
During the event, Elder Richards announced that temples around the world would have a designated “family temple time” to allow families to schedule time to attend the temple together.
“We have instituted family priority time at each temple, where time will be set aside in the baptistry for patrons to come as families,” Elder Richards said. “This will make it faster for families to perform baptisms together in the temple.”
The instruction has gone out to all temple presidents, the leader explained. Specific times will be determined by each temple president and will become available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Patrons can check online to find the days and times designated for families at their temple and call for an appointment. (Please see related article here.)
Building the family is at the center of the plan of salvation, the leaders taught. On the other side of the veil, individuals will be organized into families through ordinances that take place in temples. Because of the importance of those ordinances, it is essential that families work together to redeem their dead. Through modern technology advances family history has improved, allowing people of all ages to get involved with ease.
“Family history is easier than ever before,” Elder Packer said. “People of all ages can do this.”
The Church leaders encouraged ward and stake leaders to get involved on a ward and stake level. Despite busy schedules and limited time, leaders can focus on family history by integrating family history work in existing meetings, conferences, and youth activities.
“Make it a priority to help youth find their own names to take to the temple,” Elder Clayton taught. “Call them as family history consultants. You know the circumstances of your ward the best. If circumstances permit, aim for at least three family history consultants per ward. Think young men and young women. Have the ward council make assignments to the family history consultants, asking them to focus especially on helping new converts and recently reactivated members with their family history. But don’t just make the assignments and then leave the consultants alone—make sure the high priests group leader and ward council follow up with consultants regularly. If you do this, you will see how the Spirit of the Lord will bless your ward members.”
Family history work assists in the work of salvation, benefiting missionary work, reactivation of members, and convert retention and even helping individuals overcome addictions. Family history work and temple work can lead to deeper conversion and testimony for all involved.
“It’s true that even active members are undergoing continuing conversion,” Elder Packer said. “Many attend the temple regularly, but they might be missing some of the blessings of the temple work if they are not taking their own family names with them.”