Since I was a little girl, I remember learning about my family and our history as I sat at the feet of my kūpuna (elders). I could feel the connection that each of them felt for their beloved friends and loved ones who passed on before them and even for those individuals they had never met before.
Because of this natural setting of hearing stories of my ancestors, it has been easy for me to connect to my family on both sides of the veil.
When I graduated high school and left my home of Hawai’i to come to the continental United States for college, I did not anticipate how difficult the transition would be for me. I was always excited to leave home and explore the world outside of what I had always known, but it did come with a lot of growing pains, especially during my first winter.
Inspired by My Ancestors’ Resilience
The first time I saw snow fall was both magical and awful. It was apparent how much I was not mentally or physically prepared for the cold when my mind and heart could not escape the sadness I felt. When I talked to my mom about my depression, she reminded me of my courageous and faithful Hawaiian ancestors who left their homes in the Pacific to come to Utah to participate in and receive the blessings of the temple.
Iosepa Colony was established in 1889 by Hawaiian and Polynesian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There in the desert of Skull Valley, Utah, USA, my ancestors built and beautifully crafted their new home and faithfully journeyed to Salt Lake City often to do temple work.
My mom asked me what I thought our ancestors felt in their first winter. I imagined how difficult and trying that season would have been for them. I am blessed with heaters, access to warm clothing, buildings that are well insulated, and much more, but this was not the case for the Iosepa Saints.1
As I thought about what their experience might have been like, I felt less alone in my depression, and I also became curious. I knew that if my ancestors could survive and thrive in challenging and unfamiliar surroundings, I could too.
Embracing Family Stories
But remembering my ancestors’ story affected me beyond just helping me get through that winter. Although I don’t have personal records of what my immigrant Iosepa ancestors experienced in their first winter, I used my imagination and humanity to guide me to believe that they were helped. I know that there were people that looked out for my family and were kind. I imagine that these acts of goodness buoyed the Iosepa Saints even under the climate, social, and political stresses of their time. Now I ask myself: “How can I be more loving to those who are in need around me?”
When I see others who are experiencing their own winters of the mind and heart, I am reminded of my experience of being depressed, and I am moved to help as best as I can through love and service. I am especially moved when I see immigrants in my country who are here to try to make a better life for themselves. Now more than ever, I feel responsible to love and support them just as I hope others did for my ancestors.
My hope and dream is that each of us will learn about our families’ histories. I acknowledge that not every family history story is joyful or celebratory. And sometimes, we do not have records to help us connect to our ancestors, which can make it difficult for many of us to know the intimate details of our ancestors’ lives. But I invite each of us to embrace our authentic family stories in our own authentic ways and to let this change us for the better. You and I have the choice today to become good ancestors to those who come after us. Our ancestors’ lives can inspire us to carry on the good they did or give us the opportunity to transition away from things that are no longer serving our families. As Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said about our role in our families, “Let good things begin with you.”2
We also have the power to be the deliverers and healers of those who came before us and for those who will come after us through temple work and connection. How will you do this with temple work and beyond? What are you going to do differently because of what you know about your family? What kind of ancestor are you choosing to become?
Turning Our Hearts to Each Other
I testify that learning about who we really are—and where we came from—can change the world and truly bring about the healing that our Savior Jesus Christ has for all of God’s children, both living and dead. I promise that as our hearts turn to our ancestors, our hearts will turn to each other. You will feel an increase in love for those you know and for those you do not know. You will be transformed because of this heart-turning.
Elder Gong also testified: “Through sacred covenants, Jesus Christ offers His love, power, and grace to change us [see Mosiah 3:19] and heal our relationships. Selfless temple service for dear ones makes our Savior’s Atonement real for them and us. Sanctified, we can return home to God’s presence as families united eternally.”3
As we let our hearts turn to each other, we will collectively turn our hearts upward to heaven and to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who have always had Their hearts turned to us. And that kind of heart-turning will unlock blessings and miracles we cannot begin to fathom.