Temple and Family History Leadership
Promised Blessings of Family History

Promised Blessings of Family History

2019 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction • February 28, 2019 • Conference Center Theater

Thank you, Elder Renlund.

What a blessing it is for me to participate with you this evening in this leadership session, under the direction of Elder David A. Bednar.

As part of my assignment on the Temple and Family History Executive Council, Lesa and I were recently in Rome for the VIP open house of the newly completed Rome Italy Temple. The “Eternal City” is now fittingly graced with a temple where eternal ordinances will be performed.

Rome Italy Temple

Located just about 7 miles from city center Rome, the temple complex is situated on 15 beautiful acres, once a productive olive tree orchard, with remnant trees preserved from that very orchard.

Rome Italy Temple

Mine was the blessing to conduct tours with VIP attendees—prominent and influential leaders in local and national government, religion, education, and business.

Rome Italy Temple baptistry

We particularly enjoyed the tour segment in the baptistry, standing beside the Italian terra cotta–adorned baptismal font. Many were deeply interested in learning how we extend the invitation to receive the ordinances of baptism to loved ones on the other side of the veil as we perform proxy baptisms in the temple.

Rome Italy Temple celestial room

The joy of introducing the ordinance of proxy baptism to our friends was only surpassed by the privilege of describing the sealing ordinance in the sealing room of the temple.

I cannot recall one person who did not seem visibly touched as the doctrine of eternal family and eternal marriage was described along with the great plan of happiness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I will forever remember the Spirit bringing both me and an esteemed religious leader of another faith to tears as I described this sacred ordinance there.

Here I am in the beautiful visitor center following a temple tour with the head of UNICEF in Italy. We felt deeply connected after nearly two hours together.

Elder Stevenson and head of UNICEF Italy

This temple, built in Rome, stirred the emotions of the citizens of Rome and Italy, and it did the same for me. Let me explain.

Rome Italy Temple

Within hours of being on the temple grounds of the temple, I began contemplating the ordinances of salvation and exaltation performed in the house of the Lord.

This turned my heart to my fathers, faithful ancestors to whom I owe so much. “I have roots in Italy,” I thought. Even a great-grandfather and great-grandmother! And yet I can’t articulate the generational links back to them.

This thought did exactly what Elder Foster would hope it would do. I had tools that I could turn to, one of which was the FamilySearch Tree app on my phone.

I remembered that my Italian bloodline came through my mother and through her father, my Grandpa Hall, who died before I was born. I barely remember my Great-Grandma Rose, who died when I was six years old.

It was her mother, Marie Stalle, born in Italy, who immigrated to Utah as a young pioneer girl. Her father, Jean Pierre Stalle, was born in Torino, Piemonte, Italy. He died by the Sweetwater River.

Here I can reference the journal kept by the handcart company referencing his death. We read: “The road to day was very sandy for severall milles. passed over severall creeks. camp at 4 P.M. on the side of the Plat[t]e apposite to Ash Grove. Brother Peter”—they gave him a name Peter rather than Pierre—“Brother Peter Stalley died to day. he was from Itlay [Italy].”1

I then went to Memories on his Person page, where I found the journal of his daughter, Margaret, my great-aunt, describing how the gospel came to her people, the Waldensians, in Italy when she was only five years old, when Lorenzo Snow and other missionaries arrived around 1850. The Jean Pierre Stalle family was baptized at that time.

In her journal, which I found on the FamilySearch app, she described,

“In November 1855, President Franklin D. Richards … came to the house … hiding from the mob and asked for something to eat. [My sister] Susette milked enough goat’s milk for them to drink, and mother set bread, butter and cheese on the table. When they were ready to leave, Franklin D. Richards told mother the family should go to Zion. Mother thanked him for his good will, but she had no hopes of it. …

“[Miraculously,] two weeks later … , Pierre Stalle, his wife and children … sailed on [a] ship. … After a stormy passage, they arrived in New York … and then joined the first handcart company on its way from Iowa … to Salt Lake.”2

Here is a beautiful painting by Leon Parson of Margaret and Marie Stalle as young girls on the pioneer trail.

Prairie Angels, by Leon Parson

Margaret then continues in her journal:

“The last time mother helped father in the wagon, he told her he couldn’t come to the valley, but to be patient, that the rest of them would reach the valley. …

“When mother went back to the wagon, father was dead. When the grave was dug, father was wrapped in a sheet and placed in it between two layers of sage brush. He died on the Platte.”3

Temple Work and Family History Lead Us to Family

Well, Marie Gaudin Stalle, now a widow with four children, arrived safely in Salt Lake Valley.

Life was difficult, but she and her children were faithful. As I mentioned earlier, her daughter, also named Marie, was my great-great-grandmother. She raised a faithful, gospel-centered family of 13 children.

Can you see how this experience led my thoughts to family and ancestors? Their faith and sacrifice inspired me, leading to my desire to share my newfound inspirational story with my family.

Although I shared this information with all four of my sons, I was especially anxious to share this story with my third son and his family.

Elder Stevenson’s son’s family

He married an Italian girl from Pittsburgh. I knew this story would add to his family’s rich Italian legacy. I encouraged him to teach about the faith of their Italian ancestors in a home evening so it could become an inspiration for them.

As each of you consider what you might do in your calling, perhaps one of the most productive things would be to teach and demonstrate these valuable tools, which are literally at our fingertips. Ensure that a My Family pamphlet is in every member’s hands. Demonstrate and familiarize the members of your ward with the FamilySearch app. This will assure that families and individuals in their homes will participate in activities that will lead them to the temple.

Elder Stevenson in Rome Italy Temple visitors center

The home, the family, and the temple are inseparably connected. One leads to another. In no other work are we more home-centered than in temple and family history work.

I have previously said: “Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you to your family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you to the temple.”4

President Nelson has said: “The earth was created and this Church was restored so that families could be formed, sealed, and exalted eternally.”5

I offer my testimony to you of the blessings that can come to us as we participate in family history work, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.