We Have a Work to Do
March 1995

“We Have a Work to Do,” Ensign, Mar. 1995, 64–65

Speaking Today:
Fireside Honoring President Howard W. Hunter and the Genealogical Society of Utah

We Have a Work to Do

President Howard W. Hunter

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be here this evening and participate in the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Genealogical Society of Utah. I have appreciated the remarks of Elder Nelson, President Monson, and President Hinckley. I also enjoyed the video presentation, which has highlighted the accomplishments of the Society in the past one hundred years.

My association with the Genealogical Society of Utah and the Family History Department spans many years. I have been deeply touched by the sacred spirit of this work and by the thinness of the veil that separates the labor on this side from that which unfolds beyond. Who can calculate the great good that has been accomplished by so many faithful Saints who have worked in these organizations through the years?

On the eve of my eighty-seventh birthday, I look back in wonder at the tapestry woven by the Lord in the furthering of temple and family history work. When I was president of the Genealogical Society of Utah, we had visions of how it would move forward mightily. Now we are observing something glorious occurring throughout the world. The gospel is moving forward to encompass every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Temples are located throughout the earth, and the spirit of Elijah is touching the hearts of many members, who are doing family history and temple ordinance work at an unprecedented pace.

This sacred work has a prominent place in the hearts and minds of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. I speak for all of the Brethren when I thank those who have given valuable contributions in providing the saving ordinances for those beyond the veil. That gratitude extends to those who serve in the Family History Department and to the many who have set aside personal interests and accepted family history Church-service callings to accelerate this work. The devotion, capacity, and selfless service of those individuals is an inspiration to all members of the Church. We are grateful to the army of volunteers who move this mighty work forward throughout the world. Thank you all for what you are doing so well.

The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead” (History of the Church, 6:313). He also stated: “This doctrine was the burden of the scriptures. Those Saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation” (ibid., 4:426).

Catching the same vision of this important revelation, President Brigham Young said: “We have a work to do just as important in its sphere as the Savior’s work was in its sphere. Our fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without them. They have done their work and now sleep. We are now called upon to do ours; which is to be the greatest work man ever performed on the earth” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 406).

Every prophet who has led this church from the days of Joseph Smith until the present has repeated this same sublime truth. Guided by these truths, the Church has been from the beginning of this dispensation engaged in the work of salvation and exaltation for all the sons and daughters of God, regardless of when they lived on the earth.

We who live in this day are those whom God appointed before birth to be his representatives on earth in this dispensation. We are of the house of Israel. In our hands lie the sacred powers of being saviors on Mount Zion in the latter days.

With regard to temple and family history work, I have one overriding message: This work must hasten. The work waiting to be done is staggering and escapes human comprehension. Last year we performed proxy temple endowments for about five and a half million persons, but during that year about fifty million persons died. This might suggest futility in the work that lies before us, but we cannot think of futility. Surely the Lord will support us if we use our best efforts in carrying out the commandment to do family history research and temple work. The great work of the temples and all that supports it must expand. It is imperative!

In recent years we have begun using information technology to hasten the sacred work of providing ordinances for the deceased. The role of technology in this work has been accelerated by the Lord himself, who has had a guiding hand in its development and will continue to do so. However, we stand only on the threshold of what we can do with these tools. I feel that our most enthusiastic projections can capture only a tiny glimpse of how these tools can help us—and of the eternal consequences of these efforts.

The objective of family history work is to make the blessings of the temple available to all people, both living and dead. As we attend the temple and perform work for the dead, we accomplish a deep sense of alliance with God and a better understanding of his plan for the salvation of the human race. We learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. Truly there is no work equal to that done in the temple.

In addition to the blessings we receive from doing work for the dead, we receive personal blessings as we attend the temple. Commenting on how our lives are blessed by temple attendance Elder John A. Widtsoe stated:

“Temple work … gives a wonderful opportunity for keeping alive our spiritual knowledge and strength. … The mighty perspective of eternity is unraveled before us in the holy temples; we see time from its infinite beginning to its endless end; and the drama of eternal life is unfolded before us. Then I see more clearly my place amidst the things of the universe, my place among the purposes of God; I am better able to place myself where I belong, and I am better able to value and to weigh, to separate and to organize the common, ordinary duties of my life so that the little things shall not oppress me or take away my vision of the greater things that God has given us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1922, pp. 97–98).

My beloved brothers and sisters, may we be valiant in hastening our family history and temple work. The Lord said, “Let the work of my temple, and all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts” (D&C 127:4).

I encourage you in your efforts with these words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free” (D&C 128:22).

I love this work. I know the Lord will provide all that will be required to accomplish it as we devotedly do our part. May the Lord bless each of us as we make our contribution to this great work, which we must accomplish in our day, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.