Building Unity through Family History
September 2001

“Building Unity through Family History,” Ensign, Sept. 2001, 69

Visiting Teaching Message:

Building Unity through Family History

“The purpose of mortal families,” says Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “is to bring children into the world, to teach them what is right, and to prepare all family members for exaltation in eternal family relationships” (“Weightier Matters,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 13). Our families are strengthened as we become one in purpose with our Heavenly Father, seeking the exaltation of all family members—past, present, and future.

The Mission of Elijah

In 1836 the prophet Elijah appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. He came to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6; see also D&C 2), and he restored the keys of the sealing power, which enables families to be eternally linked and bound together. Elijah’s coming has increased concern for and inspiration to do family history work (see D&C 110:13–16).

The Holy Ghost will guide us as we prayerfully seek to participate in family history. Contributions include receiving our temple endowments, being sealed as couples and as families, researching family history data and stories of previous generations, submitting names for temple work, attending the temple as regularly as possible, teaching children and other family members about temple and family history work, participating in family organizations, and compiling personal and family histories.

Journals and Personal Histories

Family history work can strengthen the ties we feel with our ancestors and with living family members. Family bonds can even be strengthened with posterity yet to be born. Sometimes this bond develops as we keep a journal and write a personal history. Just as the writings of our ancestors may teach and inspire us, our words may have the power to fortify future generations when we make a record of God’s dealings in our own lives.

One sister writes: “At age 21 I was stricken with a devastating mental illness that, I was told by doctors, would be a lifelong problem. Through priesthood blessings, I was promised I would be healed according to my faith. However, maintaining faith became my greatest challenge. During a particularly troubling time, my mother gave me the personal history of my great-grandmother.

“As a young girl in Switzerland, she was afflicted with a painful and incurable illness. As she lay ill, she read pamphlets left by missionaries. She read about the priesthood and about men who could heal the sick as Jesus had done.”

After joining the Church, her great-grandmother received many priesthood blessings and prayed with faith to be healed. Following one priesthood blessing, she recorded the following: “I want to tell … all my grandchildren … that there are not words in any language to describe the feeling that came over me when I was healed. I really could feel it from the top of my head to my feet, and from that time on I was healed.”

Those words spoke powerfully to this sister’s spirit. “This was my own great-grandmother talking to me through her journal,” she says. “My faith was strengthened, and I knew in the Lord’s time I, too, would be healed.”

As we labor to forge eternal family links in these and other ways, our families will be blessed with a unifying power that will span generations and reach into eternity.

Illustrated by Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty