In the Book of Mormon, we learn from Alma chapter 32 about nurturing a solid testimony of the gospel. There, Alma compares the word (gospel) unto a seed which must be planted and properly nourished, and then it will grow into a tree from which the fruit of eternal life will be picked.
In verse 28 he explains how we can detect the exact moments in which that seed—and later the emerging plant (symbolizing the construction of a testimony)—is experiencing growth. He says, “It will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, … for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
While one can experience this increase of faith and testimony by doing many different things—such as studying the scriptures, participating in the sacrament, fasting and praying—I would suggest that perhaps one of the most powerful ways to feel these “swelling motions” is to participate in family history and temple work.
As we faithfully seek information about ancestors with the purpose of performing temple ordinances, we’ll be exposed to events and impressions that will perceptibly show the Lord’s hand in this work. During the 1960s my wife’s grandfather, who served as a branch president in the southernmost part of Brazil, had collected many ancestors’ names, which were all in paper documents as there were no computers then. He was afraid that one of his 16 children would damage or lose those precious records, so he decided to keep them in his branch presidency’s office at the local chapel. But one day that meetinghouse was caught on fire and he lost all his family history. Years of work vanished in minutes! He and his family were deeply saddened but felt impressed to visit his relatives in Argentina in an attempt to recover some of the lost information. During those visits he was describing what happened and one of his uncles (who was not a member of the Church) asked to be excused for a moment and then came right back from another room with a stack of papers full of names, dates, and documents concerning all those that had been lost in the fire. For years, he said, “I felt compelled to keep this information without knowing why, but now it all makes sense. You can have all this!!”
Not only were all the names recovered but also many new ones were added. This event has caused all in the family to clearly discern that there was direct guidance from the Holy Ghost and that God knows the end from the beginning!
Today we have many tools such as Family Tree Lite—which can be operated from a cell phone—and family history consultants who will help us fulfill the call to do family history and temple work. Fully utilizing these resources will certainly assist us in this work and cause us to go through occasions in which we’ll distinctly notice the seed of faith and conviction growing in our hearts.
Following the submission of our ancestors’ names to the temple comes the privilege of receiving sacred ordinance in their name. Performing these ordinances for our dead blesses not only them but also all who serve in the temple with a clear sensation of being a “savior on mount Zion” (see Obadiah 1:21).
Years ago we took our then-teenage daughters to the temple for the first time. My oldest daughter had then the privilege of participating in the baptism of her deceased great-grandmother. Days later we held our family home evening and invited the children to bear their testimonies about the experience in the house of the Lord. As our oldest daughter started to express her feelings, tears came down her face when she mentioned her great-grandmother’s name and tried to describe how and what she felt during the ordinance. We all realized that she was recognizing right then that a “swelling motion” moment was taking place. That strong impression has been an anchor for her testimony and conviction of the gospel.
I bear testimony that every time we engage ourselves in family history and temple work, we nourish the seed of the gospel in our hearts and feel it growing till we reach the point that Alma describes in chapter 32 verse 43: “Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith.”