Lesson 15: Temple and Family History Work

“Lesson 15: Temple and Family History Work,” Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 15,” Missionary Preparation


Temple and Family History Work


Prospective and full-time missionaries can further the work of salvation by learning about temple and family history work and then helping others to experience the feelings of the Spirit that accompany this work. Family history can be a powerful means of finding people to teach and strengthening the faith of recent converts and less-active members. Participating in family history work turns the hearts of people to their ancestors and to the Lord. Family history is a tool that missionaries can use to invite others to come unto Christ and to receive the ordinances of salvation.

Advance Preparation

Suggestions for Teaching

The Importance of the Temple Endowment

Display a picture of a nearby temple, and then read the following quote from President Howard W. Hunter:

Hunter, Howard W.

“Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call” (“Follow the Son of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).

For emphasis, you might read the quote again and then ask students:

  • In what ways might going to the temple be a “greater highlight” than receiving a mission call? (Possible answers may include the following: whereas a mission is temporary, the covenants we make in the temple are eternal; temple blessings bring power to worthy missionaries.)

Have a student read the first paragraph under “Temples and Family History” on page 86 in Preach My Gospel. Then ask:

  • What are some of the blessings we can receive in the temple?

  • How might these blessings help a person who is striving to come unto Christ?

To see how missionaries are blessed by attending the temple prior to missionary service, ask the class to turn to Doctrine and Covenants 109:22–23, and explain that these verses are part of the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple. Invite a student to read the verses aloud while the class follows along, looking for the blessings of the temple that the Lord’s servants receive. Then help students identify a principle taught in these verses by asking the following:

  • How do these verses help you to understand why it is so important for missionaries to receive temple blessings before leaving on a mission? (Student responses might be summarized by this principle: Receiving temple blessings enables missionaries to go forth into the world with divine help and power. Consider writing this principle on the board.)

Display the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“It is so important for you to understand that going to the temple for your own endowment … [is] an integral part of your mission preparation. … [You should] understand the significance of those temple covenants [and] the inextricable link between your endowment there and your missionary success. Indeed, the very word endowment conveys the essence of that vital link. An endowment is a gift. …

“You know you cannot do this work alone. We have to have heaven’s help, we have to have the gifts of God. … This work is so serious and the adversary’s opposition to it so great that we need every divine power to enhance our effort and move the Church steadily forward” (“Keeping Covenants: A Message for Those Who Will Serve a Mission,” New Era, Jan. 2012, 3–4).


Explain that before receiving the temple endowment, worthy members must receive a temple recommend from their local priesthood leaders. Then display the following statement and invite a student to read it aloud to the class:

“A temple recommend signifies that we have been found worthy through an interview with a member of our bishopric or our branch president and also an interview with a member of our stake presidency or mission presidency. Temple recommend interviews are opportunities for us to examine our worthiness. In each of the interviews, our priesthood leaders will ask us about our personal conduct and faith. Our priesthood leaders keep these interviews private and confidential. …

“The following are some of the topics your priesthood leaders will ask you about:

  1. Your testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

  2. Whether you sustain the President of the Church.

  3. Whether you live the law of chastity, pay tithing, are honest with others, and keep the Word of Wisdom.

  4. Whether you strive to attend church, keep the covenants you have made, and keep your life in harmony with the commandments of the gospel” (“Being Worthy to Enter the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 2010, 8–9; or Liahona, Aug. 2010, 12–13).

  • In what ways do the requirements for worthiness help you to understand the sacred nature of the temple and of your calling as a missionary?

  • If they are not too sacred or personal, what experiences can you share that have helped you to understand and feel the importance of the temple and the work that is done there?

Have students consider what they will need to do to worthily receive their temple endowment.

Before moving on, you might point out to your students that as missionaries they should do all they can to encourage new converts to prepare to go to the temple. New converts who go to the temple to perform vicarious baptisms for their ancestors are more likely to remain active and then go to the temple later to receive their temple endowment and sealing. Conclude this portion of the lesson by sharing your testimony of the temple and the spiritual strength you have received from worshipping there.

God’s Plan to Redeem the Dead

Remind students that following Jesus Christ’s death, He visited the spirit world (see 1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6). Then ask students to turn to Doctrine and Covenants 138:29–35. Explain that this section contains the account of President Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world. Invite a couple of students take turns reading the verses aloud. Then ask:

  • What did the Savior do to organize the preaching of the gospel to the dead in the spirit world?

  • How do verses 33–35 help us understand the means by which those who accept the gospel in the spirit world can receive the ordinances of salvation? (Those who accept the gospel message can have saving ordinances performed vicariously on their behalf.)

Have a couple of students take turns reading aloud the last two paragraphs in the “Temples and Family History” section on page 86 of Preach My Gospel. Then ask:

  • How does the Lord’s plan provide for people who die without receiving essential gospel ordinances? (The living can perform saving ordinances on behalf of those who have died.)

The Mission of Elijah

Explain that Elijah was an Old Testament prophet who lived about 900 B.C. The prophet Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return to the earth (see Malachi 4:5–6), and when Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823, he reiterated that Elijah would return. Have a student read aloud Joseph Smith—History 1:38–39 while the class follows along, looking for what Moroni taught about Elijah. Ask:

  • What did Joseph Smith learn about Elijah? (Though they may use different words, students should understand that before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Elijah would return to the earth and turn the hearts of the children to their fathers.)

  • What does it mean that the hearts of the children would turn to their fathers? (Individuals would become interested in and concerned for the eternal well-being of their families of the past, present, and future. This interest is part of what motivates people to search out records of their kindred dead and to participate in vicarious ordinances on their behalf.)

Explain to students that one week after the Kirtland Temple was dedicated in 1836, special events occurred that are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110. Invite a student to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 110:13–16 while the class follows along, looking for what Elijah restored to the earth. Ask students:

  • What keys did Elijah restore to Joseph Smith? (As needed, invite students to look at Doctrine and Covenants 110:16, footnote a, to help them understand that Elijah restored the sealing keys of the priesthood.)

To help students understand how the sealing keys of the priesthood bless families, ask a student to read aloud the first paragraph in the section titled “Eternal Marriage” in Preach My Gospel, page 85. Then ask:

  • According to this paragraph, what is a purpose of the sealing keys that Elijah restored to the earth? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following doctrine: Through the sealing keys of the priesthood, sacred ordinances can be performed in temples that bind families together for eternity.)

  • How have these keys blessed you, your family, your relatives, or your friends?

On the board, write “The Spirit of Elijah.” Display the following quotations and invite a couple of students to read them aloud to the class:

Nelson, Russell M.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defined the spirit of Elijah as “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34).

Bednar, David A.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided additional insights on how the spirit of Elijah influences individuals: “This distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present.

“The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church. However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. …

“For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 25–26).

Help students to identify and better understand the doctrines taught by Elder Nelson and Elder Bednar by asking:

  • What do we mean when we refer to the “spirit of Elijah”?

  • In what way can the Holy Ghost influence our feelings about family? (The spirit of Elijah, which is a distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost, bears witness of the divine nature of the family and helps us cherish our family members, both past and present. It also instills in us a desire to provide saving ordinances for our ancestors.)

  • Have you ever felt your heart turn to your forefathers in some way? If so, what were you prompted to do? (If necessary, remind students of earlier lessons in the course about how the Holy Ghost communicates with us.)

Participating in Family History Work

Show students a completed four-generation pedigree chart or a fan chart printed from FamilySearch.org. Ask students to explain what information these documents contain.

Distribute a blank four-generation pedigree chart to each student. Give students a moment to examine the pedigree chart and to fill in the names of their ancestors to the best of their ability.

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Ask students:

  • Where might you be able to find the information needed to complete your pedigree chart or fan chart? (Remind students that they should first seek help from parents, grandparents, or other family members. Ward or branch family history consultants can also be a great help in family history research. Additionally, students should be aware of the Church’s website for family history research, FamilySearch.org.)

Ask if any students would like to share their experiences using FamilySearch to learn about their ancestors. If students have not used FamilySearch, give them a quick overview of what they can find there. You might even pull up FamilySearch.org on a computer and do a search using the name of one of your students’ deceased ancestors. Emphasize that FamilySearch is a tool that helps us to identify our ancestors and to prepare their information to submit to the temple for vicarious ordinances.

Explain to students that another way to experience family history is to gather stories about their ancestors and family members. Family history stories can help us to feel the spirit of Elijah and increase our love and appreciation for family members who have gone before us. Consider sharing a brief story about one of your ancestors. Then ask:

  • How can family history stories influence your feelings for your family members?

  • How do they help you better understand who you are and what you can become?

Show the video “The Time Is Now” (3:20). As they watch the discussion with Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, encourage students to consider reasons why they have begun or might want to begin participating in family history work.

  • What did you learn about family history work from Elder Bednar and the youth in this video?

  • What feelings did these young people experience when they participated in family history?

Tell students that Elder Bednar made a promise to youth who participate in temple and family history work. Display the following quote and invite a student to read it aloud:

Bednar, David A.

“As you respond in faith to this invitation [to participate in family history work and perform proxy baptisms for your ancestors], your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 26–27).

Ask students:

  • Which blessings mentioned by Elder Bednar would you like to receive, and why? (Responses may include the principle that participating in family history work strengthens our conversion to the Savior and brings spiritual protection against the influence of the adversary.)

You can help students share personal experiences related to family history work by asking questions like the following:

  • How have you experienced one or more of these promised blessings in your life?

  • Have any of you or a member of your family found the name of an ancestor and then gone to the temple to be baptized vicariously for that person? How was that experience different from being baptized for someone who was not a relative?

  • If no students have had this experience, consider asking: How have you experienced the promised blessings by doing baptisms for the dead?

If during your class discussion you become aware of one or more students who participated in and have strong feelings about family history, you might ask them what counsel they would give to someone their age who has not yet begun to do family history work.

Using Family History to Invite Others to Come unto Christ

Tell students that searching out family history information has become a popular activity in the world today. Have a student read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

Hinckley, Gordon B.

“There are millions across the world who are working on family history records. Why? Why are they doing it? I believe it is because they have been touched by the spirit of this work, a thing which we call the spirit of Elijah. It is a turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers. Most of them do not understand any real purpose in this, other than perhaps a strong and motivating curiosity.

“There has to be a purpose in this tremendous expenditure of time and money. That purpose, of which we bear solemn witness, is to identify the generations of the dead so that ordinances may be performed in their behalf for their eternal and everlasting blessing and progress” (“A Century of Family History Service,” Ensign, Mar. 1995, 62).


  • How could missionaries use this growing, global interest in family history to introduce others to the gospel?

Ask students to read aloud the first three paragraphs and the final paragraph of the section entitled “Family History” in Preach My Gospel, pages 163–65. Have them look for why talking about family history work with nonmembers is a natural and nonthreatening way for missionaries to start a conversation. After reading these paragraphs, ask:

  • How can speaking to others about family history work be an effective tool for missionaries to find people to teach? (Students should understand that family history can be a powerful resource to use in finding those whom the Lord is preparing to receive the gospel.)

After student responses, show the video “Family History and Missionary Work—Finding” (3:53). As they watch, have students consider how they could use the topic of family history to begin conversations with others.

After the video, ask:

  • What did the missionaries in the video do to begin conversations with others about family history work?

  • What effect did the conversations about family history work have on the potential investigators?

Tell students that they will now practice using a pedigree chart to invite someone to learn more about the Church. (Alternatively, you might have students consider how they might use a story about one of their ancestors to begin a conversation about the gospel). To help students be successful in this assignment, ask students for their ideas of how to use a pedigree chart (or a story about an ancestor) to begin a conversation about family history work and how it can lead into a message about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As students respond, write their ideas on the board.

Draw upon a few of their ideas and demonstrate for the class how to use the pedigree chart to start a conversation with someone about the gospel. Then, pair students up with another member of the class and have them practice doing the same. After each student has had a chance to teach another member of the class, ask a few follow-up questions like:

  • What do you think went well in this teaching practice?

  • What would you like to do better?

If time allows, explain to students that in many areas where they will serve, missionaries are asked to assist in strengthening the faith and commitment of less-active members of the Church. Family history may be a valuable tool to help these individuals feel the Holy Ghost and come unto Christ. Then show the video “Family History and Missionary Work—Activation” (3:05), and have students look for ways that family history work can be used to help activate less-active members:

After the video, ask:

  • How might talking about family history work and the doctrine of eternal families help strengthen the faith of less-active members?

Give students a moment to consider what they can do now and what they might do as missionaries to use family history work as a tool to invite others to come unto Christ. (As prompted by the Spirit, you might call on a few students to share their answers with the class.) Share your testimony of the principles taught in this lesson.

Invitations to Act:

Invite students to participate now in the work of salvation by doing one or more of the following activities:

  • Set up an LDS Account so that you can access FamilySearch.org. If possible, create and print a four-generation pedigree chart or a fan chart with your family’s information.

  • Show your four-generation pedigree chart to a friend or neighbor and invite him or her to learn more about family history. Set a date to take your friend to a family history consultant or visit a family history library.

  • Using FamilySearch.org, identify one or more of your ancestors who need temple ordinances performed on their behalf. If possible, prepare the information for their temple work to be performed and complete the ordinances of baptism and confirmation in their behalf.


Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130