The Blessings of Family History

2018-05-27 · William Jackson

[This is the transcript of a talk I gave in church on Sunday, May 27, 2018. An audio recording of my remarks is also available.]

Today I want to talk about some blessings. Blessings are awesome! We all love them. Who doesn't want blessings? What would you do to get a blessing?

The prophet Joseph Smith taught that

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated — And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

In the most recent General Conference in April, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles outlined many blessings that we may obtain by obedience to a particular law. I'm going to read these blessings, and I want you to consider whether any of them may be something you need in whatever your current situation may be.

Elder Renlund promised:

  • Increased understanding of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice
  • Increased influence of the Holy Ghost to feel strength and direction for our own lives
  • Increased faith, so that conversion to the Savior becomes deep and abiding
  • Increased ability and motivation to learn and repent because of an understanding of who we are, where we come from, and a clearer vision of where we are going
  • Increased refining, sanctifying, and moderating influences in our hearts
  • Increased joy through an increased ability to feel the love of the Lord
  • Increased power to discern that which needs healing and thus, with the Lord’s help, serve others
  • Increased protection from temptations and the intensifying influence of the adversary
  • Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole

There are two more, but they kind of give it away:

  • Increased family blessings, no matter our current, past, or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be
  • Increased love and appreciation for ancestors and living relatives, so we no longer feel alone

Furthermore, Elder Quentin L. Cook, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles promised that “you will be blessed with more closeness and joy in your family and with the divine protections afforded those who are faithful in his service.”

So what is the law that promises all of these amazing blessings? It is the commandment to seek out our ancestors and take them to the temple so that they may receive saving ordinances.

One night, I was working on the FamilySearch website doing some family history work, and I came across a man named Charles Helton. Charles was related to my wife Rebecca. He was born in Missouri in 1871. The records that I saw indicated that some temple ordinances had not yet been performed on his behalf. The ordinances had been reserved several years ago by someone else, but had not yet been completed.

I was eager to see Charlesʼs temple work get done, so I used the FamilySearch website to send a message to the person who had the ordinances reserved. He agreed to release his reservation so I could do the work.

As I was about to reserve the ordinances and print an ordinance card, I had a thought: “Check your relationship to this man.” According to FamilySearch, Charles was the son of Rebeccaʼs third great grandmother, Mary Jane Black, through a second marriage.

I took a closer look at the available information and I discovered a note that was left on Charlesʼs record by another user. This note just simply said, “His mother is not Mary Jane Black.” So, I began to check some of the available source documents, and it became clear that this was true. Charles was not related to Mary Jane Black, and therefore he was not related to Rebecca.

Now, we are commanded to seek out our own ancestors, and instruction from the Church is clear that we should only reserve temple ordinances for those with whom we have a family relationship. So I cleaned up Charlesʼs record on the website as best I could. I disconnected him from Mary Jane Black and the rest of my family tree.

I was about to close the page and turn my attention to another line of research when I had a thought, again, “Check your relationship to this man.” Even though I was sure there was no longer a link between us, I checked anyway.

Lo and behold, this man was not related to my wife. He was related to me, but through a completely different family line. Charles Helton is my 9th cousin twice removed.

Now, even if we donʼt exactly know what that means, we all probably have many, many 9th cousins twice removed. Perhaps too many to count. There are people sitting in this room that I have a closer family connection with. But each and every one of these people is a child of God. He knows them all. He knows their name.

Charles Helton was just a man who was born in Missouri in 1871. When he passed away in 1935 his death record indicated that he was simply a farm laborer. And yet God loves him enough to inspire a man in Austin, Texas, almost 150 years after he was born, to sort out his records so that he can receive the saving ordinances of the temple.

In the scriptures we often read about angels as beings sent from the world of spirits to do Godʼs will for the benefit of His children on earth. But when we sacrifice our time to gather the names of our ancestors and perform ordinances for them in the holy temple, this angelic pattern is reversed.

We are now the angels. Our work is directed by God through gentle nudges from the Holy Ghost. We are sent from this mortal world into sacred, holy places, celestial and sealing rooms in the temple, for the benefit of Godʼs children in the spirit world.

Perhaps the greatest blessing that has come to me and my family from our own family history work is a strong testimony that our Heavenly Father knows us individually, and he remembers us. All people are known to God. As you gather your ancestors, you may find yourself looking at the name of someone who lived 100 years ago or 400 years ago. They probably lived their life without fanfare. Perhaps they have no reason to be remembered. But here you are, remembering them, and wondering about them.

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” The worth of a soul is so great that, if we allow it, we can be guided to find a single soul and provide them the opportunity to accept the ordinances of the gospel.

Joseph Smith explained the purpose of temple work when he wrote,

[…] the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other — and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. […] shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage […] 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 […] Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

President Henry B. Eyring said,

many […] have discovered that giving of their time to do family history research and temple work has deepened their testimony of the plan of salvation. It has increased the influence of the Spirit in their lives and decreased the influence of the adversary. It has helped them feel closer to their families and closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. They have learned that this work saves not just the dead; it saves all of us.

Family history and temple service will bless you, and it will bless your family in both directions:

Turn your hearts toward your parents—
Generations gone before.
May you seek until you find them;
In the temple seal and bind them
To your hearts forevermore.

Turn in love to all your children—
Generations yet to be.
May your deeds of gospel giving,
Temple service, righteous living,
Bless them all eternally.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.