For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, family is more important than just about anything! Latter-day Saints believe that families can last for eternity. This means that our families include not only those who are living here on the earth with us, but also grandparents, ancestors, and other family members who have gone before us. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: “Our [Heavenly] Father’s plan is about families, symbolized by a great tree. In order for a tree to live and grow, it needs both roots and branches. We likewise need to be connected both to our roots—our parents, grandparents, and other ancestors—and to our branches—our children, grandchildren, and other descendants” (“Our Father’s Plan Is about Families” [address given at RootsTech Family Discovery Day, Feb. 14, 2015], churchofjesuschrist.org). Read on to learn more about what Latter-day Saints believe about family history work and how family history work is connected to the building of temples.
Why is family history work so important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
When Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a young man, an angel named Moroni appeared at Joseph’s bedside while he was praying. The angel Moroni quoted several verses of scripture, with slight variations, from the biblical book of Malachi to Joseph (see Joseph Smith—History 1:28–39). Moroni told Joseph:
“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
“. . . And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (Joseph Smith—History 1:38–39).
Latter-day Saints believe that just as Moroni taught Joseph Smith, the “hearts of the children” must be turned to their fathers, or ancestors, to prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth. One way that church members “turn their hearts” to their ancestors is by participating in family history and genealogy work (see David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 24–27). Many people, can testify of the spirit of love they feel for their family members as they do family history and genealogy. As part of family history work, Latter-day Saints gather the names of deceased family members so that ordinances may be performed for them. Latter-day Saints believe that in holy temples, we can be sealed, or joined together, with our family members, both living and deceased, so that families can continue beyond the grave.
What happens inside the temples?
Latter-day Saints believe that to return to live with our Heavenly Father after we die, we must complete certain ordinances—including baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost—while we are on the earth (see True to the Faith , 109–10). However, many of God’s children did not have an opportunity to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and receive these saving ordinances while they were alive.
Latter-day Saints believe we continue to live as spirits after we die and that the preaching of Jesus Christ’s gospel continues in the spirit world (see D&C 138). Many of God’s children in the spirit world will accept the gospel, and these people desire to have ordinances such as baptism performed for them (see Introduction to Family History Student Manual , 83). Latter-day Saints believe that God has commanded members of His Church to build temples as places where they can complete saving ordinances on behalf of their deceased family members. Latter-day Saints believe that no one will be forced to accept these ordinances (see Introduction to Family History Student Manual, 9).
How can I learn more?
Many Latter-day Saints research their family history so that they can perform ordinances for their family members in the temple. Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are holy places where families are joined together for eternity and sacred, saving ordinances are performed. Create your own free family tree at FamilySearch.org, or learn more about Latter-day Saint temples by visiting comeuntochrist.org.