A few years ago, my husband and I went on a Church History tour, visiting the Hill Cumorah, Carthage Jail, the Sacred Grove, and many other historical sites. One of the highlights was visiting the city of Nauvoo. As we walked down Parley Street, now called the “Trail of Hope,” I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the Saints to walk that same path during bitter cold February weather and look back at their beloved temple, knowing they would never see it again. I wondered: How they could leave their homes and that beautiful temple?
Our Ancestors Gave Their All for Family Exaltation
Along the path, I read the marker bearing words of Bathsheba W. Smith: “My last act in that precious spot was to tidy the rooms, sweep up the floor, and set the broom in its accustomed place behind the door. Then with emotions in my heart … I gently closed the door and faced an unknown future, faced it with faith in God” (“The Trail of Hope: Exodus from Nauvoo,” Ensign, July 2013, 42). That was part of my answer: they were individuals who had great faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
I received the rest of my answer when I recently reread Sister Elaine S. Dalton’s comments from a general conference talk: “They knew that through the restoration of priesthood keys, families could be sealed together for eternity through holy priesthood ordinances available only in a temple. They knew that temple work was the key to the salvation and exaltation of the human family. They knew the importance of this work, and they were willing to give all that they had in order to provide a house acceptable to the Lord wherein this holy work could be performed. They sacrificed everything so that past and future generations would have access to the eternal blessings of the temple” (“We Did This For You,” Ensign, Nov. 2004).
The pioneer Saints were able to complete approximately 5600 endowments, and seal many families together through the eternities, in the Nauvoo temple before leaving Nauvoo. The Lord had promised the Saints he would “endow” them with “power from on high”(Doctrine and Covenants 95:8). These endowments gave them the physical and spiritual power they needed to endure the trek to Utah.
Wherever the Saints went afterwards, their first priority was to construct a temple no matter the sacrifice, because they knew the blessings that would come to themselves, their ancestors, and those descendants who followed afterwards, from continuing to do temple work. The apostles told the Saints: “The temple, as a great and glorious public work, immediately connected with the completion of our preparations, and ordinances, touching our salvation and exaltation, and that of our dead, necessarily claims our first, and most strict attention.” (“An Epistle of the Twelve,” Times and Seasons, Oct.1,1844, 668).
Our Temple Challenges and Blessings
So what about us? What are we doing for those who sacrificed so much? Are we setting aside those things in our lives that don’t really matter and doing something that will have eternal consequences for others as well as ourselves? This is OUR day, and temple work is the work that we have been prepared to do. We don’t have to spend our last pennies to build a temple, or trek thousands of miles burying loved ones along the way.
This is a work for every generation, but especially the youth. Elder Neil L. Anderson recently instructed and promised the youth of the Church: “These are your days. You were born in a time of temples and technology. These are your days to more fully turn your hearts to your fathers and bring saving ordinances to millions within your families. …As you contribute to this sacred work, your knowledge and faith in the Savior will increase and you will receive a more certain witness that life continues beyond the veil. You will receive protection against the temptations that surround you, and you will prepare yourself and the world you live in for the Second Coming of the Savior.” (“These Are Your Days,” New Era, Feb. 2015).
Family History Work
There are many ways to help with temple work. It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who need our assistance to complete sacred ordinances and covenants in holy temples. Begin by communicating with family members about their experiences, create and use a FamilySearch.org account, start a family blog, use social media, share photos and memories, research and submit ancestors names for the temple ordinances, and participate in indexing.
“Where Is My Family?”
I have a testimony of temple work, the importance of it, and the blessings that come from it. Faithful pioneer Saints sacrificed everything in order that we might have the blessings of the restored gospel and hundreds of temples all over the earth. It is my prayer that we will set aside the many distractions of the world and take time each week to do something to further temple and family history work, so we will be able to say to those on the other side, “I did this for you.”
The importance of our meetings with family members after death was recently emphasized by President Russell M. Nelson when he stated: “In the coming day, when you will complete your mortal probation and enter the spirit world, you will be brought face-to-face with that heart-wrenching question: ‘Where is my family?’ …Resurrection assures that every person who ever lived will indeed be resurrected and live forever (Doctrine and Covenants 76), much more is required if we want to have the high privilege of exaltation. Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter” (“Come, Follow Me,” Ensign, May 2019, 89).