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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

What blessings can a person expect from submitting extended/distant family names for temple proxy work?  Thanks for your kind help as always.

Robert

 

Answer

 

Dear Robert,

Our departed dead have need of the saving ordinances every bit as much as we the living do. The blessings for them in receiving the vicarious ordinances equal our own, for they are now judged “according to men in the flesh” (1 Peter 4:6, D&C 138:33-34). It is a joy and exaltation that I would not want to deny anyone, even if they are but a name and dates to me. Indeed, it can be compared to missionary work in the sense that those who have accepted the gospel and ordinance you make available to them hold you in a place of remembrance and gratitude. For many who engage in this work, the joy of the deceased initiate is freely shared with those who participated in the red letter events (see D&C 18:15-16).

Many of the blessings for the living from this work for the dead come directly from the stated purposes of the work. Both Joseph Smith and Paul taught that we without them cannot be saved (Hebrews 11:40 and D&C 128:15). Brigham expanded this doctrine by teaching that we need a chain that takes us all the way back to Adam. “When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, [children] will be sealed to their [parents], and those who have slept, clear up to Father Adam. … [Then] we shall form a perfect chain from Father Adam down to the closing up scene.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, chapter 41). So the blessing for doing this work for distant family is that we are linking ourselves to Adam, the first Patriarch. Without this link, we cannot be saved. Another related principle is the one clearly expressed by Jacob about the obligation of those who have the opportunity to provide salvation to another. They must labor to remove the blood of their generation from their garments (Jacob 1:19). We who can submit names of long-dead relations have a similar charge to discharge our duty. Indeed, Joseph even goes so far as to state that “Those Saints who neglect [temple work] in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 471–72).

One final area of blessings doesn’t really relate to the dead at all. I have spoken with a genealogy neophyte who shared with me how her perspective of history has changed since doing her family history. The industrial revolution has a name and a face for her. The American Civil War becomes a lot more personal, tragic, and humorous when you learn the stories of your blood relations. Learning that family members found a way to start new business during the Great Depression (after being told there’s no work) has inspired a friend of mine to take courage during tough economic times. Additionally, my experience with the “spirit of Elijah” is that not only does it turn the hearts of (living) children to the (dead) fathers, but it also turns the hearts of cousins and aunts and uncles. The Internet and FamilySearch.org has made it incredibly easy to contact and build relationships with relatives that live far off. Family that would normally not correspond do so to confirm names, locations, and dates, coordinating the work on shared branches. From this comes a closer relationship. How marvelous is this work!

For more stories on the contagious joy of family history and temple work, see Elder Scott’s talk,  The Joy of Redeeming the Dead  (October 2012 conference).

 

Gramps

 

 

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