Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn
to Their Fathers”
Elijah: "The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands."
President Wilford Woodruff: "Somebody has got to redeem them."
President Joseph F. Smith: "The eyes of my understanding were opened."
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "We are determined … to take the temples
to the people."
A study of this lesson will help us understand the need to seek out our
ancestors and receive priesthood ordinances in their behalf.
Scripture references for study:
Joseph Smith—History 1:37–39;
Our Heritage, pages 98–99,
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 39 Handout (PDF)
Redemption of the Dead
One of the magnificent doctrines of the latter-day restoration is that
of salvation for the dead. On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared
to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River
restoring the power and authority to perform baptism.
- In April 1830,
Joseph Smith was given further instructions about baptism. Joseph
was told: "Wherefore, although a man should
be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter
in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.
For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant
and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old. Wherefore,
enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your
God" (D&C 122:2-4). The "gate" is baptism by one that
has authority. That authority was restored to Joseph and Oliver and
subsequently passed on to others.
- The question must be asked, "What about those that
have not had or will not have the opportunity to hear the gospel and be
baptized by one having proper authority?" The restored gospel has
the answer and reaches out to all people of every generation. It
is a universal gospel that is available to every man, woman, and child,
from ancient history to the furthest reaches of earth's future. Like
a jigsaw puzzle, the understanding of this most remarkable doctrine was
not revealed all at once, but came piece by piece.
On the evening of September 21, 1823, young Joseph Smith retired to bed. He called upon the Lord to forgive him of his sins and to request a manifestation
that he might know of his standing before the Lord.
In answer to his prayer, Joseph was visited by the angel Moroni. So important was Moroni's
message, that he returned twice more on that sleepless night. Moroni quoted the following
citation from the book of Malachi, with a some variation: "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." (see
Young Joseph must have wondered what these verses meant and probably studied,
pondered, and prayed about them until he received an answer. This
was the first intimation during the early days of the restoration of the
great work of salvation that would affect not only the lives of those then
living, but reaching back to the those who came before.
Joseph Smith: "In the days of Noah, God
destroyed the world by a flood, and he has promised to destroy it by fire
in the last days: but before it should take place Elijah should come first
and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, etc.
"Now comes the point. What
is this office and work of Elijah? It is one of the greatest and most important
subjects that God has revealed. He should send Elijah to seal the children
to the fathers, and the fathers to the children.
"Now was this merely confirmed
to the living, to settle difficulties with families on earth? By no means.
It was a far greater work. Elijah! what would you do if you were here?
Would you confine your work to the living alone? No, I would refer you
to the Scriptures, where the subject is manifest: that is; without us,
they could not be made perfect, nor we without them; the fathers without
the children, nor the children without the fathers. [Heb. 11:40; D&C
"I wish you to understand
this subject, for it is important; and if you will receive it, this is
the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with
our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in
the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those
who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah
and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah." (HC, 6:251-252)
On Sunday, April 3, 1836, a few days after the dedication of the Kirtland
Temple, a meeting was held in the temple that included the passing of the sacrament. Wrote Joseph Smith: "After having performed
this service to my brethren, I retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped,
and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising
from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us"
(HC, 2:434-435). The record of this vision is contained in
110. Joseph and Oliver saw a vision of the Lord and were subsequently
visited by Moses, Elias, and Elijah.
"After this vision had closed, another great and
glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to
heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:
"Behold, the time has fully
come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah]
should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
"To turn the hearts of
the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the
whole earth be smitten with a curse—
"Therefore, the keys of
this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know
that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors."
It is interesting to note that at their Passover feast, the Jews set an
extra place at the table for Elijah, because they expect his return as
the forerunner of the Messiah. President Joseph Fielding Smith: "It
was, I am informed, on the third day of April, 1836, that the Jews, in
their homes at the Paschal feast, opened their doors for Elijah to enter.
On that very day Elijah did enter—not in the home of the Jews to partake
of the Passover with them, but he appeared in the House of the Lord, erected
to his name and received by the Lord in Kirtland, and there bestowed his
keys to bring to pass the very things for which these Jews, assembled in
their homes, were seeking." (CR, Apr 1936)
This spirit of turning the hearts of the children to fathers began soon
after Elijah's return. President Joseph Fielding Smith: "Before
the days of the coming of Elijah in 1836, there was no endeavor of any
import to search the records of the dead. What was done, here and there,
was usually where some estate was involved. The people were not turning
their hearts to their dead fathers. They were not searching the records.
They were not compiling them. There were no organizations or societies
on the face of the earth, as far as I can learn, gathering records of the
dead, before the year 1836. In 1837, however, one year later, Great Britain
passed laws providing for and compelling the preservation of records of
the dead. In the year 1844, the New England Historical and Genealogical
Society was organized in Boston, and I think this was the first organization
of the kind in the world. In 1869, the New York Genealogical and Biographical
Society in the city of New York was organized. Then following rapidly other
societies up and down the Atlantic coast of the United States, from Maine
to Georgia. . . . In Great Britain, genealogical societies have been organized
in practically every county in that land and in Scotland. These records
have been kept and filed also in other countries in Europe, the countries
from which the Latter-day Saints have come. The Spirit has taken hold of
the people, not only in the Church but also of many who are not of the
Church, and they, too, are searching the records, and compiling them, of
the dead. . . ." (CR, Apr 1948)
On August 10, 1840, Brother Seymour Brunson died in Nauvoo. It was
at Brother Brunson's funeral that the Prophet Joseph Smith first taught
the doctrine regarding baptism for the dead. Joseph Smith: "I
first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon
of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions
in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized
for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have
embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who
have received the Gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of
those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison."
During the funeral sermon "Joseph singled out
a 'widow in that congregation that had a son who had died without [being]
baptized.' He told her to rejoice since she could be baptized in behalf
of her deceased son. 'The plan of salvation,' Joseph stated, 'was calculated
to save all who were willing to obey the requirements of the law of God.'
He concluded, 'I have laid the subject of baptism for the dead before you,
you may receive or reject it as you choose.'
"Widow Jane Neyman asked
Harvey Olmstead to baptize her in the Mississippi River in behalf of her
deceased son, Cyrus. Vienna Jacques rode her horse down into the river
to observe and hear the ceremony better. When news reached the Prophet
about the widow's action, he rejoiced and said the baptism was acceptable
to the Lord. Many other faithful Saints followed suit and were baptized
for their friends and relatives." (Women of Nauvoo)
Writing to her husband in England, Vilate Kimball detailed the events of
the month in Nauvoo: "Conference [October
1840] closed last Monday. It was the largest and most interesting one that
has been held since the Church was organized. The people that attended
were estimated at four thousand; some thought there were more. Much business
was transacted and many good instructions given. Brother Joseph has opened
a new and glorious subject of late, which has caused quite a revival in
the Church; that is being baptized for the dead. . . . Since this order
has been preached here, the waters have been continually troubled. During
the conference there were sometimes from eight to ten elders in the river
at a time baptizing." (Woman's View, pp178-179)
Additional baptisms for the dead were performed in the Mississippi River
on the Montrose side. Instructions were not given first, nor were
records made. Brigham Young later wrote: "When
Joseph received the revelation that we have in our possession concerning
the dead, the subject was opened to him, not in full, but in part, and
he kept on receiving. When he had first received the knowledge by the spirit
of revelation how the dead could be officiated for, there are brethren
and sisters here, I can see quite a number here who were in Nauvoo, and
you recollect that when this doctrine was first revealed, and in hurrying
in the administration of baptism for the dead, that sisters were baptized
for their male friends, were baptized for their fathers, their grandfathers,
their mothers and their grandmothers, etc. I just mention this so that
you will come to understanding, that as we knew nothing about this matter
at first, the old Saints recollect, there was little by little given, and
the subject was made plain, but little was given at once. Consequently,
in the first place people were baptized for their friends and no record
was kept. Joseph afterwards kept a record." (Discourses of Brigham
The Saints were anxious to participate in the opening of this great work
for the dead. Though there was some confusion as to the proper procedures,
the Saints endeavored to heed the words of the Prophet.
The Times and Seasons reported on the October 1841 conference of the Church:
Joseph Smith, by request of some of the Twelve, gave instructions on the
doctrine of Baptism for the Dead; which was listened to with intense interest
by the large assembly. The speaker presented 'Baptism for the Dead' as
the only way that men can appear as saviors on mount Zion. The proclamation
of the first principles of the gospel was a means of salvation to men individually,
and it was the truth, not men that saved them; but men, by actively engaging
in rites of salvation substitutionally, became instrumental in bringing
multitudes of their kin into the kingdom of God....
"This doctrine, he said,
presented in a clear light, the wisdom and mercy of God, in preparing an
ordinance for the salvation of the dead, being baptised by proxy, their
names recorded in heaven, and they judged according to the deeds done in
the body. This doctrine was the burden of the scriptures. Those saints
who neglect it, in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril
of their own salvation." (Times & Seasons, 2:578)
At this same October 1841 conference, the Prophet announced: "There
shall be no more baptisms for the dead, until the ordinance can be attended
to in the Lord's House; and the Church shall not hold another General Conference,
until they can meet in said house. For thus saith the Lord!"
In a revelation earlier in 1841, the Lord had instructed the Prophet to
have the Saints build a temple. "For there
is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that
which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness
of the priesthood.
"For a baptismal font there
is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those
who are dead—
"For this ordinance belongeth
to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty,
wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.
I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant
unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time
your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
"But behold, at the end
of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable
unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye
shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God."
As revealed in these verses, the Lord allowed baptisms for the dead to
be performed outside of a temple for a time. That practice ended
with the Prophet's announcement at the October 1841 conference.
The building of the Nauvoo Temple had commenced after the October 1840
conference of the Church. By April 1841, the basement had been dug
and walled. Priority was given to the construction of a baptismal
font in the basement of the temple.
Though work continued on the temple, Brigham Young dedicated the baptismal
font on November 8, 1841.
Two weeks later, proxy baptisms began in the font. Reuben McBride
was the first proxy. Sidney Rigdon was baptized by Joseph Smith for
his deceased parents.
With this beginning, the work of baptizing proxies for their dead ancestors
began in earnest. The following May, Wilford Woodruff and Charles
C. Rich baptized one hundred persons for their dead. Porter Rockwell's
mother set a record for the most proxy baptisms when she was baptized for
45 of her dead ancestors.
The St. George Temple was completed in 1877, some 30 years after the Saints
arrival in the Great Basin. Did baptisms for the dead resume when
the Saints reached Utah? Were baptisms done in rivers, the Endowment
House, or other dedicated locations prior to the completion of temples? In an effort to answer this question, I did
a little research and found the following:
The June 1901 Improvement Era reported: "The
work of baptism for the dead has been carried on extensively by the Saints
since coming to Utah." This seems to imply that this great
work was performed from the early pioneer period.
"Since abandoning the Nauvoo Temple in 1846, Brigham
Young dreamed of a temple in the West. Upon arriving in the valley he dedicated
ground in Salt Lake City for such a temple, but the imposing structure
took forty years to complete. In the meantime, a temporary Endowment house,
constructed in 1855, provided a place for sacred ordinances."
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p622)
Without question, the work for the dead took on new emphasis with the completion
of the St. George Temple in 1877, the Logan Temple in 1884, the Manti Temple
in 1888, and the Salt Lake Temple in 1893.
Among the most remarkable experiences recorded after the completion of
the St. George Temple in 1877 was the experience of Wilford Woodruff:
will here say that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the
dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said
they, 'You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years,
and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the
government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained
true to it and were faithful to God.'
"These were the signers
of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days
and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much
work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought
never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds
were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives.
"I straightway went into
the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for
the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent
men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others.
I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three;
and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them."
One of the things that President Woodruff's experience should teach us
is that there are many good people that have passed on without hearing
the gospel and are anxiously waiting for us to perform baptisms, endowments,
and sealings in their behalf. President Woodruff: "I
thank God we have a temple upon this block [Salt Lake], where the Latter-day
Saints in this religion can enter and redeem their dead-their fathers and
mothers and their progenitors who have gone into the spirit world without
the gospel. They never heard the gospel, and no man, in time or in eternity,
will ever be saved in the celestial kingdom of God without the gospel of
Christ." (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p163)
The completion of the Salt Lake Temple gave even more emphasis to work
for the dead since this temple was close to the largest body of Saints.
"At the time of the dedication of the Salt Lake
Temple, sealing ordinances were limited to the first generation beyond
the first family member to join the Church. Husbands and wives were sealed
for eternity by the power of the priesthood, and men and women were sealed
by proxy to their parents if their parents were deceased. But it was also
a custom for a man and his family to be 'adopted' into the family of a
Church official or other prominent priesthood bearer. The Saints apparently
believed this action would secure the salvation of their families in a
worthy priesthood lineage if their own progenitors did not accept the gospel
in the next life....
"Thus many, and perhaps
most, Church members were more concerned with simply collecting names of
ancestors than with organizing those names into specific family units.
While proxy baptisms and endowments were administered for deceased progenitors
as a matter of course, it was not incumbent upon the living to also perform
proxy sealings. The lack of emphasis on sealings reduced the importance
of extending family lines beyond one generation." (BYU Studies,
vol 34, #2)
President Woodruff made an important declaration at the April 1894 General
Conference: "I want to lay before you what
there is for us to do at the present time.... You have acted up to
all the light and knowledge that you have had; but you have now something
more to do than you have done. We have not fully carried out those principles
in fulfillment of the revelations of God to us, in sealing the hearts of
the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I have not
felt satisfied, neither did President Taylor, neither has any man since
the Prophet Joseph who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the
temples of our God. We have felt that there was more to be revealed upon
the subject than we had received. Revelations were given to us in the St.
George Temple, which President Young presented to the Church of God. Changes
were made there, and we still have more changes to make, in order to satisfy
our Heavenly Father, satisfy our dead and ourselves. I will tell you what
some of them are. I have prayed over this matter, and my brethren have.
We have felt as President Taylor said, that we have got to have more revelation
concerning sealing under the law of adoption. Well, what are these changes?
One of them is the principle of adoption.
"Now, what are the feelings
of Israel? They have felt that they wanted to be adopted to somebody. President
Young was not satisfied in his mind with regard to the extent of this matter;
President Taylor was not. When I went before the Lord to know who I should
be adopted to (we were then being adopted to prophets and apostles), the
Spirit of God said to me, 'Have you not a father, who begot you?' 'Yes,
I have.' 'Then why not honor him? Why not be adopted to him?' 'Yes,' says
I, 'that is right.' I was adopted to my father, and should have had my
father sealed to his father, and so on back; and the duty that I want every
man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth
and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every
man be adopted to his father. When a man receives the endowment, adopt
him to his father; not to Wilford Woodruff, nor to any other man outside
the lineage of his fathers. That is the will of God to this people...
We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies
as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have
children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as
you can get it. This is the will of the Lord to his people, and I think
when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be true."
(Messages of the First Presidency, p255)
This new emphasis on work for the dead was raised to a higher level with
the organization of the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1894.
"On November 13, 1894, the First Presidency of
the Church authorized the organization of the Genealogical Society of Utah
as an aid to genealogical research, and appointed Franklin D. Richards
president. Of this beginning Archibald F. Bennett, a later executive secretary,
gave the following historical summary: "It was to be benevolent, educational,
and religious in purpose-benevolent in gathering together into a library
books that would help the people trace their ancestry; educational in teaching
the people how to trace their ancestry…; religious in that they would do
all in their power to encourage the people to perform in the temples all
the necessary ordinances." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p537)
The Genealogical Society finally organized the work for the dead through
the creation of a library facilitating research and in organizing the records
of those who have gone before, including indexes of ordinances performed.
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "Now the
duty of a man in his own family is to see that he and his wife are sealed
at the altar. If married out in the world before they joined the Church,
or if they have been in the Church and have been unable to go to the temple,
it is that man's duty to go to the temple, have his wife sealed to him
and have their children sealed, so that the family group, that unit to
which he belongs, is made intact so that it will continue throughout all
eternity. That is the first duty that a man owes to himself, to his wife,
and to his children. He receives this blessing by virtue of the priesthood.
"Then it is his duty to
seek his record as far back as he can go and do the same thing for each
unit. He should begin with his father and mother and their children, and
his grandfather and his children, great-grandfather and his children, and
have the work done in like manner, linking each generation with the one
that goes before. That is the responsibility resting upon every man who
is at the head of a household in this Church." (Doctrines of
- For additional information see
Ministry of Wilford Woodruff: The Work of the Temple at LDS.org.
Joseph F. Smith - A Vision of the Savior's Visit To The Dead.
On October 3, 1918, Joseph F. Smith received a vision in which he saw the
hosts of the dead. This vision has been accepted as revelation and
included as the 138th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
President Smith opened the October 1918 General Conference on the following
day with these words: "I will not, I dare
not, attempt to enter upon many things that are resting upon my mind this
morning, and I shall postpone until some future time, the Lord being willing,
my attempt to tell you some of the things that are in my mind, and that
dwell in my heart. I have not lived alone these five months. I have dwelt
in the spirit of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination;
and I have had my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously"
(CR, Oct 1918).
Only a few weeks later, November 19, 1918, President Smith passed away. How fortunate we are to have received this great revelation prior to his
As President Smith approached the sunset of his life, it seems that he
had been prepared by a lifetime of experience for the reception of this
Brother Robert L. Millet: "The aged Prophet's
attention was drawn to the world beyond mortality by his frequent confrontation
with death. His parents, Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith, both died while
he was a young man. Among the great trials of his life none was more devastating
than the passing of many of his children into death. President Smith was
possessed of an almost infinite capacity to love, and thus the sudden departure
of dear ones brought extreme anguish and sorrow. Joseph Fielding Smith
later wrote: 'When death invaded his home, as frequently it did, and his
little ones were taken from him, he grieved with a broken heart and mourned,
not as those who mourn who live without hope, but for the loss of his 'precious
jewels' dearer to him than life itself.'
"On 20 January 1918 Hyrum Mack Smith, oldest
son of Joseph F. and then a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles,
was taken to the hospital for a serious illness, where the physicians diagnosed
a ruptured appendix. Despite constant medical attention and repeated prayers,
Hyrum M.—then only 45 years of age and at the time with a pregnant wife—died
on the night of 23 January. This was a particularly traumatic affliction
for the President. Hyrum had been called as an apostle at the same conference
wherein his father had been sustained as the Church's sixth president (October
1901). Hyrum Mack was a man of depth and wisdom beyond his years, and his
powerful sermons evidenced his unusual insight into gospel principles....
Already in a weakened physical condition due to age, the Prophet's sudden
sense of loss caused him 'one of the most severe blows that he was ever
called upon to endure.'
"Even though President Smith indicated in October
of 1918 that the preceding six months had been a season of special enrichment,
in fact it may be shown that the last thirty months of his life (specifically,
from April 1916 to October 1918) represent a brief era of unusual spiritual
enlightenment, in which he delivered to the Church some of the most important
and inspiring insights of this dispensation." (Studies In Scripture,
Elder James E. Talmage recorded this passage in his journal for October
31, 1918: "Attended meeting of the First
Presidency and the Twelve. Today President Smith who is still confined
to his home by illness, sent to the Brethren the account of a vision through
which, as he states, were revealed to him important facts relating to the
work of the disembodied Savior in the realm of departed spirits, and of
the missionary work in progress on the other side of the veil. By united
action the Council of the Twelve, with the Counselors in the First Presidency,
and the Presiding Patriarch accepted and endorsed the revelation as the
word of the Lord. President Smith's signed statement will be published
in the next issue (December) of the Improvement Era, which is the organ
of the Priesthood quorums of the church." (Studies In Scripture,
Elder Talmage gave a tribute to President Smith at the June 1919 General
Conference: "Well, where is he now? He was
permitted shortly before his passing to have a glimpse into the hereafter,
and to learn where he would soon be at work. He was a preacher of righteousness
on earth, he is a preacher of righteousness today. He was a missionary
from his boyhood up, and he is a missionary today amongst those who have
not yet heard the gospel, though they have passed from mortality into the
spirit world. I cannot conceive of him as otherwise than busily engaged
in the work of the Master." (CR, Jun 1919)
For additional information see the following at LDS.org:
Temple Building Continues.
Progress in the great work of salvation for the dead is dependent on the
willingness of the Latter-day Saints to consecrate their time in performing
the required vicarious ordinances in the temple. It is also dependent
on having sufficient temples available to the Saints to perform this great
work. It must have been tremendously frustrating to Brigham Young
to wait a generation for this great work to continue in earnest. Yet, we must give great credit to President Young for leading the Saints
in laying the foundation that would enable subsequent generations to carry
on this work at an ever increasing pace.
President Brigham Young: "We enjoy the privilege
of entering into a temple, built to the name of God, and receiving the
ordinances of his house, with all the keys and blessings preparatory to
entering into the 'lives'; we also enjoy the privilege of administering
for our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, for those
who have slept without the Gospel.
"In the spirit world those who have got the victory
go on to prepare the way for those who live in the flesh, fulfilling the
work of saviors on Mount Zion.
"To accomplish this work there will have to be
not only one temple but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands
of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who
have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal." (Discourses
of Brigham Young, p394)
President Wilford Woodruff: "This is a preparation
necessary for the second advent of the Savior; and when we shall have built
the temples now contemplated, we will then begin to see the necessity of
building others, for in proportion to the diligence of our labors in this
direction, will we comprehend the extent of the work to be done, and the
present is only a beginning. When the Savior comes, a thousand years will
be devoted to this work of redemption; and temples will appear all over
this land of Joseph-North and South America-and also in Europe and elsewhere;
and all the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who received not the
gospel in the flesh, must be officiated for in the temples of God, before
the Savior can present the kingdom to the Father, saying, 'It is finished'."
President Gordon B. Hinckley was moved to advance temple
construction to a new level. At the October 1997 General Conference
he announced: "I believe that no member
of the Church has received the ultimate which this Church has to give until
he or she has received his or her temple blessings in the house of the
Lord. Accordingly, we are doing all that we know how to do to expedite
the construction of these sacred buildings and make the blessings received
therein more generally available....
"But there are many areas of the Church that
are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much
in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever
the blessings of the temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few
months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe,
came bright and clear.
"We will construct small
temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to
administer all of the ordinances. They would be built to temple standards,
which are much higher than meetinghouse standards. They would accommodate
baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings, and all other ordinances
to be had in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead."
(Ensign, Nov 1997)
President Hinckley went on to announce that the
first of these smaller temples would be built in Alaska, Mexico, and Utah. In April 1998, President Hinckley expanded our vision when he announced:
"Now, in conclusion I wish to make an announcement.
As I have previously indicated, in recent months we have traveled far out
among the membership of the Church. I have been with many who have very
little of this world’s goods. But they have in their hearts a great burning
faith concerning this latter-day work. They love the Church. They love
the gospel. They love the Lord and want to do His will. They are paying
their tithing, modest as it is. They make tremendous sacrifices to visit
the temples. They travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats.
They save their money and do without to make it all possible.
"They need nearby temples—small, beautiful, serviceable
"Accordingly, I take this opportunity to announce
to the entire Church a program to construct some 30 smaller temples immediately.
They will be in Europe, in Asia, in Australia and Fiji, in Mexico and Central
and South America and Africa, as well as in the United States and Canada.
They will have all the necessary facilities to provide the ordinances of
the Lord’s house.
"This will be a tremendous undertaking. Nothing
even approaching it has ever been tried before. These will be in addition
to the 17 buildings now going forward in England; Spain; Ecuador; Bolivia;
the Dominican Republic; Brazil; Colombia; Billings, Montana; Houston, Texas;
Boston, Massachusetts; White Plains, New York; and Albuquerque, New Mexico;
and the smaller temples in Anchorage, Alaska; Monticello, Utah; and Colonia
Juárez, Mexico. This will make a total of 47 new temples in addition
to the 51 now in operation. I think we had better add 2 more to make it
an even 100 by the end of this century, being 2,000 years 'since the coming
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh' (D&C 20:1). In this
program we are moving on a scale the like of which we have never seen before....
"I can only add that when these 30 or 32 are
built, there will be more yet to come." (Ensign, May 1998)
The Church, under the direction of President Hinckley, succeeded in
reaching the 100 projected temples and continues to build beyond that. I saw and
heard these announcements from President Hinckley. I was touched
by the spirit and received again, a confirmation that a Prophet has spoken
and that this great work needs to move forward in an unprecedented way.
Under the direction of President Monson, temple building continues at a
remarkable pace. As of July 2017, there were 156 temples operating
throughout the world. Several additional temples are under construction, have been
announced, or under renovation. Though this seems remarkable, this is only a start. As
previously quoted, President Young stated, "To accomplish
this work there will have to be not only one temple but thousands of them."
We live in a unique time when temples are beginning to dot the earth. Latter-day Saints
are finding it more convenient to attend
the temple on a regular basis. When my wife and I moved to the Pacific
Northwest in the late 1970s, the closest temple was in Oakland, California,
a day's drive from where we were living in Oregon. Prior to moving
from Oregon, the Seattle Temple was completed, shortening the drive. After moving to Washington we were blessed to have the Seattle Temple almost
in our backyard. Since then, temples have been constructed in Portland
and Medford, Oregon, along with temples in Spokane and the Tri-Cities in
Washington state, and another temple in Vancouver,
British Columbia. What a remarkable thing to have so many temples
within a few hours drive. And yet, in this fast paced world we often
find excuses for putting off our attendance. We need to catch the
vision of each of the prophets in this dispensation and move our temple
service to the next level.
President Heber J. Grant: "If we have a
desire to do a thing, we can generally find the time to do it. I made up
my mind several years ago that I would like to go to the temple once a
week when I was in Salt Lake City, although I had so much work to do that
quite frequently I got out of bed at 4:30 in the morning and talked to
the dictaphone—I have dictated many times more letters before going to
my office at 8:30 than any stenographer can write in one day. I had felt
for years that I did not have the time to go to the temple, but finally
I got the desire to go, and from that time on I had no difficulty in finding
the time to go once a week. Occasionally I went twice a week, and it so
happened that one week I went all four nights that the temple was open.
. . .
"I believe that if I could find the time to go
to the temple and do temple work once a week, there is hardly a man in
the entire Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but who can find
the same time if he wishes to plan his work accordingly. The trouble with
so many people is they do not have the desire. (I am speaking of people
who live where there is a temple.) If you get it into your heart and soul
that this is one of the most important things you as Latter-day Saints
can do, you will find a way to do it." (Gospel Standards, pp256-257)
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the work for the dead as revealed in this
dispensation through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Are there things you can do in
your life to increase your service in this great work?
Resources Used In This Lesson
A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences
of Early Church History edited by Jeni Broberg Holzapfel & Richard
Conference Reports (CR).
Discourses of Brigham Young.
Discourses of Wilford Woodruff edited by G. Homer
Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism edited by Daniel H. Ludlow.
History of the Church (HC).
Gospel Standards by Heber J. Grant.
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints compiled by James R. Clark.
Studies In Scripture edited by Robert L. Millet and
Kent P. Jackson.
Times & Seasons.
Women of Nauvoo by Jeni Broberg Holzapfel & Richard
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
31 July 2017