Family History Work and Genealogy
In the spirit world, the restored gospel is preached to those who died without receiving it in mortality. Many of those in the spirit world accept the gospel, but without a body they cannot receive the ordinances necessary for salvation. The primary purpose of family history work is to obtain names and other genealogical information so that temple ordinances can be performed in behalf of deceased ancestors.
On April 3, 1836, the prophet Elijah came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. He conferred upon them the sealing power of the priesthood, making it possible for families to be sealed throughout the generations. In conferring this power, he fulfilled the prophecy that the Lord would send him "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers" (see D&C 110:14–16; see also Malachi 4:5–6).
Through family history work, we can participate in the continuing fulfillment of this prophecy. We can learn about our ancestors and increase our love for them. We can be inspired by their stories of courage and faith. We can pass that legacy on to our children.
These are lasting benefits that come from family history work, but they are not the principal reasons for the Church's great effort to gather genealogical records. All of the Church's family history endeavors are directed to the need to form a "welding link—between the fathers and the children" (D&C 128:18). This welding link is formed by the power of the priesthood, through sacred temple ordinances we receive in behalf of our ancestors.
Many of Heavenly Father's children have died without having the opportunity to receive the fulness of the gospel. In His mercy and infinite love, the Lord has prepared a way for them to gain a testimony of the gospel and receive the saving ordinances of the priesthood.
In the spirit world, the gospel is "preached to those who [have] died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets. These [are] taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that [are] necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (D&C 138:32–34).
Many in the spirit world embrace the gospel. However, they cannot receive priesthood ordinances for themselves because they do not have physical bodies. In holy temples, we have the privilege of receiving ordinances in their behalf. These ordinances include baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek Priesthood ordination (for men), the endowment, the marriage sealing, and the sealing of children to parents. The Lord revealed this work to the Prophet Joseph Smith, restoring a practice that had been revealed to Christians shortly after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:29).
As we receive priesthood ordinances in behalf of those who have died, we become a savior on Mount Zion for them (see Obadiah 1:21). Our effort approaches the spirit of the Savior's atoning sacrifice—we perform a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves.
See also Temples
—See True to the Faith (2004), 61–64
"Your Family History: Getting Started"
Boyd K. Packer, Liahona, Aug. 2003, 12–17; or Ensign, Aug. 2003, 12–17
If you don't know where to start, start with yourself. If you don't know what records to get, and how to get them, start with what you have.
"Family History: 'In Wisdom and Order' "
Dallin H. Oaks, Tambuli, Dec. 1989, 18–23; or Ensign, June 1989, 6–8
We do family history work in order to provide the ordinances of salvation for the living and the dead.
"Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes"
Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Liahona, July 1999, 98–100; or Ensign, May 1999, 83–85
Genealogies, family stories, historical accounts, and traditions . . . form a bridge between past and future and bind generations together in ways that no other keepsake can.
"The Spirit of Elijah"
Gordon B. Hinckley, Liahona, Nov. 1996, 18–21
As the work of family history research goes on and grows, there is a concomitant flowering of temples.
"We Have a Work to Do"
Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Mar. 1995, 64–65
The objective of family history work is to make the blessings of the temple available to all people, both living and dead.
"Family and Personal Histories"
The Latter-day Saint Woman: Part B, Lesson 19
"Our Temple and Family History Responsibilities"
The Latter-day Saint Woman: Part B, Lesson 20
Guide to the Scriptures
The Church's Official Family History Web Site
"Family History, Genealogy"
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
(Please note that the contents of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a joint product of Brigham Young University and Macmillan Publishing Company, do not necessarily represent the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)
"Temple Work and Family History"
Gospel Principles, Chapter 40
"Our Temple and Family History Responsibilities"
Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Part B, Lesson 8