Viewpoint: Help Heavenly Father Gather His Family
Contributed By the Church News
- As a loving Father, God wants His children to come back to Him.
- We help Him gather His family through temple and family history work.
- The blessings of the temple have healing power in our lives.
A Latter-day Saint man who strove throughout his life to be a disciple of Jesus Christ derived his greatest peace and happiness from his wife and posterity. Despite many trials—including physical infirmities, financial setbacks, and other anxieties—he found delight and serenity in his older years in gathering his loved ones around him. Even several years after he died, as his children and grandchildren would meet for family dinners, holidays, birthdays, and other events, someone would often comment, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Dad was here right now. He loved to be around his family!”
Our Heavenly Father feels a similar desire to gather us, His children, around Him. President taught: “You see, the names ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ are not just friendly greetings or terms of endearment for us. They are an expression of an eternal truth: God is the literal Father of all mankind; we are each part of His eternal family. Because He loves us with the love of a perfect Father, He wants us to progress and advance and become like Him. He ordained a plan by which we would come to earth, in families, and have experiences that would prepare us to return to Him and live as He lives. …
“Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family. While He knows that not all of them will choose to be gathered, His plan gives each of His children the opportunity to accept or reject His invitation” (“Gathering the Family of God,” Apr. 2017 general conference).
We know we are His work and His glory (see Moses 1:39). As we choose to help Him in His work of gathering His children to Him, we qualify for blessings that are, as described by Elder of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this past general conference, “breathtakingly amazing.”
“As Church members, we do have a divinely appointed responsibility to seek out our ancestors and compile family histories. This is far more than an encouraged hobby, because the ordinances of salvation are necessary for all of God’s children. … It is breathtakingly amazing that, through family history and temple work, we can help to redeem the dead. But as we participate in family history and temple work today, we also lay claim to ‘healing’ blessings promised by prophets and apostles” (“Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” Apr. 2018 general conference).
The prophecy found in Ezekiel 47 teaches a profound lesson on the blessings promised from temple and family history work. A heavenly messenger shows the Old Testament prophet the temple to be built in Jerusalem. In the vision, Ezekiel is brought to the east doors of the temple, where he sees water issue out “from under the threshold of the house” (verse 1).
In his address, Elder Renlund noted there are two noteworthy characteristics to this water. First, it grows into a mighty river, “becoming wide and deeper the farther it flowed. Something similar happens with the blessings that flow from the temple as individuals are sealed as families. Meaningful growth occurs going backward and forward through the generations as sealing ordinances weld families together.”
Second, the water renews whatever it touches. The water flows eastward into the Dead Sea, through the wilderness of Judea, which is dry and barren, and yet Ezekiel observes, “At the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other” (verse 7). Ezekiel sees that in the Dead Sea “there shall be a very great multitude of fish. … And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea” (verses 910).
In verse 9 we learn “that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: … because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.”
And just as the river brought life and healing, “the blessings of the temple likewise have a stunning capacity to heal. Temple blessings can heal hearts and lives and families,” Elder Renlund said.
A faithful woman felt the restorative and healing blessings of the temple as she struggled to meet the demands placed on her as her husband of more than 30 years slowly succumbed to a debilitating disease. Amidst the weight of his physical and emotional needs, she also strove to carry the family’s financial burden and maintain a full-time job. During this difficult period, she often felt her tank of physical, spiritual, and emotional energy was drained dry. To refuel and replenish so she wasn’t constantly “running on fumes,” she would find a sliver of time each week to attend the temple.
The Lord’s house acted as a refueling station where she could fill her tank. Then, as life and stress and worry depleted it again, the Spirit and peace and perspective found within the walls of His holy house would fill it again.
Also in Ezekiel’s vision, the prophet is told to measure the depth of the river. As he wades in the first time, the river is to his ankles. Further down the bank, he wades in again to find the water is up to his knees. When he measures again, the water is up to his waist. Finally, he finds “it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over” (verse 5).
If our temple worship ever feels shallow, we—like the woman—can wade in again and again and again and again until we find life-giving, healing “waters to swim in.”
In his closing remarks during the last general conference, after announcing the blessing of seven more temples to be built throughout the world, said, “My dear brothers and sisters, construction of these temples may not change your life, but your time in the temple surely will. In that spirit, I bless you to identify those things you can set aside so you can spend more time in the temple” (“Let Us All Press On,” Apr. 2018 general conference).