While driving from Las Vegas to the St. George Temple on a cold, snowy December morning, I started to hum the Primary song:
The hearts of the children turn to their fathers.
Malachi prophesied the hearts shall turn.
Elijah fulfilled the prophecy,
And families can be sealed for eternity.
Looking out at the brown, barren mountains of the Nevada desert, I felt a twinge of homesickness. I remembered mountains of a different time and place—green, luscious mountains in Ohio, where I had been reared as a member of the Baptist Church and where my roots ran deep.
It had been nearly seventeen months since I had returned from Ohio where I had seen my beloved mother succumb to lung cancer. But today was a special occasion for both my mother and me. I was going to the temple to do her temple work. I felt the Spirit of Elijah as the words from Malachi 4:5–6 [Mal. 4:5–6] rang in my heart. In a couple of hours, I would enter the house of the Lord.
Glancing at my watch, I noted that it would be an hour before I arrived at the temple. As I drove down the deserted highway, the sound of the wind rushing past the car seemed to call my memory back to the experience of my conversion to the Church.
There had been something missing in my life and the lives of my family. After much heartache, unhappiness, and tears, I had humbly knelt before the Lord and prayed vocally through the night for guidance. I had always said my prayers, but I had never before prayed vocally or on my knees. I asked the Lord to show me the way to be happy and to help my family.
The next morning, two young men knocked at my door. As I opened the door, I felt a strong witness that they brought the answer to my prayer.
Now, driving and thinking, I realized how much the Lord loved me. He had answered my prayer by bringing me the gospel message. And now, through vicarious work in the temple, I could make it possible for my mother to accept that gospel message as well.
A few minutes later, I turned into the temple parking lot. As I stepped out onto the pavement, I was reminded of a similar trip a few years before, when I had traveled to St. George with my son to do temple work for my father and my grandparents. I had been happy to perform that work, but I had often wondered if they had accepted the ordinances performed for them that day.
It was when I handed my family group sheet to the sister behind the desk at the temple entrance that I first felt my mother’s spirit with me. The warm, comfortable feeling I had was familiar; I had felt it many times in my mother’s presence as I was growing up.
I was the first in the group at the baptismal font to be baptized. As I stepped into the water, I found it warm. I smiled; neither my mother nor I liked cold water. A typist sitting at a computer terminal verified the accuracy of my mother’s name. Later, as I hurriedly changed clothes and dried my hair, I again felt my mother’s presence and sensed her joy.
I joined another group as they went up the stairs for the five o’clock endowment session. Entering the endowment room, I took a seat near the back. There, again, I felt my mother’s spirit in the seemingly empty seat beside me. I could not see her, but I could feel her presence. Having been separated from her for seventeen months, I felt overjoyed at the knowledge that she had accepted the gospel and was in the temple that day so close to me.
I recalled the conversation we had had as I had held her in my arms before she died. I had told her that the Church was true and asked her to tell that message to those she met in the spirit world. I had promised her that I would personally do her temple work. I was now doing that work, feeling her spirit beside me. I felt overwhelmed with emotion and joy. Later, as I walked toward a sealing room, I felt prompted to pause for a moment and look around at the beauty of the temple. My mother, too, had loved beauty.
I entered the sealing room. I could feel my mother’s spirit constantly by my side now, and as I participated in sealing my parents to each other, and me to them, I knew that I was helping to fulfill Malachi’s prophecy:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5–6.)
I had mixed emotions as I left the sealing room. I was hungry and tired, but I longed to remain in the temple and continue to partake of the spiritual feast. I still felt my mother’s presence at my side as I dressed in my street clothes. The feeling stayed with me while I walked to my car and then drove around the temple grounds, enjoying their beauty in the Christmas season.
As I drove away from the temple, I felt my mother’s spirit depart. I was alone once more. I was sad, yet my sadness was tempered by the knowledge that my mother had accepted my work on her behalf.
I stopped at a restaurant for dinner and then drove the rest of the way home to Las Vegas. There were but a few stars out. I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonder of my life on earth and my place in the universe. I remember how, two months after my mother’s death, her father had appeared to me in a dream. In the dream, I had approached a group of people. I knew they were members of my family, but I felt excluded from them. I couldn’t distinguish the faces except that of my grandfather, Henry Rapp. He wanted to thank me on behalf of the entire group. He hugged me, and the embrace was so overpowering that it had awakened me. I had then realized that the work my son and I had done several years before in the temple for my father and my grandparents had not been in vain.
As I approached the lights of Las Vegas, I silently renewed my promise to perform the temple ordinances for my kindred dead. Many of them I know only by their names on a page. There are many more whose names I do not have. But I have faith and patience, and I will not neglect this awesome responsibility. When I leave this earth and enter the spirit world, I desire my ancestors to welcome me with a wonderful embrace—like that I had shared with Grandfather Rapp. Their loving welcome will be my thanks.