When Michelle Desputeau of the Trois Rivieres (Three Rivers) Branch, Montreal Quebec Stake, joined the Church sixteen years ago, family history caught her attention. “My heart really turned to my ancestors,” says Michelle, who attends the Toronto Ontario Temple regularly and performs temple ordinances for her ancestors. “I feel that my ancestors are there with me. I still feel their joy when I leave. The more family history research I do, the stronger my spirituality gets. The more often I come to the temple, the closer I get to Heavenly Father.”
Michelle, like many others throughout the Church, has found the joy that comes from being involved in family history and temple work. “When members do their own family history,” says Michelle, “they get excited about the temple and realize that the two are linked together.”
The temple with its blessings helps us “come unto Christ” (Moro. 10:32). We can find knowledge, understanding, and joy when we attend the temple: first, through sacred priesthood ordinances for ourselves and then as proxy for our ancestors; and second, through personal revelation.
Sacred priesthood ordinances for ourselves are the first blessings we receive at the temple. Within the temple walls, we take upon ourselves “all those ordinances … which are necessary … to enable [us] to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain [our] eternal exaltation” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 416). Receiving our own endowment is an essential part of the gospel and of our eternal progression.
One young man, recently returned from the New Zealand Auckland Mission, remembers when he received his endowment. “For about a year, my dad and I had a tradition of going to the temple every week to do baptisms for the dead to help me get ready to go on a mission,” says the elder. “When I finally went to the temple to receive my own endowment, I was ready. I attended the temple as much as I could before I left for my mission and participated in the ordinances. I’m amazed at how much I learned. Bits and pieces of knowledge started to come together, and I understood them in a new way.
“I’m grateful that my dad and I took the opportunity to take refuge at least once a week in the house of the Lord. The blessings that I have received there are too numerous to name. In the past, my dad and I could sit in the same room and be a thousand miles apart. Going to the temple together, we found a friendship we never knew was there.”
Stuart Bourne of the Bowmanville Branch, Oshawa Ontario Stake, knows that temple service can strengthen relationships among those who attend the temple together. He decided to encourage all his immediate and extended family members who had temple recommends to attend the same session at the Toronto Ontario Temple. “In many places this is a common occurrence,” says Brother Bourne, “but in our area it is a rare thing.
I knew it would be worth the effort because of the spiritual feelings we would share.”
Family members Stephen and Heather Senter of the Oshawa Ward, Oshawa Ontario Stake, agree. “It was the first time so many of our family members have been in the temple together,” says Heather. “I really felt the sealing power that stretches out to my family and beyond. It was a powerful experience that I will never forget.”
After we receive our own temple endowments, we can continue to attend the temple as proxy for deceased persons, including our ancestors. “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead,” taught the Prophet Joseph Smith. “Hence, God said, ‘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.)” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 356.)
Through the process of family history research and temple attendance, we come to know and love our ancestors. In fact, we can feel especially close to them in the temple as we perform temple ordinances for them. Patricia R. James, living in Milan, Italy, performed temple ordinances for her two Italian great-grandmothers, whose names she had found earlier after receiving spiritual promptings. “I felt their spirits so close to me that I even sensed their individual personalities as I did the temple work,” says Patricia. “Reflecting upon this glorious experience, I realized that now my great-grandmothers had the keys to participate more fully in the plan of salvation. Bonded, sealed, linked—I felt more than ever the partnership between us.”
Performing temple ordinances for our ancestors is a blessing to us. Reserving names in a family file at the temple ensures that we will have access to our own ancestors’ names when we come to the temple to serve as proxy for them. Inviting ward members to help with family file names extends those blessings to others.
Lloyd Neal, from northwest Arkansas, joined the Church in 1944. When he finished his military service in World War II, he returned home as the only member of the Church in his family. One afternoon when Lloyd was fishing with his dad, his father asked, “Did you know that the old family cemetery is just up that hill?” The two gathered up their fishing poles and climbed the hill together. “Many of my ancestors were buried in that little cemetery,” says Brother Neal. “Among the weeds, we found the stone markers and copied the names and dates from them. That was the beginning of my interest in family history.”
Currently temple workers in the Jordan River Temple, Brother Neal and his wife, Donna, are still actively involved in research and temple work. Each Thursday evening, a group of ward members gathers at the temple to help the Neals with their family file. Because Brother Neal was the first to join the Church in his family, he has many ancestors who need their temple ordinances performed.
Esther Fox of the Chula Vista First Ward, Chula Vista California Stake, is in a different situation. Her ancestors joined the Church 130 years ago. Much of the family history and temple work for them had already been done when Sister Fox became interested in family history. But after a careful survey of family records, Sister Fox identified about fifteen children who had died before the age of eight and were not sealed to their parents. She was able to take these names to the temple.
“Several other members of our ward joined my husband and me in the temple,” says Sister Fox.
“One of these children belonged to my second great-grandmother, for whom I have especially tender feelings. When I learned that she had spent time in an asylum in England before she died, alone, from cancer in 1861, I was touched. I thought about how hard it must have been for her to be separated from her family. Her sons left for America, and, though her husband remained in England, he was rarely able to visit her. During the sealing session, we sealed her to her husband and children, including her little girl whose name I had found. It was a spiritual experience for me to tie them together as a complete family.”
In addition to being the place where we perform temple ordinances for ourselves and our ancestors, the temple is a place where we can receive comfort and personal revelation. “When members of the Church are troubled or when critical decisions weigh heavily upon their minds, it is a common thing for them to go to the temple,” wrote Elder Boyd K. Packer. “It is a good place to take our cares. In the temple we can receive spiritual perspective. There, during the time of the temple service, we are put ‘out of the world.’ … There is something cleansing and clarifying about the spiritual atmosphere of the temple” (The Holy Temple, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980, pp. 180–81).
President Ezra Taft Benson has set the example for us: “Temples are places of personal revelation,” he says. “When I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. These answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways” (Ensign, Aug. 1985, p. 8).
Michelle Desputeau, who reared her two daughters alone as a single mother, has always found much of her spiritual strength in family history and temple service. “When I come to the temple with a problem,” she says, “I find the answer here. When I pray, I feel his Spirit. I know the gospel is true. I have so many evidences of God’s love for me.”
David Turley, a member of the Willow Canyon Eighth Ward, Sandy Utah East Stake, feels that because he was in the temple one evening, he received inspiration and understanding concerning an experience that had happened to him earlier that day. He had been driving home from work that afternoon in light traffic. As he neared a normally busy intersection, he felt a strong impression to stop at the green light. Almost immediately, a vehicle whose driver had ignored the opposite red light entered the intersection and swerved to avoid hitting David’s pickup truck.
Grateful but shaken, David continued home. That evening, he and his wife, Sheri, attended the Jordan River Temple. While in the temple, David received an overwhelming impression that his life had been spared as an answer to his son’s prayer that morning. “I thought back to the morning,” says David. “As usual, we had gotten our three children out of bed early enough to have morning prayers together before I left for work. Our six-year-old son had offered the prayer and said, ‘Bless Daddy as he drives to work and back.’ I feel that I received this insight because I was in the temple. The next day, I told my children about the experience. For them, it was a testimony of the power of prayer and the blessings of temple attendance.”
Elder David B. Haight reminds us of another aspect of temple service. “When you return from the temple,” he said, “share with your children and loved ones at home your feelings about what you experienced. Speak not of the sacred ordinances, but of the love and power manifest by them” (Ensign, May 1992, p. 16).
When Leola Chandler, a member of the Parrish Canyon Ward, Centerville Utah Stake, was a little girl, she lived with her grandmother in Sandy, Utah. “My grandmother would regularly ride the streetcar to the Salt Lake Temple,” says Sister Chandler. “When she would get home, I would ask her in wonderment what she did in the temple and what it was like. She would say, ‘It’s like being in another world.’”
Sister Chandler never forgot her grandmother’s example. Many years later, when she felt overwhelmed caring for her invalid husband and their four children as well as operating a beauty salon to support the family, she remembered her grandmother’s regular temple attendance. So she set aside Tuesday as a day for herself and began going to the Salt Lake Temple each week. “There I found the peace and refuge of which my grandmother had told me.”
However, Sister Chandler’s story does not end here. When she learned that several elderly sisters in her ward longed to attend the temple but had no transportation, she began to take them with her each week. For the next forty years, Sister Chandler rarely went alone on her Tuesday trip to the temple. “I estimate that we have done more than five thousand endowments over the years,” says Sister Chandler. “I’ve learned that it’s important to plan to go to the temple and not to let anything interfere with it. We can be closer to our Savior there than any other place; it is his house, and his Spirit is there.”
All of us can invite others to attend the temple with us, just as Sister Chandler did. Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote: “We need more converts to temple work, drawn from all ages, from the young, from the middle-aged, and from the rich and poor, from among the busy and those of leisure. … The young man needs his place in the temple even more than his father and his grandfather, who are steadied by a life of experience; and the young girl just entering life, needs the spirit, influence and direction that come from participation in the temple ordinances” (“Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1921, pp. 91–92).
For those who serve as workers in the temples throughout the world, the joys of temple service are continuous. People of all ages and all educational and economic backgrounds serve as volunteer temple workers. “All are alike in the temple,” says one temple worker. “When we are dressed in white, there is a feeling of equality and love.”
“I can testify that I feel the influence of the Spirit when I work in the temple,” says Brother Lloyd Neal. “It surprises me how I can pronounce names with confidence, no matter what the language. The Spirit helps me. I know I’m inspired, because I can’t do things like that on my own.”
Newell and Fran Stevenson served for eight years in the Oakland Temple. They describe how joy came from interaction with temple patrons and with other temple workers as well as from simply being in the peaceful, spiritual environment of the temple.
“I have had so many spiritual experiences serving as a temple worker,” says Brother Stevenson. “One of my favorite memories is of a 65-year-old man who, though blind and deaf, attended the Oakland Temple faithfully several times a week. He came by cab and he needed very little assistance while in the temple because he had memorized the floor plan. He knew the various temple ordinances perfectly, so he was able to move through them with ease. I was always touched by the Spirit when I saw him or talked with him. He had such commitment to temple work, and it brought him so much happiness. He knew he was making a contribution.”
The First Presidency knows of the importance of temple service, and they want us to come unto Christ through temple ordinances. They have written: “The ordinances of the temple help us place the Savior at the center of our lives. That eternal perspective gives us greater peace of mind, more purpose for life, and a powerful motivation to live the commandments.
“In the temple, our understanding of the Savior’s mission and our love for him grow. As a result, we find greater happiness in our lives and a deeper love for those about us.
“Our desire is that you will go to the temple to receive the sacred ordinances and enter into the covenants available there. … Seek also the guidance of the Spirit to help you identify your ancestors; then return to the temple often to receive the ordinances in their behalf. Serving in this way will help protect you and your loved ones from the evil influences of the world” (Come unto Christ through Temple Ordinances and Covenants, booklet, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1987, introduction).
Plan to attend the temple where distance to be traveled and family resources permit. Give temple attendance a high priority, and schedule it as part of your regular monthly or year-long calendar.
Invite others to attend the temple with you. Organize group temple trips.
Take your children with you to the temple to perform baptisms on a regular basis. Advance preparation is necessary: children must be at least twelve years of age. Young men must be priesthood holders as well. And youth must be interviewed by a member of the bishopric in order to obtain a recommend to perform baptisms for the dead. You may telephone the temple in advance to learn whether an appointment should be scheduled. You will want to remind your children to bring their recommends to the temple. An attitude of going to the temple together will not only increase temple attendance but will increase the testimonies and commitments of all concerned.
Perform temple ordinances for your own ancestors whenever possible. Family history research and temple service go together. You will come to love your ancestors as you identify them and perform their temple ordinances. Invite others to help you perform temple ordinances for your ancestors.
Allow temple service to strengthen you spiritually. Bring your personal challenges with you to the temple, meditate upon them, and seek answers. Solutions can come to you through personal revelation in the temple.
Enjoy all of the ordinances available in the temple. Instead of attending an endowment session every time, consider performing baptisms, initiatory ordinances, or sealings. On occasion, perform all of the temple ordinances for one person on the same day.
Bear your testimony of temple service in family home evenings, when teaching classes at church, when doing your home teaching or visiting teaching, or in conversation with friends and family.
If you live near a temple, tour the temple grounds and, if available, the visitors’ center with children and friends. All people can enjoy the feeling of peace present on the temple grounds.