Brother Martell D. Adamson was a member of the bishopric when I was an Aaronic Priesthood boy. He was barely five feet tall—shorter than some of the boys in the ward. But we all looked up to him—even those who could look down on him physically.
Brother Adamson lived by the Scout slogan, Do a Good Turn Daily, and he taught us to do the same. He constantly challenged us to help others. He assigned us to chop wood and deliver coal for the widows and the sick. We would go to the coal yard and get big chunks of coal and break them up so that they would fit in the widows’ stoves.
It was seldom just a one-time assignment. Brother Adamson would say, “Now boys, you’re assigned to Sister Williams for the whole winter.” Then instead of just asking if we’d chopped the wood or carried the coal, he would say, “How’s Sister Williams doing?” We learned that we weren’t just responsible for providing fuel; we were responsible for Sister Williams herself. We were to visit her and make sure that she was all right. Brother Adamson made us feel that we were doing something important. Through helping others, we began feeling good about ourselves.
As I learned to serve my neighbors, I also learned that my opportunities for service were not limited. In the temple I could be baptized for those who had lived long ago and in distant places, sharing a gift far more precious than wood or coal.
Sometimes children too young to be baptized for the dead may think there is no “temple work” they can do. But there is! As part of the restoration of the gospel, Heavenly Father sent the prophet Elijah to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers” (D&C 110:15). The word fathers refers to our ancestors.
How can I turn my heart to my ancestors? I can do it by learning about them. I recently received a letter from an uncle, Lynwood Ellis, recalling acts of kindness performed long ago by my father and mother. He said that he loved to go to their house because my father always gave him citrus fruit. This was back in 1918 or 1920, when citrus fruit just wasn’t often available in Utah. How did my father manage to get it? My uncle didn’t know, but he was sure that my father didn’t get this fruit for his own use. He just enjoyed giving it away! As I read these stories, my heart was turned to my father and mother because I knew more about their hearts. I found that I wanted to learn more about them and about their parents and grandparents.
I hope you will ask your parents questions about their lives and the lives of their ancestors. Encourage them to write down the stories they can share. And write down the stories of your own life so that your children and grandchildren will know you better.
Brother Adamson taught me long ago that my wood chopping and coal carrying were really not about coal or firewood, but about Sister Williams. Your efforts to find out more about your ancestors is not only to provide information so that temple work can be done for them, it is also about their eternal well-being. If your heart has truly been turned to “the fathers,” you won’t just be sending names to the temple. You will be blessing the lives of real people whom you have come to know and love.