Lesson 8: Our Temple and Family History Responsibilities

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 68–78


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand our temple and family history responsibilities.

Ordinances Are Necessary for Salvation

In order to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, each of us must receive the ordinances necessary for salvation. Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

“Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into His presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.

“Once we have received them for ourselves and for our families, we are obligated to provide these ordinances vicariously for our kindred dead, indeed for the whole human family” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 27; or Ensign, May 1987, 24).

Receiving Our Own Temple Ordinances and Helping Family Members Receive Theirs

Baptism and confirmation, the first ordinances of the gospel, are the gate by which we enter the narrow path that leads to eternal life (see 2 Nephi 31:17–18). To continue on this path after baptism, we must also receive the sacred ordinances of the temple—the endowment and the sealing ordinances. We must remain faithful to the covenants we make. These ordinances are essential to our exaltation.

President Howard W. Hunter explained the importance of temple ordinances: “All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. I encourage everyone to worthily attend the temple or to work toward the day when you can enter that holy house to receive your ordinances and covenants” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).

Adult members who have not yet been to the temple should talk to their bishop or branch president to find out how to prepare to receive temple blessings. We should also instill in our children and other family members a desire to prepare for baptism and temple ordinances.

  • How can we teach our children and other family members the importance of the temple? (Write the responses on the chalkboard. These could include setting a good example by attending the temple regularly or actively working toward going, holding a temple recommend, expressing gratitude in our family prayers for the temple and its ordinances, and taking children 12 years of age and older to the temple to be baptized for the dead.)

Holding a Current Recommend and Going to the Temple Regularly

Regarding temples, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “These unique and wonderful buildings, and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship. These ordinances become the most profound expressions of our theology. I urge our people everywhere, with all of the persuasiveness of which I am capable, to live worthy to hold a temple recommend, to secure one and regard it as a precious asset, and to make a greater effort to go to the house of the Lord and partake of the spirit and the blessings to be had therein. I am satisfied that every man or woman who goes to the temple in a spirit of sincerity and faith leaves the house of the Lord a better man or woman. There is need for constant improvement in all of our lives. There is need occasionally to leave the noise and the tumult of the world and step within the walls of a sacred house of God, there to feel His spirit in an environment of holiness and peace” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 72; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 53).

Even if our circumstances do not allow us to attend regularly, we should hold a temple recommend. President Howard W. Hunter said: “It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).

  • What blessings are we promised if we hold a temple recommend and attend the temple regularly?

To obtain a temple recommend, we must have yearly private interviews with our priesthood leaders. We may also be invited to attend special preparation and orientation classes. (For more information on preparing to attend the temple, see Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 35, “The Eternal Family.”)

Providing Ordinances for Deceased Ancestors

The Lord desires that all who have lived upon the earth past their eighth birthday have the privilege of receiving baptism, the endowment, and the sealing ordinances. He sent the prophet Elijah to Joseph Smith to restore the priesthood keys of salvation for the dead, which keys make it possible for the living to perform ordinances in behalf of those who have died. As members of the Church, we have the responsibility to provide the saving ordinances of the gospel for our ancestors who died without them.

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:15. Why is it important for us to provide ordinances for our deceased ancestors? (They cannot be fully saved without us, and we cannot be fully saved without them.)

As we turn our hearts to our ancestors, learn more about them, and perform priesthood ordinances for them, we can share the joy our ancestors feel as they receive the opportunity to attain eternal life. Further, as we serve our brothers and sisters, we come to better understand and appreciate the meaning of the Savior’s Atonement in our own lives. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained our role in temple and family history work:

“The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, … and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.

“But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 330).

  • What blessings can come from doing ordinance work for our deceased ancestors?

Remembering Our Ancestors

To begin fulfilling our family history responsibilities we can each make a list of our deceased relatives whom we knew or remember. No special research aids or resources are needed. This list can help us identify relatives who died without receiving their saving temple ordinances. Even if our ancestors were early Church members or if others in our families have worked on family history, we can often identify deceased relatives whose temple work has not yet been done.

  • Pass out pencils and paper to the class. Have the class members make a list of deceased relatives whom they remember, and then have them identify those who died without temple ordinances.

When we identify relatives whose temple work is not yet done, we should make sure that it is done. President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized the temple’s importance in family history work: “All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it. The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the Church has to offer” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 115–16; or Ensign, May 1998, 88).

  • Display visual 8-b, “Family history consultants can help prepare information.”

Family history consultants in our ward, branch, or stake can help us prepare the information that the temple will need before ordinances may be done. Church family history publications, local priesthood leaders, and temples should also have these instructions.

  • Discuss with class members the process and requirements for preparing names for temple work. If possible, introduce the family history consultant, and have him or her lead this discussion.

In addition to performing temple ordinances for the ancestors whom we remember, we should consider other ancestors. We can talk to our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members who may remember people we may not have known. We can make sure that temple work is done for these ancestors as well.

Recording Your Information

As we learn about our ancestors, we will probably need to record the information we find. Church family history forms and computer programs can help us do this. However, you may use any method that helps you remember what you learn. It is also very helpful to record the dates when ordinances were performed so that you know which ones still need to be done.

Some Guidelines

As we submit names for temple work, we should remember these guidelines:

  1. 1.

    Our foremost obligation is for our own ancestors. We should not submit the names of people who are not related to us, including names we may obtain from personal extraction projects.

  2. 2.

    A person whose name is submitted must have been deceased for at least one full year.

  3. 3.

    If the person was born in the past 95 years, permission should be obtained from a close living relative before the name is submitted.

  4. 4.

    No ordinances are necessary for children who are stillborn. However, If there is any possibility that a child lived after birth, he or she should be sealed to the parents, unless the child was born in the covenant (meaning that the child’s parents were sealed before he or she was born).

  5. 5.

    Children who died before age eight and were not born in the covenant need only to be sealed to their parents. They do not need any other ordinances.

Other Ways to Participate in Family History

  • Display visual 8-c, “Writing personal and family histories is important.”

Other important ways we can participate in family history include:

  • Gathering information about ancestors who lived before those whom we and our family remember, and having their temple work done.

  • Teaching our children about their ancestors and encouraging them to fulfill their own family history responsibilities.

  • Writing personal and family histories.

  • Keeping important personal and family documents and records.

  • Keeping a journal.

  • Participating in the Church’s family history programs such as submitting family names to Ancestral File and participating in family record extraction.

  • If you have time, display visual 8-d, “Pedigree Chart.” Then help class members fill out a current family history form (obtained from your family history consultant or local priesthood leaders) for their own families.

Conclusion

We need to receive the ordinances of the gospel to be able to return to our Heavenly Father. To receive all of the blessings associated with these ordinances, we should:

  1. 1.

    Receive our own ordinances and help our immediate family members receive theirs.

  2. 2.

    Hold a current temple recommend and attend the temple as often as we can. Even if we do not live where we can go to the temple, we should hold a temple recommend.

  3. 3.

    Identify our ancestors who died without receiving the ordinances and make sure that ordinances are performed in their behalf.

As we faithfully fulfill our priesthood responsibility for temple and family history work, Heavenly Father will help us through the inspiration of His Spirit.

Challenge

If you have not yet received your own temple ordinances, arrange for an interview with your bishop or branch president to find out what you can do to prepare.

Teach your family about the importance of baptism and the temple ordinances.

Identify at least one ancestor who died without receiving all of the saving ordinances of the gospel, and have his or her ordinances done.

If you do not have a temple recommend, prepare to obtain one.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Gospel Principles chapter 40, “Temple Work and Family History.”

  2. 2.

    For more information on record keeping and personal and family histories, see The Latter-day Saint Woman, Part B, lesson 19, “Family and Personal Histories.”

  3. 3.

    Obtain paper and a pencil for each class member.

  4. 4.

    Obtain copies of current Church family history forms for recording temple and family information for each class member.

  5. 5.

    If your ward, branch, stake, or mission has a family history consultant, ask him or her for the procedures used to submit names for temple work. If possible, arrange for the consultant to teach a portion of the class. If a family history consultant is not available, you may also find out what these procedures are from a local Family History Center, your local priesthood leaders, current Family History publications, or your nearest temple.

  6. 6.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.