—The Prophet Joseph Smith
It is our responsibility and privilege to identify our ancestors so the saving ordinances of the gospel can be performed for them. Family history will also help tie us to our ancestors in an eternal family unit.
Read chapter 40 in Gospel Principles for background information.
Ask one member of the family to move to the far side of the room, away from the others. Discuss how you would feel if one of your family could not be with you in the next life.
If possible, show a picture of the temple nearest you, or write the word temple on a piece of paper.
What blessing can come to your family in the temple? (Being sealed together.)
What about those of our ancestors who died without being sealed in the temple? Will they always have to be separated from their family?
Point out that Heavenly Father loves all of his children. He made it possible for these people who died without the gospel to receive all of the sacred ordinances. Have the person return to the group.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:29.
What does this scripture tell us? (Baptisms for the dead were performed in New Testament times.)
Explain that through the temple, the dead can receive all of the blessings and ordinances of the gospel—baptism, endowment, and sealing. In this way, all of our ancestors who accept the Lord’s plan can be sealed to our family.
Show and study a pedigree chart from a branch of your family; or, write the names of children, parents, and grandparents on a sheet of paper. Explain that all of the people, plus their parents, grandparents, and so on need to be sealed together in an unbroken chain.
Tell the following experience:
When President Wood of the Cardston Alberta Temple was sealing a family together around the altar, he felt impressed to ask if the information on the sealing sheet was correct. The mother said it was. As they began the ordinance again, he again felt impressed to ask if there were other children who needed to be sealed. She assured him there were none. The third time, he heard a voice quite clearly say, “I am her child.” Again, he asked the mother if she had ever had another child. As she thought back to her early married years, she remembered a baby who had died shortly after birth. The mother rejoiced as her little girl was included as part of their eternal family unit. (See Melvin S. Tagg, “The Life of Edward James Wood, Church Patriot,” [Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1959], pp. 118–19.)
How can we make sure that no family member is left out? (By keeping accurate records.)
Point out that accurate records are necessary before temple work can be done. The making of these records is called family history or genealogy. Read Doctrine and Covenants 128:24.
You may wish to end the discussion by bearing your own testimony of the sacred importance of family history and temple work. Then have the family sing “I Love to See the Temple” Children’s Songbook, p. 95.
If possible, invite grandparents or other close family members to share this evening with you. Choose one or more ancestors to honor. Show the family any pictures you may have of those people. Note their style of dress, and discuss how their life-styles may have been different from yours. Point out any family resemblances you can see in the pictures.
Have each family member read or tell stories about one of the ancestors. Help your children see your ancestors as real people who actually lived and had feelings and experiences like their own. Try to help your family feel closer to them and realize that they are an important part of your family. Mention physical traits, talents, or other good characteristics you and your children inherited from ancestors (for example, red hair like grandpa’s or musical talent like grandma’s).
Take several slips of paper and place the name of another ancestor on each. Place them in a bowl or other container and have each family member draw one out. During the coming month, have each person find out all he can about that ancestor by collecting pictures, talking to relatives who know about that person, and so forth. Younger children may work with an older family member. They could draw pictures about important events in the life of the ancestor.
Hold a special family home evening where each family member can present his findings.
Visit the homes, places of birth, or burial sites of some of your ancestors. If you cannot do this, you may be able to find pictures and other information about these places.
Give each family member a blank Family Group Record form to practice filling out. Explain any unfamiliar words or phrases.
Set a goal to complete your own Family Group Record. Plan ways to research any information you do not have. Then fill out sheets for grandparents and great-grandparents.
If you have any names ready for temple work, you may wish to have the family help you fill out the appropriate forms.
Children over age twelve can act as proxy for baptisms for the dead in the temple. If you live near a temple or can take a family vacation in a place where one is located, arrange with local priesthood leaders and the temple to give them this opportunity. It can help them understand the blessings of family history and temple work.
Plan a visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or a Family History Center. If there is not a Family History Center near your home, you may wish to visit a local record repository—a library or government records office. A Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work(34697) can also be helpful.
Hebrews 11:40 (They without us cannot be perfect.)
1 Peter 4:6 (The gospel is preached to the dead.)
3 Nephi 25:5–6 (Elijah will come to turn hearts.)
Doctrine and Covenants 124:93 (Ordinances sealed by authority of priesthood are binding after death.)
See also “Genealogy and Temple Work” in the Topical Guide.
“I Love to See the Temple,” in Children’s Songbook, p. 95.
“When Grandpa Comes,” Children’s Songbook, p. 201.
“High on the Mountain Top,” Hymns, no. 5.
“Holy Temples on Mount Zion,” Hymns, no. 289.
“How Beautiful Thy Temples, Lord,” Hymns, no. 288.
Gospel Principles, “Temple Work and Family History,” chapter 40.