Chapter 42: Temple Service

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 306–13


When the St. George Temple was dedicated in April 1877, President Brigham Young rejoiced that the Saints finally could begin to perform temple endowments for the dead. He reported that the Saints who began laboring there “had a blessed time, such a time as no other people on the earth have enjoyed for many centuries, that we have any knowledge of” (DBY, 419). “Since the completion of the temple at St. George,” he wrote his son Lorenzo, “the spirit to look after the dead and to officiate for them, and also attend to the necessary ordinances for the living, has taken possession of the faithful members of the Church all through these valleys. The Saints probably have never felt such interest in these subjects since the organization of the Church as they do at the present. This will be attended with good results, and as the work of building temples progresses, this spirit will be felt with greater power through all the branches of the Church” (LBY, 288–89).

Teachings of Brigham Young

God gives those who have died the opportunity to enjoy temple blessings.

My father died before the endowments were given. None of his children have been sealed to him. If you recollect, you that were in Nauvoo, we were very much hurried in the little time we spent there after the temple was built. The mob was there ready to destroy us; they were ready to burn our houses, they had been doing it for a long time; but we finished the temple according to the commandment that was given to Joseph, and then took our departure. Our time, therefore, was short, and we had no time to attend to this. My father’s children, consequently, have not been sealed to him. Perhaps all of his sons may go into eternity, into the spirit world, before this can be attended to; but this will make no difference; the heirs of the family will attend to this if it is not for a hundred years (DBY, 401).

Hundreds of millions of human beings have been born, lived out their short earthly span, and passed away, ignorant alike of themselves and of the plan of salvation provided for them. It gives great consolation, however, to know that this glorious plan devised by Heaven follows them into the next existence, offering for their acceptance eternal life and exaltation to thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers in the presence of their Father and God, through Jesus Christ, his Son (DBY, 404).

We are preaching to them the Gospel of Salvation—to the dead—through those who have lived in this dispensation [see D&C 138:57] (DBY, 397).

There is an opportunity for men who are in the spirit to receive the Gospel. Jesus, while his body lay in the grave two nights and one day, went to the world of spirits to show the brethren how they should build up the kingdom, and bring spirits to the knowledge of the truth in the spirit world; he went to set them the pattern there, as he had done on this earth. Hence you perceive that there, spirits have the privilege of embracing the truth.

You may ask if they are baptized there? No. Can they have hands laid upon them for the gift of the Holy Ghost? No. None of the outward ordinances that pertain to the flesh are administered there, but the light, glory, and power of the Holy Ghost are enjoyed just as freely as upon this earth; and there are laws which govern and control the spirit world, and to which they are subject (DBY, 397).

Can we do anything for them? Yes. What are we trying to build a temple for? And we shall not only build a temple here, if we are successful, and are blessed and preserved, but we shall probably commence two or three more, and so on as fast as the work requires, for the express purpose of redeeming our dead. When I get a revelation that some of my progenitors lived and died without the blessings of the Gospel, or even hearing it preached, but were as honest as I am, as upright as I am, or as any man or woman could be upon the earth; as righteous, so far as they knew how, as any Apostle or Prophet that ever lived, I will go and be baptized, confirmed, washed, and anointed, and go through all the ordinances and endowments for them, that their way may be opened to the celestial kingdom (DBY, 403).

This doctrine of baptism for the dead is a great doctrine, one of the most glorious doctrines that was revealed to the human family; and there are light, power, glory, honor and immortality in it (DBY, 399).

Many a man I know of, who has fallen asleep [died], we have been baptized for, since the Church was organized—good, honest, honorable men, charitable to all, living good, virtuous lives. We will not let them go down to hell; God will not. The plan of salvation is ample to bring them all up and place them where they may enjoy all they could anticipate (DBY, 403).

They have passed the ordeals [of mortality], and are beyond the possibility of personally officiating for the remission of their sins and for their exaltation, consequently they are under the necessity of trusting in their friends, their children and their children’s children to officiate for them, that they may be brought up into the celestial kingdom of God (DBY, 406).

What do you suppose the fathers would say if they could speak from the dead? Would they not say, “We have lain here thousands of years, here in this prison house, waiting for this dispensation to come?” … What would they whisper in our ears? Why, if they had the power the very thunders of heaven would be in our ears, if we could realize the importance of the work we are engaged in. All the angels in heaven are looking at this little handful of people, and stimulating them to the salvation of the human family. So also are the devils in hell looking at this people, too, and trying to overthrow us, and the people are still shaking hands with the servants of the devil, instead of sanctifying themselves and calling upon the Lord and doing the work which he has commanded us and put into our hands to do (DBY, 403–4).

Heavenly Father will bless us for doing family history research for the salvation of our forefathers.

I think there is a work to be done [in the Millennium] which the whole world seems determined we shall not do. What is it? To build temples. We never yet commenced to lay the foundation of a temple but what all hell was in arms against us. … What are we going to do in these temples? Anything to be done there? Yes, and we will not wait for the Millennium and the fulness of the glory of God on the earth; we will commence as soon as we have a temple, and work for the salvation of our forefathers; we will get their genealogies as far as we can. By and by, we shall get them perfect. In these temples we will officiate in the ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for our friends (DBY, 402).

We are now baptizing for the dead … for our fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, relatives, friends and old associates. … The Lord is stirring up the hearts of many … , and there is a perfect mania with some to trace their genealogies and to get up printed records of their ancestors. They do not know what they are doing it for, but the Lord is prompting them; and it will continue and run on from father to father, father to father, until they get the genealogy of their forefathers as far as they possibly can (DBY, 406).

When his Kingdom is established upon the earth, and Zion built up, the Lord will send his servants as saviors upon Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21]. The servants of God who have lived on the earth in ages past will reveal where different persons have lived who have died without the Gospel, give their names, and say, “Now go forth, ye servants of God, and exercise your rights and privileges; go and perform the ordinances of the house of God for those who have passed their probation without the Gospel, and for all who will receive any kind of salvation; bring them up to inherit the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms,” … for every person will receive according to his capacity and according to the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad, much or little (DBY, 407).

The Lord says, I have sent the keys of Elijah the Prophet—I have imparted that doctrine to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers [see D&C 2; 110:13–15]. Now, all you children, are you looking to the salvation of your fathers? Are you seeking diligently to redeem those that have died without the Gospel, inasmuch as they sought the Lord Almighty to obtain promises for you? For our fathers did obtain promises that their seed should not be forgotten. O ye children of the fathers, look at these things. You are to enter into the temples of the Lord and officiate for your forefathers (DBY, 408).

We become saviors on Mount Zion through performing temple ordinances for our kindred dead.

We are called, as it has been told you, to redeem the nations of the earth. The fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without the fathers. There must be this chain in the holy Priesthood; it must be welded together from the latest generation that lives on the earth back to Father Adam, to bring back all that can be saved and placed where they can receive salvation and a glory in some kingdom. This Priesthood has to do it; this Priesthood is for this purpose (DBY, 407).

The doctrines of the Savior reveal and place the believers in possession of principles whereby saviors will come upon Mount Zion to save … all except those who have sinned against the Holy Ghost. Men and women will enter into the temples of God, and be, in comparison, pillars there [see Revelation 3:12], and officiate year after year for those who have slept thousands of years (DBY, 407).

To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal (DBY, 394).

This is what we are going to do for the inhabitants of the earth. When I look at it, I do not want to rest a great deal, but be industrious all the day long; for when we come to think upon it, we have no time to lose, for it is a pretty laborious work (DBY, 410).

The priesthood the Lord has again bestowed upon those who will receive it, is for the express purpose of preparing them to become proficient in the principles pertaining to the law of the celestial kingdom. If we obey this law, preserve it inviolate, live according to it, we shall be prepared to enjoy the blessings of a celestial kingdom. Will any others? Yes, thousands and millions of the inhabitants of the earth who would have received and obeyed the law that we preach, if they had had the privilege. When the Lord shall bring again Zion, and the watchmen shall see eye to eye, and Zion shall be established, saviors will come upon Mount Zion and save all the sons and daughters of Adam that are capable of being saved, by administering for them (DNW, 16 May 1860, 1).

Our fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without them. They have done their work and now sleep. We are now called upon to do ours; which is to be the greatest work man ever performed on the earth. Millions of our fellow creatures who have lived upon the earth and died without a knowledge of the Gospel must be officiated for in order that they may inherit eternal life (that is, all that would have received the Gospel). And we are called upon to enter into this work (DBY, 406).

Who will possess the earth and all its fulness? Will it not be those whom the Lord has reserved to this honor? And they will come upon Mount Zion as saviors to labor through the Millennium to save others (DBY, 407–8).

The work of the Millennium will include temple building and temple service.

We are trying to save the living and the dead. The living can have their choice, the dead have not. Millions of them died without the Gospel, without the Priesthood, and without the opportunities that we enjoy. We shall go forth in the name of Israel’s God and attend to the ordinances for them. And through the Millennium, the thousand years that the people will love and serve God, we will build temples and officiate therein for those who have slept for hundreds and thousands of years—those who would have received the truth if they had had the opportunity; and we will bring them up, and form the chain entire, back to Adam (DBY, 404).

As I have frequently told you, that is the work of the Millennium. It is the work that has to be performed by the seed of Abraham, the chosen seed, the royal seed, the blessed of the Lord, those the Lord made covenants with. They will step forth, and save every son and daughter of Adam who will receive salvation here on the earth; and all the spirits in the spirit world will be preached to, conversed with, and the principles of salvation carried to them, that they may have the privilege of receiving the Gospel; and they will have plenty of children here on the earth to officiate for them in those ordinances of the Gospel that pertain to the flesh (DBY, 403).

We trust in God. I reckon he will fight our battles and we will be baptized for and in behalf of the human family during a thousand years; and we will have hundreds of temples and thousands of men and women officiating therein for those who have fallen asleep, without having had the privilege of hearing and obeying the Gospel, that they may be brought forth and have a glorious resurrection, and enjoy the kingdom which God has prepared for them. The Devil will fight hard to hinder us, and we shall not take an inch of ground except by obedience to the power of, and faith in, the Gospel of the Son of God. The whole world is opposed to this doctrine. But is there any harm in it? If they could only see it as it is in the Lord, they would rejoice in it, and instead of fighting it, they would praise God for having revealed so glorious a doctrine (DBY, 401).

Suggestions for Study

God gives those who have died the opportunity to enjoy temple blessings.

  • The “glorious plan” for redeeming those who died without having received the full blessings of the gospel was a “great consolation” to President Young. Why? What does that plan mean to you and your loved ones?

  • How and when was the preaching of the gospel in the spirit world organized? Who continues in that labor now? (See also D&C 138:57.)

  • What does it mean to redeem our dead and open to them the celestial kingdom? (See also D&C 138:58.)

  • Why does Satan so actively oppose temple work? What evidence have you seen that Satan cannot prevent temples from being built nor stop the saving ordinance work from flourishing?

Heavenly Father will bless us for doing family history research for the salvation of our forefathers.

  • President Young spoke of a time when we would perfect our genealogies or family histories. How will we do this? What can you personally do to contribute to your family history?

  • According to President Young, who is “stirring up the hearts of many” to learn about their ancestors? What evidence have you seen that this is true today?

  • What are “the keys of Elijah the Prophet”? (See also D&C 27:9; 110:13–15.)

We become saviors on Mount Zion through performing temple ordinances for our kindred dead.

  • How can we become saviors on Mount Zion?

  • Why is it impossible for our kindred dead to be made perfect without us? Why is it impossible for us to be made perfect without them?

The work of the Millennium will include temple building and temple service.

  • What will be “the work of the Millennium”? Who will perform it?

  • How can we overcome Satan’s attempts to hinder the work? How do “obedience to the power of, and faith in, the Gospel of the Son of God” help us prepare for the Millennium?