"On April 3, 1836, the prophet Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. He conferred upon them the sealing power of the priesthood, making it possible for families to be sealed together in eternal units throughout the generations. In conferring this power, he fulfilled the prophecy that the Lord would send him 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.'"1
It is believed in the Mormon Church that all must have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject it, whether they are dead or alive. Many ancestors that have passed on did not have that opportunity. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the true gospel and because of its validity and the joy and happiness it brings into members' lives, they naturally want others to share in that joy and happiness. This is the motivation by which members search out the information on their deceased ancestors. The responsibility of doing family history work lies with each individual. Each member has three basic responsibilities: 1) Receive the temple ordinances for oneself and help immediate family members receive them; 2) Hold a current temple recommend and attend the temple as frequently as circumstances allow; 3) Gather family history information so that each ancestor can receive the blessings of the temple.
- Life does not end at death. When we die, our eternal spirits go to a spirit world, where we continue to learn while we await the Resurrection and Final Judgment.2 The restored gospel is preached to those who died without receiving it in mortality. Many of those in the spirit world will accept the gospel, but without a body they cannot accept the ordinances necessary for eternal life. The main purpose of family history work is to acquire names and other genealogical information so that temple ordinances can be performed in behalf of deceased ancestors. In other words, performing saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves.
The family unit does not end at death – it continues beyond the grave. That is why it is vital to research, record, and complete the temple work for each individual, so that families can be together forever.
Covenants are made at baptism and in the Mormon temples with the authority of God. These covenants are promises between an individual and Heavenly Father, where God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless men and women as they obey those conditions. All the ordinances that are performed in the Mormon Church are accompanied by covenants.
These covenants in the Temple are entered into by worthy members of the Church and they are done in behalf of their ancestors, who again, may accept or reject these covenants in the spirit world.
Before the work can be done, each ancestor must be identified correctly. For many years, the Mormon Church has gathered genealogical records from all over the world. Through the work of many volunteers, this information has been made available at family history centers across the world. Salt Lake City is home to one of the largest genealogical societies. Familysearch.org is another resource, which provides genealogical information.
- "True to the Faith", 2004, pg 61-62; Doctrine and Covenants 110:14-16, Malachi 4:5-6
- Family Search website