Lots of material for all of these chapters can be found in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Resources are in Joseph Smith, chapters 36 and 41; for Brigham Young, chapters 41 and 42; in John Taylor, chapter 20; For Wilford Woodruff, chapter 17 and 18; for Joseph F. Smith, chapters 34 and 46; for Heber J. Grant, chapter 6; for David O. McKay, chapters 13 and 16; for Harold B. Lee 11. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are all found at the bottom of this page.
A great resource for this lesson is the October 2010 Ensign, a special edition on Temples.
1 - - Heavenly Father Wants His Children to Return to Him
Concerning the title of this section, the chapter in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant in appropriately entitled, “Uniting Families through Temple and Family History Work” and has the heading, “Temple ordinances extend the opportunity of exaltation to God’s children on both sides of the veil” (p. 51).
President John Taylor added:
We are here to cooperate with God in the salvation of the living [and] in the redemption of the dead (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 183).
This wonderful section outlines the plan for those born on the earth without the gospel during their lives to have their work done for them. Joseph Smith taught:
All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and being administered unto by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can be finally judged.
It is no more incredible that God should save the dead, than that he should raise the dead.
There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, which hath no forgiveness, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. There is a way to release the spirits of the dead; that is by the power and authority of the Priesthood—by binding and loosing on earth. This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 471).
Brigham Young elaborated:
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.
There is an opportunity for men who are in the spirit to receive the Gospel. Jesus…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.
Can we do anything for them? Yes…
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.
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.
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.
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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 307-8).
President John Taylor also explained:
…so little of the gospel having been revealed in the different ages, and so much of the power of darkness and iniquity having prevailed among men, it was necessary that something should be done for the dead as well as the living. God is interested in the dead as well as the living (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 184).
President Woodruff clarified:
If the dead have not heard the Gospel, the Lord is not going to send them to hell because they have not received it. The Lord is the Father of all. He is merciful to all. … Millions of people have been born in the flesh, have lived and have gone to the grave, who never saw the face of a prophet in their lives; never saw a man that was called of God and had power to administer in one of the ordinances of the House of God. Will God condemn them because they did not receive the Gospel? Not at all.
God is no respecter of persons; he will not give privileges to one generation and withhold them from another; and the whole human family, from father Adam down to our day, have got to have the privilege, somewhere, of hearing the gospel of Christ; and the generations that have passed and gone without hearing that gospel in its fulness, power and glory, will never be held responsible by God for not obeying it. Neither will he bring them under condemnation for rejecting a law they never saw or understood; and if they live up to the light they had they are justified so far, and they have to be preached to in the spirit world (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 186-7).
President McKay related the following story concerning the unfairness without this doctrine:
A Chinese student, returning to his homeland, having graduated from one of our leading colleges, was in conversation with a Christian minister, also en route to China. When this minister urged the truth that only through acceptance of Christ’s teachings can any man be saved, the [student] said: “Then what about my ancestors who never had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus?”
The minister answered: “They are lost.” Said the student: “I will have nothing to do with a religion so unjust as to condemn to eternal punishment men and women who are just as noble as we, perhaps nobler, but who never had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus.”
One who understands the truth, as revealed to the Prophet Joseph regarding this doctrine, would have answered: “They will have an opportunity to hear the gospel, and to obey every principle and ordinance by proxy. Every man here or hereafter will be judged and rewarded according to his works.”
Since repentance and baptism by water as well as by the Spirit are essential to salvation, how shall the millions who have never heard the Gospel, who have never had an opportunity either to repent or to be baptized, enter into the kingdom of God? Surely a God of love can never be satisfied if the majority of His children are outside His kingdom, dwelling eternally either in ignorance, misery or hell. Such a thought is revolting to intelligent min (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 128).
We only get hints from the New Testament of the doctrine of baptism for the dead. President McKay elaborated on 1 Corinthians 15:29 (see Additional Scriptures, p. 239):
Paul referred to [the] practice of baptism [for the dead] in his argument in favor of the resurrection. He said, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?” (1 Cor. 15:29). … Not a few commentators have tried to explain away [this passage’s] true significance; but its context proves plainly that in the days of the apostles there existed the practice of baptism for the dead; that is, living persons were immersed in water for and in behalf of those who were dead—not who were “dead to sin” but who had “passed to the other side.”
You may have the opportunity of gathering the names of your ancestors, who, being baptized by proxy, may become members of the kingdom of God in the other world as we are members here (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 129, 130).
As the manual explained, “God has provided a way” (p. 233) for His children. President Woodruff discussed what this restored doctrine meant to him:
In October 1841, soon after returning to Nauvoo from a mission in England, Elder Wilford Woodruff attended a meeting in which the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the doctrine of the redemption of the dead. This was the first time Elder Woodruff heard that living members of the Church could receive saving ordinances in behalf of their ancestors who had passed away. He said: “It was like a shaft of light from the throne of God to our hearts. It opened a field wide as eternity to our minds. …I felt to say hallelujah when the revelation came forth revealing to us baptism for the dead. I felt that we had a right to rejoice in the blessings of Heaven.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 185).
2 - - Temples of the Lord
President John Taylor expounded on the power of a temple:
While speaking at the dedication of the Logan Utah Temple site, President Taylor shared with the congregation the feelings he experienced when he visited the St. George Utah Temple, the first temple completed in the Utah Territory:
“When I visited that holy Temple, accompanied by my brethren who were with me, we experienced a sacred thrill of joy and a solemn, reverential sensation. As we entered its sacred portals, we felt that we were standing on holy ground, and experienced, with one of old, ‘Surely this is the house of God, and the gate of heaven’” [See Genesis 28:17.] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 183).
The first temple in the latter days was in Kirtland. Joseph Smith declared its importance:
The Lord commanded us, in Kirtland, to build a house of God; … this is the word of the Lord to us, and we must, yea, the Lord helping us, we will obey: as on conditions of our obedience He has promised us great things… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 415).
The next temple to be completed was in Nauvoo. Joseph explained its genesis:
In March 1844, the Prophet met with the Twelve and the Nauvoo Temple committee to discuss how to allocate the Church’s meager resources. In this meeting, the Prophet said: “We need the temple more than anything else.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 416).
The Kirtland temple appears to be built mainly to receive keys. Joseph learned more about the importance of temples:
What was the object of gathering the … people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 416).
Joseph also learned more about what would happen in the Nauvoo temple concerning work for the dead:
…there must be a particular spot for the salvation of our dead. I verily believe there will be a place, and hence men who want to save their dead can come and bring their families, do their work by being baptized and attending to the other ordinances for their dead (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 418).
The first “particular spot” for baptisms for the dead was the Mississippi River. Joseph explained:
I first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead. … Without enlarging on the subject, you will undoubtedly see its consistency and reasonableness; and it presents the Gospel of Christ in probably a more enlarged scale than some have imagined it.
At first, baptisms for the dead had been performed in the Mississippi River or in local streams. But in January 1841, when the Saints were making plans for the Nauvoo Temple, the Lord declared: “A baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—for this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me” (D&C 124:29–30).
Proxy baptisms in the river were discontinued on October 3, 1841, when the Prophet announced: “There shall be no more baptisms for the dead, until the ordinance can be attended to in the Lord’s House. … For thus saith the Lord!” The Saints quickly began building a temporary wooden font in the newly excavated basement of the Nauvoo Temple. The font, built of Wisconsin pine, rested on the backs of 12 wooden oxen. It was dedicated on November 8, for use “until the Temple shall be finished, when a more durable one will supply its place.” On November 21, 1841, six members of the Quorum of the Twelve performed baptisms for 40 people who had died, the first baptisms for the dead performed in the font. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 469-72).
While baptisms for the dead were being performed, Joseph also revealed the endowment that would be later given in the temple:
The group met in the large upper room of the Prophet’s Red Brick Store, which had been “arranged representing the interior of a temple as much as the circumstances would permit.” Franklin D. Richards, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote: “When the Spirit prompted [Joseph Smith] that his life’s work was drawing to a close, and when he saw that his earthly days might be ended before the completion of the temple, he called a chosen few, and conferred upon them the ordinances of the holy endowments, so that the divine treasures of his mind might not perish from the world with his death” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 413).
Although initially the Nauvoo temple was utilized for baptisms for the dead, it soon became the place for the endowment to be given to all who wanted it:
As persecution increased and the need to leave Nauvoo pressed upon the Saints, President Brigham Young labored in the temple to bless the Saints with sacred ordinances before their departure. He recorded that on one day, “one hundred and forty-three persons received their endowments in the Temple. … Such has been the anxiety manifested by the saints to receive the ordinances [of the Temple], and such the anxiety on our part to administer to them, that I have given myself up entirely to the work of the Lord in the Temple night and day, not taking more than four hours sleep, upon an average, per day, and going home but once a week”. When he arrived in the west, President Young immediately selected a site for a new temple (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 299).
Brigham Young expressed the idea that temples draw Satan’s fire:
Some say, “I do not like to do it, for we never began to build a temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring.” I want to hear them ring again.
We completed a temple in Kirtland and in Nauvoo; and did not the bells of hell toll all the time we were building them? They did, every week and every day (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 300).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf also stated:
President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), First Counselor in the First Presidency, once said, "Every foundation stone that is laid for a Temple, and every Temple completed . . . lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness (Ensign, Aug. 2010, 4).
President Woodruff was able to dedicate the Salt Lake temple:
While serving as President of the Church, Wilford Woodruff dedicated the Salt Lake Temple. On that occasion he pleaded with the Lord to help the Saints in their efforts to redeem the dead: “Wilt thou … permit holy messengers to visit us within these sacred walls and make known unto us with regard to the work we should perform in behalf of our dead. And, as thou hast inclined the hearts of many who have not yet entered into covenant with thee to search out their progenitors, and in so doing they have traced the ancestry of many of thy Saints, we pray thee that thou wilt increase this desire in their bosoms, that they may in this way aid in the accomplishment of thy work. Bless them, we pray thee, in their labors, that they may not fall into errors in preparing their genealogies; and furthermore, we ask thee to open before them new avenues of information, and place in their hands the records of the past, that their work may not only be correct but complete also” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 186).
President Woodruff also declared how important temples are to us:
There is no labor in which the Latter-day Saints feel more deeply interested than in the building and completing of temples.
No right feeling Latter-day Saint can think upon this subject without being thrilled with heavenly joy for what God has done for us in our generation, furnishing us, as He has done, with every facility to prepare us, our posterity and our ancestors for that eternal world which lies beyond the present life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 174, 176).
3 - - Temple Ordinances Seal Families Together Forever
Joseph Smith explained that temple ordinances were premortal:
Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 417).
In the first paragraph of this section scriptures regarding the binding of families are quoted. Several prophets have explained that this binding is necessary for the whole human family who accepts Christ. Brigham Young said:
When we come to … sealing ordinances [for the dead], ordinances pertaining to the holy Priesthood, to connect the chain of the Priesthood from Father Adam until now, by sealing children to their parents, being sealed for our forefathers, etc, they cannot be done without a temple. When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, [children] will be sealed to their [parents], and those who have slept, clear up to Father Adam. This will have to be done, because of the chain of the Priesthood being broken upon 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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 303, 310).
President John Taylor also stated:
…that our sealings and ordinances may be performed in a manner that will be acceptable before God and the holy angels; that whatsoever is bound on the earth according to the laws of the eternal priesthood shall be bound in the heavens; that there may be a connecting link between the living and the dead… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 186).
President Woodruff explained:
Unto the Latter-day Saints the sealing ordinances have been revealed, and they will have effect after death, and, as I have said, will re-unite men and women eternally in the family organization. Herein is why these principles are a part of our religion, and by them husbands and wives, parents and children will be re-united until the links in the chain are re-united back to Father Adam. We could not obtain a fullness of celestial glory without this sealing ordinance.
This is worth all you or I can sacrifice the few years we have to spend here in the flesh.
He [Joseph Smith] told us that there must be a welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation to another [see D&C 128:18]. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that was given to him.
In my prayers the Lord revealed to me that it was my duty to say to all Israel to carry this principle out, and in fulfillment of that revelation I lay it before this people. … We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 176-7).
President Joseph F. Smith further declared:
There has got to be a welding together and a joining together of parents and children and children and parents until the whole chain of God’s family shall be welded together into one chain, and they shall all become the family of God and His Christ (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 411).
President Woodruff explained that this work is more important than us doing it:
We are blessed with power and authority, holding the Holy Priesthood by the commandment of God, to stand upon the earth and redeem both the living and the dead. If we did not do it, we should be damned and cut off from the earth, and the God of Israel would raise up a people who would do it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 189).
President Lee explained Matthew 16:18 in conjunction with salvation for the dead:
[The Lord] said that the gates of hell should not prevail against Christ’s church (Matthew 16:18). Now, the gates of hell would have prevailed against the Lord’s work if there hadn’t been given the ordinances pertaining to the salvation of those who are dead. During those periods when the priesthood to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel was not upon the earth, there were millions who lived, many of whom were faithful souls. If there hadn’t been a way by which the saving ordinances of the gospel could be performed for those who thus died without the knowledge of the gospel, the gates of hell would have prevailed against our Father’s plan of salvation (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 104).
On answer to meaning of the statement that “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it (D & C 135:3) is provided by President John Taylor:
All the holy priesthood—the ancient patriarchs, prophets and apostles and men of God who have lived in the different generations are looking upon us and expecting us to fulfill the great and important requirements of Jehovah in regard to the welfare and the redemption of the world: the salvation of the living and dead (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 189).
4 - - Our Ancestors Need Our Help
Brigham Young declared:
We want to sacrifice enough to do the will of God in preparing to bring up those who have not had the privilege of hearing the Gospel while in the flesh, for the simple reason that, in the spirit world, they cannot officiate in the ordinances of the house of God. …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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 280).
President John Taylor added:
The myriads of dead that have slept in the silent tomb without a knowledge of the gospel have their eyes upon us, and they are expecting us to fulfil the duties and responsibilities that devolve upon us to attend to, in which they are interested. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 189).
President Joseph F. Smith also declared:
The work for our dead, which the Prophet Joseph laid upon us with more than ordinary injunction, instructing us that we should look after those of our kinfolk and our ancestors who have died without the knowledge of the gospel, should not be neglected (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 246).
President Joseph F. Smith taught how vital is this work:
The dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them [see D&C 128:18]. We have a mission to perform for and in their behalf; we have a certain work to do in order to liberate those who, because of their ignorance and the unfavorable circumstances in which they were placed while here, are unprepared for eternal life; we have to open the door for them, by performing ordinances which they cannot perform for themselves, and which are essential to their release from the “prison-house,” to come forth and live according to God in the spirit, and be judged according to men in the flesh [see D&C 138:33–34] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 410).
The above statement is impressive when related to the Savior’s instructions about how to prepare for His Second Coming in Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison, and ye came unto me..."
This idea is also verified in latter-day revelation:
Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free (D&C 128:22).
For some of the early prophets, temple work was very personal. Brigham Young recalled:
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. …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… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 307).
President Woodruff shared:
Upon hearing this doctrine, Elder Woodruff thought of his mother. “The first thing that entered into my mind,” he said, “was that I had a mother in the spirit world. She died when I was 14 months old. I never knew [my] mother. I thought to myself, Have I power to go forth and seal my mother to my father? The word was, yes.” …“I have had the blessing and privilege of redeeming in the Temple of our God some four thousand of my father’s and my mother’s kindred. I speak of this because it is one of our blessings, the fullness and glory of which we will never know until the veil is opened.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 185-6).
The first question in this section is, “What responsibilities do we have toward our ancestors who have died without receiving priesthood ordinances?” (p. 235). One answer to this question is become what the prophets refer to as “Saviors on Mount Zion.” The title to the Chapter on temple work in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith is “Becoming Saviors on Mount Zion” (p. 469). The similar one in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff is “Temple Work Becoming Saviors on Mount Zion.” The heading in this chapter suggests a reason for the title. It reads, “We hold the keys of salvation for our ancestors who have died without the gospel” (p. 185). The heading to chapter 46 in the Joseph F. Smith manual reads, “Through temple service, we become saviors on Mount Zion for those who have died” (p. 407).
Joseph Smith stated:
But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, 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 Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 469).
All those who die in the faith go to the prison of spirits to preach to the dead in body, but they are alive in the spirit; and those spirits preach to the spirits [who are in prison] that they may live according to God in the spirit, and men do minister for them in the flesh; … and they are made happy by these means [see 1 Peter 4:6]. Therefore, those who are baptized for their dead are the saviors on Mount Zion, and they must receive their washings and their anointings for their dead the same as for themselves.
The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The apostle says, ‘They without us cannot be made perfect’ [see Hebrews 11:40] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 474-5).
Brigham Young declared:
The Lord has called me to this work, and I feel as though I will do it. We will send the Gospel to the nations; and when one nation turns us away we will go to another and gather up the honest in heart, and the rest we care not for until we come on Mount Zion as saviors, to attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them [see Obadiah 1:21] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 243).
John Taylor also stated:
We came here to be saviors. “What, saviors?” “Yes.” “Why, we thought there was only one Savior.” “Oh, yes, there are a great many. What do the scriptures say about it?” One of the old prophets, in speaking of these things, says that saviors shall come up upon Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21]. Saviors? Yes. Whom shall they save? In the first place themselves, then their families, then their neighbors, friends and associations, then their forefathers, then pour blessings on their posterity. Is that so? Yes (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 187).
President Woodruff added:
Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the veil your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done, and inasmuch as you have been instruments in the hands of God in procuring their redemption, you will be recognized as Saviors upon Mount Zion in fulfillment of prophecy [see Obadiah 1:21].
If we do not do what is required of us in this thing, we are under condemnation. If we do attend to this, then when we come to meet our friends in the celestial kingdom, they will say, “You have been our saviors, because you had power to do it. You have attended to these ordinances that God has required.
We have been called as Saviors upon Mount Zion… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 189, 192).
President Joseph F. Smith also taught:
We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 410).
President Heber J. Grant also exclaimed:
The world asks, how can that be, that one can be baptized for another? But if we believe in the vicarious work of Christ, we must believe that one can do work for another, and that we also may become “saviors upon Mount Zion.” [See Obadiah 1:21.]
It is our duty … to be mindful of those children of our Father who have preceded us in death without a knowledge of the gospel, and to open the door of salvation to them in our temples, where we also have obligations to perform (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 56).
President Lee also taught:
Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the only means by which man can accept the gospel, is an earthly ordinance, and so in the Plan of Salvation, our Father, with equal consideration for all his children, has provided a way for all members of his Church and Kingdom on the earth to be “saviors on Mt. Zion” by performing a vicarious work in behalf of those in the world of spirits, “the prison house,” that they could not perform for themselves.
This work for the dead performed in holy temples by members of the Church does in reality make of them who do this work “saviors” to those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel, for thereby they may claim the complete gift of the Savior promised to all mankind through his atonement.
If we were united in our temple work and in our genealogical research work, we would not be satisfied with the present temples only, but we would have sufficient work for temples yet to come, to the unlocking of the doors of opportunity to those beyond who are our own kin, and thus would ourselves become saviors on Mount Zion. Our failure to be united will be our failure to perpetuate our family homes in the eternity (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 103-4).
President Joseph F. Smith further encouraged:
Teach your children and let yourselves be taught the fact that it is necessary for you to become saviors upon Mount Zion for those who have died without the knowledge of the gospel, and that the temples of God in these mountains, and that are being reared in other lands, have been built and are designed expressly for the performance of these sacred ordinances which are necessary for those who have passed away without them (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 412).
This responsibility is huge for us, as explained by Joseph Smith:
In early 1841, Joseph Smith taught the following, as recorded by William P. McIntire: “Joseph said the Lord said that we should build our house to his name, that we might be baptized for the dead. But if we did it not, we should be rejected, and our dead with us, and this Church should not be accepted [see D&C 124:32]” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 416).
President Woodruff explained how others are anxious for us to do this work:
Our forefathers are looking to us to attend to this work. They are watching over us with great anxiety, and are desirous that we should finish these temples and attend to certain ordinances for them, so that in the morning of the resurrection they can come forth and enjoy the same blessings that we enjoy.
All who have died without a knowledge of this Gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom, for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” [D&C 137:7–9.] So it will be with your fathers (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 190-1).
President Woodruff gave a good conclusion to this section:
Never cease that work while you have the power to enter into the Temple. … I have had some thousands redeemed here. I have had baptisms, ordinations, washings and anointings, endowments and sealings for them, the same as if they were standing in the flesh themselves. I shall go and meet them on the other side of the veil. You will go and meet your relatives.
When I lay my body in the tomb and my spirit goes into the spirit world, I shall rejoice and have glory with them in the morning of the resurrection, inasmuch as they receive these principles. “Well,” perhaps you may say, “what if these people whom you have been baptized for do not receive the Gospel?” That will be their fault, not mine. This is a duty that rests upon all Israel, that they shall attend to this work, as far as they have the opportunity here on the earth.
How would I feel, after living as long as I have, with the privileges I have had of going into these temples, to go into the spirit world without having done this work? I meet my father’s house, I meet my mother’s house, I meet my progenitors, and they are shut up in prison; I held the keys of their salvation, and yet did nothing for them; what would be my feelings, or what would be their feelings toward me?
I do not want to go into the spirit world and meet with my progenitors who never heard the Gospel in their day and generation, and have them tell me, “You held in your hand the power to go forth and redeem me, and you have not done it.” I do not want to meet that. I do not want the Latter-day Saints to meet it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 191-2).
5 - - Family History—How We Begin Helping Our Ancestors
President Woodruff declared:
We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 174).
President Joseph F. Smith added:
The saints should take advantage of every opportunity to obtain the records as far as possible of their ancestors, that their redemption through the ordinances of the House of God might be obtained (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 414).
At the end of this section, the question is asked, “How has the Lord helped you or members of your family find information about your ancestors?” (p. 238). President Grant answered this question this way:
This genealogical work, to me, is simply marvelous. It is wonderful how those of us who take any interest in it have the way prepared. It seems miraculous the way my wife has been able in the past to gather genealogical information regarding her forefathers. It is little less than marvelous the way books and other information have come into our possession. When we got right up against a stone wall, in some way there has been a hole made through that wall so that we could crawl through and get on the other side, figuratively speaking, and find something that was of value (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 56).
Over the next four pages President Grant then documents the miraculous events of he wife’s family history.
President Lee added:
[In our genealogical research] the Lord is not going to open any doors until we get as far as we can on our own.
I have the simple faith that when you do everything you can, researching to the last of your opportunity, the Lord will help you to open doors to go further with your genealogies, and heaven will cooperate, I am sure (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 104).
The title of this section includes “begin.” Brigham Young taught that we will finish this work later:
…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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 309).
We end this section on a most powerful note by President Woodruff:
There will be very few, if any, who will not accept the Gospel. … The fathers of this people will embrace the Gospel (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 191).
6 - - Additional Family History Opportunities
The first suggestion listed in this section is:
1. Attend the temple as often as possible. After we have gone to the temple for ourselves, we can perform the saving ordinances for others waiting in the spirit world
Joseph Smith taught:
The question is frequently asked, ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances, etc.?’ I would answer, No, not the fullness of salvation. Jesus said, ‘There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you.’ [See John 14:2.] House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 418).
Brigham Young added and interesting injunction:
You have got to do the work, or it will not be done. We do not want any whiners about this temple. If you cannot commence cheerfully, and go through the labor of the whole building cheerfully, start for California, and the quicker the better. Make you a golden calf, and worship it. If your care for the ordinances of salvation, for yourselves, your living, and dead, is not first and foremost in your hearts, in your actions, and in everything you possess, go! (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 302).
President Grant made a personal decision:
A little over a year ago I made up my mind that by planning my affairs, by staying away from lectures or concerts or theatres or operas, I could go to the temple at least once every week and have ordinances performed in behalf of some of my loved ones who had passed away. By making up my mind that I could do this I had no difficulty whatever in going through the temple once a week during the entire year. … True, I have had to miss perhaps an opera or theatre or some other function at which I should have liked to be present, but I have had no difficulty whatever.
We can generally do that which we wish to do. A young man can find an immense amount of time to spend with his sweetheart. He can arrange affairs to do that. We can arrange our affairs to get exercise in the shape of golf and otherwise. We can arrange our affairs to have amusements. And if we make up our minds to do so we can arrange our affairs to do temple work, judging from my own experience.
I do not know of any one that is any busier than I am, and if I can do it they can (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 54-5).
President Grant also included his family:
In January 1928 he decided to establish every Thursday night as Grant family temple night. Endowed members of the family gathered for dinner and then went to the Salt Lake Temple to receive sacred ordinances in behalf of their deceased ancestors (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 53).
A fitting conclusion is provided by President Woodruff:
We want to continue in these temples. We want them to be occupied by the Latter-day Saints. We want our brethren and sisters to continue to go there and redeem the dead and bless the living.
If [we] knew and understood the feelings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and those of his brethren associated with him, and the feelings of the millions of the human family who are shut up in their prison houses, we would not tire. … We would labor for the redemption of our dead.
The eyes of the heavens are over us; the eyes of God himself, the eyes of every Prophet and Apostle in the spirit world, are watching you, watching this Priesthood, to see what they are doing and what they are going to do. It is of far more importance than we realize and comprehend. Let us awake to the ordinances of the House of God and do our duty, that we may be justified (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 176, 191).