Because of the hectic nature of my work, I found that I needed to spend some time alone to get away from everything.
It was the 24th of July weekend, and I decided to go camping in the mountains near Ferron, Utah. I found a little, out of the way canyon – where I could find some solitude – in which to set up my camp.
After cooking my dinner, I had a little time to sit quietly by the campfire. It was during a time in my life in which I was struggling in my faith. I had suffered some setbacks and reversals and I was contemplating just giving up. I began to contemplate the direction in which my life should go. Should I stay on the gospel path, or should I go in some other direction?
The Pioneer Broadcast
I had brought a radio with me. One of the few stations that I could pick up was KSL radio. Since it was Pioneer day, there was a special broadcast in commemoration of the arrival of the Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley.
As I listened to that broadcast, I was touched by the sacrifice and effort of the Saints who came across the plains.
After the program ended, I shut off the radio. I began to consider the sacrifices and efforts of my own ancestors.
Many of them joined the church in the 1830’s and 1840’s. They went to Nauvoo. Some of them joined the Mormon Battalion and made that long march to California. Then they marched East across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to join the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. After just a few weeks in the valley, they continued their march Eastward all the way back to Winter Quarters, only to turn around once more to bring their families back to Utah.
Still others of my ancestors would join the church in England and Scotland. They sailed ships across the ocean, and walked across the plains, pushing handcarts to come to Zion.
One Ancestor, after joining the church in England, brought his family to Nauvoo. Then he came across the plains in a covered wagon. Once he got his family situated in the Salt Lake Valley, he was called on a mission – Back to England! So he retraced his steps along the Mormon Trail back to the East. He sailed back to England where he served his mission. After completing his mission, he sailed across the ocean for a 3rd time, and began making his way back to Utah -- but he would never make it back. He only made it as far as Mormon Grove, Kansas – where he died in a cholera epidemic.
What have you Done With My Name
After pondering the lives and sacrifices of my ancestors, I felt a bond and connection to my ancestors, that I had never felt before -- almost as if some of them were right there with me. Who knows, perhaps they were there with me that day. I felt their influence on me for good at a pivotal time in my life. That influence helped me to choose to stay on the gospel path. I realized more about who I am, and that I, like Jonah, have a holy calling from the Lord -- no matter how far I ran, or tried to hide. What a waste it would be if I were to abandon all that they had toiled, sacrificed, and worked for so diligently all their lives.
Then the following story came to my mind:
Once when President George Albert Smith was seriously ill, he lost consciousness and thought he had died. He found himself standing near a beautiful lake. Soon he began following a trail through the woods, and after a time he saw a man, whom he recognized as his grandfather, coming toward him.I knew that if I were to leave the path of the gospel, that I would not be able to stand unashamed before my own ancestors. I began to realize just how much I owed them for the blessings that I enjoy now. Their legacy to me is priceless. I would have a lot to answer for if I were to squander it away.
“I remember how happy I was to see him coming,” President Smith said. “I had been given his name and had always been proud of it.
“When Grandfather came within a few feet of me, … he looked at me very earnestly and said:
“ ‘I would like to know what you have done with my name.’
“Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen—everything I had done. … I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said:
“ ‘I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.’
“He stepped forward and took me in his arms.” (Improvement Era, Mar. 1947, p. 139.) See Also: (S. Michael Wilcox, “The Beatitudes—Pathway to the Savior,” Ensign, Jan 1991, 19)
In Malachi 4:5-6 we read:The hearts of my fathers were, and continue to be drawn out toward me. And my heart was, and still is, drawn out toward them.
5 ¶ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
In the most recent General Conference (October 2008), Elder Jeffery R Holland, spoke of the role of angels, he said:
“Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, [or] guidance in difficult times.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 29–31)Elder Holland goes on to say that not all angels are from the other side of the veil – but that mortals can act as angels on the behalf of others. As we turn our hearts to our fathers, we can act as angels on their behalf – even as saviors on Mount Zion.
The hearts of fathers and children being turned to one another is a two-way street. They depend upon us to find them, and have their work performed in the temples. But they too can help us in our own lives as well. Not only by the sacrifices they already made for us when they lived in mortality, but even now when we need help, strength and comfort.
Our ancestors, whether they were members of the church or not when they lived on earth sacrificed on our behalf, so we could live here on earth in a time and place when the gospel is upon the earth in its fullness.
We live in the shadow of the greatest genealogical resources in the world. Soon we will live in the shadow of 4 temples in the Salt Lake Valley. What a waste it would be if we did not take advantage of the opportunities available to search out our kindred dead. In fact, the angel Moroni told the prophet Joseph Smith that the “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (JS Hist 1:39) if this work does not take place.
In a way, each of us are 911 dispatchers for those on the other side of the veil. Will you take the call? Will you help those who are in need of the ordinances of the gospel? Will you get them the help they need?
I believe that as we search out our ancestors, that we will be blessed as we learn of their lives and what they have done for us. Each of us, us as members of the church – have a holy calling to assist the Lord the work of saving precious souls. Precious because they are our Father’s children. And precious also because of the blood that was shed for them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When you engage in temple and family history work, you invite the Spirit of the Lord into your life. You may also invite the influence of Angels -- both seen and unseen to help you in accomplishing this work. These same angels may also help you in the trials and struggles you face in your own life.
I close with this scripture from D&C 84:88
“ … for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)