Family History and Missionary Work


In our Zone Conferences this week, I’ve been teaching more about Family History and the incredible love our Father has for his children on both sides of the veil.  Below are some of the materials I taught from.

Salvation of the Dead Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Fugal, Elma

A distinctive doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the dead as well as the living may receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived or who ever will live on this earth will have full opportunity, if not in this life then in the next, to embrace or reject the gospel in its purity and fulness.

When this doctrine was first taught at Nauvoo, illinois, in 1842 (D&C 127;128), the Prophet Joseph Smith said it was the “burden of the scriptures” and that it exhibited “the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation” (TPJS, p. 192). It is in harmony with the Jewish idea that the family is the instrument of holiness and redemption and that the dead may need Atonement. It is also a Christian concept in the writings of Paul and Peter (see Baptism for the Dead). “[It] justifies the ways of God to man, places the human family upon an equal footing, and harmonizes with every principle of righteousness, justice, and truth” (TPJS, p. 223).

The Prophet posed the dilemma resolved by the doctrine: “One dies and is buried having never heard the gospel of reconciliation; to the other the message of salvation is sent, he hears and embraces it and is made the heir of eternal life. Shall the one become the partaker of glory and the other be consigned to hopeless perdition?…Such an idea is worse than atheism” (TPJS, p. 192).

Five fundamental principles underlie LDS understanding of salvation for the dead:
1. Life is eternal. Birth does not begin life nor does death end it. In each stage of existence there are ever-higher levels of divine enlightenment and blessedness.

2. Repentance is possible in the next life as well as this one. “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” (TPJS, p. 191).

3. The family bonds extend beyond death. The family bonds that are formed on this earth and consecrated to God by sacred covenants and ordinances are indissoluble and extend into the spirit world. “They without us cannot be made perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15; Heb. 11:39-40).

4. Ordinances may be performed for the dead. Through the holy priesthood, held by the prophets in the Church, Jesus Christ has authorized mortals to receive ordinances “of salvation substitutional” [that is, by proxy] and become “instrumental in bringing multitudes of their kindred into the kingdom of God” (TPJS, p. 191).

5. Temple ordinances are not “mere signs.” They are channels of the Spirit of God that enable one to be born of God in the fullest sense and to receive all the covenants and blessings of Jesus Christ. The performing of earthly ordinances by proxy for those who have died is as efficacious and vitalizing as if the deceased person had done them. That person, in turn, is free to accept or reject the ordinances in the spirit world.

In harmony with these principles, Latter-day Saints identify their ancestors through family history research, build temples, and, in behalf of their progenitors, perform the ordinances that pertain to exaltation: baptism; confirmation; ordination to the priesthood; washing and anointing; Endowment; and sealing. Thus, “we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection…[we] seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven” (TPJS, pp. 337-38). This is the chain that binds the hearts of fathers and mothers to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents. And this sealing work “fulfills the mission of Elijah” (TPJS, p, 330; see also Elijah, Spirit of).

When the Twelve Apostles chosen in Joseph Smith’s day were instructed to initiate these ordinances in Nauvoo in 1842, they soon recognized that it was the beginning of an immense work and that to administer all the ordinances of the gospel to the hosts of the dead was no easy task. They asked if there was some other way. The Prophet Joseph replied, “The laws of the Lord are immutable, we must act in perfect compliance with what is revealed to us. We need not expect to do this vast work for the dead in a short time. I expect it will take at least a thousand years” (Millennial Star 37:66). As of 1991 vicarious temple ordinances have been performed for more than 113 million persons. The Prophet Joseph said, “It is no more incredible that God should save the dead, than that he should raise the dead” (TPJS, p. 191).

Bennett, Richard E. “‘Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept’: Reflections on the 1877 Commencement of the Performance of Endowments and Sealings for the Dead.” BYU Studies 44:3 (2005):38-77.
Widstoe, John A. “Fundamentals of Temple Doctrine.” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 13 (June 1922):129-35.
Pohlsander, Hans A. Review of Rescue for the Dead: The Posthumous Salvation of Non-Christians in Early Christianity, by Jeffrey A. Trumbower. BYU Studies 41:2 (2002):187-191.

President Russell M. Nelson
Too often we split the Lord’s work into parts we think are unrelated. Whether it is preaching the gospel to nonmembers, serving with new converts, reactivating less-active members, teaching and strengthening active members, or performing family history and temple activity, the work is indivisible. These are not separate. They are all part of the work of salvation. Those on the other side of the veil rejoice and shout praises when their descendants accept or return to the gospel, for they know that their descendants are now able to perform vital temple ordinances in their behalf, linking together generations who have passed. (Seminar for New Mission Presidents, 2014)

Bryant S. Hinckley, father of President Gordon B. Hinckley
Why is it that sometimes only one of a city or household received the Gospel? It was made known to me that it is because of the righteous dead who had received the gospel in the spirit world exercising themselves, and in answer to their prayers elders of the Church were sent to the homes of their posterity that the Gospel might be taught to them and through their righteousness they might be privileged to have a descendant in the flesh do the work for their dead kindred.
I want to say to you that it is with greater intensity that the hearts of the fathers and mothers in the spirit world are turned to their children than that our hearts are turned to them.

Sister Lewis
Once while sitting in the stadium at BYU, listening to the thunderous cheering around me, it was made known to me in a quiet but sure way that there are as many and more of my ancestors and concerned loved ones cheering me on beyond the veil as there were fans in that stadium. I was taught that I am not alone here, and that there are scores of family members pulling for me, cheering for me, shouting at me. Among those are family members waiting for me to prepare their temple work so they might be saved with our family. We are not alone in our missionary work. Ancestors and descendants of those you are teaching who are on the other side of the veil are praying for you to find their family members here on earth. They have a very personal and vested interest in each of your investigators. They know you and know who you are and they will assist you in finding their family members.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-17).

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike–and they will–you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.

Sister Lewis
If this is true, it’s not improbable that those who are watching you are those who love you most–generations of your ancestors and your future children and grandchildren and all of your posterity. They know exactly who you are and they love you. They know where you are serving. They will exercise their influence in your behalf.

And if this is true, would it not be the same for each of your investigators? Those who are watching the individuals you are teaching are their ancestors and their future posterity because their salvation depends on them. You are not alone in this work!! You have stadiums of family members cheering you on–your family members and the families of your investigators! If you ever feel discouraged, visualize a stadium of people cheering for you, ready to come at reckless speed to protect and help you as you work to bring salvation to their loved ones.

SHOW:  3-4 min. Video Clip from RootsTech Conference this year of Pres Nelson and Wendy talking about praying to be led to the families here of people in the Spirit World who have accepted the gospel.

How Angels Can Help Us More in Our Lives
by Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, adapted from her new book, “Covenant Keepers: Unlocking the Miracles God Wants for You”
One of our hymns teaches us that “angels above us are silent notes taking” of each one of our actions. I’m sure that is true. And when we keep our covenants, they are doing so much more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that if we “live up to [our] privilege,” the angels will not be able to be restrained from being our associates.
Our “privilege” includes our covenants.
Our covenants are a privilege.
Therefore, as we live up to our covenants, the angels will not be able to be restrained from being our associates. We could also say it this way: As we keep our covenants, we can ask for angels to help us. Literally!
It was during Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s April 2010 general conference address that I first learned this truth. Elder Holland was giving counsel on how to guard against temptation. The one question I most needed to have answered at that time in my life, and which I took to that general conference, was not related to that subject, but part of Elder Holland’s prescription for success was exactly what I needed to hear.
He said, “Ask for angels to help you.”
He said it with such clarity, and yet he said it in a manner that implied this was something we all knew! But for me, it was an entirely new principle.
I wanted to call out, “Wait! Wait! What? You mean I could have been asking for angels to help me all this time?”
Without intending to sound too dramatic, I can say with all candor that Elder Holland’s six words changed my life: “Ask for angels to help you.”
That counsel changed my prayers. It changed my understanding of the very real help from heaven that is always available to us as we keep our covenants. I started to ask for assistance from those on the other side of the veil from that moment on!
Now, I’m not talking about praying to fantasy angels with wings to magically fairy-dust our problems away. I’m not talking about praying to angels. I’m talking about praying to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, for those on the other side to be “dispatched” (Elder Holland’s word) to assist us. Perhaps a departed loved one could be sent to help you with whatever you need.


Here are 2 experiences to give us an idea of what goes on in the Spirit World:

William Hurst Journal
Frederick William Hurst and his brother Charles were New Zealanders who were baptized into the Church in Australia in 1854 and later emigrated to Utah. In 1875 they were called to return to New Zealand as missionaries. They tried to share the restored gospel with the rest of their family, but their efforts were rejected. No other family members ever joined the Church. Of this experience Fred wrote, “My heart was so sore I could not forbear shedding tears.” In 1892 Fred was called upon to use his talents as an artist, helping to engrave and paint the interior of the Salt Lake Temple. Although he was very ill at the time and “so sick with vomiting,” he believed the completion of the temple was of such importance that he never missed a day’s work until the project was finished. One of his last journal entries is a truly remarkable one and a testimony of the importance of every individual in family history and temple work. Fred recorded:

Along about the 1st of March, 1893, I found myself alone in the dining room, all had gone to bed. I was sitting at the table when to my great surprise my elder brother Alfred walked in and sat down opposite me at the table and smiled. I said to him (he looked so natural): “When did you arrive in Utah?” He said: “I have just come from the Spirit World, this is not my body that you see, it is lying in the tomb. I want to tell you that when you were on your mission you told me many things about the Gospel, and the hereafter, and about the Spirit World being as real and tangible as the earth. I could not believe you, but when I died and went there and saw for myself I realized that you had told the truth. I attended the Mormon meetings.” He raised his hand and said with much warmth: “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I believe in faith, and repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, but that is as far as I can go. I look to you to do the work for me in the temple. . . . We are all looking to you as our head in this great work.” (Devitry-Smith, 1993, pp. 7-52).

Accordingly, Fred later arranged for the work to be done.


From my journal:  Johann Dietrich Graesle Family Temple Experience
Monday 2 February 2009

11:00 a.m. I just had a phone call from Dad. He told me that he’d just received a phone call from a lady named Laura Nehring who lives in Kerman, just a bit west of Fresno. She was at the temple last Saturday, Jan 31st. She and her husband were doing sealings and she told Dad that during the ordinances, she felt a very powerful exultant spirit in the room. It was so strong, she mentioned it to her husband, who also felt it. They felt it so strongly, they mentioned it to the others in the room, who were also aware of a mighty sense of rejoicing and celebration attending the work they were doing. She said they were sealing a son named Johann Dietrich Graesle to his parents, and also some of his siblings–she said it was a large family. President Stoker the Temple President, was officiating, and said he was also aware of the rejoicing.

Afterwards, Pres. Stoker saw my name on the cards and gave her Dad’s phone number so she could call him and tell him what had happened. Dad had just received her call and wanted me to know that the work for this family has caused a great deal of rejoicing in the heavens. Dad said, “I just wanted to start your day with this good news!”

I was thrilled to hear about it and grateful that this sister took the time to find us and share her experiences. This name was one of the batch I sent to Dad last week.

After I visited with Dad, I found Johann Dietrich Graesle in my computer, then went to my microfilms to see their original records. Johann Dietrich was born in 1759 and died in 1830 in Grossgartach, the 4th son of Johann Dietrich Graesle, a lawyer and baker, and Maria Magdalena Spinehorn. They were born in 1731 and 1733 in Grossgartach. Maria died in 1773 at age 40 giving birth to her 14th child, a baby girl, who also did not live. Of those 14 children, only 6 lived beyond childhood.

Two years later, Johann Dietrich, the father, married again, a woman named Katharina Magdalena Nolff, who was born in 1754. She bore him 15 more children. Only 3 of her 15 children survived beyond their first year.

When I looked at their family of 29 children from one father, I began to understand the reason for the great rejoicing that took place in the Fresno Temple last Saturday. A few of the children had been sealed previously, and a few are still in the pile to be baptized and endowed, but the work will be complete within the next week or so, so now the family will be able to progress together. This will be a joyous week for them!

As I looked at each of the names of the children in this family, and at their mothers, I sat here for a long time and wept. I feel so overwhelmed with love for these families. After the hours and hours of searching and finding and deciphering and recording and preparing them for temple ordinances, I often wonder what has become of them.

In my PGP class last Thursday, the lecture was on the 7 dispensations. An interesting thought was voiced by Dr. Thompson–about the sealing power and how we need to be sealed in our families back to Adam. We talked a lot about Adam’s role as the steward over this earth. Bro Thompson said that “they with out us cannot be saved, and we without them cannot be saved” and he suggested that we pray that our ancestors will accept the gospel, just as we pray that our children and posterity will. The chain must extend in both directions.

I’ve been thinking about that and the idea of praying that those we do the work for will accept it. It’s not often that we get to learn if they actually have. What a nice way to start my day.

Excerpt from a long letter from Laura Nehring received about a week later:

We got started and after a few rotations, my husband, Kevin, and I went up to the altar to act as the parents. Another sister acted as the daughter, and after a while, I recognized that we were doing several names for the same family. It was Johann Dietrich Graesle and his wives, Maria Magdelena Spinehorn and Katharina Magdalena Nolff. President Stoker then asked a brother to come up and act as a son and we did several other names from that family. The more names we did, the stronger I felt the spirit. I had tears in my eyes and a very warm, comforting feeling in my heart. President Stoker read several names from the family and then one that was from a different family and then he said we would switch to another couple at the altar. I walked over to the desk and pointed at the card with the last Graesle name. I asked, “Was that the last person in that family?” He said he wasn’t sure, and I said, “They are very happy to be a family!” As I said that, the sister who had only been married for two weeks, Sister Barton, said, “Yes! I feel that too! It was so strong!” Sister Barton and her husband went to the alter and finished several more names from the Graesle family, and she and I had tears streaming down our faces as the remainder of the names were read. I could imagine them all in a big group circle, all in white, with their arms around each other’s shoulders. As each person’s name was read their faces would light up with joy and everyone would turn to that person and react with laughter and tears and cheering and rejoicing! There was an overwhelming feeling of joy! I clearly recognized it because it was that same feeling I had when I did the work for my great-great grandmother!
When we were done, I went up and asked President Stoker if it would be appropriate for me to contact the person who submitted the names and tell them about our experience. President told me that the woman who submitted them (that would be you) was the daughter of one of the Fresno Temple workers, so he would get me his contact information.


Below  are the Church Records for this family, recorded in Grossgartach when these ancestors lived there:





Testimony of how those in the Spirit World KNOW us and where we are and what we are doing. And they will Assist us in our missionary work because they need our help to bless their families.



About annlaemmlenlewis

I am member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I am currently serving as a Missionary in the Washington Yakima Mission. Welcome to my personal blog, Ann's Words, and my Mission blog, Our Yakima Mission. If you are interested in family history stories and histories, you can find those posted in Ann's Stories. Thanks for looking in!
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