Lesson 39 – D&C 2; 110:13-16; 138; Joseph Smith—History 1:37-39;
Our Heritage, Pgs. 98-99, 101-2, 105-7
Introduction: Fredrick William Hurst was working as a gold miner in Australia when he first heard LDS missionaries preach the restored gospel. He and his brother Charles were baptized in January 1854. He tried to help his other family members become converted, but they rejected him and the truths he taught. Fred settled in Salt Lake City four years after joining the Church, and he served faithfully as a missionary in several different countries. He also worked as a painter in the Salt Lake Temple. In one of his final journal entries, he wrote: “Along about the first 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 attend 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…You are watched closely…We are all looking for you as our head in this great work. I want to tell you that there are a great many spirits who weep and mourn because they have relatives in the Church here who are careless and are doing nothing for them” (Diary of Frederick William Hurst, comp. Samuel H. and Ida Hurst , 204).
Elijah: “The keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands.”
The angel Moroni told the Prophet Joseph Smith that Elijah would “plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers” (D&C 2:2; Joseph Smith—History 1:39). Note: “Fathers” refers to our ancestors. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “What was the promise made to the fathers that was to be fulfilled in the latter days by the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers? It was the promise of the Lord made through Enoch, Isaiah, and the prophets, to the nations of the earth, that the time should come when the dead should be redeemed” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954-56], 2:154).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “God made those promises to the ancient patriarchs—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so forth—and we undoubtedly made them to our own lineal fathers and mothers, those who came to earth before the gospel was restored but whom we promised to provide its saving ordinances” (Christ and the New Covenant , 297).
D&C 110:13-16. Elijah’s purpose when he visited Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836 was to confer the sealing power of the priesthood on Joseph Smith. This empowered the Prophet to perform eternal marriages, sealings of families, and temple ordinance work for the dead.
D&C 138:47-48; Joseph Smith—History 1:37-39. Since one of the prime purposes of mortal existence in the plan of salvation is to establish eternal family relationships, the earth would be “utterly wasted” without the sealing power. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that without the sealing power, “no family ties would exist in the eternities, and indeed the family of man would have been left in eternity with ‘neither root [ancestors] nor branch [descendants].’ Inasmuch as … a sealed, united, celestially saved family of God is the ultimate purpose of mortality, any failure here would have been a curse indeed, rendering the entire plan of salvation ‘utterly wasted’ “ (Christ and the New Covenant, , 297-298).
President Wilford Woodruff: “Somebody has got to redeem them.”
President Woodruff was devoted to redeeming the dead and preserving family relationships through the priesthood ordinance of sealing. During his ministry, many served genealogical missions and a genealogical society was created. (See Our Heritage, page 101) Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “events of that historic year  established family history research and temple service as one work in the Church” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 85).
The urgency of temple work for the dead
For a period of time, President Woodruff served as the temple president in St. George, Utah. There, endowments for the dead were first performed in this dispensation. During his service in that temple, President Woodruff was visited by the spirits of many “eminent men” who had died. As President Woodruff recounted: “The spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we…remained true to it and were faithful to God.’ These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights… I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham , 160-61). From this account, we should learn that the spirits waiting for us to do their work feel a sense of urgency about having ordinances performed for them.
Elder Wilford Woodruff taught: “For the past eighteen hundred years, the people that have lived and passed away never heard the voice of an inspired man, never heard a Gospel sermon, until they entered the spirit-world. Somebody has got to redeem them, by performing such ordinances for them in the flesh as they cannot attend to themselves in the spirit, and in order that this work may be done, we must have Temples in which to do it” (in Journal of Discourses, 19:228-29).
President Joseph F. Smith: “The eyes of my understanding were opened.”
President Wilford Woodruff said: “[President Brigham Young] accomplished all that God required at his hands. But he did not receive all the revelations that belong to this work; neither did President Taylor, nor has Wilford Woodruff” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham , 153-54). President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church, also received a revelation on redeeming the dead. In the October 1918 general conference, he said: “I have been undergoing a siege of very serious illness for the last five months. …I have not lived alone these five months. I have dwelt in the spirit of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination; and I have had my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously” (Conference Report, Oct. 1918, 2). The day previous to making this statement, Pres. Smith had received what is now the 138th section of the Doctrine and Covenants—a record of the Savior’s visit to the spirit world while His body was entombed. This revelation was received while Pres. Smith pondered the scriptures and the Atonement of Christ. During his pondering, he was led to read 1 Peter 3 and 4 about Christ’s ministry in the postmortal spirit world.
D&C 138: 12-19. The Savior visited the spirits who:
· “Had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus…” (12)
· “Had offered sacrifice…” (13)
· “Had suffered tribulation…” (13)
· Had departed mortality with a firm testimony of the resurrection (14)
· Were joyful that their deliverance was at hand. (15)
D&C 138: 20-21, 27-37. The Savior did NOT go to those who had died in their sins, but He did organize missionary efforts to have the gospel preached to those in the spirit prison. D&C 138:57 teaches that the faithful of this generation teach in the spirit world when they pass into it.
D&C 138:22-24, 57-59 teaches that those who have been faithful in this life will enter a paradise where they will enjoy their labors; while those who have not been faithful in this life will enter into darkness and bondage in the spirit prison.
President Gordon B. Hinckley: “We are determined… to take the temples to the people.”
President Joseph F. Smith prophesied that the time would come when the land would ”be dotted with temples” (Our Heritage, page 106). When President Hinckley was sustained in 1995, 47 temples were in operation. He made this announcement in 1997: “We will construct small temples in some of these [remote] areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances. They would be built to temple standards, which are much higher than meetinghouse standards. They would accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings, and all other ordinances to be had in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead… We are determined …to take the temples to the people and afford them every opportunity for the very precious blessings that come of temple worship” (Ensign, Nov. 1997, 49-50). This year we have over 100 temples in operation and more under construction.
We have more opportunity to do service for others than any other people in history have enjoyed. It is up to us to personally commit ourselves to accomplishing the temple and family history work that needs to be done.
Youth participation in temple work – Elder J. Ballard Washburn of the Seventy related this encounter: “After a stake conference, I was talking with a family with teenage children. I said to them, ‘You must live righteously so that someday you can go to the temple with your parents.’ A sixteen-year-old daughter responded, ‘Oh, we go to the temple with our parents almost every week. We go and do baptisms for our family file names.’ I thought, What a wonderful thing, for families to go to the temple together.’ (Ensign, May 1995, 11)
Lessons are found on the Internet at www.neumanninstitute.org