Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also called Mormons) put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of genealogy, or family history. Some people wonder why this is. Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) believe that the family unit is meant to be eternal, but can only be made eternal when sealed by the power of the holy priesthood in Mormon temples. Ordinances which are received in Mormon temples are considered earthly ordinances, however. They must be received on this earth. So, what about all those who died without the chance to receive those ordinances? Others must do the work for them.
The first of these earthly ordinances is that of baptism and confirmation. The Lord Jesus Christ is our perfect example of this principle of the gospel. Though he was sinless, he was baptized by immersion by John the Baptist, who held the authority of God. The Apostle Paul spoke of the principle of baptisms for the dead to the Corinthians. He said, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). He posed an impeding question to unbelievers about the rights of all God’s children to partake the blessings of the gospel. He spoke of our ancestors, the non-Christian nation and to those people living in the remotest part of the world where the fullness of the gospel hadn’t penetrated yet.
Many of our ancestors and non-Christian people died without the knowledge of the Savior Jesus Christ and blessings of the gospel. Through the inspiration of God, Joseph Smith, one of the Mormon prophets, said, “And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (Doctrine and Covenants 128: 15).
The Apostle Peter testified of the necessity of the ordinances for the dead, he said, “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6).
God loves us so much. He is our Father in Heaven. Temple ordinances are essential in bringing us incomparable blessings in our lives as well as to dead loved ones.
Latter-day Saints around the world have been encouraged by the living prophet and other leaders to seek out and search for their ancestors. There is a wonderful website established by the Church to help Church members as well as friends of other faiths search for their ancestors. The collected names are taken to Mormon temples by family members, where sacred ordinances for the dead are performed. Taking family names to the temple is the primary goal of one’s personal genealogy. However, many more blessings come from learning about one’s family history. Mormons believe that ordinances performed by proxy for dead loved ones are conditional upon the person for whom the ordinances were done accepting that work. Nothing is forced upon them, but if the ordinances are completed, individuals then have a choice to accept them, whereas before, they were helpless.
We are all children of God and therefore are all entitled to the same blessings given to those who are obedient and who are willing to follow His commandments.
Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets. These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. And so it was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross (Doctrine and Covenants 138:32–35).
Latter-day Saints hope all will sanctify themselves in order to be worthy to enter into God’s house and partake of the higher ordinances that can lead us towards eternal life.
And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day (3 Nephi 27:19–22).
Family history is taking the world somewhat by storm. Many people who have never even heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now feeling an unquenchable desire to seek out their ancestors. They may do so by using the Church’s facilities. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has some of the most amazing family history resources in the world, and they are all available for free to anyone who wishes to use them.
Roy Patrick is currently working as a Call Center Agent in the Philippines. He served a full-time mission in San Francisco, CA. His family is one of the pioneers of the LDS Church in Panay Island, Philippines.