Quotes on Family History

See also: Malachi 4:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:29; D&C 124:28-36, 128:15

When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names…. Our interests turn our hearts to our fathers – we seek to find them and to know them and to serve them. — President Boyd K. Packer, “Your Family History: Getting Started,” Ensign, August 2003, 17

President Brigham Young has said that during the millennium those on the other side will work hand in hand with those in mortality and will furnish the names of the dead which we are unable to obtain through our research, and thus every soul that is entitled to these blessings shall be ferreted out and his work done for him. — President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2, p.120

As members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search for our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel.  They without us cannot “be made perfect,” (Hebrews 11:40) and “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).  Family History work prepares us for the blessings of eternal life and helps us increase our faith and personal righteousness.  Family History is a vital part of the mission of the Church and enables the work of salvation and exaltation for all. — June 2013 Visiting Teaching Message

The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us, is to seek after our dead.  (Improvement Era, Vol. 39, 200, April 1936) Those saints who neglect it [baptism for the dead], in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation. — History of the Church, 4:425–26; from the minutes of a Church conference held on October 3, 1841, in Nauvoo, Illinois, published inTimes and Seasons, Oct. 15, 1841, pp. 577–78, quoted in  Joseph Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007)

If the veil were lifted off the face of the Latter-day Saints and they could see and know the things of God as they do who are laboring for the salvation of the human family who are in the spirit world . . . , this whole people, with very few, if any, exceptions, would lose all interest in the riches of the world, and instead thereof their whole desires and labors would be directed to redeem their dead. Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 152

Archibald F. Bennett, a prominent genealogist, said: “Sister Susa Young Gate . . . once asked her father [Brigham Young] how it would ever be possible to accomplish the great amount of temple work that must be done.  He told her that there would be many inventors of labor-saving devices, so that our daily duties could be performed in a short time, leaving us more and more time for temple work.  The inventions have come, and are still coming but many simply divert the time gained to other channels, and not for the purpose intended by the Lord.” — Archibald F. Bennett, Improvement Era, October 1952, p. 720

It matters not what else we have been called to do, or what position we may occupy, or how faithfully in other ways we have labored in the Church, none are exempt from this great obligation. . . . It is required of the apostle as well as of the humblest elder. . . . Some may feel that if they pay their tithing, attend their regular meetings and other duties, give of their substance to feed the poor, perchance spend one or two or more years preaching in the world, that they are absolved from further duty.  But the greatest and grandest duty of all is to labor for the dead.  We may and should do all these other things, for which reward will be given, but if we neglect the weightier privilege and commandment, notwithstanding all other good works, we shall find ourselves under severe condemnation. — President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Seeking after Our Dead,” Genealogical Society of Utah, 1928, pp. 35-36

It is a great labor devolving upon us.  It is your duty now to rise up, all of you, and trace your genealogies, and begin to exercise the powers which belong to saviors of men, and when you do this in earnest, you will begin to comprehend how widespread, how numerous your ancestors are, for whom temple work has to be performed, in order that they may be brought into the fold; and when you get stopped, the Lord will reveal further information to you; and in this way the work of salvation and redemption will be accomplished. — President George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses 22:130

 . . . Wilford Woodruff said while he lived that he believed few, if any, of the ancestors of the Latter-day Saints in the spirit world would choose to reject the message of salvation when they heard it.  (“Discourse by President Wilford Woodruff,” Millennial Star, May 21, 1894, 339-40.) — Elder Henry B. Eyring, “Hearts Bound Together,” Ensign, May 2005, p. 78

(Malachi 4:1)  Each person belongs to a family tree.  Our “roots” are the ancestors from whom we descend, and our “branches” are those who descend from us.  To be “left with neither root nor branch” is to be cut off from one’s ancestry and posterity eternally.  That is precisely the condition of those for whom the sealing blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood have not been performed or for those who, having had the ordinances performed, fail to live worthy of claiming their blessings.  To prevent this great catastrophe, Elijah was sent to earth in the latter days with the sealing powers (see D&C 110:13-16). Old Testament Student Manual, 1 Kings – Malachi, p. 355

When you were baptized, your ancestors looked down on you with hope.  Perhaps after centuries, they rejoiced to see one of their descendants make a covenant to find them and to offer them freedom.  In your reunion, you will see in their eyes either gratitude or terrible disappointment.  Their hearts are bound to you.  Their hope is in your hands.  You will have more than your own strength as you choose to labor on to find them. — Elder Henry B. Eyring, “Hearts Bound Together,” Ensign, May 2005

Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34).  This distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members – both past and present.

The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church.  However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel.  “They without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40; see also Teachings: Joseph Smith, 475).  And “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).

For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances.  For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven.  We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent “the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse” (D&C 110:15) when He returns again.  This is our duty and great blessing. — Elder David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign, November 2011, pp. 24-25

No work is more of a protection to this Church than temple work and the genealogical research which supports it.  No work is more spiritually refining.  No work we do gives us more power.  No work requires a higher standard of righteousness.  Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and as a people. — Elder Boyd K. Packer, “The Holy Temple,” Ensign, February 1995, p. 36

The genealogical society has spent years of time collecting [family history] information, and others spend years of time going into the House of the Lord to be baptized for those who are dead, to have husbands and wives and children sealed to one another, to unite the family as our Heavenly Father has instructed that we should do.  It would be well if each of us would ask himself the question:  What am I doing about it?  Am I doing my part?  Our Heavenly Father told the people through Joseph Smith that, unless we performed the work for our dead, we would lose our own blessings, and we would be cut off, and one of the very last things that the Prophet tried to do was to complete a temple in which the people could go and perform work for their dead.  That is how important it is. It has to be done by someone.  (“The Tenth Temple,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1945, 562) Teachings of Presidents of the Church, George Albert Smith, p. 85

Many people do not understand the seriousness and the sacredness of life; they do not understand the sacredness of eternal marriage.  There are some of our people who have no interest in their genealogy.  They care nothing about their forebears; at least you would think so by the way they behave.  They do not go into the temple to do work for their dead. . . .            

. . . After we have been to the House of the Lord for our own blessings, let us think of our responsibility to our forebears.  What will be your reception when you go on the other side?  Will you be the one they will reach out to and bless throughout the ages of eternity, or will you be like the brother who was selfishly working out his problems here and letting those who could not help themselves go on without his help?  (“The Tenth Temple,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1945, 562) Teachings of Presidents of the Church, George Albert Smith, p. 86

“Mormonism,” as it is called, did not originate in the nineteenth century.  It is not of any one time nor of any one place.  It is the everlasting gospel, the same yesterday, today and forever.  There never has been and never will be another gospel; but this one, framed in heaven, has been upon earth again and again, in a series of dispensations reaching like a mighty chain from the morning of creation down to the end of time.  And all these dispensations must be linked and bound together before the God of Israel appears; for unless a condition of unity and power, resulting from faith and righteous works, exists at that time, the whole earth will be smitten with a curse.  Not that the Lord wishes to curse, but rather to bless mankind.  But the blessing that he desires to bestow at his coming would change into a consuming curse, if the necessary preparation were not made. — Elder Orson F. Whitney, General Conference, October 1920

Our message is so imperative, when you stop to think that the salvation, the eternal salvation of the world, rests upon the shoulders of this Church.  When all is said and done, if the world is going to be saved, we have to do it.   There is no escaping from that.  No other people in the history of the world have received the kind of mandate that we have received.  We are responsible for all who have lived upon the earth.  That involves our family history and temple work.  We are responsible for all who now live upon the earth, and that involves our missionary work.  And we are going to be responsible for all who will yet live upon the earth. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, 3 July 1999, p. 3

Trees draw strength from the nutrients created by previous generations of trees.

Just as a grove of trees flourishes when benefitting from the nutrients of fallen trees, leaves and limbs, so can the lives of Church members benefit from the rich legacy left by those who have gone before them.

“Why do record keeping and the collection, preservation and sharing of  history enjoy such importance in the Church of Jesus Christ?  Why is it critical for you as part of today’s ‘rising generations’ to be mindful of and draw strength from past generations?”

In response, the Church Historian said that it is impossible to live fully in the present – much less to plan for ones future destiny – without the foundation of the past.

“The knowledge we have of our past because of the records that have been kept, and of our future because of the scriptures and the prophetic teachings of living prophets, provide us the context that allows wise use of our agency during our present existence.  In effect, this knowledge gives us a more Godly perspective because it brings us closer to His ability to have ‘all things . . . present before [His] eyes (Doctrine and Covenants 38:2).

“History in its most basic form is a record of people and their lives and from those lives come stories and lessons that can reinforce what we believe, what we stand for, and what we should do in the face of adversity.  Not all of the stories that make up our history are of the epic nature of Joseph Smith’s First Vision or of Wilford Woodruff’s mission to England.  In fact, some truly remarkable stories come from the lives of very ordinary Latter-day Saints.  They are especially dear and helpful to us when the stories involve our own ancestors.”

Elder Jensen encouraged listeners to collect, preserve and share stories from their lives so that their families can learn from their experiences.

“Good stories – if true – make good history,” Elder Jensen said. “Remember, people, like trees, draw strength from the nutrients created by previous generations.  It is as individual’s ‘stand in the Sacred Grove’ that they are able to stay strong against opposition and find encouragement from the generations of faithful Latter-day Saints who have steadfastly stood before them. — Elder Marlin K. Jensen, CES Fireside, Church News, May 6, 2012

At April conference 1894, President Wilford Woodruff announced this revelation:  “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. . . . This is the will of the Lord to his people. — President Wilford Woodruff, General Conference, April 1894

 [The Lord] has trusted you by letting you hear the gospel in your lifetime, giving you the chance to accept the obligation to offer it to those of your ancestors who did not have your priceless opportunity.  Think of the gratitude He has for those who pay the price in work and faith to find the names of their ancestors and who love them and Him enough to offer them eternal life in families, the greatest of all the gifts of God.  He offered them an infinite sacrifice.  He will love and appreciate those who paid whatever price they could to allow their ancestors to choose His offer of eternal life. — Elder Henry B. Eyring, “Hearts Bound Together,” Ensign, May 2005, p. 79

That which goes on in the House of the Lord, and which must be preceded by research, comes nearer to the spirit of the sacrifice of the Lord than any other activity of which I know.  Why?  Because it is done by those who give freely of time and substance, without any expectation of thanks or reward, to do for others that which they cannot do for themselves. – President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, March 1995

There are some members who engage in temple work but fail to do family history research on their own family lines.  Although they perform a divine service in assisting others, they lose a blessing by not seeking their own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets. . . . I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing. — President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, 1995

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?  Here we are, bound and fettered, in the association of those who are filthy?”  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 but 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.  When I think upon this subject, I want the tongues of seven thunders to wake up the people. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 8:304