I first entered the Los Angeles Temple with my parents, my four older sisters and my brother on Wednesday 3 April 1963. I was six years old. My family had joined the LDS Church a year earlier. I have several distinct memories of that day. The first is that we all came into the temple through a different door other than the one used today. The second is that we waited a couple of hours for my parents to be endowed before we children were brought in to see them in the sealing room. The third is of the sealing ordinance.
I don’t recall my parents explaining beforehand what would happen at the altar. I’m not sure they knew either. I remember someone was there as a proxy for my oldest brother who died shortly after his birth. My mother later related her memory that although she didn’t feel all that comfortable with the endowment ceremony, this was a happy day, especially when she saw all of us surround the altar in white. It shows in her face. She and my dad had been married almost eighteen years. And now they had been sealed.
Relationships That Go On Forever
I love my parents. Although they left this mortal sphere many years ago, I very much want to associate with them again. I think of them all the time. They have both come to me in dreams. Last night someone came to me to tell me something more about them. In my dream, Carol and I had traveled a great distance through difficult circumstances to get to a place where we were told we needed to be. The building was not yet completed. In the place where the building was being constructed we found a tent. We were ushered in.
There we met a man who was obviously very busy. He was engaged in a great work, but had taken a few moments to see us because what he was about to share was important. He had a number of people surrounding him, but he focused on us as he delivered his message. We were there at his request. He asked us to listen closely. We did so. He then related a few details of my mother‘s life I didn’t know. He first referred to her published works and then to her unpublished works. I thought only I knew about those books.
He said, “You have read her published research and stories. You have read her journals. You need to re-read the books she asked you to never publish.” I reminded him of my promise. “I’m not asking you to publish then, just to read and study them again.” The interview was over and we left. I awoke and pondered the significance of the dream. I thought about mother’s unpublished papers. Most of them are about the temple. I thought about the symbolism of the dream, the temple, the uncompleted building and the messenger who focused his attention solely on us in spite of demands on his time.
Dedicated to Family History Work
My mother loved the temple. She also loved family history work. Shortly after baptism, we were sitting in the old Covina ward building in sacrament meeting. In those days, we had three separate meetings on Sunday. This was an evening meeting, a High Council Sunday. The speaker addressed the topic of family history work. As he spoke, mother seemed to come alive. She whispered something to my dad, paid close attention to what the speaker was saying. I wondered what had come over her. It was life-changing.
Mother was an educator and a damned good one. Beside teaching all six of her children to read, she became a reading specialist in the state of California school system. This was in addition to her lifetime teaching credential. Yet after only four years of teaching she took a year off from school to devote to family history research. Being the youngest, I had ample opportunity to learn from an expert. We visited libraries, federal and state archives, cemeteries, relatives I never knew we had and several Western U.S. temples.
Family vacations almost always centered around trips to Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and most of the Southern states. I became an expert at reading through microfilm images of census records, birth, marriage and death certificates, probate records, land grant deeds and just about every civil war record available. I’ll never forget one particular visit to the federal archives in Laguna Nigel. Mother handed me a microfilm, told me what to look for and within a few moments I had found a marriage record for my GGG Grandparents.
Linking Ancestors Together
Mother was ecstatic. “Shucks, no big deal,” I said. But I was pleased and was bitten by the family history bug. To this day, I still get a kick when I find some new evidence linking me to an ancestor. Before mother passed in 2005, she published fifteen books of family history, wrote hundreds of stories about direct progenitors and either performed or caused to be performed, temple ordinances on behalf of well over thirty-five thousand individuals. For over forty years, mother worked tirelessly at family history work.
As a child and as an adult, I’ve sat in classes mother taught. There is no doubt about it. She was the most prepared teacher I have ever known. As a child, I would get kicked out of school just so I could be in my mother’s classroom for a week. Using an illustrated book, she would gather the kids around her and tell stories that fascinated them and me. I watched as she taught Gospel Doctrine and Family History classes as an expert. Nobody was more prepared than she was to get her points across and have them understood.
Over the years, I have received emails from dozens of individuals who my mother helped as they researched their ancestors online. Sadly, mother died just as a wealth of new material has become available online. I have been able to extend family lines back several additional generations. I made it my mission last year to publish every picture she ever collected and every story she had ever written about our common ancestors. I feel I know them because of the work my mother did so tirelessly for so many years.
Family History Research
After my mission, we went to family history seminars together. Mother and Dad moved to Taylorsville Utah after they retired just so mother could spend all her time in the LDS Church Family History Library. In many of those seminars, mother would ask specific questions about the sealing ordinance as it related to our ancestors. She wanted to know the rulings on divorced individuals, common-law marriages, out of wedlock children, and especially on what to do when she hit a brick wall and could get no further.
I’ll always remember her asking about the law of adoption. I’m not talking about how to handle adopted children, although we have plenty of those in our family history. She wanted to know about the overarching purpose of the work we were doing. There was no way we could get back to Adam with the current records we have available. She wanted to know if we could have our families sealed to someone else who had already had themselves sealed to the fathers. She knew there was something more there.
Law of Adoption Clarified
That’s why I was so pleased to read Denver’s address on Civilization last month. In that talk, he presented well-documented details about the history of the law of adoption and how it was not well understood after the death of Joseph. In fact, it was clearly not all that understood even while he was alive. The most common response by those who are supposed to be in the know is “We’ll have to wait for Joseph to come and clarify it.” I’ve heard priesthood administrators from the temple department say that very same thing.
Yet, after reading Denver’s talk and watching the video several times, I think I finally understand what to do now with all the work my mother completed and which I have inherited along with my two sisters who share a similar interest in family history. I have thought about and pondered the significance of what was hidden away in that talk. I am a little surprised that nobody else has written or commented about it anywhere. Maybe it’s being discussed in private emails or closed forums. I hope to see it openly shared.
A Wrongheaded Effort
Because of my strong feelings about the temple and family history work, I expressed my concern at last month’s conference that perhaps my and my mothers work was all in vain. I first quoted what Denver had shared at the Layton conference last year:
“God demands that our hearts turn to the fathers or we will be wasted at His return. This requirement is not to turn to them in just a figurative way, where we do genealogical work to connect ourselves with our recently deceased forebearers. That work is a wrongheaded effort to seal people to those kept in prison. The return of our hearts will require us to have the same religion, and the same beliefs in our hearts that the original fathers had beginning with Adam. Only in that way will our hearts turn to the fathers.”
I then asked:
“Given the fact that the LDS Church has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building temples specifically for the purpose of sealing individuals to their deceased ancestors, are you advocating that we cease family history research as a waste of time? If so, can you provide specific counsel on how we can better utilize the time that we have been devoting to family history research in order to prepare for the promised temple to be built?”
“I’m not saying you cease doing genealogical work.
“The way in which temple work for the dead was intended to be done was that work of baptism for the dead was confined to only those ancestors you personally knew, who you believed would have accepted the gospel with all their heart had they been permitted to tarry and were only kept from accepting the gospel because they died at a time before it was available for them to embrace.
“That’s one category.
A second category was those ancestors about whom you have enough information from their diaries, their letters, their journals, or accounts of their life so that you believe them to be the kind of people that would have embraced the gospel, had they lived at a time when the gospel in its fulness was on the earth.
“So that is a second category.
“And then the third category was, those ancestors who appear to you and ask that their temple work be done.
Only Three Categories
“Those were the only ones for whom temple work was supposed to be done according to the criteria that was established by Joseph Smith at the beginning. It was not a “if you know a name, go get a baptism for them.” That was never the criteria. The criteria was limited to those three specific categories of people.
“The place in which genealogical research for your ancestors becomes most important is that second category in which, through genealogical research, you may be able to locate an ancestor about whom there is enough that you can recover as information or biography to know that they were the kind of people who would have embraced the gospel had they been permitted to tarry long enough to have accepted the gospel in its fulness while it was on the earth.
“You can’t figure that out unless you have genealogical research and something more than just a name on a name extraction program. It’s got to be someone about whom you’ve dug long and hard and deep to find out about them and their lives to make some kind of an evaluation about them, to make a judgement call.
“Otherwise, what you’re left with are a bunch of names and the only way to get those names in a position to do work is the third category in which you know about their existence but you have no way of telling whether they’re suitable for the ordinance and therefore they must come and request it. They must appear and they must make the request and so they slide into that third category.
“The second category can only be achieved through a lot of hard work and genealogical study.
“The first category you should know from your ancestors that you were familiar with. That probably goes back no further than perhaps a great grandfather or more likely a grandfather or grandmother. It may go to a great uncle, a great aunt. It may go to a deceased aunt, but the criteria was as was outlined and the second category is where the genealogical work the church invests money is apt, suitable, just fine.”
Source: Denver Snuffer, Q&A, Grand Junction Conference, Restoration Archives
(Full transcription of all answers not yet available. This is my own transcription.)
The Temple – When and Where
Although we just concluded a conference focused on the temple, and received much clarification of doctrines and practices related to the temple, I am certain we will yet receive more information as we get closer to the building of the temple. I was especially pleased with Denver’s answer to question two about the timing of the temple. I did not include it here, but perhaps will in a future post. You can watch or listen to his response to that question in the archives and hopefully read it in the near future in a transcript.
To summarize his response to question two, Denver indicated he was confident he could get an answer from the Lord if he were to ask for authorization to build a temple now. He made it clear, however, that this MUST be the Lord’s timing and the Lord’s choice of when and where to build the temple, not ours. After all, this is to be the place where the Lord will dwell with Zion when He returns with the City of Enoch. I am grateful there is a covenant people on the earth today who are preparing for that great temple to be built.