MARY'S GENEALOGY TREASURES
The Lethbridge Herald - June 5th, 1987
by Elder Gordon B. Hinkley, First Presidency
The answers to these questions are not found in the wisdom
of men. They are found only in the revealed word of God.
Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
are sacred structures in which these and other eternal
questions are answered. Each is dedicated as a house of
the Lord, a place of holiness and peace, shut apart from
the world, where truths are taught and ordinances are
performed that bring knowledge of things eternal and
motivate the participant to live with understanding of his
divine inheritance as a child of God and an awareness of
his potential as an eternal being.
The stately new temple, recently competed on the outskirts
of Washington, B.C., is the 16th such structure operated by
the Church. These buildings, different from the thousands
of regular Church houses of worship scattered over the
earth, are unique in purpose and function from all other
religious edifices. It is not the size of these buildings, or
their architectual beauty, that make them so. It is the
work that goes on within their walls.
In addition to the Washington Temple, other Latter-day
Saint temples are found in the western area of the United
States and in Hawaii, Canada, New Zealand, England, and
Switzerland. Two such structures were built in the early
years of the Church but were abandoned when the Latter-
day Saints were driven from place to place under the
cruel bigotry of a less tolerant age.
The designation of certain buildings for special ordinances,
as distinguished from regular places of worship, is not new.
This was the practice in ancient Isreal, where the people
worshipped regularly in the synagogues. Their more sacred
place was, first, the tabernacle in the wilderness with its
Holy of Holies, and then a succession of temples, where
only those who met the required qualifications could
participate in these ordinances.
So it is today. Prior to the dedication of a temple, The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invites the public
to go through the building and inspect its various facilities.
But when it is dedicated it becomes the house of the Lord,
vested with a character so sacred that only members of the
Church in good standing are permitted to enter. It is not
a matter of secrecy. It is a matter of sanctity.
The work that goes on in these buildings sets forth God's
eternal purposes with reference to man, God's child and
creation. For the most part it is concerned with the
family, with each of us as members of God's eternal family
and with each of us as members of earthly families. It is
concerned with the sanctity and eternal nature of
the marriage covenant and family relationships.
It affirms that each man and woman born into the world is
a child of God, endowed with something of his divine nature.
The repetition of these basic and fundamental teachings has
a salutary effect upon those who receive them, for as the
doctrine is enunciated in language both beautiful and
impressive, the participant comes to realize that since every
man is a child of a heavenly Father, then each is a member of
of a divine family and hence every man is his brother.
When asked by the scribe, "Which is the first commandment of
all?" the Savior replied,"...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and
with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
"And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor
as thyself...." (Mark 12:28, 30-31.)
The teachings set forth in modern temples give powerful emphasis
to the most fundamental concept of man's duty to his Maker
and to his brother. Sacred ordinances amplify this ennobling
philosophy of the family of God. They teach that the spirit
within each of us is eternal, in contrast with the body that is
mortal. They not only give understanding of these great
truths but also motivate the participant to love of God and
encourage him to demonstate a greater neighborliness toward
others of our Father's children.
Accepting the premise that man is a child of God, then there is
divine purpose in mortal life. Here again, revealed truth is
taught in the house of the Lord. Earth life is part of an eternal
journey. We lived as spirit children before we came here.
The scriptures bear testimony of this as witness the word of
the Lord to Jeremiah: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew
thee; and before thou comest forth out of the womb I sanctifed
thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jere.1:5)
We come into this life as children of mortal parents and as
members of families. Parents are partners with God in bringing
to pass his eternal purposes with reference to his children. The
family, therefore, is a divine institution, the most important both
in mortaility and in eternity.
Much of the work that goes on within temples is concerned
with the family. Basic to an understanding of its meaning is
recognition of the fact that even as we existed as children of
God before we were born into this world, so also shall we
continue to live after death, and the treasured and satisfying
relationships of mortality, the most beautiful and meaningful
of which are found in the family, may continue in the world
Marriage partners who come to the house of the Lord and
partake of its blessings are joined not only for the period
of their mortal lives but for all eternity, under authority
not only of the law of the land that joins them until death
parts them but also of the eternal priesthood of God,
binding in heaven that which is bound on earth. The
couple so married has the assurance of divine revelation
that their relationship and that of their children will not
end with death but will continue in eternity, provided they
live worthy of that blessing.
Was there ever a man who truly loved a woman, or a
woman who truly loved a man, who did not pray that
their relationship might continue beyond the grave?
Has a child ever been buried by parents who did not
long for the assurance that their loved one would again
be theirs in a world to come? Can anyone believing in
eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant him
his sons and daughters that most precious attribute
of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in
family relationships? No, reason demands that the
family relationship shall continue after death. The human
heart longs for it. The God of heaven has revealed a
way whereby it may be secured. The sacred ordinances
of the house of the Lord provide for it.
But all of this would appear to be selfish indeed if the
blessings of these ordinances were available only to those
who are now members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. The fact is that the opportunity to
come into the temple and partake of its blessings is
open to all who will accept the gospel and be baptized into
the Church. For this reason the Church carries forward
an extensive missionary program in much of the world and
will continue to expand this program as widely as possible,
for it has the responsibiltiy under divine revelation to teach
the gospel to "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people."
But there are uncounted millions who have walked the
earth and who have never had the opportunity to hear the
gospel. Shall they be denied such blessings as are offered
in the temples of the Church?
Through living proxies who stand in behalf of the dead, the
same ordinances are available to those who have passed
from mortality. In the spirit world they then are free to accept
or reject those earthly ordinances performed for them, including
baptism, marriage, and the sealing of family relationships.
There must be no compulsion in the work of the Lord, but
there must be opportunity.
This vicarious work constitutes an unprecedented labor of
love on the part of the living in behalf of the dead. It makes
necessary a vast undertaking of genealogical research to
find and identify those who have gone before. To assist
in this research, the Church coordinates a genealogical
program and maintains research facilities unmatched in all
the world. Its archives are open to the public and have
been used by many who are not members of the Church
in tracing their forebears. This program has been praised
by genealogists throughout the world and has been utilized by
various nations as a safeguard of their own records. But its
primary purpose is to afford members of the Church the
resources needed to identify their dead ancestors that they
might extend to them the blessings that they themselves
enjoy. They in effect say to themselves, "If I love my
wife and children so dearly that I want them for all eternity,
then should not my grandfather and great-grandfather and
other forebears have opportunity to receive the same eternal
And so these sacred buildings are scenes of tremendous
activity, quietly and reverently carried forward. They call to
mind a part of the vision of John the Revelator wherein are
recorded this question and this answer: "...What are these
which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
"...These are they which came out of great tribulation, and
have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb.
"Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him
day and night in his temple..."(Rev. 7:13-15)
Those who come to these holy houses are arrayed in white
as they participate therein. They come only on recommendation
of their local ecclesiatical authorities, having been certified as
to their worthiness. They are expected to come clean in thought,
clean in body, and clean in dress to enter the temple of God. As
they enter they are expected to leave the world behind them and
concentrate on things divine.
This very exercise, if such it may be called, carries with it a
reward of its own, for who in these times of stress would not
welcome as occasional opportunity to shut out the world and enter
into the Lord's house, there to ponder quietly the eternal things
of God? These sacred precincts offer the opportunity, available
nowhere else, to learn of and reflect on the truly meaningful
things of life -- our relationship to deity and our eternal
journey from a preexistent state through this life and on to a
future estate where we shall know and associate one with another,
including our own loved ones and our forebears who have preceded
us and from whom has come our inheritance of things of the body,
mind, and spirit.
Surely these temples are unique among all buildings. They are
houses of instruction. They are places of covenants and
promises. At their altars we kneel before God our Creator
and are given promise of his everlasting blessings. In the
sanctity of their appointments we commune with him and
reflect on his Son, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord
Jesus Christ, who served as proxy for each of us in a
vicarious sacrifice in our behalf. Here we set aside our own
selfishness and serve for those who cannot serve themselves.
Here we are bound together in the most sacred of all human
relationships - as husbands and wives, as children and
parents, as families under a sealing that time cannot destroy
and death cannot disrupt.
These sacred buildings were constructed even during those
dark years when the Latter-day Saints were relentlessly driven
and persecuted. They have been built and maintained in times
of poverty and prosperity. They have come of the vital faith
of an ever-growing number who bear witness of a living God,
of the resurrected Lord, of prophets and divine revelation, and
of the peace and assurance of eternal blessings to be found
only in the house of the Lord.
Note: At the time this article was written, Gordon B. Hinckley
was in the First Presidency of the Church. Today he is the
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The following is a excerpt from a conference talk giving by
President Hinkley in October 1997.
"With the dedication of the St. Louis Temple last June, we have
50 working temples. We will soon dedicate the Vernal Utah
temple. The next dedication is scheduled for June of 1998 in
I am pleased to report that the temples in Colombia; Ecuador;
the Dominican Republic; Bolivia; Spain; Recife and Camina,
Brazil; Mexico; Boston; New York; and Albuquerque are all
moving forward either in planning or in various stages of
construction. Our previously announced plan to construct
a temple in Venezuela is also going forward, and we are
hopeful of acquiring a site in the very near future. We
continue to work on permits of various kinds, against
some opposition, for Billings, Montana, and Nashville,
I am now pleased to annouce our intent to build temples
in Houston, Texas; and in Porto Alegre, Brazil. All of this
speaks of our great interest in vigorously moving forward
this important work. Altogether I think we have about
17 temples in some course of construction, and this is
a prodigious undertaking."