Spirit of family history work 'deeply touches' Pres. Hunter

Echoing "every prophet who has led this Church from the days of Joseph Smith," President Howard W. Hunter emphasized the importance of seeking after and redeeming the dead.

In his address at the special program in the Tabernacle on Nov. 13, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Genealogical Society of Utah, President Hunter said his association with the genealogical society and the Family History Department spans many years. "I have been deeply touched by the sacred spirit of this work and by the thinness of the veil that separates the labor on this side from that which unfolds beyond."Continuing, President Hunter said: "On the eve of my 87th birthday, I look back in wonder at the tapestry woven by the Lord in the furthering of temple and family history work. When I was president of the Genealogical Society of Utah, we had visions of how it would move forward mightily. Now we are observing something glorious occurring throughout the world. The gospel is moving forward to encompass every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Temples are located throughout the earth, and the spirit of Elijah is touching the hearts of many members, who are doing family history and temple ordinance work at an unprecedented pace."

President Hunter said the work is prominent in the hearts and minds of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. He expressed gratitude to those who have served in the effort, including workers in the Family History Department and those who have accepted Church-service callings to accelerate the work.

He quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith as saying " the greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.' " Further quoting the Prophet Joseph, President Hunter said "Those Saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives do it at the peril of their own salvation.' "

He also quoted a similar sentiment from President Brigham Young, that " `our fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without them.' "

"Guided by these truths, the Church has been from the beginning of this dispensation engaged in the work of salvation and exaltation for all the sons and daughters of God, regardless of when they lived on the earth," President Hunter noted. "We who live in this day are those whom God appointed before birth to be His representatives on earth in this dispensation. We are of the house of Israel. In our hands lie the sacred powers of being saviors on Mount Zion in the latter days."

President Hunter said he has one overriding message with regard to temple and family history work: "This work must hasten."

The work waiting to be done is staggering, he said, noting that last year, proxy temple endowments were performed for about 5.5 million persons, but during that year about 50 million persons died.

"This might suggest futility in the work that lies before us, but we cannot think of futility," he said. "Surely the Lord will support us if we use our best efforts in carrying out the commandment to do family history research and temple work. The great work of the temples and all that supports it must expand. It is imperative!"

The Lord has guided the development of information technology and accelerated its role in work for the dead, and will continue to do so, he said. "However, we stand only on the threshold of what we can do with these tools. I feel that our most enthusiastic projections can capture only a tiny glimpse of how these tools can help us - and of the eternal consequences of these efforts."

Family history work, he said, has the objective of making the blessings of the temple available to all people, living and dead. "As we attend the temple and perform work for the dead, we acquire a deep sense of alliance with God and a better understanding of His plan for the salvation of the human race. We learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. Truly there is no work equal to that done in the temple."

Quoting Elder John A. Widtsoe, President Hunter said personal blessings come from attending the temple, including a perspective of eternity.

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