President Hinckley: Work for dead is essential to earth's purpose

It is significant that family history and temple work were foretold on the initial visit of Moroni to the boy Joseph Smith, President Gordon B. Hinckley observed at the program commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Genealogical Society of Utah Nov. 13.

He referred to the words of Moroni recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History 1:38-39, which is a variation of the scripture in Mal. 4:5-6, foretelling the coming of Elijah the prophet, which was fulfilled in 1836."It is tremendously significant to me that this declaration, this repetition of the wondrous words of Malachi concerning the work for the dead was given to the boy Joseph four years before he was allowed to take the plates from the hill," said President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency. "It was given before he received either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, before he was baptized and well before the Church was organized.

"It says much concerning the priority of this work in the plan of the Lord."

The Lord indicated that without work for the dead, the whole purpose of creating and peopling the earth would be frustrated and wasted, he noted.

"There are today many genealogical and family history societies in the world. I think they all have come into existence subsequent to the visit of Elijah. One of the oldest and most prestigious is the New England Historic Genealogical Society, organized in 1844, the year of the Prophet's death. Since then, and in more recent years particularly, there has been a tremendous surge of interest in family history. With that surge, the Family History Department of the Church has grown to be able to accommodate it."

Charter members of the Genealogical Society of Utah contributed 11 volumes when the society was organized in 1894, a "root stock" that has grown to a library of more than 258,000 volumes, with another 1,000 added each month, he said.

He added that during each of the last five years, more than 750,000 researchers have used the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the more than 2,200 family history centers around the world.

"Approximately 40 percent of those using the Family History Library and 60 percent of the patrons using local centers are not members of the Church. We offer a tremendous service to those not of our faith."

President Hinckley declared: "There is nothing else to compare with this treasury of family history on the face of the whole earth. I feel the Lord has designed that it should be so. This is His church which carries His name, and one of its purposes is to make available to the millions beyond the veil of death the full blessings that lead to eternal life."

Millions across the world researching family history records do not understand any real purpose in it other than perhaps a strong and motivating curiosity, President Hinckley said, but he feels they have been touched by the Spirit of Elijah. "It is the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers," he explained.

"The real fruit of this identification finds expression only in the House of the Lord, the temples of the Church," he said. "And as the work of family history research goes on and grows, there is a concomitant flowering of temples. More temples have been constructed and dedicated in the last dozen years than were constructed and dedicated in all the prior history of the Church."

He said the work of the Lord is salvation and that the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made it possible for all to rise from the dead. Beyond that, he said, by virtue of that divine sacrifice, opportunities for eternal life may be opened to all through personal or vicarious service.

"That which goes on in the House of the Lord, and which must be preceded by research, comes nearer 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 and for which they expect no thanks or recompense.

"And now," President Hinckley continued, "how wonderful it is that tonight we have with us as the president of the Church a man who, as has been indicated, worked with conviction, energy, enterprise and leadership as society president in moving this great organization forward."

He then expressed birthday greetings to President Howard W. Hunter. "Dear friend, we thank you for all the vast good that you have done. On this anniversary occasion, we thank you particularly for your great service in the genealogical and family history work of the Church. May the memories of that service bring gladness to your heart and joy to your life."

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