President Monson: Temple work is mandate from the Lord

"The names Howard W. Hunter and Family History are almost synonymous," President Thomas S. Monson said as he addressed the Nov. 13 program honoring President Hunter and the Genealogical Society of Utah.

In his address, President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of having served as a member of the Priesthood Genealogy Committee of the Church before he was called to the Council of the Twelve in October 1963. He said he accompanied President Hunter and other Brethren on weekend assignments to stakes."President Hunter inspired the Saints and imbued them with a greater determination to seek after their loved ones who had gone beyond the veil and to perform in the temples of the Lord sacred covenants in their behalf," President Monson said. "Through the years he has been an effective diplomat for family history. His ready smile and pleasant nature have been basic personal hallmarks of his leadership. He has led by his own example, which, of course, is the pattern set forth by the Savior of all mankind."

Over the years, President Monson continued, one of the great stumbling blocks encountered by those newly involved in family history has been fear and its attendant feelings of inadequacy. "The work of seeking out our dead and insuring that the ordinances of exaltation are performed in their behalf is a mandate from our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. They do not leave us to struggle alone but rather, in ways which are sometimes dramatic, prepare the way and answer our prayers."

Speaking of the complications and confusion that result from such practices as the changing of family names, President Monson used his own Scandinavian ancestry as an example and gave some insight into the problem: "My grandfather's name was Nels Monson; his father's name was not Monson at all - it was Mons Okeson; and his father's name was Oke Pederson; and his father's name was Peter Monson - right back to Monson again - and his father's name was Mons Lustig, which was a Swedish army name to differentiate the Petersons, the Johnsons, and the Monsons from one another as they entered military service. This challenge, too, can be met once we understand this procedure of naming."

President Monson then quoted past Church leaders who spoke of the accelerated pace at which missionary work is going forward in the spirit world. President Joseph F. Smith, he said, made a statement to the effect that all those who have not had an opportunity in mortality to hear the everlasting gospel are hearing it now.

"President Smith indicated in 1916: `Through our efforts in their behalf, their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upon them and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here, and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties,' " President Monson said.

"The Lord has never indicated that His work was confined to our mortal lives. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: `All that we do for our own salvation must be done for the salvation of our dear ones, because salvation is the same for all.' "

To illustrate how no contribution in the sacred work of family history is small or insignificant, he told of a devoted family history worker, Myrtle Barnum. He met her while he was president of the Canadian Mission, headquartered in Toronto. He said Sister Barnum had accumulated a lot of data on the St. Lawrence River area, but had come to the end of her line. "She studied. She searched. She prayed. But she never gave up," President Monson related. "And though she was frustrated for month after month, because of her apparent inability to find that which was needed, she never lost hope."

He said one day she noted in a secondhand store two books: Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte, Volumes One and Two. She thought they were novels, but as she opened them she discovered they were genealogical records of all the people who had lived near the Bay of Quinte from the time records could be maintained. She searched through the books, and found information that opened up her family lines again. An elders quorum in that area raised the considerable sum needed to buy the two books, which were sent to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

"I received a letter indicating that these same books had been the means of opening up the lines of connecting heritages for thousands of names of those who had gone beyond the veil," President Monson said. "A large number of people rejoiced to learn of this treasure trove which connected to their family lines, including President Henry D. Moyle. . . . All this came about because a faith-filled servant of the Lord had refused to give up, refused to be discouraged, refused to say, `There is nothing that I as an individual can do.' "

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