If family history were a picture, there would be no frame around it because there is no limit to it, said President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, at the Nov. 8 Family History Satellite Broadcast.
"And if it were an epoch or a dispensation, it couldn't be measured, because it had no beginning and it will have no end," he added. "That's the nature of the sacred work that has been revealed to us in this dispensation, which the Prophet Joseph Smith described as the most glorious of all subjects."President Packer referred to Section 138 of the Doctrine Covenants and the circumstances surrounding this revelation received by President Joseph F. Smith, in which he saw the appearance of the Son of God to the innumerable hosts of the righteous in the Spirit World. President Smith beheld in that vision that Christ ministered to the righteous spirits, but to the wicked, He did not go, but rather, called servants to go and preach to them.
"That's a marvelous revelation that is part of the foundation of the work that we do in family history," President Packer commented. "He said the dead who repent will be redeemed through obedience to the ordinances of the House of God, and after they have paid the penalty for their transgressions and are washed clean, they shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs to salvation."
Next, President Packer referred to a revelation he said is not in the Doctrine and Covenants but is of "equal importance and power." The revelation was received by President Wilford Woodruff on April 5, 1894, and given in the general conference that began the next day.
In delivering the revelation, President Woodruff asked his counselor in the First Presidency, President George Q. Cannon, to read Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants, an epistle from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Church pertaining to the ordinance of baptism for the dead. President Woodruff then spoke, ending the practice of adoption, whereby certain Church members were having themselves sealed to Church leaders rather than to their own fathers. He told the Church members, "We want the Latter-day Saints to search through the records for the names of their kindred dead and to trace that line back as far as they can get it."
"That, then, was the foundation for the family history work that you're involved in," President Packer commented.
He then referred to Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein the Lord commanded that a temple be built in Nauvoo, "for a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead." (D&C 124:29.)
"Up to that time," President Packer explained, "they were baptizing in streams and rivers and making no record of it, and the Lord corrected them. I think the sternest rebuke in all of scripture is where the Lord said [in effect], I will give you sufficient time, and then if you don't build this house, I will reject you as a church and as a people. All at once, they wanted to complete the temple."
President Packer referred to D&C 124:36, "For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead." He said that verse to him had seemed inconsistent with other things the Lord had said, but that he had recently come to understand it.
"Sister Packer and I went to Canada with President Hinckley," he explained. "We visited 12 cities in nine days, and the first stop in every one of those cities was a stake center, looking for a place to build a temple, because we're building temples for the most part at stake centers. And in these temples is where baptisms for the dead can take place.
"Now you have the responsibility, you who are in this great family history work, to establish the foundation on which it can proceed. Family history work has to do with families. Families have to do with names. And it is through your work that the names are provided in order that this can go forward."
President Packer added: "We do not use our family history work for missionary work nearly so much as we could. These family history centers are great centers because we have a common bond to talk to those who are not of the Church. What is the bond? The bond is family. They go there because they are interested in families."