Since I was raised in the home of grandparents who were not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my gospel learning experiences occurred mainly by attending Sunday School and Primary. Shortly after my 14th birthday, Sister Anne Tipton, my Sunday School teacher for the next three years, organized a four-hour-one-way drive to the Manti Utah Temple.
We fasted from the evening that we arrived in Manti until the next morning, which helped us be especially reverent when entering the temple. After dressing in white, we were directed to a waiting room where we sat on benches and listened to Sister Tipton and temple workers relate spiritual testimonies about doing baptisms for the dead. As we continued to wait, we all knelt together and prayed individually. Then, each member of my class was baptized for about 40 individuals. After changing back into our Sunday dress clothes, we were confirmed as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ for each of the persons for whom we were baptized. Finally, we basked in the spirit of temple work as we ate a delicious meal in the temple cafeteria. As we left the temple later in the afternoon, I felt that I had participated in “this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely the baptism for the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:17).
Even while I was attending university, Sister Tipton continued to encourage me to attend the temple often. Through such support, I fulfilled my goal to marry my eternal partner in the new Provo Utah Temple. Years later, I was blessed to go to the Cardston Alberta Temple with our two children and baptize them for the grandparents who had raised me.
These temple experiences reinforced in my mind and my heart the critical importance of baptism and other temple ordinances for the dead. Temple ordinances offer all who have lived or will ever live upon this earth: “A welding link … between the fathers and the children. …For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. …A whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18).
Rejoicing in Christ’s Redeeming Love
One of main themes in the study ideas in November 1-7, 2021 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families is how early Latter-day Saints responded to what the Lord had revealed to His Prophet about baptisms and other saving gospel ordinances being made available for the dead:
In August 1840, Jane Neyman listened to Joseph Smith speak at a funeral shortly after the death of her son Cyrus, who had never been baptized. The manual explains, “Joseph knew how she felt; he had wondered the same thing about his beloved brother Alvin, who also died before being baptized.” From that funeral sermon, Jane learned to have hope for her son’s eternal soul (189).
“The doctrine of baptism for the dead thrilled the Saints; their thoughts turned immediately to deceased parents, grandparents, and other family members. Now there was hope for them!” (189).
Phebe Woodruff wrote to her husband, Wilford, serving a mission in England, “As soon as they are baptized for their friends they are released from prison and they can claim them in the resurrection and bring them into the celestial kingdom—this doctrine is cordially received by the church and they are going forward in multitudes, some are going to be baptized as many as 16 times … in one day” (191).
Wilford Woodruff later said: “The moment I heard of it my soul leaped with joy. …I went forward and was baptised for all my dead relatives I could think of. …I felt to say hallelujah when the revelation came forth revealing to us baptisms for the dead. I felt that we had a right to rejoice in the blessings of heaven” (191-192).
Vilate Kimball wanted to be baptized for her mother and considered waiting until her husband, Heber, returned from preaching the gospel. Then, Vilate wrote to her husband: “So I think I shall go forward this week, as there is a number of the neighbors going forward. Some have already been baptised a number of times over. …Thus you see there is a chance for all. Is not this a glorious doctrine?” (192).
Phebe Chase participated in baptisms for the dead for her father and close friends in the baptismal font at the Nauvoo Temple. Afterwards she wrote to her mother: “Now I want to know what your father’s and Mother’s names are so that I can release them, for I desire to relieve the Dead. …The Lord has spoken again and restored the ancient order” (192).
Sally Randall wrote to her friends and family about the death of her son George: “Oh what a trying time that was for me and it seems yet that I can not be reconciled to have it so, but … his father has been baptised for him and what a glorious thing it is that we believe and receive the fulness of the gospel as it is preached now and can be baptized for all of our dead friends and save them as far back as we can get any knowledge of them” (192).
These early testimonies continue to inspire us. As Joseph Smith revealed: “Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:22).
Our Prophet’s Invitation and Blessing
At the Roots Tech 2017 Family History Conference, President Russell M. Nelson and his wife Wendy W. Nelson extended the following invitation: “We can be inspired all day long about temple and family history experiences others have had. But we must do something to actually experience the joy ourselves. …I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of sacrifice—preferably a sacrifice of time—you can make [to] do more temple and family history work” (“Open the Heavens through Temple and Family History Work,” Ensign, Oct. 2017, 19). You may also want to view the video excerpt “A Sacrifice of Time” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
The challenges and joys of temple and family history work continue for each one of us today. In his first message as President of the Church, President Nelson declared, “Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path” (“As We Go Forward Together,” Ensign, April 2018, 7). Let us respond to President Nelson’s invitation to offer “a sacrifice of time” and receive the glorious blessings—on both sides of the veil—by doing temple and family history work.