Editor's note: The following story appeared in our special LDS Conference magazine, which offers a preview of the upcoming 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was delivered as part of Saturday's weekend edition of the Daily Herald. The theme of this magazine edition is "Gathering Israel." We will be running the magazine stories online this week in the leadup to conference.
Family history and missionary work are the same work.
This is something most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints never quite figure out, according to Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“There’s only one work,” Elder Bednar said in the “Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction” session of RootsTech Connect 2021, a virtual family history conference in February.
That work is the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil, Elder Bednar told a youth panel during the session.
“The ancestors in the spirit world have a keen interest in their ancestors being taught the gospel by members of the church and missionaries because those living ancestors hold the key to open the door to the ordinances of salvation for those who are in the spirit world receiving the message of the gospel,” Elder Bednar said.
The church’s President Russell M. Nelson has said gathering Israel on both sides of the veil refers to missionary, temple and family history work, as well as “building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work and serve.”
“Anytime we do anything that helps anyone — on either side of the veil — to make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping to gather Israel,” President Nelson said in his October 2020 general conference address “Let God Prevail.”
‘The family of God’
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a Family Discovery Day keynote session of RootsTech Connect 2021 said God’s “great work of exaltation can also be our work.”
“Speaking specifically of family history and temple experience, the more we engage in gathering all of God’s children on both sides of the veil, the closer we get to God,” Elder Holland said.
Everyone has a role to play in this work, according to Elder Holland.
“This mighty work of salvation is moving forward as we are connecting and binding and linking all of God’s children to each other on both sides of the veil,” Elder Holland said.
An eternal perspective, Elder Holland said, brings “understanding that we are all part of one big family: the family of God.”
“I promise you that it is engaging in our personal family history and the temple experience it leads to that we discover the reality of our eternal relationship as brothers and sisters in the family of God,” Elder Holland said.
Sister Patricia Terry Holland, Elder Holland’s wife, said in the session “we are missing the mark if when we tap into our family roots, we fail to recognize our divine roots, our foundation and our connection to our Father in Heaven.”
“He loves us, he worries about us and he hopes we will listen to the counsel he wishes to give us,” Sister Holland said. “I love thinking that my husband and I and our children are safe in Heavenly Father’s arms forever if we keep his commandments and truly desire that blessing.”
Elder and Sister Holland shared personal and family connections to their homeland in Southern Utah during the session. But the one connection most important of all is one’s connection to God, Elder Holland said.
“When you attend to that connection to God first, all other connections fall into place,” Elder Holland said. “Then, and really only then, you find your true place and your eternal belonging.”
Elder Holland promised “the closer you get to God, the more you will want to be with him and to be like him.”
“That will include understanding his love and his greatest desire, namely to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all his children,” Elder Holland said.
Engaging in family history and temple work shows God one cares about him, his family and his purposes, according to Elder Holland.
“As you forge a bond with your Father in Heaven, he will forge a bond with you,” Elder Holland said. “He will speak to you and he will help you see the part you play in his eternal work.”
Efforts in this work, Elder Holland said, are recorded by the angels in heaven.
“What a reunion you will have with your eternal brothers and sisters who see you as their saviors on Mount Zion because you opened the door for them to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Holland said.
Those who take part in this work will find their own place in the family of God, Elder Holland promised.
“The reality of your connection to him and others will sink deep into your heart and into your mind,” Elder Holland said. “That knowledge will change you, perhaps dramatically change you, as you become ever closer to him and ever more like him.”
President Nelson extended an invitation in his April 2020 general conference address “Hear Him” to increase participation in family history, including family history research and indexing, while worshipping in the temple is not possible amid temporary COVID-19 restrictions.
“I promise that as you increase your time in temple and family history work, you will increase and improve your ability to hear him,” President Nelson said.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the “Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction” session of RootsTech Connect 2021 said this promise applies to personal efforts as well as those in temple, family history and missionary callings, which “help individual members and their families gather Israel on both sides of the veil.”
“This is a spiritual work, a work that relies on and fosters revelation,” Elder Renlund said.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the session “there are countless experiences and stories that describe how family history is a revelatory process.”
“As we pray for those on the other side of the veil, the Spirit guides us,” Elder Stevenson said.