1. The Spirit of Elijah is prompting people to turn their hearts to their ancestors.
The desire to discover one’s ancestors and complete temple ordinances for them is sometimes referred to as the Spirit of Elijah. In 1844 Joseph Smith asked, “What is this office and work of Elijah?” He then promptly answered his own question:
It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. This is the Spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven. This is the power of Elijah.”
It is the Spirit of Elijah that motivates Church members, to perform proxy baptisms, temple endowments, and sealing ordinances on behalf of their ancestors .
But also the spirit of Elijah is the spirit of family kinship and unity. It is the spirit that motivates people – Saints and non- Saints throughout the world to search out ancestral family members through family history.
At the conclusion of his mortal life, Elijah was translated; that is, he experienced some type of change from mortality without experiencing mortal death. A major reason for Elijah´s translation was to enable him to return to the earth to confer keys of authority on the three chief apostles before Jesus´ crucifixion and resurrection Since spirits cannot lay hands on mortal beings (D&C 129), and since Moses and Elijah could not return as resurrected beings because Jesus was the first to be resurrected the need for the translation of Elijah and Moses is evident. On the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–9), Elijah specifically restored the priesthood keys of sealing, the power that binds and validates in the heavens all ordinances performed on the earth.
On April 3, 1836, in a vision to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the newly completed Kirtland Temple, Elijah appeared and announced that the time had come when Malachi´s prophecy was to be fulfilled. He committed the sealing keys of the priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110:13–16). This restoration was necessary so that the sealing ordinances and covenants of God could be administered in righteousness upon the earth (DS 2:117). Joseph Smith explained:
The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God…. What you seal on earth, by the keys of Elijah, is sealed in heaven; and this is the power of Elijah [TPJS, pp. 337–38].
Modern apostles, including David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook, Neil L. Andersen and Dale G. Renlund have promised many powerful blessings to those who participate in Family History and Temple Service. (3:11)
D&C 110:15 The mission of Elijah
“This sealing power bestowed upon Elijah, is the power which binds husbands and wives, and children to parents for time and eternity. It is the binding power existing in every Gospel ordinance. … It was the mission of Elijah to come, and restore it so that the curse of confusion and disorder would not exist in the kingdom of God.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Elijah the Prophet and His Mission, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957, p. 5.)
2. Each member of the Church can participate in temple and family history work.
“Saints in every temple district must be taught to provide their own names. Japanese people should provide the names for their own Tokyo temple. South American people should provide the names for their own Sao Paulo temple. Likewise in Mexico and Seattle and in every other established area. If they do so, then they will save their own dead. If they do not, and depend on Salt Lake City to send names…, they do not save their own dead, but instead they work on other people’s ancestry.” —Spencer W. Kimball, regional representatives seminar, Sept. 30, 1976
Watch: Now I’m Converted This video shows how the youth in one stake were blessed as they responded to Elder Bednar’s invitation to participate in family history. (4:21)
Watch: Teachings of Wilford Woodruff – Gather Family Records President Woodruff teaches the importance of finding the records of our ancestors and completing temple work for them. (1:46)
Watch: Find, Take, Teach Elder Quentin L. Cook outlined a new focus on finding a name, taking it to the temple, and teaching others to do the same. (1:17)
In the 1990s, Church members in Manaus, Brazil, were 4,000 kilometers from the nearest temple, which was in São Paulo. The rain forest, half the length of the Amazon, and most of the Brazilian coast lay in between, and yet their leaders dreamed of helping as many Saints as possible reach the temple. In 1992, they planned a six-day caravan by boat and bus that would make the dream of reaching the temple a reality for many.
In the temple, the Saints were sealed to their families and ancestors. Through the journey, they also developed spiritual strength and unity that laid a foundation for the future growth of the Church in Manaus.
3. The Church provides many resources to help us participate in temple and family history work.
Watch: It’s About the Dash
Elder Bradley D. Foster demonstrates how easy family history can be, and discusses new changes to Familysearch.org (2:56)
Watch: He Was a Blacksmith This video shows how family history consultants find creative ways to involve an entire family in family history and temple work. (2:11)