1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah, the Prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
2 And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.
3 If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
We’re on our third and final post in my series on the Blessings of Family History (if you’ve just joined this site and want to catch this talk from the beginning, simply scroll back 2 posts). For those of you who have been following, thanks for sticking with me. This is where I get to the nitty-gritty of how this blesses us.
Now, there is another promise that is implied and inclusive in this passage, “hearts of the children shall turn to their father.” As our hearts turn to our forefathers, their thoughts turn to us.
President Joseph F. Smith:
“I believe [our family members who have passed on] are as deeply interested in our welfare today, if not to a greater capacity, with far more interest behind the veil, than they were in the flesh. I believe they know more; I believe surely those who have passed beyond, can see more clearly through the veil back here to us than it is possible for us to see to them from our sphere of action.”
(Conference Report, April 1917)
Elder John A. Widstoe:
“Those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.”
(Utah Genealogical Historical Magazine, 22 (July 1931): 104)
I have a profound testimony of the fact that when you find and do the work for your ancestors, it sets them free to be highly involved in your life. Your ancestors aren’t just casual bystanders. No. They are anxious to bless, uplift, and inspire you. They are eager to help you succeed in your life.
Elder John A. Widstoe:
“These are trying days in which Satan rages at home and abroad; hard days, evil and ugly days. We stand helpless as it seems before them. We need help. We need strength. We need guidance. Perhaps if we would do the work in behalf of those of the unseen world, who hunger and pray for the work we can do for them, the unseen world would in return give us help in this day of our urgent need. There are more in the other world than there are here. There is more power and strength there than we have here upon this earth.”
(Conference Report, April 1943, 39)
I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use more power and strength. We can tap into and be recipients of that power when we perform their work.
Close-Call on the Russian River
Growing up in Santa Clara, our Young Men/Young Women’s program was large and we went river rafting just about every summer. In the summer I was about 14 years old, we lined up at the starting point of the river, and the coordinator gave us a life vest and a warning, “Be careful. The waters are high, and the currents powerful.” No problem. We’re veterans, we thought, as we set out into calm water.
The weather was hot, so water fights with nearby rowers was mandatory. We were having so much fun that no one realized we were rounding turns faster and the current was becoming stronger. Before we knew it we were in full white water that churned so violently that it first took our oars, and then capsized our canoe.
Lynn, Kirsten, and I were suddenly bobbing in the swells, pounding against the rocks, and gasping for air. All other boats and canoes scattered down the river and out of sight, so there was no one to help us.
Kirsten made it to shore first, and dashed to hold out a tree branch for us to grab, but the current was too fast. The banks too dense with rock and brush. She couldn’t reach us.
Lynn and I finally found ourselves in a current pushing us to the right bank, directly into a huge bush/tree that was growing into the water. By looking at the bush, there was no telling how dense and deep its branches extended beneath the surface. Lynn and I hit the bush with great force and we grabbed onto the mass of tangled branches with all our energy, and held tight so we wouldn’t get pulled under.
We didn’t know how long we could hold on. We were at a point in the river where there weren’t any public accesses or trails. No one was around. Out of exhaustion, we couldn’t scream, so Lynn devised a plan. “I’m going to hold my breath and let the current take me underneath the branches in the water. I’ll come out the other side and then you go.”
“I don’t know if that’s safe, Lynn,” I said. But with a gulp of air, she let go and went under.
Moments later she shouted, “I’m okay. I’m on the other side. I only got tangled a little bit, but you will be all right. Come on. Let go!”
At that moment, I felt a very strong prompting – a voice that said, “Julie, don’t let go. If you do, you will get caught in the branches beneath the water and no one will be able to get you free in time. Don’t let go!”
So I held tighter, trying to not get swept under.
Lynn kept shouting, “Let go, Julie. You’ll be all right.” But the prompting to hang on kept getting louder and stronger.
I tried to think of another way to shore, but the only thing that came to mind was to pray, “Heavenly Father, I’m hanging on. No one can see me, but you can. Please help me.”
Moments after that prayer was uttered, an arm reached down and pulled me out of the water to safety. It was one of our Young Men’s Leaders, Brother Wilcox. I don’t know where he came from, or how he got to that part of the river, or how he was able to maneuver himself into the river to reach me, but my prayer was heard and I was saved.
Flash forward to 2000/2001 – the time I started my Family History. I was on a walk one morning lost in thought, when suddenly this forgotten river experience from my youth jumped into my mind.
I began recalling it in stunning detail when a flood of the Spirit surged through me that just about made my legs buckle. A feeling of overwhelming love permeated my heart, while a surge of warmth filled me and brought these words distinctly to my mind, “Julie, the voice you heard on the river was me, Stanley. I told you to hang on.”
Wait. What? My great uncle Stanley Alot?
I had no idea that the voice that saved me could have been a “person.” I had always assumed it was the voice of the Holy Spirit. This was mind-blowing. Stanley was the one who died in a drowning accident in his early 30s. He was my guardian angel on the river 20ish years previous. I was stunned.
Because of this newfound connection with Stanley, I researched his information further. Come to find out, Stanley’s Temple work was already completed. Again, dumb-founded. How can this be? There weren’t any members of the Church on that side of the family! But, I was mistaken.
Turns out, Stanley’s wife was an inactive member of the Church (atheist, really). She never revealed this to anyone in the family. However, after Stanley’s death, his (active) father in-law performed his ordinance work in the Spring of 1956.
Learning that he was my lifeline on the river that day, I wanted to learn the details of his death. A Cummings County newspaper article and an obituary revealed that Stanley had drowned in a whirlpool in the very river that he saved me in.
When we do the work for our ancestors, it sets them free to be highly involved in our lives. Make no mistake about it: our ancestors aren’t just casual bystanders. Call them guardian angels, if you will – not as their full-time calling, but they are anxious to bless, uplift, and inspire you. They are eager to help you succeed in life.
President George Albert Smith:
“Know this, that those who are on the other side [of the veil] are…anxious about us. They are praying for us and for our success. They are pleading, in their own way, for their descendants, for their posterity who live upon the earth.”
(Conference Report, April 1937)
President Wilford Woodruff:
“When we meet our ancestors in the spirit world, it will be a time of either joy or regret, depending on the work we have done for them here.”
(Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 185)
The Spirit of Elijah has helped me realize that family history is not a burden to run from, but a blessing I shoulder with gratitude as I feel their love, their support, and presence in my life.
We are a blessed generation. Let’s not be hesitant about the technology that is now making possible the most stunning advances in connecting families and resurrecting stories that make up our heritage.
We love to know where we come from. We need to know where we come from. Knowing of them connects us. Finding their information links us, but doing their Temple work binds us to something greater than we are.
Family History reminds us that we aren’t lone players in life’s drama, and ancestors aren’t mere footnotes. Above and around us God directs a grander saga in His great Plan of Salvation. You are not only a part of it, you are intended to play a very important role within it.
That is the blessing of living in the latter days. That is the responsibility of living in the Last Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.
I promise that as you turn your heart to your forefathers and save their lives, they, in turn, will turn their heart to you and save and bless you.
To read –
Part I: Hearts of the Children Shall Turn to their Fathers
Part II: Reluctant Genealogist
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