“One of the most magnificent doctrines of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is that every man, woman, and child who has ever lived upon the earth, who has breathed the air of this world, will have the opportunity to clearly understand and to accept or reject the life-giving doctrines of the Savior. No one will be set aside or coerced. No one will be forgotten,” said Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve at a Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2015.
“It’s not an assignment for the faint of heart. How vast is the work before us? It will touch every person who has ever lived. How many have lived upon the earth? We honestly don’t know. One scientist has estimated it could be as high as 100 billion.”
This number is staggering in its scope, and it is not a work for the fainthearted, but just as remarkable as the message was the audience to whom it was delivered—the youth of the Church, the “children of the Promise”. He was challenging them to dive into this important work, not only because it will bless the dead, but because it will protect and bless them in the tumultuous times in which we live.
The youth needs the power and protection of doing family history as much as the work of family history needs the youth.
The Work is Accelerated
“With your generation the work will be accelerated. One day with the help of heaven the work will be completed. How will we do it? We will advance this glorious work as we have always pursued the work of God—one son or daughter at a time. One child of God at a time until all the work is finished. With God all things are possible. Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Elder Andersen asked.
“You are a special generation… You are the heirs of the Abrahamic covenant, the righteous lineage through which God is now blessing the earth…You’ve been chosen in the final years preceding the Savior’s return to earth. We do not know the exact day or year of his coming but we can readily see the signs that precede his triumphal return.
“You live in the time of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ upon the earth. It’s a glorious time to be alive and blessings and opportunities passed generations could not have imagined are here with you. You live in a time of temples and technology.”
With 146 temples on the earth today, 85% of Church members live within 200 miles of a temple. He said, “Technology allows us blessings never before seen.” He said it had been only two years since we’ve been able to see our family trees online. This is a time for the youth to become Savior’s on Mt. Zion and find and submit names for temple work.
“You more than any other generation before you are turning your hearts to your fathers and in return I promise you they will turn their hearts towards you,” said Elder Andersen.
“The divine responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation to those who once lived upon the earth but did not receive them will continue to grow in the years ahead and will blossom in the millennium”, he noted.
No One Neglected or Forgotten
“Pres. Joseph F. Smith said it this way, ‘Through our efforts in their behalf, their chains of bondage will fall from them and the darkness surrounding them will clear away that light may shine upon them and they will hear in the Spirit World of the work that has been done for them by their children here and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties.’
Elder Anderson said, “Each individual name is important. No one is to be neglected or forgotten. We go forward remembering this scripture, ‘By small and simple things are great things brought to pass, and small means in many instances doth confound the wise and bring about salvation of many souls.’
“With God nothing shall be impossible. One precious person, one distinct son or daughter at a time.
Climbing a Large Mountain
“Have you ever climbed a large mountain?” Elder Andersen asked. “President Monson once said, ‘We must plunge into this work and we must prepare for uphill climbing. This is not an easy task, but the Lord has placed it upon you and he has placed it upon me.’
“Like President Monson said, ‘Offering ordinances to those who have not been given an opportunity is like climbing a mountain. It takes effort. It’s not easy. At times it seems like there is more than we can do. But as we climb to the summit, helping our ancestors one step at a time,” we see vistas we could not have imagined from the valley floor. We receive reassurance about our place in eternity; we see that we are part of a great family, many coming before us, others following after us.
“Elder Richard G. Scott said it this way, ‘This work is a spiritual work, a monumental effort of cooperation on both sides of the veil where help is given in both directions. We come to know like never before that life continues after this life. We feel the righteous influence of our ancestors. Just like climbing a mountain, this work requires stamina, patience, and diligence. As in anything important, there will be discouragement, disappointment, setbacks, but there will be glimpses of eternity…As you do your best, you will feel your abilities grow and your desires to advance this work will increase.
Elder Andersen said, “The temple is literally the house of the Lord and it is in his house that he has authorized sacred covenants and ordinances. While you are young, it will only be a few short years before you enter the temple to accept these covenants and ordinances for yourself and to be endowed with power from on high. In the world in which you live, the House of the Lord is central to you remaining spiritually strong. The Lord has said, “My disciples shall stand in holy places and shall not be moved.” This is who we are, and this is who we want to be.
Last Year’s Challenge
Last year Elder Andersen issued this challenge to the youth:
“Prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple.”
He said that tens of thousands of young people accepted this challenge, and he shared via video the story of Mandy Phillips, a young adult from San Francisco.
She had grown up with little knowledge of her biological roots. Her biological father had died when she was really small and she was completely cut off from that side of her family. When Elder Andersen issued the challenge, she said, “I felt something inside of me. I knew it was for me.”
Within 20 minutes of searching she found her biological grandfather and his grandfather and their children and their wives, but could not find her grandmother. Finally she came upon a link with one name “Ann.”
She contacted this Ann and received in return an email from her grandmother saying, “It’s been over 20 years and I have been searching for so long for my grandchildren.”
A loving reunion followed. Her grandmother said, “I couldn’t believe she found us.”
Mandy said, “From this experience, I just wanted everyone to know that they can do it too. I had zero experience with family history work and that was always my excuse, but really, it’s for everyone. It’s something that we can all accomplish and I just want everyone to know that the Lord will help you. He will guide you.”
The New Challenge
Elder Andersen issued a new challenge for this year, which is just adding 8 words to last years.
“Prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple and help someone else to do the same.”
He invited the thousand in the audience to put the challenge to work right then. With the new challenge behind him on the screen, he asked everyone to take their cell phones, take a photo, post it to their social media account and then tag someone you’d like to share the challenge with. He said include the hashtag #templechallenge.
He said that like Lehi, when you taste something that bears such good fruit, you just naturally want to share it.
In inviting the youth to step up to take this temple challenge, Elder Andersen left an apostolic blessing on them and all who take this message seriously.
“My young brothers and sisters, as an apostle of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I invoke a blessing upon you, as you accept this challenge and as you teach it to others, I promise you that you will feel the beautiful link that binds us together as families through eternity.
“You will feel a happiness for those who accept your sacred offering. Your hearts will truly be turned to your fathers and you will feel their hearts turn toward you. You will feel purpose and strength that will help you to avoid the temptations that surround you. You will better see the unseen, the eternal things that the world doesn’t see.
“As you add this work to your righteous life , the gift of the Holy Ghost will be a stronger influence upon you. Your belief in and appreciation for the Savior will increase. You will better understand the power of his Atonement and you will be safeguarded from the distractions that can so easily pull you from his commandments.
“I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I am his witness. Is anything too hard for the Lord. No. This work is possible because he took upon himself our sins, our difficulties, our pains and sufferings. Through our repentance and our choices and through the repentance and choices of those who have come before us we may be saved with them in the kingdom of our Heavenly Father.”