Sheri Dew, talking with her friend Wendy Nelson at Family Discovery Day for Rootstech said, “We are here as Exhibit A and Exhibit B when it comes to doing Family history. Unfortunately, I am Exhibit B.
“Four decades ago I decided I needed to be in the temple at least once a week.” She said. “I haven’t been a slacker about temple worship and temple service. The pressures and the disappointments in my life would have crushed me long ago without the temple, a place of knowledge and revelation and peace. If you haven’t yet established a pattern of temple service, may I saw what my stake president once said to me, ‘Sheri, just go. Go and see what the Lord will teach you.’ He said, ‘It will change your life,’—and it has.”
Doing family history, however, has been another matter with a schedule as demanding as Sheri’s. She quips, “I’m not busy between midnight and 5 a.m., and Wendy tells me that is heaven’s time.”
Wendy once found some of Sheri’s ancestors who hadn’t received their ordinances and gave that information to her for her birthday. Sheri laughed, “I loved doing the ordinance work for my ancestors that you found. I can’t understand why you stopped. We were on a great roll.”
Wendy is Exhibit A in this friendship when it comes to doing both family history and taking her own names to the temple. Wendy said she had an aunt who gave her all of her genealogy and said, “Now, I can die.” Wendy’s response? “And I thought, this is going to kill me. If I wanted to have a really good nap, all I needed to do was delve into those boxes.”
Then, in October, 2012, Elder Richard G. Scott, gave a conference talk called “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead.” In it Elder Scott said that all temple work is well spent, but “Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors.”
It was a powerful talk, but for Wendy, it felt like the Lord was directing it just to her and allowing 15 million others to listen in. At one point in the talk, Elder Scott said, “But what about you? Have you prayed about your own ancestors’ work?” She could hear, “What about you, Wendy? Have you prayed about your ancestor’s work?” She had to admit that all she had done was feel guilty about it.
She studied Elder Scott’s talk more than 100 times in the next month, and one day in the temple, she had the impression that her little family history room had to be one of the most sacred rooms in the house. She made a clean, uncluttered environment, hung up some white, ready-made curtains to hide the boxes, and dug in—the beginning of a most significant journey.
She also said that Elder Scott had asked, “Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life?” He promised that doing this work and taking names to the temple to complete those ordinances would be a protection from the adversary. She wanted that as well.
In the last three years she has found more than 10,000 names, with each name having been sourced and merged—on lines where supposedly all the work had been completed.
Before each session where she’s working on family history, Wendy says an important prayer, “Please lead me to those who are ready to make covenants with Thee and receive their ordinances.” Those prayers are always answered.
Desperate for Their Ordinances
She said, “I learned several things in the first two weeks. “I learned that those on the other side of the veil are much alive, and not that cheerful about being called dead…Those on the other side are desperate for their ordinances, and many know when and where the ordinances will take place.”
She played a recording she quickly made on her phone one Sunday afternoon of Elder Nelson’s recounting an experience he had had with a set of her names.
He said that Wendy had given him a set of 76 cards for people who needed baptism and confirmation ordinances performed. He took them to the Salt Lake Temple and left them with the folks at the desk. When he returned when his meetings were over, he was greeted by a committee of people who wanted to tell him what had happened that day.
One of the young women who had come to be baptized had received the name of Annie McIntyre. She said, “I know her. She came to me last night in her dream and she said that I was going to be baptized for her that very day in the temple. Then when the young women went in for the confirmation, she again stood as proxy for Annie McIntyre.
Elder Nelson said of Wendy when she’s doing family history work, “I have noticed the difference in you. When you are immersed in this work, serving others, you are a happy girl. You are always wonderful, but there’s a special spirit about you when you are involved in redemption.”
She was Yanking on my Collar
Sheri, who has been doing some of the temple work for Wendy’s names knows the kind of urgency the dead can feel to have their work done. One day she was in her downtown Salt Lake City office when she could hardly work because the name of a woman whose initiatory work she had done two days before kept flashing through her mind. “She was yanking on my collar. Her insistence that day was palpable.”
Sheri had to leave work in the middle of the day and slip across the street to do her endowment.
Wendy had a similar experience when she was at the Bountiful Temple “ to help one of my ancestors receive her endowment. I intended to dash home right after that. With those ordinance cards in my hand, I could feel that I wasn’t to leave the temple without having those ordinances. I prayed, ‘if is it important for these people to be baptized today, please send the proxies.’”
Two came and sat in front of Wendy and she leaned forward with some hesitation, asking them, “Do you have your own family names to do?”
“No,” they answered. “We believe we are here to help you.”
Accepting Rigorous Challenges
Wendy invited the youth in her ward to get up at 5:00 am to do baptisms for the dead. One young man said, “I woke up and I went and I remember it was the greatest time I ever had. It was amazing.” When he started going to the temple regularly he said, “I felt like when I read my scriptures, it was much more meaningful. I felt better than I’d ever felt in awhile. It all started with going to the temple early in the morning.
Sheri said, “I have found it is easier to get people motivated to do something difficult than it is to do something easy.”
It might mean some sacrifice. Wendy laughed that when she started doing family history work she gave up doing Scrabble on her Ipad. She was so busy all the time, this seemed like a small bit of recreation she enjoyed, but she decided to put that away and grab those moments instead for research. She soon found that doing family history was way more fun than Scrabble. She found that super sleuthing a mother’s maiden name is more fun that watching “Monk” or “Matlock.”
These are Real People
Sheri said, “When all is said and done, this work is all about people, about giving every one of our Heavenly Father’s children a chance to return home. Though we’ve talked primarily about how eager those on the other side are for our help, they are also eager to help us.”
President Joseph F. Smith said, “When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from the ranks of our kindred, friends, and fellow beings and fellow servants. In like manner our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, of reproof and instruction to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh.”
Sheri said, “We’ve both had too many experiences with those beyond the veil to have any doubt that this is true.”
Wendy said, “When my husband and I travel, we often see these signs: ‘Ticketed Passengers Only Beyond This Point’. I immediately think of those on the other side of the veil who are unable to progress unless something changes. The only way those prisoners are able to become ticketed passengers is by our efforts to find their qualifying information. We are the ticket they need for eternal life. We are the ones who can turn our ancestors and our cousins into ticketed passengers.”
Just before Sheri and Wendy spoke at Rootstech, Elder Renlund had just delivered an Apostolic Challenge: Prepare as many names for the temple as ordinances you perform in the temple and teach others to do the same.”
Would Sheri, the faithful temple attendee, take that challenge and add family history into the mix so that the names she did were her own family names.
She took a deep breath, considered her impossible schedule, and said she would. She said, “The work of the Lord is the only work that will ultimately matter.”