Most parents would love to take on their child’s pain, to spare them even a moment of distress. And yet, sometimes we simply can’t. Each of us has to endure the adversities of life personally. We grow from those challenges, and just as Heavenly Father does not rush in to rescue us every time, wise parents allow their children to experience defeat, frustration, exhaustion, and disappointment so they’ll learn faith, consequences, coping skills, and problem solving.
But it’s agonizing not to be able to “help.” Think of the many ways we wish we could rescue those we love, yet it’s not God’s plan. You can’t pay tithing for someone else. It isn’t about the money; it’s about the faith. Each person needs to exercise their own faith, not yours.
Many things are like this. You can’t gain a testimony for someone else. You can’t learn to ride a bike for someone else. Or shoot a basket. Or sing a song. Or give a talk or fulfill a calling or go on a mission or become temple-worthy. All of those journeys—and many more—must be made by the individual. We can guide and cheer them on, but the actual doing falls to the specific person.
Nope, we are relegated to a secondary support function for almost everything an individual needs to learn and do. Except for one exciting, glorious situation: Temple ordinances. In this singular celestial experience, we are blessed to be able to act as proxy for someone deceased, and literally stand in their stead, making covenants and receiving blessings.
What a blessing to be able to accomplish for these people what they cannot do for themselves. And, of course, this includes our online Family History work as well. Without the gathering of names, we’d have no one to help in the temple.
And speaking of not being able to pay someone else’s tithing or gain a testimony for them, it also works the other way as well. President Russell M. Nelson reminds us that “We can be inspired all day long about temple and family history experiences others have had. But we must do something to actually experience the joy ourselves.”
Sister Wendy Nelson has said, “Imagine what can happen as we make a sacrifice of time to the Lord by doing two things we know he really cares about: Family History and Temple Work.” He is so grateful for our efforts that we’ve been promised blessings for making His priorities our priorities.
Perhaps you feel others in your family are “doing it all.” Whenever someone says their Aunt Melva (or whomever) has “done all our genealogy” I want to say, What about those side branches? In actual fact, it’s never done. Your family line extends up, down, sideways—and has limbs and twigs you’ve never even seen. And not one of us is exempt from keeping our promise to gather our loved ones. Elder David A. Bednar makes it clear: “You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work.”
I know, life gets busy and day-to-day concerns often crowd out this vital work. But we have to be on guard for the adversary’s attempts to distract us. We have to remember how extremely important this is. Consider what President Russell M. Nelson said: “When a family is sealed in the temple, that family may become as eternal as the kingdom of God itself.”
So how can we drag and click to put this on top of our to-do list where it belongs? First, let’s use this glorious Christmas season to make it a gift for our Savior—the gift of our time. Let’s set a goal (a dozen new names? A hundred?) for this special month. And, when temples reopen, let’s “wear out the carpet” as President Gordon B. Hinckley advised us.
What if you feel your life is already packed with too much? What if you suffer from physical or emotional needs of your own? I recommend temple work. Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “The blessings of the temple… have a stunning capacity to heal. Temple blessings can heal hearts and lives and families.” If your heart is broken because family members have left the faith, cling to the promise that they will come back. And many of our leaders have said that temple work ensures it.
What if your life is full of so many problems that you just don’t feel you can pull away to do anything else? Boyd K. Packer had the answer: “The Lord will bless us as we attend to the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all of our affairs.” I think ALL is a great word. We can count on help from God with all that we’re doing.
What an amazing opportunity this is, to perform a saving (yes, SAVING!) ordinance for someone else. You may not remember their name, but I think you can expect a giant bear hug from many of the people whose names you have tenderly escorted through the temple. Truly, this is a magnificent moment when you really are making a difference– a difference that literally lasts forever.
Hilton’s book, A Little Christmas Prayer, is the perfect Christmas gift. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Church Communications.