Taught by Katie Warnock
He begins his talk by sharing a story of the writer William Saroyan, who just before
he died of cancer in 1981 told the press “Everybody has to die, but I always
believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?”
QUOTE 1. The “now what” in the face of death in this life and the
“now what” in contemplation of life after death are at the heart of the
questions of the soul that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ
answers so beautifully in the Father’s plan of happiness.
In this life we laugh, we cry, we work, we play, we live, and then we
die. Job asks the succinct question, “If a man die, shall he live
again?”2 The answer is a resounding yes because of the atoning
sacrifice of the Savior. Part of Job’s diverse preamble to the question
is interesting: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days. … He
cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down. … There is hope of a
tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender
branch thereof will not cease … and bring forth boughs like a plant.”
Our Fathers plan is about families. Several of our most poignant scriptures
use the concept of the tree with its roots and branches as an analogy.
In the closing chapter of the Old Testament, Malachi, in describing the
Second Coming of the Savior, vividly uses this analogy. Speaking of the
proud and wicked, he notes that they shall be burned as stubble and “that
it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Malachi closes this chapter
with a reassuring promise from the Lord.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the
great and dreadful day of the Lord:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the
heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth
with a curse.”
We hear more about Elijah at the beginning of the Restoration when
Moroni reemphasized this message in his first instructions to Joseph Smith
Elijah was an Old Testament prophet through whom mighty miracles were
performed. He sealed the heavens, and no rain fell in ancient Israel for 3 ½
years. He multiplied a widow’s meal and oil. He raised a young boy from
the dead, and he called down fire from heaven in a challenge to the
prophets of Baal. At the conclusion of Elijah’s mortal ministry, he “went up
by a whirlwind into heaven” and was translated.
Christians and Jews everywhere accept the Old Testament account of
Elijah. In fact the Jews have been waiting for Elijah’s return for 2.400
years. To this day, at their annual Passover Seders, or dinners, they set a
place for him and go to the door hoping he has arrived to herald the
coming of the Messiah.
We learn from Joseph’s revelations that Elijah held the sealing power of
the Melchizedek Priesthood and was the last prophet to do so before the
time of Jesus Christ.
We know that Elijah has already returned and it occurred in the Kirtland
Temple on April 3, 1836. At that time he declared he was fulfilling
Malachi’s promise and committed the priesthood key for sealing families in
QUOTE 2: The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “The spirit, power,
and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the
fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and to obtain all the
ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God.”
This sacred sealing authority is essential for priesthood ordinances to be
valid and binding both on earth and in heaven.
In another talk, given 16 years ago by Elder Russell M. Nelson titled “A
New Harvest Time” he spoke about how this restoration was accompanied
by what is sometimes called the Spirit of Elijah—which is a manifestation
of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family. Hence,
people throughout the world, regardless of religious affiliation, are
gathering records of deceased relatives at an ever-increasing rate.
In a footnote for that talk I found the following information very interesting.
It says genealogy is now among the fastest growing applications for
noncommercial use of computers in the home. The popularity of a recent
television series entitled Ancestors was unprecedented. It was subscribed
to by 340 of 353 PBS television stations—the highest response rate in their
history. In connection with that effort, a book was prepared entitled
Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History and Genealogy. More
than 35,000 copies of it were sold in less than a year. Some experts have
estimated that 20 percent of Internet use pertains to genealogy.
President Howard W. Hunter declared in November 1994: ‘We have
BEGUN using information technology to hasten the sacred work of
providing ordinances for the deceased. The role of technology has been
accelerated by the Lord himself. However we stand only on the threshold
of what we can do with these tools.
And that was almost 20 years ago!! Think about how much has changed
for us and our children in the last 2 decades. In the 19 years since this
prophetic statement, the acceleration of technology is almost unbelievable.
In Elder Cook’s talk he relayed a conversation he had with a 36-year old
mother of young children.
She exclaimed to me “Just think – we have gone from microfilm readers in
dedicated family history centers to sitting at my kitchen table with my
computer doing family history after my children are finally asleep.”
Sisters!! Family history centers are now in our home. I like to think of it, the
same way I think about my Thanksgiving Point family membership. I take
my kids to the gardens, or the dino museum or the childrens museum
when I have an hour to kill here or an hour to spare there simply because
I’m not concerned with the box office ticket price. I have already invested in
the membership. The hour has already been paid for, we go in for free.
Just like my TP membership, we can use those 10 spare minutes before
baby wakes up to hop on our computer and index. Because instead of
having to find a babysitter and drive to the dedicated family history center –
we have our family history membership at home. We can open up our
computer and work immediately – with no cost to us!
The church is doing a phenomenal job of pushing the work forward. They
are doing their part to make it easier, more accessible and more
convenient for us to attend the temple and do the work needed for those
beyond the grave. Elder Cook points out that less than a year after
President Monson was called as an Apostle, there were only 12 operating
temples. During the period President Monson has served in the senior
councils of the church, 132 of our 142 operating temples have had their
initial dedication, and 26 more temples have been announced and are in
various stages of completion. 85% percent of the Church members now
live within 200 miles of a temple.
So take note, theyre making this possible. Now it is up to us to follow their
lead and do our part.
Our part can be manifested in many ways. It is up to us evaluate our lives
individually and see how we can best serve at this time in our lives.
Whether it is going to the temple to do baptisms, initiatories, sealings or
endowments – actually being a set apart temple worker – sitting at our
kitchen table after bedtime indexing or researching our ancestors – or
teaching our youth about the vital part they play in this work.
In October 2011 conference Elder Bednar gave a talk titled “The Hearts of
the Children Shall Turn” which I would urge you all to read. It is
INCREDIBLE and still so pertinent to our lives today. Quote #3 comes from
this talk – who has quote #3?
QUOTE 3: “It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools
have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a
wide range of information and communication technologies. Your
fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and
advance the work of the Lord – not just to communicate quickly with
your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young
people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of
As leaders and parents we can teach the youth that they can learn about
and experience the spirit of Elijah. By responding to the invitation faithfully,
just like us, their hearts can be turned to the fathers. The promises made
to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be implemented in THEIR hearts, as
they can be in ours.
Elder Bednar promises that “your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration
of lineage will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you.
Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of
and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise
you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As
you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your
youth and throughout your lives.”
How powerful is that! Don’t we all want that for our children, our families,
It seems to me that taking the time to be an example of this work for our
children, and teaching them what they can do to further the work should be
at the forefront of our minds. By looking to the past for our roots we will be
planting our family trees firmly in the gospel, where our future branches will
have a deep and everlasting foundation to draw from.
If I could leave with one thing to remember it is this quote from Elder Cook
"Temple and family history work is not just about us. Think of those on the
other side of the veil waiting for the saving ordinances that would free them
from the bondage of spirit prison. Prison is defined as a state of
confinement or captivity. Those in captivity might be asking William
Saroyan’s question: Now What?"
I bear my testimony that I know the “NOW WHAT” is up to us. Heavenly
Father has faith in us and has given us the tools that we need to help
those who have gone on before us. I am grateful for what I can do to
further this crucial work and the blessings that I receive from my efforts.