“The work of gathering Heavenly Father’s family is not just for young people, and it is not just for their grandparents. It is for everyone. We are all gatherers,” President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, taught during the Saturday morning session of the 187th Annual General Conference of the Church on April 1.
“Our Heavenly Father is anxious to gather and bless all of His family,” he said. “While He knows that not all of them will choose to be gathered, His plan gives each of His children the opportunity to accept or reject His invitation. And families are at the heart of this plan.”
President Eyring recognized that only a very small minority of God’s children obtain, during this life, a complete understanding of God’s plan and have access to priesthood ordinances and covenants that make the Savior’s atoning power fully operative in their lives.
“Even those with the best of parents may live faithfully according to the light they have but never hear about Jesus Christ and His Atonement or be invited to be baptized in His name,” he said. “This has been true for countless millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world’s history.”
While some may consider this unfair and take it as evidence that there is no plan or specific requirement for salvation, President Eyring reminded listeners that God’s plan is loving and just, and provides an opportunity for every person to accept or reject the Father’s plan.
The prophet Malachi prophesied that in a coming day God would send Elijah to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”
“Today is April 1. Two days from now, April 3, marks the 181st year from the day when Malachi’s prophecy was fulfilled. On that day, Elijah did come, and he gave to Joseph Smith the priesthood power to seal families eternally.”
From that day to this, President Eyring said, interest in exploring one’s family history has grown exponentially.
“At ever-increasing rates, people seem drawn to their ancestry with more than just casual curiosity,” he said. “Genealogical libraries, associations and technologies have emerged around the world to support this interest.”
The internet’s power to enhance communications has enabled families to work together to do family history research with a speed and thoroughness never before possible, he said.
“Why is all of this happening?” he asked. “For lack of a better term, we call it the ‘Spirit of Elijah.’ We could also call it equally fulfillment of prophecy. It is deeply seated in your sense of who you are. But it has to do with more than just inherited DNA.”
President Eyring shared the example of people discovering similarities with their ancestors in physical features or interests.
“This could be very interesting and even insightful,” he said. “But if your work stops there, you will sense that something is missing. This is because to gather and unite God’s family requires more than just warm feelings.”
It requires sacred covenants made in connection with priesthood ordinances, he taught.
“Many of your ancestors did not receive those ordinances. But in the providence of God, you did. And God knew that you would feel drawn to your ancestors in love and that you would have the technology necessary to identify them. He also knew that you would live in a time when access to holy temples, where the ordinances can be performed, would be greater than ever in history. And He knew that He could trust you to accomplish this work in behalf of your ancestors.”
Recognizing technology is an important part of family history work, President Eyring said, “even the best technology can never be a substitute for revelation from heaven.”
“This is a spiritual work, and the Lord directs it through His Holy Spirit.”
Sharing his own experience of working on family history just a few weeks ago, President Eyring spoke of his discovery process. Crucial to his answer was revelation he received after evaluating the available information, seeking other research and praying.
“We do not know what marvels God will inspire people to create to help in His work of gathering His family,” he said. “But whatever the marvelous inventions may be that come, their use will require the Spirit working in people like you and me. This should not surprise us. After all, these are beloved sons and daughters of God. He will send whatever inspiration is needed to give them the opportunity to return to Him.”
President Eyring spoke of the youth of the Church who have responded to the spirit of Elijah in “an inspiring way.” Many youth have found their family names and then take them to the temple to perform proxy baptisms.
“It has increased the influence of the Spirit in their lives and decreased the influence of the adversary,“ he said. ”It has helped them feel closer to their families and closer to the Lord. They have learned that this work saves not just the dead; it saves all of us. ...
“I testify that God the Father wants His children home again, in families and in glory.”
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