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Temples and Family History


I am so blessed to be with you today and I feel strengthened by your presence. Thank you for choosing to be here.

I grew up in Provo, Utah. Often my parents would drive in our large van with their eight kids on University Parkway, a road that connects Provo and Orem. There is a part of that road where you can clearly see the Provo Temple in the distance. I remember as a young girl riding with my family at night and seeing the Provo Temple glowing in the distance. My siblings and I would often try to see who could see the temple first. When we could see the temple, we would start singing:

I love to see the temple.
I'm going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit
To listen, and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I'll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.

As I grew up, I would often think about what I wanted for my future. Through my experiences with school and dating, the next verse in that song became very meaningful to me:

I love to see the temple.
I'll go inside someday.
I'll cov’nant with my father;
I'll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place
Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I've learned this truth:
A family is forever. [1]

I’ve been inspired recently by President Nelson’s invitations and promises encouraging us to be more focused on temple worship and the covenants we make in the House of the Lord. In remarks after being set apart as Church president, President Nelson told us, “Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.” [2] In October 2022, President Nelson promised, “that increased time in the temple will bless your life in ways nothing else can.” He then asked us to “focus on the temple in ways you never have before.” [3] And in this last general conference, President Nelson explained, “Jesus Christ is the reason we build temples. Each is His holy house. Making covenants and receiving essential ordinances in the temple...will bless your life in ways no other kind of worship can.” [4]

Lately, I’ve been making greater efforts to attend the temple more often. My increased temple attendance has had a positive impact on our family. We are all attending, and we are enjoying the blessings President Nelson promised, especially as it brings us closer to each other, and to our ancestors.

Keoni‘s Aunty Nani has been doing research on their Chinese ancestry. She gave us some names, and a few weeks ago, Keoni and I took our three oldest kids to the temple to do the baptisms. It was a great experience for all of us. I am grateful for these kinds of spiritual experiences to bring us closer to our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ and to our ancestors.

As I’ve attended the temple, I’ve been motivated to read more of my family history and learn about the experiences of some of the first members of my family to join the church.

I think of Andrew and Carolina Mortenson, a young couple from Sweden who joined the Church without any other family members. They traveled on a very crowded sailing ship and endured terrible conditions. After arriving in New York, the Mortenson family had to travel by steamer, open boxcars, steamboat, train, and wagon pulled by oxen to reach the Salt Lake Valley.

Then there is the story of Francis Singleton and his family, who had a successful tailoring business. They lost their business when they joined the Church and their membership became known. Friends and associates pled with Francis to renounce his new church, but he refused. The family was severely persecuted for their Church membership.

Finally, let me tell you about Hannah Knight Libby Carter, who was so sick when she first met the missionaries that doctors had given up on her. After a blessing promising that she would be made whole, Hannah got up and asked for her clothes and said, “I must go to the water.” She then walked to a nearby river where she was baptized and confirmed that very day. Her final testimony to her family, before passing away at age 80, was that “the path she had pursued for the last 30 years was the only path by which they could enjoy her society in the world to come and be accepted of the Lord.”

I share these stories of faith because they give me strength and are a reminder of how devoted and committed my ancestors were to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What they wanted more than anything else was to get to the temple and enjoy the blessings of eternity. Because I am one of their descendants, their stories strengthen my testimony in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of you might have similar stories in your families of the physical and social hardships and blessings that converts to the Church have and experience when they join the church. I know from talking to many of you that you may be the one in your family whose story will be shared to strengthen and teach your posterity. I want to thank you for being the good people you are and for being righteous disciples of Jesus Christ.

In 2017 when President Nelson was president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he is noted as saying: “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...I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of sacrifice—preferably a sacrifice of time—you can make [to] do more temple and family history work.” [5]

I encourage us all to remember that the temple is right here for us, so close, and it is an important part of your experience at BYU–Hawaii. Plan to attend the temple as often as you can so that you can make covenants there and do work for your families. Some of you may even have the opportunity to become temple workers and contribute to the work in that way.

Each time we have general conference, I excitedly await the announcement of new temples in Oceania and the Asian Rim. I share your joy when they are announced. Your experience here will prepare you to help do the work in the temple in the future, perhaps even in your hometown. Do what you can here to show the Lord that you are prepared and ready to help build new temples as they are announced across the world because you are available and know what to do both as a temple worker and as a patron.

Let me close with a quote from Elder Renlund from the April 2018 General Conference. He promised: “God will strengthen, help, and uphold us; and He will sanctify to us our deepest distress. When we gather our family histories and go to the temple on behalf of our ancestors, God fulfills many of these promised blessings simultaneously on both sides of the veil.” [6]

I know this to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] I Love to See the Temple, Children’s Songbook, No. 95
[2] Russell M. Nelson, As We Go Forward Together, January 16, 2018
[3] Russell M. Nelson, Focus on the Temple, October 2, 2022
[4] Russell M. Nelson, The Answer is Always Jesus, April 2, 2023
[5] Russell M. Nelson, Open the Heavens through Temple and Family History Work, February 11, 2017
[6] Dale G. Renlund, Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing, April 2018