When I was a young man, we went to the Manti Temple to do Baptisms for the Dead. Manti is an old temple. It was completed after the St. George and Logan temples, but before the Salt lake Temple. It is an impressive building and sits on a hill above town so that it is the dominant feature in the valley. What I remember about the inside is that everything was big there. We went in the massive front doors and down a big hallway, then down a big, wide staircase to the basement where the font was. Nowadays, there is an exterior door to the baptistry there, so YM and YW don’t have to walk through the main door. When we got to the baptismal font, it, too, was big. Maybe it’s just that I was small, but I was impressed with how big everything was.
Our trips to Manti had some other things that impressed me greatly.
First: I got to take sack lunch, and Mom put a twinkie inside. Twinkies were unusual for me – I think I got maybe three all the time until I was earning my own money and could buy whatever I could afford. We didn’t often buy treats in our house. Mom made as much as she could from scratch: bread, butter, cookies, etc. She even saved fat so she could make lye soap, which she grated and used as laundry soap. We butchered our own Meat, which came either from hunting, or animals we bought directly from the local farmers who raised them. So, a twinkie automatically put that temple sack lunch in the memorable department, and to this day I have a special feeling for them, although I seldom choose to eat any.
Second: While waiting, after our turn in the font, we got to roll down the hill between the temple and the hiway. The hill by the temple is steep so it made for good rolling. The thrill of it was that at the bottom of the hill was a wall about 5’ high and if you didn’t stop in time you’d roll right off it, and at the bottom of the drop you were in the hiway! Nowadays they’ve put in a fence and ruined it. You never see kids rolling down that hill now. But isn’t that a silly thing to remember doing?
But, of course the work we did there was the reason we went. I was very aware of why we were there. The difference between then and now is that I didn’t know any of the people whose work we did. Not one. Today, the YM and YW should be doing baptisms for family who have passed on, their own ancestors if possible, or ancestors of people they know. That makes the work much more significant. Our YM and YW today should be remembering who they did work for, not what they had for lunch, or the thrills they had while waiting outside afterward, like I did.
The temple is a place where we tie families together for eternity. That is the reason why we build and maintain temples. That is the reason why we can ask for 6-8 volunteers to go vacuum the temple every night, and have our busy members respond to the call. I got to vacuum the temple just last Wednesday. It was an honor to do it. We try to keep the temple spotless, just as we wash ourselves and prepare ourselves spiritually before we go to do the work. The preparation of making ourselves clean, helps us remember and understand the significance and holiness of the work we do there. And, clenaing the temple prepares it so we can focus onthe work.
I’m going to share another funny story. On December 9th, 1970, Liz and I got in a car with her parents and my grandfather. We drove for 80 miles to Manti, where Liz and I both received our endowments in preparation for our temple marriage the next day. Liz’s family were converts to the church while I have pioneer ancestors, but in many ways she was more prepared than I, because her parents were both dedicated to the church and endowed, while my father never became LDS and my mother was not permitted to take out her endowments because her husband couldn’t go. (That policy has been changed, and she later did get her endowments) We never talked about the temple endowment experience in my home because none of us had any experience with it.
As we drove to the temple that day, my grandfather was with me, as my closest endowed family member, to escort me through the temple knowing that the endowment can be a bit overwhelming. But I don’t think he appreciated how painfully ignorant I really was on that day.
As the endowment began, the man officiating said something to the effect that we would be taking on ourselves sacred covenants. He emphasized that they were extremely sacred covenants, and that anyone who was not willing to accept those covenants should raise their hand. I was surprised at that. How did I know whether I was willing to accept them when I had no idea what they were?!?
In a moment of near-panic I looked around to see how many other people were going to raise their hand.
At that moment, my grandfather put his hand on my knee and leaned over to say, “It’ll be OK.” With the reassurance of that kind old man, who I loved dearly, I calmed down and indeed, everything was OK. As I learned about the covenants, I realized they were the same things I had learned about in my church classes all my life. I was happy to accept and commit to each one of them. The next day was the highlight of my life as my wife and I were married in the temple.
Today, Liz and I, and our daughter are at the temple every week as temple workers. It is a wonderful experience to be there as helpers and officiators, and doing it with our daughter is especially sweet. One of the most special experiences we have there is when faithful men and women go for their first time and we get to help them along. Some of them are well prepared and breeze through it easily, while some have that “deer in the headlights” look like I did on my first time. It works either way, but it is best if they are well prepared.
After that first time, we all do work for the dead, and just as with baptisms, it is a wonderful experience to do the work for people we know, especially our own family.
When I was a young man, about 137 years ago – approximately - the church was encouraging everyone to record a 4-generation chart of their family. My older brother had done one, and I mostly copied his, however, I dutifully talked to my grandparents to make sure I had it right. On my Mother’s side of the family, I found what many other descendants of the pioneers find – that somebody had already done the pedigrees - far back, and well. I felt there was nothing left for me to do, there. That is an illusion, but it is how I felt.
But on my Father’s side of the family it was virgin territory. He was not LDS and nobody had done anything in the way of genealogy. That sounded like a bit more fun - but not enough to actually do anything about it at that time. I was still a young man, after all.
So I finished high school and went off to BYU. I served a hitch as a U.S. Marine part way through my college work and came back to BYU as a married student. I finished up my degree in Zoology and chemistry in December, 1975 and headed off to
for my first job as an agricultural
biologist. At that time, they didn’t
pass out diplomas when you finished your degree in December like I had, so when
I got a fat letter from the Y in the mail, I thought it would be my
diploma. To my surprise, it was a copy
of my transcript and a notice that I needed two more hours of coursework before
I could expect a degree. Any two hours,
in any subject, would do the trick. Arizona
Well, I was disappointed, to say the least. I was living out in remote NE Arizona about 30 feet from the edge of the Navajo Reservation, and there was no way I was getting back to
for a 2 hour class. Provo
But wait! There are correspondence classes. (For you young people, that's what we had before we had the internet.) I called BYU and had them send me a course book. I found that the Religion Department had a class in Genealogical Research that was 2 hours. It sounded kind of interesting, so I sent in my registration and fee.
Mostly I was retrieving microfilm records from SLC that had been photographed from the county courthouse in Paris, Kentucky where my great-grandparents were born. It took 2-3 weeks to get a copy of the microfilm, and some of them turned out to be useless while others had information I could use. I found many good marriage and death records, which, when combined with census records let me build up my pedigree back to the revolutionary war. So that was fun.
What I could not find was any birth records in
so I was using estimates based on census records for birth dates, and that
isn’t very accurate. That bothered
me. It still does. I’d like to find better dates. Paris, KY
That pure research of the Ashurst family line was in 1976. I sent copies of my pedigree to
. I left copies in the Salt Lake Arizona
State genealogy library in Phoenix, and later in the courthouse in . I gave copies to my grandfather’s
brother. Of course, I also gave them to
my siblings and my children. Many, many
people have taken that beginning and used it as the basis for their own
research on Ashurst ancestors. I often
find where my early work has been copied or referenced. Paris, Kentucky
So, I finished my class and graduated from BYU.
But there was a problem with doing the temple work for one of my ancestors. William Ashurst. There are records indicating that he might have been born in 1806, 1812, 1818, or 1823. That’s confusing! I suspect he had a cousin with the same name, but I don’t know for sure, yet. And he seemed too young to be a child of his parents. In today’s online genealogy programs, people keep deleting his connection to the family because it doesn’t seem to fit. I knew he fit in our line somewhere because he lived in the house built by his father and passed down to my later ancestors, but I was reluctant to do his work without nailing it down better. I wondered if I had missed a generation – if he was a grandson, instead of son. It took me 40 some years of anxiety about him before I finally located court records that clarified it. He was pretty young to be in his family, but not impossibly so. It turned out that he was a late child. One of those special babies born to parents who had thought they were past child-bearing age. His siblings were all much older than he was, almost in another generation.
The record I found was a court record where his aging father arranged to have William’s next older brother legally appointed as his guardian, with the family home left to him in care of his guardian. And his father also specified that William was to be responsible for his mother, who also lived in the house. So that record tied it all up and specified his relationship to his parents and one sibling, and even gave his age, making him born in 1812. Yeah!
Doing the temple work for William after all these years wondering if I’d gotten the line correct, was a wonderful experience, and I completed it last year. I was kind of giddy as I carried the little card with his data on it and completed the ordinances. When I sealed him to his parents I had some trouble with tears in my eyes.
Doing the work for someone like that is extremely rewarding, and it has gotten much easier to do it. We no longer have to wait weeks to get poor quality microfilm copies of records, and our computers help us put families together correctly. These days more and more people are bringing their own family names into the temple to do the work, and people have those same kinds of feelings as I had, when they do the work for people in their own families
This is the work we are charged to do as part of being among those privileged to live in the latter days, and enjoying the fullness of the gospel.
Part of preparing to go to the temple should involve looking for ancestors who need their work done. And doing family work increases our own spiritual understanding of the work, and helps us appreciate what a blessing it is to be able to do temple work.
It is a great work, and I pray that we may be able to do all that is needful to be done .
In the name of . . . . .