Elder John A. Widtsoe highlights an agreement we made concerning the eternal welfare of all of the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father:
“In our preexistent state, in the day of the great council, we made a[n] … agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan. … We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we became parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves but … saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work. The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation.”
“That places us in a very responsible attitude towards the human race. By that doctrine, with the Lord at the head, we become saviors on Mount Zion, all committed to the great plan of offering salvation to the untold numbers of spirits. To do this is the Lord’s self-imposed duty, this great labor his highest glory. Likewise, it is man’s duty, self-imposed, his pleasure and joy, his labor, and ultimately his glory.” (“The Worth of Souls,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1934, p. 189.)
We become saviors unto ourselves by living our lives in such a way that we are worthy, when the time comes, to enter a temple of the Lord and make further covenants with Him. In so doing, we are then able to perform proxy work for our ancestors. It is through that process, known as redeeming our dead,
Many have wondered why Mormons are so enthusiastic about our family history and genealogy as a whole. We believe it is necessary to have one solid unbroken chain from Adam down to every last person on earth. This is a long, involved, indeed very painstaking, process. I myself, have two of my family lines back to Adam . . . I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I felt when I hit royal lines, because those people kept a record of every birth, marriage and death, thank goodness.
Because we understand that Jesus Christ would not penalize those who lived on the earth when His gospel was not in full force, it is a labor of great and lasting love for those who lived before us. Thus a way has been provided for all to return to the Father, and it is through the willingness of Mormons to attend the temples regularly to serve their ancestors by performing those ordinances on their behalf.
One of the greatest privileges of my life is the ability to be able to perform this work for my ancestors within the walls of the holy temples of the Lord. Every time one more name is checked off my list a small thrill goes through me. Because I have a deep and abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I could not live with myself if I did not remain worthy and diligent in performing this labor of love for those lived so long ago.
I would like to close with the words of Elder Widtsoe:
“I believe that the busy person on the farm, in the shop, in the office, or in the household, who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will … [do] the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and … a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly.” (“Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1921, pp. 63–64.)
One of the greatest blessings God has given us is the ability to serve our ancestors in this sacred and holy work. How could anyone walk away from that?