Upon hearing the term, work for the dead, many Latter-Day Saints think only of the actual performance of temple ordinances. But there are many other ways to contribute.
In the June 1989 Ensign Article Family History: “In Wisdom and Order” Elder Dallin H. Oaks says:
“…In the work of redeeming the dead there are many tasks to be performed…all members should participate by prayerfully selecting those ways that fit their personal circumstances at a particular time…Members of this church have many individual circumstances—age, health, education, place of residence, family responsibilities, financial circumstances, accessibility to sources for individual or library research, and many others. If we encourage members in this work without taking these individual circumstances into account, we may do more to impose guilt than to further the work…Our effort is not to compel everyone to do everything, but to encourage everyone to do something.”
I’d like to suggest the following ideas for contributing to Family History work:
1) Young Men and Young Women contribute to the work when they babysit for couples so that they may attend the temple. They also help when they attend their youth temple trips to be baptized for the dead.
2) Older members or those with fewer obligations in the home might volunteer in the Temple on a regular basis or consider serving a Temple mission. They might also help with the newest FamilySearch Family History program, FamilySearch Indexing.
I transcribed a small cemetery in my area in four hours on a Saturday, typed the entries into my word processing program and emailed the information to interment.net the next day. It’s very simple to do and someone looking for birth or death information for an ancestor will be eternally grateful that you took the time to do that.
4) When a church accompanies a cemetery, that church will often have a record book of those buried in the cemetery. You might call ahead and ask if you can take digital photos of the records or transcribe them, as not everyone buried there (especially if the church dates way back) will have a headstone.
5) Volunteer to take headstone photographs or to look up obituaries or other items of genealogical interest at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.
6) Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the June 1989 Ensign Article Family History: “In Wisdom and Order” said:
“Some of the most important temple and family history work is done at home. I do not refer just to the important work of keeping family genealogies up-to-date and the much needed verifying that all sealings have been performed. At home we can keep our journals and gather pictures and data for the books of remembrances of our family members. We can gather and record information available through living relatives. We can write family histories and share their great lessons with our children.”
I hope that through reading this article, you have thought of some ways you can personally contribute to the work of redeeming the dead. Even if your life only permits for a seemingly small task or small amount of time, it is enough. No effort put toward this work is considered small.
In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128:22, Joseph Smith gave this call to action:
“Brethren (and sisters) shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage…and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.”