39. “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn to Their Fathers”

Temple work has changed since the days of Joseph Smith’s growing understanding of work for the dead and the first baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo. These articles will help readers understand developments that included Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world and how endowments for the dead were instituted in St. George in 1877.

“The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover,” Stephen D. Ricks, BYU Studies, Vol. 23, no. 4
Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. This date was during the several-day Jewish Passover celebration, but not the exact date of the Seder meal. Elijah’s association with Passover (there is no explicit biblical link) can perhaps best be explained on the basis of his function as a precursor to the Messiah. Malachi 4:5-6 is interpreted as a foretelling of a reconciliation of the generations.

“‘Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept’: Reflections on the 1877 Commencement of the Performance of Endowments and Sealings for the Dead,” Richard E. Bennett, BYU Studies, Vol. 44, no. 3
The first endowments for the dead in LDS history were performed on January 11, 1877, in the St. George Temple. Considering that performing endowments for the dead rewrote the nature of LDS temple worship and vastly multiplied reasons for temple attendance, it is a topic worthy of reverent consideration and appreciation. As much an invitation for increased work for the dead, it has been a call for increased consecration and obedience among the living. This article looks at the history of temple work, specifically that just as the doctrine of baptism for the dead came line upon line, so did the temple endowment for the dead.

“‘The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead’: Death, the Great War, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic as Context for Doctrine and Covenants 138,” George S. Tate, BYU Studies, Vol. 46, no. 1
What was going on in Joseph F. Smith’s life at the time he was meditating upon the realm of the spirits of the dead? This article looks Smith’s personal sorrow when loved ones died, the desolation caused by World War I, and the deaths of Church members from the flu pandemic. (This article is closely related to the information told in “Susa Young Gates and the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,” from Revelations in Context.)

“Preliminary Sketch of Small Temple Floor Plan (1997),” a page in Foundations of Faith (a photo of Gordon B. Hinckley’s sketch)
The concept of small temples has greatly accelerated temple building in recent years. In June 1997 Gordon B. Hinckley attended the centennial observance of Church-owned Juarez Academy in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. While driving back to the airport in El Paso, Texas, he reflected on how to help faithful Saints in outlying areas receive the blessings of the temple. Once on the airplane, he made this sketch of a floor plan for a smaller temple with only the essential facilities. He announced the concept at the October 1997 general conference, and by August 1998 the first small temple had been completed in Monticello, Utah. Since 1997, more than 50 small temples have been constructed or announced in 19 additional countries and 17 U.S. states where none had been before, including one in Colonia Juárez, which was dedicated on March 6, 1999.

Additional Resource:

Hearts Turned to the Fathers (chapters free as PDF files here; ebook, published 1994, $8.49 or $9.99)
In 1994, to celebrate the Genealogical Society’s one-hundredth birthday, this history of genealogy in the LDS Church was published. It covers the story of people from every nation who sought to find their ancestors and do temple work for them. Here are the stories that tell of the dedication of Susa Young Gates, the tireless determination of Joseph Fielding Smith, the enthusiasm of Archibald F. Bennett, the daring of Paul Langheinrich, and many more whose efforts have brought temple work into the modern era.