Some years before the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, President Wilford Woodruff dreamed that he saw many people milling outside the temple, unhappy because they could not get inside.
In the dream, President Brigham Young came to President Woodruff, gave him the keys to the temple, and told him to open it and let the people in.
Addressing a gathering of stake, mission and temple presidents on Feb. 6, the closing day of the recent RootsTech 2016 conference, Elder Allan F. Packer, General Authority Seventy, quoted Elder Hales’ recounting in 2003 of President Woodruff’s dream.
Elder Packer wanted to impress upon the minds of the priesthood leaders the importance of the priesthood keys that they hold and their duty to use them “to open the door to all the blessings of the Lord’s true Church and then to let the people in the temple.”
“With this understanding, we can teach to educate and motivate to act,” he told the priesthood leaders. “In this way, we become agents of change. We must focus on outcomes, not just activities.”
To that end, Elder Packer, executive director of the Family History Department, joined with General Authority Seventies who are executive directors of two other Church departments — Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Missionary Department, and Elder Kent F. Richards of the Temple Department — in making the presentation.
A report of the meeting was published in the Church News of Feb. 14 and may be read online.
The involvement of the executive directors of all three of those departments is consistent with a truth taught by Elder Bradley D. Foster, General Authority Seventy and assistant executive director of the Family History Department, in introductory remarks at the meeting:
“We are all spirit children of Heavenly Father. We are called to help exalt His family. We are engaged in one great work.” To illustrate that point, he asked the question: “Do you think those in the spirit world pray?”
Then he said, “I know they do. But what do you think they pray for? I believe they pray that a missionary who is worthy and ready, called on a mission to gather scattered Israel will find members of their posterity here upon the earth, teach them the gospel, so they can join the Church. And once your family members join the Church, then what do you think they pray for? Their hope will be that these newly baptized family members will then find them through family history and that new members will take their ancestors’ names to one of the many temples throughout the world, perform proxy baptisms, then seal them as families, as part of our Heavenly Father’s family, thus preparing a righteous generation for the glorious Second Coming.”
An array of new tools and initiatives were announced during the meeting to help priesthood leaders in using their priesthood keys to help bring about the salvation of Heavenly Father’s children.The meeting was recorded so content from it can be incorporated into training materials that will be used throughout the Church in various units.
Here are some highlights:
One work of salvation is occurring on both sides of the veil. The work, in fact, is hastening on either side, Elder Nielson said. “And we can hasten the work on this side by beginning with the end in mind.”
Priesthood keys facilitate moving the work forward. “The work of salvation includes at least all of the following: member missionary work, retention, activation, temple and family history work, and teaching our children the gospel,” Elder Foster taught. “The scriptures teach us the purpose of His work is for immortality and eternal life. He desires exaltation for each of us. In these last days, He is nourishing His children for the last time. We are privileged to participate in that work.”
As missionary, temple and family history work come together, members are blessed and strengthened, including recent converts, newly reactivated members, youth, prospective and returned missionaries and families.
Elder Richards spoke of new innovations to facilitate a wonderful experience in the temple, particularly those who are going for the first time. “In essence, we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure the temple becomes a wonderful, uplifting, spiritual experience for every patron, every time, in every temple around the world.”
Recent converts have a series of spiritual experiences that lead them to be baptized, he said. Afterward, “when they immediately experience the joys and sudden promptings that occur when they seriously think of their ancestors, they get a whole new set of spiritual experiences and they continue into the temple.”
This should lighten the load of Church leaders, not add another burden. Elder Packer said priesthood leader responsibilities with respect to missionary, family history and temple work, if undertaken together, “can be synergistic and reduce the workload and result in greater returns on the investment of time and energy.”
He added, “A consistent characteristic of stakes, wards and areas that are successful is the engagement of the priesthood by those who hold the keys. That is true with family history, temple work and missionary work.”