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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) are engaged in family history work. Mormon genealogy is a hobby, pastime, and mission for Mormons. Mormon prophets have said that we cannot be saved without our dead. This is a difficult idea for friends of other faiths to understand. It doesn't mean that we are kept out of heaven — Mormons are Bible-believing Christians. It means that those who are righteous and sealed to spouse and children can dwell in the highest kingdom of heaven, where the Lord Himself dwells.
The Lord, through modern prophets, has taught us that families can be together as an eternal unit in heaven, if all live righteously and perform eternal ordinances in Mormon temples. Being "sealed" together in family units for eternity, and continuing in righteousness offers Mormons the possibility of also being sealed to Jesus Christ, as part of His eternal family. This is what the Savior has meant when He has talked about us becoming His sons and daughters:
- And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters (Mosiah 27:25).
- And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters (Mosiah 5:7).
- Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters (Ether 3:14).
- They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true (Doctrine and Covenants 76:51-53).
- The Prophet Elijah was to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers, Foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fulness of times, for the redemption of the dead, and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming. All these and many more, even the prophets who dwelt among the Nephites and testified of the coming of the Son of God, mingled in the vast assembly and waited for their deliverance, For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage. These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life, And continue thenceforth their labor as had been promised by the Lord, and be partakers of all blessings which were held in reserve for them that love him (Doctrine and Covenants 138:47-52).
Thus, Mormons perform temple ordinances by proxy for their ancestors, that they (by choice) may be sealed to their loved ones and to the Lord.
A Work that Blesses Everyone
Mormon genealogy work blesses more than Mormons and their deceased ancestors. The Mormon Church makes Mormon genealogy available in many ways to the general public. Family History work has captured the interest of many people outside the Mormon Church. Those desiring help with their family history are welcome to visit any Mormon Family History Center (find one near you — click on "Family Search Centers"). The Mormon Genealogy experts who serve at these centers are happy to help you without charge. The Mormon Church also has a family history website, Family Search.org with millions of records from all over the world. Members of the Church also volunteer by the millions to digitalize world-wide records for the benefit of genealogists working online.
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is the largest in the world and open to the public. There are genealogy experts there to help anyone visiting.
Mormon genealogy is practiced within guidelines. Mormons are counseled to search out just their own ancestors who are deceased. Temple ordinances are not to be performed for famous people who might have been admired, nor for Holocaust victims, unless they were parents or siblings of the genealogist. Relatives who are recently deceased should not have temple work done, unless permission has been granted by other relatives.