I was so excited to join Karyann Hoopes and Hi Five Live today at the Gilbert Temple. The temple has always been a huge part of my life. I will never forget the first time I went through the temple when I was just about to leave for my mission. It was the most incredible experience that I still hold sacred today. After my mission, my husband and I were married in the Los Angeles Temple. Right away we became part time temple workers. Here’s my temple badge from those early morning shifts that only increased my love for the temple.
After a few years of being married, my husband and I moved from Los Angeles to a small town in Pennsylvania. The closest temple for us was the Washington D.C. temple. We made that three hour drive one way faithful every month with our small children. When we moved to Arizona and the Philadelphia temple was built, we took a 20 day trek across the country in a very old motor home that broke down 3 times to take our children to the open house. The temple was that important to use. (Read about our travel adventure here.)
While living in Pennsylvania, my love for family history began. Through many miracles, I found out that my great great… grandparents once lived in the same area that we moved too. I quickly discovered that not only did they live in Pennsylvania but my ancestors founded the very city we were living in Pottstown. I began to see miracles happen that were foretold when hands were placed upon my head and I was set apart as an assistant family history director just days before. I remember the high councilor telling me by inspiration that “I would find the ancestors that I have been searching for and it would happen in miraculous ways.” He also told me to write those experiences down.
One of those miracles happened when I found out that there was a small overgrown cemetery near our house like about 3 miles away. We stumbled upon it by a miracle. It was behind some houses tucked away and the only thing that gave the cemetery away were the two old stone posts and gate that was falling off it’s hinges.
I pushed open the gate and felt as if I was walking on sacred ground, just like I do every time I enter the temple. I began to quickly take pictures and write down names and dates of everyone in this small cemetery. I climbed over some poison ivy and squatted in front of a small tombstone in the back. I began to write down the name that I saw on the tombstone, Anna Nutt May, but the dates and other information, I just could not read. This was a very old cemetery from the late 1700s early 1800s. One family member whose body laid to rest there had even fought during the Revolutionary War.
I came back another day, armed with a flashlight, water and some other items that I thought might help me read the tombstone, yet again I was unsuccessful. I knelt down in front of this tombstone and prayed that the Lord would help me uncover the date’s written on it. I tried again to spray it with water or look at it in a different angle with a flashlight without success. I offered another prayer.
I can only say that what happened next was one of those miracles spoken about when I was set apart for my church calling. A pillar of light came through from behind me, through the trees, it shot over my shoulder and hit the tombstone in a way that I could clearly see the person’s birth, death and whose daughter she was.
The feeling that I felt at that moment was overwhelming, I know that God had answered my prayer and that this child who only lived to be 3 years old was known to God. He wanted one of his beloved daughters to be sealed to her parents and I was just the one blessed to experience a miracle that day.
This was the first of many miracles that have continued and haven’t stopped since I first stepped into that old family cemetery. Because of holy temples, I have been blessed to help 100s of my ancestors find their way back to their Heavenly Father. As I choose to use my agency to engage in family history work, I give the gift of agency to my ancestors. They can then can have a choice whether to accept the temple work that was performed on their behalf or not.
President Howard W. Hunter once said, “those that engage in family history research and then perform temple ordinance work… will know the additional joy of receive both halves of the blessing.” Recently Elder Renlund reiterated this promise while adding additional blessings from both finding our ancestors and taking their names to the temple through a fantastic video called “Spiritual Dynamite.”
One of my most favorite stories found about temple and family history work was shared by a man who took his family to the temple to do baptisms. An ordinance worker although he didn’t know the family said to them “many of the people for whom you do work for today lived hard and bitter lives, many of them died believing God had forgotten them, but today you will show them that God has not forgotten them He doesn‘t forget any of his children their names will be spoken in His house and they will know that God has not forgotten them.” (start at 2:06)
Can you even imagine what it must feel like to our ancestors on the other side of the veil when they are remembered not only by us but by God? Can there be no greater work than redeeming our loved ones? I love the temple and I love family history work, when worked on together, the windows of heaven can and will continue to be opened for me and for anyone that participates in this great work.
Just like that small, old tombstone was unknown to man, through God’s love for all his children and through his undeniable power, he helped me find a little child long forgotten from this world but never forgotten from our Father.
Sometimes we can feel like that lonely tombstone, forgotten, alone with no one that cares for us, but like little Anna Nutt May, you are never forgotten. One of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon quoting Isaiah are words from God to His children when he said, “behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
I love helping others find their ancestors and share in the beautiful blessings of the temple. This is the house of the Lord and we can be saviors on mount Zion as we come to the rescue and find out ancestors.
If you are ready to jump into family history, but you do not know how to get started, check out our 12 week online course today.