Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Prophets Speak on Searching Out Our Dead -- Wilford Woodruff

President Wilford Woodruff's name is inseparably connected with genealogy and family history through the revelations he received concerning work for the dead while he was at the St. George Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My daughter wrote a post for The Keepapitchinin Blog back on 22 October 2013 entitled "Historical News Flash: Wilford Woodruff's Vision of the Founding Fathers" in which she summarizes the story and responds to some of the criticisms of the story. President Woodruff had a pivotal influence on the direction Temple work took in the Church. 

This is a longer quote from President Woodruff as he spoke in the Salt Lake City Tebernacle on 16 September 1877:
We have labored in the St. George Temple since January, and we have done all we could there; and the Lord has stirred up our minds, and many things have been revealed to us concerning the dead. President Young has said to us, and it is verily so, if the dead could they would speak in language loud as ten thousand thunders, calling upon the servants of God to rise up and build Temples, magnify their calling and redeem their dead. This doubtless sounds strange to those present who believe not the faith and doctrine of the Latter-day Saints; but when we get to the spirit-world we will find out that all that God has revealed is true. We will find, too, that everything there is reality, and that God has a body, parts and passions, and the erroneous ideas that exist now with regard to him will have passed away. 1 feel to say little else to the Latter-day Saints wherever and whenever I have the opportunity of speaking to them, than to call upon them to build these Temples now under way, to hurry them up to completion. The dead will be after you, they will seek after you as they have after us in St. George. They called upon us, knowing that we held the keys and power to redeem them.

I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, "You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing lias ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God." These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.

I have felt to rejoice exceedingly in this work of redeeming the dead. I do not wonder at President Young saying he felt moved upon to call upon the Latter-day Saints to hurry up the building of these Temples. He felt the importance of the work; but now he has gone, it rests with us to continue it, and God will bless our labors and we will have joy therein. This is a preparation necessary for the second advent of the Savior; and when we shall have built the Temples now contemplated. we will then begin to see the necessity of building others, for in proportion to the diligence of our labors in this direction, will we comprehend the extent of the work to be done, and the present is only a beginning. When the Savior comes, a thousand years will be devoted to this work of redemption; and Temples will appear all over this land of Joseph, —North and South America—and also in Europe and elsewhere; and all the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth who received not the Gospel in the flesh, must be officiated for in the Temples of God, before the Savior can present the kingdom to the Father, saying, "It is finished.''


  1. Oh, thanks for linking to that blog post. As I explain in one of the comments, that was quickly written in reply to some internet content that consists of people reading an online article or two and then making unwarranted conclusions and criticisms about things they know little about.

    WIlford Woodruff was instrumental in our current temple practices, in Nauvoo, in 1870s St. George, and later in the 1890s when he ended the practices of plural marriage and (priesthood) adoption.

    Anyone who's involved in 19th-century Mormon genealogy should understand those practices and how they show up in church databases as sealings of your ancestor to someone outside the family or "extra" marriages to unknown women. Even though the practices have changed, those are important pieces of historical information and should be preserved in church and family records.

    1. Thanks for the comment and also thanks for another blog post idea.