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The Eyes of Our Understanding Were Opened

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Thank you for your earnest effort to invite the Spirit through music, words, and attitude. I appreciate the opportunity to gather with you in devotional. Would you visualize another gathering—that of Lehi’s family—following the journey to retrieve brass plates.

Imagine Sariah, grateful her children have returned and reassured by the power and protection of the Lord. Nephi, eager to choose the right and note it in his metal journal. Zoram is now there, trying to make sense of his new foster family and representing adoption as a legitimate entry point into the household of faith. Grumpy Laman would be lurking, probably still irritated his visionary father didn’t nab the plates on the way out of Jerusalem the first time. Do you recall Lehi’s focus when the plates were delivered? He is about to have what’s known as a discovery experience. Lehi began to search the plates and Nephi writes: “And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers,” being “filled with the Spirit.”[2]

I’ve been fortunate to participate in my own experiences of discovery. Filled with the Spirit, as I recognize the hand of the Lord in the lives of my ancestors and feel connection, belonging, and love from beyond the veil.

Some years ago, my family chose to hold a reunion in Albion, Idaho, where my Grandma Jane—my mother’s mother—attended school. In preparation, we researched her life and collected photos and stories to share. Even though my grandmother passed away when my mother was only four years old, I have come to love her as a significant link in our family story. We even uncovered a Rexburg connection: a hundred-year-old registration card for a summer session at Ricks College to extend her teaching certification. That she and I share learning and teaching experiences on this campus is one more reason I view this place as sacred ground.

My summer reading contained a story of a college student overwhelmed by steep expectations, personal doubt, and loneliness. She found solace in stories of her ancestors as she came to recognize the intense challenges they faced. Learning about her forebears put her trials and concerns in perspective.[3],[4] Sister Ruth Renlund, in her recent campus visit, shared a message of sacrifice becoming staying power as she related the story of her second great-grandmother, Nettie, who walked to Zion in her stocking feet.[5]

Family discoveries lead naturally to covenant desires. As real as the “desire for the welfare of [his] brethren”[6] described by Enos, or Lehi’s desire that his family partake of the fruit,[7] or the prayer of Paul’s heart that Israel might be saved[8] is the drive to gather and unite God’s family—on both sides of the veil—through saving ordinances in holy temples.[9] As President Henry B. Eyring explains, if our discoveries don’t extend to making and keeping sacred covenants, “you will sense that something is missing.”[10]

The central figure in a grand plan to realize our immortality and eternal life[11] is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. This central truth serves as the doctrinal root of our lives. His grand, infinite, atoning sacrifice provides hope in this life and eternal optimism in a life to come.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are known as enthusiastic missionaries sharing the gospel around the world. We also build temples, steadfast sanctuaries where we learn of Jesus Christ and make sacred covenants. Newly announced temples[12] signify a continued commitment to gather scattered Israel on both sides of the veil. My focus will be the work of gathering on the far side of the veil. In today’s language, we call this temple and family history work.

To the root of Christ, I invite you to append the principle of gathering—the literal gathering of Israel.[13] Elder David A. Bednar emphasized, “The gathering of scattered Israel is one of the fundamental principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”[14] Elders Ronald A. Rasband and D. Todd Christofferson reiterated President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to join this greatest cause on earth[15] in our recent general conference and clearly taught it applies to all stages of life.[16] Consider President Nelson’s explanation of gathering to the Savior:

Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.[17]

In another message, President Nelson said:

When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They decide for themselves if they want to know more.[18]

All need a chance to come unto Christ;[19] by divine design, temple and family history work bring us closer to Him.

Allow a brief review of the big picture. In the beginning, creation of heaven and earth[20]—Satan willing to redeem all mankind by destroying agency[21] and a Beloved Son settling the matter with these words, “Thy will be done.”[22] With a divine plan of happiness in place, we desired a mortal experience. Hear President Eyring on this point:

Before we were born, . . . we lived with Heavenly Father as His spirit children. This is true of every person who has ever lived on earth. The names “brother” and “sister” are not just friendly greetings or terms of endearment for us. They are an expression of an eternal truth: God is the literal Father of all mankind; we are each part of His eternal family.[23]

We lived before we came to earth. Elder Gerrit W. Gong adds further clarity: “When we die we continue to exist on the other side of the veil.”[24]

President Nelson related this story written by his grandfather A.C. Nelson. As a relatively young man, A.C.’s father (President Nelson’s great-grandfather) passed away. Three months later, he appeared to his son (President Nelson’s grandfather) and shared what he had been doing beyond the veil. President Nelson read his grandfather’s account as follows:

I was in bed when Father entered the room. He came and sat on the side of the bed. He said, “Well, my son, . . . I received permission to come and see you for a few minutes. I am feeling well, my son, and have had very much to do since I died.” “What have you been doing since you died, Father?” “I've been traveling together with Apostle Erastus Snow ever since I died. That is, since three days after I died. I received my commission to preach the gospel. You cannot imagine, my son, how many spirits there are in the spirit world that have not yet received the gospel. But many are receiving it, and a great work is being accomplished. Many are anxiously looking forth to their friends who are still living to administer for them in the temples.”[25]

We have a similar story in our own family history. An individual, beyond the veil, appeared to the living and described vast amounts of work; followed by an explanation of needed sacrifices to further the cause. My conviction aligns with Elder Neil L. Anderson who testified, “I know that life continues beyond the veil. I know it.”[26]

As we consider our role in this fabulous plan,[27] I urge you not to lose sight of our central focus—Jesus Christ. We are invited to participate in bringing souls to Him. We call this “gathering Israel.” Elder Gong invites us to “remember the demographics of heaven. There are many more on the other side of the veil than on this side.”[28] This work is designed to bring us to the feet of the Savior as we keep sacred covenants and prepare others to do the same.

Elder Dale G. Renlund described the way. “The term covenant path refers to a series of covenants whereby we come to Christ and connect to Him. Through this covenant bond, we have access to His eternal power.”[29] We are invited to enter upon a covenant journey—by baptism—and continue in covenant relationships through sacred temple ordinances including being sealed as families.[30]

I witnessed the peace covenants bring as my father-in-law, Jim, chose to be baptized and lead his family to the temple to be sealed. My wife grew up in a loving, Christ-centered home, but covenant blessings and promises brought further joy. This is the very experience we provide others as we participate in temple and family history work.

I testify there is a great work in which you and I are invited to become gatherers.[31] We can do for others what they cannot accomplish for themselves. In Elder Anderson’s words, “this is how we become “saviors on Mount Zion.”[32] [33]

When I meekly considered what I might set aside to spend more time in the temple, potential choices became apparent.[34] It may work the same for you. I plotted a week of my life and asked questions as I might in a financial exercise—identifying needs and wants and determining what time resources were available for what purposes. In our first devotional this semester, Sister Jennifer Meredith strongly encouraged us to schedule time with our Savior, including being in the temple. By the way, this is a meaningful exercise for your academic life as well. Designated time for study and play, worship and contemplation is a recipe for academic success.

As you analyze your week, is it possible there are moments available to “set aside” so you can spend more time in the greatest cause and greatest work on earth today? As a reminder, “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel.”[35]

If an analysis of your week results in surplus time, like mine did, might I suggest a few possibilities to help gather Israel on the other side of the veil? If you could squeeze five minutes out of your weekly schedule you might:

  • Read a memory attached to an ancestor in FamilySearch
  • Install the Get Involved app
  • Use the app to review names
  • Try Relatives Around Me—at least to determine if the person you are crushing on isn’t a close cousin.

Perhaps you found 10 surplus minutes?

  • Set up a FamilySearch account
  • Use Ordinances Ready to reserve a temple name. Include an interview to gain confidence dates, places, and relationships are correct before proceeding with temple work. 
  • Add a memory to a family member in FamilySearch—this could be a photo, a story, or a voice recording. At our Magleby reunion this summer, my brother provided a simple prompt about our parents and grandparents, and we passed a phone around to record brief memories that came to mind. Today’s tools make this simple.

Imagine you wrestled 30 minutes from your week:

  • Index a batch of images.
  • Explore the people in your family tree.
  • Add record hints.
  • Standardize dates and places in your family tree.

Any of us fortunate enough to have an entire hour? If so, you should probably consider asking someone on a date and:

  • Make an appointment to worship in the temple.
  • Work to extend your family tree—remember cousins matter as well.
  • Add time to any activity already mentioned.

Need help getting started? Seek out a consultant in your ward or visit a FamilySearch Center. Our local Rexburg FamilySearch Center is a useful resource with tools and experienced mentors anxious to assist.

With an hour available, we can turn finding names into gathering families. I try to remember we call this work family history, rather than individual history. In a recent visit to our stake, President Dennis Frandsen, of the Rexburg Temple Presidency, invited us to take a moment to remember temple names are real people by asking, “Who are they?” and “What did they do?”[36] I’d add, did they have parents? Siblings? A spouse or children? It’s thrilling to locate family members who are not present or connected in the tree and bring families together—like asking a mission friend if they know others who might be interested—and they do! This is how we partner with Christ to bring saving ordinances to all God’s children.

It’s inspiring to witness the time many of you already devote to temple service and worship. Is this, by chance, a season of life for others of us to make a weekly commitment? Consider:

  • Service as a volunteer or ordinance worker in the temple.
  • Service as a volunteer at the FamilySearch center.
  • Set aside a regular block of time to bring saving ordinances to your ancestors and their families.[37] 

If my suggestions aren’t quite right, review Elder Gong’s recent conference address “We Each Have a Story”[38] to prompt further inspiration.

If you have yet to discover the stories of your past, I urge you to tap into that source of strength. In a television program titled, “Finding Your Roots” Dr. Henry Gates shares discovered ancestral stories with guests. Most voice debts of gratitude for sacrifices of forebears that afford them comfortable lives. They use words like “connected,” “whole,” “grateful,” “anchored,” “priceless,” and “standing on the shoulders of others” to try and explain their tears. One guest, after learning the horrific experiences of her grandmother commented, “I felt none of that from her. She bore the pain and shared only love.”[39] Power lies in the stories of our ancestors as we seek Christ-like bonds. Their stories provide tangible links to life eternal. Time spent learning from older relatives can be pure joy. Consider that statement again referring to a dear grandmother—”She bore the pain and shared only love.” Imagine knowing, building a relationship with, and becoming like a person who bore the pain and shared only love.

Delightful discoveries lead to a natural desire to extend gospel blessings. President Eyring taught: ”God knew that you would feel drawn to your ancestors in love and that you would have the technology necessary to identify them. He also knew that you would live in a time when access to holy temples, where the ordinances can be performed, would be greater than ever in history. And He knew that He could trust you to accomplish this work in behalf of your ancestors.”[40]

As covenant Israel, we accept responsibility to invite all to gather to Christ. The work of salvation brings immense joy.[41] Peace is a beautiful blessing in and of itself. Even so, further power and protection have been promised to those who accept the invitation to participate.

Modern apostles have taught that specific blessings flow from temple and family history work[42],[43]: This week’s discussion board is filled with beautiful testimonies of our peers who have experienced these blessings firsthand.

  • Knowledge of, and faith in, the Savior will increase.
  • Greater love and harmony in your home.
  • Closeness and joy in your family.
  • Increased gratitude.
  • Miracles, and help from the other side of the veil.
  • We learn to forgive and move forward.
  • We and our children become more resilient.
  • We gain assurance that every person is precious in the sight of God.
  • Power to heal that which needs healing.
  • Divine protection from temptation and the ills of the world.
  • Our homes become a defense and a refuge—fortified against evil.
  • We experience increased protection and increased power to safeguard us in our youth and throughout our lives. 
  • Our love for and testimony of the Savior will become deep and abiding.
  • We increase our ability to hear Him and follow Him as His true disciple.

Building covenant connections is to live life enhanced. Even so, covenant keeping does not shield us from the realities of mortality. As Brother Doug Sorenson powerfully taught us last week. We are still susceptible to painful and tragic episodes as part of life’s test. We are promised strength—not immunity—from difficult circumstances. Remember my in-laws?

The youngest child in this family passed away unexpectedly, after a brief illness. Sincere pleading did not result in immediate healing. Can you sense the continued mourning of a parent faced with the unnatural order of losing a child; the ongoing grief of a heartbroken spouse; sons facing life without a father? What of promised apostolic blessings in the darkest hour?

The Son of God rose. Faith was found. Assurance given of a promised future together. Strength mustered to continue on covenant paths. Power to offer comfort to the comfortless, to mourn with those that mourn. To think Celestial, with eternal perspective.[44]

I hope you have felt an invitation to do more that will connect and unite families.[45] Participation in temple and family history work is a choice to gather to the Savior. Jesus is anxious to meet with us in His holy house.[46] As we make and keep covenants, we approach Jesus Christ.[47] His promises are sure.[48] Through this work we invite more power and protection, more joy and hope[49], more connection and belonging, more purpose and peace.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Doctrine and Covenants 110:1

[2] 1 Nephi 5:16–17; see also 1 Nephi 5:8–17.

[3] Ethan Kross, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It (New York: Crown, 2021), 62.

[4] See David A. Bednar and Gerrit W. Gong, “2022 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction,” RootsTech Conference 2022, for further discussion on the principle that distance from our immediate concerns provides perspective and hope.

[5] Ruth Renlund, “Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, Oct. 22, 2023.

[6] Enos 1:9.

[7] See 1 Nephi 8:15.

[8] See Romans 10:1.

[9] See Henry B. Eyring, “Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 21.

[10] Henry B. Eyring, “Gathering the Family of God,” 21.

[11] See Moses 1:39.

[12] See Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[13] See Articles of Faith 1:10.

[14] David A. Bednar, “The Spirit and Purposes of Gathering,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, Oct. 31, 2006.

[15] See Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” (worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018), Gospel Library.

[16] See D. Todd Christofferson, “The Sealing Power,” Liahona, Nov. 2023; see also Ronald A. Rasband, “How Great Will Be Your Joy,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[17] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On, Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 119; emphasis added.

[18] Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel;” emphasis added.

[19] See Stephen W. Owen, “Strength and Safety Through Gathering,” BYU Devotional, October 23, 2018.

[20] See Moses 2:1.

[21] See Moses 4:1–3.

[22] Moses 4:2.

[23] Henry B. Eyring, “Gathering the Family of God,” 19–20.

[24] Gerrit W. Gong, “We Each Have a Story,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2022, 44.

[25] Russell M. Nelson and Wendy Nelson, RootsTech Family Discovery Day Opening Session, February 12, 2017,

[26] Neal L. Anderson, “Find Our Cousins” (RootsTech youth devotional, Feb. 8, 2014).

[27] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial.”

[28] Gerrit W. Gong, “We Each Have a Story,”45.

[29] Dale G. Renlund, “Accessing God’s Power Through Covenants,” Liahona, May 2023, 36. See Dale G. Renlund, “Stronger and Closer Connection to God through Multiple Covenants,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, October 22, 2023, for further discussion on the covenant path.

[30] Multiple speakers addressed related points in October 2023 General Conference. See Robert M. Daines, “Sir, We Would Like to See Jesus,” Liahona, Nov. 2023; Emily Belle Freeman, “Walking in Covenant Relationship with Christ,” Liahona, Nov. 2023; and Yoon Hwan Choi, “Do You Want to be Happy?,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[31] Jeremiah 16:16.

[32] Obadiah 1:21.

[33] Neal L. Anderson, “The Promised Blessings of Temple and Family History Work,”

[34] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On, Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 119.

[35] Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” (Worldwide Youth Devotional, June 3, 2018).

[36] Dennis Frandsen, Rexburg Center Stake Conference, Sept. 10, 2023.

[37] Gerrit W. Gong, “We Each Have a Story.”

[38] Gerrit W. Gong, “We Each Have a Story.”

[39] Henry Louis Gates Jr., Finding Your Roots, Episodes 52, 69, 73, 94.

[40] Henry B. Eyring, “Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 21.

[41] David A. Bednar, 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, RootsTech Conference 2023,

[42] “The Promised Blessings of Family History 1,” Jan. 27, 2023,

[43] “The Promised Blessings of Temple and Family History Work 2,” June 2020,

[44] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial.”

[45] Gerrit W. Gong, 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, RootsTech Conference 2023,

[46] Allen D. Haynie, “Meeting Jesus in the House of the Lord,” BYU Speeches, Oct. 10, 2023.

[47] Kevin Duncan, 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, RootsTech Conference 2023,

[48] Gerrit W. Gong, 2022 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, RootsTech Conference 2022,

[49] Yoon Hwan Choi, “Do You Want to be Happy?” Liahona, Nov. 2023.