Gathering Israel on Both Sides of the Veil

By Anne Maxson

I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was in my 20s. I had moved away from home to go to graduate school in Chicago. Nobody from my childhood family has joined the church. That has not always been easy but it has always been an opportunity to share gospel truths with those that are so dear to me. 

This past summer my mom came to visit our family. During her time at our house, my son and husband had a temple appointment to do baptisms for the dead. That led to a cute conversation between my mom and my son. She asked him about how the baptisms work and who they are for. He shared a bit about the logistics of the ordinance and also talked to her about how those who are baptized have the opportunity to choose if they want to accept the ordinance done on their behalf. She appreciated the role of agency for those who have passed away and wondered what choice some family members would make. 

She then started asking how many names he had done and she implied that she didn’t have all that many family members. He knew right away since we have a little chart that we’ve used to keep track of how many names we bring to the temple each year. He said that with the extended family lines he had done several hundred names. 

She said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry. Could you say that again? I don’t think I heard you correctly. I heard you say ‘several hundred.’ That can’t be right.” 

He clarified and said, “You heard it right, Grandma. I said ‘several hundred.’”

The look on Grandma’s face was priceless. She said, “WOW…I had no idea that there were that many people in my family. How do you find them all?” We shared a bit about the amazing databases found throughout FamilySearch and how there are members of our extended family all over the world adding to the huge family tree. 

In the April 2005 General Conference, President Henry B. Eyring said, “When someone tells me that he or she is a convert to the Church, I ask, ‘Has anyone else in your family accepted the gospel?’ When the answer is ‘Yes,’ there follows an excited description of the happy miracle in the life of a parent or a brother or sister or a grandparent. There is joy in knowing that someone in his or her family is sharing the blessing and the happiness. When the answer is ‘No, so far I am the only member,’ he or she will almost always speak of parents, saying something like this, ‘No, not yet. But I am still trying.’ And you can tell from the sound in the voice that the convert will never stop trying, not ever.”

Later, he talked about temple work and the missionary work that goes on in the Spirit World. “Think of a faithful missionary standing there with those he has loved and taught who are your ancestors. Picture as I do the smile on the face of that missionary as you walk up to him and your ancestors whom he converted but could not baptize or have sealed to family until you came to the rescue. I do not know what the protocol will be in such a place, but I imagine arms thrown around your neck and tears of gratitude.” 

I was grateful that on that summer day, we had the opportunity to talk to my mom about eternal things. I like to think that a few of those “several hundred” that we’ve done temple work for were also part of the spirit that we felt as we worked to gather Israel on this side of the veil by discussing what it is like to gather Israel on the other side of the veil.

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