Honoring your ancestors

Recently, my wife and I embarked on a genealogical journey to honor our ancestors. We paid our respects to them by visiting the gravesites of our great-grandparents. We are grateful for the sacrifices they made and the legacies they left as faithful members and pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many of our ancestors joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after having been taught the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ by the church’s missionaries. Choosing this new lifestyle led many of them to emigrate from Europe to America by boat in the mid-19th century. They heeded the prophets’ call to come to Zion!

The modern-day apostle D. Todd Christofferson taught in 2008 what Zion means. Christofferson states: “Zion is both a place and a people. …. Jerusalem and its temple were called Mount Zion, and the scriptures prophesy of a future ‘New Jerusalem’ where Christ shall reign as King of Zion” (Christofferson, 2008).

In the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Zion as a place changed from time to time as the Saints were forced to move from place to place due to persecution. Zion was established in Palmyra, New York; Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and the Salt Lake Valley. Presently, Zion as a place is wherever the Saints are gathered as taught by Christofferson: “today the Lord’s people are gathering … into the congregations and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are scattered throughout the nations” (Christofferson, 2008). Zion as a people refers to members of Christ’s Restored Church: “Members of the (LDS) Church are asked to remain in their native lands and help establish the church there. Many temples are being built so Latter-day Saints throughout the world can receive temple blessings” (Gospel Topics, 2022).

Latter-day Saints honor their ancestors’ legacies by continuing to be faithful in their religious beliefs and by doing genealogy and temple work. Latter-day Saints sacrifice time to research their ancestors who did not have the opportunity to accept Christ’s gospel. By proxy, Latter-day Saints stand in the place of their ancestors to perform sacred ordinances necessary for salvation. Latter-day Saints believe that those who died without the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have the choice in the afterlife to accept Christ’s gospel and the ordinances performed on their behalf. This is what is meant when Latter-day Saints state that they cannot be saved without their dead: “for we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect” (D&C 128.18). Temples are being built throughout the world for this purpose!

Many of your pioneer ancestors sacrificed their belongings and homelands to choose to immigrate to Zion because they believed in Jesus Christ and that his gospel was restored through Joseph Smith. They desired to receive those saving ordinances in the temple, then only available in the Salt Lake Valley. Prior to the Salt Lake temple being completed, which took forty years, Latter-day Saint pioneers received saving ordinances in the endowment house then built adjacent to the Salt Lake Temple construction site. Today, Latter-day Saints sacrifice many worldly endeavors to receive the and promises made in the temple. They spend a lot of time helping an innumerable amount of their ancestors be saved.

For many today, genealogy has become more than helping ancestors receive saving ordinances only; genealogy is the opportunity to connect your life to your ancestors, feel the pride of their accomplishments and honor your name. Through genealogy, my surname has become an even greater honor than it was before. I have discovered many incredible stories of “Stayners” who have gone before me. My fourth great-grandfather, Thomas Colley Stayner, was a master mariner of merchant ships and he sailed throughout Europe and to Asia. His son, Arthur, is considered “the father of sugar in Utah” (Salt Lake Tribune, Sep 1899). Arthur was instrumental in creating the Sugar Beet Industry in Utah convincing the LDS 1st Presidency to invest in the industry. William Williams was a stonemason who helped build the Logan, Utah, temple. John Henry Stinger was an original Pocatello Pioneer, who established the first bakery in Pocatello. I have found many fun and interesting stories about my ancestors which make me proud to be their descendent!

Our greatest legacies should be to live like Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints promise to be his disciples when they are baptized. They are charged to share the glad tidings of Christ’s gospel with all, both to the living through testimony and to the dead through proxy work. I invite my readers to make genealogy a regular habit and discover the fascinating stories of your ancestors. I invite you to create your own legacy of truth and remembrance for your descendants.

Case Stayner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Idaho State University and is currently working to obtain his master’s in secondary education from Grand Canyon University. He loves writing in his free time and teaching English and other subjects at his place of employment. The most important things he values in life are his religious beliefs, including his faith in God the Father and his son Jesus Christ and his dedication to his family.

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