After the completion of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery took a moment to pray together in private. In response, they saw a series of heavenly messengers, each entrusted with restoring the keys for various aspects of the gospel. Moses, the prophet who led Israel out of Egypt, restored the keys for the gathering of Israel from the world. Elias restored the keys of the dispensation of Abraham, renewing that blessing to the posterity of Abraham. Elijah appeared, too, committing the keys of the new dispensation into the hands of Joseph and Oliver, saying, as was prophesied by Malachi, that he was there to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”
The gospel is timeless, existing from the foundation of the world, but this commandment is a relatively new one, and it’s a sign that the second coming of the Lord is “near, even at the doors.” Our thoughts turn to those who came before us. There’s no reason they should be denied the blessings of gospel ordinances simply because they lived in an era in which they were not available. We can perform those ordinances on their behalf – not to force them to receive them, but to give them the opportunity to do so if they want. As we strengthen ties to our ancestors, we can strengthen ties to our descendants as well as they seen our commitment not only to the principles of the gospel, but to our family.
This hymn tells that whole story. Malachi prophesies in ancient times, Elijah comes according to that prophecy, and our hearts are turned to our fathers and our children. It’s telling that it’s our hearts, not our minds that are turned. Family is something that is felt more than thought. It’s a central part of who we are. The third and fourth verses of this hymn make that clear to us. Listen to the third verse:
Turn your hearts toward your parents–
Generations gone before.
May you seek until you find them;
In the temple seal and bind them
To your hearts forevermore.
For many of us, our parents aren’t difficult to find. They’re in our homes, or at least a presence in our lives. For some of us, we do have to seek our parents out to get to know them, but even those of us who don’t still need to make an effort to draw near to our parents and families. It takes effort to build up a strong relationship. We show our love by sharing our time and attention. We seek until we find each other, and we are sealed and bound in the temple, not only in the gospel sense, but in the sense of having our hearts knit. Our shared experiences and shared memories make us one.
Turn your love to all your children–
Generations yet to be.
May your deeds of gospel giving,
Temple service, righteous living,
Bless them all eternally.
Here, we sing not only about our children that live in our homes, with whom we play, laugh, and so on. We sing about generations yet to come. As we give righteous service, we are blessed, of course, but those who come after us are blessed as well. This isn’t just a vague sense of our descendants being blessed through our strong example, although I’m sure that has a real effect. This is a case of the Lord promising to bless those who come after us because of the choices that we make. As we turn our hearts to our fathers, the Lord blesses our children.
We may have felt, at times, that we have received blessings we haven’t deserved. The Lord is good, and He blesses us when He sees fit, but I wonder if those blessings aren’t as random as they may see. I wonder if we aren’t the benefactors of those who have come before us. We can find out as we search our those ancestors, learning of their righteous acts and lives. And we can repay them by living righteously ourselves, bringing blessings to those who will come after.