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A Revelation that impacts the ordinary Temple Attendee that they probably know nothing about

In February of 1877, the St. George Temple was nearing completion and ordinances had already begun being administered therein. This was significant due to the fact that this was the first temple that ordinances were performed in since the Saints left Nauvoo. Even though an Endowment house had been built in Salt Lake, the administration of proxy ordinances did not really commence until another temple was built:

"Proxy endowments were not administered in Nauvoo and, because the temple had not been completed, Joseph did not perform any priesthood adoptions of any child or parent sealings before his death... [After leaving Nauvoo] baptisms for the dead would not begin again, in earnest, until 1867; and second anointings, for both the living and the dead, were suspended for twenty years. Proxy ordinations and the initiatory ordinances of washing and anointing accompanying the first proxy endowments were delayed until 1877." (Wilford Woodruff's Witness, p. 128)

The Church's policy, as it still is today, is that ordinances for the dead can only be performed in Temples (see D&C 124:37). Another policy, in addition to that, up until 1877 was that only relatives could perform the ordinances for their deceased ancestors. This presented a problem for Wilford Woodruff as he had prepared hundreds of names for the Temple and not enough hands to get through them at his age of 70. President Woodruff went to the Lord to ask what he should do. He wrote of receiving the following revelation:

"When I inquired of the Lord how I could redeem my dead... not having any of my family [in St. George], the Lord told me to call upon the Saints in St. George and let them officiate for me in the temple, and it should be acceptable unto him. Brother McAllister and the brethren and sisters there have assisted me in this work, and I felt to bless them with every feeling of my heart. This is a revelation to us. We can help one another in these matters, if we have not relatives sufficient to carry this on, and it will be acceptable unto the Lord." ("Discourse Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff," Millennial Star 56:22, May 28th, 1894)

President Woodruff had to receive permission from President Brigham Young to go ahead with doing as the revelation counseled, once that was granted it was a policy change for the entire Church. It was a cosmic shift as it changed the scope of the temple. It not only became the duty of every Saint to redeem their familial dead but "the dead of the whole spirit world." (JD 21:192)

To put this in further perspective, this allowed women more readily available access to serve as they had not yet been able to be called to serve missions. 194 women showed up March 1st, 1877 (also President Woodruff's birthday) to perform ordinances for the hundreds of names that President Woodruff had prepared.

To think, this was a big policy change in their day; similar to the changes President Nelson has implemented in our day. Over 140 years later, we think nothing of this uncanonized revelation. What a beautiful thing it is to have living oracles and continuing revelation.


  1. Is this date correct in your article (quite below), or should it be 1877 instead?
    "194 women showed up March 1st, 1977 (also President Woodruff's birthday) to perform ordinances for the hundreds of names that President Woodruff had prepared."

    1. You are right. I cannot believe it took this long for me to see the typo. Thanks!

  2. It looks like you wrote this last month - before the big changes this week. Interesting how we can see many examples in the past of how our Temple experience expands through revelation.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It is interesting how we are moved to write about certain things.


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