What happens in the temple when we run out of ancestors?

When people press you to begin your long-neglected genealogy work, they typically remind you that you have hundreds of ancestors just waiting for their temple work to be done. However, my experience with what I believe to be one of the Church’s most brilliant initiatives, New Family Search, has lead me to a different conclusion, which I had not previously entertained since I am the child of a parent who is the only member in her family: maybe I have no ancestors whose work has not yet been done.

For people unfamiliar, the New Family Search works like a wiki in which members can enter their family records online, collaborating easily with other online users and incorporating their information into your family tree, essentially piggybacking off of their work. The site allows you to see what other members have linked to your ancestors and what temple work has been done for them, and it eliminates duplicate records, partly in an effort to avoid redundant temple ordinances being performed. It’s an extremely fun and functional system.

But although my mother is to the best of my knowledge the only member of her family to join the Church, I have made a surprising discovery as I have begun searching for her ancestors: after three or four generations, the vast majority of her ancestors have already been entered into New Family Church by other members who I don’t know, and their ordinances have already been done multiple times (except for sealings).

These findings, of course, make sense upon reflection, and are even somewhat exciting. Clearly, there are far more people alive today than in the past, and our ancestors have had many descendants, some of which are likely to have found their ways to the Mormon church. But they also cast doubt on the idea that there is tons of work left to be done, if work consists only of finding names (obviously, there is still a lot of personal information that we can learn about our ancestors).

So long as Mormons can only do temple work for their direct ancestors (something I consider a prudent policy) and the Church will not accept records past a certain date (again a wise policy given how shaky the geneological record becomes), then it seems plausible that we might well find that there is less work to do than we imagined. And, if so, how would that change how we approach genealogy and, if we run out of names, how would that change what we do in the temple?

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  1. That’s a good question. My own view is that, after you run out of ancestor names, you should start doing work for recently deceased relatives of popular politicians.

  2. They don’t like you to do work like that Kaimi. Although I confess back in the early 90’s I made a list of my favorite philosophers and scientists of that time and did the work for them.

  3. I believe the CoC already has it all done (?) Their sytem is much easier.

  4. I was hoping we’d go back to burnt offerings.

  5. Natalie B. says:

    I should add that my family tree is somewhat easy to research, since almost all my ancestors are British. Have people with non-English speaking ancestors found that their family trees are similarly well-researched when they start New Family Search?

  6. Are you trying to be funny, Bob? If so, FAIL.

    Natalie, we aren’t restricted to doing temple work only for our direct ancestors. The Member Guide (available at lds.org) describes “ancestors and their children” as our obligation. That’s a free enough designation to include just about anyone to whom you can link with a definite, known relationship. Doing work for your great-grandfather’s children, for instance, includes sealing your great-uncles and great-aunts to their spouses, parents, and children. Since the church prefers that ordinances for the dead be done in the same order as for the living (baptism, endowment, sealings), you need to know enough about your great-uncles-in-law to do their baptisms and endowments, and to seal them to their parents and children as well as to their spouses (your blood kin). When you start looking at a real family network, the numbers blossom and multiply faster than you can see.

    Also, although I can’t quote the numbers, studies have been done that indicate that a huge percentage of the people who were living 200 years ago have no living descendants, and the further back in time you go, the more myriads of people you find who have no living descendants. If there were some essential requirement that a person’s temple work could only be done by a direct descendant, all those millions of people would be out of the running.

    This is actually the first time I’ve ever heard anyone speculate on the possibility of running out of people for whom we are responsible for doing temple work. The argument usually runs the other way, that there are so few of us actively engaged in the work that we can never catch up under present conditions (more people die every year than the number of ordinances we complete). That’s a favorite attack point of some anti-Mormons, supposedly showing how foolish we are for tilting at windmills.

  7. Michael says:

    I second the burnt offerings. The book of Leviticus is a lot more interesting if you read it like a cookbook for barbecque.

    Leviticus 2:6 – Thou shalt part it in pieces, and pour oil thereon, it is a meat offering.
    Leviticus 2:9 – And the priest shall take from the meat offering a memorial thereof, and shall burn it upon the altar, it is an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
    Leviticus 2:13 – And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering, with all thine offering thou shalt offer salt.

    Back on topic, I had a great aunt who was legendary at the Ogden temple for her multiple tens of thousands of family names submitted. On the other side of the family, my grandparents worked thirty years trying to come up with three generations. It was probably the same amount of work, but a difference of three orders of magnitude in results. The idea of heading down that same path makes me thing my time is better spent in other pursuits.

  8. I recently discovered new.familysearch.org I have also found that that so much is already entered. However, you might want to consider double checking the info. Although the family tree looks pretty filled in, there are definite gaps and mysteries. You can’t even know that other children are missing unless you really get into it. Until you really research or talk to those who have, you can’t know that although all the sisters claimed one maiden name, they actually show up in the censuses along with their mother with a different last name.

  9. this reminds me of a great story from our own family history. In the early 20th century, my family (great uncles and grandparents I think) hired a professional Scandinavian genealogist to trace our lines throughout Scandinavia. He produced a magnificent work, one that was featured in the Church News showing a pedigree chart perhaps 10 feet long.

    Then one of my grandparents got curious to see what was in it and whether there were any more holes to fill. Imagine her surprise when she discovered that the genealogist had invented the entire pedigree. Apparently for decades he had been stealing money from interested Mormon families and generating entirely fabricated pedigrees.

    You never know whether the work has been done until you know.

  10. Ardis is right on. We are only supposed to “submit” our own family names “submit” for having work done, but there are millions of names in the system waiting to be done for whom no living relative is available or able to perform that work. Once we have performed the saving ordinances we are “obligated” to do for our own ancestors, we then perform them for the rest of the family of mankind.

    Many prophets have taught that the Millennium will be a time when massive temple work will be done both day and night. There are millions upon millions of people who have died on earth without their names being recorded anywhere or who died before they were able to marry and they will need mortal proxies to perform their mortal endowments and sealings for them.

  11. Natalie B. says:

    #8 – I have definitely found that there is a lot of dispute amongst the records on some of the details, so I can easily envision future family history becoming more about hamering out the points that fill in the gaps but aren’t needed for temple ordiances. Actually, it kind of seems disappointing to me now that some ancestors had their temple work done with incomplete names when other people had so much more information on them…not that it matters for salvation. I wonder how many people will find FH more interesting if it shifts to the details, and how many will not be as interested if it is no longer about the need to do temple work.

    My ward, at any rate, is very strict about enforcing the only direct ancestors plus their children policy for temple work. This might leave some people out on a limb, but I think the policy is a good idea given how many problems the church has gotten into. There might also be some mystery children on my family tree that would require exhaustive effort to turn up, but I have been sufficiently suprised by how much is done to start entertaining the idea that we could fill in our family trees very quickly once this online system is widely adpated. If there is a way to collaborate internationally and to get over the language barriers, then I can imagine significant strides occurring fairly quickly.

  12. Natalie B. says:

    #8 – I have definitely found that there is a lot of dispute amongst the records on some of the details, so I can easily envision future family history becoming more about hamering out the points that fill in the gaps but aren’t needed for temple ordiances. Actually, it kind of seems disappointing to me now that some ancestors had their temple work done with incomplete names when other people had so much more information on them…not that it matters for salvation. I wonder how many people will find FH more interesting if it shifts to the details, and how many will not be as interested if it is no longer about the need to do temple work.

    My ward, at any rate, is very strict about enforcing the only direct ancestors plus their children policy for temple work. This might leave some people out on a limb, but I think the policy is a good idea given how many problems the church has gotten into. There might also be some mystery children on my family tree that would require exhaustive effort to turn up, but I have been sufficiently suprised by how much is done to start entertaining the idea that we could fill in our family trees very quickly once this online system is widely adpated. If there is a way to collaborate internationally and to get over the language barriers, then I can imagine significant strides occurring fairly quickly.

  13. Revelation 21:22: “And I saw no temple therein… .” I imagine that once we’ve run out of people to do work for, the temple will cease to exist. That’s a theological observation, on the millennium level, but I’m still not convinced that we’ll actually arrive at the situation of running out of ancestors in the next few decades, and, based on the past, it will be a very different Church then than it is now (than it was fifty years ago, etc.). Maybe we’ll shift the focus to baptizing people whose ancestors have not yet had their work done!

  14. I had a couple of grandmothers and great aunts who pretty much exhausted all the verifiable records and had all the temple work done in my family on both sides, sometime back in the 60’s. If I had to take names of ancestors to the temple with me, I’d never go. So I never feel guilt about not doing genealogy, no matter how much people try to instill it into me.

    On the other hand, I am trying to learn about these folks that I never knew, and discovering some great stories along the way. It’s harder, but at least I’ll have something to talk about with them when I meet them on the other side.

    “So, great-great-grandfather John,”, the conversation will start, “did the Admiralty folks really wear those stinky white wigs at your Royal Navy court martial?”

  15. JKS is right that very few of us actually have completely finished genealogies, even if it looks like we do. There are gaps, inaccuracies, missing children, etc. in almost any genealogy, even the most well-researched. But the research is harder.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m not a genealogy wonk so I have no way of knowing for sure, but I’ve actually heard that there is a fair amount of name recylcing that already goes on in the temples. So when you go and do that endowment, there’s no guaranty that that name hasn’t already been done three or four times already.

    Does anyone know the skinny on such a practice?

  17. I am currently editing a collection of cuneiform tablets, the prosopography of which runs to several hundred people. Anyone want to do baptisms for long-dead Babylonians?

  18. kevinf, so many, many records, even for genealogically burned-over areas of the US, have become available in the last 50 years, and are often so much more easily searched, that you really shouldn’t be too sure that the research done in the ’60s can’t be vastly expanded today, with relatively little effort.

    I offered some time ago on Keepa to run some small, personalized, free, professional — did I say free? — research days or evenings at the FHL. I realize that those at a distance could not take advantage of that, but not a single person in the SLC area has taken me up on it either. The offer is still open.

  19. “My ward, at any rate, is very strict about enforcing the only direct ancestors plus their children policy for temple work.”

    How is this enforced by a ward?

  20. Last Lemming says:

    So when you go and do that endowment, there’s no guaranty that that name hasn’t already been done three or four times already.

    If you are using NewFamilySearch correctly, it will tell you whether ordinances have been done and it won’t let you do them again. Before NewFamilySearch, duplication of ordinances was a huge problem.

  21. I’ve been on the new Family Search for a long time now (I used to be a FHC director so I was one of the first to get an account even though I live in Utah).

    I will simply say: Don’t worry about your work running out. If you think it is, you’re almost certainly wrong. Check the siblings of your direct ancestors, and look for suspicious holes. I think there is serious research for almost every line.

    But let’s suppose, by chance, that every single direct ancestor and all of their siblings are done, as far as you can reasonably tell, as far back as you can possibly get (1500 or so). Then, really, is it that big of a deal for you to look at the marriage sealings of those siblings? After that, does it matter much if you move on to their children? And, then, their spouses? We’re still talking pretty close relation.

    And if you get THAT far — then you can start worrying about not having work to do.

  22. Kevin Barney and Last Lemming,

    The New FamilySearch should GREATLY reduce duplications.

    But it doesn’t eliminate the possibility. The system often relies on a fair amount of user-savvy to detect whether a possible match is a real one. I consider myself to be OK at this, and yet I occasionally have a really hard time (in which case I play on the safe side and do not match the names).

    But, the good news is that the odds of duplication will likely continue to decrease as more and more members use it, as long as they check for duplications.

  23. One more thing I should say about NewFamilySearch.

    If someone matches two names (who are supposed to be the same person) that aren’t really a match — it can be a nightmare. Surely, though, this does and will continue to happen. (I’ve seen it happen several times.)

    The very process of disentangling false matches could probably take all of a person’s spare time.

  24. #6: It is my understanding the CoC, once a year, baptizes one of it’s Apostles for all who dead that year without baptism. I may be wrong, but I was not trying to be funny.

  25. #24: And if that were so, you really think — without trying to be funny — that that “takes care of it”? (Hint: This is where you’d be smart to say that yes, in fact you WERE trying to be funny.)

  26. Ardis, you’re trying to guilt me again, just like all those other folks, and it just won’t work! Besides, getting the backstory is much more fun, if harder work. After I get the 1873 Arizona mission story settled, I’ve got some leads on an unfortunate bankruptcy in England, including debtors prison, and the aforementioned Royal Navy court martial! Plus, rumors that one of my ancestors was a french actress, who fell off the balcony playing Shakespeare’s Juliet, and broke her back. Those are stories waiting to be told! After that, there’s something rotten in Denmark, I’m sure. I’ve got plenty of excuses to keep me busy until the millennium.

  27. Ardis is right – there is so much to be done, even on existing lines. Just with the availability of more census records, you might be able to find people born in the late 1880’s or 1890’s who weren’t eligible to have their work done earlier (in the 60’s, for example) who could have their work done. There is so much online now, too, that you don’t hardly have to leave your house to do temple work for hundreds of people.

    I realize that my dad’s side doesn’t come from “Mormon stock,” but I literally cannot imagine the work ever being done for that side of the family. I could work on it full time for the rest of my life and still probably not finish it.

    And my understanding is the same – you can do the work for anybody with whom you can establish a definite relationship, within the obvious constraints of church policy, including seeking permission from the deceased’s closest relative for anybody born within the last 95 years.

  28. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    RE: #19

    They double or quadruple your home or visiting teaching assignments with a mandatory 100% completion every month or you are left out to the buffetings of satan.

    By the by, Ardis, I’ll take you up on the genealogical instruction. Will talk to you later about that…

  29. What will happen if for some reason we DO run out of names to do the temple work for? Then we will have more time to spend blogging, of course! Seriously, though, it is a little strange to think of a temple’s primary purpose centering around living ordinances only. While I suppose it could happen at some point, I would have to agree with those commentators who state that there are lots of names to keep us busy for a long time.

    The other alternative, if we run out of names, is that we would then have more time to focus on researching and writing actual histories about our kindred dead; to get behind the names and numbers and really get to know our families/heritage. But yeah, probably just more blogging.

  30. Researcher says:

    Combine the two, Hunter. Blog about your kindred dead.

  31. I think you’re pointing in a good direction, but it’s going to require an adaptation, rather than hitting a brick wall. There is a tendency to find that ancestors five or six generations back have entered the system multiple times, even in lines that are nonmember (well, they all are — I’m second generation on both lines).

    The current push for genealogy is to provide names for temple work. If everybody in the Church does what they can do with this, it will not take long to exhaust the low-hanging fruit. To keep the temples operating will require moving to non-ancestral lines and extraction to a greater degree. But we’re doing work for far fewer people each year than die each year, so there are plenty of names to do work for.

    Wards do not have control over who you submit names for. In NFS, they don’t have a role unless you’re going to ask a family history consultant to come help you, but, even then, they aren’t filters.

    However, if you’re going to do work for anybody, you have to promise that you’re following the policies, including that you’ve received permission from the closest living relative for anybody who has died in the past 100 years. People ignore that any time they wish, but you do have to make that promise to submit any names for work. And they create huge PR problems for the Church in the process.

  32. I realize that those at a distance could not take advantage of that, but not a single person in the SLC area has taken me up on it either.

    Ardis, I took you up on your offer of a tour. :) This has not been my time and season for the real digging (my dad has done SO much of the obvious stuff already).

    This reminds me also of the awesome series Ardis did on Family History basics. See here.

    The current push for genealogy is to provide names for temple work.

    I think it’s more than that. I think the current push for family history is about more than just providing names, although of course, that is part of it. In principle, I think there is simply something about engaging in the process of doing family history work.

    Which is why I think maybe I need to learn more about how to do it. Ardis, I may take you up on your offer one of these days (if I can get my headaches under control).

  33. #25: Where did you get the quote? Not from me.
    If you study Kinship, you will find a lot of people lived with no name. You will find a lot of people who get new names in their lives. You will find a lot of names you can’t pronounce. You will find a lot of kinships that don’t fit our of genealogy “family trees”.
    I would guess I do more genealogy than 90% on people on this Blog. I don’t understand your attacks? If the CoC does their Work for the Dead in a different way, why does my saying that anger you.

  34. Sheldon says:

    I personally think that tying temple work to family history is the wrong approach. It would make a lot more sense for the majority of pre-modern peoples (an probably for everyone) just to do the work for Adam and Eve multiple times and let those who actually have contact with the deceased decide which of those deceased are symbolically Adam or Eve in each case. Family History is a fun hobby for many, but putting the problems of that approach off on the Millenium is a cop out.

  35. Natalie, I am in a similar place as concerns family history: it appears much of my work has been done numerous times. And you might be interested in few of the things that I have learned (specifically about my ancestors from Scotland).
    1-Because the Scottish records start to be reliable early (like the 1500s) and because the church got permission to “extract” the names some time ago (in trade for microfiching the old physical records, is my understanding) the work appears to be done for everyone who appeared in any of those records, however there are “holes” because the ordinances were only done based on the records made, so various political circumstances may have led to a child’s birth not being registered with the government/church or a marriage not being recorded. (Usually such circumstances would be a fee related to the recording or a lack of membership in the state church.)
    2. Perhaps someone can correct me, but it’s my understanding that the extracted names are divied out by the temple if you arrive without your own family names to do work for. So, in my case it appears that the work was done by someone unrelated (extracted name) and by various branches of the family all with varying commitment to documenting truth. Based on this personal experience, I can wholeheartedly agree with your imagining that we might get to a point where all reliably recorded geneological information has been properly presented in the temple. But, you know such progress is exactly why we have a living prophet :)

    As has been pointed out already multiple times in the comments here, there are about as many different ways to do family history work as there are members of the church. I believe that is why the publications from the church always advise us to be prayerful as we begin…it’s not just so the spirit can lead us to the long forgotten grave stone, but so that each of us can know the work we should undertake.

    The best family history advice I ever got came from a hobby geneologist who is not a member of the church. For her sensible approach to family history work, I will always be indebted to Beth Cookson. For every person she could identify in her family, she did all she could to procure a copy of all vital records: birth, marriage, death, and census records, as available. Then she felt they were found and she moved on to other relations or dug deeper for the stories and other records that may exist.

    With officially recorded dates (and an understanding of history–the place guides the church publishes are really excellent), one can properly synthesize all of the disparate records in the new family search. And while, I must admit that in my case it is a daunting task that I have ignored for over a year now, perhaps for some of us that is the next frontier.

    Thanks for suffering through my long windedness. Best of luck to you in your family history wherever it takes you.

  36. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    Please enlighten me further on this novel and unique RLDS (now the CoC) ordinance. It was my understanding that the RLDS repudiated not only polygamy but also virtually all of the Temple ceremonies (baptism for the dead, washings and anointings, and the endowment). Their successor organization, the CoC, has made the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith optional, the Book of Mormon a second class scriptural appendage, and the restoration of the Gospel a non-event. Had this not been the case their Temple would have a floor plan entirely different than the one it has. Further, if an annual single proxy baptism is efficacious, why not one symbolic proxy baptism on the day the Savior returns and then call it good?

  37. Mark Brown says:

    Velikiye Kniaz,

    You are right, and Bob is almost certainly mistaken concerning the way the Community of Christ approaches what LDS people would call the work for the dead. I would request, however, that you please try to speak respectfully of their other beliefs. They honor Joseph Smith as their founding prophet, they believe the Book of Mormon is another witness for Christ, and the Restoration is definitely important to them. While there are certainly differences between the CoC and LDS (and we shouldn’t overlook those differences), we can still strive for charity.

  38. Confutus says:

    I have so many pioneer ancestors with many descendants who have done genealogical work, that most of my ancestry has been identified for many generations back, except on a few lines. To fill in the those gaps will require some serious detective work: If it were easy, surely someone would have already done it as they have for all the other ancestral lines.
    However, in the process, numerous small errors have crept into the records. A misspelling here, an incomplete or non-standard place there, and an incorrect day, or month, or year somewhere else. The cumulative effect is that the files have become so clogged with small errors that it’s impossible to combine records which clearly refer to the same person, which makes it difficult to go further back.
    By the time these have been submitted to the temple, (several times!) they are effectively carved in stone, so it’s hard to make corrections, and I’m waiting for the technology to improve so that the records can be made more accurate.
    The misidentification of people is something of a more serious problem. When our Regional Family History Consultant, was asked about that wone, his advice was “Know Your Family!” And I don’t. I look over a pedigree chart and associated family group sheets, and I have no idea who most of these people are. It’s just as bad when I look the other way: One of my great-great-grandparents alone has close to ten thousand living descendants.
    Even if the temple ordinances had all been done on behalf of my ancestors for many generations back (and, has been pointed out, I can’t assume that they have) I still cannot imagine that “turning the hearts of the children to their fathers” means that I can promptly forget about them.
    While I wait for technical improvements, I’ve begun working on getting to know my family by filling in the gaps. I do things like trying to reconstructing family histories using the raw genealogical information as a skeleton: A lot of times that raises more questions than answers. Why did my great-grandfather move his young family down to Mexico about 1901? and why did he come back about ten years later?
    I have a life story of my grandfather written by my grandmother. I never would have guessed, from seeing the genealogy, that cousin Velma, or Aunt Silva, or Uncle George and Aunt Hattie would have been especially significant in his life (and exactly who were they, anyway?)
    So, from either a genealogical or a historical perspective, there is reason to learn about extended family even if we are not directly responsible for seeing that their temple work is done. I suspect that in our 21st century physically comfortable but dispersed and isolated lives, our salvation may depend more on reconnecting not only with our ancestors, but our extended living family and kin than we might be disposed to think.

  39. Natalie says:

    #19 – The consultants and gen. library staff in our ward are supposed to be telling everyone about the policy of not doing work for people who are not your ancestors. There is no way of enforcing this in practice, but people who use the system in our ward are aware that the policy exists. However, it seems that an online site could in theory make it easier to enforce this policy if somehow the technology could also make it hard to submit names for anyone not on your family tree.

  40. I’ve just got a couple comments –
    1. nFS shouldn’t be trusted to take the place of sound genealogical research (I’ve seen how people ‘research’ to find names to submit — yikes).
    2. Unless, like Brigham Young admonished, you’ve got your connections back to Adam (or at least Noah), you’re not truly done. George B. Durrant who was for many years the director of Priesthood Genealogy for the church. said, “I have heard some members say, “But our family names are all done.” It is all right to say such a thing as long as you realize you are only kidding. Of this, Elder W. Grant Bangerter has said: “Your genealogy has not all been done. My own grandparents performed ‘all’ the temple work for their deceased relatives fifty-five years ago. Since that time our family has discovered sixteen thousand others.”

  41. I do not speak for the CoC (or old RLDS). If I mis-spoke on what they practice, I apologize. But my statements were followed by (?). Hopefully, one of their members will set us all straight. I read (somewhere), they baptized an Apostle on behalf of all who had lived and died without baptism. That once a year, they baptize an Apostle on behalf of all those who have died that year without a baptism.(???)
    On the new data system of the Church, the problem I have found is when I check on someone I have known in my life, to have had done all their work for themselves, it does not show it as being done.

  42. Elder W. Grant Bangerter has said: “Your genealogy has not all been done. My own grandparents performed ‘all’ the temple work for their deceased relatives fifty-five years ago. Since that time our family has discovered sixteen thousand others.”


  43. lamonte says:

    “…if we run out of names, how would that change what we do in the temple?” Last night my wife and I served in our regular assignment as ordinance workers. For one of the three hours of our shift we did sealings. There were 6 ordinance workers in the sealing room, two other patrons who came to the temple to do seaqlings and the sealer. Between the 9 of us we performed 12 sealings of couples and sealed 15 children to their parents. Not a bad hour’s work. But when I consider the billions who have live on earth at one time or another, and consider that even with 135 temples, plus or minus, there is only so much work that can be done, and consider that each person needs to be baptized, confirmed, receive initiatory work and an endowment, and be sealed to spouse, parents, and children, it seems we don’t have to worry about running out of names.

  44. John Mansfield says:

    Many are pointing out that if we include the cousins of our ancestors in our personal temple work that that’s a lot of people, but they are side-stepping the issue that the cousins of our ancestors also have a lot of living people connected to them.

    The world population in 1750 was 791 million people, and in 1850 it was 1.26 billion. (Wikipedia link.) The majority of those people lived in Asia; 502 million in 1750 and 809 in 1850, so the rest of the world amounted to only 189 million people in 1750 and 452 million people in 1850. I would guess that of the Church’s current 13 million members, over 10 million of them have no Asian ancestors as recent as 1750, or even cousins of ancestors. A Latter-day Saint who participates in the endowment ten times a year over a fifty year period will have served as proxy for 500 people, the majority of whom were non-Asians live in either 1750 or 1850. There are many saints who participate in the endowment much more frequently than 10 times a year.

  45. John Mansfield says:

    I just got off the phone with the recorder of the Washington, D.C. temple. I wanted to learn how many ordinances are performed there each year, but he couldn’t tell me. I mentioned that when I attended the Provo temple there was a tally near the entrance of the month’s work, and the recorder said that there is a concern about temple work not becoming a competitive numbers game, such as baptizers trying to set a personal best for most done in an hour. No data, alas, but a pleasant conversation.

  46. John Mansfield says:

    It looks like 1986 was the last time the number of temple ordinances was reported in General Conference.

    Names cleared in 1985 for temple endowments 10,552,130

    Number of endowments performed during 1985:
    For the living 54,554
    For the dead 4,857,052
    Temples in operation 37

    Membership at the close of 1985 was 5,920,000.

  47. John Mansfield says:

    At five million endowments per year, it would take 90 years to take care of all the non-Asians alive in 1850, and another 38 years to get all those alive in 1750. Adding the Asians, brings the total up to 412 years. My guess is that we are doing around 10 million endowments each year now, and we’ve been at it over a century already.

    Bottom line: 1) It won’t be many decades before pretty much all possible ordinance work has been completed for the dead related to non-Asian Church members. 2) It won’t take anything close to a millenium of constant temple work, night and day throughout the globe, to get all possible ordinances performed.

  48. Steve G. says:

    I can imagine a day when we will all have to take a crash course on chinese and hindi pronunciation before entering the temple.

  49. <em.My guess is that we are doing around 10 million endowments each year now

    How many people die each year who haven’t had their ordinances in life? We’re losing ground, not running out of candidates.

  50. Easy: When all the work is done, Christ comes again. :D

  51. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    Mark Brown #37
    I apologize if the ‘tone’ of what I said came off as less than respectful. It was meant to be a simple statement of the situation as it is now. Perhaps my comments were subconsiciously colored by the views I have heard from some of the dissenting remnant of the RLDS who view the CoC as doing what I have stated. With regard to ‘honoring’ Joseph Smith as their founder, that is all well and good. But that is a far cry from being the Prophet through whom the Church of Jesus Christ was restored in these last days. THe Methodists honor John Wesley as their founder, the Presbyterians do the same for John Calvin, and the non-SBC Baptists do the same for Roger Williams, but none of these denominations have ever claimed that these great Protestant theologians were prophets and restored the true Church of Christ. The Community of Christ has taken a significant step toward integrating themselves into the Protestant fold, which certainly is their sovereign right, but as they get closer to that goal the more Mormon remnants of their heritage will need to be jettisoned. The dimunition of Joseph Smith’s role is part of that process. Ironically, those who chose to withdraw from the CoC over this and other issues find themselves somewhat closer to the Utah Church (or Brighamites, as they once called us) on this issue. I have absolutely no antipathy for either of these groups, but view them as our distant cousins. Nonetheless, it serves no purpose to soft pedal these differences when they are both significant and germane.

  52. Natalie B. says:

    #49 – But the thing is, we can’t do temple work for the vast majority of people who are dying now, because they have closer living relatives and are off limits. The pool of people who we are allowed to do work for is much smaller. So, in the short-term, I can easily envision us finishing the work faster than we once supposed.

    That said, even in the long-term when we can do work for everyone, I tend to agree that it is more likely to take decades after the second coming. There just aren’t that many people who lived in the past in any given generation compared to the numbers of people who live today. And, presumably, we’d be highly motivated to do the work.

  53. John Mansfield says:

    Ardis, the people who die this year are for the most part not related to current members of the Church. In the day that the Church expands such that most who die are connected to a current Church member, well, there will be a lot more saints then than there are now, so the issue of finding unbaptized, unendowed relatives will be even more acute then the numbers above suggest. I can imagine people who haven’t been able to do temple work in a few years turning their attention to monitoring the health of all their unbaptized or unendowed third cousins and cultivating relations with the future widows and widowers, so that they will be the ones with the next of kin’s approval instead of some other cousin.

  54. Natalie, and John — Y’all are missing the point. Whether or not we can immediately do temple work for every non-member who died in 2008 or not, we’re still falling behind. We started falling behind in 1894 when Church members were commissioned to do the work for their own families. We fell further behind in 1895, and even further in 1896, and more and more and more with every year that has passed. We’re not anywhere near breaking even, much less catching up or running out.

    The reality is, we can (and do) do temple work for vast numbers of people who are not the direct line ancestors of living Church members. There are relatively small numbers of improperly submitted names, but most are done within current Church policies, through legitimate extraction programs or because a great many Church members have caught the vision of what we’re trying to do, and don’t rationalize their responsibility into the narrowest possible parameters. The meaning and intention and practice and teaching and endorsement and encouragement of the Church does not limit your name submission to the narrow line of your grandfather, and his father, and his father and his father. Your responsibility and privilege is to work for your entire family. And you (a generic “you,” not pointing solely at Natalie and John) haven’t come close to fulfilling your obligation in that respect, within Church guidelines and without violating any policy.

    No one I know who has ever made more than the most superficial stab at family history research thinks that we’re running out of names. Only rank novices claim that their work is all done, even though they make that claim in all sincerity, even though they’re repeating what they were told by their sainted mothers and aunts. People whose research is only a few hours of browsing on FamilySearch may think the work is done, but FamilySearch, by its very definition, consists of names that have been researched and linked together, NOT the names of people who haven’t yet been sorted into their families.

    The people who have done the most research, the most work in identifying their ancestors in the broadest Joseph Smith-inspired sense of the word, are the ones who most clearly realize that this work has only just started, and that discussing what happens to the temples when we run out of ancestors is like discussing what your distant descendants should pack in their luggage to evacuate the Earth after the sun burns out.

    Sorry for being so blunt, but saying that we’re running out of ancestors, or that your own family’s work is completed, is nonsense. I don’t even have to know the state of your family records to know that you are wrong.

  55. Gotta agree with Ardis #54. It is my experience that if your Aunt or Uncle did work before the internet, YOU have at your fingertips much more information than they had in their lifetime. Don’t rely on others.

  56. You always have the unnumbered masses of humanity who died without having a written record made of their lives or for whom the written record is no longer extant. I know the theory is that their work will be done during the Millennium, but I know of no doctrinal reason why we couldn’t get a head start by doing temple ordinances for “a daughter of Eve known unto the Lord” and “a son of Adam known unto the Lord” so that the “righteous unrecorded” no longer have to wait. As noted above (#33?) the Lord could then assign the ordinances to the (largely non-European) righteous deceased currently in the spirit world. Of course, I recognize that that solution would have to be authorized through the appropriatre channels.

  57. I do not know my Grandfather’s name. He had three! He was married in an Endowment House under his Americanized name, not his Scandinavian name. His father had taken THAT name when he was thrown out of the “Benson” family. My GGF is buried with both his last names.
    My parents have never been sealed. Why? Because they hated each other! They divorced when I was 12, and were happy in their new marriages.

  58. FMaxwell says:

    If the temple work for all your ancestors has been done, and you’ve verified and double-checked all the names & data that are in the system after getting copies of all the vital records, and if the work for all the siblings and children and descendants of your ancestors is also done, and you’ve verified all of that, and you still need something to do — why not volunteer to help some convert in your ward who’s at the beginning of the process?

  59. #58: Most of the “help” I give are to people (cousins) who have been doing genealogy most of thie lives, but want to update from legal size paper to computer software programs. Also, from moving on from just genealogy, to family history.

  60. The New FamilySearch.org website, in my opinion, was designed so we could clean up the records that have grown over the years. In my case, even events supposedly sourced from church archives were incorrect to my personal knowledge, since I was there. The question is a good one, could be run out of ancestors? Not likely, though, as new members from other parts of the world continue joining the church taping into other populations than the typical ones in Western Europe, where many LDS trace their roots. But back to the question, what would you do in the temple if you weren’t there to represent someone else? No, it would not be to offer burnt offerings — sorry madhousewife. But look to the scriptures to see what has occurred in other temples. A lot of it appears to be teaching. In was only in this generation/dispensation that we’ve had a profound amount of work done for the dead, despite the reference to it in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Apparently during the thousand years after the Savior’s return, a lot of work will be required for those whose lives occurred before that cut-off date presently imposed, and for whom not current, searchable records exist.