In July I had the opportunity to teach the sisters in my ward Relief Society about family history at our monthly activity night. The theme was "Night at the Movies" and I was assigned the movie "Back to the Future". I have been thinking about that night for the past week as the world just celebrated Back to the Future Day. The date of October 21, 2015 when the movie character Marty McFly went into the future 30 years ago.
I asked the sisters this question and shared with them the highlighted quotes in this post:
If time travel was possible, and you were given a chance to either go backward to see your ancestors or forward to see your descendants, what would you choose and why?
Many chose that they would go back to see their ancestors. A few indicated they would only go back if they could take running water and electricity with them. Some wanted to go forward to make sure everything turned out okay for their descendants.
Well, I believe we can do both!
"We don't have to wait for the ability to time-travel if we do family history now." – Sarah Poe
I love that quote from my sister! We don't have to wait for time travel technologies. We have the ability to go back in time right now to learn about our ancestors. We can search them out from among all the documents and histories in the world. We can find pieces of their lives that we can put together to show the full picture of lives richly lived. We can discover photos and stories and documents that can help us better understand our ancestors and ourselves. We can do all of this right now with the technology we currently have available to us.
I believe we can even ask our deceased ancestors to help us find information about their lives and they can do it! We may receive impressions through the spirit or through dreams. We may have experiences that we cannot explain or are too spiritual to even attempt to describe to another. Though we know they are real! Just as we have a great need to know about our ancestors, they have a great need for us to know them and to serve them by performing sacred temple ordinances in their behalf. We cannot do this work without each other.
President Brigham Young declared: When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world…Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes they do…. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No, they do not…. Can you see it with your natural eyes? No. Can you see spirits in this room? No. Suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies [Widtsoe, pp. 376-77]. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Spirit_World
“According to Latter-day Saint doctrine, the spirit world is the place of residence for all those who have died and are awaiting the resurrection and the inseparable connection of their spirits and bodies. Thus, it is not the place where God the Father, the resurrected Lord, and other resurrected beings dwell. Rather, it is an intermediate condition or state where people await the resurrection—a sphere where disembodied spirits live in one of several conditions according to what their mortal lives have merited.” – Dale C. Mouritsen
“Here those who did not have an opportunity in mortality to receive the gospel and those who had a partial opportunity but rejected it will be taught. In 1893, President Lorenzo Snow, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve, declared in general conference his strong belief “that when the Gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success of that preaching will be far greater than that of the preaching of our Elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the Gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable.” (Millennial Star 56:50.)” – Dale C. Mouritsen
“We want to sacrifice enough to do the will of God in preparing to bring up those who have not had the privilege of hearing the Gospel while in the flesh, for the simple reason that, in the spirit world, they cannot officiate in the ordinances of the house of God. They have passed the ordeals, and are beyond the possibility of personally officiating for the remission of their sins and for their exaltation, consequently they are under the necessity of trusting in their friends, their children and their children’s children to officiate for them, that they may be brought up into the celestial kingdom of God (DBY, 406).” – Brigham Young
So, yes we can go back in time by discovering the records of our ancestors. As we more fully understand the doctrine of the spirit world we know that after we leave mortality we have the ability to continue to influence our posterity for good. So, yes we can go forward in a sense as well. We can still influence our descendants and can watch over them.
I love this quote from Brigham Young about how our spirits can move once we are no longer confined to mortality.
“But yonder, how different! They move with ease and like lightning. If we want to visit Jerusalem, or this, that, or the other place—and I presume we will be permitted if we desire—there we are, looking at its streets. If we want to behold Jerusalem as it was in the days of the Savior; or if we want to see the Garden of Eden as it was when created, there we are, and we see it as it existed spiritually, for it was created first spiritually and then temporally, and spiritually it still remains. And when there we may behold the earth as at the dawn of creation, or we may visit any city we please that exists upon its surface. If we wish to understand how they are living here on these western islands, or in China, we are there; in fact, we are like the light of the morning. … God has revealed some little things, with regard to his movements and power, and the operation and motion of the lightning furnish a fine illustration of the ability of the Almighty (DBY, 380).” – Brigham Young
And though this is not family history related, our government forces us to experience time travel twice a year with daylight savings ... remember to set your clocks back (in time) 1 hour this weekend!