There are folks out there who are wiser than you, more cultured, experienced, endowed with greater perspective and, believe it or not, have a vested interest in the success of your life. The only problem is...they're dead. That shouldn't make a difference, though, should it? Aren't sisters of the Relief Society promised by the dispensation head, himself, that "if you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates"? (That's Joseph Smith, by the way).
I can't help taking the parable of the mustard seed shared by Jesus, pertaining to the kingdom of heaven, and applying it to us mortals. I picture each one of us like that tiny seed that gets planted and grows so big and tall that birds of the air come and lodge in the branches to enjoy some pleasant shade (Matt. 13:31-32). Joseph Smith explained that the "birds of the air" refer to angels. Do the angels (which include the goodly spirits who have passed from mortality) find you a refreshing person to be near?
What would the righteous spirits of centuries past think of your life: how you spend your time, what you work for, and whether or not you understand the things that you do? What do you think they could teach you?
This, I think, is my favorite teaching regarding family history and temple work and I WONDER why we don't talk about it more! Allow me to share some of the incredible things that I have experienced because of diving into the work for my ancestors: Several years ago, as a young mom, I was busily engaged simultaneously in both family history and getting up a garden for the first time. I was thick into my Swiss people and spent many hours getting as acquainted with them as I could through the records available. In the relative quiet of my garden, that spring, I felt I was being given some really good gardening advice, unmistakably from an unseen source. I created the layout and structure (that exists to this day) of a vegetable garden that I could be satisfied with aesthetically and practically. One day out of curiosity, I went online to look up images of Swiss vegetable gardens and found some that eerily resembled the one I had just created. Was I surprised? Not really. It was a reinforcement of something I'd already recognized as regular companionship with my kin beyond the veil.
A couple of years later I was immersed in some work for my French people that translated (pun intended) into other areas of my life, but especially the culinary area. Suddenly, French ideas and French cuisine interested me and, occasionally, I would find myself whistling little French tunes. By that time, I knew exactly what was up -- it was the influence of my new, unseen, French companions.
I honestly believe that dead people have taught me to garden, have improved my cooking, helped me rethink my ideas about medicine, helped me to find answers to questions, have aided in the smoother flow of my life and have been some of the best, dearest companions. What I have observed is that those kinds of experiences are amplified intensely when I am active in family history and temple work on their behalf. Think of all the "forgotten skills" they could help us to master. Another point to ponder is how our ancestors, themselves, knew how to do certain things without the aid of laboratory research, like use willow bark for pain relief - don't you think they had their own wise whispering companions?
Perhaps there is more meaning to the words "we without our dead cannot be made perfect" (D&C 128:15) than simply to imply that the human family must be made into a linked-up chain in order to be accepted. Maybe we need our dead long before the final end-of-Millennium-deadline. Maybe we need them right now.
What say ye?