One of the chief draws for the Saints to gather has been to enjoy access to temples, both for oneself and one’s deceased family and friends. Obviously many Saints lived and died far from Temples. That number only continued to grow once Church leaders began to ask members to build up the Church in their own lands, and not to move any central gathering place.
While Saints could begin to perform temple ordinances for their deceased friends beginning with the 1877 completion of the St. George Temple, and while this work received renewed emphasis after Wilford Woodruff’s 1894 teaching that each member was responsible for his direct ancestors as far as the information was available, there was no systematic plan for extending temple privileges to the ancestors of members who lived far from temples. In 1916 Joseph F. Smith took steps to remedy this problem.
Arrangements are now being made to assist the saints residing in the various missions of the Church, and in other places remote from theTemples, who are thereby unable, personally, to perform Temple ordinances in behalf of their dead kindred, or friends, to obtain the needed services of proxies. It is our desire that faithful members of the church, in the condition stated, shall be helped, to the fullest possible extent, to accomplish this sacred duty that all Latter-day Saints are required, by divine injunction, to fulfil.
The information needed to properly identify the dead, for whom Temple ordinances are to be performed, includes the following: names in full (maiden names of women). Date of birth. Place of birth (Town, County and State or Country). Date of death. name of heir, or friend, at whose instance the work is to be done, and his, or her, relationship to each one named. When this information annot be given as complete as desired, that which is lacking may be approximately formulated, by following instructions that will be published in periodicals issued in various missions of the Church.
Members of the Church in missions, and localities a great distance from the Temples, who desire to comply with the gospel requirements for salvation of the dead, should confer with the President of the mission, or district, in which they reside, stating what ordinances they wish to have performed, and they will then be provided with the blanks, and instructions needed.
The proper method of compiling records of names of the dead, for whom Temple work is desired, is provided for in a blank book specially prepared for that purpose, which can be procured, at a moderate price, by application to the mission presidents.
Donations are thankfully received at the Temples, to assist in meeting the heavy expense of their maintenance, but the poor, who can give nothing, are cheerfully accorded all the privileges that the most liberal donors receive.
There is no charge made by the Temple authorities for performance of the ordinances, but, when proxies have to be obtained to act in endowments for the dead, which occupies the time of an entire session in Temple work, it is customary to pay such proxies a small sum, to partly remunerate them for personal expenses; usually a man receives seventy-five cents, and a woman fifty cents, for such services.
Arrangements are already made whereby faithful members of the church who have died in various missions or who may die therein hereafter, without having received temple ordinances in life, will have those ordinances attended to in their behalf. The names and genealogies of all such worthy individuals are now being sent to the St. George Temple, by the mission Presidents.
The editors of our Church publications, in varioius missions, are requested to insert a copy of the foregoing in their respective periodicals, to be followed, when convenient, with instructions concerning Temple work, copies of which can be furnished them by the mission Presidents.
Joseph F. Smith,
Anthon H. Lund,
Charles W. Penrose,
 The designated heir was usually a family’s oldest male convert to the Church, but could also be a woman, and all relationships were calculated from this heir. It was intended that a family’s heir never change; I don’t know how the system handled the obviously frequent intermarriage of families with different heirs, or how long this system was in place (paging J. Stapley!). For modern saints, the only practical consideration is to know the bare facts in this note so that you understand how some of your distant cousins may have been baptized “at the instance of Brigham Young” decades after Brigham Young’s death.
 Printed with the title “Temple Record” or “Record of Temple Work” or variants, these books were always maintained by the family, not the temple. I make that point because a few clients have told me in sometimes embarrassed or even slightly fearful confessional tones that they found such a book in a grandparent’s papers and were worried that they had the official temple record, and wondering whether the recorded ordinances were valid because they were no longer in the temple’s files. No worries. That’s a family heirloom, not a purloined relic.
 Although such records no longer go to a single temple, this procedure is still in place. Any member of the Church who dies without having received all of his own temple ordinances in life will have the work done by proxy. There is always a lag of at least two years between death and ordinances, though, to allow time for family members who may want to do the work themselves. If a death is not reported to the Church, the member is presumed dead at age 110 and the work is done then.