Joseph Byram Jr., a prosperous farmer, was the father of seven sons in Knox County, Ill., in 1849. A descendant of the Mayflower pilgrims, he had enlisted in the New Jersey Militia in 1814 and was a sergeant with a company called the "Morris Rangers.
By 1849, he had long since left the military and become a prominent member of the community. He and his wife, Abigail, were stalwart members of a local congregation. Their seven sons followed trades popular at the time: blacksmiths, carriage makers, farmers and builders.During this year, the 58-year-old father wrote a tender letter to his son Elias that included the following passage:
"At this time of year our thoughts often return to scenes of former years when our children met at home with their little ones to partake of at least one meal together, but now they are separated and will not meet with us; but I trust we may look forward to the time when we may meet, not at an earthly parent's table, but at our Heavenly Father's, there to feast, not our bodies, but our souls with His smiles and love throughout eternity."
One hundred forty-two years later, a copy of the letter was given to Elias Byram's great-granddaughter, Iris M. Beattie of the Brighton 1st Ward, Salt Lake Brighton Stake, who was in the process of performing temple work for the Byram family.
"To me it was a direct message that his family had been waiting for many years to be sealed eternally," she said.
"I took the letter to the temple on the evening we went to do the sealing ordinances, and the officiator was kind enough to read that special paragraph to our group before we began.
"There was no doubt in my mind that a great, although unseen, family celebration was going on in the temple that night, and we helped make it possible."
She related that on another night when her family was performing vicarious ordinances for the Byram family, she felt a deep sense of accomplishment.
"When the last sealing had been performed and we were basking in the sweet spirit of the occasion, the officiator commented that he felt that the people for whom we were doing the sealings appreciated what we had done for them.
"In my heart, I hoped I would also be able to join them in that great spritiual feast with our Eternal Father," she said.