July 31, 2007

My Genealogy is All Done....

How many of you have heard that line before? I've heard at least 5 members of the LDS church say that their genealogy is all done. "So-and-So" has done it all. Real genealogists roll their eyes or just smile a fake smile.

There's an article in this month's Ensign titled, It's All Been Done. Loretta Evans lists some questions to think about if this is how you feel.

* Have you made records of your own life?

* Do you have accurate records of your immediate family?

* Do you have copies of your ancestors’ records?

* Have you checked your genealogy for completeness and accuracy?

* Have you found your ancestors in original documents?

* Do you have a family organization?

* Have you considered descendancy research?

* What do you know about your ancestors’ lives?

* Do you have family photographs or documents?

* Do you own family heirlooms?

* Do you have time to serve others in family history?

June 30, 2007

Family & Personal Histories

I found a great list of items to be included in our personal and family histories at the LDS website. They come from one of their lesson manuals, Lesson 19: Family and Personal Histories,” The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part B, 152.

The following items could be included in a Personal History:

1. Name in full

2. Birth: day, month, and year; house, hospital, or other location where born; town, county, and state or country; family circumstances at time of birth

3. Father: complete name; date and place of birth; his father’s name; his mother’s maiden name

4. Mother: maiden name; date and place of birth; her father’s name; her mother’s maiden name

5. Brothers and sisters: names; dates and places of birth; names of spouses and children; other information

6. Blessing: when named and blessed—day, month, and year; where blessed—ward or branch, stake or district, town, county, and state or country; by whom blessed

7. Baptism: where—ward or branch, stake or district, town, county, and state or country; when—day, month, and year; by whom

8. Confirmation: when—day, month, and year; where—ward or branch, stake or district, town, county, and state or country; by whom

9. Patriarchal blessing: date, place, and name of patriarch

10. Schooling: when and where first schooling took place, schools attended, teachers remembered best, certificates or diplomas received, outstanding experiences

11. Marriage: to whom; day, month, and year; place of ceremony—town, county, and state or country; circumstances of courtship and ceremony

12. Childhood memories: adventures, accidents, thoughts, amusing incidents, friends, and so on

13. Faith-promoting experiences: personal; in other family members’ lives that affected you; circumstances surrounding your conversion to the gospel

14. Health: record, including sickness and accidents

15. Home life: duties in the home, home activities, relationship with brothers and sisters, places lived, family trips and vacations, pets

16. Hobbies and talents: musical, artistic, and creative abilities; lessons and workshops taken; things you like to do

17. Goals and future plans: things to accomplish in vocation, home life, or Church service

18. Other incidents: include Church experiences

19. Include appropriate pictures, if available, to enhance your story

The Family History should include much of the same information as a personal history. Here are a few other ideas:

1. National origin.

2. Places and dates of residence.

3. Occupations.

4. The first family member to be converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and names of missionaries who taught him or her the gospel.

Information to be included in a Personal Journal:

1. Goals, hopes, and aspirations

2. Work experiences

3. Problems and how they were resolved

4. Joys and sorrows with family members

5. Relationships with others

6. Deepest thoughts

7. Faith-promoting experiences

8. Significant family events

9. Triumph over adversity

10. Special learning experiences

11. Personal testimony

12. Counsel for future generations who will read the journal

May 31, 2007

Branching Out on Your Family Tree

There was an excellent article titled, Branching Out on Your Family Tree, in last month's Ensign. It was written by George D. Durrant and gives wonderful insight into family research. I've met many people who only seem to care about their direct ancestors. This article is from a grandparents' perspective on wanting every descendant included. Here is an excerpt:

I remember, as a grandfather, having a picture taken of our family. Like other grandparents, I did not want a single descendant left out. What a task it was to arrange everyone’s schedule so we could all be in the same place at the same time. But it was worth it.

I think that is how most families feel. Grandparents love their children and grandchildren. They want to spend eternity with them. So why wouldn’t our ancestors feel the same way about their posterity? I think they would.

As Latter-day Saints, we have the priesthood power to provide temple ordinances that can seal families together forever. So just as my grandparents didn’t want to leave even one of their children or grandchildren out of the family portrait, they wouldn’t want to leave even one of them out of their eternal family.

Yet as we reach back through time on our pedigree, we sometimes provide the saving ordinances for only one child of each couple on our pedigree chart—the child who is our direct ancestor. We seal that child to his or her parents, but we forget about the rest of the children in that family. We leave our ancestral families like an incomplete family portrait with many empty spaces.

April 30, 2007

Family History Service

Here is a great quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley in the March 1995 Ensign. The article is titled A Century of Family History Service.

There is nothing else to compare with this treasury of family history on the face of the whole earth. I feel the Lord has designed that it should be so. This is his church which carries his name, and one of its purposes is to make available to the millions beyond the veil of death the full blessings that lead to eternal life.

There are millions across the world who are working on family history records. Why? Why are they doing it? I believe it is because they have been touched by the spirit of this work, a thing which we call the spirit of Elijah. It is a turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers. Most of them do not understand any real purpose in this, other than perhaps a strong and motivating curiosity.

There has to be a purpose in this tremendous expenditure of time and money. That purpose, of which we bear solemn witness, is to identify the generations of the dead so that ordinances may be performed in their behalf for their eternal and everlasting blessing and progress.

The real fruit of this identification finds expression only in the House of the Lord, the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And as the work of family history research goes on and grows, there is a concomitant flowering of temples. More temples have been constructed and dedicated in the last dozen years than were constructed and dedicated in all the prior history of the Church. This is the great season of temple building and temple activity. The beautiful temple in Orlando, Florida, was recently dedicated. A wonderful new building on the high bench overlooking Bountiful, Utah, will be dedicated in January. A dozen more are in some stage of development.

I am confident that the Lord will permit us and direct us to go on building these sacred structures as we become worthy of them. Our important test of that worthiness will lie in doing the research that becomes the foundation for the major work to be carried on in them.

The work of the Lord is a work of salvation. For whom? Through the grace of our Eternal Father and without any effort on the part of the beneficiaries, the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God has made it possible for all to rise from the dead. And beyond this, by virtue of that divine sacrifice and through his limitless grace and goodness, opportunities for eternal life may be opened to all through personal or vicarious service.

That which goes on in the House of the Lord, and which must be preceded by research, comes nearer to the spirit of the sacrifice of the Lord than any other activity of which I know. Why? Because it is done by those who give freely of time and substance, without any expectation of thanks or reward, to do for others that which they cannot do for themselves.

March 31, 2007

Family History Work + Temple Work = Full Blessing

President Howard W. Hunter was prophet of the LDS church 1994 - 1995. A month before he died he published an excellent article in the February 1995 Ensign called A Temple-Motivated People. In the article he states that we need to work on our genealogy and then go to the temple and do the work for our ancestors, rather than just doing one or the other. Here is how he says it:

Surely we on this side of the veil have a great work to do. For in light of all the above-noted facts about temple ordinances, we can see that the building of temples has deep significance for ourselves and mankind, and our responsibilities become clear. We must accomplish the priesthood temple ordinance work necessary for our own exaltation; then we must do the necessary work for those who did not have the opportunity to accept the gospel in life. Doing work for others is accomplished in two steps: first, by family history research to ascertain our progenitors; and second, by performing the temple ordinances to give them the same opportunities afforded to the living.

Yet there are many members of the Church who have only limited access to the temples. They do the best they can. They pursue family history research and have the temple ordinance work done by others. Conversely, there are some members who engage in temple work but fail to do family history research on their own family lines. Although they perform a divine service in assisting others, they lose a blessing by not seeking their own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets.

I recall an experience of a few years ago that is analogous to this condition. At the close of a fast and testimony meeting, the bishop remarked, “We have had a spiritual experience today listening to the testimonies borne by each other. This is because we have come fasting according to the law of the Lord. But let us never forget that the law consists of two parts: that we fast by abstaining from food and drink and that we contribute what we have thereby saved to the bishop’s storehouse for the benefit of those who are less fortunate.” Then he added: “I hope no one of us will leave today with only half a blessing.”

I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing.

Furthermore, the dead are anxiously waiting for the Latter-day Saints to search out their names and then go into the temples to officiate in their behalf, that they may be liberated from their prison house in the spirit world. All of us should find joy in this magnificent labor of love.

I love the analogy of fasting and fast offerings. So many people go to the temple every week or every month, which is an excellent thing to do, but from my own experience, the temple experience means a lot more when you go there for one of your ancestors as opposed to someone you don't know. Just as fasting means so much more when you know you are contributing that saved money to help your ward members.

February 28, 2007

President Monson speaks on Genealogy

I found a wonderful article from President Thomas S. Monson in the February 1994 Ensign. It is called The Key of Faith and he talks about Family History Work, which he says is probably one of the most misunderstood programs in the Church. It has a great message about our duties as Latter-Day Saints. Here is an excerpt:

President Hugh B. Brown declared to a group of us when the Priesthood Genealogy Committee was first organized that missionary work is going forward in the spirit world at an accelerated pace, compared to how it is going forward in our earthly existence. Then he quoted the statement of President Joseph F. Smith, indicating that all those who have not had an opportunity in mortality to hear the everlasting gospel are hearing it now:

“This gospel revealed to the Prophet Joseph is already being preached to the spirits in prison, to those who have passed away from this stage of action into the spirit world without the knowledge of the gospel. Joseph Smith is preaching that gospel to them. So is Hyrum Smith. So is Brigham Young, and so are all the faithful apostles that lived in this dispensation under the administration of the Prophet Joseph.”

And as President Smith indicated in 1916:

“Through our efforts in their behalf their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upon them and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here, and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties.”

I like that word, duty. He did not say “rejoice with you in the fulfillment of an assignment, in response to a calling.” He said, “In your performance of these duties.”

The person who is working on his or her family history fits the description of one who is fulfilling his or her duty. I know the effort, I know the expense, I know the difficulties through which one may go to uncover one name. I know our Heavenly Father is aware of these efforts. And those for whom we perform sacred ordinances are aware of our efforts. Oftentimes, in a miraculous way, there shall appear before us a clear pathway through a field of turbulence.

January 31, 2007

LDS Family History Basics

I just found a beautiful talk by President Boyd. K. Packer, acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The article is titled, “Your Family History: Getting Started,” and can be found in the August 2003 Ensign. President Packer shares some stories and experiences with Family History and then gives some basic Family History tips at the end.

Family History Basics

There are several basic component parts to family history and temple work. Over the years, they may be rearranged somewhat in emphasis, or the approach in programming Church participation may change somewhat. But the responsibilities stay about the same.

1. Each of us is to compile his or her own life history.

2. Each of us is to keep a book of remembrance.

3. As individuals and families we are each to seek out our kindred dead, beginning first with the four most recent generations on each line, and then going back as far as we can.

4. We are each to participate in other programs such as name extraction when asked to do so.

5. We are to organize our families and hold meetings and reunions.

6. If we have access to a temple, each of us should go to the temple as often as possible to do ordinance work—first for ourselves, then for our progenitors, then for all the names that have been gathered by means other than our own.

December 31, 2006

Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes

Dennis B. Neuenschwander gave an excellent talk on Family History work in the April 1999 General Conference entitled, “Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes.” In his talk he even quotes something an American President, Woodrow Wilson, said. Here is an excerpt:

Family history and temple work have a great power, which lies in their scriptural and divine promise that the hearts of the fathers will turn to the children and those of the children will turn to their fathers. Woodrow Wilson stated: “A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.” Well might this be said of families also: A family “which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.”

I feel like I need to work on more of the "history" of family history. I know the family names, just not all the historical events and stories. The tag line for Elder Neuenschwander's talk is, "Genealogies, family stories, historical accounts, and traditions … form a bridge between past and future and bind generations together in ways that no other keepsake can." At least I can work on making keepsakes for my children, even if I don't have many from my ancestors. I am planning to start a journal for each of my children this next year and write things about each of them and keep their silly drawings and pictures. I'm really looking forward to doing it and how they'll appreciate it when they're older and have kids of their own.

Here is a link to the talk.

December 1, 2006

Ensign & New Era Family History Articles

As some of you may have noticed, on the last day of each month I post an LDS quote on Family History. For those of you who would like to find more of these, my main resource is this webpage:

Family History - Genealogy Articles: Ensign and New Era

The page is updated fairly often, at least monthly, since the November articles are up. I found it months ago and it continues to be updated.

November 30, 2006

1st Generation LDS Members hold the Key

Elder Paul B. Pieper addressed the world in the recent October General Conference for the LDS church. His talk was titled, "The First Generation," and talked about converts to the church and all they can do for their families. Here is what he said about Family History Work:

As the first generation, you are also the key to opening the Lord's blessings to family members who died without hearing the gospel and receiving saving ordinances. Yours is the unique opportunity and privilege to begin this work on their behalf. They are anxious for you to identify them and will help you in your search for their records. Once they are identified, your worthy life will permit you to attend the temple and perform essential ordinances for them. These ordinances will bind you to your ancestors and bring great spiritual power into your life.

My in-laws are both 1st generation members and we have all worked together to get their ancestors work done in the temple. It has been wonderful.

October 31, 2006

Youth doing Family History Work

There was a very nice talk given by the Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, Elaine S. Dalton, in the October 2004 General Conference. She directed her comments to the youth of the church and how they can become Saviors to their ancestors by doing family history work and going to the temple. I completely agree because younger generations know how to use computers and the Internet much better than older generations. I am in my 20s and began using the Internet in high school. Children growing up now will not remember a time without the Internet available. They can do family history work easily if they take the time and make the effort.

Here are some excerpts:

How can the promises made to the fathers be planted in the hearts of the children? How can the hearts of the children be turned to their fathers? This can happen only when we understand our identity and roles in this work and remain worthy and prepared to enter the temple and act on behalf of those who have gone before.

Brigham Young said: “We have a work to do just as important in its sphere as the Savior’s work was in its sphere. … We are now called upon to do ours; which is to be the greatest work man ever performed on the earth.”

In the vision of the redemption of the dead given to President Joseph F. Smith, he saw many of the noble and great prophets who had been on the earth prior to the Savior’s coming. He also saw the Prophet Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, his father, and “other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fullness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work.” Who were those other choice spirits? Our generation was somewhere there among those “noble and great” leaders, prepared in the world of spirits to be on the earth at this time! The scriptures tell us that “even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” The labor we were prepared and reserved to perform includes “the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead.”

Brigham Young foresaw the time in which we are now living. He said, “To accomplish this work there will have to be not only one temple but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal.”

....When President Faust talked to the young men in the priesthood session last October, he called on them to lead out and become a part of temple and family history work. He said: “I encourage you … to begin to unlock the knowledge of who you really are by learning more about your forebears. … You can easily access a vast collection of family history records using the Internet on your home computer or at your nearest family history center. … Temple work is essential … because ‘we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.’ ”

The youth have been prepared “for such a time as this.” They are intelligent and bright. They are proficient on computers and the Internet. They are a great untapped resource for good in the world! They have been reserved for these latter days, and they have a great work to do. And not only do they have a great work to do there, but the temple will also be a refuge for them that will protect them from worldly pressures and influences.

As I contemplate President Faust’s words, I can visualize an army of righteous youth prepared and worthy to attend the temple. I can see families sealed together for eternity. I can see youth who understand what it means to be “saviors … on mount Zion.” I can see youth whose hearts are turned to their fathers. And I can envision youth growing up in such a way that they will come forth from the temples filled with strength to resist worldly pressures. I can see a generation of youth who will “stand … in holy places, and be not moved.”

September 30, 2006

Genealogy Video Clip

Dan Lawyer, who works in the Family History Department for the LDS church, recently posted a short video he made about one of his ancestors. I really enjoyed watching it and thought that others might like seeing it to. This could be a good method for Family History Consultants to get their ward members interested in Genealogy.

Here is a link to his video.

August 31, 2006

Family History Quotes

I found a website, Winslow Farr Sr. & Organization, with Family History Quotes from many prophets of the LDS church. Here are a few I enjoyed.

"If the veil were lifted off the face of the Latter-day Saints and they could see and know the things of God as they do who are laboring for the salvation of the human family who are in the spirit world..., this whole people, with very few, if any, exceptions, would lose all interest in the riches of the world, and instead thereof their whole desires and labors would be directed to redeem their dead."

Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 152

"Every father and mother has a great responsibility resting upon them to redeem their dead. Do not neglect it. You will have sorrow if you do. Any man will who neglects the redemption of his dead that he has power to officiate for here. When you get to the other side of the veil, if you have entered into these temples and redeemed your progenitors by the ordinances of the House of God, you will hold the keys of their redemption from eternity to eternity. Do not neglect this!"

-- Wilford Woodruff CR, p. 90, April 10, 1898

"The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The Apostle Paul says, "They without us cannot be made perfect,' for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fullness of the dispensation of times -- a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man."

-- Joseph Smith

"I want to see the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build. There will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord. This temple will be known as the first temple built in the mountains by the Latter-day Saints. And when the Millennium is over, and all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, down to the last of their posterity, who come within the reach of the clemency of the gospel, have been redeemed in hundreds of temples through the administration of their children as proxies for them, I want that temple still to stand as a proud monument of the faith, perseverance and industry of the Saints of God in the mountains in the nineteenth century."

--Brigham Young, October 6, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:254

I find this last quote interesting, since the Sacramento Temple is the 124th temple to be built. I went through the open house last weekend and it is beautiful. It will be dedicated this Sunday and open for temple ordinances after Labor Day.

July 31, 2006

Getting Those Temple Cards Done

After I've worked on my genealogy for a few months, I usually run my PAF file through TempleReady and generate some cards for the temple. Sometimes I get 15 cards, sometimes I get over a hundred. When I get 15 cards, I know it won't be a problem to get them done relatively quickly since I have other family members to help me. But when I start generating 100+ names, I know it will be much more difficult. Sometimes I send a big file to the temple to do, but a better idea was published in the July 2006 Ensign.

A ward in Cincinnati, Ohio has found a new way to get those temple cards done. They have decided to share their efforts with the whole ward. The Family History Coordinator has everyone give their cards to him/her. The ward members are then supposed to contact the Coordinator before they go to the temple and get a card from the ward pile. This sounds like a pretty good idea and the ward seems to have united together in this effort. Here is an overview of their plan.


To read the full article by Rebecca M. Taylor, Finding Ancestors, Uniting a Ward, click here.

June 30, 2006

"Net Results" Inspiring Story

I recently found this story shared by Kathy Crawford in the Ensign, February 2004.

I never knew my father nor had I ever seen a picture of him. All I knew about him was the information on my birth certificate: his name, Wharton Kinsey Gray Jr.; where he was born; his age; and his occupation—salesman. When I was in college, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing me that he had died. After that, I felt that the chances of ever finding out anything about him or his ancestors had died with him.

In December 1998 I was baptized and became the only Latter-day Saint in my family. I knew family history was something I was supposed to do, but I didn’t know how to proceed. It was several years before I finally learned the names of my paternal grandparents and more about my father—that he had been hospitalized with schizophrenia shortly after I was born.

Armed with this information, I went to the Family History Center to see what I could discover. I was able to find my grandfather in the 1920 census in Boulder, Colorado, and the record of my father’s death in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), but that was it. Over the next two years, I found much of my mother’s family history but nothing on my father’s ancestors.

Then I decided to use the Internet to look for references to my father’s family, since both he and his father had an unusual name. To my surprise, I found a Web site that had my paternal grandmother’s lineage traced back to Connecticut in the 1680s. I was thrilled, but I still had nothing on my paternal grandfather’s line.

Then one evening, one of my searches turned up a reference to a cousin whom I hadn’t heard from in 30 years. I e-mailed him. In his response, he mentioned that someone was looking for me and included the link to that Web site. When I went to it, I discovered a message that said, in part: “In search of Joyce Loutzenheiser, married Wharton Kinsey Gray. … In search of her daughter, Katherine Kinsey Gray.” I immediately sent an e-mail to the woman who had made the posting—Ruth. The next day she replied. She turned out to be my father’s first cousin. I telephoned her that afternoon and, for the first time in my life, actually spoke to someone in my father’s family.

Ruth began by telling me that she and her sister had been looking for me for 10 years. They had cleared out my grandmother’s home when she died 12 years earlier and had photographs, letters, documents, and other items that had belonged to my father and my grandmother. While Ruth had never met my father, she had known my grandmother quite well and had met my grandfather. She put me in touch with the widow of my father’s brother, who also provided information about the family.

There is no question in my mind that this happened on the Lord’s timetable. Now after my first tentative steps into the realm of family history, I have photographs of my father and his parents and grandparents. I know that my son bears a striking resemblance to his grandfather. I have learned that my father was a gifted artist, and I even have slides of his paintings. I will soon have letters that he sent to his mother and the one remaining oil painting that he did. I feel as if half of myself has been restored to me. Best of all, however, I am making a connection with family members I never knew I had.

I know that I have been given an incredible gift and that, as in the parable of the talents, it is up to me to take this gift and make it grow (see Matt. 25:14–30). There is no doubt in my mind that my father, grandparents, and many others are waiting for me to do their temple ordinance work for them. Although I never knew my father, I have been blessed to give him a priceless gift. These experiences have increased my testimony of the importance of family history and temple work and have demonstrated how great God’s love is for each of us.

And now I share a list of my great-granparents, as well as my husband's great-grandparents, in hopes of a relative finding us. I posted this once before and someone found us. :)

Leander Emil Lund (Oct 20, 1892 to Jun 14, 1925)
Ruby Lavern Fredrickson (Sep 15, 1896 to Jun 10, 1925)
Frank Ephraim Chapman (Apr 23, 1892 to Nov 21, 1918)
Birdie Sophia Blomquist (Oct 28, 1888 to Oct 9, 1954)
Lewis Mayham Sherrill (May 3, 1881 to Apr 27, 1952)
Lillian Rose Sherlock (Jan 28, 1883 to Dec 16, 1979)
Edd Reed (Aug 15, 1894 to Jun 12, 1966)
Inez Mullins (Aug 27, 1895 to Nov 15, 1919)

George Alexander Hersam (Oct 16, 1878 to Dec 9, 1960)
Mabel Worthen Horne (Dec 16, 1880 to Sep 17, 1917)
Arthur Swan Clark (Aug 9, 1880 to Mar 18, 1952)
Edith Chandler Abbott (Nov 23, 1879 to Jan 25, 1978)
Charles Bickel (Sep 12, 1870 to Feb 8, 1943)
Anna Louisa Murphy (Feb 7, 1879 to Apr 8, 1954)
Eliot Howe French (Oct 7, 1859 to Mar 17, 1929)
Elizabeth McCausland/MacAusland (Dec 15, 1871 to Mar 20, 1957)

May 31, 2006

The Spirit of Elijah

As the BYU Genealogy and Family History Conference approaches for this summer, I thought I would post a link to one of the addresses given last summer in July 2005 by Elder Ronald T. Halverson. The talk is titled, "An Offering, Worthy of All Acceptation" D&C 128:24.

Elder Halverson explains a very significant event that the LDS church believes in regarding family history work and genealogy. Many members of other faiths do not know that the Spirit of Elijah is working with them to find their ancestors.

Elder Halverson says:

One of the most important events of this dispensation was the coming of Elijah to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple on the third of April, 1836. He brought the keys of His ministry, but many people have misunderstood what those keys were. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained it this way, “It is held by some that Elijah came with these keys because he held some particular position standing between the living and the dead due to the fact that he was translated. But when Elijah came to Joseph Smith it was with a resurrected body, for he was with Christ in His resurrection. It was not like Elijah held particular keys which applied to the dead that he was sent, but because, as explained by Joseph Smith the prophet, the ordinances of the gospel would not be valid unless there was on earth the sealing power which Elijah held to bind these ordinances in the heavens.” (The Way of Perfection, pg. 161)

Joseph Fielding Smith further said, “There is nothing in my judgment that has been revealed that is more apparent of its fulfillment than the coming of Elijah, for his spirit has gone forth into the world. It is not confined to the members of the Church, and I am sorry to say, it does not rest upon the members as fully as it ought to, but it is gone forth into the world so that there are thousands of those who do not belong to the Church, whose hearts have been turned to their fathers and who are seeking out the records of their dead and preparing them so that we, their children, that is, the children of the dead, may go into the temples of the Lord and perform the labors that will give unto those who had no opportunity when they were living, to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, to give them that liberty and privilege, that they, too, might be numbered in the house of Israel and receive the blessings of eternal life.” (Improvement Era, June 1960, pg. 402)

...To my knowledge prior to the coming of Elijah in 1836 there were no endeavors or any support to search the records of the dead, but what has happened since is miraculous. Laws have been passed in countries compelling the preservation of the records of the dead. In Norway where records were scattered and difficult to find, they have constructed a records vault near the city of Morirana similar to the Church’s vault. They are very proud of it. You can now find family history libraries or locations to find your records in almost every major city or county.

April 30, 2006

Thanks for Finding Me

I'm going to use the January 2006 Ensign again for this month's LDS article. There was a neat story in this issue by a lady named Nancy M. Hopkins. The article is titled, "Thanks for Finding Me."

Thanks for Finding Me By Nancy M. Hopkins

I remembered my cousin Edward (name has been changed). His father had died in World War II when Edward was only two years old. Eventually his mother remarried, and her new husband adopted my young cousin. Edward’s surname was changed, and because his stepfather was in the military, the family moved from base to base until we all lost track of Edward.

Fifty-nine years later I was strongly impressed to try to find my cousin. I contacted several other cousins, but no one knew where to find Edward. Searching the phone book of our Ohio hometown, I found one surname similar to Edward’s. I sent a letter and received a response from this man saying he had an e-mail that included the name of a corporation in the East where Edward may have worked.

I went to the Internet and searched for the company’s Web site. Sure enough, there were Edward’s name and e-mail address! I was filled with excitement as I sent him an e-mail asking if he was my lost cousin. Finally a reply came: “Yes, I’m your cousin. I’ll call you later today.” As I read that short message, tears filled my eyes, and joy flowed from the bottom of my soul. After 59 years I had reached out and found my cousin. Maybe I could renew a family relationship that had been lost.

When Edward called, he told me he had really only known one father—his stepfather. His mother had spoken very little about his biological father, and the only remembrance he had of his father was his Purple Heart.

I gave Edward some information about his ancestry and told him that he was named, in part, for his paternal grandfather. He vaguely remembered his grandmother, his aunts, cousins, and me.

I sent Edward his family history. Some stories and photographs were familiar to him, but others were new—flatboat captains who plied the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, early settlers in the Western Reserve of Ohio, Indian scouts, and a great-grandfather who emigrated from Ireland with his large family.

Last year I received a Christmas card from Edward, and following his signature he wrote, “Again, many thanks for finding me.” As I read that sentiment, I wondered how many of my deceased ancestors have felt the same way when I have taken their names to the temple and performed their ordinance work. When we “find” our ancestors and learn about their lives and their stories, it is as if we come to know them in a very real way. Giving them the opportunity to accept the ordinances of the gospel creates an eternal bond between us. I don’t believe I’ll ever perform another vicarious temple ordinance without thinking of Edward’s words: “Thanks for finding me.”

March 31, 2006

Wilford Woodruff: Temple and Family History Work

As most of the LDS readers know, this year we are studying the teachings of Wilford Woodruff, the 4th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In the January 2006 Ensign there was an article titled, Wilford Woodruff: Contending for the Faith. The article shares many inspiring quotes from this former prophet and I thought I would share his words on family history work.

Temple and Family History Work
. “What is gold and silver; what are the riches of this world? They all perish with the using. We pass away and leave them. But if we have eternal life, if we keep the faith and overcome, we shall rejoice when we go upon the other side of the veil. I rejoice in all these things. There is hardly any principle the Lord has revealed that I have rejoiced more in than in the redemption of our dead; that we will have our fathers, our mothers, our wives and our children with us in the family organization, in the morning of the first resurrection and in the Celestial Kingdom. These are grand principles. They are worth every sacrifice.”

“We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it.”

“No right feeling Latter-day Saint can think upon this subject without being thrilled with heavenly joy.”

February 28, 2006

Finding names with the Lord's help

For this month's LDS entry I'm linking to 3 amazing stories shared in the August 2005 Ensign. The article is called I Found It!
Whether we search for information about our family members in a cemetery, on an Internet site, or among faded old papers, the Lord will help us.

Three different people share their experiences of being prompted by the Lord in finding names or dates they were looking for. Then a quote is shared from Elder Melvin J. Ballard (1873–1939) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He testified "that the spirit and influence of your dead will guide those who are interested in finding those records. If there is anywhere on the earth anything concerning them, you will find it. … But you must begin to work.”

January 31, 2006

The Roots of Family History

In March of 2000 Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave a talk, The Roots of Family History, at a BYU Family History Fireside. He talks about the many new tools that we have to help with our genealogy research but then switched to what is really at the "roots" of family history work.

Now, having talked by way of introduction about these exciting developments and future possibilities, let me talk about what is really behind "roots mania." I think you know. It is the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of people across the earth, turning their hearts to their forebears. This divine influence leads people, in a spirit of love and without their fully understanding why, to prepare what will be needed to open the door to salvation for their predecessors. The fact that this influence is now being so widely felt simply means that the Lord is hastening His work in its time (see D&C 88:73).

It is vital that we maintain a firm doctrinal foundation in family history. Otherwise, we might focus only on tools and techniques and become simply hobbyists. The spirit and divine purposes that underlie family history must, for us, guide what we do and how we do it. By analogy, in archeology, the tools of the trade, the pick and shovel, trowels and brushes, have been supplemented with the camera (film, digital, and video), computers, infrared technology for looking under the surface, and satellite locating and mapping capabilities. Still, the fundamentals do not change. A dig must proceed with a certain order and care. A record must be kept. Artifacts as they are discovered, must be identified and labeled, their characteristics and location in relation to other things carefully noted. So in family history and temple work, the standard tools of pen and paper, heavy deed books and musty records, have been supplemented with microfilm and computers and the Internet and e-mail. Yet the fundamentals remain. There should be an order to research and a focus on one's own progenitors. A careful record must be kept. Accuracy, insofar as humanly possible to attain, is essential to the integrity of our work. And the doctrines of redemption must be both our motivation and our control.

Elder Christofferson later goes on to quote President Hinckley many times and I suggest reading the rest of his talk.

December 31, 2005

Bridges between Generations

I found a wonderful talk by Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander for this month's LDS addition. He gave it in the April 1999 General Conference and it can be found in the May 1999 Ensign under the title, Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes.

Elder Neuenschwander's focus is on Family History and how it bridges the gaps between generations of our families, builds bridges to activity in the Church, and builds bridges to the temple. Since Christmas time is family time, I will just include his part on bringing together different generations of the family.

First, family history builds bridges between the generations of our families. Bridges between generations are not built by accident. Each member of this Church has the personal responsibility to be an eternal architect of this bridge for his or her own family. At one of our family gatherings this past Christmas, I watched my father, who is 89 years old, and our oldest grandchild, Ashlin, who is four and a half. They enjoyed being together. This was a bittersweet moment of realization for me. Though Ashlin will retain pleasant but fleeting memories of my father, he will have no memory of my mother, who passed away before his birth. Not one of my children has any recollection of my grandparents. If I want my children and grandchildren to know those who still live in my memory, then I must build the bridge between them. I alone am the link to the generations that stand on either side of me. It is my responsibility to knit their hearts together through love and respect, even though they may never have known each other personally. My grandchildren will have no knowledge of their family’s history if I do nothing to preserve it for them. That which I do not in some way record will be lost at my death, and that which I do not pass on to my posterity, they will never have. The work of gathering and sharing eternal family keepsakes is a personal responsibility. It cannot be passed off or given to another.

A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family. Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives. Some years ago, I met the director of a Russian Orthodox monastery. He showed me volumes of his own extensive family research. He told me that one of the values, perhaps even the main value, of genealogy is the establishment of family tradition and the passing of these traditions on to younger generations. “Knowledge of these traditions and family history,” he said, “welds generations together.” Further, he told me: “If one knows he comes from honest ancestors, he is duty and honor bound to be honest. One cannot be dishonest without letting each member of his family down.”

If you are among the first to have embraced the gospel in your family, build bridges to your posterity by recording the events of your life and writing words of encouragement to them. In 1892 sisters of the Kolob Stake in Springville, Utah, wrote letters to their children and sealed them in a time capsule to be opened March 17, 1942, the centennial anniversary of the Relief Society. After recording a brief genealogy of her family reaching back to those who first joined the Church, Mariah Catherine Boyer wrote the following to her two children: “Dear children, when you read this, parents and grandparents will be sleeping in the silent tomb. Those hands that toiled so hard in love for you will toil no more, and those eyes that gazed in love and approbation on your innocent brows will see you no more, until we meet in heaven. Dear children, … may the bands of a sister and a brother’s love entwine your hearts. … Do right by your fellowmen, follow the dictates of your conscience, ask God to give you power to resist all temptations to do evil, and let it be said of you, ‘that the world is better for you having lived in it.’ Keep the commandments of God. May your paths in life be strewn with flowers, and may you at all times do right. May you never taste adversity. May the Spirit and blessings of God attend you at all times is the prayer of your mother. I will enclose the photographs of our family. Goodbye my dear children, until we meet.” These tender and beautiful words have now bridged six generations of a faithful family.

Family history and temple work have a great power, which lies in their scriptural and divine promise that the hearts of the fathers will turn to the children and those of the children will turn to their fathers. Woodrow Wilson stated: “A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.” Well might this be said of families also: A family “which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.”

November 30, 2005

Genealogy and Temple Work: A Team

For this month's LDS entry, I found a rather old article in the August 1983 Ensign by George D. Durant. It is titled, Genealogy and Temple Work: “You Can’t Have One without the Other,” and I believe it contains valuable incite into both genealogy and temple work as a pair.

Here are a few paragraphs from the article:

Genealogy and temple work—you can’t have one without the other. They are two inseparable parts of one supernal decree the Lord has given us to aid in the redemption of the dead. The process of identifying one’s family should be much more than a hobby to a Latter-day Saint. From an eternal perspective, to consider the word genealogy and not its partner temple work—or to think of temple work and disregard its twin, genealogy—makes no more sense than to try to play a game with only half a ball.

Some people feel that temple work, by its very nature, is the more important work, the sacred half—the top half of the ball, we might say. But a rolling ball does not have a top and a bottom. I’ve heard some members say, “I love going to the temple and performing the sacred ordinances. But genealogy just isn’t interesting to me.” Others say, “If I could, I would spend all my time doing genealogy. It is so exciting that I’d stay at the library from the time the doors open until they kick me out at night.” If we all felt one way or the other, we would have either a huge backlog of names at the temple or long lines at the temple waiting for names not there.

Elder Boyd K. Packer made the relationship between the two very clear when he said: “You cannot have regard for temple ordinance work without having great respect for genealogical work as well. Genealogical work is the fundamental service for the temples. The temples could not stay open without success in the genealogical program.” (The Holy Temple, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980, p. 224.)

In October 1975, Elder Packer told a group of Regional Representatives:

“During the last two months … I have visited a number of high priest groups. Mostly I have been listening. I have been trying to determine what high priests quorums are doing about this work—and why not! It has been a most interesting inquiry. …

“I visited a high priest group with 39 members, well educated, well-to-do, and many of them retired. During the last year they have been responsible for 1,122 endowments at the temple. During the same period they have submitted, from their own genealogical research from their own family records, two names—one of which had not yet cleared. This, I find, is about typical.

“Genealogical work in the Church, for the most part, is left to those few members who have taken a keen interest in it, who have found great excitement in it, and who devote themselves totally to it.” (Ibid.)

October 31, 2005

Turning the hearts of the Children to their Fathers

I found a great article written by a professional genealogist for this month's LDS post. The article is titled, Turning the Heart of This Child to The Fathers - A Personal Witness, written by James W. Petty for a column in the Meridian Magazine. Petty has 30 years experience as a professional genealogist, and a genealogy degree from Brigham Young University. In addition to his column on Meridian he writes a genealogy column for People Finders, and World Search.

In his article Petty shares many neat experiences he's had while doing genealogy research. Here is just an excerpt from the end of his article, written exactly 4 years ago today.

For me, genealogy research has been a source of constant testimony and revelation. That does not mean I am better than others, or that I do not experience tremendous trials. What I know is that genealogy research, and communicating with the spirit world go hand-in-hand. If anyone wants to find out what it means to experience a spiritual lift and connection, genealogy and temple work are the way to do it. The promised blessings of genealogy research and temple work come from the sincere effort of reaching out to others who have passed on, combined with careful study, thoughtful pondering, and constant prayer. Of that I bear my personal witness. My experience with genealogy has given me insight in the gospel of our Savior, and strengthened my belief in Him. I believe it will do the same for anyone who will open their heart and mind to this great work.

September 30, 2005

Where Generations Meet

As some people may have figured out, I use the last day of each month to post some LDS quotes or a talk about Family History. For today I found a devotional given by Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, of the Seventy, last year at the Family History Conference at BYU. The theme of the conference was, "Where Generations Meet," and in the talk he explores seven different places where generations may meet, past and present. They are:

1. The Council in Heaven
2. Family Experiences
3. Family Records and Research
4. The Computer Screen
5. The Temples
6. Those Special Meetings from across or beyond the Veil
7. The Second Coming of Christ

Here is a link to the whole article.

August 31, 2005

Why does the Mormon church focus on genealogy work?

Here are some excerpts from a great talk given by Kevin Owen at the BYU-Idaho Family History Conference on November 8, 2003. Owen is a member of the LDS church and helps at a local Family History Center. In his talk he answers some questions he receives from people not of his faith, “Why does your church do this?” “Why so much interest in discovering who your ancestors are – and all at no charge?”

Excerpts follow:

"President Joseph F. Smith taught this significant doctrine:

'Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time. . . . That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission. The dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them.' - Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 442"

"Story: Experience of Elder Wilford Woodruff in the Saint George Temple

'The spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we … remained true to it and were faithful to God.’ These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence [of the United States of America], and they waited on me for two days and two nights. … I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others' (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [1946], 160-61).

We learn from this event that many of our ancestors anxiously await to be discovered, documented and have their temple ordinances completed. Sometimes we wonder whether they really want to be found – but be assured that they do."

"Boyd K. Packer said the following in 1977: 'Why not select sites by the hundreds and commence to build those temples now? I answer by asking some questions. Should we commence to build those temples, what good would it do? How would we keep them open? What names would we use? What work would we do?' He goes on to say that we as a church need to do more in the are of temple work if this prophecy is to be fulfilled. Each of us has a responsibility to see that each of our ancestors that we can possibly identify has the opportunity to receive temple blessings."

"In a recent conference address Elder Russell M. Nelson said:

'This restoration was accompanied by what is sometimes called the Spirit of Elijah—a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family. Hence, people throughout the world, regardless of religious affiliation, are gathering records of deceased relatives at an ever-increasing rate.' – April 1998 Conference"

To view the whole article click here.

July 31, 2005

Promises for Temple & Family History Work

This morning there was a lesson on Genealogy at church. The teacher handed out a great list of quotes from general authorities about the blessings and promises for going to the temple and doing our genealogy research. I thought I would share them here.

Blessings of Temple Attendance

"You shall receive increased personal revelation to bless your life as you bless those who have died." President Ezra Taft Benson, Apr 1987 General Conference

"1. You will be blessed beyond measure. 2. Your families will draw closer to the Lord. 3. Unseen angels will watch over your loved ones when Satanic forces tempt them. 4. The veil will be thin and great spiritual experiences will distill upon this people." Vaughan J. Featherstone, June 1985 Mt. Vernon, Washington Stake Conference

"1. Pure intelligence will be poured into our mind, a pouring in of intelligence and learning. 2. Cleansing and clarifying. 3. 'See' things we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known." Elder Boyd K. Packer's book: The Holy Temple

"...we will be a better people, we will be better fathers and husbands, we will be better wives and mothers. I make you a promise that if you will go to the house of the Lord, you will be blessed, life will be better for you." President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign July 1997

"When you attend the temple and perform the ordinances that pertain to the house of the Lord, certain blessings will come to you: You will receive the spirit of Elijah, which will turn your hearts to your spouse, to your children, and to your forebears. You will love your family with a deeper love than you have loved before. You will be endowed with power from on high as the Lord has promised." President Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson p. 254

Blessings of Family History work

"Temple attendance has a calming, settling, consoling influence that distills peace and contentment...The accompanying family history work to identify ancestors to receive those ordinances yields similar blessings." Elder Richard G. Scott, BYU Education Week 19 Aug 1997

"No work is more of a protection to this church than temple work and the genealogical research which supports it. No work is more spiritually refining. No work we do gives us more power. No work requires a higher standard of righteousness. Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and as a people." Elder Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple

"I promise you the Lord will bless you in your efforts, for this is His work, and He will guide your prayerful efforts to bring the ordinances and covenants to your can make a powerful contribution. Begin now. I promise you that the Lord will help you find a way. And it will make you feel wonderful." Elder Richard G. Scott, Oct 1990 General Conference

June 30, 2005

Hearts Bound Together by Henry B. Eyring

For those family historians who are LDS, there was a superb talk titled Hearts Bound Together given by Elder Henry B. Eyring in the April General Conference. Elder Eyring's focus was specifically on the duty of LDS members to do their genealogy research. (Latter-Day Saints believe in doing sacred ordinances for their deceased ancestors who did not have the chance to perform them while they were alive. In order to do this, they need to know who their ancestors are...hence the need for genealogy work.)

Here is a portion of his talk...

"You begin by doing simple things. Write down what you already know about your family. You will need to write down the names of parents and their parents with the dates of birth or death or marriage. When you can, you will want to record the places. Some of that you will know from memory. But you can also ask relatives. They may even have some certificates of births, marriages, or deaths. Make copies and organize them. If you learn stories about their lives, write them down and keep them. You are not just gathering names. Those you never met in life will become friends you love. Your heart will be bound to theirs forever.

You can start searching in the first few generations going back in time. From that you will identify many of your ancestors who need your help. Someone in your own ward or branch of the Church has been called to help you prepare those names for the temple. There they can be offered the covenants which will free them from their spirit prisons and bind them in families—your family—forever.

...After you find the first few generations, the road will become more difficult. The price will become greater. As you go back in time, the records become less complete. As others of your family search out ancestors, you will discover that the ancestor you find has already been offered the full blessings of the temple. Then you will have a difficult and important choice to make. You will be tempted to stop and leave the hard work of finding to others who are more expert or to another time in your life. But you will also feel a tug on your heart to go on in the work, hard as it will be.

As you decide, remember that the names which will be so difficult to find are of real people to whom you owe your existence in this world and whom you will meet again in the spirit world. When you were baptized, your ancestors looked down on you with hope. Perhaps after centuries, they rejoiced to see one of their descendants make a covenant to find them and to offer them freedom. In your reunion, you will see in their eyes either gratitude or terrible disappointment. Their hearts are bound to you. Their hope is in your hands. You will have more than your own strength as you choose to labor on to find them."

I think Elder Eyring gave some great reasons and good encouragement for us to keep doing our genealogy, even if we aren't LDS.

May 31, 2005

Genealogy is a Personal Responsibility

I used to think that genealogy was just a good hobby for my retired parents. I figured that I didn't need to do it because they were doing it for me. I started learning more about this "hobby" though and realized that it is for everyone. Not only is it enjoyable and fulfilling, but according to an article by Elder Theodore M. Burton in the January 1973 Ensign it is also each of our responsibilities as members of the LDS church.

Here are a few excerpts from Elder Burton's article titled, Genealogy: A Personal Responsibility.

Stated, then, in simple words, I say to every member of the Church that you have a personal, individual responsibility to become engaged in priesthood genealogical activity. The real impact of the priesthood genealogy program is one of individual responsibility. The actual work must be performed by individuals, not by organizations. What is everybody’s business is nobody’s business, so I must say that this work is your individual responsibility and each of you, as an individual, must become converted to this work as a personal responsibility. It is not my responsibility alone, nor that of your stake president, nor that of your bishop alone. It is not confined to the high priests. Neither is genealogy and temple work reserved for older people. It should not be put off until you retire or become too old and infirm to do anything else.

Priesthood genealogy is an exciting, living, vital program involving the whole family. Elijah came to turn the hearts of children to their parents and parents to their children, so priesthood genealogy and temple work is a family affair, a total family program involving children, youth, and parents. We ought to change our attitudes toward priesthood genealogy and realize that the real impact of this program converges on each individual member of the Church.

Some persons have asked me, “Just what is my personal responsibility in this work?” I answer that your individual responsibility is to be, or to become, worthy to enter the temple of God to participate in ordinances of salvation for yourself and for others. Youth are to be baptized in behalf of the dead. Young adults are to receive an endowment of power and to be married in the Lord’s appointed way. Wives are to be sealed to husbands and have their children sealed to them for all eternity. Thus, just as you can be saviors for the living through active missionary work, so you are to qualify yourselves to become saviors for those who are dead who rely on you for help and assistance.

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