Everyone is different. We all have different fingerprints and unique tongue prints too. I have something else that makes me different from most people. I have a disease called osteogenesis imperfecta. It means that my bones break easily, and my muscles are not as strong as others my age. At my current age of 14, I have fractured 30 bones in my life. Part of the challenge of dealing with such a disease is finding ways to cope and things to do to help pass the time during recovery. That’s how I turned to family history.
Catching the Spirit of Family History
I think my love for family history truly began when I was nine years old and had just broken two vertebrae in my spine. With months of recovery ahead and a restrictive back brace, it didn’t take very long for books and even TV and electronics to become boring. My parents introduced me to indexing so that I had something more productive to do while I lay in bed.
During the months that followed, I spent many hours indexing batch after batch—and I LOVED it.
This was the beginning of a great adventure, and I caught the spirit of family history work. A couple of years later, at age 11, I was called as a ward temple and family history consultant and quickly found joy in learning how to research.
I especially loved learning about my ancestors and was inspired and encouraged by their stories and examples.
Taking My Family Names to the Temple
It was extra special when I turned 12 and knew that I would be able to take the names I had researched to the temple to do baptisms for my deceased ancestors.
This was another difficult time in my life as I was struggling with severe back troubles. Sitting was agonizing. I wanted to go to the temple but was scared of the pain it would cause. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I felt, however, a connection and love for these people who were part of my heritage, part of my family, part of me. I felt strongly the need to take their names to the temple. My dad gave me a priesthood blessing before we left. It was a painful car ride to the Calgary Alberta Temple, but as soon as I walked through the temple doors, my pain was miraculously gone.
After completing over 20 baptisms and confirmations that afternoon, I felt the spirit so strongly and knew that I had experienced a miracle. I had not been pain-free in six months, but for my entire time in the temple I felt fine. As soon as I walked out the door, my pain returned. Although I wish the pain could have disappeared forever, I had been able to do what I had come to do: serve in the temple for my family. I had also received a gift for myself—knowing that my Heavenly Father was aware of me, a 12-year-old boy with back pain. He blessed me for those hours in the temple, and I believe I had many ancestors there helping to strengthen me too. I have a testimony that blessings come from attending the temple.
Drawing on the Experiences of our Ancestors
Church leaders have taught that family history has the power not only to assist the dead but also to bless the living. One way we are blessed is that families are strengthened and brought closer as we share stories and work together. Stories bring ancestors to life. These real people can teach us principles such as the value of hard work, how to deal with life’s challenges, and how our choices impact our lives. That is a huge blessing for anyone, but especially for youth! We can become better people by knowing more about our ancestors. We can draw on their experiences when we need strength, motivation, stamina, faith, or courage.
In my family, we enjoy learning about our ancestors. My Grandma Boehmer compiled a book of stories remembering her life history. With my Grandma and Grandpa Gedlaman, we have a family home evening one Sunday a month. We FaceTime with aunts, uncles, and cousins who are each in their own homes. Together, we learn about our family history and come to know that our ancestors were real people who lived their lives as we are living now. Whenever a grandchild is baptized, Grandma and Grandpa Gedlaman also give that family member two binders with stories and biographies of many of our ancestors. In the preface of the book, they include a letter with this hope: “With the help of this gift, we have tried to help you to bridge the gap between you and your ancestors.”
My grandparents and parents truly have assisted me in making those eternal connections. I am grateful to have had the blessing of learning about my ancestors because when I meet them in the eternities I don’t think I will struggle with conversations or feel awkward—I will know them already.
Prophets Promise Blessings
In addition to the wonderful blessings of getting to know our relatives and doing temple work for them, prophets and apostles have promised blessings and protection:
Elder Quentin L. Cook promised that we can be “blessed with more closeness and joy in our family” (Ensign, Feb. 2016).
Elder David A. Bednar said, “I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives” (Ensign, Nov. 2011).
Elder Neil L. Anderson assured, “As you contribute to this sacred work, your knowledge and faith in the Savior will increase and you will receive a more certain witness that life continues beyond the veil. You will receive protection against the temptations that surround you, and you will prepare yourself and the world you live in for the Second Coming of the Savior” (Ensign, Feb. 2015).
What powerful promises of blessings these are for us to receive, and there are many more available to us. Each reward is definitely worth the time and effort it takes to do temple and family history work.
It is exciting to be a part of the Youth Battalion that President Russell M. Nelson has called all of the young men and young women of the Church to join in “the gathering of Israel.” Part of my sacrifice of time to my Heavenly Father has been to do more family history work. I have already seen the blessings of this service.
Staying Faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ
I am thankful for my heritage, and for the records that my ancestors kept of their experiences. As I study their stories and learn of them, they are a reminder that I too can do hard things and stay faithful to the Gospel. I do not want to disappoint those that went before me and sacrificed so much. I am also thankful for my parents and grandparents who want to teach me about my history. I am grateful for the prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who guide us to promised blessings.
Most of all, I am grateful for my personal testimony of family history and the blessings I have received. My hope is that everyone will experience the incredible spirit of Elijah who “shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers” (Joseph Smith—History 1:39).