When you think about genealogy or family history, what comes to your mind? How do you feel? It is true that millions of people are looking for their families: what are their names; where did they live; what did they do; what did I inherit from them. It seems, we do have a natural yearning to join together with our ancestors.
As we start or continue to find our ancestors, family histories literally unfold before our very eyes. Doors open that were closed to reveal jaw-dropping information and our ancestors come to life as they spring forth from the pages of history, as we care for these sacred people one by one. We minister to our ancestors so they may have all of the priesthood ordinances and covenants to obtain exaltation and eternal life.
What are temples? As explained in a recent general conference: “Because God considered these [ordinances and covenants] to be among His highest and holiest blessings, He instructed that sacred buildings be erected where He could confer these precious gifts upon His children. These buildings would be His home on earth. These buildings would be temples where that which was sealed or bound on earth in His name, by His word, and with His authority would be bound in the heavens” (Kevin R. Duncan, “A Voice of Gladness!” Liahona, May 2023).
Prior to COVID, my son Darren and I spent a great deal of time in the temple performing proxy baptisms for our ancestors. We felt the joy of our ancestors and experienced the spiritual blessings that comes from family history efforts.
From another general conference talk we were reminded that President Russell M. Nelson has said, “’Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ.’. . . [And that] certainly, the work of the temple and family history are one and the same work in the Church” (Benjamín De Hoyos, “The Work of the Temple and Family History - One and the Same Work,” Liahona, May 2023).
The work of linking ourselves to ancestors
Besides attending the temple as often as we can, behind the scenes we gather family names. For starters, many have countless names of ancestors shown on FamilySearch [genealogical website operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints].
Often mysteries that have eluded families and researchers for years instantly come to light as today there is so much information available at our fingertips. For example, FamilySearch sends emails with various information relating to our families and is of great help. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was not the first “pioneer” in our family, as I had thought for years. An email came to me with the exciting news of a relative who immigrated to America for religious freedom! She was one of the many brave immigrants who had left her homeland to build a better life. All this information is found readily in her record.
While researching the family history of my husband, Earl, to our astonishment we discovered The Honourable William Henry Steeves, a Father of Confederation, who played a large role in the founding and formation of Canada.
With the present emphasis by President Nelson on the participation in family history work for all ages, it may be wise for you and me to sincerely reflect about the role of family history in each of our lives. For me, I need to share family stories with my son and grandchildren, and eventually with my new great-grandchild Merridith. I need to show them the family tree chart. I need to take them to the picturesque, historic Steveston at the mouth of the Fraser River. We need to walk the streets as I tell them how the village was founded by the legendary ancestor, Manoah Steves. Earlier when I showed the family crest to my grandchildren, they were excited, so I know they would be interested.
Just like many of you I have books, papers, records, and stories all waiting to be shared so we can do the important work of binding our families together for the eternities. This is the most important work we can do. What kinds of things come to mind for you to do?
The sacrifice of time will bring spiritual rewards
Beautiful stories abound from everyone and everywhere of how lost family members are identified. Because of the ease of modern genealogical methods, millions of names are added to FamilySearch and individual family trees around the world, making it ever easier to find each other when we search.
We, personally, were at a standstill for years while researching one family line, and through an experience of mine eventually “found” the needed family name. Modern technology entered the scene, and lo and behold, all the information was suddenly available. It was more than technology that helped.
A few years ago, at the RootsTech family history conference, Russell M. Nelson (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) and his wife Wendy W. Watson joined together to give inspiration, advice and promises.
Sister Wendy W. Nelson admonished: “I entreat you to make a sacrifice of time to the Lord by increasing the time you spend doing temple and family history work, and then watch what happens. It is my testimony that when we show the Lord we are serious about helping our ancestors, the heavens will open and we will receive all that we need” (Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Open the Heavens Through Temple and Family History Work” [address given at RootsTech 2017 conference, February 11, 2017] and also Ensign, October 2017).
President Russell M. Nelson added: “[We] can be inspired all day long about temple and family history experiences others have had, [but we must] do something to actually experience the joy ourselves . . . I would like to extend a challenge to each one of us so that the wonderful feeling [of this work] can continue and even increase. I invite you to prayerfully consider what kinds of sacrifice, preferably a sacrifice of time, you can make in order to do more temple and family history work this year” (RootsTech 2017).
I have experienced that joy and add my encouragement. I feel it an honor and privilege to be able to look for my ancestors and I feel that they are anxiously watching, waiting, and counting on me to lead them to exaltation and eternal life.
Yes, I want to be that person. They can count on me. Everyone engaged in this work experiences similar feelings. I know you will too!