For years I have been trying to gain a love of family history. Slowly it has started to come. Family history is really a broadened, deepened, and eternal love of family.
Three summers ago, my sisters and I went to Ireland with our mother. Initially, we viewed the trip as a fun adventure with no real family history purpose other than we got to talk more about my Mom’s family who came from Ireland. I was also interested in learning more about the potato famine and Irish immigration to North America. Since I teach social studies, I hoped that my interest in history would rub off on my students.
My Mom converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an adult, so we never thought of her having any earlier Church connections in her line. Imagine our surprise when my Mom’s Irish great grandfather shows up in my FamilySearch in-box as an early missionary for the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
How could this have happened?
“The Gospel Came through”
My Grandpa’s grandfather left Ireland and eventually resided in Southern Alberta where he was baptized at age 40. At age 57, he was called to serve in the new Canadian Mission in 1919, centered in Toronto. This information was made more interesting by the fact that our daughter Quincy was currently serving in the Canada Toronto Mission exactly one hundred years later. She was enjoying centennial celebrations and teaching the same gospel her third great grandfather taught.
I was telling my Grandpa’s 99-year-old sister how cool I thought it was about her grandfather serving in Toronto a hundred years before our daughter served there. My great aunt said something that has really stuck with me: “The gospel came through—it came through.”
Mending Troubled, Broken, or Anxious Hearts through Christ
There was a break in the gospel in my mom’s line, but gospel truths have still been able to come through somehow. My mother’s father was baptized at age 8, but the gospel didn’t take hold in his life. He battled addictions all his life. This made it hard for the family to talk about him very often.
Lots of families have similar breaks. Being able to reconnect and gain a fuller picture of my own family tree helped me gain a better understanding of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness. We come to this earth to experience mortality, and we are most certainly impacted by the decisions of those we are placed with—our families.
We all come to this earth in varying circumstances: some to seemingly great privilege and others to very difficult circumstances. I have tried to imagine what it would be like to live during the potato famine in Ireland or to be born into a home where addictions impact the love a parent can give to a child. I don’t really understand any life that well besides my own, but I know my Savior Jesus Christ does.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave an amazing promise to people as they do family history and temple work: “Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole” (“Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” Ensign, May 2018).
Corianton and Learning to Move Forward
Corianton is an example of such healing. He left his mission and chased after the harlot Isabel (Alma 39:3). Consequently, many people would not listen to Alma. Nevertheless, Alma did not lose hope but encouraged his son to repent and move forward on the covenant path.
Alma tried to answer Corianton’s questions and help him understand God’s plan of happiness. Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, points out that Alma used a form of the word restore 22 times (“Hosanna and Hallelujah—The Living Jesus Christ: The Heart of the Restoration and Easter,” Ensign, May 2020, 31). Alma urged Corianton to “deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually” (Alma 41:14). He reviewed for Corianton the family history of Adam and Eve, explaining how the Lord taught our first parents the restorative plan of salvation (Alma 42:2-26).
The introduction of the July 27-August 2, 2020 Come, Follow Me lesson reaffirms the redeeming power of Christ’s Atonement: “The fact that Corianton eventually returned to the work of the ministry (see Alma 49:30) can give us hope for forgiveness and redemption when we are ‘trouble[d]’ (Alma 42:29) about our own sins or the sins of someone we love.”
Believing in Christ’s Restorative Love
I don’t know how any of my ancestors will be judged by a loving Savior. My life needs to be about how my choices can benefit those who have gone before me and those whose lives I can touch while I am here. Maybe if my Grandpa understood what Alma was trying to teach his son, he would have made different choices.
My Grandpa did make some good choices: he married my Grandma. She was not a member of the Church. She drank coffee and smoked cigarettes and didn’t understand God’s plan of happiness. I knew, though, that she loved me, and I loved her with all my heart.
Through my love for my Grandma, I learned how amazing God’s love is for each of us. I was attending BYU when my mom called to tell me that Grandma had cancer and would not be with us for much longer. It was my first real experience with the reality of death. Surely, she wouldn’t go to a bad place.
As I searched for answers, I read Alma 39-42 many times, trying to understand where Grandma was going after death and if she would be okay. One day when I was out jogging and crying and thinking, a powerful spiritual thought came to my mind—“I love your Grandma too! Because I am perfect, I am able to love her even more than you do!”
That thought and that moment changed my life. I had an experience where I knew that Christ loved both my Grandma and me. I also knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life helping others to feel His love.
Using our agency to become Saviors on Mount Zion for our ancestors and building bridges of faith for the next generation are surely truths Alma would want us to understand today. When we understand the love and mercy Christ extends to us, we want to follow Him and live righteous lives.
We extend love and mercy to others, even to those on our broken family tree. We want Christ’s mercy restored to us, and so we learn to extend mercy to others on both sides of the veil. In ways we do not fully understand, Jesus can provide redemption for all who come unto Him. As we seek not to judge our family tree but learn to appreciate it, we can help mend breaks through the healing and sealing power bestowed through Jesus Christ in His holy temples.