Piecing Together the Puzzle of Family History

Calgary Temple in the winter

In the October 2016, General Conference, Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles compared the challenges of building the kingdom of God to the challenges of putting together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle:

“The gathering of Israel is a miracle. It is like an enormous puzzle whose pieces will be set in place prior to the glorious events of the Second Coming. Just as we might be perplexed with a mountain of puzzle pieces, the early Saints must have seen the commission to take the restored gospel to all the world as a nearly impossible task. But they began, one person, one puzzle piece at a time, finding the straight edges, working to rightly frame this divine work. Little by little, the stone cut without hands began to roll forth; from hundreds to thousands, to tens of thousands, and now millions of covenant Latter-day Saints across every nation are connecting the puzzle pieces of this marvelous work and a wonder.” (Neil L. Anderson, “A Witness of God,” Ensign, November 2016)

Elder Neil A. Andersen

Elder Anderson is clearly teaching that each one of us is an integral part or piece of a divine puzzle. Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation is to invite “all to come unto him and partake of his goodness” (2 Nephi 26:33). When seen from this eternal perspective, God’s puzzle includes every person who has, who is, or who ever will live upon this earth. Indeed, the “mountain of puzzle pieces” for us to piece together does still seem “a nearly impossible task.”

Recently, my family has become more involved in putting together pieces of our personal family puzzle. Our son began by learning how to do family history. My parents were the first members of the Church in our family. As such, very little family history research had been done for any of my ancestors. Our son taught us, though, that family history is really a big puzzle that needs to be carefully examined and put together to form family groups.

Solving our puzzle began by gathering any memories or information we already had about our family members. Then, by accessing resources available through family history classes, family history consultants, and the FamilySearch website, he began to find ways that our family history puzzle could be solved. He attached census information that helped put individuals and families together. Sometimes the work wasn’t perfect. Sometimes prayers had to be offered to get the inspiration needed to find the next research strategies and be as accurate as possible. Step by step individuals were connected to families. As each piece was put together, family groups were formed, so that temple ordinances could be completed.

The miracle of family history starts by turning the hearts of fathers and mothers and their children to their ancestors. As the angel, Moroni revealed to Joseph Smith on the evening of September 21, 1823: “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he 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.” (Doctrine & Covenants 2: 1-2). The miracle is pieced together with hard work and constant study of information that is available on the FamilySearch website and other research sources. Stake and ward family history classes and family history consultants are also very helpful. Temple cards can be printed on your home computer, and the names of those ancestors can be taken directly to holy temples. The miracle culminates in the ordinances performed by kneeling at holy altars in temples as families are sealed together for time and all eternity.

I have witnessed a miracle through the work done by my son in digging deeper and deeper into my family history. Now my dear wife and son have provided so many names in my family lines that we have friends that are helping us with the ordinances. The miracle continues to expand as our grandchildren now go to the temple to do proxy baptisms and confirmations for my ancestors and their kindred dead. We are now doing family history work and ordinances for my family line going back over nine generations.

Youth going to the temple

When linked to the sealing blessings that can be performed in holy temples, family history is a miraculous puzzle. This puzzle takes work and patience in order to put families together. By listening to an apostle’s voice as he taught us that we are all a part of this great puzzle, “We can see the miracle continuing and the Lord’s hand guiding us as we complete the gaps that remain.” (Neil L. Anderson, “A Witness of God,” Ensign, November 2016). Heavenly Father has a place for each of one of His children. Through the inspired family history directives of the restored gospel, we can continue piecing God’s puzzle together and “save ourselves with all our dead” (“High on the Mountain Top,” Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).