Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Challenge of Duplication of Temple Work -- Opening Comments

I am going to begin this discussion with an amazing prophetic quote from Nephi Anderson made in 1912:
… Let me suggest the future of this work. I see the records of the dead and their histories gathered from every nation under heaven to one great central library in Zion—the largest and best equipped for its particular work in the world. Branch libraries may be established in the nations, but in Zion will be the records of last resort and final authority. 
Trained genealogists will find constant work in all nations having unpublished records, searching among the archives for families and family connections. Then, as temples multiply, and the work enlarges to its ultimate proportions, this Society, or some organization growing out of this Society, will have in its care some elaborate, but perfect system of exact registration and checking, so that the work in the temples may be conducted without confusion or duplication.  
And so throughout the years, reaching into the Millennium of peace, this work of salvation will go on, until every worthy soul that can be found from earthly records will have been searched out and officiated for; and then the unseen world will come to our aid, the broken links will be joined, the tangled threads will be placed in order, and the purposes of God in placing salvation within the reach of all will have been consummated.  
We live in a day of small beginnings, as far as this is concerned. We are still pioneers. We are but helping to lay the foundation of the ‘marvelous work and a wonder that is about to come forth among the children of men’. (Emphasis added)
Nephi Anderson, "Genealogy’s Place in the Plan of Salvation," UGHM 3 (January 1912): 21-22. 
Unsuccessful efforts to eliminate duplication of research and Temple work date back as far as the 1890s. [See Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995, Page 96]. During those early years, all of the systems used to avoid duplication proved inadequate. I will return from time to time to the history of the efforts to avoid both types of duplication in future posts, but at this point more than 100 years after Nephi Anderson't prophecy and almost 120 years since the establishment of the Genealogical Society of Utah we are still facing exactly the same challenges only on a massive scale.

The present duplication of both research and Temple work exceeds imagination. Most recently, many of the features of the (NFS) program facilitated rather than impeded duplication. Since NFS is still in operation, it is still too early to tell if the full implementation of's Family Tree will have any effect at all on the duplication issue. (By the way, I am choosing to no longer link my posts to the NFS website).

I am not privy to any statistics showing the exact amount of duplication, so any comments I make are based entirely on my personal observations handling hundreds of Temple cards on a regular basis and working directly with patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. Some of the basic issues I observe that likely lead to duplication included the following:

  • Lack of sufficient documentation by researchers making a determination of the identity of a person impossible and making it equally as impossible to determine if the Temple work has already been done. Patrons tend to "give proceeding with the work" the default position is there is any question about identity even when the research has been inadequate or sloppy or both. 
  • Allowing names to be qualified without any requirement of substantiation or even a cursory verification that the person's work had not been done previously.
  • Allowing end of lines to be continued by merely copying in the surname and using Mr. and Mrs. as first name with approximate dates and very general places.
  • Allowing individuals to be qualified even when the dates and places are imaginary or outside of reality. Such as work done for my ancestor supposedly born in Cottonwood, Utan in 1775. 
  • Allowing names to be simply fabricated and still qualify.

I have personally observed all of these as causes of duplication.

Next, some thoughts on the historical methods used to avoid duplication.

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