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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Turning our hearts towards a name?

I am afraid that many budding family historians in the Church have a mail-order bride kind of relationship with their ancestors. They find a name and fall in love with it only long enough to "take the name to the Temple" and ignore the reality of who or what they are really getting into. The scripture commonly used in conjunction with the process of submitting ancestors for ordinance work says, quoting from the Doctrine and Covenants Section 110: 14-15:
14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come— 
15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
This same idea is also found in Joseph Smith--History, Chapter 1 where relates Joseph Smith's account of what Moroni said to him:
38 And again, he quoted the fifth verse thus: 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. 
39 He also quoted the next verse differently: 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. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.
This was not too long ago the tope of an article in the November 2011 Ensign entitled "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn" by Elder David A. Bednar.

In the context of genealogical research, I question how the hearts of those who merely collect names for submission without any real research or any interest in the families can really have had their hearts turned to their fathers? I think Elder Bednar had a more complete understanding when he said, in the same article quoted above:
The Lord has made available in our day remarkable resources that enable you to learn about and love this work that is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. For example, FamilySearch is a collection of records, resources, and services easily accessible with personal computers and a variety of handheld devices, designed to help people discover and document their family history. These resources also are available in the family history centers located in many of our Church buildings throughout the world.
The key here seems to be to learn about and love the work and to discover and document family history. It would seem to me that this involves more than merely filling in the spaces in a pedigree. It involves a serious and careful consideration of our ancestors. It involves learning about who they were and opening our hearts to their lives and their stories. It would seem to me to involve much more than copying names out of a book or from someone's online family tree. Elder Bednar invites the youth as follows:
I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories.
I strongly agree with this invitation and the thoughts behind it. My concern is that much that has already been recorded in the Family Tree is inaccurate and even wrong.  I think those of us who are already involved in the technical aspects of recording our family histories have a duty to correct the information with adequate documentation, as stated by Elder Bednar, so that the youth who go to this marvelous tool find it in good repair and a a useful way to begin investigating their families.

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