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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Duty to Keep Accurate Temple Records

 I have been thinking recently about the importance of accurate record-keeping. This has been a constant recurring theme in my blog posts over the years mainly due to the fact that so many of the genealogy records that I encounter are sloppy, inaccurate and incomplete. I have used this example in my past writings. This is taken from and is a list of the name variations for one of my ancestors.

Francis Tanner
* Francis TANNER
France Tanner
Francis Tanner Esq.
Mr Mr Tanner
Mr. Mr. Tanner
Mr. Tanner
William Tanner

The correct name was Francis Tanner. These particular variations were each recorded multiple times. In my mind, there is absolutely no excuse for this kind of research or whatever you want to call it. The historical record concerning the Tanner family back to Francis Tanner is well-documented and not subject to any particular dispute as to the identities of the individuals. Although some of the variations are merely stylistic, the fact that the individual was identified as Mr. Tanner or wrongly as William Tanner is difficult for me to understand in light of these scriptural injunctions requiring accuracy.

Elder Rudger Clawson explained the sacred obligation of keeping accurate temple records: 
In the early days of the Church, some baptisms for the dead that were not properly witnessed and recorded, were rejected of the Lord, and the work had to be done over again. We know that great care and attention is given to this matter today in our Temples, and that efficient help must be secured to do this. … Truly it is a great and marvelous work, and not the least important thing about it is that these ordinances are all carefully recorded in the books and are filed away in the archives of the Temple, to be brought forth in due time. From these records the people who have gone to that house will be judged. Nothing that is done in that Temple will be accepted of the Lord, except it is properly witnessed and recorded. (In Conference Report, Apr. 1900, pp. 43–44.)
Further quoting from the Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261, (2012), 16–21 from Brigham Young University:
This lesson reviews the basics for recording family history information and the importance of being as accurate and complete as possible in keeping records. The lesson is designed to also remind students that as they gather names of their ancestors, they are dealing with people who live as spirits in the postmortal spirit world. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44), “We without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect” (D&C 128:18).
 One of the most obvious results of this lack of concern for accuracy is the rampant duplication of Temple work created by the inaccurate records. This has been a problem for a considerable period of time. Elder J. Thomas Fyans in speaking in General Conference in October of 1978 gave the following account:
It has become apparent that genealogical research efforts are being duplicated.To determine the extent to which such duplication exists, I took my genealogicalrecords to a professional research institute. They compared my records with theirname pool and determined that they already had ninety-five percent of myrecords in their file. That means that only five percent of my records are uniqueto me. Thirty-four other clients shared my ancestry. I was rather amazed withthis and wondered if such a high rate of duplication existed among the generalpopulation. At my request the institute took a sampling of clients from all parts ofthe United States, members of the Church and nonmembers. These names werecompared with records in their name pool, and it was determined that eightypercent were duplicates. Only twenty percent were unique. 
I found through a study made by another institution that I have at least 348 first,second, and third cousins, all of whom could be searching for the same pair ofsecond great-grandparents. 
From this you can see that duplication is tremendous in genealogical research. Itis for this basic reason that President Kimball has directed us that we shouldseek out our ancestors back four generations. After that we should work togetheras a Church through the records extraction program.
 With the tremendous tools we now have to research our ancestors, we are literally without excuse and failing to provide accurate records as a basis for Temple ordinances.

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