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

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Challenge of Increasing Family History Activity in the Church

As evidenced by the number of articles and talks most recently found in Church publications concerning involvement in family history, there appears to be a dramatically increased effort to involve members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in seeking out their ancestors and submitting increased numbers of ancestor's names for Temple ordinances. There is obviously a correlation between the ever increasing number of Temples worldwide and this renewed effort. Much of this effort has gone into general admonitions to the members to become more involved in preserving and remembering family history including stories, photos and documents. The implication of this effort is that an increased interest in the stories from the past will result in an increase in the submission of ancestral names to the Temple. However, the connection between the two appears to be somewhat unclear.

In teaching about genealogy day after day, I find many people who are earnestly seeking after their ancestors but lack the tools and the training to advance past the interest stage of their involvement. Much has been said recently about hastening the work of salvation. I would like to focus on the work part of the statement. This "hastening" takes work on our part. From my perspective, the work of salvation for the dead is most certainly hastening all around the world. Marvelous tools are being provided by those both inside the Church and outside the Church that enable us to do the work more efficiently and can accelerate the process of finding our ancestors. But it seems that the work part of the process has been somewhat neglected by the Church members.

We can hope for the salvation of our dead but without the work of actually seeking them out, this will not happen. In Mormon 9:27 it reads as follows:
O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
In an epistle from Joseph Smith the Prophet contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128: 18,
I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
What is the work of salvation for the dead? It is the process of researching and finding ancestors who have not yet had the opportunity of receiving the saving ordinances of the Temple. Once your heart is turned to your fathers, you must still do the work of finding those who need the work to be done.

Although I never knew my paternal grandfather, I was often told something he believed, that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Certainly the work of salvation is worth doing and just as certainly, it is worth doing right. Learning how to find your ancestors is interesting and can be challenging, but in the end being involved in family history is work, just as doing Temple work, is work. Let's get to work.

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