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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Identify, Document and Cherish our Ancestors

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in a General Conference talk in October of 2011
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation ofthe Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A NewHarvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). This distinctive influence of the HolyGhost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present.
 It is through this process of identifying and documenting our ancestors that we can fully begin to cherish them. What does it mean to cherish our ancestors?

One attempt at defining the idea of cherishing our family was expressed by Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith,
Service rendered and received by God’s children comes with an eternal blessing described by the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith: “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together” (in Daughters In My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society [2011], 25).
The word cherish is associated with the terms protect, care for, hold dear and keep in one's mind. If these terms apply to the act of cherishing your ancestors, do you cherish them? Have you even thought about them individually as members of your family? It would seem to me that the end product of searching out our ancestors is just as Elder Bednar taught, we begin to have this personal relationship with them and learn to cherish them.

If we merely search through an online database, such as's Family Tree for the sole purpose of "taking a name to the Temple" without even knowing our relationship to the person we find in the Family Tree and in some cases, without even knowing if we are related to the person we find, how can we then ever come to cherish that ancestor or relative?

Even more fundamentally, what if we ignore the first two of Elder Bednar's injunctions? What if we fail to identify and document our ancestors? How then can we claim to move on to the last step of cherishing them?  The people documented in the Family Tree have been identified by others. Many, if not most of them, lack any documentation. I believe we can only cherish what we love and we can only get to know our ancestors through searching them out and documenting (i.e. learning about and recording) their lives.

We have been blest by such marvelous tools to hasten our work in family history. It is a shame to ignore those tools and use them for the purpose of creating a superficial relationship with and lacking the ability to cherish, our ancestors. Quoting from Elder Allan F. Packer in his talk in General Conference in October 2014:
To assist members, the Church has gathered records and provided tools so that much of the work can be done in our own homes or in the ward buildings and the temple. Most obstacles have been removed. Whatever your past perception, it is different now! 
However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove. It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work. All it requires is a decision and a little effort. It does not require a large block of time. Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield thejoy of the work. Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you. They will! The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for “the book."
As do many of my fellow genealogists, I stand ready to help all those around me with their family history. Now is the time to get involved and start learning to cherish your ancestors.

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