Current in the jargon of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the use of the word "name" to refer to ancestors as in "take a name to the Temple" or "find a name to take to the Temple." From my point of view this use of the word "name" is very unfortunate. We don't just take a name to the Temple, we act as proxies for our ancestors in performing sacred ordinances. Even more unfortunately, this idea of "finding a name" has been extended to the practice of mining names from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program without spending either the time or effort to verify that the name found represents a real person or a person whose Temple work has already been completed previously. This practice has been extended by leaders who challenge members of their particular units to take a name to the Temple without considering or providing a way to legitimately discover their ancestors and even specifically challenging them to use FamilySearch.org Family Tree as a "source" for those names.
At the same time some of those same leaders fault "genealogists" for merely being interested in finding "names and dates" rather than being interested in the stories about their ancestors and emphasize how "easy" it is to go to the Family Tree program and find a name. They treat the Family Tree program as if it is a magical way to manufacture qualified ancestors. As I have been teaching the missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library these past two months, I have referred to this practice many times and always immediately elicited confirming responses from the class members. This pattern of disregarding the identity or reality of the ancestor in exchange for accomplishing the task of "finding a name" is endemic.
Quoting from a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in General Conference in October 2011:
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. … For it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fulness of the dispensation of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man. … Hence, God said, ‘I will send you Elijah the prophet’” (Teachings: Joseph Smith,475).
Joseph further explained:
“But what is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21].
“But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead … ; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 472–73).
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34). This distinctive influence of the Holy Ghost draws people to identify, document, and cherish their ancestors and family members—both past and present.
The Spirit of Elijah affects people inside and outside of the Church. However, as members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. “They without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40; see alsoTeachings: Joseph Smith, 475). And “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).
For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent “the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse” (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.I would submit that "finding a name to take to the Temple" from merely searching from those names identified by FamilySearch.org Family Tree does not even approach this process of identifying, documenting and cherishing our ancestors as explained by Elder Bednar. How do you cherish a name of a person you do not know and have spent only a few seconds harvesting from a program. I am certain that in many, many instances, the people involved in this process can not even articulate their relationship to the person so found.
This name gathering process is also almost always a guarantee that the Temple work done for people whose "names" are taken to the Temple after a brief search is duplicated for reasons inherent in the program such as the failure to search for duplicates. There are those who consider duplicating ordinances to be entirely excusable, however.
The dichotomy between people who spend their lives researching, identifying and documenting their ancestors (genealogists so called) and the trivial act of "taking a name to the Temple" needs to stop. They are people, not names. FamilySearch.org Family Tree is a repository for recording the Temple work already done and for accumulating documentary evidence about our ancestors. It is not the place to merely find the records of ancestors whose Temple ordinances have not been completed, but it is a valuable tool in assisting us in that process and becoming more valuable all the time. The work of the salvation our our kindred dead requires work. Why has this belief arisen that the Family Tree program (and its predecessor New.FamilySearch.org) is somehow an endless reservoir of names to take to the Temples without doing the work required?