FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program is the current major effort to avoid the duplication of Temple ordinances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This duplication of both the ordinances themselves and the research behind such ordinances has been going on since the very beginning of Temple work in this Dispensation. I was reminded of this when a copy of The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, for July 1928 appeared in some old records from my wife's family. Here is a transcription of what appears on pages 137-138.
In the year 1877, when the St. George Temple was opened, and endowments for the dead commenced, the people knew of no adequate method for taking care of the names of their dead. They collected and copied lists of names – men on one sheet and women on another – took them to the Temple for ordinance work, and later recorded these names in the same sequence into Temple Records. This lack of any system of recording, soon threw the temple worker families into confusion. In 1893 in conformity with the teachings of the Profit Joseph Smith, Pres. Wilford Woodruff called attention to the necessity of sealing up families, generation after generation. It then became necessary to arrange the names in family groups, and pedigree form. Except for the immediate families of those who were interested in genealogy, very few pedigrees have been compiled and recorded.
The majority of the names now being collected for ordinance work in the temples are taken from the Parish or Church Registers of towns or cities in England and America, wherein are recorded the christenings (or baptisms) the marriages and the burials that have been performed in and from those churches. It has been demonstrated that these names, at times, may be worked out into pedigrees.
Today the building of pedigrees is being stressed to the greatest possible extent. Many families in the Church are tracing their direct ancestors back for eight, ten and fifteen generations. It is largely due to the new methods that have been explained in lessons 85, 86, 90, 93 and 96, given in the January, April and July Magazines of this year, that the people have become enthusiastic over searching out and compiling their own genealogies.
The complaint is occasionally heard – "Why are there so many changes made in the manner of researching and recording genealogies?"
This question may best be answered by asking another: "Why should any method be adhered to, even when established, if there is a better and more satisfactory one to be found." Consider the confusion which would ensue in a great banking house, if that business should be carried forward on the same basis as when it was organized, say perhaps fifty years ago, with one or two clerks. Large banking firms are obliged to have a comprehensive system and to keep abreast of the times, which govern every phase of every department.
So it is with genealogical records. 50 years ago the number of endowments each year would not amount to the number done in one week in the Salt Lake Temple, and this does not include work done in the other six temples.
There were 333,000 endowments performed in all the temples during 1927, and it can readily be seen that the early methods or those even of ten years ago, will not prove satisfactory now.
Not only was this great amount performed in 1927, but the Temple Records Index Bureau prevented the duplication of 33,000 more names.
Since the "Index Bureau" was opened on 1 January, 1927 up to the present time there have been nearly 45,000 duplications prevented.
This number would be greatly increased if the name sent to the Temple Records Index Bureau to be checked, and then taken to the temples for ordinance work, were prepared with more care and were more complete.
Thousands of names have been endowed without sufficient data to identify them. If some of these the same names should be recorded now by other families – with the proper dates and places of birth, parents, etc., and then written on temples sheets and sent to the "Index Bureau" to be censored (or checked), the clerks would have no way of knowing that they were really the names of the same people; therefore, the clerks would have to pass these names, as not having been done.
There are two reasons for causes which lie at the bottom of all this poor and incomplete work. One is haste and the other is ignorance, and the former is very often responsible for the latter.
It is perfectly "glorious that we have these "Junior Excursions" and "Ward and Stake Excursions" to the temples, but it is not wise to drive ahead with feverish haste to secure names, names and still more names, without using intelligent care to have these names represent real people who are properly identified.
People who have neither training nor knowledge of compiling genealogical data, thinking an easy matter to copy names out of books, and arrange them for Temple work. Anyone who would try to "Keep books," run a store, or cook a meal for the threshers, without any previous training, would be considered very foolish, to say the least. A noted genealogist who has recently visited the Utah Genealogical Library receives five dollars an hour for his services. Not everyone who wishes to compile genealogies would need to acquire the learning of an expert like the one referred to above; but a working knowledge of the newest methods should be the aim of each and every one of who does genealogical research for ordinance work in the temples. This is work worthy of the best of our hearts and the best of our lives, and no effort should be spared to make the preparation of these records the finest that in us lies.It is truly amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Almost everything contained in the 1928 discourse applies even more today than it did in 1928. It would seem that the progress that has been made, if it can be called progress, is nothing more or less than a rehash of the same issues facing the Church in 1928 and even beyond that date back into the past. If anything, some of the new procedures and the lack of any kind of review presently contribute to far more duplication than existed back in 1928.
Perhaps, it is time to impose some degree of review, such as that done with the implementation of the Index Bureau. Perhaps adding records to the Family Tree program should require some kind of source and any changes require a more stringent source requirement. There is probably a way to get past the problems of 1928, but right now, we seem to be mired in those same problems.