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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Duplication of Temple Ordinances is a very old problem'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.


  1. I saw the title and thought, at least back to 1877 when the St. George Temple opened, but really, the problem dates back to the first ordinances, since they were revealed in stages, with the ordinance first and the principle of recording second. I think I saw a note somewhere in some historical literature about how many times proxy baptism was done for George Washington in the early days. (Of course, they were used to multiple baptisms, not just one like we do now, since they would be baptized when they joined the Church, arrived in Utah, joined a United Order, needed a blessing of health, etc.)

    I like the quote from the magazine: "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."

    True in 1928, true now.

  2. Thanks for sharing this one. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes.

  3. I couldn't agree more with your comment about "requiring some degree of review." I spend a great deal of my life fixing the silly, irresponsible changes people hiding behind anonymous user IDs make to Family Tree, completely ignoring sources, notes, and documentation. I don't have an answer, but it seems like there has to be some sort of sanity check, or peer review, before changes to the tree are allowed. Then, the rest of us can get back to actually doing research, instead of spending all our time on the care and feeding of Family Tree!

    1. I have to admire your tenaciousness...

      I have limited physical ability to spend at a desk, and after spending hours each year for the past several years undoing changes to my family and that of my husband, i have finally thrown in the towel. Apparently young whippersnappers are learning the art of genealogy while continuing to re correct our work and then undo our corrections to their corrections. They ignore our notes and our reasons for the knowledge we provide. Mysteriously, my husband's parents keep getting unmarried with no ordinances. Then we put them together again. Then they come apart again. My husband's living uncle suddenly came up as deceased. I spent a great deal of time communicating with the history center to provide proper proof that he was living, including having to call him and provide proof that I had done so. WHY didn't whoever listed him as deceased have to put in at least that amount of time to prove he had died???? There could not have been a certified death date!

      These are only a few of the many many disruptions I have dealt with. I do not have time to peruse our family tree every time i log in to try to see what has changed...

      i am done trying until the system is further along.

    2. If you haven't been working with the Family Tree lately, you might have missed the fact that there are a number of changes making it harder to enter people who might still be living. They are listening to us.

  4. The problem is now resurfacing in FSFT due to mismerges, resulting in new ordinances when they were already done before.

  5. This is a problem we try to address with the FamilySearch guys all the time, either face-to-face, or in our training presentations for Family Tree at our blog. But guess what! These FS folks don't think duplication of ordinances is such a big problem. When only the first work done is valid, I just wonder how people would really feel if they knew they were doing invalid work after just clicking away on green arrows, and hurrying to the tempe. The FS guys say it is better to re-do the work, than to mis-merge records. There was such a mess made in with mis-combinations that duplicating work seems to be their preference now. Strange, but true.

    1. I don't think they realize the extent of the duplication. I keep hearing reports how the percentage of duplication is going down, but at the same time, I see people clicking on green Temple icons now and taking the names to the Temple without even checking for duplicates.

  6. Having created a new record as part of a mismerge correction, I'm happy to learn that the post-NFS development plans include being able to restore lost ordinances. Data Admin didn't give me that hope during a recent exchange of messages, only that I could restore an even older mixed-up record that was deleted before I found it, which had ordinances from the 1950s for my ancestor. I didn't immediately reserve the ordinances on the new record. The next day I saw that someone with an XXXX-XXX id and no contact info reserved them. She is completing them quickly so I'm a little less upset.

    Besides that and the green arrow hunting, people are adding new duplicate records and proceeding with temple work. Examples include my faithful paternal grandmother who had completed all her temple work during her lifetime, and others on my maternal side. I merge them when I find them, but having to repeatedly clean up new messes also distracts from research to add legitimate names.