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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Collecting and Organizing Accurate Family Records

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are we committed to collecting and organizing accurate family records? This is more than an academic question. All three parts of this question involve a commitment to a certain type of activity we call family history. To understand what is implied in this question it is important to go back to the founding principles outlined for the Genealogical Society of Utah back in 1894.The Society was organized for the following purposes:
  1. To assist the Saints to obtain genealogies of their ancestors.
  2. To secure from all nations and people, so far as possible, genealogical records, and deposit them in suitable quarters where they may be preserved for the perusal and benefit of members of the Society.
  3. To provide a place where the Saints may be instructed in the best methods of keeping accurate and intelligent records of their Temple work, and be assisted in the clerical labor.
  4. To increase the interest of the Latter-day Saints in the important work of salvation for the dead.
See The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1922, Volume 13, page 75. 

Elder George Q. Cannon in a talk given in General Conference on April 18, 1894 stated,
There has been a disposition manifested among our people, to some extent, for some men and women to gather up all the names of families, whether they were related or not, and perform ordinances for them. I am a believer in this when it does not interfere with the rights of heirship. We should do all we can for those for whom we have friendship, or to whom we are attached in any way, and to have no living representatives that we know of in the church. But you can see the advantage of pursuing now the course that is pointed out by the word of God to us. It will make everyone careful to obtain the connection, and to get the names properly of the sons and of the daughters of men, to have them sealed to their parents. It will draw the line fairly. It will define the lineage clearly. "But," says one, "that may take a long time." Well, we have got 1000 years to do it in. We need not be in such a hurry as to create confusion. The Lord will give us time enough to do it all; and when we have gone as far as appears possible, He will give to us opportunities that, at the present time, we are ignorant of; and we will find that everything will be made plain, and each man will trace his genealogy clear back, and we will know our connection, and what to do in relation to these matters, for the Lord will reveal it to us.
See Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1922, Volume 13, pages 156-157.

This statement was made by Elder Cannon in the context of the revelation given to President Wilford Woodruff concerning the Law of Adoption, where the members were told to be sealed to their own parents rather than, as was the practice, to seal people to leaders in the Church. See Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1922, Volume 13, page 145 and following. You might note that the previous counsel concerning doing Temple work for those outside of our families has now been changed. The current Church policy is contained in a First Presidency letter to members of the Church dated October 8, 2012. This policy was also discussed in 2008 in an Newsroom background document entitled "Background Explanation of Temple Baptism" which states, in part, as follows:
Although the Church believes everyone must ultimately have the opportunity to receive the sacraments of salvation, Church members are encouraged to request temple baptism only on behalf of their relatives. However, well-meaning Church members sometimes bypass this instruction and submit the names of non-relatives for temple baptism. Others — perhaps pranksters or careless persons — have submitted the names of unrelated famous or infamous people, or even wholly fictitious names. These rare acts are contrary to Church policy and sometimes cause pain and embarrassment. They are also extremely difficult to prevent because the temple baptism process depends on voluntary compliance by millions of Church members around the world. The Church nearly always learns about problems after the fact.
We are now in that time spoken of by Elder Cannon,  when the Lord has given us opportunities to extend our family lines. However, the mandate to do so carefully and accurately has not been abrogated. The issue here is not the numbers of names submitted, but the accuracy of the work. A goal of doing so many names in a month or a year should not override the need for accuracy. As Elder Cannon states, "We need not be in such a hurry as to create confusion."


  1. Concerning the Law of Adoption: Many folks don't know what to do with these "Sealing Only" records. My GG Grandfather, as president of the St. George and Manti temples, was sealed to over 90 women he never knew, - women born in different centuries before him. When Family Tree was first released I was dismayed to see his family section filled with women I'd never heard of. He had 9 living wives he knew, and these couldn't even be seen. Ron Tanner, FT Product Manager said since FT needs to be a genealogically sound record (real parents and spouses, with real children, whether biological or adopted, etc.) that these sealing only relationships should be deleted. Note: The relationships should be deleted, not the people! So the records are still in the system, but just not connected to my gg Grandfather's record. This may be an advanced issue, but folks besides me might run into this situation. Thanks for bringing it up.

    1. Obviously, it depends on who your ancestors were whether or not this is even a consideration, much less a problem. But the issue does come up regularly. Thanks for the illustration and comment. If people want to know more about the subject, they can start with with statement made by President Woodruff.

    2. The link to the statement by Elder Cannon above is part of the longer statement by President Woodruff.

  2. Last summer, I had a discussion with a couple of head people at FamilySearch. My concern was the training materials should be improved so the basics are taught, a degree of accuracy is achieved and duplication of temple work is reduced. It seemed like I kept running into situations where duplication occurred or poor research was being encouraged.

    I left not knowing whether I should teach others a minimum level of accuracy, or to just to click and submit. I continue to hope a clear message will be given by FamilySearch..