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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mount Everest and Genealogy

For much of my life,  I was actively involved in mountain climbing, rock climbing and rappelling activities. My first real interest in climbing started when I was about 14 years old. As I grew older, my interest centered on technical rock climbing with some winter climbing and skiing thrown in. I could easily have become completely dedicated to climbing and the outdoors, but my life took a different turn and although I maintained my interest in climbing, I adjusted my priorities to family, church service and work. However, until relatively recently, I will still teaching rappelling.

My interest is such, that I had, in the last couple of weeks, watched a documentary on some attempts to clime K2 in the Karakoram Range. I never did get beyond climbing locally high mountains. I was very much interested in the recent tragic earthquake in Nepal and particularly saddened at the loss of life, including many of those waiting to climb Mount Everest. As I thought about the climbers, I realized that many of them had spent their whole lives dedicated to being physically and mentally prepared to climb the highest mountain in the world. I realized that but for the choices I made to make family, church and work my emphasis, I could have possibly been among those climbers. Of course, at my age, that thought was more of a fantasy than a reality, but it could have been possible.

As I thought about this tragedy in the Himalayas, I wondered what those who lost their lives really accomplished by choosing to dedicate their lives to climbing. It was not just that they were killed, we all die sometime and I could lose my life as easily here in the traffic in Utah Valley as I could on a mountain, but the what was the eternal value of their life? I am reminded of the scripture from Matthew 24:39 that says,
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
I am sure that many who climb high mountains do so, in large part, to "find their life." But I realized that finding my life in the mountains was not important to my eternal existence. What at first was an interest in seeking out my ancestors became more and more important. I think part of my motivation to turn from a very physically oriented emphasis in climbing and skiing to a more spiritual one, came about as is explained by President Howard W. Hunter in a quote from an article entitled, "A Temple-Motivated People," in the Ensign for February 1995:
Surely we on this side of the veil have a great work to do. For in light of all the above-noted facts about temple ordinances, we can see that the building of temples has deep significance for ourselves and mankind, and our responsibilities become clear. We must accomplish the priesthood temple ordinance work necessary for our own exaltation; then we must do the necessary work for those who did not have the opportunity to accept the gospel in life. Doing work for others is accomplished in two steps: first, by family history research to ascertain our progenitors; and second, by performing the temple ordinances to give them the same opportunities afforded to the living. 
Yet there are many members of the Church who have only limited access to the temples. They do the best they can. They pursue family history research and have the temple ordinance work done by others. Conversely,there are some members who engage in temple work but fail to do family history research on their own family lines. Although they perform a divine service in assisting others, they lose a blessing by not seeking their own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets. 
I recall an experience of a few years ago that is analogous to this condition. At the close of a fast and testimony meeting, the bishop remarked, “We have had a spiritual experience today listening to the testimonies borne by each other. This is because we have come fasting according to the law of the Lord. But let us never forget that the law consists of two parts: that we fast by abstaining from food and drink and that we contribute what we have thereby saved to the bishop’s store house for the benefit of those who are less fortunate.” Then he added: “I hope no one of us will leave today with only half a blessing.” 
I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing. 
Furthermore, the dead are anxiously waiting for theLatter-day Saints to search out their names and then go into the temples to officiate in their behalf, that they may be liberated from their prison house in the spirit world. All of us should find joy in this magnificent labor of love.
As much as I may be attracted to climbing, I understand more the need for spending the short time here on earth wisely. I can think of nothing more important that being involved in the great work of salvation. Maybe we should think more about losing our life for Christ's sake and less about "finding our own time" to do our family history. Most certainly, now is the time to start the process of seeking our own kindred dead as divinely directed by latter-day prophets.