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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Comments on a culture of family history

Culture is defined as the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. I was asked a question recently about why members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are interested in family history. In thinking about the answer to this question, I began to examine the role that family history plays in the culture of the Church. I have had the opportunity to visit many different wards across the United States and into Canada. Since I am so very much involved in family history, I always inquire about the family history activity in every ward. I had an opportunity to visit a ward today and ended up talking about family history with a ward member in their "family history class" during Sunday School. This raises an issue, is pursuing family history a fundamental activity of member of the Church? In this sense, is it something generally participated in on a regular basis or is it a compartmentalized activity like attending a Sunday School class?

There is no doubt that the pursuit of family history is a basic doctrine of the Church. Here is a quote from Joseph Smith concerning the importance of the work.
“This doctrine presents in a clear light the wisdom and mercy of God in preparing an ordinance for the salvation of the dead, being baptized by proxy, their names recorded in heaven and they judged according to the deeds done in the body. This doctrine was the burden of the scriptures. Those Saints who neglect it in behalf of their deceased relatives, do it at the peril of their own salvation.”  History of the Church, 4:425–26; from the minutes of a Church conference held on Oct. 3, 1841, in Nauvoo, Illinois, published in Times and Seasons, Oct. 15, 1841, pp. 577–78.
Throughout the history of the Church in the latter days, the doctrine of proxy work for the dead has been taught again and again by each of the succeeding prophets. Today the Church has established a huge, world-wide organization called FamilySearch, International, to assist the members and the rest of the world to search for their deceased ancestors and relatives.

Rather than being a central activity of the members, in many wards throughout the Church, family history has be relegated to the status of a periodic activity evidence by a "Sunday School Class." Some wards have followed The Leader’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work: To Turn the Hearts, the guidebook for the Church leaders but othesr have failed to call Family History Consultants or involve the members of the ward in family history at all. This disparity of implementation can occur within the same stake.

What is more than evident is that the programs and resources developed by the Church through FamilySearch  now provide a way for all the members to become involved. What is lacking is a connection between what is preached as doctrine and active participation by the members. To quote Elder Alan F. Packer from General Conference in October of 2014,
As Elder Quentin L. Cook explained, “We [now] have the doctrine, the temples, and the technology.”16 Doing the work now is much easier and limited only by the number of members who make this a priority. The work still takes time and sacrifice, but all can do it, and with relative ease compared to just a few years ago. 
To assist members, the Church has gathered records and provided tools so that much of the work can be done in our own homes or in the ward buildings and the temple. Most obstacles have been removed.Whatever your past perception, it is different now! 
However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove. It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work. All it requires is a decision and a little effort. It does not require a large block of time. Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield the joy of the work. Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you. They will! The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for “the book.”17
In my opinion, there is an additional hesitation on the part of local leaders to provide the support structure necessary to do this work and to personally and organizationally take the action necessary to implement the structure and resources that are now abundantly available.

As it states in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121:41-42:
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; 
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
If you find yourself in a ward or stake where you feel that there is insufficient emphasis on family history, the solution is within yourself. Begin to do your own family history. Once you become proficient at finding your own ancestors, follow the current counsel of the leaders of the Church:
Find, Take and Teach.  Take the time to teach those around you about the way to accomplish this important work. Let the leaders do their job according to their own inspiration. This is, after all is said and done, an individual responsibility. Quoting from Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at RootsTech 2015:
Let me emphasize with you the "find, take, teach" process. By "find," we mean to use website or the family booklet, My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together, to find the name of one or more of our ancestors or their descendants. 
Then take these names to the temple or share them with others so they can take them.When possible, go to the temple as a family. Finally, teach our families this process, and then teach others to do the same. 
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I leave my blessing upon you with a promise that if you look beyond the bonds of time and mortality and help those who cannot help themselves, you will be blessed with more closeness and joy in your family and with the divine protections afforded those who are faithful in His service.
Changing the culture of the Church, if that culture needs changing, starts with the individual. Take steps today to begin your family history. Go to and get started.


  1. Thank you so much. Inspired from on high and beautifully presented.

  2. We understand that the manual, "To Turn the Hearts" is out of date and under revision. Have you heard that yet?

  3. Thanks for all the effort you put into these profound, inspiring messages.