The answer to that question is that members of the Church have fundamental beliefs that our Heavenly Father has given us a plan whereby our family can be together forever. We believe that this Plan of Salvation was taught by our Savior Jesus Christ while he was on this earth and through his prophets both anciently and in our own day. We believe that life continues after we depart this world to live in a place called the Spirit World. We also believe that through the ordinance performed in our sacred Temples, during this life, families can be sealed together and live as families in heaven. We also believe that by identifying our ancestors and their descendants (our cousins) we can provide the blessings available in the Temples by acting for and on behalf of our ancestors and other relatives as proxies in the Temples. However, we also believe that in order for those ordinances to take effect, the ancestor or relative has to voluntarily accept those ordinances and become converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are some links that explain more about these beliefs.
- Family History
- My Family History
- The Family, A Proclamation to the World
- The Plan of Salvation
- What is the purpose of family?
Essentially, we use family history (genealogy) records to help us identify our ancestors and other relatives in order to provide them with the opportunity to receive the blessings available in our sacred Temples. This is a personal responsibility of each member of the Church.
Now, on a practical level, not all of the members of the Church are involved directly in family history and even among those who are interested, there are considerable differences between the members in their level of interest and involvement. As with all things in the Church, the members can choose to be actively involved or not. There are those in the Church who develop a very high level of interest in genealogy and become competent genealogists.
Becuase of our basic beliefs, the Church has been involved in actively promoting genealogy and family history since the 1800s. Further, as a result of these beliefs, the Church has maintained a worldwide effort to find and preserve valuable genealogical records. Presently, the Church genealogical organization is called FamilySearch. The records that have been accumulating since the 1800s are now made available on a website called FamilySearch.org. The website, FamilySearch.org, is free and open to everyone whether they are members of the Church or not. Some members of the Church are so interested in the whole genealogical process that they are willing, at their own expense, to serve as full-time volunteer representatives of FamilySearch. This is what my wife and I do presently. We are serving as Record Preservation Specialists (camera operators) in the Maryland State Archives digitizing records that will become available to both the Archives and FamilySearch.
The idea of doing family history from the aspect of a religious motivation might seem strange but when you understand the reasons and beliefs of those who are so involved, you understand and realize that this interest is simply a natural outgrowth of those fundamental beliefs.