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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Let all the records be had in order...

The Doctrine and Covenants 127:9 states with regard to recordings made of ordinances for the dead:
And again, let all the records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple, to be held in remembrance from generation to generation, saith the Lord of Hosts.
I have been working back through my generations of ancestors on the Family Tree and I am appalled at the lack of careful consideration and order that I find time after time. It is time we set our Family Tree house in order. Over the years, I have visited thousands of homes of both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those who are not members. I am always saddened when I find a house in disorder. There seems to be little or no correlation between economic status and education. Some people live clean and orderly lives, others live in dirt and squalor. The contrast between two homes can appear on the same street in the same neighborhood whether the homes are in a gated community of mansions or have a dirt path with dirt floors and cardboard walls. This physical squalor is sometimes in contrast to the spiritual squalor in the two homes. Many people living in beautifully kept homes have their lives in disorder while those in less well kept homes have spiritually fulfilling lives. But I have noticed that over time, orderliness increases with spirituality.

I just finished working through one family on the Family Tree with a long list of fourteen children. Two of the children listed were born up to fifty years after the father listed in the family died. In fact, as I examined the information carefully over many hours of work, I determined that the father listed in the family was not the husband of my ancestor. I found a marriage record for the husband with another wife and the children. There was no marriage record for my ancestor and the named husband and all those children. In fact, the place where the husband was listed as being born had no birth records for that person's surname going back to the earliest recorded birth, death and marriage records. When you add a child to a family is it so hard to look at the birth date and compare it to the age and death dates of the parents? In this family it turned out that the birth name of the mother, my ancestor, had not been accurately recorded even though a source citation to the birth record had been attached to the entry in the Family Tree.

I assume the revelation given by Joseph Smith concerning baptisms for the dead in Section 127 of the Doctrine and Covenants applies to the work going on in the Family Tree. Yet I see very little said or done about increasing the accuracy and orderliness of the records. We seem anxious to do the work, but unwilling to concentrate on careful, complete and accurate records. I am reminded of a talk given by President Spencer W. Kimball in the October, 1974 General Conference entitled, "God Will Not Be Mocked." President Kimball said,
Now, brothers and sisters, we have launched a cleanup campaign. We are a throw-away people. Trash piles grow faster than population by far. Now we ask you to clean up your homes and your farms. “Man is the keeper of the land, and not its possessor.” 
Broken fences should be mended or removed. Unused barns should be repaired, roofed, painted, or removed. Sheds and corrals should be repaired and painted, or removed. Weedy ditch banks should be cleared. Abandoned homes could probably be razed. We look forward to the day when, in all of our communities, urban and rural, there would be a universal, continued movement to clean and repair and paint barns and sheds, build sidewalks, clean ditch banks, and make our properties a thing of beauty to behold. 
We have asked leaders of youth groups, auxiliary organizations, and priesthood quorums to give power to this concentrated action for beautification. 
The Lord said: 
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” (Ps. 24:1.)
“And I the Lord God, took the man [Adam], and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.” (Moses 3:15.) 
Therefore, we urge each of you to dress and keep in a beautiful state the property that is in your hands.
I would extend this injunction to the Family Tree. We need to "dress and keep" it in a beautiful state. We need to carefully and prayerfully examine what we include in the Family Tree and make it a record of all acceptation. As President Ezra Taft Benson stated in General Conference in October, 1978,
First, I mention some things which have not changed: 
1. The Lord’s mandate given in section 128 of theDoctrine and Covenants has not changed: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? … 
“Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:22, 24.)
I fully recognize that we all come from different levels of experience, education and background. But where we are working on sacred records, there is an expectation of excellence. Back in 1978, President Benson recognized that at that time ancestral records may not be available to the general membership of the Church. That barrier to research has been, to a large extent, greatly reduced. We have the records we need to correct the information in the Family Tree. New records are being added every day by the millions. There is no real excuse for careless, slipshod genealogical work.

Our time is now. We are the ones who need to address the inconsistencies, errors, incomplete entries and other issues with the Family Tree.


  1. "Squalor" - I really detest auto spell check.

  2. "Yet I see very little said or done about increasing the accuracy and orderliness of the records." I couldn't agree more! It puzzles me why FS keeps talking about how "easy and fun" family history is when they should be reaching out to the dedicated and committed genealogists and encouraging them to help clean up the tree.

    1. Yes I agree
      I went to a family history consultants meeting where leaders encouraged youth to find take and teach, but nothing on training them how to record correctly. I felt as an experienced family history consultant that we were no longer needed and let the youth carry on the work. No mention about needing to source everything and keeping records accurate. Many felt the same.

  3. This is one of the things that motivated me to start working on family history. I had always heard it was all done, but what I have found is that there is a lot of cleanup to do, and I only had to go three or four generations back to find errors, including a Danish great great

  4. grandfather who was merged with several other people with the same name (I'm still working up the courage to work on that one). My guess is that most people have never even logged into Family Tree and so they don't know how much needs to be done. I think it would help a lot if we had more practical classes about how to do good family history rather than motivational talks.