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

Monday, October 17, 2016

One Family Tree for the Human Family: We are all related

"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream: not only plan, but also believe." Anatole France.

The operation of the Family Tree is a paradigm shift for many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This fact was emphasized again to me when I taught a group of older members of the Church about finding relatives and ancestors who qualify for Temple ordinances. Because of the comments made by the class members it was fully evident that many of the class members did not understand the unified nature of the Family Tree and in fact resisted the entire concept.

The Family Tree is designed and intended to be a single, unified family tree for all mankind. That is to say that every person who ever lived or will live on the earth has a unique place or node on the Family Tree. Everyone. The Family Tree is a complete representation of the entire human family and could potentially connect every person to his or her relatives no matter how far extended. This universal aspect of the Family Tree is only limited by the availability of records and the time it will take to connect every family that has lived on the earth.

Obviously, there are limitations imposed by the availability of records but it is always premature to take the position that your genealogy can wait until the Millennium. The reaction of some of the class members included the time-worn refrain that all that could be done to extend and work with their family lines had already been accomplished. The answer to this rather simplistic refrain is merely a simple reference to geometric progressions and the number of descendants that even one couple can have given a few generations. It is strange that we can believe that the whole earth was populated from one couple but cannot understand that our ancestors had children and grandchildren who got married and had more children and grandchildren.

What was more remarkable from the class was that to the majority of the participants the information merely rolled off their backs like water off of a duck and it was immediately back to business as usual. I have concluded that the only real way to help people change their hearts and attitude about family history is to work with them one at a time, using their own family as the basis for the teaching. Classroom instruction may open a door but it inefficient in changing hearts.

Perhaps the idea of the expandability of the Family Tree is better illustrated by a thought experiment. Let's suppose I add a person to the Family Tree. Does this mean that somehow my ability to add another person to the Family Tree is somehow limited? Not at all. Each time I add a person to the Family Tree, the tree expands and actually creates additional nodes and possible branches. It is true that the theoretical descendants of any reproductive process would eventually fill the entire earth, but practicality does not really limit the Family Tree. There is always one more node and one more place to add another person. The end product is a unified, family tree available to the entire planet and theoretically beyond.

Another important implication of the Family Tree is the universal oneness of the human family. We are all ultimately related. This quote from John Donne's Meditation XVII gets to the heart of how the Family Tree works to relate all mankind.
No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

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