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

Monday, November 14, 2016

If They Would Look They Might Live

In the 37th chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon, Alma is transferring the records of the Nephites to his son Helaman. In his instructions to Helaman, Alma rehearses the history of the records and notes with particularity the "plates of brass." He says,
3 And these plates of brass, which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning— 
4 Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon. 
5 And now behold, if they are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and they will retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ.
Alma goes on to say,
6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. 
7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
Later on in the same chapter, Alma refers to the Liahona and says,
40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. 
41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
We have similar "miracles" today to assist us in working on our family history. One of these miracles is the Family Tree. Working with several other large online genealogical database programs, the Family Tree almost miraculously provides us with specific information about our kindred dead. But Alma also notes the following:
43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual. 
44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. 
45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise. 
46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
 I know that the Family Tree and the other marvelous tools given to us in our day to participate in the work of the salvation of our dead ancestors are temporal. But I also know that they are, in a true sense, spiritual. But I also see that many of us are "slothful because of the easiness of the way" that we now have to find our ancestors and if we would but look, we might live. How many of us now fail to even look at the Family Tree? I am almost constantly surrounded by members who have no interest in even looking. What does that say about us?

As Alma repeatedly says beginning in chapter 36, verse 1,
1 My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.
Let us keep the commandments to seek after our kindred dead and thereby prosper in the land.

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