We can strengthen our family by doing family history. Knowing our ancestors helps us to know ourselves better. We strengthen our living family members when we search for our ancestors and take their names to the temple to complete their temple ordinances and seal them to our family. We can strengthen our living family members by showing them the importance of all family members.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the importance of family history: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.”
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have the covenant responsibility to search for our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. They without us cannot “be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40), and “neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:15).
Sally Randall of Nauvoo, Illinois, whose 14-year-old son died, found great comfort in the promise of eternal families. After her husband was baptized for their son, she wrote to her relatives: “What a glorious thing it is that we … can be baptized for all of our dead [ancestors] and save them as far back as we can get any knowledge of them.” Then she asked her relatives to send her information on their ancestors, saying, “I intend to do what I can to save [our family].”
Family history work has many facets – from keeping our own journals and writing our own life stories to searching for ancestors and making sure that all their ordinances are complete. Family history work prepares us for the blessings of eternal life and helps us increase our faith and personal righteousness. Family history is a vital part of the mission of the Church and enables the work of salvation and exaltation for all.
President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names…. Our interest turns our hearts to our fathers – we seek to find them and to know them and to serve them.”
I have noticed a difference in the level of excitement in those people who are actively searching for their ancestors and those who belong to families where much of the work has been completed. I belong to the latter type of family. All eight of my great-grandparents joined the Church and did their own genealogy to the extent that they could. My paternal grandmother and my father did extensive genealogy work on their lines; my mother and some of her family did much research on their lines. My older brother is searching manually for “holes” in our family history – forward, backward and sidewise - and is actually working on a program with the Church to do this work faster. What I am saying is “the work is done” basically. I know the names and where they fit in the family, but I do not really know the people.
I have a couple of friends who are also sisters; they are the only members of their family who are members of the Church. They are actively seeking their ancestors. I have noticed that they know the people – not just their names. They have worked to find members of their family and prayed diligently for divine help. When my friend talks about her ancestor it is as though she is talking about a dear friend! I envy the relationship she is developing with her ancestors.
I know the importance of family history work, and I know there are many ways to do the work. I am concentrating on the “living” rather than the “dead” in my family and doing all I can to help us be an eternal family. I encourage you to actively seek out your family members, whether living or dead, and develop strong and loving bonds with them. I know families can be together forever! I know that family history work strengthens families and thus strengthens communities and nations.