I am in the midst of organizing a family reunion to be held in June for the posterity of my parents. Our family holds a reunion every year, and we hold it in the same place every year. We have a silent auction and use the proceeds of it to pay for the site. The reunion is held in an area where many family members live, so we leave housing and transportation arrangements to the individuals who are traveling.
We use a fairly simple schedule of events, and the chairperson usually needs to plan only the program, activities, and food. This year is different because an older brother passed away in January. He is the sibling that was the most involved in family history work, and he maintained several different categories of lists for the family. The information is most likely still in his computer, but it is not available to me as I live several thousand miles from his home.
As chairman of this reunion, I realized that I needed a current list of family members and that I would need to create it. I started with a list from my brother dated August 2015 but found a more recent one dated 2017 after I was far into the project. I think that I now have a list of all members of the family.
Making this list was no easy task because my parents have 12 children, 70 grandchildren, 223 great-grandchildren, 46 second-great-grandchildren, and 1 third-great-grandchild. This adds up to 352 direct descendants – living and dead - and does not take spouses into consideration. Since all 12 children, most of the 70 grandchildren, and about 25 of the great-grandchildren are married, family members easily number close to 425-450 people. Of course, there will not be 400+ members at the reunion, but I expect to have more than 100 people in attendance.
With my thoughts and my efforts involved in making a list of individuals and placing them in family groups, I should not have been surprised at my feelings when I studied a talk about roots and branches by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson. Elder Nelson explains that we all have ancestral roots that go back many generations, and each of us received certain genetic markers from our parents – markers that they received from their parents, etc.
Elder Nelson says that we each have spiritual roots in addition to physical ones, and these roots go back even further. “They shape our values, our beliefs, and our faith. Spiritual roots guide our commitment to the ideals and teachings of the Lord….” He says that we should be grateful for both our physical and spiritual roots. He states that we also have religious roots that go back to the founding of our religion.
Just as our roots determine to a significant degree what we are, our branches are also an important extension of our identity. Personal branches bear the fruit of our loins. Scriptures teach, “By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matthew 7:20) ….
In much the same way, our religion is known by the fruits of its branches…
Elder Nelson tells of meeting with government officials in a foreign land. They were so impressed with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its works that they wanted copies of guidebooks and information about different programs. Elder Nelson says that he and his companions complied with the requests as best they could and then changed the focus from “what we do to why we do it.”
I explained with an analogy to a tree. “You are attracted by the various fruits of our faith,” I said. “They are plentiful and powerful. But you cannot savor this fruit unless you know the tree that produces it. And you cannot understand the tree unless you comprehend its roots. With our religion, you cannot have the fruit without the roots.” This they understood.
Fruits from the branching tree of the gospel include “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, [and] faith” (Galatians 5:22). President Harold B. Lee once said: “Beautiful, luscious fruit does not grow unless the roots of the … tree have been planted in rich, fertile soil and unless due care is given to proper pruning, cultivation, and irrigation. So likewise the luscious fruits of virtue and chastity, honesty, temperance, integrity, and fidelity are not to be found growing in that individual whose life is not founded on a firm testimony of the truths of the gospel and of the life and the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Stand Ye in Holy Places (1974), 218-19).
The fruits of the gospel are delicious to those who obey the Lord. We pursue an education knowing that “the glory of God is intelligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36). The blessing of tithing comes by paying tithing (Malachi 3:10).
Rewards are reaped from the Word of Wisdom by obedience to it (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21). We learn from experience borne of gospel living that prayer, honoring the Sabbath Day, and partaking of the sacrament protect us from the bondage of sin. We shun pornography and immorality, knowing that the peace of personal purity can be ours only as we live according to the laws of the gospel….
Simply summarized, life’s greatest blessings will come to us if our love of Jesus Christ is rooted deeply in our hearts (“Roots and Branches,” Ensign, May 2004).
My parents sacrificed much to make sure that their “fruit” grew in a good environment of love and respect. They gave roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ to each of their children, and they expected all of us to pass that knowledge to the next generation.
I recognize that there are several members of the family who have drifted away from their religious roots, but I know that there are many family members who have strong religious roots that are sunk deep into rich gospel soil. I know that my parents are concerned about their descendants who are wandering, but I also know that they receive great comfort from those who are strong. I know that they are pleased with the unity among their children and children’s children. Roots and branches are important to each of us. They make for strong and loving families. May we keep them strong!