I gave a lesson on Family History in RS. It was kind of special for a few reasons. First, being July, Pioneer Day will soon be here. It is a great time of year to reflect on our ancestors and all they have done for us. Second, since my grandma died not quite two months ago, I've been pondering a lot on the lessons I learned from her and the impact she (and my grandpa) had on my life. And most special of all, my sisters and my mom were all here visiting and so my sisters and my mom were able to be there for my lesson. I am not an expert on family history, but I do know it is important and I am working to increase my knowledge and participation in this important work.
SO here's my lesson:
What do you think of or what words come to mind when you think of family history? Be honest. (Words people shared included: scary, overwhelming, easy now with the New Family Search, temple work)
Today we’re going to talk about family history and its importance and the promises given to us as we do family history.
Why should we do family history?
Malachi 4: 5-6... We’ve all heard these verses: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Family history is exactly that…turning our hearts to our fathers and their hearts to us. Did you know that these same words are repeated by the Savior in 3 Nephi 25:5 and to Joseph Smith when Moroni appeared in Joseph Smith History 1:38-39 and then to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in D&C 110:14-15 (where they were told that the time had fully come when the hearts were being turned to the fathers). Of course, Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple and restored the keys to temple and family history work. When the Lord talks about something in the scriptures in 2 or more places, we know that it is important. This verse has been quoted in every book of scripture we have! So family history must be essential.
D&C 128:15: "And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers--that they without us cannot be made perfect--neither can we without our dead be made perfect."
What are the blessings of family history? (MY thoughts: increased desire to attend the temple, increased desire to live righteously and follow the example of ancestors, gratitude, closer family ties). Others shared that an apostle promised that those who participate in family history will avoid the temptation of pornography, the veil will become thinner, our love for our family, others and our Father in Heaven will increase.
Not only the scriptures speak of family history, but our living prophets and apostles have been teaching about family history work a great deal lately.
Henry B. Eyring spoke to converts and said, ““When you were baptized, your ancestors looked down on you with hope. Perhaps after centuries, they rejoiced to see one of their descendants make a covenant to find them and to offer them freedom. In your reunion, you will see in their eyes either gratitude or terrible disappointment. Their hearts are bound to you. Their hope is in your hands. You will have more than your own strength as you choose to labor on to find them.” While he was speaking specifically to converts, I think this relates to all of us. Perhaps we too have ancestors who are waiting and hoping that we will find them and do their temple work. As we do family history work and temple work, we are blessing the lives of our ancestors and doing for them what they cannot do for themselves. We become “saviors on Mount Zion.”
In October 2012, Elder Richard G. Scott gave a talk entitled, The Joy of Redeeming the Dead: He said, “Every prophet since Joseph Smith has emphasized the imperative need to provide all ordinances for ourselves and our deceased ancestors.” Every prophet has taught that…we would do well to listen.
QUOTE #1 Elder Scott also said,
“But what about you? Have you prayed about your own ancestors’ work? Set aside those things in your life that don’t really matter. Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences. Perhaps you have been prompted to look for ancestors but feel you are not a genealogist. Can you see that you don’t have to be anymore? It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who can’t help themselves. Check around. There will be someone in your area who can help you have success.
This work is a spiritual work, a monumental effort of cooperation on both sides of the veil, where help is given in both directions. Anywhere you are in the world, with prayer, faith, determination, diligence, and some sacrifice, you can make a powerful contribution. Begin now. I promise you that the Lord will help you find a way. And it will make you feel wonderful.”
Family history blesses our lives and the lives of our ancestors. And the church has made it easier and easier to do family history work. The new Family Search is quite easy to use. And our Elders can train you how to use it. If you haven’t set up an appointment with them to teach you how to use Family Search, then you should! I am no expert but I’m learning.
QUOTE #2 ----Elder Russell M. Nelson said,
"When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors through sacred ordinances of the temple."
Now, one of the things that led me to want to teach about this was watching the Relief Society Auxiliary training. They shared several quotes from leaders of the church about how family history will protect our children, our families from the influence of the adversary. I can’t imagine anything I want more than for my children to be protected…so this quote by Elder Scott really spoke to me. Speaking to the youth, he said,
“Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As you grow older, you will be able to participate in receiving the other ordinances as well. I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life.”
Elder Bednar spoke about family history work in October 2011. He said, speaking to the youth, “It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”
Then he gave this promise:
QUOTE #3 Elder Bednar said, “As you respond in faith to this invitation (to do family history work), your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.” (Bolding added by me).
Then he counseled us as parents and leaders to give them a little bit of instruction and then get out of their ways. Your children or grandchildren can be involved in using indexing or Family Search. I’m planning to train Michelle to do indexing. It’s quite easy. I’m not great at technology but if you go to lds.org and go to resources then family history there are step by step instructions on how to index. They have what is called a “test drive” to train you or your child how to index. I just got started a couple of weeks ago and it really is pretty easy. You can finish a batch in about a half hour (sometimes a little more or little less) and you can save a batch for later if you can’t finish it in one sitting. Indexing then makes those records accessible for others to do family history research.
Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk back in 1989 entitled “FAMILY HISTORY in Wisdom and Order“: He spoke about how we go through different stages in our lives and at different points we have more or less time to devote to family history. But he said there is much that each of us can do. That’s okay. Elder Oaks said, “Our effort is not to compel everyone to do everything, but to encourage everyone to do something.”
I am not trying to make you feel guilty if you’re not currently doing much family history…. But maybe encourage you to reframe what you think family history entails and maybe encourage you to do just a little more, if you can.
So let’s talk about things that count as family history: (What are things that count as family history?) List on board.
*Journaling or writing a personal history…or helping your children to journal or write a personal history
This can be done on the computer, on a blog that you then print out, in a small journal, in a spiral notebook or whatever method works for you.
QUOTE #4 PRES. KIMBALL said, “Every person should keep a journal and every person can keep a journal. It should be an enlightening one and should bring great blessings and happiness to the families. If there is anyone here who isn’t doing so, will you repent today and change—change your life?” He also said, “Those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives.”
(We had a great discussion on journaling! I am planning to blog about my thoughts on journaling later this week.)
*Scrapbooks, photo albums, preserving memories of your family…also collecting and preserving photos of your ancestors… which you can upload to Family Search so that others can see them as well.
*Collecting and sharing family stories of ancestors/progenitors both living and dead.
*Using family Search to learn about ancestors
*Doing temple work for family names
* Sharing family stories with your children in family home evening. Use FHE to fill out a family tree chart (available on LDS.org). Use FHE to read about ancestors, look at their photos, teach older children how to index and then let them spend time this summer indexing. Play games about ancestors (for ideas see the Family History section on LDS.org)
*Printing off fan chart with children.
*Having missionaries teach your family about family search or teach another family that aren’t members about family search in your home.
*Interviewing a member of your family to learn more about their life, their childhood, etc. When I was a teenager, my maternal grandparents came to AZ for a visit. My grandpa has always been a quiet man, often speaking only a few words a day to each of us. But while they were there, we interviewed him, asking questions about his life. He talked for an hour or more and shared many things that even my mom didn’t know. It was wonderful. Now you can even upload these interviews or family stories on Family Search so that other relatives can read them as well.
I shared some lessons I learned from my grandparents and lessons that my mom learned from them. I also shared a story about one of my ancestors. I am thankful to have photographs and life histories from a number of my ancestors. It is a treasure. I've enjoyed learning more about them.
WHAT WORDS DO YOU THINK OF NOW WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT FAMILY HISTORY? Have the words changed at all?