Sacrament Meeting Talk – West Jordan 4th Ward – March 14, 2010
Both Shauna and I could talk about family history for hours so I had to make some decisions about simplifying the topic of Family History. So, first I am going to talk about the doctrine of family history and temple work. Then I want to tell you about the new Family Search program and Family Search Indexing. Next I want to tell you about methods of research that were not available 20-30 years ago such as searching Internet databases and DNA testing and TV shows about family history. Then finally I will tell you how family history can change your life.
The third Article of Faith says: We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
The fourth article of faith says: We believe the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Let’s focus on ordinances. An ordinance is a sacred act or ceremony performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential for exaltation. These include baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek Priesthood ordination for men, and the temple ordinances of initiatory work, endowment, sealing to spouse and sealing of children to parents. Each of these ordinances includes covenants or promises made with God.
D&C 84:20-21 reads: …in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.
Ordinances have the power to change our natures from a telestial nature to a celestial nature. We all know this is true of baptism because baptism has the power to cleanse us and make us clean. It is also true of the other ordinances including the ordinance of the sacrament and the temple ordinances.
When Angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith he quoted scriptures and one that he quoted was from Malachi 4. “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” This scripture is so important that it became the second section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This scripture was also quoted by the Savior Jesus Christ when he appeared to the Nephites in The Book of Mormon.
Elijah did come. He appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. In D&C 110 we read, “…Behold the time has fully come which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come – To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse – Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands…..”
This was the beginning of temple and family history work in this dispensation.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.”
To help us with this greatest responsibility we now have New Family Search.
This week I completed a four-part series of classes on New Family Search at the Family History Library. I learned a lot. I will not fully know the software until I work with it more. It is my calling and Shauna’s calling to help you get registered and help you learn how to use it. Mostly we will learn together by doing.
My opinion of New Family Search is that it is a good thing. There are a lot of problems presently but after the problems are worked out we will have achieved three important things.
1. There will be a reasonably accurate, evidence-based database of our ancestors on the Internet.
2. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be able to participate in Family History and perform temple ordinances for their ancestors without being burdened with time-consuming, specialized training.
3. Families will learn about their ancestors and co-ordinate their research and temple work which will bring everyone closer together. Just last week I bore my testimony of how this has happened already in our family.
New Family Search is a software program and a database. It was created by combining the information in Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, International Genealogical Index (IGI), Church Membership Files, and Temple Ordinance Files. Information about each individual was combined. All of the information was preserved. Nothing was deleted or overwritten. and finally, individuals were organized into families and extended family lines.
You and your relatives see the same information about individuals and families. You can work together to evaluate the accuracy of the information. You can add notes and sources. You can add new information and make corrections in one place, and everyone can see everything. It is like Wikipedia on the Internet. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that was written by a gazillion contributors just writing what they knew about on the Internet. The information in Wikipedia became more accurate and reliable as time went on and the information in new Family Search will also become more accurate and reliable as time goes on.
New Family Search was released gradually to the church temple district by temple district. The Reno and St. Louis temple districts were the first and these temples switched to new Family Search in May 2007. Gradually the other temple districts started using new Family Search. The very last temple to switch was the Salt Lake temple. Jordan River was probably second to last. This was in November 2009. When the Utah temple districts were added, the system was flooded with users and there was a deluge of mistakes and problems in the genealogy information. Gradually all these problems will be resolved. We just need to be patient and work together to improve the quality of the content in new Family Search. It will be helpful to have a sense of humor.
Actually the Asian temples do not have newFamily Search yet because it still needs to be converted into the Asian languages.
Do you know that all of you are in New Family Search if you are a member of the church? However, only deceased individuals are visible online. The only living people you will be able to see are your own spouse and children and your parents and grandparents, if they are living.
You sign into newFamily Search by getting a profile and a user name and password just like you do with other Internet programs. You need to have your church membership number and birth date and you need to have a verifiable e-mail address. Any member of the church over 12 years of age can sign up.
Just this week something exciting is happening. We are being asked to create an LDS Account and when we do this we can use one user name and password to sign in to all the church web sites including newFamilySearch, Family Search Indexing, LDS Employment Services, LDS Family Services, ward and stake websites, and others. Nonmembers can get an account and use some of these sites and probably within the next year nonmembers will be able to join newFamilySearch.
Many nonmembers are already signed up to do Family Search Indexing. Family Search and Ancestry.com are the two largest genealogy databases on the Internet. Genealogy databases are wonderful to help you in finding your ancestors. Indexing takes all the information in a collection such as a census record and makes it easily available on the Internet. Imagine if all the names in the telephone book were just on a random list and not alphabetized and you were trying to find one person. You would have to read the whole book and search line by line. That is how genealogy used to be for everyone. When the census or another record is indexed you can find the person you are searching for much more easily with a few clicks of your mouse.
Ancestry.com hires people in China to do some of their indexing. Chinese people are very good at distinguishing thousands of different characters, but they do not know as much about the context of what they are reading in English as you or I would know. Family Search uses volunteers who speak the languages of the documents they are indexing. Their databases are free and in many ways more accurate.
I would like to encourage everyone who has a computer and the Internet to become a Family Search volunteer indexer. You can do this if you are twelve years old or older. If you do just one batch of indexing a week, you can really help out a lot and you will never have to have feelings of guilt when you go to church and hear lessons about family history. Maybe it is not your season in life to be into family history research, but you will be doing your part. You will also get experience in reading the documents and if you later decide you want to do actual research it will be good preparation. I have learned that some people do indexing in groups using Skype. Instead of just chatting online they are indexing together online.
This is the best time in the history of the world to be doing family history work. It is so much easier today with all the tools of the Internet. It is easier to locate documents. Libraries have the catalogs of their collections online, which saves you time when you visit the library. You can do a lot of research in your own home without even going to the library. You can join research forums and get in touch with others anywhere in the world, who are researching the same families that you are.
I have posted requests for information on Rootsweb several times and had good results. One time I received an email from a man in Canada, Gordon, not a member of the church, who had corresponded with another man in England, Arthur, who had the hobby of doing research at the Canterbury Archives and he passed on the information that I needed. In the past the only way I could have received this information would be to travel to Canterbury and search the archives myself or to hire someone to do it for me.
Another Internet request led to me meeting some relatives who were converts to the church from Canada but their ancestors were related to some of my pioneer ancestors. This really nice couple came to my parents’ home to meet my family and it was a great experience. We immediately felt like family.
Some of you remember in the late 1970s we were all doing the “Four Generation Program.” I was looking for documentation of a civil marriage that took place in Salt Lake City in 1877. I spent several evenings at the Family History Library and did not find it. Just last week I was surfing the Internet looking for something else and saw a link to a database of Utah Marriages. I found what I was looking for in about three clicks of the mouse. Someone had taken the journals of Judge Elias Smith a probate judge in Salt Lake City, transcribed them and indexed them. Judge Smith performed many marriages in his home or other homes in the evenings that were never recorded at the court because it wasn’t required by Utah Territorial Law. Our ancestors were married in the evening in his home and the record states they lived in the Nineteenth Ward. Back in the 1970s I had spent a lot of time searching the Nineteenth Ward records.
Many developments in science and technology have family research applications. You can use GPS units to help you find old cemeteries or old homesteads. There are indexes online of U.S. homestead applications and other indexes that convert the surveying measurements to latitude and longitude and off you go to find the exact spot of the old family homestead. Google Earth can also be a family history tool.
DNA testing has genealogical application. This has been particularly helpful to African Americans who wanted to know what area of Africa their ancestors came from. As more and more people are DNA tested and databases grow larger it will be more helpful in giving us clues about our ancestry. Henry Louis Gates Jr. the Harvard historian and creator of the PBS series Faces of America and African American Lives has also started a foundation to provide DNA testing for inner city high school students. The theory is that when the young people know who they came from it will change their lives. DNA testing can tell you what haplogroups you belong to. Typically you would be shown a pie chart that tells what percentage of different groups is in your makeup. If you watched Who Do You Think You Are? on Friday night you learned that Emmitt Smith, the star football player, tested 81% African, 12% European and 7% Native American. The expert told Emmitt that he was a rarity and that most African Americans have a much higher percentage of European DNA than 12%. So, we are more closely related than we think we are. DNA testing showed that Jews and Arabs were closely related which proves the story of Abraham is true. It also showed that Native Americans were related to Asians and a few people decided that proved The Book of Mormon is not true. Most of us decided that it only proved that Book of Mormon people were not the only ones who lived in ancient America.
How can family history change your life? Malcolm Gladwell on Faces of America said, “The more ways you can define yourself, the better off you are.” I think he is right. One way you can define yourself is by knowing your ancestors. If they made good choices in their lives, it helps you to know that you can also make good choices in your life. If they made bad choices, it warns you and motivates you to do better and make good choices for yourself. As you learn more about your ancestors your hearts will turn to them. As you perform sacred ordinances in the temple, you will feel the Holy Ghost sealing the ordinances. I want to close with this beautiful promise made by President Packer:
“The Lord will bless us as we attend to the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all of our affairs. We will be eligible to have the Lord take an interest in our affairs both spiritual and temporal…. Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and as a people.”
I know this is true and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.