12 February 2011

07 February 2011

The Family Historian

Recent experiences have reminded me that if ever I am wanting to see the miracles of God in my life, all I have to do is sit down and do some family history work. From the mysterious advent of Elijah in the days of the Old Testament, to his return and bestowal of his keys to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, culminating today in the miracle and ministry of temples all over the earth--there has never been a greater time to be seeking after one's own kindred dead.

I recently discovered this video about the Granite Mountain Records Vault. I'd heard about this vault in passing once, and wasn't sure if it was a myth or not. Not only is it real, it is the backbone to a staggeringly large collection of records--records which are pivotal in some of the most sacred work we do in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And like almost any other good thing in the Church, this database it is free to the public. You can visit FamilySearch.org, and search for your ancestors with no obligation whatsoever. The online collection isn't the fledgling it used to be. Compared to the pay-to-use genealogy giants like Ancestry.com there's still a lot of room for growth, but that's exactly what FamilySearch continues to do. For a broke enthusiast like me who will take what she can get, it's an amazing resource.

I have always loved family history work. I remember in my freshman year of high school, I had a family history assignment for one of my classes. I was excited to have reason and incentive to invest myself in a long time interest of mine. I was only required to report four generations, but I expressed an interest to my teacher to do more. Even though I had the desire, I wasn't sure where to begin.

She recommended I "try and contact the Mormons" because they kept meticulous genealogical records. I didn't know any members of the Church at the time, and had no idea how to go about contacting them. I wouldn't come to meet my first family of Latter-day Saints probably for another year. It was such a simple seed, and even though I put it from my mind, to this day I have never forgotten that experience.

When I finally did meet my first Latter-day Saint family, they took an interest in me which I attribute entirely to divine inspiration from the Holy Ghost. Together with another family I met some time later, they eventually invited me to some youth activities, then finally to Church.

In my first Sacrament Meeting I began to receive a testimony that the Church was true. A large part of my ability to recognize and receive that testimony was a talk given that day by a member on the importance of family history work, and the spirit of Elijah. Even though Elijah was totally unfamiliar to me, his spirit was not. I may not have understood hearts, keys, and seals at the time--but I understood the need I had to know.

For me, that was enough.


5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 
6 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.

As I read the promise from Malachi 4 now, I feel the same confirming witness now that I felt then; one that spoke directly to my heart regarding a very private and real desire. To write it off as a coincidence would be to disregard how personally I felt the love of God that day--how tangible His influence felt to me as so many pieces of my life came together. I realized that every moment of my life had led me to this place. I can no more deny God's hand in it than I can undo the events of my own life. In a sublime moment undeserved, but longed for beyond all hope and reason, experience became my evidence.

My family was waiting for me to find them. I was their only link to the covenants and ordinances which would allow them to become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ. I had to find them and link them to myself. That desire burned brightly within me, and it only grew brighter as time passed.

Once I was baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Lord began to pour His blessings out upon my family. Finding my ancestors, tracing down their records, assembling our tree was work that became a blessing in more ways than one. As name after name came miraculously into my possession, I felt a growing love for my place as a daughter to my mother and father. I saw my position as a sacred assignment to the living and the dead, and that has made all the difference to us in both this world and the next.

I know the spirit of Elijah is alive on the earth. I've felt it burning in my heart as I search for my ancestors, and do my best to improve my relationships with my living family members. I know the purpose of his spirit is to help gather families together, that they might have faith in Jesus Christ, receive His gospel, and be sealed together in His temple for all eternity. Because I have embraced the spirit of Elijah, I have come to receive his witness, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110:

14 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— 
15 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— 
16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

I testify that Elijah's keys--his authority--were restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and have been handed down through our dispensation to President Thomas S. Monson today. I know that because of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, we can receive the Holy Ghost. I know the Holy Ghost is the power behind the seals which bind us up unto eternal life in the presence of Heavenly Father, which is why exact obedience is so essential to everything we do in the Church. The lives of so many depend on us to be good continually so we can do the work we were sent here to do.

I'm striving every day to make glorifying Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the number one priority of my existence. I know ministering to their children in love is the only means to that end, and I'm happy to do so for both the living and the dead. I've come to realize that my life would be meaningless and empty without the parents and generations before me who gave me life. I hope by gathering us together, I can assist in preparing the way for us all to be reunited again in the kingdom of heaven.

Only because I am doing my family history work do I know there is no greater blessing than to have eternal life with them, and I bear my witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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