One of the great curiosities about Mormonism is their fascination with family history. Genealogy is the one area where the Church is almost universally known as a leader in. They even run a genealogy site, FamilySearch. When I went to Salt Lake for my first ever General Conference as a member, I made a visit to the Church’s Family History Library where anyone, member and non-member alike, could go and do research to discover their ancestors.
This praise does come with criticism. The claim is made that all this family history work is done only so that we can bring these names to the temple and that they are nothing more than just names. This isn’t the post to discuss or defend temple ordinances which I do believe are holy. I just wanted to point out that there is this criticism.
To be honest, when I first started doing family history work, I just wanted to bring names to the temple. It was a pride thing: Look how many names I got! Now I do recognize that that is the totally wrong way to go about both family history work and temple work. It diminishes the value of both these noble and beautiful things.
Since all my ancestors came to the United States from Cuba in the 1960’s, there aren’t a lot of US records for my ancestors. The ones that there are records for, I already know about (though finding their records give a good indication of when they passed away or when they were born which is interesting). There aren’t any online sources to go to to find the parents of my great-grandfather, for example. That I all have to do manually. So right now, I’m sort of stuck in my the family history search.
The other day while I was on FamilySearch stuck in my “investigation”, I couldn’t help but think of how great genealogy is. It must be great to be able to pull out a map and say this is my history. This is where I came from. Really, that’s all it is. Family history work is a way of exploring who we are and how we got here.
Mormons place such a high priority on families because we believe that families continue on in the next life. We will be with our family, our loved ones, in eternity. Searching for your family history is one of the ways we prepare for that. It’s essentially us discovering who we will be with for all eternity.
Unfortunately, right now they may only be a name. There may not be a lot of information about them. Though that may be true now, we can only hope that some day, if not now then in the next life, be able to discover who they were and hear their own journey.
Every person has a story. Family history work is our way of finding the stories of our ancestors and revealing in some way a little of our own.