Family History: A glimpse into the past and the future
Contributed by Jeanette Earl of the Lethbridge Alberta Stake
“Any work you do in the temple is time well spent, but receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received. The First Presidency has declared, ‘Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors’ (First Presidency letter, Feb. 29, 2012)."
- Elder Richard G. Scott
Tracing and recording one’s family history can bring a special joy. Learning names and relationships, discovering the places the people lived and something of their lives brings them close. Completing ordinance work in the temple for family members seals a kinship that extends far beyond simply knowing their names and dates. They become true brothers and sisters and we can feel the joy they are experiencing as they are given the opportunity to hear of and unite themselves to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can also begin to relate to their life experiences, have a sense of pride in their achievements, feel indebted to them for their sacrifices and grieve with them for their sorrows and losses. I experience all this and more as I search for my Scottish family heritage and feel my life has been enriched in many ways.
One beautiful sunny day, I enjoyed the drive to the Cardston Temple where I was going to do an endowment (covenants with God) on behalf of Lily Wiseman, a relative from Strathaven, Avondale, Scotland. There were so many names that it was difficult for me to choose just one and leave the rest behind.
On the way, I prayed that I might feel the spirit and receive a confirmation that my ancestor was accepting the covenants I was making on her behalf. I felt time was running out for me to do my family history work, but had the impression that there were still lots of my ancestors waiting for their work to be done. With so many other things pressing on my time, I decided that today I would put them all aside and focus on enjoying the spirit of the Temple. During the session, I felt peace as I received the endowment on behalf of Lily.
While preparing to return home, I remembered the three other names that I had with me for preliminary ordinance work—Mary Hamilton; Elizabeth Clelland, my 4th great grandmother; and Jessie Torrance, a sister of my mother’s uncle, who was very good to my grandmother when my grandfather died leaving her with three young children including my mother, the eldest, who was just fourteen years old.
Afterwards, I felt good when I had done the work for Elizabeth, but was totally unprepared for the feelings I experienced when I held Jessie’s name card in my hand. I could not contain my emotions and tears and was totally swept away by the powerful spirit I felt. I can only assume that she was letting me know she had accepted the ordinance. I had recorded her name ten years before on a trip to Scotland, but I hadn’t found a death date in order to submit her name to the Temple. I felt sorry that I didn’t try harder to find it then, since she was obviously waiting for the ordinances of the Temple. After this experience, I felt a close kinship to Jessie and that I knew her intimately.
During my drive home, I contemplated my experience at the Temple and realized that I had completely forgotten that I had asked to feel the spirit and receive a confirmation that the work I was doing was important to someone. I had only expected a feeling of rightness or peace to be present and was overwhelmed by the powerful feelings that ensued, so I wrote this little poem to always remember the joy that I feel when I do family history work.”
In this holy place
I feel His spirit
Touching mine –
But like a rush
Of mighty waters
A fragile leaf
In a powerful current –
I am swept away.