Find Our Cousins!


 

 

 

 

The following is the text of the address Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave at the Family Discovery Day devotional for youth in conjunction with the RootsTech Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 8, 2014. 

Thank you, McKayla Faddis, and thank you to the youth committee who have done such an excellent work in leading our terrific day here at RootsTech.

We are here on a Saturday afternoon. My subject is sacred, but we will have some parts during my talk where I ask you to clap and where I ask you to sing. Are you ready?

I bring you the love and greetings of President Monson, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve. We see your goodness, your desire to keep the commandments, and your devotion to the Lord, Jesus Christ. We love you. We are proud of you for being here today.

Have you ever wondered why you were sent to earth now rather than a different time in history? What would it have been like to stand by the side of Moses or to be a friend of Mary, the mother of Jesus? How about living in Nauvoo when the Prophet Joseph walked the streets, or along with other teenagers you had pulled and pushed your handcart a thousand miles to a new home in the Salt Lake Valley? Sometimes we look at former days or different places and we ask, “Why not me? Why am I here, in this place, and why now?”

You are not the first to wonder about the time and place of your life. A prophet living in the Americas asked the same questions. His name was Nephi—not the Nephi in the beginning of the Book of Mormon—but Nephi, the son of Helaman and great-grandson of the prophet Alma.

Nephi looked around at the wickedness of the world that surrounded him. In the world in which he lived, money, power, and popularity were more important than what was right. Many of the people openly disregarded the commandments. They lied, took what was not theirs, and ignored the law of chastity. Those who kept the commandments were ridiculed and mistreated.[1]

The scriptures say that “When Nephi saw [these things], his heart was swollen with sorrow … and he … [exclaimed] in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out from the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.”[2]

Nephi was an amazing prophet of God, yet for a moment he wondered why he was living on the earth during his time. He knew that the Savior was to come to earth in the not-too-distant future, but for the moment, it appears that the beautiful events— the magnificent time—that were just around the corner seemed to elude him.

In only 20 years from the time he spoke, a night would pass without darkness and Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Within 55 years, the Savior, resurrected and glorified, would descend out of heaven to the Saints in the land Bountiful. Nephi’s son would be there, and the Savior would address him personally and ordain him as one of the Twelve selected in the Western Hemisphere. We could suppose that his daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons, were among the 2,500 Saints whom Christ invited one by one to come forward and personally feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet. It would not be surprising to believe that Nephi’s great-grandchildren were among those little children that the Savior blessed, one by one, and who were encircled with fire and ministered to by angels. Had Nephi clearly seen the future of his righteous family and friends, surely he would not have wanted to alter the time of his mortality.

Gratefully, Nephi was not one to lament his situation. He remained righteous, taught the people with courage, worked mighty miracles, and along with the prophet Samuel prophesied of the imminent coming of the Savior.[3] The Lord with His own words promised He would bless Nephi forever.[4]

Although he had wondered about his time and place, he concluded with very powerful words: “Behold [he said] … these are my days.”[5]

My beloved young brothers and sisters, these are your days. You, like this prophet, Nephi, have been chosen to live in the final years preceding the Savior coming to earth. We do not know the exact day or year of His coming, but we can readily see the signs that precede His coming.[6] One day, just as Nephi came to see his vital place in preparing for the Savior coming to the Nephites, we will look back and see the glorious blessing that was ours to live in our time as we prepare the world for the Savior’s return. Let us see beyond the difficulties and the obstacles confronting us to our important purposes and to the glorious days ahead. Let us each echo Nephi’s words: “These are my days.”

With these being your days, what is the Lord asking of you? First, you are to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ. Learn of Him, of His love and unspeakable goodness to you, and determine that you will always keep His commandments. You are to follow the Savior, love God, and serve those around you. In the future you will make sacred covenants in the Lord’s house. Many will have the opportunity to be joined with a righteous companion for eternity and to bring others into mortality. All of us can have the privilege of living our lives as disciples of Christ, being led by His Spirit, and lifting those around us.

Some experiences are saved for specific generations. I want to talk about one of your sacred duties that has never quite been the same for any previous generation.

It has only been a few years that temples have been across the world. With the dedication of the Gilbert Arizona Temple on March 2 and the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple on May 4, we will have 143 temples in the world. When I was your age, there were 13 temples in the world. Sister Andersen grew up in the state of Florida. When she was five years old, her parents brought their family to the temple to be sealed together forever. It required a six-day, 2,500-mile drive across the United States to the Salt Lake Temple. Today there are 47 temples that are closer to her Florida home than the Salt Lake Temple.

President Monson has encouraged you, the youth of the Church, to visit the temples often to do baptisms for the dead. He said, “Now, my young friends who are in your teenage years, always have the temple in your sights. Do nothing which will keep you from entering its doors and partaking of the sacred and eternal blessings there. I commend those of you who already go to the temple regularly to perform baptisms for the dead, arising in the very early hours of the morning so you can participate in such baptisms before school begins. I can think of no better way to start a day.”[7] You have responded to the Lord’s prophet, and each year millions on the other side of the veil are given the opportunity to accept their baptism. No generation that has ever lived on this earth has had so great a privilege you are having to enter the doors of the Lord’s house and assist in the salvation of those who have come before.

As you well know, there is a vital first step that allows us to accomplish the sacred work of the temple. We are to search out and find those members of our families who came before us.

In Moroni’s first visit to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he instructed Joseph Smith that the “hearts of the children [would] turn to their fathers.”[8] The Prophet Joseph later explained that Church members were to become “saviors on Mount Zion.” “But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion?” he asked rhetorically before answering his own question, “By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of their progenitors who are dead, … and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”[9]

The Prophet Joseph spoke of this work as a “chain that binds” and as a “welding link” connecting families together from one generation to another.[10] The physical welding link in Joseph’s day was created by softening and melting two pieces of metal in a fiery oven, joining them together while they were still malleable, and then letting them cool and harden into an unbreakable chain. The importance of the powerful, spiritual welding that binds us all together forever was stated clearly in the scriptures: “We without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.”[11]

In the past this work of finding family names, documenting them, and bringing them to the temple was principally the work of older members of the Church. Why was that? Because it required enormous time and effort. It would often begin with large reels containing microfilmed records. It meant painstaking attention to dates and places, thick historical books with limited availability, and, at times, remote country cemeteries.

Our ability to find our ancestors online has only emerged in the past few years, with tremendous advancements only in the past few months. The months ahead will bring even more availability.

While your generation has become extremely devoted in visiting the temple, in the months and years ahead you will be just as outstanding in finding and bringing names to the temple with you.

Let me show you what is ahead. We are here at a RootsTech conference, and we would expect the youth that are here to have had more experience than anyone else in searching for family names. Let’s try an experiment.

Will you please stand if sometime in the past you have participated in a temple baptism?

Stay standing if you have participated in a baptism for one of your ancestors. If you haven’t, please sit down.

Finally, if you have submitted more names of your family to receive temple ordinances than you have personally performed baptisms in the temple, please stay standing.

I believe that in three years almost everyone will be standing. I want to challenge each of you to set a personal goal to help prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple. Again, my challenge for you is to prepare as many names for the temple as you perform baptisms in the temple.

There is something powerful in searching out someone who needs temple ordinances, learning who they are, and then being part of their receiving these sacred ordinances. This is how you become “saviors on Mount Zion.” There is a joy and satisfaction that is only understood through spiritual feelings. We are linked to them forever.

Some of our families have been in the Church for many generations, and much of our direct ancestors’ work in the temple has been done.

For the first time this past year, I could see my ancestors in a fan chart online. Here are my ancestors for four generations. Here they are for seven generations. Here is my great-grandfather after whom I was named, Niels Andersen. And here is my great-great-grandfather, Moroni Stocks, the first to be named for a Book of Mormon prophet. Do you think I have the genes to grow a great mustache? I was able to see photos of dozens of my family members online. Do you know what your great-grandparents looked like?

If your chart is not as complete as mine, your first responsibility is to fill it in as best you can. More and more information is becoming available each month.

If your chart is as complete as mine, there is still very important work for you to do. This work goes on and on. It will not be complete even when the Savior returns. When our chart appears complete, we help others find those in their lines and we find those closely related to those on our family tree. We call it “finding our cousins.”

This is a very important part of my talk today. How do we find our cousins? In two ways:

  1. We go to our chart, and we find those closely related to our great-great-great- grandmothers or grandfathers. For example, I might go up my chart to Grandma Frances Bowen Evans and then look at the families of Grandma Evans’s brothers and sisters. As you can see, she had five sisters and two brothers. In this way, I can find my cousins.
     
  2. The second way to find our cousins is to help those around us. We begin with this special booklet, My Family. You will find a copy in the material you received today, or for those stakes watching us from afar, you should have one in your hand. If your family is new to family history, fill it out. Or if your tree looks like mine, take the booklet to a new member or someone who hasn’t been quite as involved in the Church as your family has been, and help them search out their family. As you do, you will help them bring others to the temple. These are your brothers and sisters, but we also like to call them “our cousins.”

Let me show you how this works. The people you will see in this video are some of my family. Here they are in person: This is my daughter Kristen and her husband, Mark Ebert. Here are some of my favorite grandchildren: Michael, Courtney, and Jason. Watch them in this five-minute video as they find their cousins, first in our own family tree and then by helping a dear friend.

 

Are you learning how to find your cousins? Let’s get the idea stronger in our minds by listening to a new song written by Ross Boothe just for today and performed by youth who are here in our audience. It’s titled, “Find Our Cousins.” Get ready to sing along.

 

 

Ross Boothe, who wrote the song, would you please stand up? Micah Rindlisbacher and Tia Thompson, our two soloists, please stand one more time.

We are now going to give you a demonstration of finding our cousins.

ELDER ANDERSEN: Here is another of my favorite grandchildren, Clayton Hadlock. He’s really good with technology.

CLAYTON: I’ve found some things in our family history that I’d like to show you. Starting with this really cool site named Puzzilla.org. It’ll help us find missing people on our family tree—our cousins.

ELDER ANDERSEN: Great, we’ll share your screen here so everybody can see. This is my mouse.

CLAYTON: And this is my mouse.

CLAYTON: I used my LDS Account to log in to Puzzilla. It scanned our tree and made this fan. Males are the blue squares; females are the red dots. This is me …

CLAYTON: …and this is you.

CLAYTON: And all these red dots and blue squares are ancestors in our direct line. But we’re looking for our cousins. So let’s pick one.

CLAYTON: Let’s go back to this ancestor, your 2nd great-grandfather and my 4th great-grandfather, Jorgen Christian Andersen. You can see how we are connected.

CLAYTON: Now this is the power of Puzzilla. You can click on Jorgen’s square and see his descendants from his point of view. Let’s do that and see what we have.

CLAYTON: Puzzilla is now accessing FamilySearch and pulling in the information.

CLAYTON: Now Jorgen moves into the center spot, and all of these lines are his descendants.

CLAYTON: This is our line, and this is you.

CLAYTON: All the others are our cousins.

CLAYTON: I’m going to zoom in here so we can get a better look.

CLAYTON: Here’s Jorgen in the center again, and this first circle of dots and squares are all his children …

CLAYTON: …and the lines that come from them are their children.

CLAYTON: If there are no lines, that means that FamilySearch has no information about their children. So what we’re going to do is see if there are any records that would suggest that Jorgen has more grandchildren that we don’t know about.

CLAYTON: Papi, why don’t you choose one of Jorgen’s children?

ELDER ANDERSEN: Okay, let’s check this daughter.

CLAYTON: Hmmm…it looks like she was less than 16 years old when she died. We can tell, because it has that little yellow box. She probably wasn’t married and didn’t have children because she was so young. Let’s pick another sibling.

ELDER ANDERSEN: Okay, let’s try her sister.

CLAYTON: Looks like her name is Karen Jorgensdatter. That should work. Now click on her dot and that will lead us to her person page on FamilySearch.org.

CLAYTON: Okay, this is her person page.

CLAYTON: What we need to do is make sure she’s the right person.

CLAYTON: It looks like she was born in 1831. Good. Her parents’ names are Jorgen and Ane. Good. And her husband’s name is Niels. Good. I think this is our Karen.

CLAYTON: Now, we need to find a record that can give us the missing information and prove that they did have children. 

CLAYTON: It’s easy to search for records straight from the person page using the Search Records button.

CLAYTON: Papi, go ahead and click on “Search Records,” and it’s going to search for any records that match Karen’s information.

ELDER ANDERSEN: Okay, here we go.

ELDER ANDERSEN: That’s a lot of records! Do we start at the top of the list?

CLAYTON: You could.

CLAYTON: I don’t think that the first one’s the best one to look at. In that one her husband’s name is Christian, not Niels, so she’s probably not the right Karen. The search uses the information in FamilySearch, but it’s possible that other people with the same name could show up in the results.

CLAYTON: But if you look at the second record, the husband is Niels. That’s probably the right one.

CLAYTON: This is exciting because this is a christening record from 1857. A christening is when a baby is baptized and it is used often as a record of birth. Karen was already 25 years old, so it's not her christening. It must be the christening of a child. So she did have children. Let’s see that record.

ELDER ANDERSEN: Okay.

CLAYTON: Cool, the FamilySearch website provides a summary of the record, called an index. It’s says that Karen and Niels’s daughter was christened on January 18, 1857, at Sankt Mikkels church in Slagelse, Denmark. Her name is Caroline Vilhemine Christensen. 

CLAYTON: Papi, here’s the cool thing: The church has a website. We can go there and see pictures of the church, and I found a picture of the baptismal font on Flickr. They still use it today for christening infants just like they did 160 years ago.

ELDER ANDERSEN: That’s great. Can we look at the record?

CLAYTON: Yes! We can! Just click on “View Document” and look for the christening record of Caroline Vilhelmine Christensen, the daughter of Karen and Niels. Go ahead, Papi, and click.

CLAYTON: So here is the record. Here’s Karen and her daughter Caroline. Imagine, here it is in the actual handwriting of the pastor who performed the christening almost 160 years ago in that church in Denmark.

CLAYTON: Papi, by clicking on this record you have found our cousin, and now we can offer her the ordinances of the temple.

ELDER ANDERSEN: That’s great.

CLAYTON: Papi, I’ve already gone through this family and found three other children—Ane Marie, Niels Peter Otto, and Ane Kirstine. I’ve already added them to the tree. And here they are.

ELDER ANDERSEN: And look, they have green arrows.

ELDER ANDERSEN: Now as a family we can go to the temple for all of them.

CLAYTON: Papi, even though our family has been in the Church for many generations, there are numerous cousins to be found. I’ll bet it is true for every family.

ELDER ANDERSEN: It is true, Clayton. We all have cousins waiting for our work.

Let’s give Clayton a thank you for his demonstration. And the man who developed the software for Puzzilla is here as well. Bill Harten, please stand up.

My dear friends, we are all brothers and sisters in our Father’s family. Our own families are not randomly thrown together. President Monson has said, “We discover something about ourselves when we learn about our ancestors.”[12]

When we see ourselves in perspective of our family, those who came before us and those who come after us, we realize how we are part of a wonderful link that connects us all together. As we search them out and take their names to the temple, we bring to them something they cannot obtain without us. In doing so, we are connected to them, and the Lord through His Spirit confirms to our soul the eternal importance of what we are doing.

President Monson said about temple work, “Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings.”[13]

I add to his words that blessings and power from on high await our family members who have gone before us as they accept the ordinances we perform for them in the holy temples. They have finished their mortality but they continue to live. We become “saviors on Mount Zion” and are bound together with them forever.

“Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings.” —President Thomas S. Monson

These are your days. You were born in a time of temples and technology. These are your days to more fully turn your hearts to your fathers and bring these saving ordinances to millions within our families. These are your days to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior.

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I invoke a blessing upon all within the sound of my voice; as you seek to contribute to this sacred work, both by finding those needing ordinances and then beginning their work in the temple, your own knowledge and faith in the Savior will increase, and you will receive a more certain witness that life continues beyond the veil. I know that life continues beyond the veil. I know it.

I testify that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. He lives. His glorious Atonement allows these ordinances in the temple to last forever. I so witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] See Helaman 7:4–5, 21; 8:2, 5, 78.

[6] See Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004.

[7] Thomas S. Monson, “The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011.

[12] Thomas S. Monson, “Constant Truths for Changing Times,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005.

[13] Thomas S. Monson, “The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011.

 

 

 

Published 2-8-2014