“Family History Centennial,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 80
For the past century, the Genealogical Society of Utah and those associated with the organization have focused on identifying and helping redeem the dead. The society, now the Church’s Family History Department, commemorated its centennial anniversary recently in the Tabernacle on Temple Square with a program that also celebrated President Howard W. Hunter’s eighty-seventh birthday. The President’s actual birthday was a day later.
The November 13 family history celebration was also fitting inasmuch as President Hunter served as president of the society from 21 January 1964 to 25 May 1972.
The program included addresses by all three members of the First Presidency and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as well as numbers by the Tabernacle Choir and a videotaped presentation. The program was later broadcast over KBYU-TV. All four addresses will be printed in full in the March Ensign.
The evening’s presentation identified four “transcendent” events in the nineteenth century that positioned stepping stones upon which the great latter-day genealogical work is founded. Those four are the 1823 appearance of Moroni to Joseph Smith, foretelling the coming of Elijah; the 1836 appearance of Elijah in the Kirtland Temple; the commandment from the Lord in January 1841 for the Saints to build a temple in Nauvoo; and President Wilford Woodruff’s instruction in the April 1894 general conference that Church members were to trace their family histories as far as they could and be sealed to their ancestors.
In response to President Woodruff’s teachings on family history, the Genealogical Society of Utah was organized 13 November 1894. From its modest beginnings of three hundred books in an upstairs room of the Church Historian’s Office, the collection has grown to great proportions. Currently a five-story building houses some two million reels of microfilmed genealogical records, more than two hundred thousand books, and more than three hundred thousand microfiches. It is the largest library of its kind in the world.