“The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.” Joseph Smith
Doing genealogy research is a hobby many people enjoy. It can be fun to see where your family came from and to get a glimpse into what the lives of your ancestors might have been like many years ago. Mormons enjoy doing genealogy research as well, but for them it’s moved past being just something to do for fun and into a full blown obsession.
Family history work is a vital part to the Mormons salvation, or so they believe. They believe it’s also an important tool God uses so they can assist Him in redeeming the dead.
Speaking to the youth at the October 2011 General Conference church leader David Bednar said
“My beloved young brothers and sisters, family history is not simply an interesting program or activity sponsored by the Church; rather, it is a vital part of the work of salvation and exaltation. You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work.” (Ensign, November 2011)
The church has a huge Family History Library in Salt Lake City devoted to helping people search for their ancestors. If you don’t feel like making the trip to Utah you can use their New Family Search website. Mormons and non-Mormons are able to access information someone else has already done in their search for family members. However only members of the church can search to see if temple ordinances have been done for their deceased loved ones, non-members aren’t privy to that information.
As a Mormon I spent a lot of time searching for my family members and filling out pedigree charts. Then I would send their names to the temple for the work to be done for them, or save them for them the next time I was at the temple.
Why did I do this? I believed what I was taught about this doctrine. I believed this work was the work of the Lord, that by searching for my family and participating in their temple ordinances by proxy I was doing my ancestors a kindness. I believed I was doing something that needed to be done, something they couldn’t do on their own.
Members are encouraged to go back as far as they can in their family histories, baptizing and confirming many of their ancestors as members of the Mormon Church.
Wilford Woodruff, one the church’s early prophets said:
“We want the Latter-day Saints form this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it…… This is the will of the Lord to his people”.
Their desire to take genealogy reserch down this path comes from Joseph Smith’s belief that the true gospel of Jesus Christ (Mormonism) was taken away from the earth. He taught his followers that evil men desiring to turn people away from God took “plain and precious truths” out of the bible, and their actions led to a “Great Apostasy”.
Mormons believe because the doctrines of their religion were lost many people died without being members of the only true church. It’s this belief that adds fuel to their desire to do their duty and give those who have died a chance to receive and accept their gospel.
Of course Christians know this is anything but true, and is more fable than fact. God’s word was never removed from the earth. Evil men have never and would never get the upper hand of our Lord, and would only fail if they tried to stop His work from going forward.
For the early Jews genealogy was important because reminded them where they came from. However Jesus brought a new covenant with Him, all who accept Him are part of one family. In Jesus there’s no distinction between us, we’re all the same. Anyone who repents and puts their complete trust in Him for their salvation will have eternal life. (Romans 10:11-13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11)
Paul told the Jews they should avoid “endless genealogies” (1Timothy 1:4, Titus 3:9). Jesus came to save and unite the people, and to make them righteous through His blood. Through Him we are part of one family, one bloodline and made perfect.
Genealogy work puts such a heavy burden on the Mormons shoulders. They’re taught that it’s through family history and temple work they and their ancestors be made perfect.
In Doctrine and Covenants 128:18 Joseph Smith said:
“For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.”
And that it’s up to them to help exalt their family members.
“While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living. It has a refining influence on those who are engaged in it. They are literally helping to exalt their families. We are exalted when we can dwell together with our extended families in the presence of Almighty God.” (Russell M. Nelson, April 2010 Ensign)
While I can see how looking up your ancestors can be intriguing, and even fun it’s no longer appealing to me. If my ancestors passed way never accepting Jesus there’s nothing I can do about it. As Romans 1:20 says they are “without excuse”. Now is the time for all us of to prepare to meet God, and to share the gospel with our loved ones and those around us.
Family Search – https://new.familysearch.org/en/action/unsec/welcome
Wilford Woodruff quote – The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham (1946), 157; or Millennial Star, 28 May 1894, 339.
1st. Joseph Smith quote – Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Chapter 9, p. 356
2nd. Joseph Smith quote – Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 5:616; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 147; History of the Church 6:313