In the wake of the Joseph Smith Sr. family reunion I was asked why do we do it. Why go to all that work to gather relatives from disparate parts of the globe that probably won’t see each other again in mortality? And, before the reunion I was asked why would I want to go to a reunion where I don’t know very many people, and we aren’t doing anything really amazing or fun. (Though this one was so full of both powerful content and varied enjoyment!) Indeed, family reunions can be difficult to both plan and attend. So, why? That “why” is a key to more than we can ever imagine without some prophetic guidance and is the same answer I gave as a teacher to busy university students who wondered why they should fit a family history class into their busy class schedule when their hair hadn’t yet turned white nor their teeth fallen out. Genealogy is a geriatric sport after all, right?
Elder Widstoe wrote,
Wouldn’t it be nice to have help “getting it all done…”, raising our children, understanding scripture, knowing where to live and what to do, enduring and learning from mortality’s trials and adversity, etc. Several years ago I asked my students at the institute to track and record what happened and when it happened during the semester as they started on their family history. At the end of the semester I asked them to both share and give permission for me to share their stories.
Brendon shared this simple comment at the end of the semester:
“I had returned from my mission only a few months before we studied about the power of family history. As with most missionaries, I had forgotten most academic things that I had learned before my mission. So I was playing catch-up. “Catch-up” for me, meant thousands of pages of reading. This was only complicated by a gross lack of time: work, school and family obligations among a host of other things, drained much of my time.
“Then we started the family history unit and I determined to try it for myself. I needed those blessing if I was to have any chance of getting everything done. So I started to do a little here and there. And, something cool began to happen. I found I had more time; lots of it. So I took advantage of it. I could read and learn faster. It was and is amazing. And it all happened by using a few minutes here and there.”
Now, I know the skeptic may say that to conclude a “cause and effect” with this is stretching things. But what if the incident of like experiences was multiplied many times even unto predictability…? Self-fulfilling prophecy or divine promises fulfilled? Perhaps personal experience is the only way to reach personal conviction as Kristen still testifies to this day. Here are excerpts from her submission so many years ago:
We were starting to learn the importance of genealogy and doing work for our kindred dead. It was the Monday before conference I remember…
That night I reached my breaking point with school and all of my responsibilities. I had 17 credit hours, was getting ready to apply for graduate school… was on the executive organizing committee for a huge weekend dance event, and had the most miserable time consuming physics class on the face of the planet. I was spending over 20 hours a week just on this class alone and had 2 jobs working 16 hours a week as well. I was so unhappy and didn’t think I could do it anymore. I poured my soul out to God that night and cried myself to sleep. I had never felt as tired, weary and overloaded at any other point in my life as I did this night.
The next morning I got up and went to school and was on my way to the library to work on my physics. … As I was walking to the Library, I had this nagging feeling to work on my genealogy letter and get it mailed off. I felt like my ancestors were bugging me to do it. After much inner debate I went and typed the letters and went to the bookstore post office and mailed them with just enough time to get to my next class.
I went throughout the day and things seemed to work out perfectly. I found help with my physics and was able to finish at 6 pm that night instead of the usual 10 or 11 pm. The next day I was guided to a study group for physics…. My life had suddenly gotten easier and I was understanding physics a lot better than I had the whole semester. I know it wasn’t coincidence… Since then I have needed to write more letters… when I resolved to do that and help my ancestors some more, my physics got a lot easier again… If we take interest in our relatives they will …help us. …Genealogy enables us to feel the Savior’s enabling power and I am so grateful for that…
Joseph Smith taught,
Now we don’t have an ancestor cult where we pray to ancestors. We have been instructed by the Savior to pray to the Father in the name of Christ. When we receive divine inspiration or revelation it comes through the Holy Spirit. But President Kimball taught,
Could that other person include an ancestor on the other side? If so, when they communicate, it is under divine direction and through the Holy Spirit. Remember,
“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.”
Joseph also added,
Ok, I understand that one way in which our loving Heavenly Father helps us through our mortal lives is through the help we give each other. And this is perhaps what is meant in the life of Christ, as noted in scripture, that as we exalt others the very work itself exalts us,
..he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace.
This is such a merciful, divine pattern that points to a participatory atonement where Christ includes us in His divine work of saving each other under his power and direction. But,what of enduring family reunions? We look again to the Prophet Joseph
“These men are in heaven, but their children are on the earth. Their bowels yearn over us…. Thus angels come down, combine together to gather their children…We cannot be made perfect without them, nor they without us… “
This gathering is part of the greater gathering of Israel to which He invites us, one family at a time, accelerating as we near the coming of our Master Shepherd. So how do we maximize our reunion efforts as we gather our posterity, siblings, cousins, and even ancestors around us? …stay tuned!
Craig R. Frogley is currently retired from 34 years with the Church’s institute program, teaches for BYU continuing education, and maintains a limited practice as a chiropractic physician.