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Are You Ready?
A Record “Worthy of All Acceptation”

By James W. Petty, AG, CG

Emma Melissa Snyder Wimmer sat at the kitchen table with her papers spread around her. These papers were her treasure, more valuable, more important than jewels. They contained letters, and histories, and pictures that told of her ancestors. This collection of family history recorded the story of forebears who gave up their homelands and farms, the security of family and friends to move to America, to find a place of hope. Her father’s family was from New England, with heritage reaching back to the Mayflower. Her seventh great Grandfather, English Pilgrim Thomas Rogers, had died in Plymouth Colony in 1621, less than 2 months after accomplishing the voyage from Holland to his place of hope in Massachusetts . Emma’s mother, Annie Mariah Rasmussen, and her parents, had come from Norway to Salt Lake City, Utah in the 1860’s. to their place of hope.

With her records spread around her, Emma reflected on the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, describing the coming of the Lord in the latter days: “Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple. a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (D & C 128: 24)

Years earlier, before marriage, and its accompanying responsibilities of rearing children, and laboring to keep food on the table, Emma Melissa Snyder had attended Brigham Young Academy studying elocution, and there had been educated in the genealogical research methodology and standards of her day. This discipline of tracing her ancestry took hold of her imagination and became more than just a passing interest.

And now in 1932, even as the mother of 8, living in a makeshift house that was little more than a shack made out of scrap lumber, surplus doors, and canvas in the Hoovertown section of Los Angeles , California, Emma sought out her kindred dead. As she studied the papers on her table, she had a sense of belonging to a history of great people who were her family. Doing genealogy and finding loved ones for temple work filled her life with a special warmth and purpose.

Every month Emma Melissa would take the remainder of her income from doing laundry and child care, after paying the household expenses and cost of food, deducting beforehand a tithe to give back to the Lord, and travel by streetcar into Los Angeles to the genealogy library at Hope and 5th Street. There she had access to the thousands of books and genealogical materials to learn about her ancestors and their history. She copied new information into her notebook, providing source citations so her record would be complete and accurate. After all, she wanted her genealogy to someday be a record that would be ready for the eventual return of the Savior.

Emma’s papers were handwritten on old genealogy forms or on simple notepaper. She tried to gather all that she could, with what she had. She didn’t know if the Lord would come in her lifetime, or that of her grandchildren, but she wanted to be ready for Him. She could only hope what she had prepared, might be part of those “records of our dead”, and that it would be regarded as “worthy of all acceptation.” In her heart, she knew she would be ready.

Growth in Family History Work – 19th to 20th Century Changes

In our day and age, as in Emma’s, establishing an accurate record of our family tree and doing

the temple work for our deceased loved ones is a fundamental mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the beginning of time to Joseph Smith’s and into our modern era, we in the Church, have been counseled and taught according to the abilities and means of our generation on how to keep a true record of our family and to perform sacred ordinances for departed family members in the House of the Lord. As knowledge, technology, and understanding have developed, increased, and evolved, the Church, the world, and interest in genealogy have not stood still.

The handwritten temple books of the late 1800’s became typewritten family group sheets of the early twentieth century. To handle the increasing demand of genealogy research and temple ordinance work, the Genealogical Department of the Church began in the early 1900’s, indexing the temple endowment records into a card file known as the Temple Index Bureau (TIB). In the late 1930’s and 1940’s following World War II, the new medium of microfilming began to be used by the Genealogical Library to copy records made available as a result of peacetime, and soon records throughout the United States and many countries of the World were being recorded and freely shared with the public by the Church.

By the 1960’s the international need for research assistance in tracing ancestry led to the establishment of the Genealogical Branch Library System, providing extensions to LDS communities throughout America, where people could access the growing microfilm collections of the Genealogical Library to search the records on their own. In addition, this growing need for research assistance also led the Church to institute the Accreditation Program wherein professional genealogical researchers with advanced experience and even genealogy education could be tested and approved as qualified “accredited genealogists.”

The 1960’s also brought about the introduction of computer technology to an information-hungry society. The Church discontinued the old TIB program and began the International Genealogical Index (IGI) utilizing this newly developed technology. The IGI serving as the temple endowment ordinance index, further opened possibilities for gathering names for family history work. The Genealogical Library began extracting names from parish registers, and vital record sources worldwide, as well as from LDS family group records that formed the Archives Section of the Library. This program almost instantly made millions of names available to the swelling numbers of interested genealogists throughout the world.

During the 1970’s led by the vision of President Spencer W. Kimball who said “”I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse.”, interest in genealogy in both the world and the Church expanded to the point where the Genealogical Society of Utah was admitted to membership in the United Nations Council of Archives, as the only non-country member. Over 150 countries permitted the Church to microfilm their significant family history records for use in Genealogical Library and its branches, and to place copies in the LDS Granite Mountain Vaults located in the mountains southeast of downtown Salt Lake City . Computer science continued to be refined, in preparation for what would be largest technological and genealogical advancements in history.

In October Conference of 1978, on the eve of this tremendous advance, President Ezra Taft Benson (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) addressed the Church on the topic of “preparing a record of our dead that would be worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:24) He stated: “The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve recently gave careful consideration as to how we can lengthen our stride in this tremendously important responsibility.

We are introducing a Churchwide program of extracting names from genealogical records. Church members may now render second-mile service through participating in this regard in extracting these names in this program supervised by the priesthood leaders at the local level.”

In starting this inspired, member extraction program, the leadership of the Church introduced thousands of members of the Church to computer technology, thereby preparing them for the next step in the growth of science and genealogy.

In 1980, Personal Computers, popularly known as PC’s, were introduced to general public. Rapidly, computer science entered the homes of millions of people around the World. Within just a few years, the Church created the first genealogy software program for the PC, called Personal Ancestral File (PAF). PAF led to new developments in how family history records were kept, and how they were reported. By the mid-80’s, temple ordinance submission, previously a very lengthy and expensive process for the Church, was replaced by a computerized system called Temple Ready . Members of the Church could now prepare and submit names of deceased family members directly to the temples of their choice.

21st Century – The Family Tree of Man

Decades ago, during the Great Depression, Emma Melissa Snyder Wimmer might have had a record worthy of acceptation according to the knowledge, the records, and the resources of her day. But by the 1980’s, with the world now on fire with Alex Haley’s ROOTS, interest in genealogical research exploded in all climes and for all peoples. Record collections expanded and changed, technology developed and improved, and knowledge of ancestry grew by leaps and bounds. And now today in the 21st Century, some thirty years after President Benson’s talk, family history work has eclipsed beyond anything that could have been imagined in 1978 or for that matter, in Emma’s day.

Work for the dead through modern advancements is revolutionizing the worldwide pursuit of genealogy. Technology and skills are being developed, dedicated, and honed to accomplish these eternal purposes. In this Age of Computers and the Internet, with temples dotting the earth, availability and access to records have been fostered and encouraged on a scale never known before. Websites, hardware, and software have been developed, such that hundreds of millions of names and associated data can now be easily stored and accessed, and in the near future, linked as families in an eternal chain of generations. People from around the world are able to communicate with almost instantaneous connection to identify and gather genealogy and family history materials as their hearts turn to their fathers. Records that were once inaccessible are being digitized and provided to us in our homes. Genealogy education is not only being taught in Sunday School meetings and Church universities, but it is springing up as professional genealogy degrees in colleges around the World. More than ever, members of the Church are better prepared to make a worldwide lineage record of our kindred dead. A new dawn is fast approaching in which we are being asked to find and prepare names for temple work; to research our family tree, record and source our family documents, and prepare a new, improved, record of our dead that will be “worthy of all acceptation.”

The Family History Department of the Church is at the forefront of this wondrous growth in family history work. They are developing a free Internet-based global family tree of man called “New.FamilySearch.” It is currently being tested and introduced in temple districts across the globe. When it is up and fully functioning, people everywhere with access to computers will be able to submit their branch of the family tree of man and “as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple. a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (Doctrine & Covenants 128:24).

To help Meridian readers get ready to participate, we will present a series of articles in the coming months on how to gather, source, and document the branches and roots of this eternal family tree. Questions are welcomed.

Are you ready?

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