Easy Does It–In Family History Too!

By Darla Isackson

My husband and I have been family history consultants in our ward for the past several years. I feel that our most important “mission” is to help people quit procrastinating. The most common lament I hear is: “I want to do family history; I really do. But every time I look at that box bulging with papers, or think of the research that needs to be done, the stories that need to be written and the temple work that is waiting on me, I get totally overwhelmed.”

Why Do We Procrastinate?

We often procrastinate because of being overwhelmed. The job just looks too big. To avoid facing how much there is to do, we do nothing. When intimidated by the immensity of the project, we need to start small, but START. Begin wherever your interest leads you and do whatever looks easiest at the moment. It really doesn’t matter where you start. What matters is that you start! If you don’t start, nothing will happen. Any number, when multiplied by zero, is zero. But even a small effort persistently added to will become a large accomplishment.  For instance, one page a week on a life history could result in 52 pages completed by the end of a year! A little at a time, whenever you can squeeze it in is like an investment that yields great dividends. Those who put forth a little effort in family history can reap an amazing result because the Lord magnifies our efforts.

I’d like to suggest some totally enjoyable approaches to eating the elephant of family history “one bite at a time.” I’ve seen many families spend just one hour at the family history library and leave with some names ready to take to the temple. They didn’t try to get ten generations of research done. They simply found a few people on their pedigree with sufficient documentation and brought the information into the family history library. They didn’t need to know the computer programs. The staff at the library was delighted to help with any part of the process they weren’t familiar with. They simply took one bite–and look at the fabulous results!

Simplify, Simplify!

Family History work requires humility and the guidance of the Spirit. Satan works against us every step of the way and creates resistance to every phase of this important activity. There is so much to learn; sometimes it can seem like a whole new language with all the acronyms like IGI and PAF. However, we don’t need to learn it all ourselves; we just need to know where to go to get the answers and who to ask for the help we need.

Kathy Birdsall, who lives in my ward, found an “easy-does-it” solution that resulted in great blessings to their family. She said, “For the space of a couple of years Mark and I made family history work our weekly date.  We would alternate on Friday nights between going to the temple and going to the Family History Library.  It was overwhelming at first to figure out where to start.  Family history seemed like this huge knot with no visible entry point.  What we did was to simplify it.  Instead of looking at everything there was to do, we just each chose a name and started there.  The people at the library would steer us to the sources where we could find out what we wanted to know about the person, and then sometimes they would help us make sense out of what we found.  From that one initial name we just kept moving forward.  Finding out about each name led us to the next name to find out about.  Each time we found someone we would go ahead and clear that name and start doing the temple work.  We never did a huge submission-we just did what we found, one or two names at a time.

As we went to the temple to do the work for family names we had found, our experiences became so much richer.  The joy we felt as we performed ordinances was multiplied.  One of the great blessings was that not only did Mark and I have the opportunities to feel that joy, but also our children, as they served as proxies in the baptistery for these family members.  The experiences they had being taught by the Spirit while performing ordinances far outweighed anything that Mark or I could have said on the subject.”

Voices from Beyond the Veil

Kathy continued, “I have learned that our loved ones on the other side of the veil are very real and very anxious to have this work done on their behalf.  One day I was doing the endowment for my great aunt, Sarah Hodges.  As I spoke her name inside that holy temple the Spirit filled me with a certainty that she and Heavenly Father had been longing for many years to have her name spoken in that place, for that purpose, and there was joy in heaven that it had finally happened.  As I went down to the locker room to change, I kept hearing the words “Uncle Diddy, Uncle Diddy” going excitedly through my mind.

It was a little annoying because I didn’t know anyone who had that name.  Finally, in exasperation, I said to myself, “Who in the world is Uncle Diddy?”  As soon as I said that, the words stopped.  A few seconds later, in a more subdued tone, the words “Darius Hodges” came to my mind.  At that point I realized that I had been receiving revelation.  Darius Hodges was Aunt Sarah’s husband.  Now that her work was done she was anxious for her husband to also have that blessing.  I am so grateful for participating in family history work.  If I never had, I never would have had the experiences with Aunt Sarah, and many other sacred experiences that have strengthened my testimony and those of my family. I know that family history is an absolutely key activity.  I know that however much we invest in it, the returns will be far greater than we can imagine.  There are few things that we can do that have more worth and that we will have more help with from the other side of the veil.”

Promised Blessings

Boyd K. Packer said, “The Lord will bless us as we attend to the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all of our affairs. We will be eligible to have the Lord take an interest in our affairs both spiritual and temporal . . . Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection, both individually and a people.” We have found that interest in family history work, and an “easy does it, one step at a time” attitude can bring families closer together in amazing ways.

My husband Doug gives an example from his family, “Soon after Darla and I were called as ward family history consultants, we were visiting my aunt (a nonmember) at her summer cabin in the mountains above Schofield, Utah. With us were my parents (also nonmembers) and my Uncle Bernard, the only Church member on my mother’s family line. This was a momentous reunion; Bernard, partly because of his baptism, had been estranged from his sisters for years. Darla and I had been married for eight years by then and this was the first time she had met my uncle.

As we ate a barbecue dinner we brought up the subject of family history. At once, the three siblings became engrossed in a lively discussion. Questions such as “Remember when?” and “do you remember about?” kept them going for a long time as Darla took notes on the amazing stories in their family’s past. The enthusiasm was intense, and they admitted that no one had ever written any of these stories down.

When it was time to leave, they decided on a date to meet and continue the discussion. Three years, and many such discussions later, a bond has been reestablished that would never had come about it if were not for that cabin visit. Darla and I have since done temple work for ancestors my mother provided documentation for, and [only because of the motivation provided by those discussions] Bernard has written and distributed a 198 page book about our family’s history and uncovered the names and data for many who need their work done. Darla and I would never have guessed all the good things that would happen because we became more interested in family history.

Doors Will Be Opened, Blessings Poured Out

Harold B. Lee said, “The Lord will help open doors as we do genealogy. I have a conviction born of a little experience to which I bear testimony that there are forces beyond this life that are working with us. I have the simple faith that when you do everything you can, researching to the last of your opportunity, the Lord will help you to open doors to go further with your genealogies, and heaven will cooperate, I am sure.” (Seventh Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar Address, 4 August 1972, P. 3)

As I review these past years I find deep gratitude in my heart for an inspired calling that came through our stake president to be family history consultants in the ward. Wonderful blessings have come to Doug and I. This work has brought peace and joy that I never could have anticipated. One day the sweet voice of the Spirit told me that loved ones referred to in my patriarchal blessing for which I was to perform vicarious ordinances included Doug’s family!  (I married Doug fourteen years ago after experiencing the heart-breaking dissolution of a 22-year temple marriage.) What a validation for me. It took a huge load off my heart and left me with a renewed commitment to facilitate the temple work for Doug’s ancestors.

The very next week Doug’s mother called me and said she had just found an envelope with information that might interest us. Did it ever! We received the needed documentation for me to do Doug’s great-grandmother’s. When I went through the temple for her ( Wendla Sofia Lofsund) I had the most joyous temple experience of my entire life. I knew she was there. I felt her joy!  All quite unexpected since this dear woman was an anti-Mormon bootlegger in Salt Lake during prohibition days! But in the fifty some years since her death, she has obviously been busy on the Other Side learning the gospel and was anxious and ready for her work to be done.

Doug joined the Church the year before I met him, but had never felt the necessity of going through the temple. I was able to come home from the temple that day, and with tears of gratitude and an overflowing spirit of joy tell of my experience with his great-grandmother. His heart was touched. The Spirit of Elijah strengthened his testimony of the importance of the temple, and he took out his own endowments shortly thereafter. I had waited nearly fourteen years for that day, and it was a sweet and beautiful experience.

Doug has since done the work for several other members of his family–people he knew and loved as a child. We participated in a sealing session where his grandparents and great-grandparents were sealed to each other and their children. The Spirit was again overpowering and bore witness to both of us of the importance of this work. I personally believe that temple experiences are the ultimate in spiritually strengthening moments. When we receive a personal witness that those on the other side of the veil have joyously accepted the ordinance we are participating in, it is as though they are standing there bearing witness to the truthfulness of the gospel, the validity of the Restoration, and the truthfulness of every spiritual principle we hold dear.

Everyone Can Do Something!

It behooves each of us to examine the excuses we make, and the other priorities we place ahead of family history work. If we are willing to take the first step, there IS a joyful, “easy-does-it” way for each of to incorporate family history into our daily lives. As we provide the opportunity for our ancestors to have temple ordinances done in their behalf, out lives are greatly blessed.

 Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If temple ordinances are an essential part of the restored gospel, and I testify that they are, then we must provide the means by which they can be accomplished. All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it. The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the Church has to offer.”

Elder David B. Haight said, “The turning of the hearts of the fathers in the spirit world to the children on earth provides for the gathering of ancestral data of their deceased fathers in order that ordinances might be performed in the temples of the Lord. Thus, the living having their hearts turned to their fathers is in accordance with the premortal agreement we made before the earth was formed.”

The Lord knows each of our current situations, and that there is a “time and season” for all things. But almost any time and season will allow an hour here and there for some phase of family history and temple work. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The first principle is that our efforts to promote temple and family history work should be such as to accomplish the work of the Lord, not to impose guilt on his children. Members of the church have many individual circumstances . . .  “The second principle that we should understand is that in the work of redeeming the dead there are many tasks to be performed and that all members should participate by prayerfully selecting those ways that fit their personal circumstances at a particular time. . . Our effort is not to compel everyone to do everything, but to encourage everyone to do something.” (“In Wisdom and Order.” Ensign, June 1989)

Prayerfully choose your “something” today and get started! Easy does it when you are on the Lord’s errand!

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