In a few weeks school bells will ring out again and our precious little ones from pre-school to college age will answer the call. They will leave the safety of our homes and return to the halls of learning and exposure to the “real world”, where the philosophies of men, political correctness, historical amnesia, sound bites, do your own thing, and “Me first!” are the false order of the day.
In the tumultuous times that we live, what are parents to do? How do we protect our children? How do we arm them with truth? In such times that try men’s souls, when good is called evil and might is right, now, more than ever, we need the gospel, knowledge and especially, family history.
The Happy Valley Bubble
My sister Janice once said, one of the greatest things our parents did for us in the Happy Valley of the 1950’s- 1970’s was the bubble of family in which they enveloped us. Now we are in the 21st century, and there is no time-machine back to those Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best days. But as a genealogist, I know the gift of family history is a sure way for our children to be armed with truth; such a bubble can surround them with the needed morality, heroes, examples, witnesses and testimonies of the tried-and-true-way-to-eternal-life that we want for our children. Through the lives of their ancestors our children can learn of Jesus, the Christ; Come follow me; Keep my commandments; Love one another as I have loved you, Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you; Faith, Hope, and Charity; Love, Forgiveness and Repentance; Hold to the Iron Rod; Faith in Every Footstep; Keep on walking – there are 300 miles to go; The wind is always blowing towards the promised land at Windy Peak Corners; Mother-in-love (no in-laws in our family); and Yes, Miracles do happen today. All of this truth and more is in family history.
Recently I watched a 60 year-old movie Tall Target on TCM about the Baltimore Plot, a supposed 1861 conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln just prior to his inauguration as the 16th President of the United States of America. During the opening scenes several of the characters dropped such lines as “those Republican secessionists” and “we don’t have slaves in Boston”, and my mouth dropped. Now I graduated in history about 40 years ago, have been working in US and international genealogy research services for nearly a half a century, and have just completed a major professional genealogy research paper on Northern States Slave Ancestry; I know my American history because every day I am in the records of the people who lived it – “Ancestors are the People of History”, and I knew these statements were false.
How many times when I was in school, did I hear such things come out of my teachers’ mouths, or read the exact opposite of what my parents had taught me; or one of my playground buddies tried to get me to do something that “my mother done told me” is wrong? When my parents taught me and my brother and sisters the gospel, encouraged our love of learning, and shared family history, they gave us that great gift: they armed us with truth. And for the future, we must do the same for this generation.
My Uncle Stant Johnson’s Commitment to Share Family History
My Uncle Stant Johnson made a life-long commitment with his beloved wife Gwen to do this for their children; to collect family history and share it and the gospel every day with all who crossed their paths, educating and arming their listeners with truth. I remember going to their home in Buena Park for over 40 years and even when he was in his 90’s and seeing him pull volume after volume of family history off of their bookshelves, and then he would proceed to tell us the family stories, their connection to history and their testimonies of the gospel.
Whatever the occasion, they always had some great family truth to share. And even though I am only an nephew- in-love, related by marriage, I listened when they talked and was armed with truth as they shared family history, gospel truths and accurate knowledge about our family’s place in history.
Whether it was a pioneer story about Ira Hinckley and his arduous mission to Cove Fort or tales from modern times, Uncle Stant was true to his commitment. He shared stories about Arza Hinckley’s dedication in his Mormon Battalion march or willing answer to the Brigham Young General Conference call to serve in the Martin Handcart Company rescue. We learned about Uncle Stant working on his parents’ Idaho farm to support his widowed mother long after he had entered adulthood, and later, having his leg blown up in World War II by ammunition thrown into a warming stove, and his miraculous recovery that enabled him to walk and serve multiple missions.
He told of Gwen’s brother, Uncle Roy Wimmer, as a Lockheed test pilot being inducted into the Test Pilot Hall of Fame in the 1990’s, and of their mother, Grandma Emma Snyder Wimmer’s last good bye to her son Roy, years earlier as he left to ferry planes across the Atlantic to England before America got into the war. We heard about Gwen and Stant’s boy, our Cousin Scottie, and his funeral where he was eulogized as “a man with perfect integrity”, who had been entrusted with the task of preparing and delivering the Emmy Awards’ envelops to the yearly ceremony just before he was tragically killed by a drunk driver; and how Uncle Stant tenderly cared for Gwen years later during her long suffering, until she and Scottie were reunited.
We listened to him read from the personal writings of Gwen’s brother Paris Wimmer about Wilda McRae, my own grandmother-in-love, of their covered wagon adventure from Vernal to California during World War I and how as Emma’s oldest daughter at 8, Wilda Wimmer helped her mother care for her father after he was crushed in an accident half way there. Oh, how I loved and gained much from this family history sharing. Though love, their family history has become my family history; their testimony is in my testimony; their truths have armed me.
Family History Ripples Out
And when I went to their children’s homes, I saw the effect of this tutoring with family history, this arming with truth in the next generation and beyond. Cousin Michel and Sherman Fleek of Virginia have a home filled with love and caring and service. Sherman is a government military historian sharing family history through his writings on the Mormon Battalion, LDS Medal of Honor Recipients, West Point, Reconstruction of Iraq, and Walter Reed Hospital. What an influence for good is this family.
At Uncle Stant’s youngest son’s house, Cousin Dana and April Johnson of Orem, who right there in the kitchen had their big family history table with computers where their gaggle of happy home-schooled kiddies would be typing away on all of these volumes of family history and putting the stories not only in the hard drive, but the truths of family history, the gospel, and learning into their hearts and minds.
I have given them all that Mary and I have gathered on the family to include in their growing family history collection. When it is all finally on computer, I will share this more extensive family history with my children, my grandchildren, and friends and family; and truth will ripple out to new generations and new loved ones.
Before School Bells Ring
But right now I can share the family history I have with my loved ones. And I encourage you to do the same. Start now before those school bells ring. Armed with truth from their family history, children of all ages can be blessed with the protection of the gospel, accurate knowledge about history, and love beyond the veil.
James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”. He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (www.Heirlines.com), the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.
For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including free genealogy, LDS Family History advice and expert answers to commonly asked ancestry questions, visit Jim’s website www.Heirlines.com for free consultations and ordering custom family tree research services, and his genealogy blog www.ProfessionalGenealogy.com.