We are strangers in a strange land. We are trying to make a journey through unfamiliar territory with hazards all along the way. We have completely forgotten our preparation with loved ones before we began the journey. We are miserably unaware of the angels who accompany us. We find ourselves at odds with many of our fellow travelers. We despair of having peace and triumph at the end of our travail.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, God doesn’t want it to be that way.
Together we fully planned the journey before it began. Our team—known as a family—made specific plans for looking out for each other. We made covenants to each other and God. Ancestors—sometimes known as angels—were committed to assisting us. God would provide revelations—both scriptural and personal—to guide us.
Yet here we are—often feeling quite alone. In our forgetfulness, we feel quite forlorn. Yet God has given us vital clues to remind us of Him and His glorious plan:
- The scriptures testify that God presides over a plan to refine and redeem. He does not intend to lose a single child. Every one of His children will receive all the glory they can stand.
- Our discomfort in the present world testifies that we are strangers here. We yearn to be with Father in glory. And, after our educational excursion, He will bring us Home.
- God has given thousands of hints and stories to guide and inspire us. When we read scripture with a recollection of His glory, they reassure us.
- God sends ceaseless flashes of light or insight through ideas, sparks, and inspiration. He just keeps sending hints and encouragements.
- All those who went before us and are in covenant with us are cheering for us. If we pay attention, we can learn from their lives and we can sense—and almost hear—their whispers of encouragement.
- We can learn from all people who have made the journey before us but most especially from those with whom we are in covenant. They have left hints and markers for us.
- We can travel with good cheer singing songs of praises not merely to remind ourselves but also to encourage fellow travelers.
- We can be assured that the One who goes after lost lambs and died to clear the path for us, will never forget us. No matter how far we stray, He will find us.
Family history work is about much more than tracing our family tree. It is about connecting generations with the bonds, lessons, and remembrances of all those friends with whom we are bound. It is about putting our pre-earth plan into force. It is about working together to get every family member back to our heavenly home and into the arms of loved ones including our beloved Father and His redeeming Son.
Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free. (D&C 128:22)
So how do we involve our covenant comrades in our journey?
1. We study their lives, their discoveries, their struggles, their journals, and their lessons. We learn from them by discovering and sharing their stories, their remembrances, their keepsakes. We make them a part of our lives. We love them, admire them, and thank them. In our family, we do that by filling our home with pictures and keepsakes from our ancestors. In any room and around every corner is an ancestral friend waiting with a smile.
2. We seek to notice their words of encouragement, their subtle nudges along the path. As you get to know your ancestors, you will feel drawn toward them. In challenging times, I have sought counsel from my wise, departed father. He spoke wisdom to my mind. In times of loneliness, I have sought friendship with my great-grandfather Ben. He has been my companion and counselor. In times of discouragement, I have sought inspiration from beloved grandparents. They have been my friends. Those on our side far outnumber the ranks of any enemy.
3. We honor them by researching their lives and performing ordinances for them. As they look after us, God has given us this glorious way of blessing them. We have felt great joy as we perform temple ordinances for our ancestors.
4. We share our discoveries and our joys with family members. We connect our children to their noble—and growth-filled—heritage. We bind their hearts through stories of goodness and words of affection. Family stories create family scripture: a record of God’s dealings with our particular family. We rejoice in those revelations that expand our view of the journey and of eternity.
5. We look forward with joyous anticipation to the reunion of all the mortal travelers as we greet each other with love. We look forward to the stories they will share and the bonds that bind us. We look forward to joining Heavenly Father in His continuing work of tutoring and redeeming His worlds of children.
Family history work is not a marginal work to keep the elderly off the streets. It is the core of binding hearts together with each other and with God. As we gather the resources, organize them, turn them into stories, and fill our lives with connections to our families, we will find enlarged energy for the journey. There is something we can do in each era of our lives, and the rewards for doing those things will bless us here and into eternity.