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The past couple years I have renewed my interest and efforts in seeking out my ancestors for temple ordinances. Actually, much of my available time has been spent in just cleaning up family records on Family Search, whether ordinances have already been done or not. In the process of finding sources I have learned a great deal about myself.
I remember the day when I would write letters to state or country organizations, asking for birth certificate copies, pay $2 (or more), and wait, wait, wait to receive any documentation I could use as a source for tracing my genealogy. Or I spent hours viewing microfiche at a genealogical library. Now, thanks to the service of hundreds of indexers, the vital information from thousands of documents can be obtained just by hitting a few keys on the keyboard on my own home computer.
And histories? Wow, so much rich information is now easy to find on the Internet. Photos, stories, histories that open up such a vision of life in the past. And perhaps it affects you as it does me. Under those circumstances, would I have been that faithful? Would I have been that strong, physically or emotionally?
I have written over the years in many articles and books about our examples being important to our children and grandchildren. In doing genealogy, I place myself on the receiving end of example-teaching—I want to be faithful, more benevolent, more steadfast and caring like they were, my forebears.
How did they do it? How did they remain faithful to their beliefs and values while adapting to persecution, new cultures, changing climates, and difficult lifestyles?
I have always been impressed by the journal writings that tell about my ancestor’s mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His name is Elias Gardner (1807–1891).
According to the writings, Elias was called to go on a mission to Great Britain in 1852. He had little money but was a man of great faith. He depended on and believed in his prayers being answered by our Heavenly Father, if he asked in faith. He was inspired to get money for his fare to England from a lady who was a total stranger. He visited this lady, telling her what he had come for. She looked him over and asked him if he was a praying man. He told her he was, and she said, “Kneel down and let me hear you pray.” He did as requested, and she was convinced he should have the money. Going to a big trunk, she took out the well-hidden money and handed it to him. She said, “I have been saving this for you.”
Landing in England, Elias made many friends and shared the gospel with success. When he received his mission release to return home, he once again had no money for his fare, but he trusted the Lord would provide. The day arrived, and he went to the dock where the ship was ready to set sail for the long journey. President Franklin D. Richards said, “Brother Elias, have you your fare?”
Elias said, “No, but I will get it.”
“You better be getting it,” said President Richards.
Just about the last second before Elias was to get on the ship, a man came running, shouting in excitement, asking if there was a Mr. Gardner in the crowd. Elias stepped forward saying, “I am here.” The gentleman handed him his fare home. Elias’ prayers were answered.
These types of stories have greatly benefitted me over the years for, at times in my life, I have had to exercise such stalwart, unwavering faith. And knowing the Lord answered my ancestors’ prayers gave me hope He would also answer mine.
Develop the Mindset of Industry and Thrift
I didn’t have to look far back in my genealogy to see an example of amazing industry and thrift. My grandmother lived during the polygamy era when, for their safety, some families left America and moved to Mexico in order to stay together.
My grandmother Ida Romney (1891–1943) passed away before I was born. As a young girl, Ida worked hard, along with her parents and siblings. The following is from her biography.
This new farm was a large one so the girls had to help often with the outside work, such as herding cows and feeding calves, tromping hay, picking up potatoes, planting corn, and stripping cane, etc. Ida, also, had to clean wheat and braid straw hats. She made a hat for her father with fine braid which took about 25 yards. It was for his birthday just before he died. He was very proud of it. When he died, she made herself a hat out of it. She made 15 hats one summer.
They made a lot of butter to sell to the Chinaman who had a restaurant in a little town nearby. Happy were the children who were fortunate enough to get to ride in the buggy once a week to take the butter to the restaurant.
There was a peanut patch on the farm. Often the girls had to help pick up the peanuts after the boys dug them up. This new farm had a grape vineyard and arbor. A few pear and peach trees were there too.
Ida’s father was a carpenter by trade. He made most of the furniture which they used, including the bookcases and the sofa.
Learning to do her share of the work as a child made it no surprise to me to read of her industry as a wife and mother. After her marriage to Leo Alldredge, she and Leo moved to Arizona. The move was necessitated by the Mexican Revolution. Over the years, with life’s twists and turns, Leo lost his law practice and Ida worked hard to help support the large family. Again from her biography—
Commencing with about the year 1928, there was a financial depression which continued for several years. In fact, it was almost a panic. Everybody suffered from it, many losing their homes and property. Ida was no more fortunate than the rest. She, her husband, and family suffered very materially from it by losing their home, car, and everything they had.
In the nineteen thirties, financial conditions were no better. Ida was compelled to help whenever she could get work. She did sewing, packing fruit, and anything else that paid a little.
Ida obtained work in the cafeteria of the Franklin School January 7, 1932. Because of conflicts with her work and her calling in the church she asked to be released as the President of the Relief Society. It was necessary for her to work because the depression was at a critical point, and there was no work for men and little for women.
I thought about my grandmother’s example when financial conditions deteriorated in my home and I had to find work to help support the family. I learned to cut hair, make new clothes for my children from old clothes that would otherwise have been discarded. I learned to garden and bottle the produce. I learned to store wheat and grind it to make my own bread. Grandmother’s life story helped me to be a better, more productive and self-reliant person.
I know, like me, you have stories about your ancestors who lived lives with integrity and great character—ancestors who were devoted to their families and to fulfilling their responsibilities.
For one of my examples I turn again to Grandma Ida.
When Ida was about 13 years old, her father took very sick in a sacrament meeting. He walked home and went to bed. Soon after he was pronounced dead. His jaw was dropped and his eyes set. The children were all gathered together. They knelt in a circle in a room where each one prayed that their father might recover. After a while, he did revive and sat up. He told his family that his spirit had left his body, and that he could see his body on the cot. He could see his wives around crying. He said he was given his choice of either living awhile longer to make his family more comfortable or go then. He chose to live. The prayers of his family had saved him through administration.
During her father’s illness, Ida took very sick. She was ill for seven long months. She would go to school one day, and be too sick to go the next. Owing to the fact that there were no good doctors in that country, they could not tell just what troubled Ida. It looked as if she would not recover. Her face became very yellow. Her father had to have chicken broth, so they gave her the chicken. Often her father would jokingly say, “I wonder which of us will go first.” This worried Ida very much as she was young, and death frightened her. One night she was too ill to sleep all night long. She begged her mother to send over to Aunt Hannah’s to get father to come over and administer to her. Her mother was afraid that it might make him worse so she did not do it. The next morning Ida’s mother told Ida’s father. He said, “Catherine, never refuse to send for me when she asks for me again.”
He was set apart as a patriarch soon after, and gave some most wonderful blessings. About a year later, he went over into the Sonora Colonies with Ida’s mother to give blessings. The night of his return he suddenly took sick again and died before his family could reach him.
Share the Gospel
Reading and pondering our ancestors’ histories allows us to look back and see how they lived, the struggles they went through, the sacrifices they made, and how they died. We can consider the choices they made, the good and the bad, and learn much to strengthen our testimonies and point us in the right direction toward making and fulfilling righteous goals and our missions on this earth.
When my family looks back on my life, I hope they will be inspired and lifted up by the things I have done to share the gospel. No, not just by teaching family values in the home. I have tried to follow my grandmother’s example. Ida Romney Alldredge wrote poetry, roadshows, stories for the Primary and Relief Society magazines, and materials for temple dedications. One of her poems was set to music and is still sung by congregations as a testament to the faith of the pioneers—“They the Builders of the Nation.” Each piece she wrote affirmed her love for family and the Lord.
Diantha Hanchett (1830–1902) did the same thing. She wrote for her posterity, bearing testimony of Joseph Smith being a man of God. I am Diantha’s great-great-granddaughter, and reading her testimony has strengthened mine.
Below is Diantha Hanchett’s sketch of the Prophet. She wrote the following (there was no date on this material, and it is entered here with punctuation and spelling as on the copy available):
I saw the Prophet Jos. Smith at my father’s house. When a girl about 8 years. My father done his shoemaking he generally wore fine boots.
I have sit on his knee and listened to him talk for hours to my parents. He was very fond of children. I have heard him talk in the open air on a platforme. His brother hyrum was with him a great deal. I saw his wife Emma in Nauvoo. My father thot a great deal of the prophet Jos. Jesse P. Harmon my fathers uncle, came to our house and would stand for hours by the chimney on gard to protect the prophet.
While Brother Jos. was in the Jale at Cathaige I have passed it many a time.
My father would almost weep when he would say “Bro. Jos. is there.” I hope he will dive [live] and get out all right.
The day he was murdered Oh! I never shall forget such a gloom that was cast over the people. Patriarch Phylemon Merrill’s father lived close by my fathers house. My father done his shoemaking also. There was a song composed about the burning of our house. It runs something like this.
Down below Nauvoo
On the green plains
They burnt our goods.
And left the sick folks in the woods.
I was about 13 years old at the time of his death. And I can recall so vividly the deep grief and mourning for innocent the man that was slain.
My father kept 40 familys provided with food the year Bro. Jos. was killed, while the husbands were out trying to defend their rights and propertys. I can bare my testimony to the fact that Bro. Joseph was an inspired prophet of the living God. I have heard him Prophesyd seen his prophecys fulfilled. I have felt the Holy Spirit which he possessed and I knew he was a man of God.
When our challenges seem too tough to endure, knowing the example-teaching stories of our ancestors can help us to keep on trying.
In the United States, National Grandparents Day is coming up—September 11. In remembrance of our marvelous grandparent examples, may we read their stories, and may we take the time to share them with our children and their children. In so doing, we may all learn from our ancestors’ examples and grow to be a more worthy and unified people.
Fay A. Klingler is the author of the best-selling book The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book, I Am Strong! I Am Smart! and many other books and articles (www.fayklingler.com). She can be contacted on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FayKlingler.