“…we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel…I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. ” (David A. Bednar, October 2011 General Conference)
Since I was thirteen years old I have had the Spirit of Elijah in my heart. It burns within me and adds excitement to my life. Whenever I had spare time then I would do research with my grandparents and on my own. But, for many years now, while having children and raising them I have had to put my family history books on the shelf for the most part. When I see them, my heart pangs me. I wish for the time when I can do family history work more regularly. Some people have told me that there is a time and a season for everything, and that while I raise my children it is not the season to do family history work. For a while I accepted that so as not to feel guilt about not doing the work I yearned to do.
Then in 2011, right before Elder Bednar gave “The Hearts Of The Children Shall Turn” talk, I felt a desire to incorporate family history into our homeschool. So, once a week I gathered my children around and worked on learning about our ancestors. At first we used a book called “My Family Tree Workbook” by Rosemary Chorzempa. We copied the pages so that we could put them into our family history binders. Then we added photos to help the people come alive. The simple format in the book is great for children. Sadly though, after we worked for a year on these books and on our family history we stopped meeting. Summer came and the structure changed.
Since that time we haven’t made it back to regularly working on family history as a family, and this has saddened me. There have now been many talks about youth learning and loving family history. The church has made an obvious effort to include the youth in this hobby and calling. Including this youth in this work is inspired on so many levels.
As I look at it, I see that if youth get involved in family history work, their time on the computer will have purpose. They could even develop a healthy addiction to family history work. And, with all the addictions out there today that our youth can stumble into this is a great safety net. Also, the philosophy of the day is to move on, leaving the old behind us. This is dangerous on many levels, but especially in regards to morality, family unity, and purpose in life. When we study someone else’s life we can’t help but find the purpose they were living for and see how they tried to be better morally. We see the importance of family and of faith. Doing family history work is like the ultimate course for life. It covers: history and world events, family relationships, charts, documentation, research and note taking, agriculture, travel, and theology, etc.
So many people still don’t know what their purpose in life is. What better way to help our children understand purpose in life than to study other people’s lives and their purposes?
When my children are about eleven years old I strengthen my relationship with them. I have noticed that at that young age, and up until about fifteen or sixteen youth need to be closest to their parents. If they become closer to their peers during those years, then family relationships disconnect and selfishness creeps into the home. The bi-product of this happening is a loss of the Spirit of love at home.
So, four years ago my then eleven year old daughter, Paije, asked if I would join an accapella women’s harmony chorus called The Mountain Jubilee Chorus. Here is a video of us singing with this group. And, here is another video of Paije singing a solo with group back up. For four years we have spent one night each week together driving, singing and talking. We have become best friends. We tell each other everything. This has been a precious part of our lives. And, the women in this chorus have shown Paije what it means to be a woman. Their impact on her life has been huge. She is not a teenager, she is a youth; which means she wants to grow up and have responsibilities and live her life’s mission. She also doesn’t see any point in time wasting teenage culture.
My next child, Londyn, is now eleven and doesn’t feel singing in the chorus is part of her mission. But, I know she still needs to have the same relationship building time Paije had with me. This got me thinking. What was I going to do? How could I be there for Londyn and keep up all the other things in my schedule?
Then the Spirit starting giving me answers. I heard more church talks about family history. Our ward called two youth to be family history consultants. And at the stake temple preparation night for eleven-year-old youth they discussed doing family history work. Could it be that family history is the answer for how to unify with Londyn during her impressionable years?
A couple of days after the stake event, Londyn came to me and said, “Mom, you know I want to go to the temple on my birthday right?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Well, I think my first temple trip would even be more memorable if I bring one of my family temple names to the temple to do the baptism for. So, I think we need to find a name. Okay?”
“Okay.” I said, not really thinking what I was committing to.
To find a name is hard in our family. I come through some old pioneer lines, and so does my husband. And, in all my years of family history I have only found a couple of names or errors; and that was long ago. It takes days to download my pedigree chart from ancestry. (Really, many days.)
I took this matter to the Lord. I told him that I wanted to have special time with Londyn during this time when she needed a friend like me most. The answer I got loud and clear was family history work. Paije and I would quit the chorus that had been so great for her life’s mission and impressionable years, and focus on family history work with Londyn one night a week instead.
When I brought the idea up to Londyn I wasn’t sure what she would think.
I knew that most people wouldn’t consider doing family history work as exciting, even though I would.
With glowing eyes and a wide smile she said to me, “Mom, I love that idea! So, just you and me are going to do this?” I could see her brain envisioning time just with me each week working on finding ancestors. I have to admit that I was envisioning the same thing. My heart felt three times larger. Finally, after all these years, I knew I didn’t have to wait for a season to do family history work. Why hadn’t I seen it before? Family history didn’t need to take me away from my family, it was quite possibly the perfect project to unite my family; especially if my purpose was to unite with my children while doing it. I could do family history work for me, or I could do family history work for my family. Isn’t that what a mission is anyway? A mission is something we do for others and for God, not for ourselves. If it is self-serving, it is probably not our mission in life.
Family History Is The Cure
Our families will be blessed as we engage in family history work together. Everything in life is about sharing truth and our relationships. It makes sense that as we strengthen relationships with our ancestors, our relationships with our families will also improve. Elder Bednar closed his talk with these words:
“My beloved young brothers and sisters, family history is not simply an interesting program or activity sponsored by the Church; rather, it is a vital part of the work of salvation and exaltation. You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work.”
Is there anything more important than helping our children fulfill the mission God chose them to be part of? Obviously family history work is part of their missions. See you at the family history center!
You might like to listen to this audio class about raising youth in these times. “5 Social Lessons Every Child Must Know.”