Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn

(find the talk here)

“Family history is not simply
an interesting program
or activity sponsored by the Church;
it is a vital part
of the work of salvation
and exaltation.”

Neva Harper & Joseph Theron Smithmy maternal grandparents

I don’t know about you, but when I read Elder David A Bednar’s talk I had to keep myself from heading straight to FamilySearch to work on my family history. I usually spend Sunday afternoons working on family history work  - whether keeping a record of my own family, or working to find records of my ancestors.

When I was in Junior High school I went to an International Studies Magnet school. Basically that was just a fancy name for saying that our school offered four different language classes (Spanish, French, German, and Latin) and that the classes were often focused on other cultures and nations. In addition, eighth graders were encouraged (maybe required… I can’t quite remember) to participate in a Culture Fair – like a science fair, but instead of doing a project that had to do with science, you did a project that had to do with culture. There were several different categories you could choose from, and somehow I ended up choosing family history. I created a nice display board with a family tree I drew and glued construction paper leaves to the branches, as well as pictures of my ancestors, along with their names, birth dates, marriage dates, and death dates. In my preparation for this project, I discovered that we didn’t have any record of my great great grandfather. Normally great great grandfathers aren’t too hard to find – most people my age grew up with their great grandparents – I am no exception, I was very familiar with my father’s maternal grandmother. I was also very familiar with my father’s paternal grandfather, even though he passed away in 1949. I knew stories about him, and I knew about where he came from. But his father still eluded us.

I think that experience was the spark that ignited the spirit of Elijah in me. I have spent a lot of time off and on working on that line, trying to find information. One of the biggest trials is the political and cultural upset that surrounded my great great grandfather’s life, so the work looking for names on that line has been slow – well, really I haven’t made much progress at all. I keep trying as much as I can. Sometimes it is hard to make the time to work on family history with little ones running around, but I try to regularly spend some time doing family history research.

Elder Bednar’s talk was kind of hard for me to read, unlike most of his talks that are so straight forward and simply spoken. But maybe that was just because I kept wanting to go over to the Family Search website and find names. I did appreciate his background on the spirit of Elijah and the prophecy from Malachi about the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood. I think that we don’t really think about that very much – we kind of take it for granted. And I think people not of our faith don’t even understand it at all, so his explanation was probably as much for newer members and those not of our faith as it was for the members.

I love the idea of the temple as the place where we forge “the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers,which fulfills the mission of Elijah.”

When I was twelve years old, ready to go to the temple for the first time to do baptisms for the dead, I sat down with my bishop for an interview (we were actually in the mothers’ lounge in our small building because his office was being used and all the other classrooms were in use with the other ward that met in our building). I was pretty confident that I would “pass” the interview – I was a pretty good young woman, I tried to read the scriptures, say my prayers, and keep the commandments, and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of what I would be doing in the temple. But the first thing that wise bishop asked me was “What does it mean to gather Israel?” Okay. He had stumped me. I hadn’t been through seminary or institute yet – I had just barely graduated from Primary! I had no clue what he was talking about. Thankfully I had enough sense to say so. Of course, he didn’t mind – he wasn’t testing me, he simply wanted to teach me a profound and central principle about the work that we do in the temples. That wise bishop went on to teach me about the spirit of Elijah, the keys of the Priesthood, and the significance of sealing every member of God’s family to Him in the temple. I have never forgotten that chat with that wise bishop, and I know that his wisdom and his willingness to teach me has made a huge impact on how I view the temple, family history work, and missionary work.

Back then, of course, family history work was a little more intimidating for me. There were all these microfilms and microfiches (little fish?) and big machines and old computers and pedigree charts that took up the whole wall and binders and binders of family group sheets. It was overwhelming for my young self. However, I still remember a few trips to the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City when we would visit Utah. I also remember spending a lot of time playing with the machines in the family history library at the stake center while my mom toiled away finding names and preparing them for the temple. By the time I was old enough to attend the temple and do baptisms myself, I was definitely a little more interested, and my mom helped me learn how to use PAF and by the time I was in high school and the internet was useful for things like this, I learned how to search the internet for family names. When I went off to college, I started spending a lot more time working on family history research. Now with the new Family Search, family history work is so much more simple and even our youth can do it – as Elder Bednar is counseling them.

It is my hope that I can help my children recognize the importance of family history work, and really have that same testimony that my bishop helped me understand as a youth. I loved Elder Bednar’s testimony that

It is no coincidence that Family Search and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends.

I really have a testimony that the youth can and will do this – they will use the internet and their technologically savvy minds to further the work of the Lord, and it will be amazing.

The promises that Elder Bednar made to the youth were significant. He said,

Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary.As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.

I want those promises for my children! I worry so much about the influence of the adversary and technology and I am constantly thinking “How am I going to keep my children safe?” Well, Elder Bednar gave me the answer right here – help them get interested and get involved in family history work. My children are four and two right now, but I am sure I can think up ways to get them interested in family history work. In fact, my brain is cooking up ideas right now just by mentioning it!

In conclusion, I love this admonition from Elder Bednar,

Young people increasingly need to be learners who act and thereby receive additional light and knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost—and not merely passive students who primarily are acted upon.

This is one of my biggest goals as a mother – to teach my children to act and not to be merely acted upon. If I can teach them to act, and most importantly, to act righteously, I think I will be a successful mother.

How do you get your small children interested in family history work? How did you gain your testimony of family history work and temple work? What does the spirit of Elijah mean to you?

Find more insight on this talk over at
Diapers and Divinity’s General Conference Book Club


  1. Nice post! :D I work at a local family research center; and I'm inspired! ~ Well done, and THANK YOU!

    PS. Finding your great, great grandfather is a treasure... so having to really search and dig, and search and dig some more will be well worth the eventual find... ;)

    Corine :D

  2. I gained my testimony of family history work by copying down pedigree charts, so that I could have my own copy. And that was as a teenager. I love it. It is difficult to make time for research when you have young children, but it makes you appreciate the sacrifice. And it became a lot easier once it could be done late at night in your own home!

    As far as teaching little children, I think stories work the best. We also tried having "heritage" dinners and celebrations occasionally. (I wish it had been more regular.) Children are fascinated with where they came from, and I'm looking forward to doing a better job with my grandchildren!


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