Prophet's history 'intertwined' with Genealogical Society

Not only do the birthdates of the Genealogical Society of Utah and President Howard W. Hunter closely coincide, but their histories are intertwined, Elder Russell M. Nelson observed at the commemorative program Nov. 13.

"President Hunter has enjoyed family history since his youth when he listened with great interest to stories of his pioneer ancestors," said Elder Nelson of the Council of the Twelve. "As an adult he pursued research on his family lines. For a season after being ordained an apostle, he commuted between California and Utah, doing research at the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City when time permitted."He said Elder Hunter, as a member of the Council of the Twelve, became president of the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1964, and during his eight-year presidency, the society introduced a computer system named GIANT, an acronym for Genealogical Information and Names Tabulation. At the forefront of newly developing technology, it functioned as the major program for the processing of names for the next 20 years.

"While Elder Hunter presided over the society, it sponsored the first World Conference on Records in 1969. He welcomed participants from all parts of the earth and gave one of the major addresses. That conference seemed to authenticate the society in the eyes of many archivists worldwide and opened the way for microfilming in previously untouched realms of the globe. The conference was, in the words of Elder Hunter, `truly one of the great successes of the Church.' "

While Elder Hunter was president of the society, its collection of microfilm grew from 400,000 to 700,000 rolls and the Granite Mountain Record Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon was completed and dedicated, Elder Nelson noted. "President Hunter helped to shape the destiny of the society and establish its position as one of the foremost genealogical societies of the world."

Elder Nelson said what has been done is important, but why it has been done is even more meaningful. He quoted Elder Hunter as saying " `the uniting and redemption of the family of God was the divine plan before the foundations of the earth were laid.'

"Temples are an essential part of that divine plan, and they are not new," he added, referring to references to temples in the Old and New testaments.

Latter-day revelation was necessary for a full understanding of the purpose of temples, Elder Nelson said. "The restoration of the gospel in its fullness brought a restitution of the doctrine of the redemption of the dead."

He said the Church has been a vigorous force for good in helping people throughout the world identify their forebears. "The Church's state-of-the-art computer programs have been made available to millions of genealogical researchers, regardless of their religious affiliation."

Regarding President Hunter, he said: "Now as president of the Church, he beckons us to the temple. He invites us to emulate the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Church this is."

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