Family History conference: Strengthening ties that bind families

Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott


Family history consultants and genealogists of all ages met for the 47th annual Brigham Young University Conference on Family History and Genealogy on July 28-31.

The conference, held in the BYU Conference Center, spends four days helping participants gain new skills and helpful information on a variety of topics in more than 100 class topics.

Speaking on the topic, “They are not dead, they are just living somewhere else,” Elder Gerald N. Lund, former member of the Seventy, opened the conference during the morning keynote session on July 28. He spoke of his wife, Lynn, who died just over a year ago, as well as family members who passed on before.

“I do not grieve for her for she is not dead,” he said. “She is just living somewhere else and there are no visiting privileges. But that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?”

Drawing from the theme, “Strengthening ties that bind families together forever,” and from the scripture Malachi 4:6, Elder Lund spoke of the doctrine of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

“When you think about the two aspects of the fathers and the children, I think I’ve always thought that means [the fathers] are dependent on us to do the work, the research and all it takes so that we can do vicarious work for them. And for us, children looking to the fathers is a work of love for those who have gone before.”

But the doctrine of turning the hearts of children and fathers is not just a genealogical concept, he taught.

Sharing a story of when he was living in England while serving in the Europe West Area presidency, Elder Lund spoke of a visit with then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was meeting with missionaries and posed the question, “Why are we here on earth?”

As missionaries raised their hands and responded, Elder Nelson agreed with what was said, but was looking for more.

“We come to earth to start our eternal family,” Elder Lund remembers him saying. “You do need a body to do that and you need to gain experience and you need to prove yourselves, but the primary reason is to start your eternal family.”

Elder Lund quoted the words of President Harold B. Lee at the Oakland Temple dedication: “ ‘Can you conceive that when parents have passed beyond the veil that then is the only time when [parents] should have their hearts turned to their children, and their children to their parents?

“ ‘I would have you consider seriously whether or not that binding with your family will be secure if you have waited until you have passed beyond the veil before your hearts then yearn for your children whom you have neglected to help along the way. It is time for us to think of turning the hearts of parents to children now while living, that there might be a bond between parents and children that will last beyond death.’ ”

“That, I think, is the doctrine of turning the hearts of the children,” Elder Lund said. “I believe it is about creating eternal families whose hearts are bound together in love and service to each other.”

It is through love and service that families are bound together — on the earth and for eternity. Through family history and genealogy work families are able to perform vicarious temple ordinances, binding them together.

“How do we serve them — those who have gone before?” he asked. “We do temple work. We can honor them and use their example to motivate ourselves and our children. And how do they serve us?”

Drawing from section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Elder Lund said those who have gone before can offer service from the Spirit World.

“Surely those who have passed beyond can see more clearly through the veil back here to us than it is possible for us to see to them from our sphere of action,” he said. “I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and heavenly beings. We are not separated from them — after they die we cannot forget them — we do not cease to love them, we always hold them in our hearts and our memory. And thus, we are associated and united to them by ties that we cannot break.”

If this is the case with individuals in a finite condition, how much more certain is it to believe that those who have been faithful who have gone beyond can see and know their family better than they see and know themselves, he taught.

“I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare,” he said. “They love us now more than ever, for now they see the dangers that beset us.”

Because they know of the evils and temptations surrounding people today, those who have gone before have a deep interest in their families. They sometimes act as angels to protect and guide their posterity.

“Their love for us and desire for our well being must be greater than we feel for ourselves,” he said. “Isn’t that a wonderful concept of service? They are watching over us, seeing what we are doing right and seeing what we are doing wrong. And trying to care for us and influence us.”

For Elder Lund, that connection to his ancestors has helped him in writing books. Whether it was visiting an ancestral town or village or researching in a county courthouse, his own experiences have influenced his own work. Many of the characters, stories and quotes come from his own family history.

It is that connection thorugh love and service — both on earth and beyond the grave — that families are able to create eternal families and help each other through service and love.

“Our ancestors are interested in us more than just getting ordinances done,” he said. @marianne_holman

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