In a world in need of healing, interest in family history is helping bringing about that balm, the General Authority in charge of the Church’s Family History Department says.
“I just find it so interesting that all over the world, and not just in the Church, the Lord is turning the hearts of the people to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers,” said Elder Bradley D. Foster, executive director of the department, in a recent Church News interview.
Elder Foster mentioned what in times past has been informally referred to in the Church as “the spirit of Elijah” (an allusion to the scriptural passage Malachi 4:5-6), but “is really the Holy Ghost telling us about our family,” a manifestation of the Spirit motivating men and women to engage in research that binds familial lines and leads to the performance of saving ordinances in temples.
Elder Foster said the concept of family crosses geographical lines in the Church and in the world. “It crosses international lines, it crosses the veil of mortality. It’s a common, natural affection that we have for our kindred.
“And when we get to know them – past and present – it heals. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
That universal affinity for one’s kindred is manifested in many ways, the Church leader said, citing mass media, the popularity of family history in many countries and the success of the Church’s FamilySearch online family history service and its several partner organizations.
“All those things are a manifestation that Heavenly Father loves all of His children, no matter where or when they lived, and He wants all of them back again,” Elder Foster remarked.
“We see it even in the movies,” he said. “The latest one we’ve seen that would illustrate this is a movie called ‘Coco.’ It illustrates something we all knew, and that is that we remember our ancestors, and by connecting with them through stories and photos, it heals us. It heals deep divides within us and gives us strength.”
An animated 3-D production from the Pixar studio, “Coco” has as its setting the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on which tradition holds that families and friends remember and pray for loved ones who have died.
“Coco” tells of a boy named Miguel Rivera who, despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, aspires to be a musician. Through a chain of events, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where he learns the true but theretofore lost identity of his great-great-grandfather and the real backstory behind the family’s ban on music. In the process, he is able to renew the kinship between his deceased and living relatives and heal the divide that has existed for generations.
Elder Foster remarked, “When we know who we are in relationship to God and to one another in family connections, we act differently, we think differently and we treat others differently. And the movie ‘Coco’ was a beautiful illustration of that. When Miguel discovered who he really was, not who he thought he was, and the connection he had, then he acted differently, and it healed wounds that were deep.”
The featured song from the motion picture is titled “Remember Me.” Elder Foster said that Natalia Lafourcade, whose voice is on the recording and who is featured in the official music video from the movie, will be a featured guest at RootsTech, the annual family history and technology conference sponsored in Salt Lake City by FamilySearch International. It is scheduled this year Feb. 28-March 3.
“She’ll also participate in our Hispanic event the evening of March 3, called Luz de las Naciones,” Elder Foster said. The name of the annual event literally means “light of the nations.”
When asked if the RootsTech organizers had known before they invited her to come that the movie would be so popular, Elder Foster replied, “No, but Heavenly Father did.”
He added, “We knew the theme we wanted, and we were given a heads-up about this movie about six months ago, and so we started to work on inviting her. She is so popular in Latin America, and now here, so this will be wonderful for those who have Latino ancestors, because that’s what the movie is about, about those folks and how they can connect.”
As is depicted in the movie, the key to making family connections is discovery, Elder Foster noted. “In every nation, discovery is what it’s all about. That’s why there’s so much interest in family DNA research; each of us wants to discover who I am, why I am here and where I go. Those are three great questions; people want to know the answers.
“And then once we discover the answers, we have the inclination to get to know our families and gather them around us. Then, as Mormons, we’ll put the names on four-generation family group sheets and put our ancestors in our family trees. But it starts with discovery – photos and stories – and moves us to gather. That’s going to be the theme of our conference, and that’s what we’re all about.”