Family history isn’t just for the salvation of our ancestors. As we learn about our ancestors, their example strengthens us.
I always felt like family history was for old people, so when Elder David A. Bednar gave his talk “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn” in October 2011, I immediately zoned out. The talk began with an overview of the Spirit of Elijah, and I knew that Elder Bednar would implore each of us to index and complete temple work for our ancestors. And for the most part, that’s how it went. But Elder Bednar caught my attention when he said, “I now invite the attention of the young women, young men, and children of the rising generation as I emphasize the importance of the Spirit of Elijah in your lives today.”
For the next several minutes, I was completely engrossed as Elder Bednar suggested options for completing family history work, emphasized the responsibility of the youth to utilize technology, and shared the promised blessings of heeding this commandment.
In particular, these blessings stuck with me:
- “Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase.”
- “Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding.”
- “You will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary.”
- “You will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”
I wanted all of these blessings and felt as if the call had come specifically for me. During the following months, I looked at FamilySearch and it appeared that my own family history work had already been completed, so I was content with indexing on a fairly regular basis.
A few years later, I had a class assignment to use something from my family history to create a blog post, slideshow, or video. At first, I was stumped, but my thoughts eventually drifted to my maternal grandfather. I grew up knowing that he had died long before I was born, leaving behind a farm, his wife, and ten children, including my mom, who was just eleven years old at the time. I knew he had served a mission in South Africa, but I had only a distant memory of seeing some pictures he had taken.
After a quick phone call to my mom, I discovered more material documenting my grandfather’s life than I could have ever hoped for. With some help from my uncle, I received digital copies of the slides Grandpa brought back from South Africa, digital copies of each page of his journal, and a recording of a stake conference talk he had given.
I put together this video to complete the assignment:
To properly tell Grandpa’s story, I had to read through pages of his journal. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about him. My curiosity was thoroughly piqued. I enlisted the help of a few cousins, and we determined to surprise Grandma and our aunts and uncles with a transcribed, hardbound, full-color version of Grandpa’s journal and pictures.
It took nearly a year of transcribing, editing, and designing, but eventually we finished. We gave the family their books for Christmas 2016.
I found that each of Elder Bednar’s promises had come to pass; I felt love for a grandfather I had never met, my testimony of the Savior was deepened, and I felt a difference in my ability to resist temptation.
My family history responsibility had nothing to do with work for the dead; it was a work for my grandfather’s living descendants. As each of his children and grandchildren read his words, they come to know him and are strengthened by his example. The hearts of the children truly are turned to their fathers, or in my case, grandfathers.
Discover Elder David A. Bednar’s take on the blessings of family history work.
Source: lds.org/general conference
—Emily Russon, Mormon Insights
feature image by royal duane jensen
Find more insights
Take a look at the Church’s resources for family history.
Read and Watch Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk about researching your own roots and branches.