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Elder Bednar’s Promise

By Emily Milner

I started indexing this year, after my stake president talked about it in conference. It was a steep learning curve for me at first; I felt clumsy deciphering the handwriting and stressed about entering wrong information and wrecking the index for some poor searcher. But I’ve gotten better at it, and now I like wondering about the stories behind the names. The 67-year old widower I indexed this morning, who lives alone. How long ago did his wife die, and did they have children? Or the 35-year-old widow who lives with her parents. She has two small children, and I wonder what her plans are next, and how long ago her husband died. I’m indexing the 1940 census now, and I’ve realized that for many of the younger men I index, this was their last census, because right after that they went to war. I have been surprised by how moving indexing can be: it enhances my awareness of names, of individuals who each have their own story.

In issuing the challenge, our stake president reminded us of Elder Bednar’s promise given in October 2011:

It is no coincidence that FamilySearch 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. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation. …

As you respond in faith to this invitation, your hearts shall turn to the fathers. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing, with its declaration of lineage, will link you to these fathers and be more meaningful to you. 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.

This line got to me: “I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary.” If there’s anything I want for my children, it is that kind of protection. It is what I have prayed for them since they were small; I think of Mormon’s words, “A continual scene of wickedness has been before my eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man,” and they seem to apply so well today.

I want those blessings for my children. I don’t know what temptations they will face, but I want to layer them in as much spiritual protection as I possibly can. I want the Spirit thick around them, so that they can be strengthened enough to feel the joy of choosing well. I know there are no guarantees for the future, but this is my plan to fortify them right now.

I want to know–how have you implemented family history work into your family? What blessings have you seen from it?

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

7 thoughts on “Elder Bednar’s Promise”

  1. I love this post. I've been a genealogist most of my life and have had most of the experiences that tearful old ladies testify about and that non-family historians can hardly take seriously. What I love about this post is the evidence that you are beginning to care, or at least think about, these strangers whose paths probably will never cross yours again. It doesn't have to be your own ancestors involved — anytime we do something to serve in any way in this work, our hearts can't help but turn to theirs.

    A friend and neighbor responded to that promise of Elder Bednar the same way you did, Emily, and asked me to teach her son (then 11, now just turned 12) to do family history. So every week or so, we've spent a couple of hours in either the Family History Library or Church History Library. I teach him about a source, and he never forgets it — he can go right to the same source when we talk about another one of his ancestors. He is learning to analyze the records and consider what kind of record he might need to look at next. He has written a personal sketch of one ancestor. He has done the research — himself, with minimal suggestions from me — and written the report to have his pioneer ancestors added to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database. These people are real enough to him now that when he looks at a death certificate, he googles until he understands what caused their deaths. He has interviewed an elderly relative about memories of the ancestor we are focusing on.

    I'm not in a position to know yet what blessings he will enjoy from this work, but I can verify that Elder Bednar was right — youth, even as young as this, can do this work, can develop an interest in it, can understand the techniques involved. I have no doubt that the rest of his talk, including that promise, will be true in this young man's life.

    Now if only I could get the missionaries in the Family History Library to understand that this young man knows how to put microfilm on the machines, so that they would stop trying to "help" him — his fingers are far more agile than yours, sister, and he knows what he's doing!

  2. I always feel guilty reading about indexing, because I know I could do more–maybe when my life calms down in a couple of weeks I'll be able to check this out. I find the idea of it fascinating–I've always been interested in records, especially family records.

    Ardis, I love the story you share here!

  3. You've inspired me, Emily. I'm making this one of our summer projects.

    Just one question for someone out there who might be able to help me. How do you get excited about genealogy when the generations you know (my dad and grandparents) were neglectful and uncaring? It's kind of hard for me to have warm fuzzy feelings about my ancestors.

  4. Because of doing my family history I found out I had a Dad I never knew about (my biological Dad) and his whole family – and now have them in my life, after 30 odd years without them.

    The discovery also and of course means that I now have THREE families to trace for family history, but there you go.

  5. Ardis, what a great story, and what a lucky, lucky kid. I would like similar lessons from someone like you. I'm from pioneer stock on all sides, and I know my lines are full of errors that need tracking down before I can begin to do original research, and it's hard to know where to begin. In addition to indexing, my stake president also wants us to find ten names in our family histories to do, and I'm sure they are out there, but it's still daunting. Hooray for indexing–I'm getting my toes wet so I can stay motivated to dig in later.

    Rosalyn, there is a learning curve, like I said, but once you get a feel for a project it goes fast. It's also nice because you can do five minutes here or ten minutes there and come back to it. You don't need a large block of time once you've invested the original startup effort, which is perfect for me.

    Michelle, my oldest son submitted his second batch of 1940 census names on Sunday. He was pretty pleased with himself, and so was I. I do read over them before he submits (he's only 11), though.

    And I don't have good answers for you there. I am sorry. What I bet, though, is that your ancestors have warm fuzzy feelings for you wherever they are, and maybe with time they can be accessed. I love this post Jennie wrote a few years ago about that here.

    Kel, I've always had a bit of holy envy for converts who have so many recent ancestors available who need work done. I think that's fantastic, and I know they will appreciate your efforts.

  6. Regarding "bad" ancestors, sometimes while doing genealogy, you find out things about their lives that allow you to have more loving feelings toward them. Sometimes what families thought they knew about their family members isn't right. I remember seeing an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" where an actress had a grandmother who was neglectful as a mother, but she found out that her grandmother's early life had been incredibly hard. She had lost most of her family at a very young age, had to raise her younger brother herself, only to have that younger brother killed in front of her in the street. This was learned through death certificates and old newspaper articles. This same grandmother ended up marrying incredibly early, having a child (who I think also subsequently died while still a baby), and being left by the baby's father. She basically never had any childhood whatsoever. Not that that's an excuse to be a neglectful mother, but it helped her family to know that about her life. It gave the actress (might've been Susan Sarandon, but not sure) much more compassion toward that ancestor. Now you might not find out anything like that, but it seems like when I see one of those shows and there is a situation like that, the people always end up finding out that there was more to that individual than they had previously thought, and while they may not find out info that would necessarily be "redeeming," it seems to at least always have a healing effect, no matter what is found out.

  7. Ardis,
    Those missionaries are trained to help and have great desire to be assistence espcially the full time young men who have been called because maybe they could not serve the 'standard' mission requirments. Have him see Elder Trevor Davis who would certainly allow him to do is own work and give help if he'd require it. Elder Davis was selected for the research training program to assist patrons in actual research and he loves family history. Some Elders because of their assignment feel, ask and responde to this calling differnetly but don't fault them for the proceess.
    Elder Bidnar's promise to the youth is very powerful. Let's hope they embrace it.


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