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In Which I Suddenly Understand

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 20, 2010

My mother was born in the covenant. She was baptized at age 8. My father was a convert; I was present at his baptism in 1964. My parents were endowed and sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1967; my brothers and I were sealed to them at the same time. I was there. I remember. My father was sealed to his deceased parents in the Las Vegas Temple in 1990. I know. I was there. I knelt as proxy for his mother.

Kneeling with my family in Salt Lake in 1967, and kneeling with my father in Las Vegas in 1990, are some of the sweetest memories of my life. My dad and I didn’t do a lot of things together, although he did a lot of things for me. I became a genealogist because of something he sparked, and I do what I do today, including Keepa, because of those early genealogical experiences. For years I would call my father every few days to report what I had found in researching his family, and he was always as excited, as eager for the trivial details as I could hope. Every genealogist should be so lucky to have someone so eager to listen.

My parents are both gone now; Mom died almost 11 years ago, and Dad died six years ago next month. There aren’t many people around any more who really knew them. My brothers and me, yes, and the grandchildren, who have childish memories if they were old enough, and a few remaining aunts. But neither of our parents were great socializers outside the family, and I would be surprised if there are many others who remember them, or even knew them well to begin with.

So …

I went on to New Family Search this weekend to check some temple ordinance dates. Months ago I had contacted the staff to ask why my father’s sealing to his parents was still shown as “Ready” rather than completed with the 1990 date; they replied that they had indeed found the record of the 1990 work and that blank would be quickly completed. It hasn’t been. It still shows “Ready,” and any nincompoop could re-do the work, with their unnecessary data becoming the official record of the church. That’s bad enough.

But this time I noticed that all my mother’s ordinances – all the work she had done in life – were still showing as “Ready,” waiting for a stranger to step in and do the work for her.

And worse, there was a duplicate record showing that some nincompoop had stepped in and sealed my mother (sort of – they couldn’t be bothered to get her name quite right) to my father in Nauvoo in 2007.

Seeing that data made me tear up quite unexpectedly. It hurt. It made me angry. Who was this stranger who had presumed to intrude on our family this way? Who was making decisions about my parents that they had no right to make? Who was erasing the traces of my parents’ own lives and replacing them with this bogus data from Nauvoo in 2007? It made me sad. It made me angry.

I know my emotional reaction is irrational. I know that what this Nauvoo-2007-Stranger did does nothing to change the lives of my parents. It doesn’t negate the fact that they were worthy of being and chose to be sealed in life. It doesn’t even really matter in eternity – it was an unnecessary, meaningless action on the part of somebody who meant well but was a lousy genealogist and a waster of temple resources.

But it still hurt. It means that a stranger was, in effect, taking my parents’ names in vain. It meant that somebody who didn’t know them was attempting to make decisions on their behalf. It looks like someone erased my parents’ actions and replaced them with their own “better” judgment. How presumptuous! How annoying! How unfair!

Unexpectedly, I suddenly understood at least in part why some Jews are upset by the attempts of some Church members, against the policies and requests of the Church, to do temple work for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Yes, the Mormon work is meant in goodwill. Yes, it has effect only if the deceased person accepts it. But it looks like strangers are erasing the facts of Jewish lives. It looks like strangers are attempting to make decisions in behalf of deceased Jews. It is – doesn’t just look like, but is – a case of strangers stepping in, who have no understanding of the lives of the people whose names they are submitting.

It is different, in Mormon view, from the case of my parents, because the stranger’s work for my parents was indeed unnecessary, while we believe that at some future day the work for the Holocaust victims will need to be done. But from the Jewish point of view, that difference doesn’t exist.

My reaction to some stranger’s intrusion into my parents’ memory may not be quite the same as the reaction of those Jews who have objected to our temple work, but it’s enough to convince me that they have a valid objection. Regardless of the theology, as long as Church leaders have agreed that work for Holocaust victims will not be done except where such persons are direct ancestors of Church members (who have as much right to do the work as any other relative has to object to that work), I will support that agreement and not try to sneak around the corner. I wish all Church members would sustain that policy.



49 Comments »

  1. Any ordinance incorrectly marked “Ready” you can simply reserve for yourself to make sure nobody else does it. If any of my Jewish friends asks me to take an ancestor’s name out of circulation like that, I will gladly oblige. (At least until another direct descendant asks me to release it so they can do the work themselves.)

    Comment by Last Lemming — September 20, 2010 @ 7:30 am

  2. well said. Would this mean that we should stop all temple work for those who are not our ancestors?

    Comment by Dan — September 20, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  3. Yes, Dan! We can do the work for our own ancestors. We can also do the work for their immediate families, as long as they’re long deceased.

    If the family members are more recently deceased, you need to get permission from their immediate family to do the work. For example, if I wanted to do the temple work for a deceased uncle, I would need to get the permission of his wife or children.

    And no temple work should be done without making sure that it has not already be done. My ancestor John Tanner, who did his own temple ordinances himself in the Nauvoo Temple and died in full fellowship and faith, has had his temple work repeated so many times that it is absurd. It is very easy and has never been hard to find out that his temple work has been done.

    My current pet peeve, one of a revolving set of pet peeves about New Family Search, is family members who choose names and dates without having documentation for the information.

    And a final note (perhaps…): If situations come up with regard to a specific ancestor, there is a new field in New Family Search called “Discussions.” It is a good place to leave a note about the ancestor.

    Comment by Researcher — September 20, 2010 @ 8:08 am

  4. I was similarly surprised to learn that my grandparents, who were married in the Salt Lake temple, had both had their work done for them several times in the 20 or so years after their passing. It would also probably come as a surprise to the people in the ward where he was bishop for at least 15 years that he needed to be baptized 3 or 4 times after he had died.

    Comment by CS Eric — September 20, 2010 @ 9:13 am

  5. Great post, Ardis.

    It’s especially poignant when read just after watching this.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 20, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  6. Wow. Very powerful. Thank you, Ardis, that was a timely and moving example of how precious our memories and relationships to our own story are. I felt blessed reading this.

    Comment by SteveP — September 20, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  7. Thanks for the story. While I didn’t have quite the same strong reaction, this mirrors some of the of the feelings I had when I discovered that someone in New Family Search had found a Polish spelling variation of my family’s surname, and then redone many of the ordinances for a couple of generations of the oldest members of my father’s ancestry. There is a sense of violation, and and a little peevishness at knowing that it is not correct. I’ve seen the microfilm of the oldest parish records from Denmark that mention my family, and there is no mistaking the spelling.

    Your experience along with my own, has made me more aware of the sense of outrage that the Jewish community must feel, and I think we do need to be more sensitive. Let’s hope this last announcement by the church is more like the second manifesto than the first.

    Comment by kevinf — September 20, 2010 @ 10:01 am

  8. Interesting and insightful post. Having Jewish ancestors myself, I’ve seen both sides of the dispute, and your empathy would be well-received by many in my family (and myself).

    Comment by Bro. Jones — September 20, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  9. Aren’t we supposed to stick to our own ancestry in every case when submitting names for temple work?

    I note that a friend who was very eager to do work for every prominent person involved in historical events which interested him is now active in another church.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — September 20, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  10. Interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by David Y. — September 20, 2010 @ 10:20 am

  11. Even though every person will eventually need the ordinances, the Church’s policies on what work we can do now seem wise; even if they weren’t wise, it seems to me that we ought to adhere to the policies simply because that’s what the Church asks.

    Yes, individual Church members are supposed to limit their temple work to members of their own family, although there is not, to my knowledge, any strict definition of how distant a person may be to count as a family member, if you can identify the relation and aren’t just collecting names. I do temple work for people I find in historical research, as long as I can connect them to my existing family tree (I very often can). I have NOT yet done the work for my father’s brothers, who have living non-member children and a widow.

    The Church has at times extended the boundaries *for itself* through, for example, the extraction program, but that doesn’t give us license to do the same individually. When the Church puts limits in place — no unrelated Holocaust victims, no famous people for the sake of doing famous people, no one born in a traditionally Islamic country without special clearance, get permission of living family members if the person has died within a given period — it’s for a reason, even if such a policy may change in the future, even if we don’t understand the purpose of the policy.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 20, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  12. Ardis, well described, explained, and argued. Part of the problem is we’ve got a gazillion stake conferences throughout the world in which the members have been assured that temple work is urgent and that there are people waiting desperately for their work to be done. Such strong emphasis can cause people to lose perspective. There’s certainly nothing in LDS doctrine that suggests that people are burning in hell while waiting for their temple work to be done, so in reality, the work isn’t urgent — at least not in that sense. It’s not going to hurt somebody to wait another 100 years. There’s plenty of work to be done for others in the meantime.

    Comment by Martin — September 20, 2010 @ 11:05 am

  13. I’m siting here cheering this post. I had a similar experience maybe 5 or 6 years back when I discovered that a member in Utah (to whom I am so distantly related on my mother’s side as to be irrelevant) had taken the family tree of my mothers I had sent her, and had submitted my father and his parents (ie my grandparents, with whom I stayed on a regular basis and had a wonderful relationship) work to be done, and I was saving those for me and my children! To say I was incandescent would be an understatement. She had had the baptisms and confirmations done, just that previous week; so I rang the St George Temple (where they had been done) immediately, told them the problem, explained I was phoning from Scotland, and assured them I would call back in 2 hours by which time if they had not contacted the Patron directly, I would be asking to speak to the Recorder. Two hours later I rang back, and the sister I spoke to previously explained they had contacted the Patron and asked her not to do any more. Her explanation as that her grandchildren needed early morning baptisms and so she gave them mine.My biggest concern was that she intended to deal my grandparents (those you may remember from a previous post, who had their babies buried by the undertaker) and it transpired this was her intention. Thankfully that was left for me to accomplish. I will be forever grateful for the temple worker in St George who understood my (probably incoherent) rant- and I learned the lesson of giving everyone the opportunity to perform the work for their direct line.Church doctrine is quite clear on this point- we work on our own family lines. Eventually I was able to seal my grandparents to each other in Copenhagen, and their children to them in Preston, but it would have been so good to have given my children the opportunity to perform some of the ordinances.

    I think it stems from laziness- members feel under pressure to provide names, so they grab them where they can.

    I’m so sorry you had this experience, Ardis.

    /end rant. apologies.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — September 20, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  14. In law school when I took a tax class, our professor said that the goal of tax law was to see that each dollar of income was taxed once and only once.

    I think that ought to be our goal in family history and Temple work, each person have his or her work done for them once and only once.

    Comment by john willis — September 20, 2010 @ 11:53 am

  15. When I research families in Tennessee I find many original baptism dates, living baptisms. But New.Familysearch.org has dates of vicarious work superceding the older dates. I know they aren’t relatives on mine, but I feel something is lost when we don’t value the sacrifice these people made to get baptized at a time and place when it was potentially life threatening. This doesn’t even compare to what you are going through, Ardis, but know that I agree with you.

    I have not submitted names of the Cane Creek families for their temple work to be done. I know their baptism dates. But most do not have any temple ordinance work done. Instead I have tried to find relatives and forward the information to them. I think it will mean more for them to do the work themselves.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — September 20, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  16. More emphasis on family history? More emphasis that temple work outside the family tree, is (as Pres. Hunter phrased it) “only half the blessing?”

    I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems to be far too common, and far too painful for living descendants.

    Thanks for posting, though, I appreciate the insights it has given me.

    Comment by Clark — September 20, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  17. Ha! (she wrote, in grim satisfaction). I just got a reply to the feedback I left through the link at New Family Search. After courteously recognizing my frustration and carefully explaining what they were doing to fix the problem in at least this one case, the NFS representative (nameless, but definitely a real, live, human being with thoughts and emotions) wrote:

    “In the mean time we would recommend that you reserve the two ordinances to prevent others or as you said, nincompoop from doing them.”

    No form letter there, for sure!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 20, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  18. Kudos to Ardis for using “nincompoop” in a note to NFS!

    Comment by Mark B. — September 20, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  19. Yeah … what word should I try to get them to repeat next?

    By the way, this reservation they suggested, which Last Lemming also mentioned in #1, will work on a practical level, but it is not the solution for the long term, for at least two reasons:

    You can’t have people indiscriminately reserving ordinances that they have no intention of performing. Theoretically, I could be feuding with my cousins, and either they or I could reserve all the ordinances for our common lines and prevent the other from participating. Or I could reserve all the ordinances for anyone named Parshall, whether or not they were known to be relatives.

    And second, my mother’s record was already in the system when this Nauvoo Nincompoop submitted a duplicate record. That duplicate record was not in the system a few months ago when I last checked my father’s ordinance dates. That suggests that even if I were to reserve all the ordinances that do not have to be redone, I would have to check regularly to be sure that some new fool hadn’t submitted another duplicate record.

    Something more rational, more permanent needs to be available.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 20, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

  20. Nincompoop! Awesome.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Ardis. My mom has forbidden me from doing any work on her parents and grandparents, and I’ve opted to respect her wishes for this very emotional reason. I hope someday my kids will take care of these family members, but I cannot. Is that splitting hairs? Maybe.

    Comment by Tracy M — September 20, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  21. What a moving story. I’m so glad you wrote about this Ardis; its a powerful testament to human empathy and the need to not just see from other’s perspectives, but perhaps be able to feel from them as well.

    I won’t belabor the point. I’m sneaking a few minutes in between classes anyway, and my thoughts on ordinances for the dead are a mess of conflicting emotions.

    But thanks, thanks, thanks for your post. This one means a lot.

    Comment by Mina — September 20, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  22. I greatly appreciate the issues of sensitivity Ardis brought up. Whether it’s our own family members or Holocaust victims, we should be sensitive to the wishes of the direct family. It’s great that members are enthusiastic about doing family history and temple work. However, we need to be wise about it too. I had this very discussion with my mother a couple of months ago. Her uncle (by marriage) had passed away. She was very close to her aunt and uncle. She held them in the highest regards. Their moral characters were superb. She always thought they would make the best Mormons. As I was talking to my mother she said that she wanted to get the work done for Uncle Edward as quickly as possible. She had such a sense of urgency regarding this. I could understand her deep desire to do the work. I agree with her about Edward’s character. That said, Uncle Edward was a staunch Catholic. The family is staunch Catholic. Aunt Marion (Edward’s wife) is still alive as are their children and grandchildren. Although I agree with my mother, I realized that she just can submit the name to the temple or have one of us take the name through. She considered asking her aunt for permission to do the work. I advised her not to considering the religious feelings of the family. I was also concerned that if she do the work that this would cause hard feelings within the family. I just feel that it’s better to follow the guidelines set in place by the Church than to create a bad situation. I just hope my mother will understand that.

    Comment by Steve C. — September 20, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  23. Ardis, I was touched by your experience being sealed to your parents. I was sealed to my convert parents in 1968; an experience I remember as if it were yesterday.

    I found that in the early days of NFS, I had a similar problem with dates for my parents and theirs. NFS did finally update their records, after I had reserved them.

    Even so, one of the benefits of NFS is allowing us to understand what work has been done before doing more. Clearly the system is not perfect, yet, but it is moving in the right direction.

    Comment by Paul — September 20, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  24. Ardis, thanks for making the tie-in or analogy between clueless Mormon cousins and the Jewish temple ordinance controversy.

    I’m Jewish on my father’s side, and I have been declared to be of the tribe of Judah in my patriarchal blessing. Even though my only cultural ties to Judaism were holiday visits with relatives and going to their temple/synagogue as a child, I’ve read up on Jewish history, especially European/Russian Jewish history from the progroms through the foundation of the modern Israeli state.

    Most non-Jewish Mormons who’ve defended the proxy temple-ordinances done for Jews just haven’t understood, and some just seem to have really thick skulls when it comes to understanding why living Jews are so incensed at the fact that it _looks_ like we’re “pretending to make them Christian.”

    _Of course_ the living Jews of today believe that our ordinances have no “real” effect. That’s not the point. (Hence, the standard apologetic rejoinder “but the spirits of the dead get to choose” is a patronizing and clueless non-sequitur) It’s the creation of a new memory, confusion, and a new “record” of something that’s “not correct” that stings. It’s also the feeling that busybodies have intruded on _your_ territory and sacred memory space.

    Ardis, your analogy seems to finally give them (the clueless LDS apologists) a clue that they can likely relate to. THANK you.

    Oh, and thanks for yet another side-bar link.

    Comment by Bookslinger — September 20, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  25. I feel like such a nincompoop for having neglected commenting more often at Keepa…

    Comment by Brian Duffin — September 20, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

  26. Nicely said.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — September 20, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

  27. All of my pioneer ancestors were baptized, endowed, and sealed for themselves. I find that they all have several/many additional cases of having their work done. Some of the original baptism dates are found in their journals or journals of the missionary who converted them. It seems that because there are not branch records where these dates are recorded, it is as if those baptisms never happened and the proxy baptisms are given precedence.

    Comment by Maurine — September 20, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

  28. I know the feeling, a little. A few years back, my husband and I met some friends at the temple, and they had a stack of names a third friend (that we didn’t know) had given them, so they offered us a couple of names. We were sitting in the chapel and I looked over at the name in his hand. It was my great-grandfather.

    This wasn’t a oh wow cool moment. I knew that name had been done ages ago. And it just seemed wrong that doing a repeat of this name would mean someone else’s wouldn’t be done that night.

    Later found that the friend-of-a-friend had taken a Mennonite family history book published in 1965 (in which my brother and I were the youngest family members) and was just submitting the whole thing. They were not related. Somehow, it felt very wrong.

    ____

    That said, I’m in a quandary. In over 25 years of genealogy efforts, I have not only cleared my tree of all realistically reachable fruit within the past 150 years, but also my husband’s. What is left is the nigh-unto-impossible (women who appear out of nowhere for weddings), and even some of those have been miraculously plucked from the tree. I notice on NFS some people clearly making stuff up to fill in some of these gaps (I was shocked to see that somebody somehow knew who the father of my illegitimate great-great-something-grandfather in 1820s Ohio was, even though it had long been family lore that his mom took that secret to her grave and never told a soul–the submitter hasn’t answered my query).

    So now, I’m out of names. After having done my own names for all these years, now that there’s a big push to do temple work, I feel like such a slacker. What am I to do?

    Comment by Coffinberry — September 20, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  29. One day a distant relative phoned my 88-year-old aunt and told her that she had discovered a box of genealogy in the attic and had just had the endowment performed for their great-grandmother. Because of her age, my aunt had trouble remembering things. She was upset and called me to see why WE hadn’t had the work done instead of her relative. I reminded auntie that this great-grandmother was endowed for herself in the Nauvoo Temple!

    Comment by Maurine — September 20, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  30. I feel strongly about this issue because I think the mistakes change our understanding of our own family history. I am still sad when I think of the time at a family reunion my father’s cousin stood up and told the family that she had finally got the temple work finished for our pioneer ancestors. I was sad because she made the family believe that our ancestors, who had traveled from England so they could get their temple work done, had not taken the time to do it while living near a temple. Every name she did had been done before. I feel one of the reasons to do genealogy is to get to know our family, but this relative knew nothing about her ancestors and will never understand them in this life.
    I think that it would be important for the Church to require those who are submitting names to state their sources for those names, so other family members can understand where they got the information. We would also know if they were submitting names of holocaust victims by seeing what sources they were using. I have seen fictional names in the records and if we had the source we would know what names came from novels. The Church really needs to fix this

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — September 21, 2010 @ 12:35 am

  31. Coffinberry, if I were in your shoes, I’d pick some ancestral couples and work down rather than back, picking up their descendants until I got to recent generations where doing temple work is problematic. Or I’d identify the aunts and uncles (of any generation) who didn’t have children, and trace the ancestry of the spouses (nobody else is looking for them if they don’t have descendants). Ditto for the other spouses of my own ancestors (everybody has ancestors who married more than once, not polygamously but in the normal course of having been widowed). You don’t have the same immediate obligation to these branches as you do to your own direct ancestors, but they still count as family for purposes of temple work.

    Really, 150 years is not so far back where white North American ancestry is concerned. Even if your own direct lines immigrated in the 1860s, making it difficult to trace further back in their home countries, some of those spouses will almost certainly descend from much earlier arrivals, and in some cases you may be able to take their lines back much earlier with easily available American records.

    That’s what I do when I’ve run into roadblocks in my own direct lines and am waiting for ideas on where to go next. Genealogy is something I can’t NOT do, so I have to be working on somebody’s family, even if it’s in-laws or more distant cousins.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 21, 2010 @ 3:26 am

  32. Yes, that is good counsel Ardis. And it is what I have done. Actually, I’m complete to womanly dead-ends much farther back than 150 (I should have said 175 or more), at which point I’ve done the back-down-the-trees so much that I fear I may have hogged up stuff others might want to do someday (I try to stop at about 100 years back on those).So that’s why my 12-year-old daughter’s first temple baptism trip Thursday is going to include that girlfriend-of-my-grandfather I mentioned in a previous post, along with a couple of first-cousins-fourth-removed. I scoured the kids’ tree for undone stuff and that’s what I came up with.

    Comment by Coffinberry — September 21, 2010 @ 6:16 am

  33. I’ll second Jeff’s suggestion to require sources for all new NFS information, including additions, changes and merges!

    A few more suggestions for Coffinberry of what to do when the ward starts putting the pressure on to come up with 10,000 names to take to the temple this year:

    1. Sneer. Raise your eyebrows and lift your lip a little bit. Think how very ignorant they are to suggest such a thing, since what they are suggesting is that people go harvest the incorrectly entered information in New Family Search, and aren’t realizing that the fact that the names are in New Family Search is a pretty good indicator that the temple work may have already been done.

    If you don’t want to sneer, you can either:

    2. ignore the request, or

    3. try and educate your ward as to what is involved in finding names for temple work.

    An additional suggestion:

    4. You will have ward members who are recent converts or who for one reason or another have never had the temple work completed for their family. Perhaps you can assist one of these people. Some of them have really easy genealogy. I am thinking about an elderly brother in my ward. His family moved from Germany to New York in the 1930s. Such a family would be simple to trace.

    5. And, what Ardis said. This doesn’t apply to you, Coffinberry, but it will apply to many others whose family work is “all done.” (Hint: there are very few cases where it is truly done unless you have someone like Ardis or Coffinberry working on the family lines. New sources are always turning up.)

    Comment by Researcher — September 21, 2010 @ 7:14 am

  34. One more suggestion for Coffinberry–indexing. Not that you will necessarily uncover anything of immediate use to you, but you will be of great service to family history newcomers who have neither the means nor inclination to do the kind of legwork that serious types like you and Ardis do. These are the folks who are going to be generating new names for temple work, and the easier we make it for them, in this case by putting data online where they can find it, the more they will generate.

    Comment by Last Lemming — September 21, 2010 @ 8:07 am

  35. I agree with Ardis about working down from our ancestral couples and also working on the lines of other marriages. Our direct lines have been “harvested” years ago, so besides slowly pushing these lines back, I have been gathering information on all of the cousins and aunts and uncles fourth removed, etc.

    Jeff, I agree with you also, that the people who are just gathering names to take to the temple miss out on the joy of learning about our ancestors. We had a guy speaking in sacrament meeting Sunday who talked about how easy it is now to do family history and that he had added another 12,000 names to his already 12,000 names in his database. I just got called to be the ward family history consultant and my husband and I just sat there and cringed while he was spreading false information.

    Comment by Maurine — September 21, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  36. Happy 50th wedding anniversary to Maurine and Gary! (Hey, it’s a genealogical thread …)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 21, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  37. When I was working at the FHL, I always wondered why people loved to say, “The two biggest motivators of the internet are pornography and genealogy.” I looked at how LONG it was taking them to get out the new system and all the GLITCHES that were so painful and it seemed like pornography was winning. Although I think the new system is a step in the right direction, there is still so much we need to work on. I remember laughing that the genealogy room at church had DOS until 2000 or something like that, but sometimes I wonder if we look at how far we’ve come instead of how far we should have come/still need to go. Sigh.

    Maybe I should just throw all these wishes out the window and start praying for complete revelation of every missing person in every line connected to me.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — September 21, 2010 @ 11:21 am

  38. If I may rant–I get so frustrated when I do family history because of all the errors I come across. I don’t know how many times I’ve commented to my wife that the Church really should leave family history research to the professionals. (I’m not really serious about that–well, to an extent). I think most of us who read this are interested in history and to one degree or another have some background in it (even if it’s just enjoying reading history). I think we tend to look at genealogy as a historical endeavor and not merely notching names on a stick to brag about in a talk or testimony meeting. I think we have a certain interest in making sure the data is as correct as possible. In my case–and I’m sure in many of yours as well–we consider the historical context of the individuals were tracing. This brings me to my point (rant?), I get so frustrated when people don’t understand that historical context and make errors from that. For example, I have ancestors from Pendelton County, West Virginia. They settled that area in the 1700s–before it was West Virginia. I’ve come across numerous duplicate ordinances for these ancestors–some listing them born in WV in 1750, some listing their death in WV in 1830. Of course at the time WV was part of Virginia. SO I see the same individual listed born or died in Virginia as well. Then some where he was born in WV and died in VA and vise versa. So the work gets repeated and repeated. (I’m sure he’s on the other side yelling “I get the message!”) Again, this replication is a waste of time and resources on the part of the person and the temple. This could have been avoided had those well-meaning people just knew a little history and realized that West Virginia didn’t become a state until it broke off from Virginia during the Civil War.

    Comment by Steve C. — September 21, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  39. Maybe I’m inherently evil, but I had a sense that when I first saw all the work that my maternal grandmother had done on genealogy back in about 1970, that there was little I could do to add to that. Similar situation on my father’s side.

    The subsequent 40 years have borne out my conclusion. I’m not aware of any significant additions in all that time. I’ve been guilt-free regarding genealogy and producing names for ordinance work my entire adult life.

    The rude awakening for me was about five years ago when I realized how little I knew about these folks that were my ancestors, and that I was pretty much ignorant of a lot of things about family history.

    I’ve got a lot to learn about these folks, and based on the two years I’ve spent with my father’s grandparents, I’m going to need a lot more time. That’s why the stories shared here about the apparent cluelessness and disregard for accuracy make me angry.

    Not to mention the now-better understood issue of folks who are messing with my ancestors. I sometimes wonder if the folks on the other side have side bets on how many times somebody does their work for them, and and if there are bragging rights for having it done once and right?

    Comment by kevinf — September 21, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

  40. I’m coming late to the party. I read this yesterday and then was away from my computer before I could comment. Into the twentieth century, you could not perform proxy temple work for someone unless the “family heir” gave approval. Temple work for non-relatives generally needed either Temple president or First Presidency approval. I understand why they went away from that method of organization, however, it, coupled with the Woodruff’s revelation, has created a bit of an anarchy. I’m sorry Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 21, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  41. As of this afternoon, the missionaries at New Family Search have added the fact of my father’s sealing to his parents 20 years ago in Las Vegas so that no stranger can come along and redo the ordinance. They have also gotten rid of the record showing the bogus 2007 Nauvoo sealing of my parents, allowing their 1967 sealing to show as the official record.

    This still may seem like a small thing to get upset about, but it did bother me. If the dead are to be judged out of the books, I jolly well want the books to show the correct record, especially where people as important as my parents are concerned.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 22, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  42. re: my previous comment about sympathizing with living Jews’ opinions of LDS proxy ordinances.

    Lest anyone misunderstand where I stand on the issue:

    Yes, I can sympathize with hurt feelings, but I’m still submitting the names/information for my Jewish ancestors to have their temple work done.

    :-)

    Comment by Bookslinger — September 23, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

  43. Great post Ardis. As someone who has had some difficulty understanding why anyone would get upset about proxy ordinances, it is helpful and enlightening to read this.

    Comment by E — September 24, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

  44. Thanks for this, Ardis. I’m sympathetic with Jewish objections, but it’s nice to have a tangible Mormon-side experience to help crystallize why I’m sympathetic.

    Comment by Sam Brunson — February 15, 2012 @ 9:08 am

  45. I’m glad you linked to this again. It truly gave me a perspective shift this morning.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — February 15, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  46. I’ve gone and reserved all of my direct ancestors who have living children for this very reason. My grandfather objects (a lot) to the idea of having his parents’ names used in a cultish ritual. Certainly I disagree, but I’ve done what I can to honor his wishes.

    My FIL asked us to be proxies for his parent’s sealing and some stranger had already had them sealed. Irritating and decidedly against church policy.

    Comment by Jami — February 15, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  47. My dad was born in covenant but never received his endowment. He passed away in 2009. My many of my aunts and uncles and his parents are very eager to have his work done. One of his brothers is willing to go and do it himself. I am anxious to have it done. I haven’t been to the temple myself not for lack of desire or worthiness. My husband is not LDS and while not prohibiting me from participating in temple worship he is very uncomfortable with the idea. He would be hurt if I were to take that next step in my spiritual development without careful consideration. I love my father very much but our relationship in mortality was at times complicated and at times painful. My hope is that someday (hopefully soon) when his work is done to be there, so that I might receive a measure of peace and healing to my heart, I hope that on the other side he will also be blessed by this beyond the endowment itself that ALL three of his children being there when his work is done would bring him joy and healing and peace. I would be devastated if someone took that from me no matter their good intentions. Often growing up he would parent by proxy through his siblings (because of distance and other factors). It is significant to me that this work be done for my father by his children.

    So yeah I get it, at least a little bit.

    Comment by Dovie — February 15, 2012 @ 10:44 am

  48. Thanks for sharing your experience, here, Ardis.

    And I also appreciated your ideas in #31.

    Comment by michelle — February 15, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

  49. I have long had zero sympathy (or close to it) for those who rail against LDS temple ordinance work. This is the most compelling piece I have ever read to provide some insight into the emotional element of this subject, helping to demonstrate why such offense might possibly consist of something other than sheer religious bigotry. Thank you for the essay. It has given me something important to think about.

    Comment by Stephen — February 16, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

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