Roots and Branches – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m reading the talk Roots and Branches, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2004 General Conference.

Let’s see. When this talk was given, I was living in a basement apartment in Ogden, Utah – with my ex-husband and our two children. I was nearing a pretty low point in my life and in my relationship then. There are happy memories (my kids, my friends) and I’m so grateful that the Lord lets us experience morsels of joy even in our dark times.

I don’t really remember much of this talk, specifically. But it has been good for me to review it.

Lineage

Roots and Branches. It’s an intriguing topic – our personal roots and our personal branches – truly we are each a part of a whole, both spiritually and physically.

Roots

President Nelson stated:

“Personal roots are really important.” – Russell M. Nelson

Often, when we think of our personal roots, we immediately think of our DNA; our ancestors, the genetic imprints that our ancestors have made on our lives and the genetic imprints we make on future lives.

And of course there is something to this. But I have had a bit of a different experience. On my mom’s side, I can look back at my ancestry. They are my blood relatives and my personal relatives.

grandma and grandpa
My Grandma and Grandpa (maternal)
Severin Grundvig Family
The Grundvig Family
Carol Chambers
My mom
Wedding Day
Some of my roots and branches

My Dad’s side of the family is where it gets a little tricky. I have my dad that adopted and raised me. Through my adoption, his roots are my roots. His personality, beliefs, hard work, and life has shaped who I am. His ancestors have also shaped who I am, and I when my dad adopted me, I was “grafted” into their family tree.

dad and patti
My dad and his sister. This picture is just so adorable.
Ryan family
Classic Ryan family photo
Eileen Garvey
My grandma (paternal)
Ryan
Just a picture I absolutely love of some of my family

A little over 9 years ago, I miraculously found my biological father (on Facebook!). Now I have come to know a little bit about my physical roots and branches. This is half of my DNA that I finally got to know!

Cacciato
Cacciatos
jack
My Bio Dad

So, we each have personal physical roots. But there is more. President Nelson stated:

“Because we have a spirit as well as a physical body, we also have spiritual roots that go way back. They shape our values, our beliefs, and our faith. Spiritual roots guide our commitment to the ideals and teachings of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have been blessed with really amazing spiritual roots. On my mom’s side of the family, I have pioneer ancestors. Some of them gave up their lives and died while crossing the plains. They lived the gospel until their dying breath.

My father’s family came to the U.S. for the most part from Ireland. My dad’s side of the family has always valued education, hard work, and a sense of humor.

These principles of faith and work, of sacrifice and a sense of humor – and of so many more things – have shaped me. They make me who I am. And I hope that my works will make my own ancestors feel that the hard work and sacrifices that they made for their future generations were worth it.

***

Not only do we have personal roots, but we have religious roots. These roots are the truths, laws, and principles of the gospel. President Nelson explained:

“Truths from previous dispensations have now been gathered, amplified, and clarified. For us as parents and teachers, we have an excellent teaching resource in the Articles of Faith…What a treasure-house of truth is this precious document as we teach of our religious roots.

Other revealed doctrines at the root of our religion include the Creation, the Resurrection, the law of tithing, prayer, and the consummate blessings of the temple. As we teach of these doctrines, we realize how very firm is our foundation. As we apply these doctrines in our lives, the roots of our religion become part of our own spiritual strength.” – Russell M. Nelson

I find this whole analogy interesting. Even though we sometimes look at “our roots” as our ancestors, or in this case a set of principles and beliefs – it is easy to feel somewhat distanced from the roots. The roots are underground, unseen. Yet, the roots must be tended or else the life of the entire plant could be jeopardized.

Branches

Not only do we have roots, we also have branches. So, what is significant about a branch? Well, leaves…and fruit. President Nelson stated:

“Just as our roots determine to a significant degree who we are, our branches are also an important extension of our identity.” – Russell M. Nelson

What comprises our “branches?” The first, most obvious thing that may be considered a fruit on our branch would be our children. But, not everyone has children. And those who do have children aren’t only their children (does that make sense?)

The fruit we bear is any way that we may multiply and replenish the earth. Multiplying and replenishing is more than simply having kids. We replenish the earth through seeking and cultivating our talents, serving others, through our professions, and more. So – what does this look like? Being an artist, a scientist, baking bread, growing tomatoes, babysitting children, running a 5K, writing a poem, hugging a grieving friend, etc. etc. etc. I can’t even list the many ways we can, personally, make good fruit that will adorn our branches.

***

Just as we have “religious roots” we have “religious branches.” The fruit that we bear in this way will be related to and reflect what we consume through our roots. If we are focusing on learning and living the principles of the gospel, then the fruit we bear will be sweet. If we are focused on the cares of the world, then – who knows what kind of fruit we will bear. If we are allow ourselves to be rooted in pridefulness and sin, then there is no doubt about it – we will bear bitter fruit.

President Nelson’s Testimony

President Nelson closed his talk with his testimony. I liked it and will include it here:

“Personal identity is much more than a passport photograph. We also have roots and branches. Divinity is rooted in each of us. “We all are the work of [our Creator’s] hand.” We are eternal beings. In premortal realms, we brethren were foreordained for our priesthood responsibilities. Before the foundation of the world, women were prepared that they may bear children and glorify God.

We came to this mortal experience to acquire a body, to be tried and tested. We are to form families and be sealed in holy temples, with joy and loving relationships that endure eternally. To these everlasting truths, we are personally rooted.

Branches of our families and of the gospel bear fruit to enrich our lives. God’s work and His glory—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”—can become ours. We can dwell with Him and with our families forever. Those blessings will be granted to the faithful in His own way and time.

God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith is the revelator and prophet of this last dispensation. The Book of Mormon is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom established once again upon the earth…If rooted to these truths, the fruit of our branches will remain. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m so thankful for a prophet who understands who he is – root, trunk, and branch. I’m grateful that he has learned of his true identity and that this understanding has led him to increase his talents and testimony. I’m grateful that He leads and guides our church today.

A New Harvest Time – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying A New Harvest Time, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1998 General Conference.

Reading this conference talk was really interesting. As I just mentioned, President Nelson gave this talk in 1998. What was life like during 1998? Well, I was finishing my freshman year in college. I had an email address, but I didn’t have a personal computer. At the time, when I was in college, many of my classmates didn’t have personal computers, but we made extensive use of the computers at the computer lab in school.

It was a transitional time. This was a time when more and more of the college population was getting desktop computers, but I never saw anyone with a laptop in class. Forget tablets. They hadn’t been invented yet.

In 1998, the concept of the “web 2.0” wasn’t really in place yet. The internet was still this place that seemed to be more or less chat rooms than anything else. Yahoo was making its start, but it wasn’t the source of knowledge. You didn’t go to the internet to settle arguments or look up information.

I think that Google was in its infancy at the point.

I mean, I remember when people starting talking about this google search engine. And slowly, people were migrating from yahoo to google to do their searches. As I write this, I remember when there was this one website called “ask Jeeves.” hahahaha!

The point I’m trying to make is this: President Nelson gave this talk before “Google” became a verb. He gave it before Google was even a thing.

When he gave this talk, he was introducing some new software and cds full of data available for people – if they went to their family history library. To give you an idea of the burgeoning technology, here is a quote from the talk. (It will make you reminisce. It’s kind of quaint and cute…!)

“Many people have joined with members of the Church in efforts to index the burgeoning bank of genealogical information. An example is the 1881 British census. For this project, more than 8,000 volunteers from family history societies throughout the British Isles have transcribed 30 million names. Gratefully, we announce that fruits of this labor are now on fiche and will soon be available on compact disc from the Church’s distribution centers.

We are also pleased to announce that data from the 1880 census of the United States will soon be released on compact disc.” – Russell M. Nelson

In this example, the volunteers were indexing general information for microfiche! and compact discs!

It was a good effort, actually. I don’t want to poke fun at it. About a year after this talk was given, I started to do my own family history work. I was greatly blessed by these CDs and microfiche. I spent plenty of time at the family history library.

I guess that’s what makes this so amazing. Several times in his talk, President Nelson stated that the Lord was “hastening his work.” And He was. Now, 20 years after this talk was given, we can see how it has hastened and grown.

I did a lot of family history work in the late 90s and early 2000s. I had papers, binders, and several floppy discs!

Floppy Disk
Remember These!

Despite how ancient this sounds, when I was doing my family history work, there were several older individuals who had a hard time adjusting to the changes in technology. They had their family group sheets, pedigree charts, and literally crates full of papers. Things really were changing, and many of the older individuals who were at family history centers doing the work were excited to see someone young like me because I wasn’t afraid of computers, and that was the direction that family history work was headed.

So – I did all of this work, and then in 2005 I got divorced. I had to start working, and I had two young daughters. I didn’t have the time to go and pour through microfiche and records. I had to work and support a family. Family history work was put on hold for about 10 years. (Between divorce, working, getting married, and then having new young children).

During that time the church started their huge indexing effort, and I helped. I wasn’t doing my own family history work, but it was so easy to sit down at my laptop (yes…I had a laptop by then, and a desktop. And THIS BLOG!) and index a few names.

Then, a few years after the indexing thing was really getting popular, I had more time to do family history work again. I sat down and started fiddling with the new family search website. There was a learning curve. It wasn’t the same as the old PAF program. I kind of complained to my husband because it felt a bit cumbersome to go through my records. I was trying to prove a point to him about my frustrations, when I found the name of ancestors that I hadn’t previously known! It wasn’t just a name. This was a major lead of individuals on a family line that I had previously thought would be a “dead end” until I had the opportunity to physically go to Ireland. (haven’t gone…maybe one day)

I was experiencing the amazing fruits of the Indexing effort. Family History work has changed. It’s pretty amazing and exciting. And I’ve spent way too much time talking about this.

The point is, most of President Nelson’s talk is a little outdated. It is, if nothing, a fun walk down memory lane – nostalgic for the times of CDs and computer programs that weren’t web based.

Despite some of the outdated parts of President Nelson’s talk, the core of it is timeless. It is an eternal principle that guides the entire family history effort. President Nelson explained how Elijah and others came to the first temple built in this dispensation and entrusted special keys of the priesthood authority to the restored Church. President Nelson explained that Elijah came to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children to their fathers.” Additionally, President Nelson explained:

“Elijah came not only to stimulate research for ancestors. He also enabled families to be eternally linked beyond the bounds of mortality. Indeed, the opportunity for families to be sealed forever is the real reason for our research.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is why we are prompted to do family history work. It gives us the opportunity for us to be sealed to our families forever.

And why is that so important? Why do we need to be sealed?

This is how the blessings of heaven flow. They flow through our family – through generation to generation. Think of the “birthright.” This has always been a pattern in the Lord’s church.

We have been taught:

“…I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” – Doctrine and Covenants 38:27

I know that when we think of being “one” we think of being kind to one another – of being united. And it’s true. Let’s think about that in regards of the Spirit of Elijah – we can be one, united, sealed, with our family. This is the ultimate in being “one!” And through these covenants, we are also sealed to and made one with the Lord.

“I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one.” – Doctrine and Covenants 35:2

The Spirit of Elijah will turn our hearts to our fathers and mothers. It also turns our hearts to our children. I have a testimony that when we let our hearts turn to our past and future, we receive meaning and purpose to our present. We will begin to understand our identity. We will be filled with love and hope.

***

I have a testimony of temple work and having our hearts turned to our parents and children. President Nelson stated:

“And I cherish my membership in this Church, to which both of his parents were converted in Denmark about a century and a half ago.” – Russell M. Nelson

This stood out to me because my own great-great-great grandparents converted in Denmark.

Frantz Christian Grundvig Family
About 1864 – Emigrating to the United States

When they joined the church, my great-great-great grandfather served a mission, and then he took his family to the United States to live with the Saints. The journey was difficult. On the boat to the U.S. 25 of the children aboard died from a measles outbreak, but my own great-great grandfather was spared, only three or four children made it. He overcame measles and made it to the U.S. safely, a young boy at the time.

To get passage across the plains, they had to come up with money – which meant that they had to sell everything they had of value- including his and his wife’s wedding rings. They gave everything up because of their faith and their commitment to the commandments of the Lord.

As they travelled across the plains, my great-great-great grandmother was stolen by the Indians, and then never seen again. My great-great-great grandfather and his son made it to Utah without her.  When they made it to the Salt Lake Valley, they were half starved and without clothes, but my great-great-great grandfather came to the Salt Lake Valley with an extra souvenir –  an arrowhead that was 3 3/4″ wide at the top was lodged into his hip.

These are my kindred, and I feel a closeness to them despite the years that distance us. Of course, I have never met them. I only have the stories that were left behind and collected by their children and grandchildren – including my own grandmother.

I feel inspired by their pioneer spirit and willingness to sacrifice everything to live the dreams that were inspired by their faith in the Lord. I know that their choices have blessed me immensely. I’ve had a blessed life and the gospel because of the sacrifices they have made.

Their sacrifices inspire me to do the family history work and temple work that they may need. Their sacrifices also inspire me to make similar sacrifices for my family. Understanding my family helps me to understand myself. It helps me to understand my purpose on earth. It helps to bring me meaning and joy in life.

It’s such a blessing – to be called to hasten the work of the Lord and do the family history and temple work we have been called to do. It may be hard at times. It requires a lot of research and time, but I truly believe that we are the real beneficiaries as we take on this work in faith.

***

It has been so interesting to read this talk and then think of the legacy that is already being laid by President Nelson. Here he is introducing new programs and technology of the church. (He has done a lot of introducing of new things since he has been prophet!) President Nelson was well acquainted with family history work for years before he would become the prophet that would call the youth to be a battalion for the Lord – in gathering Israel. I can see how the Lord has prepared him for this moment. I know that President Nelson truly is a prophet of God, called to lead us at this time.

Grandma

I’ve been thinking about writing a post since Friday. And honestly, I should have written this post a long time ago.

This is how I think of my Grandma
This is how I think of my Grandma

This is my Grandma.

She passed away this Friday.

Grandma and Me
Grandma and Me

At the beginning of my life, I had a very close relationship with my Grandma. I was born in San Francisco, and my Grandma lived only a few hours north. My mom wasn’t married to my biological father (there was no man in the picture at my birth), so when I was born, it was just my mom, my grandma, me, and my mom’s roommate Doris.

Women.

Strong Women. And a little baby.

Grandma, my cousin, and me...I'm the baby looking for an escape route.
Grandma, my cousin, and me…I’m the baby looking for an escape route.

When I was about two, my mom got married to my dad, and then we moved to Houston. I didn’t have as much interaction with my Grandma after that.

Yet I have memories. We took a few trips out to California. She and my Grandpa made a few trips to Houston. My grandma would write us letters. She would send us books and tapes where she read the text out loud, so we could listen to her tell us a story. She made me a quiet book when I was a baby. And she made me a quilt.

Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day
Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day

Even after my parents got divorced, my dad would always remark about my grandmother, his ex-mother-in-law, “She’s a pretty amazing woman.”

And she was.

She could do it all. She knit, crocheted, quilted. She cooked and cleaned. She gardened. She raised a family and she was a breadwinner throughout most of my mom’s childhood – in a time when most women didn’t work outside of the home.

I remember Grandma coming out to Houston when my brothers were born. She’d clean, cook, and help my mom…all while crocheting baby blankets, tying quilts for my sister and I, and doing some small renovations in our house. Even though I didn’t understand everything that went into what she was doing, I remember that I loved having her there. And I remember that she never seemed too tired. She never complained. She worked, worked, worked, and we reaped all of the benefits.

This is another favorite picture. Doesn't she look like a feisty, fun girl?
This is another favorite picture. Doesn’t she look like a feisty, fun girl?

In some ways, my grandma seemed kind of no-nonsense. She had such a work ethic. Yet she was also absolutely hilarious – in the kind of quiet way that sneaks up on you. She was so practical, so matter of fact.

One time, when I was an adult, my Grandma was visiting me while I lived in Utah. We headed to Target to buy her a shirt. I was helping her look for something that she might like. I found a shirt, and thought it was very basic, it had something printed on it – some kind of label or brand. I honestly can’t remember.

She said, “What’s that, written on the shirt?”
“I think it’s the name of the brand.” I replied.
“Well, I’m not getting that. They don’t pay me to wear their clothes.”
“It’s a good price, though.”
“I’m not a walking billboard,” She said, and she found a plain, coral tee shirt that suited her much better.

I appreciate this outlook more and more every time I think about it.

So Pretty.
So Pretty.

After living in Houston for about 14 years or so, when I was a teenager, we moved to Pennsylvania – which happens to be even further away from California. We didn’t see my grandma for a really, really long time.

So much attitude. I LOVE IT!
So much attitude. I LOVE IT!

My grandma endured trials. So many trials. She was very poor, in a material sense, throughout most of her life. My Grandpa had a difficult upbringing of his own, and suffered from his own vices as a result. My grandma had to pick up the slack most of the time.

She suffered through the death of a son (My uncle died of cancer in his early 20s), she suffered through the death of four of her grandchildren. Yet she remained faithful and determined. She never seemed to complain or feel sorry for herself, despite experiencing true grief.

Grandma as a Child
Grandma as a Child

When I went to college, I moved to Utah. I was able to have more experiences with her – anytime she came to Utah for a family reunion, or when I would visit her in California. I tried to make more of a relationship with her by writing her letters and talking to her about family history. I was an okay granddaughter back then even though I hadn’t been geographically close to my grandma for so many years.

I went to California when My grandparents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary.

Fifty Years
Fifty Years

I went to California a few years after that, when my Grandfather passed away.

Grandpa
Grandpa

And then, a few years after the death of my Grandpa, my Grandma had a stroke. I don’t know who was most devastated by it – my grandmother, or her children and grandchildren. Everything about her changed.

The stroke didn’t effect her physically as much as it effected her mentally. It’s amazing how the brain works – how much we take it for granted. She had a lot of trouble speaking and communicating. She knew what she wanted to say, she knew how to say it, but it wouldn’t come out of her mouth.

She was a different woman.

It was a shock to all of us, but I think maybe it shocked her more than anyone else. She had always been so capable, and now, she was struggling with the most simplest of communication.

Despite this trial, she still bore such a strong, moving testimony of the Savior and the Gospel. Though her speech was slurred, her simple testimony that “This book, the Book of Mormon, is good,” was powerful and clear through the Spirit that accompanied her conviction.

She still worked hard. She came to my house when my first daughter, Tiger, was born. She held and rocked the baby, sang “I am a child of God,” and crocheted Tiger’s blessing dress.

She made progress and was able to keep living on her own. I stayed at her house once, shortly after she got this little (six-pound) dog, Millie. It was so cute. Grandma would clean, and garden, and cook. She would walk the dog, then hold it in her lap while complaining to it, “Someone needs to teach you to work. This is still one of my favorite memories. Hilarious.

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa

More time passed, as did more strokes, and more difficulties, and then eight years ago it was determined that she would move away from California and to Pennsylvania to live with my mom.

She hung on for eight years. With each passing day, clinging tighter to her memories and her family history.

It was all so hard for her at the end, which almost makes me angry. I’m not angry at God or even Grandma. It’s just that general sense of anger – the kind that actually gives you the strength to persevere, in spite of your challenges.

I’d like to think that I inherited that stubbornness from her.

Maker's Gotta Make
Maker’s Gotta Make

I recently moved to Hawaii, and all of my stuff is still on the mainland. My sewing machine – in storage. My crochet hooks – in storage. My knitting needles – in storage. My art supplies – in storage. My embroidery floss – in storage.

Hawai’i is paradise, but at night, I need something to keep my hands busy. I finished a small project I was working on, and I’ve been craving making something.

I was telling my mom about this, and she laughs. “You can’t just watch T.V. You always have to do something.”
“Exactly!” I agreed. “I like watching a movie or show at night, but I can’t just sit still and do it. It drives me crazy.”
“You’re just like Grandma.”

It was a true compliment.

I hope that I’ve inherited a fraction of her faith, strength, work ethic. I know that I haven’t inherited her green thumb, but I hope that I’ve inherited her hands that make, that produce, and serve.

You know, actually, I do feel it. I feel like a part of her is in me, and I know that a part of her is in my children, too.

I’m so grateful for mothers and grandmothers. Women. I’m so grateful for my Grandma. This world was a better place because of her.

I only hope to honor and uphold her legacy.

Family History: Three Easy Steps

Recently, (this last November) the Phoenix temple opened. I live fairly close to this temple. In fact, I think that it is the closest I’ve ever lived to a temple. It is such a blessing.

Phoenix Arizona Temple
Phoenix Arizona Temple

The temple and the ordinances performed in the temple are very sacred and center around the Savior and families. Naturally, knowing your own family history is an important aspect of temple attendance. So, I have been doing more family history research recently.

I’m blogging today to say – Do your family history! Here are a few easy steps to get you started.

One – Start!

Just try it out. Go to Familysearch.org and just start.
This website is free to anyone. There are millions of records and chances to find your own family.

I will freely admit that Family History is overwhelming. I won’t even say “at first” because I don’t think that there is ever a time when family history work isn’t overwhelming. However, just don’t think of your generations of family. Don’t think of this looming project or idea of whatever is in your mind of what Family History is supposed to be. Just go to family search.org, and start somewhere. Devote a period of time – 30 minutes or so – to kind of play around. Look for pictures. Look for experiences. Just look around. You don’t need a plan.

You don’t need to know what you are looking for. You don’t need to look for opportunities or things that need research. Just mess around. Click around. See what is there. See if your family tree is there. See who is in your family tree.

Two – Do It Again and Follow Your Intuition

Most likely, you won’t find everything about your family and family history in one 30 minute period of study.

So, you will have to do it again. After completing step one, you have now experienced family search. While you may not be an expert at the website, it, at least, isn’t completely foreign.

This time while you are on the Family Search website, be careful. Listen to your intuition. I can guarantee you that some kind of curiosity will present itself as you begin to search. Just click through, and follow your intuition. I can’t really tell you how this part will go because it will be different for everyone.

Just go to the website again, and listen to where your heart and where the Spirit are trying to guide you.

Three – Honor Your Intuition and Search!

As you begin to feel inclinations, follow them. I know – this is so vague. But trust me, it works!

A few days ago, I went online. I didn’t really have a plan to “search” for anyone. I wasn’t expecting all that much. Instead, my plan was to upload some pictures of my ancestors to the website.

One of the pictures I added was this one:

My Grandpa and His Cousin
My Grandpa and His Cousin

This is a picture of my Grandfather (The taller one) and his Cousin (The one in a hat). In my family history information, I have no records of my Grandfather’s cousin. Yet, I know that this is a picture of my Grandpa and his cousin taken in the Philippines during World War II. (He wrote it on the back).

I was entering this information in, and feeling pretty frustrated. How would I find this information?

I was also feeling a little frustrated by the entire family search program because it has changed so much recently. I know, I’m not supposed to say that. But I was just feeling like I didn’t know what I was looking for.

I said something about this to my husband. I told him that I was frustrated, “Here is my Grandpa with his cousin, but I can’t find his cousin in my records, and I’m not sure where to find it. I can’t remember if I had this information in the past, or not.”

Okay. So that was that. I moved on, and then entered in more photographs. While still venting a little frustration.

As I was doing this, I felt a little curiosity come up about a certain name. I wanted to prove a point to my husband about my frustration, “Watch. I’ll search this name, but I don’t think that it will—” I stopped talking mid-sentence – engrossed by the information that came up in the search results.
“What Catania?”
“Wait a minute. I think that I just found something.”
I clicked on the result to the search – where I found a census record that showed my Great-Grandfather’s family – including his siblings – which were the parents of Dick Hanley, my Grandpa’s cousin.
“What do you mean?”
“Well. I guess I should stop complaining because I just found something.”
“Found what?”
“I found Dick Hanley’s parents!”

So – I said that step three was to “honor your intuition.” My example above is bad because I wasn’t really honoring the intuition I was having. But I learned from it.

Since then, I have had similar experiences repeatedly. It isn’t easy. I can’t give you specific instructions on how to do your research – other than what I have already said. Just follow your intuition to see where it will take you.

Basically, family history feels like a puzzle – but you don’t have the “map,” you are missing some pieces, and it is a very intricate puzzle with thousands of pieces.

The puzzle seems pretty impossible, but it can be done.

You just have to look at the puzzle pieces. You have to guess. You have to try to fit them together. You don’t need to have a plan. You just need to sit down and start experimenting. Most of the time, things won’t work out, but if you just listen to your intuition and stay persistent, you will find pieces that fit together perfectly. (Yay!!!)

***
I encourage you to try out family history. While there are times when it is confusing and overwhelming, if you are persistent, then there will be times when things work out, and they are amazing. You will learn more about your family, and, therefore, yourself as you do this work.

*Have you started doing any of your family history? What kind of experiences have you had while doing this work?

Family History, I Am Doing It (Again)

Years ago, I was very interested in family history work. I guess you could say that I had caught the “Spirit of Elijah,” the feeling that often accompanies Family History work.

The idea of the “Spirit of Elijah” comes from the following scripture:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6

This time has come. We, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe that Elijah has come again and that he has fulfilled his duty in turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

This promise is all centered in the temple.

Mesa Temple at Night
Mesa Temple at Night

Many people might feel like the Mormon temple is a place shrouded in mystery. It is not. The Mormon temple is a sacred place where we as individuals and families can covenant with God.

I have experienced the blessings of the temple in my life. I made covenants with God in the temple for the first time when I was 19. It was shortly before I was to be married (to my first husband). Even though this marriage would end less than seven years after we covenanted to be together for time and all eternity, I was blessed by the temple. I had never broken my covenant. I was always endowed with God’s power in my life.

Additionally, because of my knowledge and testimony of the temple, I began to do a lot of family history work. As I searched for the names and lives of my ancestors, I began to feel a closer connection to each of them. I was able to experience miracles, and I felt a surge of love for my family that had passed on in addition to my future family. My heart was both turned to my fathers and mothers and my own children.

There is nothing like the feeling of belonging in a family.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to feel like I could be happier as an individual – that I’d be happier chasing temptations and so called dreams (usually fleeting fun) all on my own. There is a side of me that is tempted to find the idea of “no strings attached” alluring. Now, some of those dreams aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but I also know, thanks to experience, that I’m not happier alone. I’m happier with my people: my family. We are all connected. We can’t get around that. And when we learn to embrace that, we find fulfillment and joy in our lives.

Over the next several months (or longer), I plan on blogging about my own adventures in Family History work. I feel like I need to start it up again. I have been blessed by many miracles as I’ve sought out my ancestors.

I encourage you to seek out your ancestors, too. Because of the experiences I have had, I know that If you want to experience a miracle in your life, then do family history work. Your family wants you to find them. They want you to remember them. They want you to learn from their mistakes and keep their good legacies alive.

My Dad

This is my dad.

He's great at hitting the jackpot

I was adopted when I was about four years old, but My dad has been my dad since I was about two. It’s funny, I’ve always known that I was adopted, but for my entire life, I’ve always had a dad. It’s hard to explain, but it is a blessing, I know.

Sweet!

My dad is a great father. When I was ten, my parents got divorced. I still remember it. They told us they were getting a divorce and gave us a Nintendo to lessen the blow (which it did). I was a little worried. There was a show at the time – divorce court; I thought that we’d have to go on the show. But, more than worried, I was really excited about the Nintendo. Not only did we get the game console, but we also got Zelda, Top Gun, Super Mario Bros., and R.C. Pro-Am. Those games were the best.

I bring up this because I want to be clear. Even though my parents were divorced, my dad never became like the typical divorced dad. He was always present in our lives. He made every effort to do everything he could for us. My parents had four children, and my mom was able to stay at home with us – even after the divorce. My dad always sent enough money to support us, and often he sent more.

He moved to PA a few years after the divorce for work. It was hard for him. But he was still present in our lives. He called a few times a week. He visited us for every birthday. Often we would go to his house for holidays. Or he would come to Texas. Finally, he financed our move to PA so that we could all be closer.

He is a good father. He has always provided, loved, and cared for us.

As an adult, I love and admire my father even more than I did as a child. I can see the difficulties he has gone through in his life, and that he rose above them so we could be happy.

He has taught me to be a good mother. There are times when we have to give up what we want for the good of someone else – especially our children. There are times when this is incredibly difficult, but I think of my dad, what he did for me, and I know that the only way that I can show my gratitude for what he did is to do the same thing for my kids.