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!
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.
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.