Why Do Mormons Do Genealogy?
The search for family roots has become a global pastime. But why? There doesn’t seem to be just one answer, but it’s so important that thousands of hours and millions of dollars are spent each year in the pursuit of the past.
Genealogy helps satisfy a deep need to understand how we fit into the broader world around us. From this perspective, genealogy is more than just a collection of single family threads that go through time. Genealogy truly is a journey of many lifetimes woven together from the past, the present and (from our perspective) the future. Genealogy is a popular pastime and it is important because, ultimately, it lies at the heart of the human condition.
Maybe it’s curiosity about ancestors or a more practical reason. Once the work begins it’s like unraveling a mystery which often motivates further inquiry. Among the reasons researchers look for genealogical records is to:
- Become connected to the extended family
- Confirm family stories
- Find medical conditions
- Locate birth parents
- Provide the family lineage for future generation
- Check for famous ancestors, unclaimed lands or inheritance
- Determine familial traits
- Preserve family traditions
- Understand the family culture and history
- Leave a record of the past and present for the future
- Fulfill religious beliefs
Genealogical record keeping has existed since the beginning of time. The family lines from Adam to Jesus Christ are laced through the Bible.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as Mormons or LDS) do genealogy because of the belief that families–past and present–can be together forever. As a result, billions of names have been digitized in thousands of records and hundreds of collections—including birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military and IGI extracted by Mormon volunteers, not only for their own use, but for the free and open use by others.
Genealogical research has become a lucrative industry for some, but LDS resources and sites such as Familysearch.com, are free to the public. Family History Centers for public use are located in some Mormon Church buildings. Currently, more non-LDS patrons utilize the Family History Centers than church members. For the sake of safety, genealogical and church related information is maintained in permanent storage in the Granite Mountain Vault in the Wasatch Range.
In addition, the Mormon Church offers free tools to get started.
For example, the Research Wiki is a collection of articles provided by family historians worldwide. The wiki makes it easy to share tips and research about family history. FamilySearch offers free online courses and also in person at Family History centers. Classes are available to all researchers, from beginners to experienced genealogists. View the courses
In addition, FamilySearch offers numerous free research discussion forums. With over 2,000 registered volunteers all over the world, help is readily available. Browse the forums
Why do Mormons do genealogy?
Jesus Christ taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). Then what happens to all who have died without the opportunity for baptism? Surely God would not leave them hopeless—and He does not. Mormons believe in a loving God who wants every person to receive all He has to offer.
For this purpose, Mormons do genealogy. When family names are found, proxy (posthumous) ordinances on behalf of the dead, including baptism, are performed in Mormon temples by the proper priesthood authorities. However, those on the other side do not have to accept the work that is done on their behalf. Temple work simply provides the physical means to allow them to be with their families if they choose since they cannot do it for themselves. The names of the dead who have had temple work done for them are not listed on the membership records of the Church.
This same temple work was performed in ancient times. Peter asked, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29) However, at the death of the apostles, the priesthood power and authority to perform these ordinances were lost and the practice became corrupt and eventually ceased. . Through direct revelation, the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the 1800’s by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He received the keys of the priesthood from heavenly messengers, including the sealing power to bind families for eternity.
Since that time, Mormons have had a solemn privilege and responsibility to care not only for the living, but also for their kindred dead.