Time to Think About Your Ancestors
Finding time for family history work
A common excuse for ignoring getting involved in family history is a lack of time. The easy, but not very helpful, answer is that we spend time on those things we value. The truth usually is we spend time on routine, daily responsibilities that we create for ourselves. We manage to be busy even if our activities are trivial and non-productive. We fill our free time with diversions. An example is monitoring the news. I remember my grandfather coming home each day from work and sitting in his overstuffed chair and reading the newspaper. He was a lifetime newspaper man, reporter and editor, and relaxed after a day's work by reading the paper. I am sure he spent more than an hour a day at this one activity. The activity itself was in no way negative. He kept reasonably well informed and had time to relax.
This example, however, illustrates a principle. That principle can be very well illustrated by reference to a well-known hymn:
Improve the shining moments;
Don't let them pass you by.
Work while the sun is radiant;
Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams
To lengthen out their stay,
Nor can we ask the shadow
To ever stay away.
The rest of the lyrics express this important principle; we accomplish what we spend our time doing. Often those things we spend our time on are those that really matter the least. As the scripture states:
But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late... Helaman 13:38
Quoting from Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 18, pp. 303 to 305):
What do you suppose the fathers would say if they could speak from the dead? Would they not say, "We have lain here thousands of years, here in this prison house, waiting for this dispensation to come? Here we are, bound and fettered, in the association of those who are filthy?" What would they whisper in our ears? Why, if they had the power the very thunders of heaven would be in our ears, if we could but realize the importance of the work we are engaged in. All the angels in heaven are looking at this little handful of people, and stimulating them to the salvation of the human family.
One thing that has happened since Brigham Young made this statement is that we have a lot more excuses for not being involved in searching out our ancestors. I wonder what he would say to us today? Fortunately, we do not have to speculate. We have the words of our current prophets to remind us what we have to do. Perhaps we need to rethink our priorities and begin the process of doing that which is truly lasting and important. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated it well in the October, 2012 General Conference:
"I testify that the Spirit of Elijah is touching the hearts of many of Father's children throughout the world, causing the work for the dead to accelerate at an unprecedented pace.
But what about you? Have you prayed about your own ancestors' work? Set aside those things in your life that don't really matter. Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences. Perhaps you have been prompted to look for ancestors but feel you are not a genealogist. Can you see that you don't have to be anymore? It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who can't help themselves. Check around. There will be someone in your area who can help you have success.
This work is a spiritual work, a monumental effort of cooperation on both sides of the veil, where help is given in both directions. Anywhere you are in the world, with prayer, faith, determination, diligence, and some sacrifice, you can make a powerful contribution. Begin now. I promise you that the Lord will help you find a way. And it will make you feel wonderful."
The words may not be exactly the same as those used by President Young, but the message is the same. Perhaps we need to audit the time we are spending on trivial pursuits and focus some of our valuable time on family history.
Written by James L. Tanner. Used with permission.
Need help finding more records? Try our genealogical records directory with more than 600,000 sources to help you more easily locate the available records.