Family history mission leads to family, ward blessings for one convert

By Emily Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 25 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

For a ward project, the young men and young women visited families to help them with their family history. It culminated with the ward members bring the names to the temple. Shown here is the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple.

LDS Church

A year after I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was called on a 30-month family history mission, beginning in September 2010. I served from home, working on my own computer at my own pace and on my own schedule.

I was thrilled there was a way for me, a new convert in my 30s with a job, to still serve a mission. I was assigned to the International Research Team, and my specific duty was replying to emails from patrons asking for help with challenging ancestors who had them stumped. This seemed to me a way to pay restitution, since I had been the challenging member of my own family!

The blessings of serving this mission included an increase of love for my own family, delightful discoveries of personal stories of my own ancestors, a distinct thinning of the veil and sacred experiences in the temple. Reunions with my own parents, the baptism of my brother (who is now serving a mission on the tech team) and his children, and the sealing of my brother and his wife also came about.

Not the least of the blessings was my very own sealing in the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple to my husband for time and all eternity.

With all those blessings, I gladly accepted the invitation to extend my mission for two more years. My assignments shifted over time as I got to work on different projects, from the Wiki to Facebook pages, and now I am excited to be working on a call center that can be more accessible for the deaf and others with hearing loss and helping transcribe the online training videos.

During my mission, my father died of cancer. He was not a member of the LDS Church, but he had worked in Veterans Affairs in Iowa City with a friend who was LDS. This friend had given my father the “genealogy bug,” laying the foundation for much of the temple work my brother and I were able to do so quickly after our own conversions.

My mother was not a Mormon, either, but she loved indexing and had fun accumulating points for the work she did. She often found old records of family or loved ones, contributing to our growing understanding and documented genealogical records.

In January of this year, my brother and I were able to complete our father’s work in the temple. This was a powerful and emotional day. It was particularly special because the youth group from my own ward was there to share the experience with us.

One week later, my mother was killed in a car accident.

I do not know how I would have endured the deaths of both my parents without an eternal perspective, or how I would have any hope without restored priesthood ordinances that enable family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.

My mother had been attending church with me and my husband since we had been married, so the young people in my ward, Ranch Creek Ward, Tulsa Oklahoma East Stake, knew her well. They had helped her move (several times). They had cleaned her house, mowed her lawn and chased her dogs down the street and brought them back home. They had delivered meals, cared for her after a surgery and baby-sat grandchildren. They had learned to love her.

After the young men and young women experienced that day in the temple with me and my brother, their hearts were stirred completing my father's work. When my mother was killed a week later, they could testify of the reality of temple ordinances because they had experienced them and felt the power in that sacred place.

Because of this and other personal experiences, the youths readily responded when challenged to take the invitation of Elder David A Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve, to do family history. Our ward members decided to accept the invitation so the youths could experience the blessings that come from the both-sides-of-the-veil missionary experience of family history work. For this, we planned an activity for the youths to visit every family in the ward to talk about family history work and the importance of temple ordinances.

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