SAN DIEGO — An old Bible rescued from the garbage more than 40 years ago recently emerged as a priceless family history treasure for one California couple.
Elder Ed Jones and his wife, Sister Dawna Jones, serve as family history missionaries and directors of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints FamilySearch Library in San Diego. While going about his regular duties one hectic Monday morning, Ed Jones received a phone call that has greatly blessed his life.
The woman on the phone identified herself as Gwen Whitlock. She wanted to know if the library would accept the donation of an antique family Bible.
Ed Jones informed her that donations are not generally accepted because the library is short on space, but if the Bible contained genealogical information, the library was interested in examining it. At that moment, Dawna Jones heard the conversation and intervened.
“As all good wives do, she grabbed the phone out of my hands and proceeded to talk to the lady,” Ed Jones said. “'Yes, absolutely, please bring it in,’ she said.”
The following day Whitlock came and hoisted a very worn, 12-by-18-inch book that weighted around 15 pounds on to a table.
The rare Bible itself was a treasure. It was compiled by the Rev. Joseph Knight and published in 1815. It included the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Apocrypha. It also contained illustrations and a collection of beautiful etchings.
“It looked like it had weathered at least two world wars,” Ed Jones said. “We were quite interested.”
As they turned the pages, the Joneses discovered a more priceless and personalized treasure. Inside they found ornately handwritten genealogical records going back into the 1700s. When Dawna Jones saw the last name “Hammond,” her jaw dropped in disbelief. The names, dates and information belonged to her husband’s direct English ancestral line.
“It just blew our socks off,” Ed Jones said. “I knew there was a hole in the line, and this (information) closed that hole. I didn’t have to look it up on the pedigree chart, I just knew. It was literally the biggest blessing we have ever received in family history. It was phenomenal.”
Ed Jones’ mother joined the LDS Church at age 87 and spent her final years doing family history work. Dawna Jones had assisted her mother-in-law and knew what was missing.
“I always thought my mother-in-law’s work was the most we were going to be able to do,” she said. “But when we found this Bible, it was like she was right there, saying 'Here it is, it’s all yours.’”
As Whitlock initially observed what was happening, she was a little skeptical.
“How can that be? It was too good to be true for my brain to get around it,” Whitlock said in a phone interview. “But as she continued to talk, I realized it was true.”
Tears flowed as a small crowd gathered around to hear the remarkable story, Whitlock said.
“The fact that I gave it to someone in the Hammond family, which was what I wanted to do, it was such a miracle,” Whitlock said. “We were all standing there crying, thinking, ‘I can’t believe this.’”
Whitlock’s decision to donate the relic Bible to the San Diego FamilySearch Library came after she had safeguarded it for decades. A gentleman was strolling through a Southern California alley and found the Bible in a trash can. He retrieved it and gave it to the Whitlocks more than 40 years go.
Over the years, Whitlock and her husband, the Rev. Carl Whitlock, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pacific Beach in San Diego, have searched for a Hammond descendent among their friends and congregation, but to no avail.
“It’s been such a wonderful, spiritual story of how God put it (the Bible) for him to find, to bring to me, for me to hold it for them,” Gwen Whitlock said. “Then for God to impress me to take it the day the Joneses were there is a miracle of huge proportions.”
Now the Joneses want to return the favor.
“Because of what they did for us, we have a debt to pay,” Dawna Jones said. “We are going to try and help him find his family history.”
To those who have struggled in family history work, she said don’t give up.
“We are given promises. As long as we are doing the work, doors and windows will open. We will find the work that we need to find to complete the work for our kindred dead,” she said. “We’ve been working for years and years. I believe those promises more than ever. I’ve seen it happen in other people’s lives, but I never thought it would happen in ours.”
Gwen Whitlock hopes people learn two lessons from this incredible story.
“The lessons would be patient, God works miracles,” she said. “I’ve taken care of that Bible for so long. Be patient and God will work it all out in his time, and the right time."
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