SALT LAKE CITY — Speaking to a group of Mormon volunteer family history consultants Saturday, an LDS apostle evoked a divine blessing on their efforts to help fellow church members research their ancestry.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve led a panel discussion before a gathering of several hundred local family history consultants, family history center directors and others gathered at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
The meeting was on the third day of the RootsTech Conference which has brought together genealogy enthusiasts and the producers of the technology that aids them.
Drawing 3,000 attendees transcending religious lines, RootsTech has made history as the largest genealogical conference ever to convene in Utah, said Paul M. Nauta, public affairs of the LDS Church's FamilySearch organization. If that's true, it outranks even last year's National Genealogical Society conference held last year in Salt Lake City.
But it was specifically to Mormons that Elder Scott was speaking when he said, "As one of the Twelve Apostles, I would like to invoke a blessing upon you that as you pray you will have a feeling of how the Lord feels regarding your work and what you're doing, whether He's pleased with the extent of it, whether there needs to be more."
He blessed the group with guidance from the Holy Ghost as they seek it in prayer.
The church and its faithful adherents invest sizably in money, time and effort to find their dead ancestors, believing that baptism and other rites can be performed vicariously for them in temples if they did not receive them while they were alive.
The work is a non-binding offer to the deceased individuals, who may accept or reject it, according to LDS belief.
"I am grateful when I have the opportunity to go to the temple for someone who has been identified," Elder Scott said.
"I feel there is a closer relationship in that sacred experience within the walls of the temple. Personally, I pray while I am there that if they are not in a condition of worthiness on the other side of the veil to accept and benefit from that ordinance, that they change their life so that this vicarious ordinance that has been done to help them in their eternal progress will be of benefit to them."
The blessing was unexpected but welcome, said Jim Green, a FamilySearch marketing manager who organized the portion of RootsTech for training the family history consultants.
"I couldn't have been more delighted," he said in a subsequent session. "We did not ask him to do that; that was not in the cards. We never discussed that, and I'm just so delighted that he felt inspired to do that."
A large portion of family history consultants in the church — including conference attendees and those in remote areas receiving a live Internet feed of the proceedings — will benefit, he said.
The panel, which included Jay Verkler, FamilySearch CEO, and David Rencher, FamilySearch chief genealogy officer, addressed a wide range of questions during the session.
One question reflected divergent opinion over how much information is sufficient before the name of a deceased ancestor can be submitted for temple work. Stringent research requirements are apt to diminish enthusiasm for the work of preparing names for the temple, some feel, while others argue that non-rigorous research can result in duplication of records and wasted effort in performing temple ordinances.
Rencher said the current system of preparing names for temple work minimizes duplication by requiring interrelationships as identifiers. "Our people have to get to the point where they trust the new system and its ability to detect duplicates based on relationships and other factors rather than a single piece of evidence," he said.
Verkler spoke of two extremes in mindset: Is a mere listing on a census record enough information, or is years of research including land and probate records required?Comment on this story
"I'm sure there's a lot of happy — not sad — medium in the middle here," he said. If information is readily available, "why would we would not encourage people to do just a little more, two-source kind of work? ... So use your judgment on the amount of work and rigor to not be on either extreme, I would argue."
Elder Scott added, "There is one fact, and that is if you have both husband and wife, you are really uniquely identifying that individual, because you have two different family strains, and the likelihood of a significant duplication is greatly reduced."