Thursday, November 1, 2012


The emphasis on family history and temples has been increasing in the church. Or maybe my ears have just been tuned in to it better. The last couple of conferences seemed to emphasize the growing push for family history to be done, and the latest letter from the First Presidency was about doing your own family history and taking the names of your ancestors to the temple.

I happen to love genealogy. Yes, I am one of "those."  I started doing genealogy when my son was born. I was feeling a growing emptiness inside me then. It was winter, my wife was in school, and I was trapped inside my house, restless, depressed, and feeling cut off from people and the world. As any man in such conditions would do (muffled laughter), I wrote poetry:

In my dreams, I dissolve myself out of shell
And out of mind.
Like a hermit crab grown too large for his home,
With a brain that bangs, claws, zings into next.

Man is such an empty word.
I can hear the emptiness plain
When I shove my ear
Against my chest.

I thought about what it would be like to cut myself loose from all my social/familial entanglements, move myself far away, preferably close to a beach and with a pretty garden. No human responsibility, no human anything.

I don't remember how it started, boredom perhaps, but I started doing genealogy. I searched out my history and I was surprised by how easy it was, with the convenience of search engines and digitized images of birth records, newspaper archives, and parish transcripts. I felt a spirit move upon me that changed me inside. I felt a new sense of connection, the turning of my heart to generations gone before, which also seemed to turn my heart to accept my children and the generations ahead.

I remember the feeling of discovery, late at night, bouncing my newborn son’s baby chair with my foot for him to sleep while I sifted through genealogical records online. With my son at my feet and my ancestors at my fingertips, I felt an overwhelming sense of connection. My thoughts of isolation, loneliness, and meaninglessness faded away, and I learned about the power I had as a father. My ancestors had families, they had left me a legacy and, most sobering, my children would pass on a part of me.

When I was married in that holy room between two mirrors, I was clasped fast between innumerable years of past and future. An eternal past, and an eternal future. I existed as one still-life frame in eternity.

I feel the weight of expectation at times, but I also feel the freedom and blessing of my covenants.

In any tree, there are roots. In my own family there are strong roots of history and tradition:  pioneers with handcarts, marriages, divorces, birth, death, suffering, sacrifice, and faith. A person does not need to have an extensive Mormon pedigree to discover those things. I once wondered if those things tied me down, frustrated my passions, inhibited my development. Perhaps. But when I look beyond myself, outside of my selfish desires and ambitions, I find that these roots also give me something more, like stability, spiritual nourishment, and hope.

And then there are the branches, the fruit, the seed, the blessings. My children mean more to me than my own life, even though I feel stretched beyond my capacity to bear them as their father. The fruit is often bitter, as Eve discovered, but after the sorrow, in quiet moments of appreciation, I feel "my eyes have been opened" and I can understand the purpose of my life in a new way.

The Savior said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." 

And so I try to do my part and stay connected.

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