Saturday, 5 July 2014
The Book of Mormon
Last weekend I visited the Yorkshire Family History Fair. It was the second year running that I have been but this year I was accompanied by one of my children. Always a nerve wracking experience, taking a child to something not really aimed at them, their needs, their enjoyment. However, on this occasion it was really lovely. I received a lot of comments about how it was good to see someone so young there (albeit under duress!) and by the end of our visit, said child was actually so interested that we have been able to do a simplified version of the family tree to summarise what I have discovered. Where am I going with this? Am I just going to muse about my child's visit to the Fair? Well no, but the fact that I had a child with me is very pertinent to a big surprise that I received at the Fair.
One of the best (and probably the biggest) family history databases is the free familysearch.org website which is run by the Mormons - the Church of the Latter-day Saints (LDS).
When I was a child, the words "the Mormons are coming" were a cue to hide and pretend that we were not at home, whilst two or three black suited Americans stood on the doorstep ringing the doorbell. My mother had been trapped before into long conversations with them and had no intention of being so again!
Since starting my family tree, though, I have learnt to appreciate the Mormons and to be grateful for their belief that "marriage and families can continue beyond this life. But this can only happen when families are sealed together in one of the Lord’s holy temples around the world and united for all eternity".
This is "why [we] have the largest genealogical library in the world and why 13 million Mormons are encouraged to research their family roots." They believe that the dead can be baptised into their faith, as far as I understand it.
Well, at the Fair the Mormons had a big, fully Wi-Fi'd up stand and lots of volunteers to talk to people. Having happily and gratefully used their resources for a number of years I did not feel the need to actually talk to their representatives (always having in mind the childhood experience too!). But whilst looking at a stand opposite, a voice said "Hello there, how are you?" and I turned to see an acquaintance of ten years there.
To cut a long story short, it turns out that she and most of her family are Mormon and have been for the whole time that I have known them. I was utterly amazed - although pondering afterwards, it made sense with what I knew about how close they have always been as a family. It was a real one in the eye for my in-built prejudice though. Never once have they tried to recruit me, to send black suited Americans round or even let on that they had such a strong faith! They can't be Mormons! I would have known!
In researching the LDS website when I had this blog in mind, I have read the "Beliefs" and "Values" sections and I would say that the Church does not appeal to me personally. Apart from the encouragement of close family ties. I felt that I had bonded with my own child over looking at the family tree and since my own interest is driven by not knowing about so much of the family, I am glad that my own family will hopefully benefit from my work/passion/madness!
There has been and will continue to be a lot of good from the Mormons' family history work. My acquaintance told me that the Church reckons it has fifty years worth of work at its present rate if it is going to digitise all of the records that they have gathered in their vaults in Salt Lake City.
A large chunk of my own family tree would be missing if it was not for their work all over the world. You may not agree with their beliefs but do have a look at their website! If the mood takes you, you can even assist with the indexing process.
Now, was that the doorbell?.....