I’m sitting here at my computer this lovely peaceful Sunday morning and feeling the sweet Spirit of my Heavenly Father and the love I feel for my ancestors. I’ve had lots of success recently finding pictures, histories, connecting missing links.
I also have been doing research for grandchildren on their paternal lines. This too has been a rich experience. I will give them this information for Christmas.
Blevins Huff (1851-1924) is one of my favorites. He is my 2nd Great-Grand Uncle, and he is the older gentleman in the picture below.
Blevins gathered all the Huff’s together in his home to greet the new century a hundred years ago (January 1, 1900). They sang, read the Good Book, and told stories and rang the huge dinner bell mounted on a post in the yard. Said Blevins “Ring this one in good for not one of us will see the next one!”
Blevins had five sons all of whom served in WWI, except for Nelson who was rejected because of eyesight and became a well-known photographer.
Elmer was in WW 1 with his brothers Malcolm and Curtis. Elmer had enlisted and became a 1st Sargent in the Army. Prior to WWI, he went to Vera Cruz, Mexico along with Brother Lewis. After WWI he was discharged and became involved in politics, becoming the chairman of Leslie County school board. He ran a country store during the depression and also farmed. Elmer was one of the most respected men in Leslie County, Kentucky.
Curtis taught school for many years before enlisting in the Army. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lt, spent three years with the Corps of Engineers and spent two years in Panama with the Army, became ill and was given a medical discharge as a captain. One word above all others describes Curtis T Huff, brilliant.
John Sheldon, the youngest son, enlisted and was killed in combat in France on his 18th birthday. He had joined the Kentucky National Guard and was first sent to the Mexican border as part of a huge force hunting Pancho Villa. From there he was transferred to the 7th Infantry and sent to France. He was engaged in trench warfare.
Nelson Huff 1887. Nelson Huff ordered his first camera from Montogomery Ward in 1902. It cost thirty-five cents. He was fifteen years old and had no clue how to make and develop photographs. The camera was a simple cardboard box using photographic plates. Nelson had no dark room and didn’t get even one picture with the device.
In 1904 he ordered a Box Brownie direct from Eastman Kodak Company at a cost of one buck. Eastman had developed the idea, “You push the button, we do the rest.”
Those of us who have been bitten by the family history bug know how fun it can be. But this isn’t why we have the largest genealogical library in the world and why 15 million Mormons are encouraged to research their family roots. Rather, we are driven by our doctrine that teaches 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.
That’s fine for all of us today who have the chance to be sealed in a temple, but what about our ancestors who die without the opportunity to receive ordinances like baptism, or the blessings of being an eternal family? Does it make sense that God would simply say, “Too bad, tough luck?” Of course it doesn’t. When Christ organized His Church anciently, it included vicarious work for the dead and the practice of performing ordinances for deceased relatives “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). Christ’s restoration of his original Church to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith included the ancient practice of performing these ordinances for our deceased relatives in holy temples. The gospel of Jesus Christ includes the same blessings today in holy temples.
Genealogical or family history research is the essential forerunner of temple work for our deceased ancestors. We do it to obtain names and other genealogical information so these temple ordinances can be performed for our kindred dead. Our ancestors then are taught the gospel in the spirit world and have the choice to accept or reject the work performed for them. Mother Teresa once said that “loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” The thought that this poverty of loneliness—this being unwanted and separated from loved ones—could extend beyond this life is truly sad and something temple work can prevent.
The Promise of Elijah
Millions across the world of all faiths are actively engaged in genealogical research—trying to find cherished ancestors and binding their family ties past and present.
Why are they doing it? Most would probably say because it’s an amusing hobby and they feel motivated by a strong curiosity about their ancestors. It is because they’ve been touched by the spirit of this work. Knowing Your Families Genealogy According to the Old Testament, Elijah was to come back and prepare the way of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord is the spirit of love that may eventually overcome all human family estrangements as it builds bridges between the generations. It binds beloved grandparents, now deceased, with the grandchildren who never knew them by preserving and sharing their histories and keepsakes. A life not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory. And yet, knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills us with values that give direction and meaning to our lives.
I refer back to a conversation I had with my Uncle Amos: “Grace, what happens to people who have died without hearing the name of Jesus Christ?” I replied, “They will go to hell. It is our responsibility to take the gospel to them and if we fail their blood will be on our hands.” Uncle Amos said, “I do not believe such a doctrine, the God I know would never do such a thing.” Matthew 16:19