Mormon Church Genealogy

The relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) and genealogy goes back quite a ways. As Joseph Smith translated and received scripture in response to questions he and other LDS church leaders had, revelations were given concerning baptism for the dead and other temple ordinances for those who had previously died without knowledge of the gospel.

In 1823, the ancient prophet Moroni quoted Malachi's prophecy that the hearts of the children would be turned to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children. On 27 March 1836, the temple at Kirtland, OH, was dedicated and the following week Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received visions wherein the sealing powers of the priesthood were restored so that temple ordinances could be performed.

Shortly after these revelations were given in 1836, England began keeping records of all births, marriages and deaths (1 July 1837). After this date, many early members of the Mormon Church could research the genealogy of their ancestors and perform saving ordinances in their behalf. Many American states also began keeping records of these life events. The New England Historic Genealogical Society was founded in 1845 in Massachusetts. In 1869 the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society was organized. The National Genealogical Society was founded in 1903 in Washington, DC.

One of the more important steps of the Mormon Church with regards to genealogy was the establishment of the Genealogical Society on 13 November 1894 in Salt Lake City, UT. Its purpose was to provide a library and records for members of the Mormon Church to research for genealogical information with which temple ordinances could be performed. Basically, names, dates of birth (or baptism), marriage, and death (or burial) and places for the same events are required in order to identify individuals. Over the years the Genealogical Society has been known as the Genealogical Society Library, the Genealogical Department Library, and now the Family History Library (FHL).

The roll of the FHL today is to microfilm and make available records of genealogical interest through its main library in Salt Lake City and through Family History Centers throughout the world. These records include family histories, civil registration, church records, censuses, military records, immigration and naturalization records, cemetery records, land records, passport applications, city directories and Native American records. These records are free of charge and most may be shipped to family history centers for only the cost of postage. They may be used by members of the Mormon Church and others for genealogy research.

The terms "genealogy" and "family history" are different by definition. Genealogy (the information needed by members of the Mormon Church for temple ordinances) is the basic information outlining a person's birth, marriage and death for purposes of identification. It includes the names of the spouse(s) and children. Family history is the history of individuals and family and includes personal stories, education, migration, health issues, cause of death, military service, occupation etc.

Whichever you are interested in, members of the Mormon Church should be actively searching the genealogy of their ancestors in order to have sacred temple ordinances performed in their behalf.

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