Monday, February 20, 2012

In Wisdom and In Order...

This post is specifically for my fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is my personal thoughts and feelings on the most recent controversy over Jewish names being submitted to an LDS genealogy database. For background on this and the official Church position, see the LDS Newsroom's article Church Statement on Jewish Names Entered in Genealogical Database.

As King Benjamin told his people in the Book of Mormon, "see that all these things are done in wisdom and order." Joseph Smith, and every prophet since, has emphasized the work of family history and temple work for the dead as part of our responsibilities as members of the Church. We do this work out of love and a desire for those who've gone before us to receive the opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel.

Part of that responsibility means making sure we are following the Church policies on name submission. Honestly, if we are using the new Family Search system, there is no longer an excuse of "I didn't know." When we submit any name now to have work done, the new Family Search system requires us to check that we have read and are complying with Church policies.

I won't mention all of these policies and guidelines since they are so readily available now, and anyone submitting names should see them every single time they go to submit a name for work. But there are three policies/guidelines that I am going to emphasize because those who haven't submitted names before need to know these and those who have can always use the reminder.

The most important is that we are responsible to submit names for our own ancestors and relatives. That is all. We should never submit a large number of names from databases, census records, historical lists, etc. Abiding by this one thing would minimize much of the ill-will that sometimes results from this policy being ignored. If you are not related by blood, adoption or marriage, don't submit the name. When I do descendant research, such as doing all of the grandkids and great-grandkids for an ancestor of mine, my personal rule of thumb is that I will do the spouses of those people in order to complete the family, but I will not start researching the parents or other ancestors of those spouses. I leave that for the descendants of those people to do.

One minor exception to this would be that the Church allows us to submit names of people who have the same last name as our ancestors and lived in the same geographical location of our ancestors. For example, on my husband's side, we had the surname of Boss. There was a family with the same last name in the same town as my husband's ancestors that kept showing up in census after census. I could submit those names because it is likely there is a family connection that I just haven't found, yet. However, I still personally prefer to try to prove the family connection first before doing any submissions.

Another step I personally take to insure I don't accidentally submit a non-relative is that I use a flag in my genealogy program. I created a custom flag (I use Reunion software on my Mac) named "DNS-Do Not Submit." When I run a list of my database to see which people might need temple ordinances, I make sure the report excludes anyone with this flag. This way, I can add people and connections to my family file just for genealogical and research purposes, but I won't ever accidentally submit those names for work.

The other two policies I want to mention are also taken care of in the new Family Search. However, it's good for us to be aware of these before we submit so we save ourselves time and effort. The first is that if we do not have a date of death (at least the approximate year), we cannot submit names for someone until 110 years have passed since their birth. Obviously, this is to prevent us from accidentally submitting a name for someone who is still living. The new system keeps us from doing this, fortunately.

The second policy is that if the person we are wanting to submit for work was born within the last 95 years, and you are not the closest living relative, you need to get permission from the closest living relative. The new system also asks you this question automatically for anyone whose birthdate is within 95 years of the current date. Don't bypass this checkpoint. There is a reason for this. Again, we don't want to create ill-will by doing a more recently living name when other close living relatives either wouldn't want the work done or would like to do it themselves. In other words, if there is still a living spouse, child, or sibling (in that order) of an individual born in the last 95 years that you want to do work for, get permission from that relative. Please do not just submit the name. If the living relative won't give permission, then wait until the 95 year mark has passed, even if that means waiting a decade or two. If there is no living spouse, child, or sibling, you can probably submit the name, but use your best judgment on this.

The reason for these last two policies is not that we worry about doing work for someone who doesn't want it. That is not an issue. We believe that an individual will still have the choice to accept the temple work done on their behalf or not to accept it. Agency will never be taken from someone. This work is always done in the HOPE, not the certainty, that our relatives will choose to accept it.

The reason behind these two policies, (and this is my personal opinion, not an official position of the Church) is that in doing this work of love, we don't want to create ill-will or cause bad feelings in others about the Church, the gospel, and the work we do.

So as we work to do our part to offer the temple ordinances to our ancestors and family members that have passed on, let us remember to do these things in wisdom and order and according to the policies of the Church on the matter.

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