Since my church has a lay ministry, I have a number of callings (read: I volunteer time and ability to fill positions at church as needed). One of my current callings is as a family history consultant. It's been a challenge -- not that I dislike the work; actually, it's fascinating -- because I feel unequal to the task. I'm struggling to find out firm information about some of my own ancestors; how can I presume to assist other people in helping find theirs? But somehow I muddle along.
Part of this calling involves staffing the Family History Center at our stake meetinghouse once a week, so I write to you now from the glorious FHC. Which at the moment is quiet and empty, apart from the hum of computer screens and the tippity-typing of staff members. I don't know if the word hasn't gotten around that we're open, or it's just that nobody in our area is jonesing to do genealogical research from 10 to 1 on Thursdays. No matter; we are using our copious free time to index genealogical records online. Today I've been working on a whole batch of obituaries from Georgia, so they can be searched easily for names. It's interesting to note how many polite euphemisms there are for death. I've seen "entered into rest," which sounds very dignified; "went home to be with his Lord," which is rather sweet; and "passed away," which sort of sounds like the person simply faded slowly out of existence, like the Mystics in The Dark Crystal. (I'm patiently waiting for a science fiction fan obituary to use some geeky euphemism like "phased into another dimension." Don't disappoint me, SF fandom!)
You may ask, "Why do Mormons do all that genealogy stuff, anyway?" Well, I'll tell you: it's for a number of reasons. Genealogy is interesting; it gives you a road map of your ancestors and the paths they took in life, the way they chose to achieve (or, sometimes, failed to achieve) their individual dreams. It contains plenty of surprises, some good and some bad, about the people who contributed to your genetic makeup. It helps you realize all the decisions taken by so many people that led to your being in this particular time and place. But primarily, Mormons do family history research because, as the Disney people put it, "family means no one gets left behind or forgotten." We believe that not only are we related to each other by birth, but that we are all brothers and sisters in the same human family, children of God. We do research and perform vicarious temple ordinances for our relatives who have died so that we and they have the chance to be sealed together forever -- so that no one is left behind or forgotten. (So yes, if you were wondering -- that's primarily what Mormon temples are for.)