Mormons and Genealogy
All religions are often associated with intriguing customs. For the Mormons, there is one custom that interests us most particularly, their passion for genealogy.
Let’s look at few statistics specific to the Mormons and the central element of this theology.
- Today, the records of more than 110 countries are managed by the Mormons
- More than 200 cameras make microfilm available in 45 countries
- The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the world's largest genealogical library, holds nearly 2.4 million microfilms of genealogical records
- The Mormon Church manages nearly 4,500 genealogy centers in 70 countries
The Mormon religion is undeniably the most active religion in genealogical matters. More than just a social activity, we can see that genealogical research is one of the foundations of the Mormon religion.
Mormons in the World
Once again, let’s look at some statistics to show the population of the Mormon religion in today's world:
- 16 million Mormons are scattered around the world
- 6.5 million live in the United States, making the Mormon religion the fourth most important religion in the country
- Mormons make up 62% of Utah's population
- Nearly 1.5 million are settled in Mexico and Brazil
It was only in 1830 that Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, so it’s surprising to see the number of those faithful to the Mormon religion. Mormonism has this intriguing thing that it can not be reduced to religion alone. It seems to emerge a culture related to a specific area, Utah and the Great Basin of the West.
Mormonism uses the Bible as one of the fundamental elements of the religion’s theology, and adds other writings. These are referred to the "modern writings" and in particular, the Book of Mormon, that discovers the ancient origin of the religion.
The Origins of Mormons
The beginning of Mormon history starts about 600 BC. An Israelite family led by a man named "Lehi" decides to leave Jerusalem whose destruction was imminent. After crossing the desert and reaching the Arabian Peninsula, the tribe builds a boat and crosses the Atlantic to settle in North America.
It is before the descendants of this small group that Jesus Christ will appear after his resurrection, inspiring the Mormon prophets who will suddenly become acquainted with the gospels.
The descendants of Lehi are divided into two groups: the Lamanites and the Nephites. After a conflict that will last until the beginning of the 5th century AD, the Nephites are completely eradicated except for one survivor, Moroni, son of the general and prophet called "Mormon", custodian of the annals that will become later the famous "Book of Mormon".
Moroni, in possession of the annals, decides to save them by concealing them in 421 CE.In 1823, Joseph Smith will receive a series of visions and revelations from the angel Moroni, which will indicate to him where the plates of gold that contain the written hieroglyphic characters modern text of the Book of Mormon are located.
Seven years later, the Prophet Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is considered the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ by its many early followers.
After various trials and tribulations, Joseph Smith is eventually driven out of Missouri and travels to Illinois where he founded the city of Nauvoo. Nauvoo will have a population of a few thousand Mormon inhabitants.
The rapid rise of followers of Mormonism and Joseph Smith's candidacy for the US presidential election in 1844 will lead his opponents to assassinate him.
What is Their Relation to Genealogy?
Genealogical research remains today one of the main activities practiced by the Mormons. It is more than an activity, it is a duty, an obligation. In the Mormon religion, the saints have an incommensurable mission to identify every human being who has existed since Adam and Eve to baptize them. Of course, since vital records do not exist since the book of Genesis in the bible, the task is impossible. However, a conviction comes to remedy this: the names of unbaptized individuals will be revealed through the annals during the millennium before the end of the world.
Thus, in view of the eternal happiness of the saint, each member of their lineage, dead or alive, must be united to them in the resurrection of the body. Since the restoration of true religion was not established until the 18th century and is still not widespread, it is the duty of those who have received redemption to share it and to benefit the ancestors with whom they will thus be united for eternity. For Mormons, the baptism of the dead is essential because it allows the deceased to obtain the salvation of God.
The ceremonies for the dead can take many forms
- Marriage or seals.
Wearing a white dress, adult postulants serve as "lining" for the dead. Although each death requires a separate immersion, an individual can serve as a lining for many of them.
Technology at the Service of Genealogy
The Mormons are quick to adopt the technological resources that allow them to quickly and accurately perform their genealogical research. They quickly became followers of microfilming and data banks. In 1894, they created the Genealogical Society of Utah, whose microfilming activity began in 1938. In order to obtain the documents (baptism records, marriage , civil states, school archives etc.) from their original resources, the Mormons offered copies of the microfilms in exchange. This operation receives little opposition, which allows Mormons to have the largest genealogical library in the world: the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Finally, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now has its own genealogical organization, open and free for all: FamilySearch. In order to give genealogical research an interactive and social dimension, it's a great idea to partner with many genealogy companies and resources such as Famicity's private and secure family social network.
This passion for genealogy of Mormons does not ultimately play a role only to worship, but also social. Apart from the doctrinal imperatives it seeks to satisfy, it has certainly contributed to fostering the interactions of the Mormon religion with the world. They have allowed the Mormon Church to benefit from greater recognition because in order to negotiate the permissions of microfilming with the States, it had to free itself from all illegality.