This past weekend I traveled to visit with my grandfather. I was hoping to get some family history information from him, particularly stories from his younger days about growing up during the Great Depression and serving in the military during WWII. I also hoped to get some stories about his parents, about whom I know a little, and his grandparents, about whom I know nothing (beyond the vital information that fills a pedigree chart, of course).
We singles generally have more mobility and flexibility to travel. That makes us more apt for the task of collecting these stories. Don’t get me wrong. Temple work is very important. But knowing that my ancestors have their temple work completed doesn’t really turn my heart towards them.
That’s where having the stories of their lives come in. It’s through the stories that the work of Elijah comes full circle. And with the current emphasis the Church is placing upon hastening the work, collecting those stories takes on a whole new urgency.
Yet there’s another reason why we need to hasten this particular aspect of the work. It’s the reason why my apparently good plan didn’t work out. You see, I didn’t get a single story during my visit. My grandfather was in so much pain that his mind could dwell on nothing else.
It’s a lesson that I had learned on my mission, and this recent episode provided a poignant reminder. When the body cries out loud enough for whatever reason, all other aspects of the human soul turn towards satiating the needs of the body. I saw this as a missionary trying to teach starving people the gospel. You can get so hungry that it’s difficult to think about anything but how to get your next meal. And when you get like that, trying to develop yourself in any other way is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
Suffering from a combination of arthritis and just plain old age, my grandfather was in so much pain that his mind could not be sufficiently diverted to give me the stories I sought.
I wouldn’t think of just showing up at his door, so I always called first. But every call I made found him unable to share with me the stories I sought. His speech would slur to the point that I couldn’t understand what he was saying. And being in so much pain he certainly wasn’t going to be searching the recesses of his memory for details he hasn’t had to recall in decades.
Hearts don't turn without the stories
In thinking about my experience, I take away this lesson: We need to get the stories NOW. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Yes, once people die, it’s too late. But my grandfather is not quite dead and yet I couldn’t get anything out of him. As far as collecting the missing stories, what’s the difference? I’m struggling to see any.
Hastening the work of salvation is about more than just missionary work, though missionary work is important. And it’s about more than temple work, although that’s really important too. It’s about collecting the stories so that we and those who come after us will know who we are and where we come from and what heritage has been passed on to us. I don’t see how the hearts of the children turn towards the fathers without that knowledge.
Other than what is listed in a pedigree chart, I don’t know much about my great great grandfather. How does my heart turn towards a man who is essentially a stranger to me?
We need to play our part now
We singles often feel like second-class citizens in the Kingdom because we’re not on the “right” side of the cultural rite of passage known as marriage. But we should never allow those emotions or anything else to dissuade us from acting like first-class citizens. We have a role to play in unfolding the great plan of God for all of His children. Our single status, particularly if we don’t have any children, can be a great asset in hastening the work. We can collect the stories of our ancestors. And we need to do it NOW before it’s too late.
Do you have the stories of your ancestors? If not, start today. Prayerfully pick an ancestor and start searching. Ask relatives what they remember. Record your conversations for later archiving and transcription. You don’t have to do everything, but you do need to do something. Do what you can to get the stories now.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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