Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as Mormons, research their family history because of their strong faith in the eternal nature of families. Mormons believe that families can be together forever when "sealed" through a special temple ordinance, or ceremony. These ceremonies can be performed not only for the living but also on behalf of ancestors who have previously died. For this reason, Mormons are encouraged to research their family history to identify their ancestors and learn more about their lives. Those deceased ancestors who did not previously receive their ordinances can be submitted for baptism and other "temple work" so that they might be saved and reunited with their family in the afterlife. The most common saving ordinances are baptism, confirmation, endowment, and marriage sealing.
In addition to temple ordinances, family history research also fulfills for Mormons the last prophecy in the Old Testament: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” Knowing about one's ancestors strengthens the connection between generations, both past and future.
Controversy over Mormon Baptism of the Dead
Public controversy over Mormon baptism of the dead has been in the media on multiple occasions. After Jewish genealogists discovered in the 1990s that 380,000 Holocaust survivors had been vicariously baptized into the Mormon faith, the Church put further guidelines in place to help prevent the baptism of non-family members, especially those of the Jewish faith. However, through either carelessness or pranks, names of non-Mormon ancestors continue to make their way into Mormon baptismal registers. To be submitted for temple ordinances, the individual must:
- have been deceased for at least one year
- have been born more than 110 years ago, unless permission has been received from the closest living relative (spouse, children, parents, siblings)
The individuals submitted for temple work must also be related to the individual who has submitted them, although the church's interpretation is very broad, including adoptive and foster family lines, and even "possible" ancestors.
The Mormon Gift to Everyone Interested in Family History
All genealogists, whether or not they are Mormon, benefit greatly from the strong emphasis that the LDS church places on family history. The LDS church has gone to tremendous lengths to preserve, index, catalog, and make available billions of genealogical records from all over the world. They share this information freely with everyone, not just church members, through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, satellite Family History Centers around the world, and their FamilySearch website with its billions of transcribed and digitized records available for free family history research.