Line up one hundred Mormons who are doing family history work, and you will hear at least that many miraculous stories.  Supernatural help is common in the effort — the heavens are open, and many people there long to make eternal covenants that can bind their families together eternally and exalt them in the process.  They intervene to move the work along and overcome hurdles slowing the work down.

An Old Bible, Lost for Decades, Reveals a Mormon Family’s Ancestors

Family history builds bridges between the generations of our families. by Dennis B. NeuenschwanderEd and Dawna Jones serve as “senior Mormon missionaries.”  Senior missionaries are retirees who are willing to donate their time for 6 to 23 months in the service of God.  Senior missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, serve in many capacities.  Elder and Sister Jones are family history missionaries and offer their services at a Mormon Family History Center in San Diego, California.  These family history centers tend to be small and rely on the internet, genealogy software, and loans from the main library in Salt Lake City.  Before launching out on their mission, Elder and Sister Jones had worked on their own ancestral lines, submitting the information in order to complete Mormon temple ordinances for their dead.  These ordinances begin with baptism and proceed through covenants meant to join family members together in eternity.

One day at the San Diego LDS Family History Center, Elder Jones received a phone call from Gwen Whitlock.  She had in her possession an antique family Bible she had received from a gentleman who had found it in the trash some 40 years before.  She desired to donate it to the Center.  Not having much room for such things, especially a Bible this huge, Elder Jones was hesitant, but invited Whitlock to bring the Bible over, especially since it seemed to contain some genealogical information.  Family trees have often been handwritten into Bibles over the years.

A Miraculous Discovery

The rare Bible itself was a treasure. It was compiled by the Rev. Joseph Knight and published in 1815. It included the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Apocrypha. It also contained illustrations and a collection of beautiful etchings.

As they turned the pages, the Joneses discovered a more priceless and personalized treasure. Inside they found ornately handwritten genealogical records going back into the 1700s. When Dawna Jones saw the last name “Hammond,” her jaw dropped in disbelief. The names, dates and information belonged to her husband’s direct English ancestral line.

“It just blew our socks off,” Ed Jones said. “I knew there was a hole in the line, and … this (information) closed that hole. I didn’t have to look it up on the pedigree chart, I just knew. It was literally the biggest blessing we have ever received in family history. It was phenomenal.” [1]

Ed Jones’ mother had converted to Mormonism at the age of 87.  She had spent her final years engaged in family history work, and it seemed she had found everything that could be found. People at the library began to gather around the Jones’ and Whitlock, who was dumbfounded by what was transpiring.  Soon all were in tears at the obvious miracle which had occurred.  Whitlock had hoped to find the Hammond family, but had stumbled upon them “accidently.”

Over the years, Whitlock and her husband, the Rev. Carl Whitlock, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Pacific Beach in San Diego, have searched for a Hammond descendent among their friends and congregation, but to no avail.  Said Whitlock, “It’s been such a wonderful, spiritual story of how God put it (the Bible) for him to find, to bring to me, for me to hold it for them. Then for God to impress me to take it the day the Joneses were there is a miracle of huge proportions.”

Elder and Sister Jones want to return the favor, so they are researching the Whitlocks’ family history for them.

Miracles Attend the Work of the Lord

Since I am the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ in my family, I’m the only one working on family history.  It had been extremely difficult to find anything until genealogical help began to appear online.  Then things got somewhat better.  I had an uncle who had researched one line quite a bit, but he wouldn’t share the information with me for many years.  One day he received an email from a person he had never heard of.  The person was quite an accomplished genealogist, not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ.  She had been researching a line, thinking she tied into it, but she was mistaken.  My uncle had no interest, so he referred her to me.  She sent me a manila envelope containing a number of 8 ½” x 11” sheets of paper, taped together end to end.  It turned out to be a pedigree chart about 5 feet wide, taking one of my own ancestral lines back to 1700.

I can attest to the fact that family history work is of interest to us and to our deceased ancestors.  This work is proceeding on both sides of the veil, and it is inspiring and thrilling to be part of it.

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