Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) are very interested in Family History, and the Church and its members have done much to facilitate family history work for all, even people who have no interest in the Church.
Mormon genealogy work is associated with temple work. “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6). This verse of scripture needs explanation. Millions of people have lived on this earth without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has taught us through modern revelation that these are not held accountable for that which they don’t know.
And these are those who have part in the first resurrection; and these are they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them. And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord (Mosiah 15:24).
This is ultimate justice. Members of the Mormon Church have been commanded by the Lord to provide ordinances (which can only be performed with a physical body) for those who have passed away without learning the gospel. They are taught the gospel as spirits as they await resurrection. In the Spirit World, people have the same personalities they had while on the earth. They have volition and can make choices. They can choose to accept or reject the ordinances performed for them.
Joseph F. Smith had a vision of the spirit world. He saw that Christ organized a ministry in the world of spirits during the three days between His death and resurrection.
“I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:
“’For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3:18–20.)
“’For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.’” (1 Peter 4:6.)
“As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great (138: 6-11).
“…While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful; “And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance (138:18, 19).
“…And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them; But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets” (138:29-32).
Thus, Mormon genealogy is meant to seek after those ancestors who still need to hear the gospel of Christ. Since this is a huge work, a great deal has been done by the Mormon Church to make family history easier for all. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is the largest of its type in the world, and its resources are open to the general public. The Mormon Church also sponsors small family history centers in church buildings all over the world. These are also open to the public, and there are volunteers there to help. These small family history centers are connected by computer to the Family History Library and to the Church’s online resources. One of those resources is New Family Search. New Family Search has millions of genealogical files online for anyone to use free of charge. Mormons also volunteer their time to digitalize genealogical records all over the world. One project that took many thousands of hours was the digitalizing of the records of Ellis Island in New York, the entry point for millions of immigrants into the U.S.
Mormon genealogy work blesses the lives of millions of people. If you would like to locate a family history center near you, go to “maps” on the lds.org website.