by Kathryn Grant
We hear a lot about the blessings of doing family history: stronger testimonies, closer families, and protection against temptation.
But there’s one blessing that might not get as much emphasis.
Doing family history is one of the best ways to gain experience in recognizing and following the Spirit. Because family history is a spiritual work, opportunities for spiritual promptings are plentiful. Each time I receive a prompting and act on it, not only do I make progress on my family history, but I learn a little more about how the Spirit speaks to me.
For instance, I remember a time when I had researched and reserved a female relative’s name for temple work. Yet every time I tried to print the ordinance request, I got an uncomfortable feeling. I was puzzled because everything seemed to be in order. Was it just my imagination or fear of making a mistake?
Because the feeling persisted, I decided to review my research and sources–and discovered that I had misspelled this woman’s unusual middle name. As soon as I corrected the error, the uncomfortable feeling left and I was able to move ahead with her temple work.
On another occasion, I was preparing to do temple work for a woman when the quiet but definite impression came, “Her work is already done.” I was surprised because I had looked carefully for duplicates before reserving her name. However, trusting that impression, I looked again. I didn’t find anything right away. In fact, it took some time and creative searching before I finally found another record for her. But sure enough, all her ordinances were complete.
Experiences like these have helped me grow and gain confidence in my ability to recognize the Spirit. I felt I was experiencing what Joseph Smith talked about when he said, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon . . . and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 132).
The Spirit can guide us in many aspects of family history; for example, the Spirit can help us find a starting place for research, whether for ourselves or for someone else as part of a Find, Take, Teach experience. The Spirit can also lead us to family members who are missing or who have been overlooked.
A friend and I were talking about following the Spirit in family history, and she expressed concern that she wouldn’t be able to hear or recognize promptings. And it can be challenging. But that’s the very reason family history is such a blessing: it gives us numerous opportunities to practice hearing and following the promptings we receive. My own growth in following the Spirit has taken place line upon line. I am certain I’ll continue learning.
I know that with the Spirit’s help I’ve become more effective in doing family history than I ever could have on my own.
After years on the sidelines, Kathryn started her family history and discovered a new passion. Her specialty is mentoring new family historians and helping them find success—and maybe even avoid some of the mistakes she’s made. She presents frequently at family history events and serves as the family history specialist in her stake.