Yes I know my title is cheesy but you love me anyways! I have felt very impressed to share a story that happened about 5 months ago. I actually love sharing this story and I hope you enjoy reading it.
My family is very big. My mother has 14 brothers and sisters and 2 of them have 10 children each. My father comes from 10 brothers and sisters. He is the oldest. They grew up in the humblest of conditions in the Dominican Republic. I only have 1 picture of both my parents as youth and they were about 18 years old. Each of my aunts and uncles, grandparents, etc., has a nickname. It’s really hard for them to tell me each other’s real names. It’s really funny to watch them try to remember. To find out dates such as birth, marriage, death is almost impossible. So as you can imagine doing my family history is extremely hard and a very daunting task.
Those extended family members are all Catholic. There is only 1 LDS cousin aside from my immediate family of 5. In December 2014, I sent her an email and told her that I really needed her help in accomplishing some family history. I told her she was the only one who could help me and understood the importance of doing the work. She happily agreed but also didn’t have much to go from. The only information she could give me was the name of my Great Grandfather, his wife, and their 5 children. That is a great start, but I had no dates or locations. After receiving the email, I got on ancestry.com and started a search using my Great Grandfather’s name. However, so many of the same names came up, I didn’t know how to pick which one would belong to me. With such little information and a feeling of discouragement, I walked away.
Later that month, the Bishop gave the Ward a challenge to index 100,000 names. Loving a challenge and wanting to feel like I did some family history (even if it wasn’t for me) I gladly accepted the challenge and focused on indexing. I quickly caught the bug and in the year of 2015, I indexed 11,371 names. I did records ranging from birth certificates, obituaries, war rosters, to Dominican death records. However none of those were from my area of the country and none of the names sounded familiar. During the year, I never went back to my own family history.
In December 2015 as we approached a new year, the Bishop updated us on our indexing goal. We were almost there and just needed to kick it up a notch. But he challenged us again and said he would appreciate it if we could do 500 temple baptisms in 2016. I quickly thought of my family and hoped I could at least provide 1 name towards that goal.
While visiting my family in Arizona in December, I received a text message from my husband that the Ward had met its indexing goal. What fantastic news! I was glad to be able to now go back to my family history. A few days later I sat amongst 24 family members in AZ for the holidays and decided to get my laptop and find some family from the Dominican Republic. I searched for the name my cousin had provided me exactly a year ago. I didn’t expect to find anything. I expected to have a sea of names show up, all in the same city, with no relations to me. I will be eternally grateful that I was wrong.
As I pressed enter on my Great Grand Father’s name, it appeared. Attached to his name was his wife’s, their marriage certificate, their 5 children, their parents (my Great-Great Grandparents), and more information to help me get started. I couldn’t believe it. I had to go back and forth between the original email and the ancestry record numerous times to make sure that my eyes were not deceiving me. The names matched exactly. My Maternal Grandfather was listed there just as I had remembered his name. Everything was there! I quickly called my husband over and showed him what I had found and we both marveled at the miracle. I hopped on familysearch.com and started attaching the information to my tree fearing that if I didn’t do it right away, it would disappear. Luckily my mother-in-law had experience in family history work. She helped me get the names ready for the temple. And in a matter of minutes I had 12 names ready for temple work!
To say that I was excited is an understatement! My heart was full! We had an upcoming temple trip with the youth for baptisms. Both my husband and I work with the youth and love them dearly and saw it as an opportunity to get the work done. The youth brought other names to do from the ward. They had a couple dozen of their own names as well. As I sat in the baptistery and thought of all these names submitted, I wondered to myself why my 12 were so special to me. It’s not nearly as much as what everyone else had. It’s just a few names. Then I remembered advice I was given as a youth.
While growing up in NYC in the late ‘90’s, I was in charge of the annual Youth Conference one year. It was held in the Stake Center that is now the Temple. The guest speaker was Elder Rasband. He was President Rasband at the time as he was the Mission President. I was very embarrassed because it was so poorly attended. I kept apologizing to him because of the low number of youth that were there. He kept reassuring me that everything was alright. He reminded me that if I “…bring, save it be one soul unto me (Christ), how great shall be your joy…” He said even if I was that soul, my joy would be great. Fast-forward 18 years: even if I only have a few names of Family History, the Lord is pleased. It doesn’t have to be dozens of names. It can even be one and its just as beloved.
I want to bear my testimony that I know this Church is true. The Bishop described this experience as a tender mercy. I spent a year working on other families that had nothing to do with my ancestors. I never once thought it would ever apply to me. Then on the very last moment of the challenge, the tender mercies of the Lord poured into my life. It is small miracles like this that solidify my knowledge that the Church is true.
January 3, 2016