Flashback! This story comes from when I was just finishing up high school and had a pretty cool run in with an ancestor that looked a lot like me! Or I her, since she came first… anyways! Read on!
For many years my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all wondered who I most resembled out of my family. I had naturally curly hair like a maternal uncle, and a paternal aunt. My height and petite frame resembled my paternal grandmother, yet that’s about as close as I got to “looking like anyone” in particular. Of course I resembled my siblings, I wasn’t switched with another child at the hospital or anything, but for a long time I wondered who I most resembled. After 18 years of quandary, something happened, a little bit of a mini miracle, if you so choose to see the following experience as such. For me in a small way it was.
My paternal grandfather, worked for years to compile a book for the Stewart line, his mother’s side, and after many years and much work he finally finished, and printed his book a little less than a year ago. My Grandpa and Grandma, invited their friends over for dinner one night and of course Grandpa was eager to show their friends, a couple who were stone throw away neighbors, his latest accomplishment.
The friends knew probably all of my family members, had been close friends of my grandparents for years. Upon reaching the page of Grandpa’s parents, he pointed to a picture of my great grandmother at the age of 19 and said, “That’s Jessica! She looks exactly like Jessica!” After being a little caught off guard by the sudden remark my grandparents looked a little closer and realized that I did in fact resemble my great grandmother immensely. They had never seen the resemblance before.
After moving in with my grandparents for a short time, the friends once again came over for dinner. As he walked into the room with his wife he said pointing to me, “I told you that she looks just like the picture!”
If I didn’t know what he was talking about I probably would have thought he had seen my picture on a “wanted sign” and was going to turn me in for the reward money. But thankfully he was just excited to compare his find in the book to the real me. Turns out minus the braces, and glasses, I’m a spitting image of my great grandmother Jean. To note during my childhood years I called her Grams. I also found out that the curly hair comes through her line, and the dark hair as well. Although young at the time of her passing in October of 2001, I still remember her and her sweetness.
So what if I found out who I most resembled? What eternal purpose does that have? Perhaps very little. However, the important fact was that I made a connection with one of my family members, one of my ancestors. This is what is so important to me. The connections. Knowing who they are, what they did, when they lived, what kind of person they were, all these things help connect me to my ancestors. President Joseph F. Smith said:
“Our [family] associations… are not exclusively intended for this life, or time, as we distinguish it from eternity. … We form associations and relations for time and all eternity.”
In addition to his remarks, President Ezra Taft Benson has told us:
“The family [is] the most important organization in time and all eternity;” let me say that again. “The family [is] the most important organization in time and all eternity; … the preservation of family life in time and eternity takes precedence above all other interests.”
I believe there are two places that bring us closer to our ancestors than any others. The first place I will discuss is through the resource of Family Search. If you have never been on the website I would highly encourage you to get online and explore! Try some new things, look up some family, have fun! I have spent extensive time on Family Search I have spent a fair amount of time reading stories and viewing photos of some of my ancestors. By searching out lost ancestors, I have taken a step to learn a little more about the ones I do know of. Although all my lines are far from filled in, there are a few lines that are very strong and contain many people.
A new release had just been added onto Family Search. This is called Pazzilla, a fabulous tool for seeing where lines end and continue on through the generations. I would highly recommend getting on and exploring with these two sites, there are so many fun things and people to learn, and find!
The second place being the temple. Within the walls of this holy place we are nearer to God, and those who reside in the world to come, than in any other earthly place.
As L. Tom Perry said, “The objective of …(temples is)… to inspire the members to obtain their own temple blessings, attend the temple in behalf of their deceased relatives and others… extend research on family lines, and organize and strengthen the family organizations. How glorious are the Lord’s teachings to his children that there can be eternal family associations with grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren in one eternal family organization.”
During the times of my temple attendance I have felt the presence and love of many who now passed beyond the veil. Both those for whom I have done temple work for, and those who are my direct ancestors. While I have never been able to pick out who exactly who they are I still testify of their presence. We are told that we are “watched over by angels.” I do not believe that these who watch over us are merely randomly assigned. I believe firmly that the angels who watch over you are more than likely than not, your ancestors. There to help to watch over you during your earthly life, because you are in a sense theirs, and they love you and are concerned about your welfare.
Continuing with President Ezra Taft Benson’s remarks he says,
“Because of this confidence in the perpetuity of the home and family into the eternities, we build our most elaborate and expensive structures- temples of God… so that man, woman, and their children may the bound together by covenant in an everlasting union which will transcend all the limitations of this mortal sphere.”
Families are ordained of God, and have been from the beginning. As stated in The Family, a Proclamation to the World, “the family is ordained of God… The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of his children… each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny…” continuing on it states, “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.”
There is a purpose, a divine reason, why we are placed into families. Both immediate and extended into the generations. First think of your family here on earth, now think of your heavenly family, whereas stated above we are sons and daughters of eternal, loving, divine, glorified, parents who love us beyond all comparison. Our earthly families not only give structure to our world as a means of growth and support, but families reflect our individual divine roles as part of an eternal family.
One more story to close.
When I was twelve years of age I attended a dinner at my same grandparents. We had nearly all my aunts and uncles there, along with Gramps, after our event was finished we all got up and started to get ready to leave. As I was walking towards the door to leave with my family I walked by the side of the couch where Gramps was sitting I heard, or rather felt the words, “You’ll have to say goodbye for a while, why don’t you give him a hug?” Up until that point I had never remembered being prompted by the Spirit in any such way. For the most part I didn’t really know what was happening. And so I walked out of that door, and that was the last time I saw him in this earthly life, with both body and spirit. Gramps passed away on April 8, 2008, just a week and a half later.
Nearly five years later I was attempting to learn roping from my Grandpa Max, and try as I might I just could not get my rope to open up over my head and spin properly. I took some ropes home and practiced for hours, just trying to get that rope to open and spin. Frustrated by my inept ability to reach my goal I just dropped the rope and stood there. Knowing what I needed to do, the proper technique having been taught, my practice, just wasn’t seeming to be helping. Then a thought came to me, a little bit out of the blue. Gramps was a very skilled roper, and had done rodeos and shows, nearly all his life. I could remember as a young child jumping in and out of his spinning ropes.
So after thinking about this, I picked up my rope and asked, and prayed in a strange sort of way, if it would be alright if he could help guide me to open my rope. The first time the rope hit and fell to the ground unopened as it had so many times before. I picked it up, and started again. The second time I felt my arms move as if gently pushed, my hand twist just right, and my momentum tapped just at the right moment for my rope to spin and open gloriously. Although I cannot say that I felt a pressure of hand on mine, I can say that I felt an almost other worldly sensation of sorts help guide me. Ever since then I’ve been able to open my ropes. And ever since then I’ve had reconciliation about not saying goodbye to him before his passing. Although I knew Gramps as a child I formed a new connection that transcended through the eternities.
I believe that if God wants us to get to know our ancestors while we are here on earth. We just need to be willing to give it a try, for all things are possible with God. Families are a key part of a vast eternal plan of happiness. Ancestry, family, is more than mere names on a chart, more than genetics, more than anything our mortal minds can comprehend.
All my love,