Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sometimes a Church assignment can feel like it's too much

Last month in the Saturday evening session of our stake conference, our stake president assigned those present to index two batches and clear at least one name for temple ordinance work per week until the next stake conference, six months later. That's 52 batches and 26 names total.

Regular attendees of the Saturday evening session of our stake's conferences have gotten used to receiving some kind of assignment, usually related to temple work and/or family history work. This has been going on for the past seven years since our current stake presidency was called. In addition, for the past seven years our stake president has continually challenged stake members to worship in the temple weekly or as often as personal circumstances permit.

Sometimes our semi-annual assignment has been to do endowment ordinances for two names from the stake family history file. One time it was to index a certain number of names. Our stake's indexing numbers skyrocketed over that six month period.

The current assignment is probably the most challenging of all the assignments we have received, at least from my perspective. Some weeks it's difficult for me to index two batches. For a number of years I have been in the habit of looking for more challenging batches, especially in foreign languages with which I am familiar.

But this time around I have less opportunity for a leisurely approach. So I have consistently been taking the high priority batches, which have usually turned out to be quite a bit easier. Yesterday I indexed two batches of Alabama marriage records from 1985 that were typewritten. No guessing on what some clerk with sketchy handwriting actually wrote. Taking the path of least resistance is allowing me to complete my indexing assignment.
Much more difficult for me has been clearing at least one name per week for temple ordinance work. Believe me, I have been through our family history so much over my adult life that all of the low hanging fruit has been plucked. Gone are the days when I could submit 100 names at a time. In recent years it has taken months or even years of work to pull together enough research to clear even one name.

My wife, on the other hand, has a huge stack of completed research. She needs that data entered into FamilySearch. Sometimes we're not able to clear the name for work because the individual was born less than 110 years ago and we can't be sure we're the closest living relatives. But often we can clear the names.

So I could be helping my wife. And I will. But over the past few weeks as I have dug into my own family history, I have found a number of problems that need resolution. I am continually finding new duplicates that need to be merged, mis-merged records that need to be un-merged, and records missing sources where I have access to source material.
Consequently, I am failing on the assignment to clear names for ordinance work. But what I am doing is not without value. My wife feels that the stake president's goal is to have us working in FamilySearch with more regularity. If so, I'm doing OK. But if not, I'm not. I suppose I could have a breakthrough and clear 26 names in one shot. Unlikely. But miracles do happen.

Which causes me to think more about my wife's suggestion. I know my stake president. He really doesn't care about numbers unless they're an indicator of something valuable. He has explained in private that when stake members worship in the temple with greater frequency, many of the problems that members bring to stake and ward leaders tend to diminish or disappear.

This is an embodiment of Ezra Taft Benson's teaching that, "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives." My stake president knows that people are busy and that this assignment is challenging for stake members. But he feels that if stake members will fulfill the assignment, some less important factors will naturally drop out of their lives.

Some folks are grousing that this is simply too much. Church leaders should respect personal time and shouldn't demand so much of Church members. But nobody is forcing them to complete the assignment to the letter. It's up to them and the Lord to determine how this assignment should fit into their personal and family life. Nobody is taking their agency away.

For my part, I figure that I have the capacity to complete the assignment as it was given. So that's what I will strive to do. (I admit that there have been times when I have determined that it was impossible for me to properly fulfill a Church assignment. But that is a topic for another time.)

The first few weeks of the assignment have felt very onerous to me. Mainly because May is an insane month. Every organization—school, church, sports, arts, etc.—crams everything possible into May and early June. You have no idea how many weekends I have spent sleeping in a tent since mid-April. These demands on my time pop up every spring. But crazy season is dying down and life will soon return to a more normal pace.

If worse comes to worst, I will hurry and help my wife clear a bunch of names before November's stake conference. But in the meantime, I'm going to be working on cleaning stuff up in my family line, scanning and associating sources I have, and adding memories where possible. I will continue working to get to the temple weekly too. Some things I have been used to doing with my time won't get done. But I suppose that's the plan. I also trust that other blessings will unexpectedly distill on me and my family.

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