"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
May 13, 2015
How Do I Know When a Name is Ready for Temple Work?
by Kathryn Grant

A question I’m often asked as a family history consultant and teacher is this: “How do I know when a name* in Family Tree is ready to reserve for temple ordinances?” It’s a great question, possibly one of the most important you can ask when doing family history.

First, the Church has some simple policies that you’ll want to follow:

  1. You must be related to the person whose work you want to do, either by blood or marriage. (A person is related by marriage if they married your relative. However, the siblings, parents, or other spouses of the person who married your relative are not considered related to you by marriage.)

    For example, my relative John Bescoby married a woman named Millicent Spray. Millicent is related to me by marriage. However, Millicent’s parents and siblings are not related to me by marriage.

  2. If the person was born less than 110 years ago today, you need to be one of the closest living relatives (defined as an undivorced spouse, an adult child, a parent, or a sibling). If you aren’t, you need permission from one of these people.

    (And if the first person you ask declines, you should not try to get permission from one of the other closest living relatives.) If you don’t obtain permission, for whatever reason, it’s important to respect the closest living relatives and wait until 110 years have passed.

In addition to Church policy, there are other simple guidelines to keep in mind. First, you’ll want to identify the person completely enough that you can tell if temple work has already been done. Typically this means at least a full name (maiden name for women), a birthplace, and a birthdate.

It’s even better if you can find parents, spouses, and/or children. The more information you have, the better your chances of finding any duplicate records that may exist in Family Tree.

(To be clear, we’re not talking about exhaustive research digging up every possible detail of a person’s life. Rather, we’re talking about a reasonable effort to find basic information about a person’s birth, marriage, death, and relationships. With today’s digital resources, it’s never been easier.)

Sometimes in your research, you may only find a woman’s married surname. Should you go ahead and reserve her work anyway under her married name or with no surname at all? My advice would be no, at least not without a reasonable effort to determine her maiden name. Without knowing her maiden name, you can’t be sure her record isn’t already in Family Tree.

I recall a time when I had difficulty finding a woman’s maiden name. As several months passed and my efforts were unsuccessful, I considered just doing her work anyway. But I felt an impression that I should not. So I kept praying and searching, and one day I unexpectedly found a short biography of one of her children that gave her maiden name. I remember crying at the computer as I said aloud, “I found you! I found you!”

Later, doing this woman’s temple work was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had — at least partly, I felt, because I had taken care to find her full name before performing her ordinances.

It’s also important to determine whether the person lived past age eight. If not, the only ordinance needed is sealing to parents.

Is a name ready when it has a green temple icon in Family Tree? It could be, but there’s more to it than that. Some names with green temple icons (especially on pioneer lines) have duplicate records in Family Tree, and temple work has already been done. Heather McPhie, a fellow consultant, recommends looking at green temple icons as an invitation to research.

Finally, listen to the Spirit. The Spirit will both guide you to prepare names appropriately for temple work, and will warn you if you’re heading the wrong direction. (It’s worth noting that the Spirit will not invite you to go against policy established by the Lord’s servants.)

Sometimes people have the misconception that doing large numbers of names as quickly as possible is so important that Church policy doesn’t need to be followed, or names don’t need to be carefully verified. But the Lord’s house is a house of order.

Not only that, the ordinances performed in the temple are for real people, not just names on a computer screen. We are careful with living ordinances; shouldn’t we be just as careful with ordinances for our loved ones beyond the veil?

If you follow Church policy and these simple guidelines, you’ll have a good idea of when someone has been identified carefully enough for temple work, and you’ll experience the joy of knowing you treated sacred temple work with the respect and care it deserves.

*Though I use the phrase “a name” for brevity when referring to individuals who need temple work, it’s important to remember (as respected family historian James Tanner noted in a blog post) that we’re talking about real individuals, not just “names.”

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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