"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 14, 2015
Family History: One of the Best Tutorials in Learning to Hear the Spirit
by Kathryn Grant

As the world darkens around us before the Savior returns, the guidance of the Spirit becomes more and more crucial for our lives.

Through latter-day revelation we learn that, “They that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived — verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day” (D&C 45:57.)

But if you’re like me, learning to recognize how the Holy Ghost speaks to us is not always easy. I wonder sometimes if what I’m hearing is the voice of the Spirit or my own thoughts. It takes learning, practice, and patience to recognize the Spirit and to distinguish it from the many other voices competing for our attention.

Enter family history. After doing family history for a time, I was intrigued and deeply grateful to discover that it is one of the best “labs,” as it were, for gaining experience in following the Spirit.

For instance, once I had researched and reserved a female relative’s name for temple work. However, every time I tried to print the ordinance request, I got an uncomfortable feeling. I was puzzled because everything seemed to be in order as far as I could tell. Was it just my imagination or fear of making a mistake?

But because the feeling persisted, I reviewed 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.

Another time a certain name, Joel Bescoby, kept coming to mind — somewhat surprisingly, because I’d already submitted his name for temple work. However, based on that impression, I reviewed my research on his family and discovered that I’d failed to add one of his sons to the family in Family Tree!

As it happened, this son was killed in action in World War I. As I completed the research and cleared the name of this man who gave his life for his country, I had the distinct impression he had accepted the gospel enthusiastically and was so grateful his ordinances were about to be performed.

What other kinds of opportunities might arise for listening to and following the Spirit while doing family history?

  • When to do family history

  • What line to work on

  • When and how often to go to the temple

  • Whom to ask for help

  • How to correct mistakes

Joseph Smith taught, “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; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 151.)

Each time we follow the voice of the Spirit as we work on family history — and there are constant opportunities to do so — we learn a little more about how the Spirit speaks to us. We become more confident in our ability to recognize the Spirit, which helps us not only in family history, but every aspect of our lives.

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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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