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05 March 2017

Improving Temple Ordinance Accuracy at RootsTech

FamilySearch Family Tree Accuracy


For 13 years, I had a problem. A colossal problem. A rookie genealogist problem that messed up my family tree and my service in a Latter-Day Saint Temple. At RootsTech, a new booth helped me improve the temple ordinance accuracy for my relative.

I am a FamilySearch.org Fan Girl. I seriously need a shirt that states the fact, but I wonder if there's a licensing issue that might get in the way. Alas, there's one limitation when you take a name to the temple that shouldn't have passed the checks. It's often difficult to prove the ordinance wasn't needed and thereby have it invalidated.

This year, I went to the FamilySearch booth at RootsTech and asked a representative for help. Now, many will say, just use the contact us options on FamilySearch.org. I have. The support staff that you can contact 24/7 365 are great, but they're volunteers. Some problems are not solvable through the volunteers. Sometimes you need to go to an engineer.




The main FamilySearch.org exhibit booth wasn't capable of handling my problem. However, this year there was something new, and I was personally escorted over to a group of charming employees ready to handle my case. I was talking to the right people!

Flash back 13 years ago. As a 'box-checking' genealogist in my early days (pre-FamilySearch.org), I took a name to the temple without doing my due diligence and finding the person's whole documented story. I had confused my great aunt with my her brother-in-law. In so doing, I killed her off long before her ultimate demise. Thankfully it was only on paper and in data bits and not reality! I promise this isn't a true crimes confession. I just made a rookie genealogy mistake, but I took that mistake to the temple, and that's when things get complicated.

But as a rookie genealogist so inspired to find names and take them to the temple, I didn't listen. While in the temple 13 years ago, the Spirit was telling me that there was something wrong. I looked down at the little card in my hand and wondered, was she really dead? Did I make a mistake?

As a naive young woman, I didn't listen. I had prepared this name to the temple. I was right. I brushed off the feeling. I was doing family names by golly! But, I wasn't.

Shortly after that, I knew why I felt weird. My great aunt woman was still living, breathing, and walking her cats around the neighborhood. That temple work didn't count. You can't get to proxy work for living individuals. I had just wasted everyone's time. Even worse, I had made the temple records inaccurate.


The prophet of my childhood, President Spencer W Kimball said:

Temple and Missionary Work are the Same

But, while the prophets insist we take names to the temple, the scriptures warn us to be accurate:
“Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:22, 24.)
In short, I made a big boo-boo 13 years ago. For ten years, I dealt with the guilt. I didn't want to admit that I had messed up. I didn't know what that fallout would be. But I used the experience to become a better genealogist. I refuse to take names to the temple for people whom I have not conducted a reasonably exhaustive search.

Now, FamilySearch.org has several temple ordinance reservation policies in place that would prevent me from taking this ancestor to the temple if I submitted her today. First, her birthday is under 110 years so that I would need next of kin permission from her daughters. I didn't have that back then. I could obtain it now. When I do ask the next of kin, I then have to tell FamilySesarch.org that person's contact information and know that the volunteers just might follow-up. Yep folks, those rules are in place for a reason. A very good reason.

These new policies would prevent the problem from happening today, but how do I fix the problem from 13 years ago?

Customer Service said I needed a death certificate for my great aunt to prove that she died later than I thought she did. Unfortunately, that next of kin thing also prevents me from obtaining a copy of my great aunt's vital record. I've asked her daughters for three years for a copy for genealogy purposes. They don't mind me having the records. They just haven't sent a copy. And I haven't made headway in solving the invalid ordinance.

Enter the data specialist booth. I explained the situation to a cheerful and capable engineer. I showed her that I was the one who messed up. I work on so many ancestors that I don't always remember what I do have while focusing on what I don't. When my great aunt was pulled up on FamilySearch.org, we scrolled down to the source section. To my surprise, I had attached her gGravestone photo attached and a Social Security Death Index with a death date 10 years after the ordinance date. I had done due diligence in research to the best of my ability. That felt so good!

The data specialist show sufficient evidence, and perhaps enough guilt to invalidate the work. With a few short keystrokes and mouse movements, FamilySearch.org now accurately reflects the temple work as it pertains to my great aunt.

After 13 years of guilt, no success, 10 minutes with the right purpose reviewing my evidence, things are all sorted out. The person who suggested and implemented the data specialist booth needs to be treated to lunch!

Ultimately, I share this story to emphasize the need to improve the accuracy of the names LDS temple worshippers take to the temple. Move beyond the desire to 'just take a name' to the temple. Take a name that needs the work done, and has accurate information. That way the right ordinances are done for the correct people. And when we do that, the power keg of spiritual blessings from going to the temple and taking family names is like an atom bomb rather than TNT. 

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