Spiritual Experiences

I am spending a lot of time working on the history of my parents. It is a complex project.

Anyone attempting to write the history of people they love is confronted with great challenges. How do you tell the story and get it right? How do you handle weaknesses? How do you handle their conflicts? How do you relate all the mistakes, all the bad decisions and all the humanity of their lives without distorting their goodness or impacting how they might be seen by future generations?

It is a minefield.

One of the many stories I want to tell of my Mom and Dad lies in their spiritual journeys. Mom and Dad could not have been more different in their spiritual experiences.

It was something I heard them frankly discuss. I also had conversations with them about it individually. I heard their testimonies and their questions. My Dad in particular was frustrated and felt unworthy, especially when he compared his spiritual experiences to those of my Mother.

Dad’s experiences were of the “still small voice” variety. There were no great visions, no visitations, no grand manifestations or detailed revelations.

He told me once of how he had a spiritual experience as a boy about the Prophet Joseph Smith. He just was given the gift to know that Joseph was a prophet. It was after that boyhood experience that Dad actually engaged in the scholarly work of exploring the things that Joseph actually wrote and taught. He felt his spiritual confirmation as a young man aided his doubting adult mind and opened him up to what Joseph brought forward.

Mother’s experiences were much more dramatic.

As a convert, she was given a spectacular experience as she read the Book of Mormon. Mom had a near death experience related to a miscarriage in which she visited the other side, was talked to and given a choice. Her spiritual gifts, as they are called, were completely opposite of my Dad.

What has been instructive in all this as their son has been that my spiritual experiences can and do go either way. I seem to have inherited a little of both, if such a thing can be inherited. What it has taught me is a reverence for the experiences people claim.

I have learned to respect them. I think it is important to learn what we can from the spiritual experiences of others, rather than to be critical of them.

On these pages I have not shied away from sharing the dreams, visions and otherworldly experiences of family through the ages.

I share them because they are a part of the people we love, regardless of whatever Church they were a part of in this life.

With all that being said, I’d like to share below two deeply spiritual experiences that have come across that give me much to ponder.

These come from men who are not exactly related – but they are connected to us as family.

~ Zeke Johnson’s Witness of a Resurrection ~

Zeke Johnson

Zeke Johnson was the son of Joel Hills Johnson, who I’ve talked about before. He lived from 1869 to 1957.

Around the year 1908 he had a profound experience while plowing a field. This is his telling of that experience:

“I have been requested to relate an experience I had in 1908-9 in San Juan Co. I was just making a home in Blanding and the whole country there was covered with trees and sagebrush. I was working hard to clear the ground to plant a few acres of corn. We had five acres cleared and stared to plant corn. My little boy, Roy, about 7 or 8 years old was there to help me plant the corn. I’d plow around the place, then he would plant the furrow with corn, then I’d cover it and plow again. While I was plowing on that piece of ground, I discovered there were ancient houses there, that is the remains of them.

As I was plowing around I noticed that my plow had turned out the skeleton of a small child, the skull and backbone, but most of the bones of course were decayed and gone. Part of the skeleton was there, so I stopped immediately as my plow had passes it a little. I turned and looked back against the bar of the plow between the needles. As I was looking at that little skeleton that I had plowed out and wondering, all of a sudden, to my surprise, I saw the bones begin to wiggle and they began to change position and to take different color and within a minute there lay a beautiful little skeleton. It was a perfect little skeleton.

Then I saw the inner parts of the natural body coming in the entrails, etc. I saw the flesh coming on, and I saw the skin come on the body when the inner parts of the body were complete. A beautiful head of hair adorned the top of the head, and in about a half minute after the hair was on the head, it had a beautiful crystal decoration in the hair. It was combed beautifully and parted on one side. In about half a minute after the hair was on the head, the child raised up on her feet. She was lying a little on her left side with her back toward me. Because of this I wasn’t able to discern the sex of the child, but as she raised, a beautiful robe came down over her left shoulder and I saw it must be a girl.

She looked at me and I looked at her, and for a quarter of a minute we just looked at each other smiling. Then in my ambition to get hold of her, I said, ‘Oh you beautiful child.’ I reached out as if I would embrace her and she disappeared. That was all I saw, and I just stood there and wondered and thought for a few minutes… Now, I couldn’t tell that story to anyone, because it was so mysterious to me and such. Why should I have such a miraculous experience? I couldn’t feature a human being in such a condition as to accidentally plow that little body out and see it come alive. A body of a child about 5 to 7 years old, I’d say. I just couldn’t tell that story to anyone until finally, one day I met a dear friend of mine, Stake Patriarch, Wayne II. Redd of Blanding. He stopped me on the street, and said, ‘Zeke, you have had an experience on this mesa you won’t tell, and I want you to tell me.’ Well, I told it to him. Then he had me tell it to other friends and since then I’ve told it in 4 temples in the United States, and many meeting houses, many socials, Fast meetings, and at Conference time.

I wondered and worried about it for years as to why I was allowed to see it, a common man like me – uneducated as I was. Why was I, just a common man, allowed to see such a marvelous manifestation of God’s powers? One day as I was walking along with my hoe on my shoulder, going to hoe some corn, something said, ‘Stop under the shade of the tree for a few minutes and rest.’ This just came to me and I thought I would, so I stopped there and this was given to me:

It was an answer to my prayers. I prayed incessantly for an answer as to why I was privileged to see that resurrection. Then I was told why. When the child was buried there, it was either in time of war with the different tribes, or it was wintertime when the ground was frozen, and they had no tools to dig deep graves. If it were during time of war they couldn’t possibly take time to dig a deep grave. They just planted the little body as they could under the circumstances. Then it was done, the sorrowing Mother knew that it was such a little shallow grave that in her sorrow she cried out to the little group present, ‘That little shallow grave, the first beast that comes along will smell her body, and will dig her up and scatter her to the four winds. Her bones will be scattered all over these flats.’

There just happened to be a man present holding the Priesthood. (A Nephite or a Jaredite, I don’t know which, because they both had been in this country.) This man said, ‘Sister, calm your sorrows. Whenever that little body is disturbed or uncovered, the Lord will call her up and she will live.’ Since that time I have taken great comfort, great cheer, consolation, and satisfaction with praise in my heart and soul, until I haven’t the words to express it, that it was I that uncovered that little body.

Thank you for listening to me. I just can’t tell this without crying.”

I am gratified to have this experience shared in Zeke Johnson’s own words. I think such sacred experiences need to be shared this way.

As I try to write the sacred things my Mom and Dad passed through I struggle with getting the details right and accurately reflecting things correctly. This is one reason why these sacred things need to be prayerfully considered.

My mother once told me of a profound experience she had. She told me there were things about it she could share and other things she could never share. She never betrayed the charge she was given to keep some things to herself. But she wanted me to understand that those sacred things were given to her anyway.

I find this a common thread as I research and learn of the sacred experiences of others. Even still, there are a great many instructive things we can takeaway from what they can share. Such is the case in this next story.

~ The Vision of Heber Hale ~

Heber Q. Hale

Heber Hale was the son of Solomon and Anna Clark Hale. Our family connection is told somewhat in this post, as Anna Clark was once a plural wife of James C. Snow.

Heber was born in a stalwart Mormon family. The lives of Soloman and Anna Clark Hale testify of the environment he grew up in.

So it is no surprise that in later life Heber served in leadership positions in the Church. He was faithful to those things he was taught.

Still, he had his spiritual struggles. For Heber, there was difficulty for him in understanding the proxy work that takes place in temples. Even while a Church leader he prayed over his questions that troubled him.

Those questions and prayers led to this experience:

“It is with a very humble and grateful spirit that I attempt to relate on this occasion (by request) a personal experience, which is very sacred to me. I must, of necessity, be brief.

Furthermore, there were certain things made known to me which I don’t feel at liberty to relate here. Let me say, by way of preface, that between the hours of twelve and seven-thirty in the night of January 20, 1920, while alone in a room at the home of W. R. Rawson in Carey, Idaho, this glorious manifestation was vouchsafed to me. I was not conscious of anything that transpired during the hours mentioned, except what I experienced in this manifestation. I did not turn over in bed, nor was I disturbed by any sound, which, indeed, is unusual for me. Whether it be called a dream, an apparition, a vision, or a pilgrimage of my spirit into the world of spirits, I know not. I care not. I know that I actually saw and experienced the things related in this heavenly manifestation, and they are as real to me as any experience of my life. For me, at least, this is sufficient.

Of all the doctrines and practices of the Church, the principle of vicarious work for the dead has been the most difficult for me to comprehend and wholeheartedly accept. I consider this vision as the Lord’s answer to the prayer of my soul on this and certain other questions.”

“I passed but a short distance from my body through a film into the world of spirits. This was my first experience after going to sleep. I seemed to realize that I had passed through the change called “death,” and I so referred to it in my conversation with the immortal beings with whom I immediately came in contact. I readily observed their displeasure at our use of the word death and the fear which we attach to it. They use there another word in referring to the transition from mortality to immortality, which word I don’t recall, and I can only approach its meaning and the impression which was left upon my mind by calling it “the new birth.”

My first visual impression was the nearness of the world of spirits to the world of mortality. The vastness of this heavenly sphere was bewildering to the eyes of the spirit-novice. Many enjoyed unrestricted vision and unimpeded action, while many others were visibly restricted as to both vision and action. The vegetation and landscape were beautiful beyond description — not all green as here, but gold with varying shades of pink, orange, and lavender, as the rainbow. A sweet calmness pervaded everything.

The people I met there — I did not think of them as spirits, but as men and women — self-thinking and self-acting individuals, going about important business in a most orderly manner.

There was perfect order there and everybody had something to do and seemed to be about their business.

That the inhabitants of the spirit world are classified according to their lives of purity and their subservience to the Father’s will, was subsequently made apparent. Particularly was it observed that the wicked and unrepentant are confined to a certain district by themselves, the confines of which are as definitely determined and impassable as the line marking the division of the physical from the spiritual world — a mere film, but impassable until the person himself was changed. This world of spirits is the temporary abode of all spirits pending the resurrection from the dead and the judgment. There was much activity within the different spheres, and appointed ministers of salvation were seen coming from the higher to the lower spheres in pursuit of their missionary appointments.

I had a very pronounced desire to meet certain of my kin folk and friends, but I was at once impressed with the fact that I had entered a tremendously great and extensive world, even greater than our earth and more numerously inhabited. I could be in only one place at a time, could do only one thing at a time, could look in only one direction at a time, and accordingly, it would require many, many years to search out and converse with all those I had known and those whom I desired to meet unless they were especially summoned to receive me.

All men and women were appointed to special [and regular] service under a well organized plan of action directed principally toward [preaching the gospel to the unconverted, teaching those who seek for knowledge and] establishing family relationships and gathering genealogies for the use and benefit of mortal survivors of their respective families, that the work of baptism and [the] sealing [of] ordinances may be vicariously performed for the departed in the temples of God upon the earth. The authorized representatives of families in the world of spirits have access to our temple records and are kept fully advised of the work done therein, but the vicarious work done here does not become effective automatically.

The recipients must first believe, repent, and accept baptism and confirmation; then certain [officiating] consummating ordinances are performed effectualizing these saving principles in the lives of these regenerated beings. And so the great work is going on — they doing a work there which we cannot do here, and we a work here which they cannot do there for the salvation of all God’s children who will be saved.

I was surprised to find there, no babes in arms. I met the infant son of Orson W. Rawlings, my first counselor. I immediately recognized him as the baby who died a few years ago, and yet he seemed to have the intelligence and, in certain respects, the appearance of an adult, and was engaged in matters pertaining to his family and its genealogy. My mind was quite contented upon the point that mothers will again receive into their arms their children who died in infancy and will be fully satisfied; but the fact remains that entrance into the world of spirits is not an inhibition to growth but the greatest opportunity for development. Babies are adult spirits in infant bodies.

I [presently] beheld a mighty multitude of men — the largest I had ever seen gathered in one place, whom I immediately recognized as soldiers — the millions who had been slaughtered and rushed so savagely into the world of spirits during the great world war. Among them moved calmly and majestically, a great general in supreme command. As I drew nearer, I received the kindly smile and generous welcome of a great loving man — General Richard W. Young. Then came the positive conviction to my soul, that of all the men living or dead there is not one who is so perfectly fitted for the great mission unto which he had been called. He commands immediately the attention and respect of all the soldiers. He is at once a great general and a great High Priest of God. No earthly field of labor to which he could have been assigned could compare with it in importance and extent. I passed from this scene to return later, when I found General Young had this vast army of men completely organized with officers over successive divisions, and all were seated, and he was preaching the Gospel in great earnestness [to them].

As I passed forward, I soon met my beloved mother. She greeted me most affectionately and expressed surprise at seeing me there and reminded me that I had not completed my allotted mission on earth. She seemed to be going somewhere and was in a hurry and accordingly took her leave, saying that she would see me again soon.

I moved forward, covering an appreciable distance and consuming considerable time, viewing the wonderful sights of landscape, parks, trees, and flowers, and meeting people, some of whom I knew, but many thousands of whom I did not recognize [as acquaintances]. I presently approached a small group of men, standing in a path lined with spacious stretches of flowers, grasses, and shrubs, all of [a] golden hue, marking the approach to a beautiful building. The group was engaged in earnest conversation. One of their number parted from the rest and came walking down the path.

I at once recognized my esteemed President Joseph F. Smith. He embraced me as a father would his son and, after a few words of greeting, quickly remarked: “You have not come to stay,” which remark I understood more as a declaration than an interrogation. For the first time I became fully conscious of my uncompleted mission on earth and, [as] much as I would have liked to remain, I at once asked President Smith, if I might return [to earth]. “You have expressed a righteous desire,” he replied, “and I shall take the matter up with the authorities and let you know later.”

We then returned and he led me toward the little group of men from whom he had just separated. I immediately recognized President Brigham Young and the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was surprised to find the former a shorter and heavier built man than I had pictured him in my mind to be. On the other hand, I found the latter to be taller than I had expected to find him. Both they and the President were possessed of a calm and holy majesty, which was at once kind and kingly. We then retraced our steps and President Smith took his leave saying he would see me again.

From a certain vantage point, I was permitted to view this earth and what was going on here. There was no limitation to my vision and I was astounded at this. I saw my wife and children at home. I saw President Heber J. Grant at the head of the great Church and Kingdom of God, and felt the divine power that radiates from God giving it light and truth and guiding its destiny. I beheld this nation, founded as it is upon correct principles and designed to endure, but beset by evil and sinister forces that seek to lead men [astray and thwart] the purposes of God. I saw towns and cities, the sins and wickedness of men and women. I saw vessels sailing [upon] the oceans and scanned the battle-scarred fields of France and Belgium.

In a word I beheld the whole world, as if it were but a panorama passing before my eyes. Then there came to be the unmistakable impression that this earth and scenes and persons upon it are open to the vision of the spirits only when special permission is given, or when they are assigned to special service here. This is particularly true of the righteous, who are busily engaged in two fields of activity at the same time. [They may be active among the living as well as the dead.]

The wicked and unrepentant [spirits] have still, like the rest, their free agency, and, applying themselves to no useful or wholesome undertaking, seek pleasure about their old haunts and exalt in the sin and wretchedness of degenerated humanity. To this extent they are still tools of Satan. It is these idle, mischievous, and deceptive spirits who appear as miserable counterfeits at spiritualist séances, table dances, and ouija board operation. The noble and great ones do not respond to the call of the mediums and to every curious group of meddlesome inquirers. They would not do it in the world of mortality, certainly they would not do it in their increased state of knowledge in the world of immortality. These wicked and unrepentant spirits are allies of Satan and his host, operating through willing mediums in the flesh.

These three forces [Satan, his host, and the unrepentant spirits] constitute an unholy trinity upon the earth and are responsible for all the sin, wickedness, distress, and misery among men and nations.

I moved forward feasting my eyes upon the beauty of everything about me and glorifying in the indescribable peace and happiness that abound in everybody and through everything. The farther I went the more glorious things appeared. While standing at a certain vantage point, I beheld, a short distance away, a wonderful, beautiful temple capped with golden domes, from which emerged a small group of men dressed in white robes, who paused for a brief conversation. They were the first I had seen thus clad; the millions that I had previously seen were in uniforms.

In this little group of holy men my eyes cantered upon one more splendorous and holy than the rest. While I thus gazed, President Joseph F. Smith parted from the others and came to my side. “Do you know him?” he inquired. I quickly answered, “Yes, I know him. My eyes behold my Lord and Savior.” “It is true,” said President Smith. And, oh, how my soul thrilled with rapture and unspeakable joy filled my heart.

President Smith informed me that I had been given permission to return and complete the mission upon the earth which the Lord had appointed to me to fulfill. Then with his hand upon my shoulder he uttered these memorable and significant words,

“Brother Heber, you have a great work to do. Go forward with a prayerful heart and you shall be blessed in your ministry. From this time on never doubt that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, the Savior of the world, that the Holy Ghost is a God of Spirit and the messenger of the Father and the Son. Never doubt the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of the soul; that the destiny of man is eternal progress. Never again doubt that the mission of the Latter-Day Saints is to all mankind, both the living and the dead; that the great work in the holy temples for the living and the dead has only begun. Know this: that Joseph Smith was sent of God to usher in the gospel dispensation of the Fullness of Times, which is the last unto mortals upon the earth. His successors have all been called and approved of God. President Heber J. Grant is at this time the recognized and ordained head of the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Give him your confidence and support. Much of what you have seen and heard here you will not be permitted to repeat when you return.” Thus saying he bade me goodbye and God bless you.

Quite a distance through various scenes and passing innumerable people I travelled before I reached the spheres which I had first entered. On my way I was greeted by many friends and relatives, certain of whom sent words of greeting and counsel to their dear ones here — my mother being one of them. One other I will mention. Brother John Adamson, his wife, his son James, and their daughter Isabelle, all of whom were killed by the hand of a foul assassin in their home at Carey, Idaho, on the evening of October 29, 1915. They seemed to divine that I was on my way back to mortality and immediately said (Brother Adamson was speaking), “Tell the children that we are very happy and very busy and they should not mourn our departure, nor worry their minds over the way in which we were taken. There is purpose in it, and we have a work to do here which requires our collective efforts, and which we could not do individually.” I was at once made to know that the work referred to was that of genealogy on which they are working in England and Scotland.

One of the grandest and most sacred things of heaven is the family relationship. The establishment of a complete chain without any broken links brings a fulness of joy. Links wholly bad will be dropped out and either new links put in or the two adjoining links welded together. Men and women everywhere throughout the world are being moved upon by their departed ancestors to gather genealogies. These are the links for the chain. The ordinances of baptism, endowments, and sealings performed in the temples of God, by living, for the dead are the welding of the links. Ordinances are performed in the spirit world effectualizing the individual recipient for the receiving and saving principles of the gospel vicariously performed here.

As I was approaching the place where I entered, my attention was attracted towards a number of small groups of women preparing what appeared to be wearing apparel. Observing my inquiring countenance one of the women remarked, “We are preparing to receive Brother Worthington very soon.” As I gasped his name in repetition I was admonished, “If you knew the joy and the glorious mission that awaits him here, you would not ask to have him longer detained upon the earth.” Then came flooding my consciousness this awful truth that the will of the Lord can be done on earth as it is in heaven only when we resign completely to His will and let His will be done in and through us. On account of the selfishness of many, persons who might have otherwise been taken in innocence and peace have been permitted to live, and have lived to their own peril and this assertion of personal will as against the will of God. Phillip Worthington died January 22, 1920, of which I was advised by telegram and returning to Boise I preached his funeral sermon on January 25, 1920.

Men, women, and children are often called to missions of great importance on the other side. Some respond gladly while others refuse to go, and their loved ones will not give them up. Also, many die because they have not the faith to be healed. Others yet, live among and pass out of the world of mortals without any special manifestation of the divine will. When a man is stricken ill, the question of prime importance is not: “Is he going to live?” or, “Is he going to die?” (What matters isn’t whether he lives or dies as long as the will of the Father is done!)

Surely we can trust him with God. Herein lies the special duty and privilege of administration by the right and authority of the Holy Priesthood, namely: It is given to the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ to divine the will of the Father concerning the one upon whose head their hands are held. If for any reason thy are unable to presage the Father’s will, then they should continue to pray in faith for the afflicted one, humbly conceding supremacy to the will of God, that His will may be done in earth as it is done in heaven.

The righteous person’s birth into the world of spirits is a glorious privilege and blessing. The greatest spirits in the family of the Father have not usually been permitted to tarry longer in the flesh than to perform a certain mission; then they are called to the world of spirits where the field is greater and the workers fewer. This earthly mission may therefore be long or short as the Father wills.

I now declare to the world that irrespective of [the opinion] of others I do know of my own positive knowledge and from my own personal experience, that God is the Father of the spirits of all men, and that He lives; that Jesus Christ is His Son and the Saviour of the world; that the spirit of man does not die but survives the change called death and goes to the world of spirits; that the world of spirits is on or near this earth; [that man’s individuality is not lost by death, nor is his progress inhibited,;] that the principles of salvation are now being taught to the spirits and the great work of joining the Father’s family among the living and the dead is now in progress, and that but comparatively few will ultimately be lost; that spirits will literally take up their bodies again in the resurrection; and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has [again] been established upon the earth with all of its keys, powers, authority, and blessings through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith; that this is the power that will not only save and exalt everyone who yields obedience to its principles, but will ultimately save the world; that the burden of our mission is to save souls unto God; and that the work for the salvation of the dead is of no less importance than the work for the living.”

~ Resisting the Urge to Be Critical ~

I watched a movie recently called Heaven is for Real. It tells the fairly recent story of Todd Burpo, whose 4 year old son experienced the other side during an operation for a burst appendix.

The movie was less about the experience itself than the story of what Mr. Burpo endured as a result of what he learned through his child.

It threw him into a crisis of faith. And, as we have seen all too many times, it told the story of people who mocked, doubted and criticized him as a faith leader because of the details he shared of his son’s experience.

We see this all the time. People mock what they fear or are ignorant about.

This is one of the reasons why I feel it is important that we share the spiritual experiences we have, where we are allowed.

Like my Mom and Dad, our personal spiritual experiences are going to vary. To some are given more, to others less.

So when I share experiences like the ones above I encourage an open mind. Much as family stories will vary in the telling by individual the “belief”, if you will, in the spiritual experiences of others is going to be different.

Some may be beyond belief, at least from what our minds know and understand right now.

Even still, it is important to know these stories and to appreciate the perspectives they come from. I believe there is great value in knowing of them even if we don’t embrace them as 100% truth.

I think there is purpose in these experiences and I will continue to share them as I discover them.

I am learning that these experiences are starting to add up. In these pages we have shared many of them – the blessing received of the stranger by Ann Findley Westover, the other-side experience of Ella Jensen, the vision of the baptism of family members by Alexander Westover, and many others.

There’s a reason our ancestors and some of our family here now have these experiences. The more we can absorb them the more we can learn and be prepared for the spiritual experiences held in reserve for ourselves.

Family History

Family History vs Family Story

Of all the projects at the end of Dad’s life nothing was more passionate to him than the history he was writing of my Mother.

He attacked it in typical Dad fashion. He wrote an outline, he gave each salient section an objective, he selected pictures and started jotting down notes of things he did not want to forget.

He began writing and re-writing. Dad also warned me that he was going to need help in the way of perspectives from each of his children.

In a conversation I held with him the last Sunday of his life about this and other family history projects Dad said he felt he owed Mom to do this right.

For all his efforts, for all the fantastic detail he left for me, especially about their early life together and their courtship, it pains me to think I will need to finish this project.

I have had more than two years and it has occupied my thoughts a great deal.

As is my way, I spend part of Rootstech weekend every year doing maintenance to this site and catching up on things that need to be taken care of.

In that process, I came across this video we did for Mom and Dad on the celebration of their 50th anniversary:

Of course, that event and this video were produced 14 years ago.

It was a collaborative effort. Voices heard in that video are considerably younger. All those images had to be gathered from my siblings and their families. It left no one out up to that point in time.

In seeing it again I marvel at how much has changed since we made this video.

For example, all ten of my grandchildren came after that video and that event.

Of course, since that time, we have lost both Mom and Dad.

So very much has happened. Some hard things have been experienced. The world, inside and outside of the family, has changed.

Their story, at least as we would view it in a slideshow like above, has changed. It has continued. It has expanded. It has taken on new twists and turns.

And, of course, it continues still. Their story is not complete.

It makes me wonder: how do I catch up?

History, to me, is an accounting of what happened. The story, however, is how and why it happened, and it includes far reaching consequences Mom and Dad did not live to see (well…maybe).

Which is more important? The history or the story? And if you want to tell both the history and the story of a person or a family, how do you do it exactly?

As I have mulled these questions, even as my own history and story takes on new twists and turns, I’ve decided to deviate a bit from Dad’s original plan he outlined of Mom’s history.

I’m still going to use it – all of it – but I’m going to include his history into a new effort.

I don’t believe I can tell Mom’s story without Dad’s story included. And vice versa. Mom and Dad sometimes had a passionate and even volatile relationship. Together they could sync in mad creative fits and at other times be so at odds they could hardly look at each other. I believe Mom and Dad, together, were much more than what they came to be individually.

How do you convey that? How can I share all those complexities and still get the history and the story right?

At Rootstech I went to two classes dedicated to writing family history. I left quite unsatisfied.

Like with most things I find associated with genealogy, there is something of a strict format to doing this “right”. There are rules. There are set ways to go about this.

Nearly every idea I have had in considering this seems to break those rules. What I am thinking of how to do this does not fit within what family historians are supposed to do.

We have some outstanding family history records left from generations past. I appreciate those things but I don’t want to leave the same kind of record. I think we can do better. I think we should at least try.

When I reach back in history and try to piece together the lives of family from 500 years ago I’m limited by the fact that no matter what I do I cannot capture the essence of these people.

I was not there. I didn’t know them. I can only piece together the facts and comment on what I see.

That’s not true of my parents.

I do know them. I have had not only my own life experiences but I have talked at length with both my parents about their lives. I know their feelings.

More importantly there is a dynamic (or two) between my parents that needs to be included in any history written about them.

I want to give my best in helping my children, grandchildren and generations beyond to know my parents and the family that surrounded them in as intimate detail as I can.

It’s something of a dangerous prospect.

So many histories we read tend to glorify individuals. My parents deserve to be honored but can we do that while being real? Is it possible to create a life record that reflects weaknesses, imperfections, mistakes, missteps and failures as a part of telling their glorious story.

I believe we can produce that. I believe we can leave a better record.

Being me – my mother’s son – perhaps this is to be expected.

In my work life I have long trained my people to follow their instincts with some things. “You Don’t Have to Do What You’re Told” is a lesson I preach over and over. The idea is that in many cases there several right ways to do different things. “Rules” sometimes constrict us – and at least with some of them, they beg to be excused.

And why should I conform? These are my parents. Their history and their story is not only vitally important to me but for my grandchildren, who are too young at present to understand many things, I want them to experience my folks and not just retrace the cold statistics of their birth, life and passing.

So, casting aside all the formats and the rules, I have decided the following:

First, like the video above, this needs to be collaborative effort. I will seek out others who knew my Mom and Dad for their perspectives.

Second, my father being the ultimate geek and my mother being the mad-creative family historian, this record needs to include as many of their creations as we can include. I have literally tens of thousands of images, documents, artifacts and other associated “stuff” to help create the record.

The record needs to be more than just written words. It can include a book. It most certainly can be digitized. But it can also, in some way, include a little of what they left behind. Remember, it can be a better record.

I also feel this needs to include, where possible, grandchildren of my parents. What a rare opportunity stares at us here by getting their perspective.

How long will this thing be? I have no clue.

How long will it take to come together? I have no idea.

Just how will we get the completed projects in the hands who will keep it and share it in the years ahead? I’m not sure.

But since I’ve come to these conclusions I can tell you I’ve found an energetic groove. I can get this now off of step one – and maybe check off a few of those boxes representing the family history projects Dad left for me to complete.

Family History and Tools of Artificial Intelligence

It is kind of stunning how the term “AI” has taken over RootsTech this year.

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and it is revolutionizing the Internet and nearly every industry that uses it.

In my book, and I’m going to go on an old man rant here, AI is what gives us toilets that flush just as we are sitting down and maps that take us out to the middle of nowhere and dump us off a cliff.

In my experience, the budding technology of AI is long on artificial and short on intelligence.

In my real-world work life so far AI has proven to be a jobs-killer. In what I do, words are paramount. From crafting a written article to designing a well-written product description, my writer’s brain is all about clear short-form communication that is friendly to search engines and people alike.

AI is taking the keyboard away from people like me.

Imagine it: you write a well-researched article for a website or a publication that takes time and considerable research. It gets posted. Then some AI-enabled bot comes along and scrapes your content, re-arranges a few words, and publishes your stuff without credit or compensation to you. That’s the real world of AI right now.

It is simple thievery at best and plagiarism at worst. Artists of every stripe are affected: writers, musicians, sculptors and, yes, even photographers (and many others).

How does AI fit into family history?

That is a very fair question.

You see, there are parts to doing family history that I do not care for – specifically, the heavy lifting of data. You know, the stuff of names, places, and dates we attach to every family member to document their lives.

The genealogical part of family research is tedious. It requires a detective’s mind and strict standards of sourcing. There are books, classes and even college degrees about this stuff.

The reason I don’t care for this part of family history is that I lack the training, the knowledge, and especially the discipline to do it right. Like doctors, it takes someone special to do this work well.

FamilySearch, which is the clear center of the family history world, is embracing AI to make the tedious work of genealogical data easier and faster for family historians.

This is a good thing if you think about it. If FamilySearch can use AI to generate better search results why wouldn’t we embrace that?

They are using AI to read old handwritten records to index them without human eyes. That’s okay, right? Sure. As long as it is accurate and does not waste time for someone digging for the truth.

At the end of the day that kind of use of AI is useful and doesn’t compromise the needed accuracy of traditional genealogical standards.

But AI at RootsTech in 2024 is going way beyond these obvious uses. Like everything AI everywhere, RootsTech is infested with AI gone silly.

How silly?

There are vendors hawking AI-generated chat bots that emulate your ancestors. You can actually talk to your ancestors via AI.

Do you feel comfortable with that?

There are now AI-driven programs to write your family history.

Do you see where this is going?

Let me give you a visual of how AI is being used right now and why is it not necessarily a good thing for family history.

Here is an image we all know of Edwin Ruthvin Westover. It’s not even a photograph. It is, ironically, an image made by hand many years ago by a family member interpreting what Edwin might have looked like. Like many, I have appreciated this image:

Edwin Ruthven Westover

Well, we already know this isn’t really Edwin. It’s a drawing. So what could possibly be wrong with using another interpretation? Check this out:

Using this image, plus a few words that sends the AI-generator out on to the Internet, it returned this new photo-realistic image of Edwin:

Not Edwin

Is this a good thing?

Imagine I put this on Ancestry or on Family Search claiming this is Edwin. All it takes is one person to do this and it can never be retracted.

We see it over and over again. In fact, I sometimes get myself in trouble by identifying images that are inaccurately posted. I once had the nerve to declare an image false because it was posted as being an individual who was born in 1715.

I didn’t have to work hard to prove it – the first actual images of humans didn’t surface until the very late 1830s.

Despite pointing it out that image continues out there online attributed to the person it can never actually be, attached to who knows how many family trees.

What happens when AI using a real photo instead of a drawing? Well, I ran this well-known and proven image of William Rowe:

William Rowe

Here’s the AI William Rowe:

Not William Rowe

I don’t have a problem with AI used as a tool to help me find true information.

But I have to draw the line at using AI for anything other than a tool.

Truth in digging through the past is challenging enough to find.

Generating mistruth muddies the waters way too much for family history.


Decisions and Consequences

When Gabriel and Joanne Westover of Taunton, England married in 1618 they likely had no idea how larger events would impact their family.

A son, John, was born in 1619. Then came a daughter, Johanne. Another son came in 1622, named Gabriel III, and another, named Richard, was born in 1623.

Then there is a gap in the ages of their children.

As Puritans, the Westover’s were embroiled in the overall conflict between the Crown and Parliament. Religion, theology and control of the Church of England was at the center of the conflict and it affected those who opposed the Crown.

In 1625 Charles I ascended to the throne and persecution of his enemies, which included the Puritans, intensified.

As with many other Puritan families, Gabriel and Joanne Westover reportedly took their young family to the Netherlands to escape the conflict. But it appears they soon returned to Taunton.

More children came to the family. Daughter Jane came in 1626 and Jonah was born in 1628. During the 1630s four more children would be born.

During these years the conflict escalated.

Charles I dissolved Parliament and persecution of Puritans powered what is called the Great Migration, where over a period of roughly ten years during the 1630s more than 80,000 people, mostly Puritans, sailed to the New World in order to “grow a society of Saints”.

During these years, right around the time their youngest child Joshua would be born in Taunton, Gabriel and Joanne made a fateful decision. They first sent Jane, believed to be about 14 years old, to the New World. Then they sent Jonah, age 11, in 1639.

Why these two children were sent is not known. It is written that the original intent was to migrate as a family but the Westover’s lacked the financial resources to do so. Perhaps Jane and Jonah were sent because they were old enough to be self-sufficient but young enough to have the best opportunities in the New World.

Regardless, Gabriel and Joanne would never see these children again.

Jane and Jonah stayed in America and built families. Gabriel and Joanne, like many other Puritans, decided to stay in England after civil war broke out and Charles I was defeated in 1645.

That decision, made under real world pressures, would have long-lasting consequences for the Westover family.

It is doubtful this ever crossed the minds of Gabriel and Joanne. They were concerned about just surviving.

Yet here we are, nearly 400 years later, exploring how this one decision has had a lasting impact on our family history.

There would be many others.

~ Personal and Sacred ~

When I was a teenager my Mom told me of a near death experience she had when I was very little. It was a story she would tell me at least four other times in my life.

As I work on the history of my parents I have struggled with whether or not to share this story. We are told to be careful in sharing sacred experiences and to me this was as sacred and as personal as a story can get.

But like the story of Gabriel and Joanne Westover of 400 years ago this story highlights a moment of decision that impacted our family history. It needs to be told.


Mom with the four of us not long before the ectopic pregnancy

My Mom had four of us in the span of five years. After my youngest brother, David, was born, my parents entered a period of transition that saw many significant life changes. My Nana, Mom’s mother, passed away. She was 49 and my Mom was just 25. My Dad graduated from college during these years, he started his career and we moved from the place we had first called home as a family.

During these years mom had an ectopic pregnancy resulting in a severe medical emergency.

One of the things to know about my mother is that she had some extraordinary spiritual gifts. Shortly after my parents married my mother converted, but only after having a vision related to the Book of Mormon.

She told me that story many times as well, and I’ve discussed that event with my Dad many times. It was the kind of revelatory experience I believe many of us hope for and the type you read about in books and in scripture.

Perhaps Mother was given such a gift because of her standing in her family, and the work of family history and temple that would later manifest itself in her life. Whatever the reason, Mom was prone to have connection with the other side. It was her gift.

I remember mom telling me of her severe pain and the operating room they rushed her to when this happened. They began to operate immediately and while they did Mom’s spirit separated from her body.

She looked down upon herself and witnessed no small amount of blood as they operated.

Mom described leaving the room, rising up very high and leaving the hospital altogether. She experienced what many others describe during near death experiences – a tunnel of light, a sensation of being surrounded by great love, and the presence of a Holy Being.

Mother was told she had a choice.

She could return to her body, and resume her life, being allowed to raise her children. Or, it was okay for her to stay where she was.

Mother told me it was not really a choice in her mind. She instantly asked to be returned to her body, and she was.

That was a moment of decision that impacted family history. If Mother decided not to return, how would my life be different?

While for many years I digested that question I got to see from my parent’s perspective how that decision impacted their lives as a couple.

Several years later, my folks were delighted to hear they were pregnant again. After Mom’s ectopic pregnancy she was told the odds of her having another baby were very slim.

The birth of my baby sister, Kris, came at an impactful time for me. I will never forget that day or that time of my life, it made such an impression on me.

But in discussing all this at length with both Mom and Dad individually I learned how they considered this whole event a faith affirming consequence of the choice my Mother made in coming back.

Mom was not given a knowledge of my little sister during her experience. While she and my father wanted another child – and particularly, another daughter – that was not something promised or foretold.


Dad, pictured here with the custodial crew at Mt. Diablo High School, where he was employed during these years.

Dad’s feeling about it was interesting. My parents married very young, and Dad in particular suffered with feeling qualified in being a husband, father and provider. He recalled to me a few times how as an 18-year old groom he was grilled by both of my grandfathers about how he expected to support my Mom in marriage.

Both pairs of grandparents had made significant sacrifices and contributions to set my parents up in a home for us and helped as my Dad worked several jobs to work his way through school.

After he graduated and we moved from that area, my parents experienced a kind of independence as a couple they previously had not known or felt. Having my little sister and adding her to the family was something of a certification of their union, they felt. They had finally grown up and were sitting at the adult table. That is how they felt and they were grateful.

Now that we are older the years are not the separation they once were for me and my little sister. But she was the baby, and is common with many youngest children, her growing up experience was different than mine and that of my siblings.

Dad with Kris and Debbie

That doesn’t matter now.

I know having spent time with my parents towards the end of their lives what Kris’ coming into the world meant to them. It was different and special for reasons the rest of us who didn’t walk their path can understand.

I think the natural inclination we have when we hear or read about the experiences, decisions and consequences of our ancestors is to say, “What would I have done?” or “How would I have felt?”

Those are impossible questions to answer.

But they remain instructive to us because it helps us to see their real struggles and desires.

Through knowing these things we come to appreciate their humanity, as well as their sacrifices.

Patriarchal Blessing

The Blessings of Patriarchal Blessings

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can receive what is known as a Patriarchal Blessing.

Such an event in the life of a faithful member is of a very personal nature and is sacred. The patriarchal blessing declares lineage, making it an object of family history value dating back to Adam.

The “blessings of Abraham” actually date back Biblically to Adam through his son Seth. “From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth.” (D&C 107:41-42)

Abraham was a descendent of Seth and is celebrated as the “father of many nations”. Thus, Abraham is honored by many world faiths. For Latter-day Saints, a patriarchal blessing is a link to the sacred work of gathering Israel – that is, the names and histories of loved ones so they can be identified in sacred temple ordinances.

As with all things spiritual, a patriarchal blessing is a multifaceted gift – ancient in historical ties, while being very personal in nature. A patriarchal blessing is considered prophetic, giving the recipient counsel on their spiritual eternal path of development as a son or daughter of God.

The Church in recent years has digitized their library of patriarchal blessings and made them available to Church members who want to read the patriarchal blessings of their ancestors.

They connect the data from Family Search to import as many of these recorded blessings into the accounts of Church members.

We need only log in to our Church account to review them. While the Church has long made access to the blessings of ancestors it used to take time to research if such a blessing existed and even longer, if found, for it to be digitized.

Ten years ago I had maybe a handful of such records. Now, with the acceleration of digitization work done by FamilySearch, I have 57 blessings available to me (some ancestors received more than one blessing).

Patriarchal blessings contain insights into the character and history of those who receive them. They are of inestimable value to family researchers.

Below are insights I’ve gained in reading the blessings given to some of my beloved ancestors.

~ Maurine Riggs Westover ~

Maurine RiggsMy grandmother, Maurine Riggs Westover, is remembered by many still living but with her passing now close to 40 years in the past the pool of those who recall personal interactions with her is dwindling fast.

I am grateful to have a copy of her patriarchal blessing for my children and grandchildren to review.

While her record is considerable, and we have many photos and videos to remember her by, the nature of her personality is something I don’t want lost.

Her blessing, given to her by a patriarch named Brigham Jensen sometime before she married my grandfather, details things that speak to her later life of which I can testify. She was told in her blessing:

“…You shall be able to obtain many names of your ancestry, some who have died hundreds of years ago. They’re watching you, waiting for you, praying for you, that you may be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Many of them have been converted to the truthfulness of the gospel in the spirit world and when you have accomplished this labor, they will rise up and call you blessed…”

I wonder how this statement looked to Grandma when she first read it when she received it as a young woman. This was in the mid-1930s.

Knowing how Grandma’s life ended up means knowing the literal fulfillment of that prophetic statement. I can recall talking with Grandma about her family history research and in my treasure room I have a small box of papers showing some of the work she and Grandpa did in the 1970s trying to locate records of ancestors in distant places.

I can also recall, with great clarity, the time Grandma came to Salt Lake City in 1986 to visit the Family History Library, which had recently been opened.

She was quite excited to show me how to locate records on microfilm, how to put it into a film reader and how to copy information from the film to my personal records.
This was all thoroughly modern at the time and I wonder what she would think of our day today with the billions of records literally at our finger tips in the flash of an eye.

Was Grandma’s blessing an influence on her pioneering work in family history? I believe it was.

She was spiritually convicted of its importance and, along side my grandfather, she went after it with her whole soul.

I also believe that when she did pass those ancestors she found and did the work for were there to express their love for her and the work that she did.

~ Mary Ann Humble Smith ~

Mary Ann Humble Smith

I recently shared this fantastic image showing four generations of women – Olive Mehitable Cheney born in 1855; her daughter, Mary Ann Humble Smith born in 1870; her granddaughter, Olive Zenola Smith Westover born in 1892, and her great-granddaughter, Edna Olive Westover Kortright, born in 1913.

It is interesting in my mind to contemplate the personal history of Mary Ann Humble Smith up to the date this picture was taken in 1914.

She was the oldest of 12 children born of her parents, George Anthony and Olive Humble.

Mary Ann was born at a time when plural marriage had peaked in Utah. By the time she came of age many engaged in the practice had endured years of hiding from federal marshals looking to prosecute for “co-habitation”.

In 1887, at the age of 17, she became the plural wife of Clark James Brinkerhoff, a man who had already married some 8 years before.

The circumstances of their courtship is not shared in either the history of Clark or Mary Ann. He was called on a mission shortly after they married and he was gone when their son George was born in December of 1888.

It is important to note that histories of both Mary Ann and Clark declare them to be good faithful people. There appears to have been no complaint between them and, individually, they lived good productive lives.

Upon return from his mission Clark moved with his first wife and family to Colorado.

While he provided well for Mary Ann and baby George he rarely saw them. In 1891 Mary Ann sought and received a divorce through the 1st Presidency of the Church and it was granted.

Of course, we know the rest of her story, thanks to histories written by her children.

In time she would marry a widower by the name of Albert Smith Jr and they would raise a large and faithful family.

Albert Smith Jr’s history details more about their love story. Albert Jr was married and lost his young wife after the birth of their 2nd son.

He took his young boys to his sister, who lived in Huntington, Utah, and who was a neighbor to Mary Ann Humble and her little boy, George.

Albert Jr visited Huntington often to see his children.

On one such visit he saw Mary Ann out chopping wood and offered to help her. This started a friendship which turned into a courtship and they later married.

Years later, in 1904, after the birth of six more of her children and many pioneering trials in the remote places in which they lived, Mary Ann Humble Smith sought out a patriarchal blessing.

The language of this patriarchal blessing has become sacred to me.

I, of course, never met this 2nd great-grandmother of mine and, honestly, I had never heard much about her. But a tender history written by her daughters and her patriarchal blessing give me a great desire to meet her and get to know her. She was told:

“…there is power and virtue in the touch of your hands to the healing of the sick and the comforting of the down trodden and there is light and intelligence sparkling in your eyes and your sisters and your friends among whom you labor will recognize the light of the Lord in your countenance…”

Mary Ann Humble Smith would live until 1930 having served family and church in many faithful ways. The record of her life, which includes her patriarchal blessing, makes me want to know her.

~ Kyle Jay Westover ~

I had many conversations with my father about patriarchal blessings.

In his later years I was able to read and share the blessings of those I had been able to gather of our ancestors. Dad had a great love for these records.

But he felt his own blessing was unremarkable.

Upon reading it recently for the first time, I can kind of understand why Dad felt that way. It is brief and quite different in tone compared to the blessing of my Mother or even of his parents. It is only four paragraphs long and was given to my father when he was just 13 years old.

I’m working on my Dad’s history and while I have a great deal of material to work with I feel this brief statement from his blessing will stand out in retrospect:

“…I bless thee to be a man of courage and energy and to be happy all the days of thy life. I bless thee to be successful in thy studies and in the discharge of all thy duties, that you may be prospered in the affairs of thy hand and may be magnified as a man of righteousness in the Church and in the community.”

Was it not so? And what does this statement, and the amen I add to it, speak to our children and grandchildren of my father’s character?

I’m grateful for Dad’s brief blessing.

~ Levi Murdock ~

Levi Murdock

Levi Murdock

I found the grave of Levi Murdock in the massive city cemetery of Ogden, Utah last year with my grandsons. When we go through these old cemeteries looking for graves the boys like it when I can tell the stories of who we are looking for.

All I could tell them about Old Levi was that he was one of the settlers in Ogden and that he was one of the oldest of our Utah pioneer ancestors. Levi was born in 1790, making him well into his 50s before he came to Utah.

The details on his life’s journey are a little sparse, though we know he lost his first wife just after they passed through Nauvoo on their way west, leaving Levi with a family of 8 children to care for.

Levi settled in Northern Utah in Ogden and having been a successful farmer before he set about to use his talents in providing for his family. He did not fail. But over the course of four years between 1850 and 1854 Levi had two patriarchal blessings.

This was not uncommon, though most I have found who received multiple blessings usually did so around major events such as temple dedications. There were no such events for Levi that I can find in the early 1850s that would explain this.

These blessings sometimes give us nuggets of information that cause us to ask more questions.

In the 1852 blessing, given under the hand of John Smith, Patriarch to the Church, we read this bit of information:

“…you have been a child of sorrow, days of vanity and weary some nights have been appointed unto thee. Inasmuch as you have born it patiently and received the law of the most high, and keen and willing to walk in it, the Lord is pleased with the integrity of thine heart and your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. Angels shall minister unto you and turn away thy sorrow…”

What does this mean?

This is an unspoken value in patriarchal blessings. We sometimes learn there is more to the story and our questions pile up.

Unfortunately, Levi’s known history is pretty sparse.

He did marry again in 1849, to Elizabeth Tennant Wade. There is no record of Levi and Elizabeth having children together and likely because she was mother to 14 children all born to Elizabeth with her first husband, who separated from her when she joined the Church.

The record of this Elizabeth’s life is sparse too. Though she is listed in the 1850 and 1860 census records as living with Levi there is very little to suggest they had much of a life together. Levi’s obituary in 1879 never mentions her.

Despite Levi’s fairly high profile as an original Ogden settler and a successful local farm it is from these two patriarchal blessings that we learn much of anything personal about him. I’m grateful for that and hope the clues these blessings provide will eventually lead us to more of his history.

~ Leon Arnold Westover ~

My grandfather, Leon Westover, remains to this day something of an enigma to some. He was a complex man.

Of course, he was my grandfather and I was blessed to know him when I was a child and when I was a young adult. I have stories. I remember conversations. I have stuff that allows me to keep his memory in my life.

In this article I have shared details of some who were close to him. Mary Ann Humble Smith was his grandmother. My dad was his son. Maurine Riggs, his wife. Levi Murdock was a great grandfather.

In all these people and others unmentioned I see influences that help me come to understand my complex grandfather better.

His patriarchal blessing is a treasure to me, too. I encourage especially my cousins born after Grandpa died and my children and grandchildren to begin their exploration of his life with his patriarchal blessing. I believe it focuses rather sharply many of the details that make up the memories of Grandpa being a “complicated man”.

He received his blessing at the hand of Alma B. Larsen in 1935. He was told in his blessing:

“…It shall be your privilege, Leon, to become a spiritual teacher among the children of men for your success and happiness shall not be found in the gathering of gold or silver but in the service of the Lord…”

This telling statement was absolutely true. Grandpa was a brilliant man, a man of math and science. He was prudent with money and tried his hand at investing. But that wasn’t his gift.

Another passage in his blessing tells more of his story, which I tell you came to pass almost exactly as it is spoken here:

“…Your life shall be made rich and your labors shall be crowned with success for you shall be called to responsible positions and it shall be your privilege to sit in the councils of the church and plan and arrange the activities of both the young and the old and thru your influence many shall be brought into active service that other wise would fall by the wayside for you have been blessed with executive ability and the spirit of leadership shall be given you…”

Grandpa never served as a Bishop or a Stake president to my knowledge. But he served in ward and stake councils, headed up countless projects, served missions and worked in the temple. His life was marked by continual service and his counsel was frequently sought after.

Grandpa’s entire history is yet to be written and I hope to be a participant in that. He deserves to be remembered for his complexities for sure but more so for the many quiet ways he served, especially with wisdom and foresight.

His blessing is just a foreshadow of what will be written in that history. Please remember that.

~ Susanne Catherine Begich ~

Susanne C. BegichIt occurs to me that of the people I’ve talked about above all of them I either knew or come from my father’s family, which of course makes the most sense, because my father’s heritage on both side are very LDS.

Of those 57 blessings one is not a Westover or a Humble or a Smith or a Riggs – it’s my mother’s blessing.

Her case is interesting because Mom was a convert and one of the only members of the Church in her family. Thus, her blessing is the only one I have access to from her family.

What can I learn from my Mom’s patriarchal blessing? Much. A lot. A ton. And it’s humbling.

Mother converted to the Church just after meeting my father and graduating from high school.

She had a rather dramatic spiritual experience during her conversion and was blessed to have several deeply spiritual events throughout her adult life. This, I believe, was one of her spiritual gifts, to enjoy manifestations from the other side.

But Mom did not seek out her patriarchal blessing until 1964 – a year after I was born.

By this time she was mother to three and had a little Church service experience under her belt. Her blessing told her this:

“…I bless you with the true spirit of Elijah that you may be knowledgeable in genealogical work. I bless you as a teacher among mankind in this regard…”

I can only imagine how my then 21-year-old mother took that statement.

At that point in time my Mom was barely even aware of who her grandparents were on either side.

She was an only child. She possessed not only little practical information beyond the names of her grandparents she did not yet have any association with any family members who might have known them.

How was she ever to become an expert in “genealogical work” coming from where she did?

Knowing my Mom, I’m sure she rolled her eyes, and said, “Yeah – right!”

Of course, here we are some 60 years later and we know the rest of her story.

Mother fulfilled that prophetic statement completely and absolutely.

And therein comes the excitement in looking back through the blessings of our ancestors. The Lord knows the end from the beginning.

In the case of my Mom, and many of the others listed above, it falls on me to tell the “rest of the story” as these blessings reveal them.

We must remember that we are engaged in a spiritual cause.

A patriarchal blessing is a spiritual document, a spiritual message and a very personal revelation to those who receive it and to those who use it as a family history research tool.

If approached prayerfully they will reveal much, and aid in moving this great work forward.