Turning Our Hearts
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“Turning Our Hearts,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 57

The Visiting Teacher:

Turning Our Hearts

Objective: To remind sisters of the importance of keeping personal and family histories.

As Mary and Ted Harris prepared to serve a mission together, they encountered one obstacle after another. Mary prayed for understanding about the delays and received a strong prompting that she needed to finish her mother-in-law’s life history before they left.

Mary and her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, had worked on the history together. The day after she had dictated the final portion of it, Elizabeth had been killed in a car accident. The unfinished manuscript had sat on a shelf ever since.

Elizabeth’s life was an inspiration to Mary. At age nine, Elizabeth had immigrated to the United States with an uncle. Her parents and their six other children planned to join them in America, but were forced to postpone the trip again and again.

Elizabeth never saw them again. She grew up, married, and investigated the beliefs of many churches, seeking for the truth.

One day she welcomed two LDS missionaries into her home. A few months later, Elizabeth joined the Church. But her life was difficult. Her husband lost a leg in an accident. He also suffered from tuberculosis and glaucoma and was blind during the last fifteen years of his life.

His death left Elizabeth alone to run a farm and rear nine children. She supplemented the family income by working as a midwife, earning only a dollar a day.

Three times the family lost their home—to a flood, a fire, and a tornado. But despite her trials, Elizabeth maintained a positive attitude and shared the joy of the gospel message wherever she went.

Mary felt a great urgency to complete Elizabeth’s history. Soon after she finished it, she and her husband received their mission call.

Elizabeth’s history has greatly influenced her posterity. “Grandma is still a part of our lives,” says Carol, Mary’s daughter. “Because they have read her history and looked at the pictures, Grandma is real to my children.”

“When I see my grandchildren go to the bookshelf and take down that history,” says Mary, “I know why I felt so strongly compelled to finish it—so her posterity would know the legacy she left.”

Learning about our ancestors can help us to better understand them and ourselves. Many of their dreams, aspirations, and challenges mirror ours. We gain spiritual strength from reading about how our ancestors met challenges. But family history work not only helps unite family members for eternity, it also strengthens bonds between living family members.

David and Beth Burton and their four teenage children have done family history work together, sharing both frustrations and successes. “I can’t imagine rearing my children without it,” says Beth. “We have definitely experienced the heart turning to heart between parent and child.” (See Mal. 4:6.)

Personal and family histories help us cultivate a sense of identity and responsibility, evaluate our own lives, and preserve a legacy for posterity. “What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?” said President Spencer W. Kimball. “Get a notebook. … Begin today.” (New Era, Oct. 1975, pp. 4–5.)

Suggestions for Visiting Teachers

  1. Share or have the sister you visit share a faith-promoting experience recorded in a personal or family history.

  2. Invite the sister you visit to begin keeping a journal or writing a personal history, if she is not already doing so.

(See Family Home Evening Resource Book, pp. 95–97, 189–90, for related materials.)

Illustrated by Beth Maryon Whittaker