“Michelle, Is That You?” Ensign, June 1999, 60–61
Shortly after my baptism, when I was 20 years old, my interest in family history was kindled. As the only Church member in my family, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to complete four generations for my mother’s family. My parents divorced when I was an infant. Having no association with my father and very little information about him, I felt that trying to do family history on that line was impossible.
As I worked on my mother’s family, I found the work difficult and the obstacles abundant. When the work became especially frustrating, I kept in mind Nephi’s words: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7).
As I knelt at the altar of the temple to be married, my testimony of the importance of family history work overwhelmed me. Soon after, we moved 5,000 miles away from my hometown. For years I continued writing letters and researching my family history, but with little success.
After a while I decided that maybe I wasn’t meant to do the work after all. I rationalized that my ancestors were stubborn folk and probably would never be converted to the gospel anyway, so it didn’t matter.
I became busy raising my growing family and coping with the challenges of day-to-day living. Ordinance work for the dead was pushed further and further from my mind. When my children sang “Families Can Be Together Forever” (Children’s Songbook, 188), I felt a twinge of guilt—but just a twinge. Then in 1985, just after the birth of my sixth child, events in my life turned me again to family history work.
I found out my mother was terminally ill, and I returned to my hometown to be with her. Before I went to see her, I fasted and prayed that I would be able to receive more information about my family. When I arrived, I was disheartened by my mother’s physical condition. However, as I talked with her about her life and our ancestors, I felt the Lord was answering my prayers.
My mother’s brother arrived shortly after I did and assisted me greatly in family history research. He helped me find information to complete my four generations and more. I was ecstatic!
After Mother passed away, I felt a great loss and began to ponder many things. She had been the only parent I had known. I felt satisfied that I had done what the Lord required of me—but the Spirit continued to work on me. I could feel my heart turning to my father.
I had tried to find my father several times over the years, but my efforts had always come to a dead end. I think now that bitterness had crept into my heart, and I had decided it would be up to him to find me. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t ignore promptings to find my father.
I had very little to go on. My mother had given me the name of my grandfather and the small farming community in Nebraska where he lived, but that was all. I had called directory assistance for the area once before but had had no luck.
This time I picked out two towns in Nebraska about 15 miles on either side of the town my dad came from. Again, I pleaded with the Lord to help me.
The operator gave me two numbers in both towns for the name Hoffman.
My heart began to beat faster as I chose one of the numbers. A man answered. I explained who I was and who I was looking for. He said he didn’t know my father, but he was acquainted with his sister. He gave me her name and number.
I dialed the number and a woman answered. I told her I was trying to locate the family of a Homer Hoffman who had lived in the area 30 years ago. She said he was her father. I got weak in the knees. I told her I was trying to locate my father—her brother. She didn’t say anything. After a moment, she said, “Michelle? Michelle, is that you? We’ve looked for you so long!”
I was so grateful to talk to her. She spoke of her family and asked about my own. She told me about my dad and some of the problems he had encountered in his life, and then she gave me his address and phone number. We said our good-byes, promising to write and send pictures.
I said a silent prayer as I picked up the phone again. One ring—two rings—a man answered, “Hello.”
“I’m looking for Dick Hoffman,” I said.
“You’re speaking with him,” he answered.
Not knowing what to say, I simply said, “This is Michelle.” There was silence on the other end.
“Where are you, honey?” he finally said. I told him where I was, and we began to talk. We cried. We laughed and cried some more. We talked of his trying to find me and of me trying to find him. We talked of our lives and families. I couldn’t believe that after so many years I had found him with three phone calls. I felt a great love growing within me for this man I hardly knew. He was my father, and I knew my Heavenly Father had helped us find each other.