“Finding What Was Lost,” Ensign, Apr. 2006, 58–60
I peered diligently at the microfilm of church records and read name after name of my ancestors from northern Spain, written generations ago in elegant Spanish penmanship. These families had lived in peace in their little fishing village for centuries. They loved the Lord and one another. Their village was nestled on a little coastal inlet and surrounded by rolling hills of eucalyptus trees, a setting that provided a serene and quiet sanctuary for their families. Few were ever drawn away from its simple beauty and warmth of spirit. Most were related to one another by blood or marriage.
These records had special meaning to me—my grandfather Andres Sanchez had saved them from destruction during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. I grew up knowing his story, but my connection with it became evident only as I began my search for the records. Although I never knew my grandfather, I felt his spirit as I read these names and dates. Together we had become a team that made it possible to provide temple ordinances for more than 10,000 of our ancestors.
This day, however, like most days of the last few years, was also filled with pain and sorrow over my daughter and the direction her life was going. I cried out in the depths of despair to my Heavenly Father, pleading for His help in my daughter’s behalf against odds that seemed impossible. My heart was filled with emotion—though I was working faithfully to provide saving temple ordinances for my ancestors, I could do little to save my own child. Then I felt the strength of past generations joining with me in an effort to save my daughter, and I found a measure of peace at the microfilm reader as I lost myself in extracting the precious names and dates from church records.
Andres had been a good man and a leader in his village. He was the father of five. Though not a wealthy man, he had a good trucking business and was considered a man of means.
But his was a turbulent time in the history of Spain. The Spanish Civil War brought starvation and destruction to much of the nation. Politics became the most common topic of discussion among the people. In all other periods in the history of Europe, this quiet village had been spared from the ravages of war, even during World War I. But now the enemy was coming. Andres named his new baby Libertia as an outward expression of his convictions.
Everywhere the invaders burned the churches and killed the church leaders in an effort to stifle opposition. In defiance, Andres and a few of his good neighbors secreted away the sacred artifacts and records from the little village church. He did this knowing that the consequences could be devastating for himself and his family. He made a choice and stood by that choice with conviction.
Eventually the enemy came to his village. The name of Andres Sanchez was discovered, and he was dragged into custody. As a result of his actions at the little village church, he met a fate of torture and deprivation. Andres’s business and property were confiscated and his family left destitute as beggars. Andres’s health weakened under the deplorable prison conditions, and after a short while he contracted tuberculosis. He was released to his family two weeks prior to his death.
The Lord did not forget the efforts of one man and a handful of brave friends who loved Him and sacrificed their very lives for these records. Years later the records were microfilmed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Now I sat in a large dim room in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, reading a copy of that microfilm. As I proceeded with the tedious task of searching through names so foreign to me, I was drawn to these people. A feeling of family unity grew in my mind and heart.
My husband and I drew inspiration, courage, and hope from the example of my grandfather, who willingly sacrificed for future generations. In turn, we felt the strength of past generations joining with us in our efforts to help our daughter.
It was in March 1999, the same week President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Madrid Spain Temple, that I submitted my first 6,000 family names to the temple file in the Bountiful Utah Temple, as complete as possible and within their proper families. Now my next 4,000 names were ready. The names of an entire community of people were available at the temple for their temple ordinances to be performed. The work of salvation for a faithful little Spanish village had begun.
As temple ordinances were performed for my ancestors, it seemed to my husband and me that the heavens were weeping and praying with us in our daughter’s behalf. In time our daughter realized that she needed to change her life and rediscover the peace that had been missing for so long. She began the arduous process of repentance, and gradually we saw the light enter her countenance again. At long last, our heartfelt, pleading prayers were being answered. She enjoyed the healing intervention of a loving Heavenly Father, who is mindful of all of His children.
On a beautiful evening, I sat in the Bountiful temple, my eyes wet with tears of joy. Beside me was my daughter, there to receive her own endowment and to be sealed to a worthy young man.
But the story does not end there. As family and friends gathered to participate in this glorious event, the sister at the desk handed out the proxy names to those attending the session. By coincidence, the names she gave us were some of the same names I had submitted to the temple file. Indeed, it was a double celebration—we rejoiced as we served as proxies for our Spanish ancestors, and in turn they must have rejoiced with us as our daughter was sealed to her husband for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord. In that moment, we could feel the circle of eternal family uniting the past and the present. We were one.