3 Things I’ve Learned about the Healing Power of Family History
April 2024

Digital Only: Young Adults

3 Things I’ve Learned about the Healing Power of Family History

Generational trauma affects us all, but the healing promises of doing family history work are real.

smiling people gathered around a computer

As I’ve researched my family history, I’ve recognized that many of my ancestors suffered from conditions and events that have passed on a lot of heartache, pain, and trauma to descendants over the years.

This is a result of what I like to call “fallen-world syndrome.”

No family is perfect. We live in a fallen world and in a fallen condition, where we make mistakes, hurt others or ourselves, and suffer from various afflictions. And family relationships can still bear the unhealthy habits and effects from decisions and traumatic events that happened decades ago.

I come from a family with generational trauma.1

But I’ve learned that diving into family history work and focusing on the healing power of Jesus Christ can help us find hope and healing.

Here are three things I’ve learned about the healing power of family history.

Family History Is about More Than Records

First, family history is so much more than finding records and headstones—it’s about memories, traditions, recipes, and understanding intergenerational habits. It’s about the relationships that have woven together through the years to shape who we are.

It’s also about finding healing for ourselves and our family through Jesus Christ.

For example, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared a story of a daughter who, despite the hurt and pain she experienced because of her father, chose to complete his temple work after his passing. Her father appeared to her in a dream, thanking her for doing his work. Just as we are able to change, repent, and grow in this life, so too can our ancestors on the other side of the veil.2

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also promised that as we engage in family history work, “Meaningful growth occurs going backward and forward through the generations as sealing ordinances weld families together. …

“… You will find healing for that which needs healing.”3

Honoring Our Ancestors Doesn’t Need to Be Extravagant

There are many ways we can honor and remember our family members.

For example, a few years ago, my husband and I celebrated Día de Muertos with a friend from Mexico. We spent the day remembering departed loved ones whose absences have left a hole in my heart.

This celebration helped us better love those who have passed on and brought the Spirit into our home. I felt healing enter my heart, and my testimony of eternal families deepened.

But we don’t always have to do something extravagant.

Honoring our family can be as easy as:

  • Indexing.

  • Calling a relative and asking them questions about their childhood and other ancestors.

  • Uploading photos to FamilySearch.

  • Making a recipe from an ancestor’s homeland.

  • Reading about relatives in your family tree.

  • Learning about your ancestors’ cultures.

  • Keeping a journal.

  • Celebrating family holiday traditions—or making new ones!

But, in the words of President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency: “If your work stops there, you will sense that something is missing. This is because to gather and unite God’s family requires more than just warm feelings. It requires sacred covenants made in connection with priesthood ordinances.”4

The Most Important Work Is Done in the Temple

The temple is where relationships are strengthened through covenants, where we are endowed with power from heaven, and where families are sealed.

The temple is where we can fully partake of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including finding peace in ourselves and in our relationships.

Elder Gong testified that “through sacred covenants, Jesus Christ offers His love, power, and grace to change us and heal our relationships. Selfless temple service for dear ones makes our Savior’s Atonement real for them and us.”5

That is the point of temple and family history work. We get to guide our family back to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the most sincere, loving, and empowering way possible.

I have felt the Savior’s redeeming power in my life and in my relationships as I have strived to prioritize temple and family history work. Through it, He enables us to extend mercy, forgiveness, and grace for those in our families—just as He extends the same to us.

Joy in Who I Truly Am

Elder Benjamín De Hoyos of the Seventy taught, “As we … learn how to do our family history and perform the temple ordinances for our ancestors, we will experience great joy.”6

I have felt that joy as I’ve learned about who I truly am and the people who helped me become who I am today.

I come from a home filled with laughter, music, and imperfections.

I come from birch trees, family dogs, sugar beets, petunias, and blossoming potato fields.

I come from silly competitions. From pioneers, faith-filled sacrifices, and endurance. From a bride who escaped Germany in 1940, from a stubborn fisherman, from a skilled pianist. And even from those who struggled with addiction and mental health issues.

I am the result of generations before me.

With them, I am whole. With them, I continue to strive to pass on the goodness and to learn from and leave harmful habits behind.

I continue to learn that through Christ, we can be with our loved ones throughout eternity.

I am grateful for the Savior and the covenants I have made with Him and Heavenly Father. They give me reason to hope for healing and repaired relationships—on both sides of the veil.