Can You Hear Them?

RootsTech 2014

Elder Bradley D. Foster

So how do the roots nourish the branches? The answer is through the tree. You're the one that helps connect, provide nourishment to your branches. You connect the past generations to the future generations.


My name is Elder Enrique Falabella, and I am the assistant executive director of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We recognize Elder Allan Packer of the Seventy, who resides at this meeting, and Elder Bradley D. Foster, also of the Seventy, and Elder Dennis C. Brimhall, managing director of the Family History Department, who are with us today. Elder Packer has asked me to conduct this session. We look forward to hearing from Elder Foster in a few minutes.

Brothers and sisters, for the last couple of days we have been blessed by thousands of people from around the world, who are not of our faith, as we have hosted RootsTech 2014, the largest family history conference in North America. We are so delighted to be united with them in this great work. But as Latter-day Saints, we have an expanded view of why we want to tell our family histories, why we want to connect past, present, and future, generations.

We have the responsibility to bring about the work of salvation for our ancestors and ourselves, so we wanted to have a special day at RootsTech devoted to why we do family history and why we love family history. That's why we created Family Discovery Day. And that's why we are so delighted that you have joined us for this special occasion. We hope you will be touched and taught by the things you will hear today.

Let us first begin this devotional by singing the first and last verse of "High on the Mountain Top." The music will be led Sister Susan Wilhelm, with Brother Mark Hamm at the piano, after which the opening prayer will be offered by Sister Elaine Hasleton. We have asked Sister Hasleton to provide an invocation not just for this session but for the entire Family Discovery Day.

Our kind, loving Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the opportunity this day to participate in these meetings and the information that will be exchanged and shared. We are grateful to live in this day and age with the modern conveniences that we have, especially with the internet, with electronics, and all the many things that we know can be done to further Thy work.

We pray Thy blessing on us this day throughout this day that Thy Spirit, the spirit of Elijah, might abide with each of us and touch our hearts, so that we will have the desire to continue to be involved in the various facets of family history. Wilt Thou keep us safe and protected this day. Wilt Thou grant Thy Spirit to be with us. We're most grateful for the proceedings of this day. And this we pray now, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I would like to introduce our speaker, Elder Bradley D. Foster. After I introduce Elder Foster, we will be ask the brethren and sisters on the stand to take their seats in the audience, to view the presentation.

Elder Foster was born in Rigby, Idaho. He married Sharol Anderson in the Idaho Falls Temple. And they are the parents of 4 daughters and 12 grandchildren.

Elder Foster has some legacy of church service, serving as a bishop, stake president, and president of the California Arcadia Mission. He was sustained a member of this Second Quorum of the Seventy in 2009. He served in the South America South Area Presidency up until 2012, and is currently serving as an assistant executive director of the Family History Department. Elder Foster.

Brothers and sisters, on behalf of the Elder Packer and Elder Falabella, we welcome you to RootsTech on Family Discovery Day. It's my privilege to be able to speak to those in this hall, and to those of you who are watching remotely, and those of you who will be participating at your own stake Family Discovery Days in the future. My prayer today is that you might see and feel the joy of family history.

The well-known author Alex Haley, who wrote the book Roots reminded us, "Roots nourish the branches." In other words, a knowledge of past generations blesses future generations. That's why even though family history is always about the past, it has to be about the present and the future. The past is your roots, your ancestors. The present is the tree. And you're the tree. The future is the branches, your children and grandchildren.

So how do the roots nourish the branches? The answer is through the tree. You're the one that helps connect, provide nourishment to your branches. You connect the past generations to the future generations.

I've always been interested in the Savior's frequent use of the words fruits, roots, trees, and branches. One that comes to mind is in Malachi 4:1, where He says and describes the latter-day curse that would leave the wicked with neither root nor branch. Often, He uses this metaphor to teach us about the gathering of Israel, which is really about the gathering of a family.

As I talk to you today about family history, I hope you'll see a vision big enough that encompasses our Heavenly Father's plan, but personal enough that each of you can relate to it as a parent or as a grandparent. I want to give you a preview of how the Lord is blessing us so that you can see what this means for you and your family.

Family is a natural affection. Aren't we happy that Heavenly Father set up earth life in such a way that we could experience it as families? This earth experience began with families, and it will end with families. The book of Genesis tells us of the first family on earth, Adam and Eve.

In Doctrine and Covenants 138, in his great vision of the spirit world, President Joseph F. Smith saw that same family. This is what he said. "Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in that vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days, and the father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve-- what a wonderful way of describing her-- with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshipped the true and living God." Sisters, those faithful daughters were your matriarchal ancestors.

As Adam and Eve's family grew in numbers and culture entered and geographic divisions occurred, they became known as tribes. In the Old Testament, we read that Jacob, who the Lord renamed Israel, had 12 sons, his family. The descendants of these 12 sons throughout history, throughout time, became known as the 12 tribes of Israel. Originally, the 12 tribes of Israel constituted a single nation. But throughout history, the Lord has scattered His people across the earth.

This is the environment we've been placed in. Families have been scattered throughout all the nations of the earth. And now Heavenly Father is trying to gather them in. This is called the Gathering of Israel. It is why our challenge is to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

It's interesting to note that the word kindred means multi-generational families. That phrase "next of kin" comes from the word kindred. In this sense, everyone has a family, even those who are not married. Really, Heavenly Father is asking us to go and find all the kindred or families of the world and bring them back together.

Each of you have experienced a connection to a tribe or a kindred when you received your patriarchal blessing, as it revealed your lineage. Most people don't realize how important lineage is in these blessings. It's part of the work of the gathering.

Another of the mighty and great ones President Smith saw in his vision was Elijah the prophet, who brought the keys of the sealing power. He says, "Foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fullness of times-- our day-- for the redemption of the dead and the sealing of children to their parents-- then he goes on-- lest the whole earth be smitten with the a curse and utterly wasted at His coming."

Those words, "utterly wasted," are a solemn warning about how important this work is. We all have an idea of what the word wasted means. But if that wasn't dramatic enough, the Lord intensified it with utterly, which means completely, absolutely, without qualification.

So you can see that this isn't just a good idea. If we don't do it, there are consequences. We need to seal children to their parents on both sides of the veil. That means getting all their ordinances performed prior to the sealings. Our job is to bring all these families and tribes together and reconnect them through the sealing of children to parents.

Thus we see the first step in the spirit world was to have the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins. "These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin-- and this word-- vicarious baptisms for the remission of sins." The word vicarious comes from the word vice, as in vice president, and means to stand in place of.

Our ancestors in the spirit world are being taught that someone else will stand in their place and complete the ordinances on their behalf. Can you hear them asking you to do their ordinance work for them, and then seal them together as families? I imagine that the Lord is hastening the work on both sides of the veil. As those people have passed on, accept the gospel, a corresponding work to make ordinances available must accelerate here, as well. That's our responsibility on this side of the veil.

When I think at this responsibility in the scriptures that says, "They are dead without us cannot be made perfect," I'm reminded of a time when I was serving as an Elders Quorum President in Idaho. Three couples in the quorum were assigned to do sealings in the Idaho Falls Temple at 5:00 AM in the morning.

My wife Sharol and I were one of them. The other two couples never showed up. So Sharol and I decided we'd stay and work a little longer to accomplish the assignment. Now, I was upset that the other couples hadn't showed up. Why did they think their time was more important than mine, I thought to myself.

The sealings we performed were extracted names from South America. There were lots of Joses been sealed to Marias. I began thinking, how are we going to connect all the Joses to the right Marias? The sealer noticed that I was not in the spirit, and asked if I wanted to take a break.

And we paused for a moment, and I asked him, "So which Jose do you think that was?" The sealer looked at me and began to speak. "Brother Foster, the reason they have those names is because those were the names were given to them." He explained that Catholic missionaries from Spain came to South America, set up missions, and converted the heathens. And when they baptized them, they gave them a new name, a Christian name.

The sealer then reminded me that in the temple we do all the ordinances in front of witnesses, including God and angels. Of course, that truth poured into me. I told Sharol on the way home, "Oh, I'm glad those other couples didn't show up. That was the best sealing assignment. We learned so much."

Now fast forward with me 40 years. Last year, I was on a mission tour in Paraguay. We drove by a little town called Trinidad. The mission president explain that Trinidad began as an old Catholic mission, and many of the ruins from that mission remained. This is where the Spanish missionaries lived, where they brought their converts to be baptized, and receive their Christian name.

The memory of my conversation with the sealer in the Idaho Falls Temple came back to me, and I asked if we could stop. I saw a baptismal font, and I remember all those Joses and Marias. The guide told us that the priests kept records of these names, and that the ordinance of baptism. We saw records like those from which the names were extracted that ended up in the Idaho Falls Temple when Sharol and I attended that day.

Brothers and sisters, do you know what the most popular female name in the Church is today? It's Maria. We have 395,471 Marias are members of the Church today. There are currently almost 200,000 Joses, as well. How are we going to track, identify, and seal Marias and Joses to their correct families? The Lord's showing us and providing a way through the lines and through families.

So what is the Lord doing in this time of temples and technology to help us? Today, I'd like to show you three ways technology is helping us to turn the hearts and hasten the work, so that the sealings of these families can take place.

The first way technology is helping to hasten this work has to do with photos and stories. Behind every photo there's always a story.

The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the story of people.

People with dreams and goals.

And though living in another time or another place--

They are a lot like us.

They lived and worked.

Prayed and loved.

Spent their time.

And made the biggest decisions of their lives.

And from each one there is a story.

Stories in our lives to affect us. In the Share a Memory section of FamilySearch, we now have the ability to enter photos and stories. As you enter these stories and photos, they're preserved and protected, easily shared, and kept forever. Let me show you the power of photos.


As you think about your own family photos of ancestors, can you hear what they're saying to you? Can begin now. Let me share with you how to start with this little booklet. My Family Booklet was created to help you share your family stories and photos. You can upload your ancestors' photos into your family tree. There they will be stored in heaven, or the technical name is the cloud.

This is a picture of my photo page. Here is my dad, who died 43 years ago. What comfort I get to see and share his photo with my children and grandchildren, all who were born after he died. I'm always trying to listen to what dad's saying to me and to my grandchildren.

The second way technology is helping us to hasten the work has to do with the power of partnerships. We have and are forming partnerships with all the leading genealogical companies in the world, such as, whom you know, MyHeritage, which has the largest tree outside of FamilySearch, and, the largest organization in the UK, and other major companies, all with FamilySearch at the center.

The benefits are huge. We soon will have access to four times the number of genealogical records and five times the number of potential tree contributors. Members will have free access to all family trees. And the users will have access to part of our records. These partnerships will give us access to technology that we've never had before in the past.

During his prayer at the dedication of a Salt Lake Temple, President Wilford Woodruff pronounced a significant blessings upon our friends of other faiths, whom he called "those who have not yet entered into the covenant." This is what he said.

As Thou hast inclined the hearts of many who have not yet entered into covenant with Thee to search out their progenitors, and in so doing, they have traced the ancestry of many of Thy saints, we pray Thee that Thou wilt increase this desire in their bosoms, that they may in this way aid in the accomplishment of Thy work.

How would he know this 120 years ago? Because he was a prophet and the seer. And seers see. Brothers and sisters, we can clearly see that this prayer is being answered. Heavenly Father's children all over the world are filled with the desire to discover their ancestors. And because of our partnerships with them, their efforts are contributing to the hastening of the work today.

I would like to show you an example of how members can reap the benefits of these partnerships. For example, let's say that Joe, who is a non-member of the Church, uses, one of the companies we will soon have a partnership with. He documents one of his lines of genealogy.

Now Mary is a church member and a beginner in family history. So far, she has traced her lines back only to her great-grandparents. When she enters her grandfather's name, she's notified that there's a match on her tree-- that's part of the new technology-- because her grandfather's also on Joe's tree. Though they've never met, she and Joe are distant. Relatives. Now Mary can connect Joe's research with her family and add all the family names to her tree, and prepare them to go to the temple. Let me emphasize this works not only for beginners, but also for those who have done many genealogy and many records of their own.

Let's look at a real-life example. Today, I've invited Sister Suarez. She is the wife of President Suarez of the seven presidents of the Seventies. Sister Suarez, would you come up please? Sister and President Suarez are from Brazil. Sister Suarez, thank you for being here.

Thank you.

Did you know that on your line, your husband's ancestral line reaches back many generations in FamilySearch, but comes to a dead end right over there with Roza? Here's Roza, who is the daughter of your husband's fourth great-grandfather, Antonio Penach. We don't know anything about her in FamilySearch, except a name and a birthday. But here she is.

My name is Roza Pico. I married Manuel Pimentel Cotovio. We had a son, Jose. Our son grew up, married, and had 10 children. However, I had not had the blessing of being sealed to my husband, son, or any of my grandchildren. Will you help me? Will you find our names and take them to the temple in order to receive all of the ordinances?

Now look what's on, one of our partners, to learn more about Roza, as she said. Here you can see Roza, her husband, Manuel, their son, Jose, and his family, 10 children. With one click of the mouse, we can pull all this information to FamilySearch. These gold circles signify nine family members who need their temple work completed. What a blessing for Roza and for you and your family, Sister Suarez. Thank you for being here.

This is what these partnerships will do for us. What a blessing the Lord's given us.

But many of you will say that your tree's full. The work has been completed for many of your ancestors. But actually, there's so much more to do. That brings us to our third technology in help hastening the work. I'd like to introduce you to finding your cousins. And I'll show you how it can be done.

I'd like to invite Brother and Sister Kurt Christensen up on the stage. Brother and Sister Christensen are from Salt Lake City. Welcome. Brother and Sister Christensen represent the next young generation of Latter-day Saints who come from long lines of Latter-day Saint families. I'll bet your aunts and uncles have worked extensively on your family lines. Correct? And now you can't find any names to do. Right?


I hope you don't mind, but I was climbing around your family tree and found one or two things. I'd like to invite you to come over and sit down and let me show you. Brother Kurt, that's you. You go back six generations. Lauretta Fisher. I'd like you to meet Laurette Fisher, your third great-grandmother, or Laura, as she was called. Here's one of the photos of Lauretta. And here's Lauretta.

Do you remember your grandfather, Richard Park? I'm his grandmother, Laura. His mother, Jane, was my second child and oldest daughter. Thank you for all the work you've done on your line. I'm so happy and grateful to be sealed to you and your immediate family. But my heart aches for my other children and grandchildren. Will you help me find them?

Brothers and sisters, all of your grandmothers and grandfathers who haven't had their children sealed to them would ask you the same thing. Can you hear them?

This used to be almost impossible, requiring months and years to get this information. But it can be done in minutes without duplicating the work. We're going to use today as a starting point, Kurt, in finding some of your cousins. Puzzilla uses information from FamilySearch and helps you identify areas in your tree where work can be done.

It's interesting. We've always looked back up our ancestral line, back to our ancestors. We can see now that we can look from Laura's perspective and look down. What a blessing that's going to be. As you can see, Laura did have other children, eight of them. You're the only line that is connected and sealed back to Laura. And this line can be traced through her daughter Jane to Richard to Eleanor, your grandmother, and your mom, and to you.

This is the first step in finding your cousins. We'll say E, Enter, and look for your ancestor. Laura said she had seven other children, and here they are.

The next step is L, which stands for Look. Let's look at this one right here. This one's name is Washington Fisher. He was born in 1864 and died in 1932, living about 59 years. So there's a good chance he was married and had some children. But the information isn't in FamilySearch.

This brings us to step I, which stands for Investigate. We investigate the end lines. And here's how. You can click on the dot that says person page in FamilySearch. We know this is the correct Washington, because here he is with his parents, his father, and there's Lauretta, Laura, your grandmother. Now we just need to click on Search Records. And look, all these records come up.

Brothers and sisters, this is the exciting part, because we indexed and digitized and published a million plus records. Every day, we're able to search these records quickly for Washington in FamilySearch. An in seconds, we can see that he was probably married. This is why indexing is so important. Indexing makes possible all of these records quickly.

In this first section of information we see the 1980 census. And we can see Washington is 16 years old and living with his parents. The second information is the 1900 census. 20 years later, Kurt, he's 36 years old. So if he's going to have a wife and a child, it's probably here. So let's look.

And sure enough, we find that he does. He's married to Lillie, and they have two children. Now we've got something. So you can see them here in the index records. And you can also see them in the actual records. Isn't this beautiful to see? The names written of Washington Lillie, Rena, Erba, ages nine and seven, written by the census taker who visited their town in Kansas City, Missouri, and knocked on their door.

Now Kurt, you've found your cousins. Laura's right. There are children and grandchildren not yet sealed to her. They exist in the records, but they're not yet on the tree. Using the records we found of Washington and his two daughters, the next step is J, Justify, adding a new family members to the tree. We can do that now.

Now it's time for A, Add them to your tree. There they are. And three green arrows signifying your cousins ordinances need to be performed.

Finally, we complete the last and most important step, H, which stands for the House the Lord, where we can take the names and receive the needed temple ordinances. However, this work is not done until we have them sealed together.

Now we've completed the process, E, Enter, and look at the tree through your ancestors' perspective, L, Look, I, Investigate, J, Justify, A, Add their names to the tree, and H, take them to the House of the Lord.

You could repeat, Kurt, this Elijah step for Laura's other children, and for their children, and find the rest of your cousins. Brothers and sisters, when you return home, please visit FamilySearch web page and look for finding your cousins, which will connect you to a tutorial video to learn how to use is very valuable tool.

Now, we've explored three ways that the work of connecting generations is accelerating. The ability to share photos and stories on FamilySearch, our partnerships with family history resources, and new and easier ways to find your cousins and your cousins' cousins. There are many relatives waiting for you to find them. We invite you to continue to build links to your family and help strengthen the bonds of eternal families.

It began with families. And it will in with eternal families. Can you hear them? As the spirit of Elijah touches us, which is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine and eternal nature of the family, may we use these wonderful tools our Heavenly Father has blessed us with to help our families receive their eternal exaltation. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.