A (temporary) limit on the redemption of the dead?

A (temporary) limit on the redemption of the dead? May 2, 2024


Whitney store Kirtland OH
From the earliest days of the Church (as illustrated by the temple-like school room that Joseph Smith added to Newel Whitney’s store in Kirtland, Ohio, in the early 1830s) Church leaders have relied upon both secular learning and divine revelation to carry out their assignments.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

We spent several hours in the Kirtland Temple again this morning, and then we moved over to the Newel K. Whitney store in the “Kirtland Flats.”  I was filmed in conversations in the store’s upstairs, in the School of the Prophets and in the so-called “Revelation Room.”  I doubt that those conversations will appear until next year, when the focus will be on Church history and the Doctrine and Covenants.  The material that was recorded in the first floor worship space, though, was directed to the episode of A Marvelous Work that is expected to go public at the end of this month, the end of May.

Inside the Kirtland Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
An interior photograph of the Kirtland Temple, looking toward the west. A National Historic Landmark, the temple was built from 1833-1836 by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints under the leadership of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. . This image, taken in 1934, shows the interior of the assembly room on the first floor, with stucco and hand made carvings in the pulpits and columns.  Today’s interior is, so far as I can see, identical to that of ninety years ago.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

I was recently under heavy attack over at the Peterson Obsession Board (POB) for selfishness and hypocrisy and even cruelty.  These are common POB charges against me, of course.  But my offense on this particular occasion was that I did not step in to perform a sealing for Frenchy Morrell and his long-deceased wife, Wanda, even though I knew — indeed, even though I was positively giddy with excitement about the fact — that Frenchy had died.

How can I defend such callous sloth?  One suggestion offered is that I don’t actually believe in the teachings or practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I merely pretend to believe because . . .  because . . . well, your guess is as good as mine.

But, if I may be permitted, I would like to offer a suggestion of my own:   I was under the impression that I couldn’t simply do their work without permission from their closest living relatives (whom I don’t know).

Seeking to confirm my understanding of Church policy in this regard, though, I solicited information from a sometime participant on this board who is in a position to know.  Here is her response:

Regarding temple work for unrelated people, you are correct. We should not do temple work for people that we are not related to. FamilySearch has a View Relationship feature that helps determine if you might be related to someone. It goes back 15 generations then forward. If the common ancestor is past that limit it’ll not find a relationship. View My Relationship in Family Tree • FamilySearch

View My Relationship in Family Tree • FamilySearch

Use the View My Relationship feature to quickly see how you are related to ancestors within Family Tree.

The policy about doing work for unrelated people has been in place for a long time from what we’ve been told in FamilySearch Support, and from my own understanding, and well before 2020. Prior to about 2014 it was almost entirely dependent upon the integrity and understanding of the individual requesting the ordinances. About 2014, the FamilySearch system was able to enforce this for people born within the past 110 years

Of course, her reference to “the integrity and understanding of the individual requesting the ordinances” will demonstrate to the POB crowd that, since I lack any and all integrity, I would never imagine that such a policy could ever apply to me.

She then added that

The wait period to perform temple ordinances for a deceased person was reduced, in 2022 I think, from one year to 30 days.

As those critics will happily and quickly point out, I possess the requisite lack of integrity (in spades!) to have proceeded with the sealing (and other temple ordinances) for Frenchy Morrell and Wanda Morrell in brazen violation of Church policy.  But, they might further explain, my selfishness, sloth, callous cruelty, and lack of genuine belief in Church doctrine trumped the opportunity that was mine (between the spring of 2013, when I learned of Frenchy’s death, and the new, firmer Church policy that was instituted sometime in 2014) to thumb my nose at the Brethren.

I could, of course, respond that such misunderstand me thoroughly (and consistently).  Trying to reason with my Malevolent Stalker and his eager but lesser devotees, however, is quite a distance down the road to madness.  As one of the corollaries to Murphy’s Law explains, it’s impossible to make anything truly foolproof, because fools are so ingenious.  So let’s simply proceed with her response to me:

FamilySearch does not prevent doing temple work for unrelated individuals born more than 110 years ago, but the policy is pretty straightforward, “Temple ordinances are sacred and should be treated with respect. Please reserve ordinances for individuals only if you are related to them.” https://www.familysearch.org/en/help/helpcenter/article/individuals-for-whom-i-can-request-temple-ordinances Any time you reserve ordinances you get a pop-up that you have to agree to, basically stating you accept the policy and are in compliance with it. The pop-up includes the statement mentioned above about only reserving for those you are related to.

I hope this helps. The reason I’m a bit knowledgeable about FamilySearch related things is because I’ve been a Support missionary for over 14 years now. I started training for the mission in April of 2010.

As a further element in my effort to more clearly understand relevant Church policy, I inquired of a commenter on my blog to whom I shall refer as ttn.  My Malevolent Stalker has identified him as a co-conspirator with me in whatever my nefarious, callous, cruel, slothful, and cynical plot was regarding Frenchy and Wanda Morrell.  (And no, please don’t ask me to explain that alleged plot, because, candidly, I myself can’t figure it out.  Whatever it was, though, it clearly puts me in — surprise! — a very bad light.)  I wrote to ttn as follows:

So, ttn, are you suggesting that you didn’t — whether on my fiendish orders or, motivated by frenzied apologetic zeal, at your own initiative — create a record for Frenchy and/or Wanda in violation of Church policy and then, after discovering that a record was already there, scramble to delete it?

That, if I understand it correctly, is the weird scenario that apparently forms the heart of my Malevolent Stalker’s latest conspiratorial fantasy. I’m not sure what the point of the whole enterprise is supposed to have been. Of course, as usual, I’m also not sure whether he really believes this nonsense himself or is simply playing with his small claque of eagerly credulous dupes. It’s certainly possible that he’s actually mad.

Perhaps the most significant evidence that the Stalker cites to support his conspiracy theory is this exchange between us, which occurred slightly more than three weeks ago in the comments section following the blog entry in which I related Frenchy’s story, “Elegiac Thoughts On Why It Matters So Very, Very Much” (https://www.patheos.com/blo…

ttn: “This past month, I have been assigned to work in the sealing offices. It has been a phenomenal month observing the binding authority of priesthood keys. I am grateful that Brother “Frenchy” Marceau (1925-2012) and Sister Wanda Dale Hamilton Morrell (1926-1986) can be sealed (they are both in FamilySearch, waiting for mortal family to discover them).”

dcp: “Wonderful!”

My exclamation of “Wonderful!” is, according to the Stalker’s tale, my public approval of whatever sordid, unethical, and rule-violating manipulation you supposedly performed on the Morrells’ Family Search records. And here I thought that I was simply voicing my pleasure at your report that their records are in the database, ready for the work to someday be done on their behalf by a member of their family! Dang. Ya just can’t fool some folks.

You then asked, “Dr P. May I have permission to cut and paste a couple of paragraphs out of this blog post and share it with a patron on FamilySearch? It might get added to Frenchy’s memories. There is an Anna Morrell that is shepherding his temple work for him, and I think she may enjoy reading this story. If you are willing, let me know if you want to be identified or remain anonymous.”

To which I replied, “Absolutely you may share it. And I can remain anonymous — that would be fine — or it might be more helpful for a relative if my name were identified. Good idea.”

Your response: “Thank you. The deed is done.”

It’s a tale that fairly sears the screen, dontcha think?

He replied as follows:

Wanda happens to be a relative of mine (a ninth cousin). Therefore, Frenchy is a distant in-law cousin. So all my work on their records was very appropriate. However, assuming they were not relatives (so that I can do a teaching moment) . . . .

For Frenchy, I did create a record using the name and vitals from Find-a-Grave. I often do this as a tool to help locate an extant record when the search fails to find it because the information I have is incomplete or not quite right (in this case Frenchy was a nickname). As a result, as I hoped I would, I found an earlier record (using his real name Marceau). I then merged my record into that earlier record. This is an appropriate and commonly used tactic. And when intentional, it occurs in just minutes (but no scrambling) because the whole purpose is to find and merge. If your Malevolent Stalker were able to look at all my work history, they would discover many examples of just the same tactic.

Making corrections and standardizations to FamilySearch records (even non-relative records) is appropriate and something that I was instructed to do as a missionary (I am now in my third mission doing this kind of work). We have a team of missionaries in our mission spending all day doing just these kinds of activity. One of the side activities that all members can do is correct and standardize records. It doesn’t have to be records for their relatives. There is even a tool (The New Volunteer Opportunities on the FamilySearch website landing page) for members to assist with standardizing place names. But in my case, it is even more appropriate because Wanda IS a relative and therefore Frenchy is an in-law relative.

What is NOT appropriate is for you or I to reserve Frenchy’s or Wanda’s records and do their ordinance work for them. (Only in my case, I could, if no closer relative does it first.)

For Wanda, I found her record, and connected her to Marceau (i.e., Frenchy). This is also an appropriate action to take (even if Wanda was not my relative).

Once I knew that Wanda was a relative, I also added some details and sources to their records.

The Family History Department is even starting to use AI now to help with these kinds of record improvements, because the missionaries and members can not keep up with it.

For both Frenchy and Wanda their marriage to each other was a second marriage.

Both Frenchy and Wanda have people who appear to be closer relatives that are aware of their records and for Frenchy working on his ordinances. Frenchy had two children from his first marriage and four brothers. I suspect someone from one of those lines is the person working on him.

Wanda was born in 1926 so it will be another few years before a distant relative (i.e., me or someone else) can take care of her. I can see that someone besides me has been working on her record.

ttn: “… understanding what the … rules are.” I’ve been working in a FamilySearch Center in the evenings, since the beginning of 2019 (with a COVID break). This service includes regular training on the methods and rules (more so during the COVID break). Prior to that I served two missions with the Family History Department (my current mission is with the Church History Department, but when the history research is slow, I’m to help with FamilySearch records. Sister T is currently serving at the FamilySearch Library. We serve three eight hour days a week.). I am comfortable that I have a modest grasp on the rules. Sister T knows them very well. We teach others the rules.

I doubt that your Malevolent Stalker knows the rules better than Sister T or I, but I could be wrong.

So to your Malevolent Stalker’s point — is it a conspiracy if I work on my own family history, even if I get a clue to look at someone from a blog, or a newspaper, or a post on social media?

As an afterthought: It is interesting to me that your Malevolent Stalker knew how to find Marceau’s record and see the work I had done on it. Me thinks your MS is living a double life? Not quite authentic to itself or others? Maybe fearful of what the truth would turn up?

One accusation made by my Malevolent Stalker (if I correctly understand his rather convoluted conspiracy theories) is, apparently, that ttn stepped in and did the temple work for “Frenchy” and Wanda that I could have done, had I not been the selfish, cynical, callous, and lazy unbeliever that the Stalker and his epigones believe me to be or, anyway, pretend to believe me to be.  Clearly, though, ttn has not performed the work for Frenchy and Wanda.  Proof?  It remains to be done.

I replied to ttn with the following brief note:

Thanks, ttn. That all makes complete sense, though I must admit that it lacks the frisson of horrified excitement, the inimitable je ne sais quoi, of a genuine Malevolent Stalker fantasy. I predict that it won’t be popular over on the Peterson Obsession Board.

Posted from Cleveland, Ohio



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