If any one was to ask you, “What was the very first word of the restoration?” Would you know the answer? I recently asked that question in one of our monthly Family History Training sessions. I was a little surprised at the answers. Then someone said it.
In the spring of 1820, the final dispensation of the fullness of times: the great restoration of all things promised by the prophets of old began. On a clear and beautiful spring morning, a young man, troubled in mind and heart about which church he should join, sought out a secluded wood near his home were he could ask God for help. He received his answer in a most glorious vision of the Father and the Son. Much knowledge was imparted that day, but think for a moment, of all the words that have been written and spoken in the Church since the Restoration began, what was the very first word of the Restoration?
“16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved gSon. Hear Him! “
Calling me by name—think of the implication of that simple statement. These two glorious Beings with all their power, glory and majesty did not have to inquire about who Joseph was or what his name was. They Knew him!
This uneducated farm boy, living in the back woods of New York State. His family was poor; they had very few earthly possessions, yet Heavenly Father knew him. And He and Jesus Christ had come down from Heaven to personally answer his prayer. They knew him! And they knew his name.
When I was told the Joseph Smith story when I was investigating the church, it made logical sense to me that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would know the name of this young man, in my own teenage mind, I believed and I still do that Heavenly Father knows the names of all children. This knowledge and this understanding have profoundly affected the way I do the work of family history. That simple statement: calling me by name, calling me by name, is quite astonishing when we think about it.
There is power in a name. If I where to mention some names to you such as Ghandi, Winston Churchill, or even Hitler, they have the power to evoke in us a strong reaction. There is power in a name. Our ancestors were given names by their parents’; those names had meaning for them, just as our names had meaning for our parents. I have three living children. The names for each child was carefully considered prior to the birth of that child and shortly thereafter. This would be the name by which they would be known on the records of the church, this was the name they would be called for the majority of their lives. This is the name that Heavenly Father, their Heavenly Father would know them by here.
This is a lesson worthy of sober reflection and meditation, a lesson that ought to stay fresh in our minds and hearts, a lesson that ought to affect how we do this work, how intently we search and pray, how sincerely we plead with our Father in Heaven for help.
Sue Barnsley is assigned to train the Family History Consultants in the Edmonton Alberta Riverbend Stake. In addition to one-on-one training, she organizes and conducts a monthly training session for all consultants in the stake. We are grateful to Sue for sharing some of her knowledge, expertise, and experience with us.