Sunday, August 16, 2015

That They Might Have Joy

"That must be such fascinating work!" It's the response I almost always get when I tell people what Ann and I are doing here in Indiana. It does have its moments of fascination as we handle each of the 150-year-old documents. I've smiled at the receipts for piano lessons--80 cents, and the lessons were twice a week. And how would it be to have a doctor's "house visit" for a dollar? There are long, scroll-like documents that record the appraisal and sale of the estate, listing personal and household property like 11 forks, 3 cows, 2 cross-cut saws, 5 spools of thread, 10 bales of hay. These day-to-day bills, receipts, and inventories give such an intimate look at someone's life. I'd like to have such a window to look through into the lives of my ancestors. Such documents are rarely a help in enlarging a family tree, but they surely nourish and fortify it.
One long document!

 There are some records, though, that will help your family tree to quickly sprout more branches.  I especially appreciate the genealogical value of the guardianship documents that often list the full names and ages of the orphaned children, and of the probate record of the estate distribution giving the heirs' names and relationships to the testator.

A petition to adopt a 4-month old baby, declaring the name of the birth father, adopting father, and the little girl's adopted name.  What a goldmine of information!
But those rare moments are like an isolated wild flower along an otherwise dusty wagon trail across a barren desert.  We capture 1500 to 2000 images each day.  Our focus is on the quality of the image, not the significance of the document.  Is it focused, rotated correctly, cropped efficiently, free of shadows or extraneous objects?  Is the tagging complete and the documents labeled and stored where they belong?  It's indulging ourselves to stop long enough to actually read a document for pleasure.

Ann is enjoying the Indiana flowers
Did my pioneer ancestors feel the same way?  Were they so focused on keeping the handcart in good repair and rolling toward the Salt Lake valley that there was no time or energy left for wild flowers?  I'm glad they didn't get waylaid or distracted.  They had a destination, a reason for the arduous journey.  There would be time for flowers later, and I have benefited from their sacrifice and devotion.

We digitized his probate records this week.  He dedicated his life to many good causes here in Terre Haute.
He died with no descendants or close relatives.

A few people, perhaps those more aware of the actual process of what we do, have asked, "Don't you get bored?"  Although I usually try to give a more upbeat response, the truth is, yes.  It is tedious, repetitive work and I am often praying for heavenly strength to make it to 4:00 PM.  Yet, I am happy and finding joy in this service.  How can that be?

Definitely, this packet of documents will present challenges as we prepare them for imaging.

Faith.  In Lectures on Faith Joseph Smith teaches that our faith can increase as we develop an accurate concept of the object of our faith.  The Mormon Pioneers "sang as they walked" because they had a vision of God's purposes in their exodus. My vision is described in D&C 128:24 "Let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation."  I know that the Lord, whom I love and have covenanted to serve, is vitally interested in this work.  I have been called to this little corner of his vineyard to do my small part in his glorious objective, "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)

He didn't call me to Indiana to punish me with boredom, although he surely knew it would be a trial for me physically and spiritually.  I am growing right along with your FamilyTree.  Little by little I am becoming more submissive, more humble, and more patient.  And because I can see the hand of the Lord in my life, I can find joy in the journey. I am a recipient of the same blessing that God extended to the missionaries heading off to preach to the Zoramites, "and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ." (Alma 31)

A little unexpected publicity.
There is additional joy and reward in our lives here.  We love the people in the community.  Many have been generous to come and prepare the documents for us.  We have grown close to the members in the LDS congregations here as we've had opportunities to be with them and serve them.  We enjoy serving in the temple and our work with the Addiction Recovery Program.  We even have time for our hobbies of music and family history.   And there's always ice cream.

Is there such a thing as too much?!  From my present girth it appears that there is.

In every instance, God has revealed to men his Plan of Happiness before he gave them commandments.  Often I fail to see that greater Plan, as I get bogged down in the desert ruts of my mortal journey--the trials, temptations, and weaknesses I experience.  Does the Journey Seem Long?  I try to remember the advice of these lyrics written by a prophet of God:

Let your heart be not faint
Now the journey's begun;
There is One who still beckons to you.
So look upward in joy
And take hold of his hand;
He will lead you to heights that are new.

"Men are [including me] that they might have JOY." (2 Nephi 2:25)  Ann and I are happy in the Lord's work, in our marriage, and in our lives here in Indiana.