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Monday, March 12, 2012

Further statements on the New FamilySearch Controversy

Notice, this post deals with a current controversy that only slightly impacts the general genealogical community, but is of interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is clearly written from the point of view of a member of the Church.

Here are the latest official Church statements concerning the New.FamilySearch proxy baptism issue:
Date:          March 9, 2012

To:             Family History Consultants, Family History Center Directors, and Staff

From:         Family History Department

Subject:     Policies for Submitting Names for Temple Ordinances


Recently, the First Presidency of the Church reiterated the policies, first stated in 1995, concerning the submitting of names for proxy temple ordinances. As both a user of the system (new.familysearch.org) where temple ordinances are cleared and submitted and as a leader in family history, you should help users follow these policies. You will find the policy letter below this e-mail.

In a related Church News article, Brother Dennis C. Brimhall, managing director of the Family History Department, reported that “the searching out of our family and preparing the names for the work to be done in the temple is . . . a responsibility, but it is also a privilege. That privilege is extended to the members by those who hold the keys to [do] the work. The[se] keys . . . are held by the First Presidency of the Church” (Sarah Jane Weaver, “Family History—Church Asks Members to Understand Policies,” Church News, Mar. 1, 2012). (Click here to see the article.) The First Presidency set these policies. Accordingly, the Conditions of Use for users of new.familysearch.org and familysearch.org require compliance to the policies before you can submit names to the temple.

As a family history consultant, family history center director, or staff member, many times you are the first person whom members go to for guidance and direction. It is imperative that you understand these policies and are able to articulate what they mean and that you teach compliance to them. Noncompliance could mean the loss of privileges to use new.familysearch.org.

Over the next few months a series of e-mail communications will be sent to all registered users of new.familysearch.org reminding them of these policies.
Another letter over the signatures of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contained the following clarification:
  • Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter.
  • Without exception, Church member must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims. If members do so, they may forfeit their New FamilySearch privileges. Other corrective action may also be taken. 
  • Members are encouraged to participate in FamilySearch indexing which is vital to family history and temple work.
I think the policy is as clearly stated as possible. The outside critics, who do not hold the same religious beliefs and the members of the Church, seem to have the attitude that because they do not accept the practice, that FamilySearch should somehow police all of the individuals of the Church and that the whole Church organization is somehow responsible for the individuals that ignore the policy and dishonestly submit the names that at are inappropriate. It appears to me that the critics would not be satisfied until they stop the entire religious observance of the members of the Church based solely on the fact that the practice offends them.

By the way, the approach, outlined in the notices above, is not a new policy. It has been in effect for years. In addition to the policy concerning not doing ordinances for restricted groups of people, the policy has also been in effect for years that it is necessary to contact the closest living relative of a deceased person who died within the last 95 years to obtain permission to do ordinances. Recently that time limit was extended to those who died up to 110 years from the present. Unfortunately, that policy requiring permission is frequently ignored by those who have to read and specifically agree to the limitations before the proxy ordinances are approved. It is not just the famous or certain other groups of individuals who are affected by the violations of this policy. There are those who have access to New.FamilySearch.org that are apparently related to everyone by claiming descent from Adam and feel justified in submitting names for ordinances for anyone they find on the program even though they cannot demonstrate a relationship to the deceased, have not attempted to contact living relatives and submit the names even if the ordinance work has previously been performed.

It is also apparent that some of those who criticize this behavior of a few irresponsible people are more interested in attacking the Church in the media than they are in addressing the issues and assisting in a solution. Gaining access to a program, such as New.FamilySearch.org, that is intended to be used for a specific religious purpose by fraudulently using someone's account either with or without permission, is also morally reprehensible. 

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