By H. Wallace Goddard · August 14, 2023
Would you like to feel the love and wisdom of your ancestors in your life and your family’s life? Would you like to feel the strength and stability of your heritage as a foundation for your family?
You can make the great qualities and contributions of your forefathers a blessing and a strength to you, your children, and your grandchildren.
It is common for us to stash ancestors’ stuff in storage. Whatever we have inherited from them sits in a closet or basement. We don’t think about them, and we rarely tell their stories.
That is dangerous! Malachi warns us that, if the hearts of the fathers are not turned to the children and the hearts of the children turned to their fathers, the earth will be smitten with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6).
Let’s think about the curse Malachi is describing. Satan wants us to feel isolated and disconnected. God wants the opposite for us–to be connected to our ancestors—drawing goodness and strength from them. He wants us to draw on their wisdom and experience. He wants us to be enriched by the best of our heritage.
Psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush found that the more children know about their family history the higher their self-confidence and the more successfully their families functioned. They are likely to be more resilient because of a strong sense of “intergenerational self”—they know they belong to something bigger than themselves. (Bruce Feiler, “The Stories that Bind Us,” The New York Times, March 15, 2013)
When Malachi talks of binding our hearts to our ancestors, this requires much more than filling in the blanks on a pedigree chart. Bare demographic details don’t bind hearts. Bringing their discoveries, their stories, and their personalities to our lives does bind hearts.
Each year Nancy and I create a different display in our living room that features the pictures, stories, and quirks of ancestors.
J. Percy Goddard was important in my life. I was his junior home teaching companion and I remember him reciting fun poems at family gatherings. It wasn’t until adulthood that I discovered his remarkable life of service. He had served over 12 years as bishop and more than 14 years as stake president. He traveled the state of Utah as an accountant and auditor. His sweetheart, Verna, served the young women of the Church much of her life. She was a brave voice for goodness and virtue. The display in our home gave us regular reminders and frequent opportunities to tell the stories of these beloved people.
In addition to living room displays, we also create timelines that summarize the lives of cherished ancestors. We display treasured pictures and keepsakes on matboard. This timeline for great-grandpa Ben Goddard shows his life from childhood in England, to emigration to Utah, subsequent conversion, and a lifetime of service as a missionary and the director of the first Bureau of Information on Temple Square. Along the bottom of the matboard we show decade markers and pictures of major world events.
Your family resources are different from ours; you can tell the story of your family with the resources you have. By sharing their pictures, keepsakes, and stories, your children and grandchildren learn the names, faces, stories, and hearts of their ancestors. And we can all feel bound to our forebears with eternal love and gratitude.
I will be sharing more about these ideas and others for binding the hearts of our children to their ancestors at the annual RootsTech conference in early 2024.