Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
I have ADHD, so my passions swing wildly. I may be enthusiastic about something until I am not. But I’ll return to this topic when something piques my interest. It has been this way with genealogy. I did a lot of genealogy research until I ended up in the hospital for nearly four months in 2021. When I returned to my hometown in the autumn of 2021, I had other things on my mind. During the months I was incapacitated, I had been paying for expensive services such as Ancestry.com. It costs more than several streaming services combined. So I canceled that subscription and haven’t looked back since. I reminded myself that there was always the Mormons’ free genealogical site if the genealogy bug bit me again.
Today, I returned to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website. I didn’t expect them to add a feature that lets people find connections between themselves and famous people. Through a long line of ancestors, I may call Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Truman O. Angell, the architect of the Salt Lake Temple, distant cousins. I am related to 24 presidents of the United States, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and Winston Churchill. I am also the ninth cousin of Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll.
Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, T.S. Eliot, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, and other entertainers and artists are also distantly related to me. To my surprise, I was Rosa Parks’ thirteenth cousin once removed and Muhammad Ali’s ninth cousin three times removed. To avoid giving the impression that I am proud of everyone, I was disappointed to discover a distant kinship with Charles Darwin. There were more, such as an eleventh great-grandfather who arrived in America on the Mayflower. Still, I’ll stop here because my main point was that this discovery rekindled my interest in genealogy.
Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that some of you may need clarification about whether or not the data I’ve presented is accurate. Trust me; their research blew my mind as well. Yet because they believe in proxy baptism, Mormons keep detailed family trees. Mormons believe that baptism is important for salvation and that people who don’t get baptized during their own lives can still benefit from it through the actions of their children and grandchildren. Proxy baptism allows members of the Mormon Church who are still alive to be baptized on behalf of the deceased, understanding that the departed person can accept or reject that baptism in the next life.
But as attractive as it may be to find out you are a distant cousin to Bing Crosby or Robert Peary, it is a much more incredible feeling to know that you are the adopted child of God. Consider Romans 8.14-16.
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (NASB).
God has adopted those who have obeyed the gospel. We contrast the spirit of slavery and fear felt by nonbelievers with the spirit of love and intimacy one can experience with God. Following our adoption, our spirit bears witness with the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children. Through obedience, we draw closer to God to the point where we can address Him with a term of endearment.
Genealogy can be a fun hobby that teaches us about our family histories and connects us to famous people. But, as fascinating as it is to learn about our long-lost relatives, it is even more important to know that we are God’s adopted children. Obedience to the gospel opens the door to a closer relationship with God, where we can know Him as “Abba.” This relationship is far greater than any family connection discovered through genealogy, and it is a blessing that we can all share as Christians.