The Little Red Hen and Family History
Talk by Ed Spencer, FH Consultant, Sandy Granite View Stake
Edited by Cathy Anderegg
We have heard much from our prophet leaders as to the need to ‘hasten the work’. We have noticed that Satan has also picked up his pace to destroy the work. Our real calling name might not be Ward Family History Consultants, but rather Ward Family History Temple Consultants. Family History is part of temple work. It is an adjunct to temple work. I would like to speak to you of Family History and how it will prepare us and our families for the challenges ahead.….
I would like to retell you a story, an allegory that you have all heard before. It’s called The Little Red Hen. I’m sure you remember it. The story stresses individual accountability and the Law of the Harvest. It begins with …
‘Once upon a time, there was a lamb, a cat, a pig and a little red hen that
all lived together. The little red hen found some grains of wheat scattered
in the barnyard. She was excited about her discovery and wanted to share
it with her friends.
”Look what I have found!” she said to the other animals.
“Who will help me plant this wheat, so we can have some bread?”
"Not I!" said the lamb.
"Not I!" said the cat.
"Not I!" said the pig.
“Then I will do it myself”, she said. (And I like this part) ‘And she did.’
Don’t you love the Little Red Hen? She personifies goal setting and focus. She has determination to achieve her goal, of hot sweet bread. I love her confidence in herself. When I think of the Little Red Hen, Nephi comes to mind and how he was determined to reach his goal, with great faith in himself and the Lord. He said that whenever the children of men keep the commandments of God, He does nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide the means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them.
The little red hen needed help from the lamb, the cat and the pig. But, they were always too busy. She found that she had strength enough within herself, to accomplish the work needed. And the story goes.
“Finally, after she had planted, watered, harvested and had ground the
flour, she announced, ‘who will help me make some bread.’
"Not I!" said the lamb.
"Not I!" said the cat.
"Not I!" said the pig.
"Then I'll do it myself," said the Little Red Hen. And so she did.
The kitchen filled with the delicious scent of baking bread, and the other
animals came to see what was happening. The Little Red Hen took the
warm, crusty loaf out of the oven, and set it on the table.
"Who will help me eat this fresh, tasty bread?" asked the Little Red Hen.
"I will!" said the lamb.
"I will!" said the cat.
"I will!" said the pig.
"No, you will not," said the Little Red Hen. "You didn't help me plant it, or
water it, or harvest it, or mill it, or bake it. I shall eat it myself!"
And so she did.
"Oh me!" said the lamb.
"Oh my!" said the cat.
"Oh me, oh my!" said the pig.
The next time the Little Red Hen found some grains of wheat, the lamb
planted it in the rich, brown soil, the cat watered it carefully every day, and
the pig harvested the wheat when it had grown tall and strong. When the
dough was baked, together the animals made hot chocolate and ate the
fresh, warm bread. It was delicious! The animals lived happily ever after,
cooperating and helping every day.”
The story illustrates the “law of the Harvest.” You receive what you earn. This is the plan of justice in the Gospel. ‘And mercy cannot destroy justice; otherwise God would cease to be God’. Sometimes, our family history effort is somewhat like the little red hen story.
Sometimes we respond to the request of our leaders to become involved in Family History as the barnyard animals responded to the Little Red Hen. We may feel that we don’t have enough experience and knowledge as to how to proceed with our family History and Temple work. We may feel that we would have to make a change in our priorities to give enough time that would be required for such an effort. But deciding to change is the first step in repentance, which is what we all have to do each day to improve our lives.
Our efforts in Family History could be similar to a Family History Little Red Hen story. It could start like this:
‘Once upon a time there was a person in a ward, who upon listening to a conference talk, was impressed by the Spirit, when she heard repeated the
statement: “They without us can not be saved, neither can we without
them be saved”. She felt she should be more involved in family history and
temple work. She wanted to share with others her spiritual discovery so
she went to her family and friends, whom she dearly loved, and invited
some of them to join her in this effort. But they were all too busy. Some
felt their church callings gave them no extra time. Others had family
concerns. Some were working and were too exhausted at the end of the
So she said, “I guess I will have to do it myself.” And she did.
She started to index and found that during each day she was happier than
before. She felt she was giving something back to the Lord and His
children. She found it was easy and did not require more than an hour a
day. She noticed that she was one of only 37,000 indexers for the entire
church membership, who in 2015 who were actively indexing.
She learned that there had been 1,277,000,000 records, (more now)
indexed by volunteers. She thought, ‘there are a lot of records now
accessible from my home that have been indexed. I wonder if any apply to
She decided to ask her friends if they would participate with her in learning
how to access these records online. But they were all so busy. There were
family activities, soccer, dance activities and family transportation needs.
Some felt if I go to the temple regularly that is about all I can offer as a
contribution. Some said my family has an aunt Mildred, who has done all
there is to be done and no one can do more to add to her work.
So she said:’ I will do it myself’, and she did.
She began to take some classes in the local, multi-stake family history
center on how to easily access records of her family. She was impressed
with the quality of instructors and the help she received. She found the
facility was larger than she expected and had 26 new computers, a
high-speed photo scanner and copier and high speed internet.
She had so much fun learning of the lives and challenges of her ancestors.
It made her more appreciative of the sacrifices they made to keep the
family name going and allowing her to be born into it.
She soon discovered there were many of her ancestors that needed their ordinance work done. Many more than she could perform herself. She
thought I will ask my friends in the ward, the Relief Society and even the
priesthood if they will help me. But she found they were all very busy
keeping the ward functioning. They had their own responsibilities, they felt,
that took precedence over helping her take her names to the temple. One
said, that he worked in the temple twice each week and couldn’t see how
he could spend any more time there than he was now doing.
So she said: “I will do it myself”. And she did.
She found she needed to go to the temple two times each week to keep up
with the family names she was generating each week. She found more joy
than she had experienced before when going to the temple. She found
there were other interested patrons that were willing to perform some of
the ordinances for her. The workers were also very helpful especially if she
had special initiatory or sealing ordinance needs.
She began to feel the love of the Lord more than she had ever experienced
before. This feeling carried her through each week. Frequently she
recognized a hymn that would start spontaneously in her mind. She
realized that she always felt happy. She was especially grateful to feel,
from time to time, the contact with her departed ancestors and their
approval. With tears of joy she thanked her Heavenly Father for these
experiences. She prayed that her departed ancestors would help her find
their names and records. She often felt they were helping her even in her
daily chores. Like the little Red Hen she was motivated.”
It is hard to comprehend all that the Lord has done for us to assist our ancestors. It was just 1991 when we first had the “world wide web”. The internet has now allowed all members with internet access to do Family History Temple work in their own homes. We can see completed ordinances recorded on our home computer just minutes after they are recorded in the temple. The church’s FamilySearch Family Tree program is becoming more powerful as it is added to and updated each week.
To give you an example of how this works, in the FamilySearch Family Tree program, 1 plus billion records have been indexed and are being regularly entered into the system. Those records that we index are helping persons like ourselves find their ancestors. Each record has links to a family name, events, dates and places. When we enter data or a query to Family Tree, it looks for any related records.
Last week, I was following the process of searching. I came across a family of John and Ellen Stromback. He and his wife were both born in 1848 in Sweden. Through the records linked to this family, I learned that in 1880 he was living as a farmer in Plymouth, Indiana. His daughter Augusta was married to my relative William Pomeroy. Through looking at censuses which were displayed on her person page, I found Augusta was first called Gusta and was born in Indiana. The marriage record of her sister Mollie stated the parents, John and Ellen, were really John and Elna Strombeck, both from Malmohus, Sweden.
Family Tree has developed a method of tagging or attaching a record hint or source to a family in the tree pedigree. With a simple mouse click, an indexed record can be added to a person and a family that is linked to the original source document without our typing in the data. This attached record shows other relatives, and may be attached to all family members on the record, if it is judged to reliably apply as a source of information for them too. When one clicks on the record, it will bring up the original scanned document for you to read.
After my discoveries, I corrected and added some information on the person’s details page and the Family Tree pedigree. I was in the process of also attaching a record to the marriage of Mollie, linking her to her father and mother’s family, when a another record appeared for the name Johan Otto Strumbeck with the same birth date, same place of birth adding Tullesbo, Oved, to Malmohus, Sweden as a possible name for her father. This source showed his parents, which could be added to the record of the daughter Mollie. Someone had done their temple work for the family in Sweden, but no one had traced Johan to John in America, where he married into my family. All this information was easily available through FamilySearch Family Tree, but required me taking the time to look for it.
Elder David A. Bednar has said:
Almost precisely seven years later, on April 7, 1844, he declared: “The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The apostle says, ‘They without us cannot be made perfect’ [see Hebrews 11:40]; for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fullness of the dispensation of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man.”
From the Lord through His prophets, we have received a calling to be involved in Family History work. It was Pres. Benson that said the great test in life is obedience. The great task in life is to learn what is the will of the Lord and then do it. The great commandment in life is to love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength. Mk 12:30
We are so blessed to have access to the Spirit, because we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We know that our experience with the Spirit is conditioned upon the Law of the Harvest, on the justice of God. We pray that He will intercede with mercy in our lives, but we know this is conditioned on our faithfulness. He has said: “I give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. And blessed are those who hearken unto my precept and give ear unto my counsel. For to him that receiveth I will give more, and from those who say we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”(2 Nephi 28:30)
Think of it brothers and sisters how kind and patient Heavenly Father is. How personal is our relationship that we are permitted to have with Him. He is anxious to share with us His eternal life. I think of His words,
” and every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father. And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you” (D&C 84:47-48)
How tenderly He must love us, and yet He is bound by the laws of Justice. He is willing to teach us individually at the pace we can comprehend about the covenant of eternal life. He gives us inspiration daily with thoughts that motivate us to repent and live better. He provides additional helps through our scriptures, conferences and also the temple.
The temple is a place where we can assimilate more knowledge to assist us on our journey toward eternal life. When we work in the temple for our ancestors, our growth is enhanced beyond when we attend without helping our ancestors. Love is the key. If ye love me keep my commandments.
Elder Bednar said further:
“Enabling the exaltation of the living and the dead is the Lord’s purpose for building temples and performing vicarious ordinances. We do not worship in holy temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to the entire human family. Planting in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; turning the hearts of the children to their own fathers; and performing family history research and vicarious ordinances in the temple are labors that bless individuals in the spirit world not yet under covenant.”
We have had a family of eleven. Four members of the family when they encountered “pot holes’ in the Road to Eternal life detoured onto other paths. Cindy and I can see what they cannot see, but they have to rediscover the path again for themselves. I have confidence that the Lord in His mercy will bring them back. I am counting on the Lord’s promise “I will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children”. I would like to think that because we are helping our ancestors and their children to be united through the temple, that they are also helping us unite our living family in the temple.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if we could all be obedient to the call of the Spirit, as was the sister who did her family history work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we discovered, as she did, that through Family History and Temple work, Heavenly Father can communicate with us personally. In His infinite wisdom, He has special blessings reserved for those involved in Family History. While one is working in Family History, He teaches them by the Spirit, individually, of the Covenant of Eternal Life and how we can qualify for it.
It is my prayer that when He asks:
‘Who will help me with this work?’, we will say, “I will”. And then do it!
This is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.