True Miracles with Genealogy: Help from Beyond the Veil
Russell Y. Anderson
Reviewed by Russell Y Anderson for the Association for Mormon Letters
I have been acquainted with several experiences both in my own family and
with others about getting special help with genealogical research, so I was
excited to see the stories that Anne had compiled. It seems to be almost a
given fact that if you want to have some special spiritual experiences you
just have to spend some time (maybe years) involved with doing work for our
ancestors, but then recognizing the help when it comes.
I have always enjoyed reading stories like this and some of these stories
were very touching and required me to keep some tissues near. It was also
interesting to see how sometimes there are road blocks in the way because
the time is not right, but that later the way is opened.
But this isn't only a book about genealogical research. I very much enjoyed
the story about Daris Howard writing the musical Lilacs in the Valley. He
had strong impressions and communication about just how the story was to be
written and performed. He mentions, "the most important thing I learned was
that they are real people, not just names in a book or lists on a genealogy
sheet." (p. 26)
I found it interesting and instructive to see how people even expected to
receive help. Elizabeth tell us, "I have the habit of talking aloud to my
ancestors at times. Of course one-sided conversations are the norm.
'William,' I said one day, as I realized I'd run out of ideas and patience,
'I can't connect you to your parents if I don't know where you are born! You
must tell me where to find your record. Who were your parents?'" She then
tells us that she was shocked to get an answer, "You find all my
grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and then I will tell you." (p. 41)
And sure enough, when she had done her part she found William's parents.
Another person tells how one night, "I prayed a very different kind of
prayer--to see her face and learn more about her life. I prayed to know her.
I realized this sounds crazy, but I just felt so close to her." The next day
an unknown cousin calls to tell her that she had "pictures, a quilt made by
Vira Ann, and tons of stories. Best of all she lived only one hundred miles
Sarah Street tells us, "I'd learned through previous experience that when
the spirit came, I needed to be quiet and meditate because a message was
always delivered. I took out my journal, which I'd been impressed to bring
for note taking during conference, then sat and waited." (p. 89) She then
tells about how her dead father spoke to her spirit and the beautiful
results of that experience.
Since this is a compiled record, there is a lot of variation in the style of
writing. I found this somewhat disconcerting as I would go from one story to
the next without any apparent connection or organization. John Counsel had
three stories in the book, but I couldn't figure out why two of them were 51
pages separated from the first story. I skipped and read them together. It
was also strange to see John Counsel say, "Two more of our stories appear in
this book on pages sixty-five and seventy." Those words could only have
come from the compiler of the book, not John Counsel.
I think this would have been a much better book if the stories had been
edited and organized. Sometimes family details and extra information
detracted from the main message of the book--that we can expect help with
this work. I believe a better approach would have been to organize around
themes (the type of help expected, how to prepare, etc.) and to use excerpts
from the stories as examples of those themes.
These stories are great and I am glad that Anne took the time to compile
them together. They give all of us new hope that we can also have these
types of experiences. The common thread seemed to be doing everything that
we can do and then asking for help.