It took a three-year-old neighbor boy to fall asleep in a closet for me to find my great grandfather.
When my bishop challenged every ward member to find just one name of an ancestor to take to the temple, I was disappointed. “Just one name?” I thought. “Our family took over 90 names to the temple last year. I need a challenge harder than that!” Fortunately, I got my wish.
About a month after receiving the bishop’s challenge, our ward faced a different one. A family in our ward lost their three-year-old son, Mason. Almost two hours later, he was discovered sleeping in his parents’ closet. The following Sunday, Mason’s mother bore her testimony expressing her gratitude to Heavenly Father.
As I listened to her testimony, I thought about searching for a child who didn’t even know he was lost. I began to think about my search for my deceased great-grandfather John Buchanan. Maybe, like Mason, he didn’t know he was lost either. The Spirit whispered to me, “This is the one name you need to bring to the temple.”
“But the temple work has already been done for John.” I rationalized to myself. “Why would I need to bring his name to the temple?” Then I remembered—he wasn’t sealed to his parents. He couldn’t be. I didn’t know who they were.
Right before John died in 1941, he shared four pieces of key information about his childhood that his family had never known before.[i] Using that information, my grandmother tried in vain to find his parents. After my father joined the church in 1975, my parents also searched with no success. Twenty five years ago, I took over the search. I discovered his name wasn’t John Buchanan, but couldn’t find his real name. He took that secret to the grave.
I was tired of looking. I had already spent hours in the back of libraries spinning microfilms in the dark reading countless census records. I had searched on the Internet using every possible search term with no success. I had read stories of how members had been able to find their ancestors’ names in miraculous ways. I wondered why Heavenly Father wouldn’t bless me in that same way. I decided it was because John Buchanan didn’t want to be found, so I gave up. Now the Spirit was telling me it was time to try again.
As I debated whether to embark yet again on such a fruitless and frustrating search, I thought about Mason’s family. I realized that they had done four things that I had not been willing to do. The Spirit was letting me know that I needed to repent and follow their example.
Value Each Individual
The first thing I noticed was that Mason’s family didn’t say, “We have lots of other children, it’s okay if we lose one of them.” No parent would ever say that, yet I was essentially saying that about John. “I have many names that are easier to find, so I’ll just focus on them instead.”
Even though I have lots of ancestors needing their temple work done, John is just as important as they are. John needed someone who was willing to follow the example of the shepherd in Christ’s lost sheep parable and leave the ninety and nine to go look for him.[ii]
Focus on the Task
Second, I realized that Mason’s family didn’t say, “Mason will turn up. Let’s just go about our activities and we’ll find him eventually.” As soon as they realized they couldn’t find Mason, the family began to call out his name. They never stopped looking until he was found.
Because of years of failing to find John’s true identity, I had decided that if I was supposed to find his family, the information would appear on its own. I knew I needed to repent and not wait for the name to come to me. I needed to purposefully look for John’s birth information and parents, no matter how frustrating or tiresome.
Use Available Resources
Third, I learned that ten minutes after looking for Mason, his father asked for help. He notified the police. He called a bishopric counselor who was also a Search and Rescue volunteer. He used Facebook, Twitter, and text messages to alert the neighbors that Mason was missing. Within ten minutes, 150 concerned ward members and neighbors arrived to knock on doors, search neighbors’ backyards, and look through every nook and cranny inside the home.
Was I using all of my available resources to find John? Honestly, I wasn’t. I didn’t want to spend money on family history work. Why was I willing to shop for frivolous and unnecessary items but not spend those extra dollars to find my ancestors? If I wanted the miracle of finding John’s true identity, I needed to be willing to make sacrifices use all the resources I could afford.
Be Worthy of a Miracle
Fourth, I discovered that Mason’s family was kneeling for family prayer when they realized he was missing. They are a family who consistently prays and reads the scriptures together. Their faith, testimony, and obedience qualified them to be worthy of their heartfelt prayer for Mason’s safe return.
Was I doing all I could to be worthy of a miracle to find my great grandfather? Could I improve my daily prayer and scripture study? Was I consistently attending the temple? Sadly, I had to admit that I had ample room for improvement. I knew that obedience brings success, but that exact obedience brings miracles. [iii] I needed a miracle, and I needed to work to improve my obedience to be worthy of that miracle.
Just six weeks later, I received my miracle. Like Mason, who was found in a place that had been searched at least 10 times, I found my answer looking at a census record I had seen several times through the years. This time, however, I was more in tune with the Spirit. When I opened the document, the Spirit let me know I had the right family. I was finally looking at the parents and siblings of my great grandfather, born Joshua DeMoulin.
A few weeks after finding John’s true identity, my father and I flew to Illinois to meet cousins we didn’t know we had. My father’s second cousin presented us with photos, documents, and a book containing 13,000 names of DeMoulin family relatives. He graciously agreed to put those names on familysearch.org. Additionally, I have met someone who has transcribed over 29,000 names from French birth, marriage and death records—all related to Joshua DeMoulin. This means I now have access to over 40,000 names to take to the temple. All because of an inspired bishop’s challenge and a little boy who decided to fall asleep in a closet!
Since discovering I am a DeMoulin, I have learned stories of sacrifice, tragedy, and triumph over evil. I have wept as I watched my children enter the waters of baptism on behalf of these amazing people. I have felt their excitement as I participate in their sealings uniting the family for eternity. I know the joy the Lord spoke of when he said to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”[iv] This verse motivates me to continue to search for more ancestors who are lost and might not even know it.