In 1894, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) founded the Genealogical Society of Utah. Genealogical research had been undertaken by many people for various reasons since ancient times, but it holds a unique spiritual meaning for Latter-day Saints. Impelled by what they refer to as the Spirit of Elijah, Church members seek to identify their ancestors and then perform sacred ordinances in their behalf in the temples. The Society was founded to help the Saints achieve that purpose. Since its modest beginnings, the Society, now officially known as the Family History Department of the Church, has extended its influence to all quarters of the globe, quietly amassing a treasure house of the world’s ancestry and providing the information contained therein not only to Church members, but to all those interested in becoming acquainted with their heritage.
To understand the significance of the Society’s history, one should know something of the historical setting in which the Society arose. This prologue will briefly review that setting as well as the essential doctrines that make genealogical work so vital to Latter-day Saints.