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One nonreligious journalist’s reaction when he realized so many genealogical documents lead back to the Church

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published on in April 2022.

Neal Thompson is an acclaimed journalist who recently wrote on the Literary Hub website about learning just how extensive the Church’s contributions are in the field of genealogical records.

Having been trained in his craft in the 1980s, Thompson says he retains “some old-school sensibilities.” But modern online records systems have completely changed how he digs around for historical records for research, including studying the roots of the Kennedy family in America. More and more often, Thompson found that these records were made available thanks to the efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thompson happily took advantage of all the free records without thinking twice. Then one day he had a conversation with a friend.

“A reporter friend once asked me if I felt any guilt for contributing to an enterprise that was allegedly aimed at capturing deceased souls and ‘baptizing’ them into the Mormon church,” Thompson recalls in his article. “That led me to digging into how and why so many genealogical documents and old obits and newspaper articles were so easily within my digital reach, compliments of the Mormons’ efforts.”

Thompson’s digging led him to find out more about why the Church invests so much in genealogical research:

“The Church has claimed that its longtime interest in digitizing historical records isn’t some religious plot but an effort to connect people with their past. On the website, it explains: ‘Feelings of family connection can help us overcome the ups and downs of life. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints funds FamilySearch to help people draw strength from their family relationships—past, present, and future.’ As a non-religious person, that explanation sounded good enough for me. Mainly I’m just grateful for the resources.”

Read the full article on Literary Hub.

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