A couple months ago, I wrote up a brief post describing and contextualizing modern Mormon temple sealing practice. I recently came across a letter from 1942 describing new policies for temple work, which by today’s standards are still quite restrictive (1). I thought it was interesting as I hadn’t realized the practice of naming family heirs, who were responsible for all temple work for a given convert or convert couple was maintained this late (I still have a lot of work to do on the 20th century).
OFFICIAL LETTER OF INSTRUCTIONS
Submit Names for Temple Work on Family Group Record
December 11, 1941.
Dear Stake Chairman:
As foreshadowed in our letter of November 3, 1941, it can now be officially announced that the new plan of submitting names for temple work will go into effect January 1, 1942.
After that date all names to be submitted for baptism and endowment are to be copied (preferably typed) on the revised form of family group record. . . . This group record should be brought or mailed to The Index Office, 80 North Main, Salt Lake City, Utah. There it will be censored to see if correctly made out with adequate identification, exact source of information, name of heir, name and address of patron, and other facts called for on the sheet.
If approved by the censor department, this record sheet will be checked at the temple index bureau to determine if any ordinance of baptism or endowment has been previously administered for any person named on the record. If it is discovered, for example, that the husband and two of the children—those named on lines 2 and 5—are already baptized and endowed, the dates of these ordinances with the name of the heir and the relationship of this heir to the dead will be copied in the spaces provided opposite these names. This is so the patron may record these dates in his own family record.
The names of those found to be not endowed will be approved for ordinance work. The Genealogical Society will then make a typewritten copy in duplicate of this group sheet you have sent, one to serve as a temple copy, the other as the archives copy; and the sheet sent in by the patron, with the addition of the ordinance dates and names of heirs inserted, as mentioned above, will be returned to him.
From the typewritten copy we have made, index cards will then be typed in duplicate. The carbon copies will be filed in the index bureau to prevent any other person receiving approval to do ordinance work for these same individuals. The originals will be placed in envelopes bearing the name of the heir, and the name and address of the patron or person who submitted the names. These envelopes will be sent to whichever temple the patron may designate, and held in readiness for baptism and endowment, Both ordinances will be done from the card.
These cards will be photographed at the temple for their temple record after the baptism ordinance, and again after the endowment; then they will be returned to the Genealogical Society of Utah. There dates of baptism and endowment will be entered on the two copies of the group sheet which has been typed. Then these original index cards will be filed in the Index Bureau, replacing the duplicates there, which have now served their purpose of preventing duplication.
When a sufficient number of family group records for one patron are ready for sealing, he will be notified by the Genealogical Society and requested to inform them when and at what temple he will do the sealings, and whether he will provide his own proxies for the sealings. The society will then send the temple copies of these group records, which are ruled so as to be suitable for sealing, directly to the temple so designated. There the names of proxies will be inserted. Following the sealing each group record, bearing now the date of sealing, names of officiator, witnesses and proxies, will be photographed; and then returned to the Genealogical Society. There the sealing date will be recorded on the archives copy. The temple copy will finally be returned to the patron, and he may preserve this complete record, giving dates of baptism, endowment and sealing, as part of his own family record.
Since under the new plan patrons will have to make out only one record form—the revised family group record—emphasis must be placed on how to prepare it correctly. Kindly call together your stake and ward committeemen as soon as possible, and acquaint them with these facts. We enclose enough copies of this letter so there may be one for each ward chairman in your stake. Urge them to make due announcement of the change in their wards.
In the discussion with your workers points may be raised which require these instructions:
1. The complete family should be entered on the group record. If the names of a husband and wife only can be found, submit their names on the sheet; for it is anticipated that later research will reveal the names of all the children, at which time they can be added to the record. Submit the names of all children in a family, including those who died under eight years, and also those who have been previously baptized and endowed and even sealed.
2. Names of isolated individuals un- connected by record as yet with either a father, mother, wife or husband, or child, should be retained by the patron as a subject for further research, until at least one such relative can be given. Exceptional cases will be considered on their merits.
3. Be specific in citing the source of information for facts shown on the group sheet sent in for temple work. If it is a printed volume, give the title of the book and page where this particular record will be found. If from a family record, name the person who compiled it, as “Family Record of George Mason, Jr.” If the data were obtained from a living person, give his name and address. If from a vital record or a parish register, name the town or parish and the record, as “Mansfield Vital Records” or “Norton Parish Register.”
4. The new family group record form may be obtained from the Deseret Book Company, 44 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, at the price of seventy-five cents a hundred, if bought over the counter, or eighty-five cents a hundred if sent by mail postpaid. But the old price of 10c per dozen will continue.
5. The old form of family group record can still be used for private family records or for sending copies of completed records to the Church Record Archives.
Sincerely your brother,
Joseph Fielding Smith,
Church Historian and Recorder.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, “Official Letter of Instructions,” Improvement Era 45 (January 1942): 45.