Several years ago my paternal grandfather published his life history for his children and grandchildren. He entitled it My Life’s Journey in a Heritage of Faith. This title was appropriate considering the many times throughout the volume that his thoughts turn not only to the legacy left by his ancestors, but also the responsibility he has felt his entire life to continue that legacy.
It is not unlike the words of Helaman to his sons Nephi and Lehi:
6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them
. (Helaman 5:6-7
Such a cause has motivated my grandfather from his earliest years. His two parents, his four grandparents, six of his eight great-grandparents, and even two of his great-great-grandparents (born in 1769 and 1776) joined themselves to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during their own lifetimes. Among them were colonizers, missionaries, pioneers, civic leaders, a mission president, and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Since all eight of my grandmother’s great-grandparents were members of the Church, several of them prominent, my father inherited an even more impressive—and pressing—legacy. When he married my mother, she added to my heritage a pile of faithful men and women, including one who served in the First Presidency with Joseph Smith.
My ancestors have stood as witnesses of God and His Christ in many places: New York, Kirtland, Missouri, England, Nauvoo, Deseret, California, Chile, Mexico, Colombia. Less dramatic but more representative are the hours spent officiating in a temple, witnessing over a pulpit in sacrament meeting, teaching a lesson to Primary children, and above all, teaching the gospel to their children. They lived as witnesses, and all that have died did so trusting completely in the Lord in whose service their lives were spent.
Grandfather has likewise consecrated all that the Lord has given him to the effort of building the Kingdom of God. With the heritage left to him ever on his mind, he has received and fulfilled calls to serve as a bishop, a counselor in a stake presidency, a mission president, a Visitor’s Center worker, a temple worker, a sealer, an MTC president, and a stake patriarch.
Perhaps more importantly, he unfailingly loved his wife for over 50 years, and accompanied her to death’s door five years ago. His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have received of his generous direction and love. All but two are active in the Church that has given so much to—and asked so much of—their family. Even now, as the veil thins, Grandfather races to finish compiling Grandmother’s life history from her extensive journals.
Thus my grandfather has contributed to the legacy I inherit. Now he stands on the brink. As his body is slowly destroyed by cancer, he inches closer to joining his forebears. But there is no despair. Like Tolkien’s King Theoden, he can assuredly say, “My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed.”
Such is the weight of heritage.