How the TV Show "Finding Your Roots" Added to My Temple Experience

By Anne Maxson

I recently used “Ordinances Ready” to print a name for an Endowment Session at the temple. I immediately recognized the name, Emma Kristina Karlsdotter, as that of my second great-grandmother. (She is the paternal grandmother of my grandma that I talked about in this post from last month.) 

Emma had been featured on an episode of the TV show “Finding Your Roots.” In the episode, they shared a bit of her backstory. She was born in 1858 in Varmland, Sweden. The episode includes a picture of a church where she had her daughter’s christening. They shared that Emma and her husband were farmers who traveled from place to place while looking for seasonal work. It was a life of poverty with little hope for escape. They lived in difficult, crowded, dirty, and disease-ridden conditions. 

In 1887, Emma and her family left Sweden to move to Minnesota. Her husband worked as a plumber and they were able to establish a life here with their 8 children. 

There were many sacred moments while I was in the temple with Emma’s name. Here are two things that really stuck out to me. 

First, I couldn’t help but think of the pictures of the people who lived in such impoverished conditions in Sweden. I thought of the contrast between the rooms and buildings of Sweden that were pictured and the beautiful temple I was in. I thought about how hard it must have been to have hope while in those conditions and not being able to see a clear path forward. What type of strength and courage did it take for Emma and her family to find a way to come to the United States? What would it be like to walk with her into a temple celestial room? 

Second, as I mentioned in the post about my grandmother that is linked above, I was the first person in my family to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I did the work to help Emma make covenants and find the “perfect brightness of hope” in Christ, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I didn’t have to wait until the next life to gain access to the hope that is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

These two thoughts helped to solidify how Missionary Work and Temple and Family History Work are “One Work” in the gospel. They both play an important role in fulfilling our covenant responsibility in the Gathering of Israel. 

In his talk, “We Each Have a Story,” Elder Gerrit Gong said, “Imagine your image reflected back and forth between two mirrors of eternity. In one direction, picture yourself as daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter; in the other direction, smile at yourself as aunt, mother, grandmother. How quickly time passes! In each time and role, notice who is with you. Gather their photos and stories; make their memories real. Record their names, experiences, key dates.”

Learning more of my 2nd great grandmother’s story helped to enrich my temple experience as I was able to perform ordinances on her behalf. 

In closing, I’d like to share this wonderful blessing and invitation that was shared by Elder Gong, “We each have a story. Come discover yours. Come find your voice, your song, your harmony in Him. This is the very purpose for which God created the heavens and the earth and saw that they were good. Praise God’s plan of happiness, Jesus Christ’s Atonement, continuing restoration in His gospel and Church. Please come find your family, all your generations, and bring them home.”

Author’s Note: Unfortunately, I can’t find a clip of the portion of the episode that gives all of Emma’s backstory but this video clip shows her name at the 9-second mark. For those interested in more details, she is featured in Episode 1 of Season 9 of “Finding Your Roots.”

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