One year ago, Anne Compton's life was slipping away. She was in a Birmingham hospital, suffering from ailments she suspected represented the last stage of her battle with multiple sclerosis.
"She was losing weight by the day," recalled Dorothy Horne, a friend who visited Sister Compton frequently in the hospital. "We didn't think she would make it."But then a large box arrived from Sister Compton's brother, Bill. Once delivered to the hospital, "We saw Anne get better from that day on," said Sister Horne.
What exactly did this box contain to help bring about such a miraculous recovery? Genealogical information to help her begin work on her mother's side of the family. "I'm not quite ready to check out yet," Sister Compton said, smiling. "I've got too much left to do."
Anne Compton M.D., knows all about this unpredictable disease that is slowly robbing her of physical functions and is saddling her with other chronic, and potentially fatal, illnesses. She learned all about it in medical school.
But Sister Anne Compton also knows she has been called to do a special work for her ancestors, and that her life has been prolonged so she could perform this work. She learned this through special blessings and the guidance of the Spirit.
She has been preserved to submit an astounding 52,000 names of her father's ancestors for temple work in the 12 years since becoming a member of the Church. And after her brother helped her by conducting some on-site research in Nova Scotia in Canada (the contents of the box she received while in the hospital), Sister Compton recently sent in an initial batch of 500 names from her mother's side. And many more names, she prays, will follow.
Sister Compton was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to Logan, Utah, when she was 13. Though she attended Logan High School and Utah State Unviersity, where she completed pre-med course work, she left Utah knowing very little about the Church.
She went on to, and graduated from, medical school at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Bill, her brother, had joined the Church in 1974, and shared his conversion experience with relatives. "I was happy for him because he seemed so happy," Sister Compton remembers. "But I wasn't searching for anything. I didn't feel a void, or longing, or emptiness. I wasn't unhappy."
On Oct. 2, 1975, though, came the experience that changed her life. She had recently started the second year of her medical residency in psychiatry, and on that night was reluctantly attending a New Life Christian college group meeting with a friend. "They were having problems dealing with some very basic questions," Sister Compton said. "What is the Bible? Who is Christ?"
She lost interest and began gazing at the ceiling as the debate continued on around her. Then she recalls distinctly feeling, "`The Mormon Church answers these questions very well. If you will look into it, something good will come of it.' A very powerful feeling stayed with me for the rest of the meeting."
Sister Compton immediately dashed off a letter to her brother asking him and his wife, Debbie, to teach her all about the Church. She sent the letter but couldn't wait for a reply. She opened the Yellow Pages and began calling LDS Church telephone numbers. After several calls, she was referred to missionaries who, it turns out, had been praying intently for someone who was ready to be taught the gospel.
Sister Compton was ready. She read the Book of Mormon in one night, and, after hearing of a Church bookstore located in the Birmingham Stake Center, went there the following night and "bought the place out." She was ready to commit to baptism in two weeks, but delayed it an additional week so her brother could come from South Dakota to perform the ordinance.
The first Sunday School class Sister Compton was asked to attend was not Gospel Essentials or Gospel Doctrine - it was a genealogy course taught by Reita Crow. "She was a good teacher," Sister Compton said. "Before long I was starting to write letters to town clerks in New England and getting some encouraging responses. But because I had three jobs in three different hospitals, I didn't feel I had much time for genealogy."
Additional experiences helped her decide to make time for genealogy. She came across a pedigree chart her non-LDS father had compiled before she was born. "I also learned through various blessings and personal revelations that my main mission would be to do genealogy," she said.
That "mission" has continued, though not without hardship. Her health began worsening not long before she joined the Church. "My physical health has gone down, but my spiritual health keeps going up," she quipped.
Sister Compton is no longer able to maintain a private medical practice, but since 1981 has been a medical consultant and case reviewer for Alabama's State Disability Determination Services. Even her extensive genealogical work, which occupies 10-15 hours a week, must be done in a special chair because of spinal difficulties. She went to the temple in 1977, but, because of her health, has been able to personally perform proxy work for only two of the thousands of ancestors whose names she has submitted. "I'll supply the names; they'll have to supply the proxies," she said.
She has supplied the names - more than 52,000 of them.