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Family History Moments: Bonds of heaven, earth

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In the early 1980s Sue Packer accompanied her mother and sisters to West Virginia to visit her mother's birthplace. She has always been interested in family history, and wherever she goes, takes a pad and pencil to record pertinent information she might find.

Knowing of that interest, one of her mother's cousins later told another cousin, Ruth, about her interest in knowing more about her ancestors. Ruth, though not LDS, was interested in family history. When she found out about Sister Packer's quest, she sent her a packet of family names.

At the time (1985) Sister Parker's husband was ill with terminal cancer. They had six children at home, and Sister Packer, who today belongs to the North Logan (Utah) 9th Ward, was attending Utah State University in pursuit of a teaching degree. She thought at the time how wonderful it would be to work on the family history but just couldn't fit it into her busy schedule.

About 10 years later she was impressed to pick the packet up and search through it. It was full of the history of Ruth's grandmother Cotter and all of her ancestors. She took it to the Family History Library and began working with it. She found 72 individuals who needed their temple work performed for them.

After she got the information ready to submit for temple work, her son, Kraig, and his wife, Kate, decided to come and help her with the proxy baptisms.

"We went to the temple, and one of the officiators asked me if I wanted to help," she recalled. "Warm feelings rushed over me as I did their work. These were my people, whose names were familiar to me because of the stories I had heard through the years. While Kraig, Kate and I did their baptisms, I was constantly praying that my relatives were aware of the work being done for them and accepting it. I continued praying even through their confirmations."

When Kraig dropped her off at her door, the telephone was ringing. The caller said: "This is Ruth Barras, your cousin from California. Did you ever receive that family packet I sent you years ago?"

Stunned, Sister Packer said yes and that she had just returned from the temple where she and some of her family had done work for 72 ancestors.

Ruth was happy and amazed. Shortly before calling Sister Packer, she had been baptized into the Church. In the days that followed, Sister Packer and Sister Barras worked together to find other ancestors and have the temple work performed for them.

"Ruth died shortly thereafter, but not before the bonds of heaven and earth were forged," Sister Packer said. — Jeniene Hamson, North Logan (Utah) 10th Ward

Another in a series of "Family History Moments.

Illustration by John Clark