Geneology, I Am Doing . . . What? Economies of Error at the COB

So, my wife looked up her ancestry on familysearch.org.  She descends from Hyrum Smith, through the sister of Joseph Fielding Smith, Martha Ann.  As I looked up the children of Hyrum and Mary Fielding, I discovered the surprising fact that Joseph F. and Martha Ann have siblings (listed) who were born as early as 1791, and some few born before 1810.  You’ll want to know that Hyrum Smith, father of Martha Ann, was reportedly born in 1800.  Thus, according to familysearch.org, the Lord’s Verily Veritable Historical Experience TM, Hyrum fathered children nearly a decade before he was himself fathered.

And if you click on the child born in 1791, you’ll find his own siblings don’t list Martha Ann or Joseph F., leaving us to conclude that he is a brother to one who is not his sister.  Reciprocating kin terms have no reality in the Correlated world of FamilySearch.  Rather, chronologies are tossed out, physical impossibilities give no guide to algorithms, and truth is decided by anonymous users in a manner that Wikipedia builds its database.  There are no standards, nor peer review; one can just punch in a name, enter a birthdate, and a parental relationship.  In fairness, however, to Wikipedia, they have a good search engine, an intelligent interface, and do not claim to leverage salvation for souls therein named.  And they are, unlike the Church, a non-profit.

FamilySearch allows one to invent persons, or by misspelling or capitalizing, to create new persons, all for the living to save through vicarious rituals.

Perhaps, you say, perhaps the folks at FamilySearch are going on spiritual children, adoptions and so on, when they say that Martha Ann has a sibling older than her own father, but one to whom she is not a sister?  Take a look at John D. Lee’s parents, and you’ll not find Brigham Young listed as his father.

That is, if you can find John D Lee at all, even searching for his birth and death dates.  Born of Ralph Lee, John D. was adopted as a son by Young, and sealed by the holy power of the priesthood.  Indeed, nearly every Mormon was adopted as a son or daughter of a prominent Mormon, and yet none of these show up on familysearch.org as legitimate kin relations.  Only legally recognized adoptions are recorded.  Meaning?

Familysearch.org seems to be undoing the work of sealing that was so important to Joseph Smith and others, they teaching that in the absence of such a sealing link, tying oneself back to Joseph Smith, and then to Adam, that if this failed the earth would be cursed.  Familysearch.org is proof of our cursing, if you’ve ever tried to find anyone using its search engine.  What is going on, really?

The Family History Department of the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop is a real heavyweight at the COB (and that saying something); they always have projects for others to fill their days with, and they get what they want; including several floors in the Joseph Smith Building, and all the computer equipment they desire.  When a new program like familysearch is being tested, a select few get to pick cities where they can set Mormons before computers to try out the software.  Invariably the cities selected are not third world, but rather the likes of New York, Boston, London, Sydney, and so on.  The old ladies and missionaries who test the software apparently don’t tell the User Experience guys that they can’t find anything using it, and that a capitalized letter will throw off a search entirely.  Nothing but glowing reviews, and in reality many endless problems.

Now they rely on “user input” to regulate the databases; keep in mind that there are no standards widely shared by such users for what counts as truth, as verification, or history.  One could decide to contrive a kin relation because one “feels the spirit,” or because two names seem to closely match.  The number of user errors explodes, but the regulation of such errors does not follow that explosion.  We are dealing with a cultural problem framing a content distinction, and that is why one cannot take a form of one thing, and apply it as a solution for the problems of some other thing.

Though contrived in the image of Wikipedia, the content they manage is so different that FamilySearch cannot rely on user input for regulating the content’s validity.  One can write anything about In-N-Out Burger on WikiPedia, of course; but most claims not verified independently are quickly removed by other users who share an interest in the truth, or the image of it; and share methods for arriving at  it; and for agreeing that such and such a claim is acceptable as true.  With FamilySearch, however, we have no shared framework that can be relied on for ensuring accuracy in the database.  Thus, we have the possibility for endless revisions, and of one dead person generating ten or twenty “ordinance” records.  Error and confusion abounds, while their resolution lingers.  Even with their own central figures, like Hyrum Smith, whose progeny are consistently high up on the corporate ladder, even here they cannot minimize error.  Joseph Smith is listed as the father of a “Mr. Smith”.  Seriously.  Mr. Smith.

As a result of their own built-in structural stupidity, the Family History Department and the Temple Department gain greater power and prestige: for every mistake, all their incompetence, only ensures that they will have more work, and bigger budgets, the next year.  How’s that for a business model?  It is no different than what the overall COB is structured by: a metaphor of capitalism, but without the reality of the market to provide accountability to and direction for the work of production.  They have the forms of capitalism, but deny the power thereof; with their wallets they draw near unto it, spending like drunken sailors on whatever the whore of babylon bares for them, but their malls are far from good business, being subsidized in a way that incentivizes stupidity.

In other words, all this talk about saving the dead by ‘ordinances’ seems to not realize that we are sealing up the human family in a manner neither concordant with physical reality, nor fitting our own teachings about spiritual relationships.  We are sealing them up according to guesswork by users, so that we can be sure to go the temple, or so that we can our spiritual high this week; more often than not the dead are images we exploit to satisfy our own spiritual vacuity, just as the corporation exploits our ignorance for its own prestige, gain, and power.  Nevermind the good people there; it is structural.

Those who believe the sealing powers reside in the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the burden of explaining why they are sealing souls to non-existent things, to computer inventions, to errors of spelling, and why they are not re-ordering the Human Family as Joseph Smith said it should be, according to spiritual principles.  I understand that we ought to have charity, and folks do their best; but there is another way, surely.

Instead, all this work and sacrifice and spiritual experience feeds the vast and widening resource sink; rather than feeding the living, we work for our own invented persons, sealing them to the likes of AdOlph Hitler, Adolf HITLER, AdolF Hitler, and so on.   Now the idiocy of the Family History Department can ensure that Public Relations has a plate to keep spinning, in this absurd corporate game called the Church; the whole monstrosity is a mockery of even the minimally intelligent corporate capitalist form.

Not that you asked, but I’m convinced that no work for the dead should be done until the dead person comes to you and tells you exactly what ought to be done.

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18 thoughts on “Geneology, I Am Doing . . . What? Economies of Error at the COB

  1. The “take home” message from the last “genealogy” lesson I ever heard? Seal ’em all…let Elohim sort ’em out!

    Ours is not to question why; ours is but to do or die (spiritually).

  2. Brother Smith (the genealogically anonymous Mr. Smith?),

    We don’t know the why-is and what-for of the Marvelous Perk and a Blunder (darn autocorrect) that is Family History work. But we DO know that focus groups interviewed by numerous PR firms hired by The Corporation for and on behalf of the trademark “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, which is dead, have revealed unto us that The Family is a super strong selling point and is therefore capable of generating new tithing revenue streams through convert baptisms.

    So stop raining on the parade of prosperity that results from warming hearts with the idea that great grandma Mumsy will be in the Celestial Kingdom with us, regardless of when, where, to whom, or if she was actually born.

  3. Daymon,

    I especially appreciated your point on the law of adoption being totally ignored in the database. The fact that even (some) plural sealings are still recorded there makes me think that they will take advantage of anything that is less known to the church membership at large. Actually reversing the order or sealings (from the living saints adopting their ancestorsas posterity to following the genealogical sequence) at the time of W. Woodruff was quite simple and a very popular measure among the saints. But even then Woodruff taight the adoption of the oldest ancestor found to the prophet Joseph.

    • I agree about Woodruff and so on. But none of this is reflected in their official “book”, which ought at the least reflect their own claims about priesthood sealings, right? Wives sealed by power are acknowledged, but children are not, apparently.

  4. Good stuff Daymon. I’m pretty disenchanted with the trademark myself. After reading this, and listening to your interview with John Dehlin, I think I know how you regard the church. But how does the church regard you? Have they ex’d you? Your MoSto interview seemed pretty tame, as you said you aren’t asserting that the church is apostate, but I felt like that was the implication. I can understand why you don’t want to publicly denounce the church, but I felt that it needed to be said.

    • We’ll, I don’t think the church is apostate, because I don’t think it is capable of being in apostasy. It is not a church, as you know. The doctrine of apostasy seems to have crept in from apostates themselves, the Rigdonites. It has no presence in the BoM, where all we find is the Great and Abom. Church in operation (but not as an organized “church”, I suppose). I’m planning to write something on ‘the church’ later this week, but for now I’ll say it is in a state of “Impostasy”.

      • That’s interesting commentary. I’ve often wondered, too, what your disposition toward the Church is.

        While you say that the Mormon un-church can’t apostatize in any meaningful way, you also seem to understand that there is something definite and important in the Book of Mormon that has been lost as the modern, corporate church gained traction. What purpose does your critique serve? Is it meant to be corrective? And I imagine you attract a lot of “antis” who see you as an ally. What do you tell them?

      • Hi Peter, thanks for responding.
        I’m working on a history of the BoM, as it has been used, cut up, retold, and shaped by ‘the church’, which in short confirms your guess about losing something as the other gains traction.
        I don’t know about purpose of critique, other than trying to tell what I think is the truth, for reasons that could be considered corrective and ultimately constructive. The corrective is not for me to point out, however, so much as to make possible by critique/deconstruction/reconstruction. Regarding the anti’s, some of my writings may appeal to them; but some clearly don’t, for example, the Abridging Works. I tell the anti’s the same things I tell the believers in the church, mainly because I don’t really divide up society in that way, and don’t have the technological means to target my message, even if I wanted to, I’m posting my position on the church today or tomorrow, although it’ll probably confuse more than critique.

  5. Interesting post.

    I had a gggrandfather who was sealed to Joseph Smith as a son. Some years ago, it was in the database and someone was challenging it. When I looked for it in the last year, it had disappeared. (The challenge was based on the fact the my ancestor was pretty much old enough to be Joseph’s father.)

    And someone had sealed an imaginary brother of mine to my parents. I had a couple of problems with this: 1) Anyone who actually knew us, knew that the child was female 2) She did NOT die over a hundred years ago, so why was someone sealing her to my parents? (she was born in 1944, died in 1946) 3) Anyone who knew us knew that my parents were sealed before they had any children, therefor none of their children needed “work done”.

    When I protested, someone called and promised to take the fictitious child off. What they did was change his sex to female, so it now reads that I have identical twin sisters with the same name who died at the same time. I have long given up trying to “do” the circus that is called genealogy.

  6. It’s actually worse than you present. As a software guy tethered for 2 years as the stake indexing guy who happened to be living in happy valley, I attended a special meeting for stake indexing guys in Orem where the project manager for new family search would be present together with the head DB guy. After the old ladies asked silly questions for a while, I raised my hand and asked some hard software development questions. To my shock I learned:
    1) They have NO focus groups. They simply sit a bunch of engineers around a table and play the “wouldn’t it be cool if” game. Then the project manager —on his own— ranks the priority of each suggested development. No wonder the indexing program is a joke.
    2) They bought the indexing program from someone else, then decided it was actually so hard to modify that they should spend THREE YEARS coding up another one from scratch.
    3) Their funds are actually quite limited. They are a quasi-independent company (New Family Search) operated under the direction of the presiding Bishopric, but have a CEO and the full shebang. Take one part church bureaucracy, one part stupid employment requirements and disconnected-from-market-benefits, and what do you get? A disaster.

    What idiot thought it would be a good idea to run a software COMPANY (with CEO to boot) that doesn’t sell anything and is only responsible to a bureaucracy with zero experience in software?

  7. Even after enjoying your ‘Book of Mammon’, Daymon, I continued to imagine that the cause of Family History–it being pure and holy–somehow had managed to elude being COBified. Thanks for this post.

    In a flicker of art imitating life, the genealogical repository at Granite Mountain is included as a possible target of the hacktivist collective, Annonymous, in a spoofed report from the Beehive Bugle. A pity no one will actually go in as claimed and dig out the details of how much the Magisterium are paid.

    http://beehivebugle.com/2015/02/07/anonymous-prepared-to-allegedly-seize-lds-org-if-john-dehlin-is-excommunicated/

  8. To me, one of the most striking things to emerge from the un-named attorney from Utah who claims to have received a commission from Jesus Christ to renew the restoration begun by Joseph Smith—is his opinion that before we can save our kindred dead we first must be connected by adoption back to the patriarchal fathers. That view would tend to corroborate your own that the whole enterprise to save the deceased is an astonishingly misguided pipe dream. Remarkably, the un-named attorney suggests in his writings that connection to the patriarchal fathers is coming.

    • I agree that the baptism for the dead is currently misguided, although among ordinary Mormons it is driven by charity, I think. The adoption back to the fathers, I can’t really speak on, but I guess I can wait and see.

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