Tucked away in the hymnbook, accompanied by an unassuming tune, is a poem on temples which I’d like to share with you this month. In particular, I love the last verse, so I hope you’ll try to read that one with new eyes, even if you’ve sung it before.
Holy temples on Mount Zion
in a lofty splendor shine,
avenues to exaltation,
symbols of a love divine.
And their kindly portals beckon
to serenity and prayer,
valiant children of the promise,
pledged to sacred service there.
Merciful and gracious Father,
purify our hearts, we pray;
bless our mission of redemption
in thy hallowed house each day,
till at length our faithful kindred,
sealed with us eternally
in celestial bonds of union,
sing hosannas unto thee.
Sing aloud, ye heav’nly chorus,
anthems of eternal praise
to the glorious King Immanuel!
Sing with Saints of latter days!
Let the mountains shout for gladness,
and the valleys joyful be,
while the stars acclaim in rapture,
for the prisoners shall go free.
This poem was written by a Brother Archibald Bennett. One of the composers assigned to write hymns for the 1948 hymnbook approached Brother Archie Bennett and asked him to write a poem about temples and family history work; and Brother Bennett was a natural choice for such a job—his whole life was devoted to genealogy. No, really. FamilySearch even has an award called the “Archibald Genealogy Award” which is awarded “for the best new technology that has been developed that will advance the whole genealogy and family history industry in a significant way”.
Here’s a little summary of Brother Bennett’s life, which I swiped from here. Even if you only skim it, you’ll see in a heartbeat how much this man loved and believed in family history work.
His interest and training in genealogy began when he helped his mother in a Relief Society course in Genealogy when he was 15. His interest continued in genealogical research and he did much research on his family and for others whenever he could manage the time to go to the Genealogical Society of Utah. Several articles by him were published in the quarterly of the Society, “Romance of a Pedigree” in 1927 and “A Legacy from the Past” in 1928. While preparing to go east to obtain a doctorate, he accepted the offer to be Secretary of the Genealogical Society of Utah Sep. 1, 1928, and to edit the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine. A year later he was also appointed the Librarian of this organization. Many classes were taught to help people do their own research. Senior and Junior classes were organized in the wards to give additional training in research. As Director of the Convention program genealogical instruction was emphasized throughout the stakes and missions. He developed the use of the Pedigree Chart and Family Group Record used in the Church genealogical record system. This was done while researching his own ancestors and helping others in the Library. He became a research specialist who helped thousands with research problems. Many have referred to him as “Mr. Genealogy.”
A number of his writings have been printed in the Improvement Era, The Instructor, Church News, and other genealogical publications. He wrote lesson books for Junior and Senior Genealogical classes, and a lesson course for Relief Society. When Genealogical instruction was incorporated in the curriculum of the Sunday School in 1940, Archibald F. Bennett became a member of the Sunday School General Board, and served there until 1962. Under assignment he provided lesson manuals for this Sunday School class. He also wrote texts for Beginning and Advanced courses of instruction at the B.Y.U. In November 1962 he was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, which consists of leading genealogists in the United States, and Fellows are selected on the basis of genealogical material they have published.
Archie was widely known as a lecturer and his talks were illustrated with examples in stories and sidelights of the people being discussed, and spiced with humor. Someone wrote that his “keen mind which worked like a computer, his dignity and the interest he generated as a storyteller, awakened in them the desire and interest to further their genealogical work.”
When Brigham Young University placed the teaching of genealogy on a college level in 1952, Archibald F. Bennett was the first instructor in the science of genealogy, and for 15 years he taught at B.Y.U., two classes twice a week, while carrying on his other assignments. He delighted in teaching the young students because they were so alert to the teachings and intricacies of research work.
In the first series of its kind to be produced on television, Brother Bennett presented a series of 42 TV shows on genealogy in 1954 over KDYL-TV, sponsored by Brigham Young University and the Genealogical Society. He was author and moderator of the program, and was assisted by Mrs. Arta Ballif of the BYU Speech Department. “What’s Your Name?” demonstrated interesting phases of genealogical research, and the first one featured the pedigree of President Eisenhower. Other interesting pedigrees demonstrating the principles and procedure of research followed. During the half-hour program, many individuals themselves were introduced and took part on each program.
A most inspiring and challenging incident in his career was the supervising of the beginning stages of the microfilming program for the Genealogical Society – which Archie called his “Microfilming Missions.” In 1946 he was assigned by the Board of Directors, with Joseph Fielding Smith as President, to approach the officials of record repositories in the states from Georgia to Vermont to obtain official permission to microfilm their wills, deeds and land records, court, marriage and vital records prior to 1850, and to offer to supply them in return for this privilege a positive microfilm copy of all records so taken. Through the guidance of the Lord, great concentrations of records in nine eastern states were made available for microfilming. Record officials sensing the need of having microfilm “security copies” of otherwise irreplaceable originals, were willing to cooperate to that end. Some Historical and Genealogical Societies were likewise proffered a similar mutually advantageous exchange.
In 1947 he was sent to Europe for four months representing the Genealogical Society in making contacts in England, Wales, Holland, Norway and Italy for permission to microfilm extensive collections of parish registers, probate, census and military records. In 1948 he went to Europe again to complete microfilming arrangements in these countries and in Germany, Switzerland and France, and he also superivised the copying of the Vaudois Protestant records from Italy. In some instances opposition arose and it appeared as though obstacles would be place in the way of some projects, but most officials cooperated fully and expressed gratitude to the Society for their microfilming project.
Brother Bennett was appointed Supervisor of Genealogical Education for the Society and throughout the Church in 1963, with responsibility for approval of all instructors of genealogical courses given by B.Y.U, and of general courses given by the Genealogical Society. He also served on Committees of Microfilm Planning, Records Approval, Education and Publication.
Officials of the Society had hoped the time would come when the tremendous accumulation of records, gathered from many nations, could be made available to Church members, wherever they might live. Church leaders first advised that the Society concentrate its efforts and financial resources on the actual filming of records, while they were obtainable, leaving to a later time the problem of sharing them with the people. In 1964 the Board of Trustees of the Society approved a program for Branch Libraries. Brother Bennett was appointed Librarian in charge of the Branch Library program in which he organized, guided and inspected all new branch libraries. From 1964 until August 1965 there were 21 branch libraries in the church functioning under his leadership.
He was appointed a member of the Priesthood Genealogical Conference Staff. President Theodore H. Burton stated: “It was because of his devotion to genealogy and to the Gospel that he was called as a member of the Priesthood Genealogy staff to teach the people of the church those principles of righteousness that he had dedicated his life to learn.” He was assigned to go with the General Authorities to Stake Quarterly Conferences to stress genealogy, “a marvelous opportunity to get our message before the people of the stakes . . . Today the General Authorities are giving stess to the great importance of genealogical research as never before.”
Archie died of a heart attack August 28, 1965 in American Fork, en route to a Priesthood Genealogical assignment to East Sharon Stake in Provo.
Yep. He died doing geneaology work, he was that devoted to it. He considered himself as working in behalf of a mission field, “more extensive and including more people than all the other missions combined”… yes, the mission field that is our dead.
He wrote: “Our dearest interests in life are entwined about those in our family, — the love for husband and wife, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, is not intended to be of a temporary nature, but to continue throughout the endless ages of eternity. If we comply with the wishes of our Father in Heaven, we are bound to those near relatives by the closest ties of love, and by loving, unselfish sacrifice.”
It is my hope that, this month, as we sing through Brother Bennett’s contribution to our hymnbook, we might catch some of his testimony of temple work. “Let the mountains shout for gladness, and the valleys joyful be, while the stars acclaim in rapture, for the prisoners shall go free.”
Jenna Dilts is a mother of three pre-school-aged children. Last year she led a discussion of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles on the AO forum. You can find her blogging at To Work Wonders, where she is currently working through AO year 1 for herself.