Saturday, August 20, 2005

Singapore's First Genealogy Exhibition

I wandered out of my room this morning at the same time a strange ang moh was emerging from the neighbouring room. My first thought was: whose house is this?!!

But the surroundings were familiar and definitely a very good replica of the home I knew.

My next thought was: [insert random unedifying Rockson phrase]!!! Who spiked my drinks last night?!!

Fortunately, it soon became clear that strange ang moh man was the old boarding school mate of the occupant of the next room who was at the moment dead to the world and snoring loudly on the living room sofa.

Somewhatly not related to the topic of home and strangers therein, an uncle passed away recently. After his Japanese business associates had taken the first flight down hand-carrying dry crisp Akashi to toast him with, and after his son had also returned to Singapore for "one last drink with the old man", my cousin sat next to me and told me how she fully intended to collect as much family history as she could before our fathers' generation died away completely.

So as I was passing what was advertised as "Singapore's First Genealogy Exhibition" at the National Library, I thought I'd pop in to look at available resources.

Got talking to a nice lady who had a name tag that indicated that she was from the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". So, I noticed, did many of the caretakers of the exhibition. Most of the pamphlets available were for family search services run by the "Church" (they are also known as the Mormons, after the Book of Mormon which is part of their scriptural canon) from their headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah or Bukit Timah Road, Singapore. The nice lady explained that in her religion, family history was very important.

In Mormon doctrine, which is really quite opposed to the Christian doctrine set out in the Bible, and possibly closer to Taoism or Catholicism, family history research is important because they believe that:
Life does not end at death. When we die, our eternal spirits go to a spirit world, where we continue to learn while we await the Resurrection and Final Judgment.

Members of the Church believe that the family can also continue beyond the grave, not just until death.

This is possible when parents and their children make special promises, called covenants, in sacred temples. These covenants, when made with the authority of God and faithfully kept, can unite families for eternity.

Members of the Church believe that their deceased ancestors can also receive the blessings of being eternally united with their families.

For this purpose, Church members make covenants in temples in behalf of their ancestors, who may accept these covenants, if they so choose, in the spirit world.

In order to make covenants in behalf of their ancestors, members must first identify them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gathered genealogical records from all over the world. These records are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and at Family History Centers throughout the world.
It's interesting that in this exhibition, governmental organisations like the National Heritage Board and the National Library should be collaborating with a religious organisation that is usually deemed a cult.

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