Monday, February 27, 2012

Susan Easton Black’s Great Joy

Susan Easton Black
Susan Easton Black
addressing a group
several years ago.
Photo credit:
R. Scott Lloyd,
LDS Church News

“The biggest problem they had to face was death,” said Susan Easton Black about the founding of Nauvoo, Illinois by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1839. Death was prevalent because the settlers were trying to reclaim swampland on the Mississippi River.

“The most prosperous man in town advertised, ‘Come and get yourself measured for a coffin. If you wait we may not have one that fits you.’”

Black was the opening keynote speaker at the 2012 St. George Family History Expo. She is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.

While her address was largely targeted towards members of the Church, her life-long love for family history is something we all understand.

“Why would I do this when I look so normal?” she said. At one point in her life she couldn’t see herself actively studying family history. “When I was old and could only fog a mirror I might consider it.”

But her Grandma had planted seeds of joy when she was just a little girl. “I thought my grandmother was terrific.” Instead of fictional bedtime stories, her grandmother would share stories of their ancestors.

When she was old enough to learn typing, she talked her father into buying a wide-carriage typewriter so she could type up her grandmother’s stories. She would sit next to here and ask her questions.

Why would she dedicate her life to a study of family history when “she looks so normal?” The answer was two words: “great joy.”

Yup. That’s something all of us can understand.

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