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FAMILY HISTORY QUOTES

Lauritz Petersen-Extraction Program

MORE THAN NAMES

Ensign January 1987 pg. 12

By Derin Head Rodriquez

The efforts of the name extractors in the Camp Verde Arizona Stake are representative (of the Church extraction program). For nine years the stake has consistently met established goals and standards, both in quantity and quality, with well over two hundred thousand names extracted annually! The approximately thirty "genealogy missionaries" in their stake donate thousands of hours yearly, with an impressive accuracy rate.

But the real story is more than numbers and statistics. It is a story of commitment, dedication, and-above all-love.

The Camp Verde Stake, made up of seven wards and two branches, lies in the heart of Arizona about two hours north of Phoenix , covering an area roughly 140 miles wide by 85 miles long. The Verde River bisects the stake, providing a nautral physical division between the spectacular red rock beauty on the west and the pine-covered mountains on the east.

In 1978 John E. Eagar, president of the new Camp Verde Stake, set out to bring the blessings of genealogy work to the members of his stake. The seeds had been planted years before when President Eagar had served as mission president in the Costa Rica San Jose Mission. While there, he represented the Church in obtaining permission from Costa Rican officials to have thousands of government records microfilmed. President Eagar had developed a firm testimony of genealogy work and now petitioned Church officials to allow his stake to do extraction work.

The Church Genealogy Department had just completed a pilot extraction program in St. George , Utah , and felt the experiment was successful enough to duplicate on a widespread basis. Camp Verde was given the go-ahead to establish a Spanish name extraction program.

President Eagar turned to Lauritz G. Petersen, a stake high councilor who was also a professional genealogist. Brother Petersen had recently retired from his job as a researcher for the Church Historical Department and was teaching genealogy classes at Yavapai College in Cottonwood , Arizona . Would he accept the call to set up and oversee the extraction program in the Camp Verde Stake?

Of course Brother Petersen would serve wherever asked; it was a bonus that the calling happened to deal with one of his great loves, genealogy. But establishing the program-finding space in already-full meetinghouses, coordinating the work, ordering equipment and supplies, and calling the right people-ran head on into more obstacles than anyone had anticipated.

"I'm sure Satan was waging an all-out battle against us. He didn't want us to be successful," says Brother Petersen, reflecting on the difficulties nine years ago.

The first year was tough. Despite the efforts of dedicated people, the fledgling program seemed doomed to fail. Lauritz Petersen was depressed and ready to quit. Sincere prayer, fasting, and soul-searching for days that stretched into weeks, then months, had brought no clear answers.

Finally one evening, after a particularly anguished prayer, Brother Petersen settled into bed, telling his wife, "That's it, I'm quitting. This just can't be worth what it is costing the members of this stake." He finally drifted into an uneasy sleep.

"Lauritz, Lauritz."

He was awakened hours later by a voice calling his name. He turned to check his still-sleeping wife.

"Lauritz, Lauritz Petersen."

Puzzled, he glanced toward the foot of the bed, but the bedroom wall had disappeared, and hundreds of people filled the room. A dark-complexioned man of medium height detached himself from the crowd and came toward him, repeating his name insistently.

"Lauritz, what do you see over here?" the man asked, gesturing to where the dresser should have been.

"Many people, singing and dancing in a circle."

"That's right," the man affirmed. "They are those whose names your stake has extracted. Because of your work, they have been able to have their temple work done. What do you see on this side?" he continued, gesturing to the left.

"People praying."

"Can you hear what they are saying?" he prompted.

As he strained to hear the voices, suddenly the sounds became distinguishable. "Father, please bless Lauritz Petersen," they pleaded. "Bless him to carry on with this work and not quit."

"These are the people whose names are on the records in your possession, but have not yet been extracted," the man explained.

"Who are all of these people?" Brother Petersen questioned, pointing to the multitudes straight ahead, whose eyes stared into his own.

"Their names are on the records that will be sent to you if you carry on with the program," the spokesman continued. "Lauritz, this is an important work. Please don't quit."

"I won't," Brother Petersen promised. Then the room was once more empty and he found himself gazing at the bedroom wall.

"I knew the Lord wanted the extraction program in this stake," he says. "It didn't matter who ran it or what problems we had; it would be successful." Brother Petersen lay awake for the rest of the night, making plans to revamp the program. But one thought kept haunting him: " 'How did all of those people know my name?'

"It was certainly a testimony to me that the Lord knows each of us individually and cares about what we are doing," he adds now.

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