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Department of Puzzling Press Releases

From, the White House Press Office:

The President issued the following statement after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and leaders of the LDS Church at the White House today:

"I enjoyed my meeting with President Monson and Elder Oaks. I'm grateful for the genealogical records that they brought with them and am looking forward to reading through the materials with my daughters. It's something our family will treasure for years to come."

Am I to understand that the leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints brought Obama a copy of his own family tree?

By Ezra Klein  |  July 20, 2009; 3:39 PM ET
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Almost certainly. The LDS are genealogy-obsessed on doctrinal grounds.

Posted by: davis_x_machina | July 20, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: kew21 | July 20, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Yep. The Mormons do this for public officials all the time.

For Trent Lott ( and Hillary Clinton (, too.

Posted by: nate3 | July 20, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

That's about the nicest thing a Mormon can do. The Catholic equivalent would be when my grandmother announces that she hauled all of her groceries over to the church to be blessed so that our meal could be "special." It seems incredibly weird if you aren't used to that cultural practice, but it comes straight from the heart.

Posted by: tomveiltomveil | July 20, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Mind, you can't do this for just any black president.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | July 20, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

LDS has one of the most complete databases of historical census information in the country, rivaling for-profit genealogy outfits like

Its an area that Census Bureau doesn't even get into, apparently out of a fear that said for-profits would get upset about the competition from a government source.

Posted by: MattinSW | July 20, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps an LDS-member could elaborate, but I believe their incredible genealogical records are due to how a member's ancestors are admitted to heaven. Obviously, LDS is relatively modern (as far as religions go), so distant ancestors would have no way of being a Mormon. However, these ancestors can still be admitted to heaven if the current members go through the proper steps... but part of helping your ancestors get into heaven, is knowing who they are.

(Again, please take this with a grain of salt: it is essentially hearsay on my part. I heard this from a friend who was informing me about LDS's vast lineage archives. Warning: unnecessarily long tangent ahead! She was suggesting that I direct a friend, who is a Mexican citizen, to LDS for help proving his heritage to Spain during Franco's dictatorship. Apparently, if you can prove your ancestors fled Franco, Spain will offer you dual-citizenship. And with a EU Passport, my friend would be able to travel to the United States to visit his girlfriend.)

Posted by: LukeM1 | July 20, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

ex-mormon here, and yes, LukeM1, it does have to do with mormon's performing church ordinances for their deceased relatives. since members of the church believe that the priesthood that was given to the original church (st. peter) fell into apostasy, they believe you can only get to "heaven" (which is a whole other thing to explain) if you have had said ordinances performed with the proper priesthood authority, which they believe was given to joseph smith and his followers. this is why genealogy is such a major feature of the church. the LDS genealogical library in salt lake city is (i believe) the largest in the world. genealogy fans from everywhere visit there to do research.

Posted by: burntbeans | July 20, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Yes and probably only on his mother's side, since I doubt LDS has records from Kenya! But also they may have some records on Michelle's family, although given the Church's attitude about blacks, I don't know if they have collected that information over the years.

Posted by: LindaB1 | July 20, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking it would take a fold-out page to properly map the Obama side of the family.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 20, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

The LDS needs these records so that they can baptize the dead. But, on the bright side, they do share the records, but remember that its just as much a list of all the people they've converted to Mormonism after death as it is a simple record of genealogy.

Posted by: nylund | July 20, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

In response to Luke M1 on ancient ancestors not being admitted to heaven:

We ("mormons") believe that during the millennium, when Christ returns and reigns on the earth, we will have the ability to know of all records of ancestors.
As a note, we need to have a direct relation to do temple work for anyone who has not been deceased for more than 100 years.
And perhaps most importantly, just because someone has been baptized posthumously and vicariously in a mormon temple, does not mean that they have "become mormon". Agency is an eternal principle and all have/will have the opportunity to either reject or accept the ordinances that are preformed here on earth for them. (Like me setting out a piece of cake for you and saying, "Bra- I set out some cake for you if you want it, totally cool if you don't, just wanted to make sure you got some if you'd like some". You feel me?)

Check out for more answers to questions on mormons and for real answers as opposed to internet hearsay.

Posted by: LLPoH | July 20, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

The Mormons store genealogical records on 2.4 million rolls of microfilm under a mountain near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. You can see it on the left as you make the trip up the canyon to ski at Snowbird or Alta. Great skiing, btw.

Posted by: Nat_51 | July 20, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

MattinSW says: "Its an area that Census Bureau doesn't even get into, apparently out of a fear that said for-profits would get upset about the competition from a government source."

First of all, it's way outside our areas of core competency: conducting Censuses, and conducting demographic and economic surveys.

Second, the household data we release has been held as confidential for 72 years. When the 1940 Census data is released in 2012, we won't have any experts from the 1940 Census still on hand; they'll be long dead.

Finally, under the law, nobody gets first crack at this data. The various private outfits who know what the heck they're doing with this data will be far better prepared to take advantage of the 2912 release than we are.

Posted by: rt42 | July 21, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

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