RootsTech 2023

Elder and Sister Gong Visit Hawaii and Ireland to Discover More of Their Ancestry

The couple is the capstone of Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2023

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, dove into their Chinese and Irish ancestry during Family Discovery Day (March 4, 2023) at the 2023 RootsTech global genealogy conference.

In the pre-recorded 46-minute broadcast, embedded below, the Gongs visit Hawaii and Ireland to walk where some of their ancestors walked.


“We’ve come to Hawaii to discover more about our family history,” Sister Gong said. “Earlier this year, we made a similar pilgrimage to Ireland for the same purpose.”

“We say our family because ever since Sister Gong and I were married, I have felt her Irish ancestors are my family,” Elder Gong said.

“And I have felt that I’m part of his wonderful Chinese family,” Sister Gong added.

In Hawaii, they visited a sugar cane plantation where some of Elder Gong’s Chinese ancestors worked after immigrating to Hawaii as contract laborers in the late 1800s. They walked across lava fields that Elder Gong’s maternal grandfather traversed to get to Kona. They visited Elder Gong’s grandparents’ graves. And they stopped at Honolulu’s Bishop Museum, which contains some 90,000 negatives donated by Elder Gong’s photographer grandfather.

In Ireland, they met James Lindsay, a distant cousin of Sister Gong. They visited a cemetery where some of Sister Gong’s Lindsay relatives are buried. They also stopped in Athenry to see the land farmed by her Cunningham ancestors.

“Sometimes we think our decisions affect only ourselves,” Elder Gong said. “Discovering our family reminds us otherwise. We’re more connected in our generations than we usually think. Often, the more we learn about so-called distant relatives — sometimes in faraway places with strange sounding names — the more we realize we truly are kith and kin, close family. Families come in varying shapes and sizes, with different circumstances and backgrounds. But no matter who we are or where we’re from, family helps us feel unity and belonging.”

Sister Gong said all genealogy work leads to one of the Church of Jesus Christ’s 300 houses of the Lord, sacred spaces where families are bound together for eternity.

“Through our Savior Jesus Christ, we make covenants with God and participate in sacred ordinances that bind us to Him and to each other in love,” Sister Gong said. “These covenants and ordinances are also available by proxy for our ancestors.”

“Dear friends, dear brothers and sisters,” added Elder Gong, “we and our family are meant to be happy and forever. Our most important and precious relationships are not intended to be until death do you part. God our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ have prepared a divine plan of happiness, including sacred ordinances and covenants, available in holy temples that make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”

“As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Gong concluded, “I testify we can find new beginnings, covenant belonging, divine identity in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, our deepest identity comes from our relationship with God, including as found in the house of the Lord.”

“May we become a welding link in our generations,” he said. “May we connect with our ancestors and bless our current and future families — the families we have and the families we want.”

Other RootsTech Speakers

The three-day RootsTech conference featured several other keynote speakers. The videos to their speeches are hyperlinked below.

  • Sean Astin, an award-winning actor, producer and director. He talked about how not all families are alike and how we can establish wholesome united relationships.
  • Jordin Sparks, a multiplatinum recording artist, winner of “American Idol” Season 6 and actress. She shared her personal story and speak to the power of uniting through song and word.
  • His Highness Sheikh Salem bin Sultan bin Saqr Al-Qasimi, a major contributor to achieving sustainability and food security in the United Arab Emirates. He was awarded the Medal of Excellence for being an important figure in sustainable investment.
  • Me Ra Koh, a prominent photographer and Sony Artisan who is sponsored by Pictureline. She shared her own story about how to be a living portrait of resilience.
  • Tuti Furlan, an influential psychologist in Guatemala who specializes in positive psychology and the science of happiness.
  • Mona Magno-Veluz, National President of the Autism Society Philippines. She designed and engineered initiatives that empower persons on the autism spectrum and those who care for them.
  • Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of FamilySearch. He focused on how to unite past, present and future family.

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