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By the 1950s, the church had already built up a library of 100,000 rolls of microfilm – archiving family records of decades of Americans. The Church needed a large and secure location for its growing archive, and so decided to start blasting a cavern into the side of Little Cottonwood Canyon – burrowing nearly 700 feet into the massive granite cliffs.Eventually, the blasting crew hit a rock that couldn’t be blasted as easily anymore – plus they struck water.
In the Mormon digital archives at Family Search.org, I found a 1940 census of that town, detailing my grandmother’s marital status, birth year, name of husband, names of children and the fact that she had lived in the same house since 1935.While free access to genealogical records seems like a very charitable offering to the world, one must ask why the LDS church invests so many resources into collecting, archiving and sharing family records.As is usually the case with most religions, the motives are typically spiritual rather than material in nature.The water became a resource that transformed the underground archive facility into a self-sufficient vault that could withstand a nuclear blast and provide running water to those inside.(1)After over fifty years of archiving records to microfilm, the church boasts the largest genealogical collection in the world – a collection that the church is actively digitizing, and offering for free to genealogists on the Internet.