It is time for all of us to understand more clearly our role in hastening the work of salvation. As we make member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel a natural part of our lives, we will experience great joy and be endowed with the spiritual gifts we need to strengthen the Church in the 21st century.The focus of most of the commentary is on missionary work for the living, but temple and family history work are always mentioned. So how do we "hasten" our genealogy or family history work?
One of the biggest challenges and one key to progress, is that of involving the youth in the work of seeking out their ancestors. Whether you call this "family history" or "genealogy" the process is the same. Quoting a comments made by Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy and Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy and Director of the Family History Department, from a Church News article of April, 2013:
Helping the youth gain perspective is a goal of the new youth curriculum—where learning resources replace lesson manuals, said Elder Pieper. The curriculum will allow youth instructors to determine what they need to build into each Sunday experience to prepare youth for temple and family history work and missionary service.Having helped hundreds of people get started with researching their family history, the biggest question I have is who is going to teach all these people how to do the work? Granted, a new member whose family has never done genealogy or family history work previously, has an open field. They can usually go to available family records or easily obtainable online records and complete two or possibly three generations. But what happens when they have to do some actual research into records that may not be as easily obtained? One the other hand, what of the youth who find themselves heirs to a family history that goes back generations? How are they supposed to start? With the now suspended New.FamilySearch.org program it was easy to find "green arrows" or people supposedly ready for ordinances. This was mainly due to the unresolved duplications in the program. FamilySearch.org's Family Tree program brings the process into the realm of reality and out of the dream world of harvesting green arrows. I was amused by a comment I had to a blog post recently that said:
“The new MTC is the home,” said Elder Packer. “The new family history center is the home. The new curriculum is going to help the youth and the parents both in that role.”
Oh, don't get me started on this subject!!! I love the idea of collaborating on family research, but we keep forgetting that people have different reasons for doing their research, and not all of them reflect the goals of accurate scholarship. My feeling is that FamilySearch should have two entirely separate trees, one for the "feel good about your family" types, and the other for people who cite their sources and can analyze them as well.Do we really want a "feel good about your family" type of family history work or is there some component here of accuracy and diligence in identifying the right people? Believe me, there are people in the Church who think that they have the responsibility for re-doing all of their ancestors' ordinances themselves, even if someone else has already done the work.
In my own Ward, for example, the individuals assigned to work in Family History are almost entirely isolated from the rest of the Ward, especially the youth. The High Priest Group Leader and the Ward Mission Leader attend Ward Council, but no Family History Consultant or other representative of the family history work is directly involved. None of the members of the Ward regularly hear about "doing their family history work" like they do about missionary work or home teaching. In our Ward, we have a structured help center every Sunday during Sunday School to help members with their family history, but the youth cannot attend, even if they wanted to, because they would be viewed as missing their Sunday School class. Even most of the adults feel guilty because they are missing the Gospel Doctrine class. There is no other scheduled time when Ward members can get help with family history. Family History is mostly viewed as "one more program" competing for the interest and activity of the members and unfortunately is usually viewed as much lower priority than other programs.
The Family History Consultants, during infrequent opportunities to address the Ward, invite the members to ask for individual help, but unless the Family History Consultant or Consultants push the issue, nothing happens. As I have written previously, our Ward uses the Sunday School time as an open time for assistance. Because of this, members of the Ward have qualified hundreds of names for Temple work. This would not be the case if we were "teaching a class" instead of helping the members individually. All this is done "outside" the regular organization of the Ward. This opportunity to receive help with family history cannot extend to the youth because there is no mechanism in place or program or time or whatever to make that happen. If family history is addressed in the context of the existing program, it is looked upon as a "special event" taking away from the regular scheduled classes and activities.
If you are talking about integrating family history into the lives of the youth and their families, this needs to be done in a way that provides the help and support necessary. Presently the whole system relies on a Ward's High Priest Group Leader, who receives little or no formal training in how to do Family History. Most of the High Priest Group Leaders I talk to around the Church are only vaguely aware of FamilySearch, much less of the entire Family History programs of the Church. One minor adjustment would help to change that, in my opinion, put the High Priest Group leaders into the Family History loop or have a Ward Family History Consultant who acts in a similar capacity to the Ward Mission Leader. In many Wards, the "Family History Consultant" is a woman. That is not a problem and usually she is the most qualified person in the Ward. But she has not direct contact with the High Priest Group Leader in any formal meeting. Neither does a male Family History Coordinator who is not a High Priest.
The Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn The Hearts, says at page 3:
High priests group leaders have the primary responsibility to coordinate the ward council’s efforts to encourage and enable temple and family history work in the ward.At pages 17 and 18 or the Guide, the program as outlined is exactly what is being accomplished in our Ward with the exception that there is no provision for the inclusion of youth in the activities. Again, at page 19 here is a quote from the Guide:
The high priests group leader directs the work of family history consultants as he:In addition, we have already established Family History Centers in the Stakes around the Church, let's use them. Where there are no centers, how about a dedicated family history class room where a class or assistance can be given every Sunday? How about some other innovative ways to provide the training and help necessary to actually do family history?
• Recommends members to be called and set apart as family history consultants, as requested by the bishopric.
• Works with the bishopric to ensure that enough consultants are called to meet the needs of the ward.
• Provides assignments to consultants, including assignments to work with certain ward members.
• Ensures that consultants are properly prepared to perform their callings and makes them aware of the training resources at FamilySearch.org/serve.