Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What can we do to help Church members find their ancestors?

An article published in the Deseret News for 10 February 2014 entitled, "Help all Church members find their ancestors" by R. Scott Lloyd, warrants some comments.

As Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy and Chairman of the Board of Directors of FamilySearch, points out and quoted from the article:
Past approaches in the Church have resulted in less than 3 percent of members submitting names of ancestors for temple ordinance work, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy said Feb. 8 at a session of the RootsTech family history conference in Salt Lake City. 
To reach the other 97 percent, we need to change how we think, how we teach, and what we teach,” he said. “The 97 percent need to be a priority for priesthood leaders and they are a priority for the [Family History] Department.
This challenge is one of the primary reasons I have started this particular genealogy blog aimed at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I whole-heartedly agree with Elder Packer, we need to change how we think, how we teach, and what we teach.  The structure for implementing a change is already present in the handbooks of the Church. What is primarily lacking is support from the leaders at the very local level. Genealogy or Family History is not a priority in many Wards and Stakes. Very little or no training is offered to newly called High Councilors, Bishops, High Priests Group Leaders, and Ward Family History Consultants.

As Elder Packer further noted:
These numbers are a cry for change,” Elder Packer said regarding the statistics he cited, though he did say he was happy to report progress. “In the last year the number of members submitting names for temple ordinances is up 17% over last year. It has gone from 2.4 to 2.7 percent of the members,” he said.

But he supported the call for improvement by noting that in the United States, 25 percent of Church members do not have four generations of ancestors in the “FamilyTree” section of the Church’s FamilySearch Internet site. Internationally, 70 percent of members don’t have both parents in FamilyTree, 90 percent don’t have their grandparents in it, and 95 percent don’t have their great-grandparents included.
I have experienced the conditions and attitudes that contribute to this lack of overall progress personally and directly. I have repeatedly been refused by leaders to teach or speak about Family History or even mention it in meetings. In traveling around the United States and visiting many Wards as well as while serving in the Mesa FamilySearch Library, I have been told the same story over and over by Family History Consultants how they are frustrated at the lack of support, lack of training and lack of opportunity to do their jobs.

Elder Packer addressed these issues in his suggestions to Priesthood leaders:
He gave seven “proven tips” learned from a survey of bishops. The survey indicated that where wards were applying five of the following seven factors, the rate of temple activity was double that of the average ward. The tips are to make the “To Turn the Heart” guidebook a core of the ward plan; to call youth as family history consultants; to have three or more family history consultants in the ward; to have youth take family names on temple trips; to have consultants help members at least monthly; to have consultants meet with priesthood leaders at least monthly; and to have consultants help new converts at least monthly.
I have repeatedly expressed my willingness to Stake and Ward leaders to train both the Family History Consultants and Ward and Stake Indexing leaders and have never been asked to teach except at 5th Sunday meetings in my own Ward. Only by opening a room during Sunday School or at other times and voluntarily teaching, often even without the leaders of the Ward realizing what is going on, have we been able to help members submit hundreds of names for Temple work. Family History Consultants and those who know both how to use computers and how to research their ancestors, need to be asked to teach others on a one-to-one basis and then given the opportunity and facilities to do so. Leaders need to realize that the work for the dead is not "just another Ward or Stake program."

Just during the past two weeks, I attended a Ward where a Family History Class was held in a class during Sunday School. The members of the class brought their own computers and set up tables during the class to work on their family history. The problem was that there was no one there in the class with the training to help those who came. Only a few of the class members even knew that RootsTech 2014 was going on just a few miles to the north of their building. None of them had watched any sessions of the Conference. The Family History Consultant was trying hard but had almost no support in her calling. This is sadly typical of what I find around the United States.

As Elder Packer states, we need to change.

1 comment:

  1. I agree! And this isn't only a problem at the ward or stake level. I'm taking our youth to the temple in a couple weeks and many wanted to take family names but the temple told them not to because it messes up the schedule. Something needs to change here if keeping to the schedule is more important than doing the work for our ancestors.