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

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How should Family History work in the Ward?

The instructions in the handbooks are fairly clear. There is a proposed organization of the family history work in the Ward based around the functions of the Ward Council. Unlike the Ward Mission Leader, the Ward Family History Consultant or in some cases, Consultants, work with and through the High Priest Group Leader. Since the Family History Consultants do not participate in the Ward Council, they rely entirely upon the High Priest Group Leader, with input from the Bishop and the rest of the Ward Council to direct the Family History work in the Ward.

There is new training for the High Priest Group Leader on Essentially, the High Priest Group Leader coordinates the Ward Council's efforts to encourage temple and family history work in the ward. He should also direct the work of the Consultants. OK, so now we have two parts of the Ward Family History effort that rely on the direct involvement of the High Priest Group Leader in the program. It is the responsibility of the High Priest Group Leader to facilitate discussions in Ward Council about the Family History work and he is accountable to the Bishop. It is up to the High Priest Group Leader to work with the Ward Council to develop a plan for implementing family history support activities in the Ward and teach and direct the Ward Family History Consultants.

Key to this whole organization is the direct involvement of the High Priest Group Leader in family history. Here is where I see the program failing to function as I travel around the country and visit various Wards. Even if there is an active Family History Consultant (or even more than one) in the Ward, I have yet to meet a High Priest Group Leader who was personally involved in family history. I am sure they exist, but I have yet to meet one. I have probably been to eight or ten different Wards in the past year or so. In every case, I have asked directly about the status of Family History in the Ward. Most commonly, the answer is that "we are not holding a family history class right now." This tells me that the High Priest Group Leader and the rest of the Ward leaders have not been trained. Family History work in the Ward is far more than simply "holding a class" during Sunday School time. If you watch the instructional videos, you will soon see how different the program is supposed to function from the reality in many Wards.

One of the major challenges from the standpoint of the Ward Family History Consultants is the perception that they need to have a "classroom" or better yet, a computer center, to carry on their work. I have seen one or two Wards that have relied on laptop computers brought into the meetings by the members and set up in any available space. I have heard of Stake Leaders refusing to allow the Family History Consultants any space to function. In short, Family History is place at the absolute bottom of the priorities in the Ward. Family History is facilitated by having a dedicated Family History Center, but that is not essential. The program should be taken to the members in their homes or other convenient locations and not have the members attend another class on the program. Family History work in the Ward is essentially mentoring, not just or only classroom teaching.

The way Family History work is laid out in the handbooks and online is inspired and should lead to a dramatic increase in family history activity in the Wards. I see Wards that are struggling to provide meaningful callings to all of their members when they do not have any family history activity to speak of. Here is a link to a video that illustrates what I am writing about.

Family History work, including Temple work, is not "just one more thing" added onto the High Priest Group Leaders full plate of activities. It is the core of his responsibility. Many of the other problems and challenges, including missionary work, will go more smoothly with a functioning family history program in the Ward. But the key to this happening is a fully functional High Priest Group Leader who captures the vision of the importance of family history and becomes personally involved.


  1. I am so grateful for your comments here. Nearly 10 years ago I was called as a HPGL in my Mesa/Chandler ward that had a very active Family History program driven mainly by a couple of strong consultants and a Stake that pushed the program. I knew next to nothing about genealogy at the time and really wasn't focused on getting involved when the call came. However, through mentoring my a good counselor in the stake presidency on my quarterly interviews and with the help of a couple of wonderful and talented consultants (that also worked at the Mesa FSL) I learned how to do genealogy, how to teach it and it is one of the ways I love to spend my time.

    Now I am a consultant in another Ward in Gilbert and I had to push our HPGL a little to get him going but now he is on board and working diligently with the ward council and me to get different family history activities going through missionary work, with the primary and YM/YW. He is also actively working on having the Bishop call at least 2 more consultants.

    Family History on the a ward level is all about the leaders being involved on both the ward and stake level.

    Again, thank you for your help, insight and encouragement.

    1. Thanks for the good example of how it should work. Have been asking my High Priest Group Leader to get involved for some time now and had no success in even getting a meeting set. It depends a lot on the person involved.

    2. What helped me was the encouragement to be actively engaged in genealogy from the stake during my quarterly PPI's. They helped me be accountable for the work in the Ward and provided alot of support and training to the HPGL. Here's hoping we can get the same from my current stake for our new HPGL.

    3. When the system functions as outlined in the handbooks, it works fine. My point is that the HPGL needs to function in his capacity as the one to lead out on family history in the Ward.

  2. Frustrated: My husband and I were called as Temple and Family History consultants two years ago, and have not seen much support from the HPGL. WE have now been combined with another ward, and are now working with the new HPGL in this combined ward. WE need Heavens help in getting Priesthood leaders excited and involved in this inspired work. It seems that we are the most interested and involved in a program that is inspired of Heaven and necessary for our salvation and that of our ancestors. Please help to get Priesthood leaders trained in their responsibility to head this work.

    1. You should now be working with your Stake Temple and Family History Consultant who has the responsibility of teaching and supporting your High Priests Group Leader.