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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Genealogy in the Ward begins with the Stake President

Traditionally in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints researching family history for submitting names to the Temple has been an individual or family responsibility. In the past, there have been times when the Church programs included structured classes on how to do family research or genealogy. But for some time now, the involvement of the Church in fostering genealogical activity has been confined to offering a series of motivational classes to Family History Consultants online and on DVDs. At the same time and for the past few years, the Church has been developing a sophisticated website,, that assists in the members in researching their ancestors. Most recently, the Church has increased its emphasis on genealogy or family history and included the ability to upload and store photographs, stories and documents on's Family Tree program to help members recognize a more complete ancestral story. There have also been a number of programs such as Indexing, the My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together booklet, the RootsTech Conference and other such programs that add emphasis to family history work.

In addition, most recently, the Church has been modifying the administrative portions of the family history program to more clearly define the roles of each of the Stake and Ward leaders responsible for family history and Temple work. In a recent post called Where do I receive training for my family history calling?, I outlined the resources available to each of the administrative levels of both the Stakes and Wards. But from my own personal experience and the success stories I have heard from others, I believe that the participation of the Stake President is one of the most decisive factors in fomenting family history in both the Stake and Wards. It is certainly possible for the individual Family History Consultants to function in their capacity in the Wards. But unless there is a coordinated Stake President initiated program, following the outline of the program in the handbooks, the Ward efforts will be very limited in scope. Occasionally, a Ward, with the involvement of the Bishop, may be able to organize a Ward-wide effort for Indexing or a short-lived program for increasing Temple submissions, but a long term effort needs the support of the Stake leaders to succeed.

The duties of the Stake President are clearly outlined in the online materials. Basically, he is responsible for calling Stake Indexing and Family History support people that will follow the program as outlined in the handbooks and carry the programs into each Ward in the Stake. It is crucial that the Stake President be not only aware of the assignments given to the High Councilor over Temple and Family History, but also be an active participant on a personal level. The video called, Training for My Calling: Stake President, outlines the role of the Stake President in using temple and family history work to strengthen families and individuals. It is also helpful if the Stake President supports the High Counselor and the High Priest Group Leaders in the Stake in learning and functioning in their callings. It will not take long for High Priest Group Leaders to realize the importance of their participation in the family history program in the Ward, if they are held accountable to the Stake President in their periodic interviews. More specific instructions are available in the Leader Resources on about Family History Callings. 

As I travel around the Church, I see many opportunities where family history work could make a difference. I recently visited a small branch on Vancouver Island in Canada. The day before the Sunday meetings, I had done a presentation to 120 people at a genealogy conference held in Parksville. For a change, it turned out that the Family History Center Director was aware of the conference, but there was no participation by the Family History Center or the Branch in supporting or attending the conference. The number of people attending the conference was many times greater than the total number of members in the Branch. I felt frustrated at what I saw as a lost opportunity to involve not only the Branch, but the Full-time Missionaries in the Conference. At a minimum, the Family History Center could have had a table to pass out information about the Family History Center or helped sponsor the conference. I wonder if the Stake President or other Stake officers knew about this lost opportunity?

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