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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Positive Alternatives to the Typical Ward or Stake Family History Challenge

It seems to be the fashion today for Stake or Ward leaders to "challenge" the members of their respective congregations to "take a name to the Temple" within a specified time period. I hear this repeated over and over again. Usually, the leaders originating such a challenge have not spent much time doing their own genealogical research. But more importantly, they disregard those members who have spent considerable time, sometimes years, looking for ancestors and have not found any new names to take to the Temple. I have often heard feedback from these seasoned genealogists who feel that they are failing the challenge and are extremely disheartened by their lack of ability to find a potential ancestor in the time specified. In addition, those making the challenge seldom provide either the structure outlined in the Handbook or the training necessary to properly implement such a challenge. What is most likely to happen is that the members will simply try to "mine"'s Family Tree program for "green arrows" and the results will be even more duplication.

In the worse cases, which I find repeatedly, people who are desperate to "find a name" will make unsupported changes to an existing family, solely for the purpose of manufacturing a qualified name to take to the Temple.

The idea of having a "challenge" is a good one. It is just that the nature of the challenge has to be positive and not a negative experience. In recent discussions with some family members who are Family History Consultants or in other Church positions, I have heard some alternatives that I believe are much more positive.

I suggest that the challenge focus on participation in family history activities. How about challenging the Ward or Stake members to spend a certain amount of time each week in a family history activity and then, weekly, suggest appropriate activities in the Ward bulletins? Why not suggest a Stake goal for Indexing and then provide Indexing classes and seminars on the how to Index? How about a Stake goal to increase Temple activity through family history and follow the handbook to organize the Ward Councils to fulfill their functions as outlined? How about a goal to train every person in the Ward how to use FamilySearch Family Tree,, and, all of the programs that are "free" to members? How about modifying the "take a name to the Temple" goal to have those experienced members help those with less experience? How about doing a survey of all of the members and finding out those with few ancestors on the Family Tree and assigning experienced Family History Consultants to work with them in their homes (as outlined in the Handbook) to find real names to take to the Temple? How about making a room available during Sunday School each Sunday where the members can come, either with computers in the room or laptops, and have help with their research questions? How about a realistic goal to have the Wards and the Stake follow the guidelines of the Handbook.

Oh, in case you don't know which handbook I am talking about, here is the name with a link to the website: Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts. How about a preliminary goal to learn our duties as leaders and then teach those duties to those with family history callings from the Stake President to the High Councilor and so forth?

There are those Ward and Stake out there that are making progress in family history by following the guidelines and implementing realistic goals. Is your Ward or Stake in that category?


  1. Amen! Our stake has made this challenge for every member to take family name to the stake conference temple session in October. They just requested that all the RS presidencies hold special activity before October to support this and I have been frustrated! I love all your suffestions. And I will read the handbook - I didn't know about it!

    1. Thanks for the comment. This is a pretty general type of non-productive challenge without providing the teaching and support to make it happen.

    2. Our ward has a great program going, quite successful so far. The real key seems to be to have the high priest group leader educated, on board, and in charge. We also have a stake high councilor who is familiar with genealogy and willing to follow the church program and is keeping things going at the stake level. When I have a few minutes, I'll make some notes about what is working and why.

    3. Thanks we need all the good examples we can get.