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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Promoting Family History in the Ward and Stake

When we think about helping our Ward and Stake members to "become more involved in family history," we often think in terms of a super activity kind of project. Just as we often do with youth activities, we think of dance festivals, treks, super activities in exotic locations, and other such projects. We promote the activity by calling a number of members to spearhead the activity and organize the activity over a year or more. We then congratulate ourselves when the "activity" is a success and even get the activity written up in the Church News.

This week, for example, I have already been called by a Ward Family History Consultant who was asking about a Ward Genealogy Plan. He wanted a "plan" that other Wards had used to have a successful genealogy activity, such as challenging the Ward members to "take a name to the Temple."

I have been involved in genealogy for a long time and I have been helping members of my Ward and patrons at Family History Centers with their research for many of those years. I have seen special program come and go and I have seen almost no rise in genealogical activity in the Ward. But during all that time, I have seen valiant individuals quietly and unnoticed work diligently on finding their ancestors and send hundreds and thousands of names to the Temple for ordinance work. These diligent workers are not the stars of the Ward or Stake genealogical super-activity. In fact, their work is almost never acknowledged or even recognized. I would not be surprised if nearly all of the Bishops in the Church were entirely unaware of who was actually involved in genealogy activity.

In one of my old Wards, the Family History Consultants complained to the Bishop when we offered to help with the "family history class" that we were interfering in their callings. In another Ward, we met every Sunday to hold a research help class in a computer filled room next to the Bishop's office and he would come into the room once a year or so and express surprise that we had people working on their genealogy and wondering why we were still there helping!

Involvement in family history will not be "solved" by holding one or more super-activities. In the scriptures, we read about the miracle of the loaves and fishes in Mark 6: 31-46. We can look at this miracle as a very impressive and successful group activity. But were the people's hearts changed? Did they join the Church in multitudes at that time? I think that Ward and Stake leaders are sometimes looking for an instant kind of "loaves and fishes" experience that will "solve the problem of Ward and Stake activity when the solution does not lie in a new or even successful group activity, it lies in the constant and repeated assistance of dedicated family history consultants who work one-on-one with members to help them with their genealogy and overcoming the challenges of computers and family history.

How do you accomplish this work? The answer is not in an innovative program so much as it is in applying the principles laid down in the Scriptures and the handbooks of instruction. Follow the program as it is presently outlined and you will have success.


  1. I sure agree with this. You can't set a time limit on finding a name to take to the temple. Sometimes it takes years of research. Likewise, you can't teach someone good research skills in one evening, just like you can't teach a 4 year college degree in one evening. If the ward leaders are involved in genealogy, in one way or another, the ward will follow.

    1. The key is involvement of the Ward and Stake leaders.