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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Family History is not just a Sunday School Class

During the past few years I have frequently heard family history in the Wards I visit characterized as a "Sunday School Class." Many of the Family History Consultants I have spoken with refer to the fact that they have been "called to teach a class in Sunday School." This persistent idea has relegated most Ward Family History Consultants to inactivity during the "off periods" when no class is being taught. In fact, in one Ward, as a Family History Consultant, I was approached by the Sunday School Presidency to "teach the family history class." That never did happen because they called two of the youth in the Ward to "teach a class during Sunday School" but without the participation of the Family History Consultants. 

Historically, holding a family history class during the Sunday School time may have been a suggested policy, but according to the Leader's Guide to Temple and Family History Work, To Turn the Hearts, the official family history Guide, here is the present policy regarding a "Sunday School Class" as set forth on pages 17 and 18.

Members of the ward council help the bishop ensure that the doctrines, principles, and blessings of family history and temple work are taught regularly in ward meetings. They encourage members to receive their own temple ordinances and participate actively in family history and temple work.

Each family can receive the Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work to use in the home and in family history classes.

Holding a temple and family history class is a good way to increase participation and interest in family history. The class can be used to help with ward activation, retention, and missionary efforts. Anyone may be invited to attend the class. The ward council may decide to invite certain ward members.

The class is taught by an effective instructor, who may or may not be a family history consultant. The class may be taught during Sunday School or at another time that is more convenient for members. It is taught under the direction of the bishopric rather than the Sunday School president.
More importantly than just the fact that a class is held is the motivation. Note that the class, if it is held is under the direction of the Bishop and is not necessarily a "Sunday School class." The class can also "be used to help with ward activation, retention, and missionary efforts."

The Guide goes on to state at page 18:

Lessons are generally conducted as workshops in which members actually complete their own family history work, either on the computer or on paper. Where feasible, class participants should have access to computers. Many meetinghouses are currently being equipped with wireless Internet connections.

The number of class participants should be limited to the number who can be given personal help. The class can be repeated as often as necessary to accommodate all who desire to attend.

Family history consultants can provide personal help to participants during the class as well as after the class in members’ homes or family history centers.

Resources available for the class include the Instructor’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, the accompanying Temple and Family History Course DVD, and the Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. Leaders should go to the Serving in the Church section of to find additional resources. [emphasis added]. 
We implemented this in my Ward in Mesa and it was a highly effective way to help the Ward members actually do their family history and not just sit in a class and end up making no progress. 

Where this type of class has been implemented in a Ward, the number of Temple ordinance submissions has risen. The main responsibility of the Ward Family History Consultants, according to the Guide at page 20:
Consultants take the initiative to reach out to members, especially those who are not comfortable using technology, by:
  • Helping a few individuals or families at a time to work on their own family history so they can perform temple ordinances for their deceased relatives. The most effective place to do this is in members’ homes. The ward council could determine specific individuals or families for the consultant to work with. The high priests group leader assigns these families to the consultant.
  • Answering family history questions from ward leaders and members.
Again, as the Ward Family History Consultants follow the guidelines of the Guide, they will have success and family history activity in the Ward will increase.


  1. Hi Brother Tanner,
    Thanks for your blog post. After a hiatus, I was looking online for the red" Member's Guide to Temple and Family History Work. I even had it bookmarked and it said "page not found." I did have my own copy, so I prepared the first lesson as laid out. Even though I had informed the group that they would not need their laptops for the first couple of classes, a few still brought them. I had told them they probably wouldn't need them next week, either. However, as the class progressed and students had very specific questions about, it became clear to me that I needed to toss the book and get to the hands-on. Then later after class, I gave one more shot to finding the manual and came across your blog post with its quote from the new manual about the class being more hands on work. I love how the Lord words to guide us as we work to hasten the work! Thanks again,
    Maureen Keillor
    Fayetteville, GA Stake

  2. As you have found the Members Guide has been discontinued. There is supposed to be a new class structure etc. but we haven't seen it come out yet.