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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Comments on Getting the Genealogical Message to the Members of the Church

Despite the proliferation of sections of the main websites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints many members are entirely unaware of the immense online resources contained on and As the website developments occur, there are blog posts and sometimes announcements in the Church News or in letters to the leaders, but significant segments of the membership of the Church frequently either ignore the messages or do not receive them at all. If this is the rule about general announcements made from and by the Church, the lack of interest and lack of impact of announcements about genealogy have even less impact on the members to the extent that almost none of the information about what is happening in genealogy gets to the general membership.

Although I fully realize the limited impact of a blog in trying to rectify this situation, this blog is partially aimed at increasing the media exposure of these valuable LDS resources. For this to work, it is necessary for the members to adjust to obtaining information, news and support from online sources. Because of my involvement in the genealogical community, I am painfully aware of the disconnect between the average member of the Church and the online world. How many members use the Church's calendar, much less are using the genealogical resources online? It is interesting how little impact blogs and websites have on those who do not know of their existence. I am never surprised at the response to questions I ask about blog readership in the classes I teach about online genealogy.

In my own Ward, for example, although I have been an active blogger for the last five or six years, I doubt that there are more than two or three of the hundreds of members of the Ward that are even aware of my blogs or have read them at all regularly. Part of the problem is the nature of online communications in general. We are all flooded with content, most of which has no value or interest to us personally. In response, we have all built up personal filters that ignore nearly all of the huge number of messages we receive each day from the Internet, physical mailings, paper ads, signage, billboards and on and on. I presently have a garbage can sitting next to my desk that is frequently emptied but presently is almost full of "junk mail" received in the last two days almost all of which is advertising.

If we have content we feel is valuable for members of the Church, how do we package that message in a way that the members will begin to be aware of its existence? On a personal basis, how do we then filter out the unwanted messages and listen to those messages that have meaning and content we are interested in receiving. In the area of genealogy, this is a very difficult issue due, in part, to the ingrained antipathy of the average member to genealogy as a subject. I am reminded of an experience I had a year or so ago. I was speaking at a conference in a small Eastern Arizona community and while driving to the location of the presentation, we drove down a very dusty, dirt road obviously not heavily used. There on the side of the road was a sign on a stick with my picture advertising the conference. In my mind, this is an analogy for the entire genealogical community. We make a lot of noise inside the community but little of it escapes into the larger world of those uninterested in the genealogical community as such. As with the sign on the isolated dirt road, only the people who were already going to the conference would have seen the sign and read it.

Can we break out of this shell of obscurity surrounding online messages from the Church and in particular those pertaining to genealogy? Another example. The Mesa FamilySearch Library held a very successful conference recently. That free conference was announced in my own Ward's Sunday Bulletin every Sunday for about two months preceding the conference. Only one or two members in my Ward asked me about the conference and during the conference I do not remember seeing even one member of my Ward in attendance. In fact, the conference was so well attended, we had to turn people away because the numbers overwhelmed the room in the ASU Institute of Religion where the conference was held. But this came as a result of having a huge geographic area to draw from. The 600 people at the conference constituted a vanishingly small percentage of the LDS population in just Mesa, Arizona alone. The Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has over 4 million people and according to some statistics the LDS population of Arizona is between 5% and 10%. See Wikipedia: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership statistics (United States). Even if we take the lower number, the number of members in just the Phoenix area is over 200,000. The attendance at the conference was a very small percentage of even the LDS community and there were many people at the conference who were not members of the Church.

I will probably write about this topic from time to time. It is interesting to think about how to solve this lack of interest and the consequential lack of communication.


  1. This, unfortunately, is the same issue that the Brethren and FamilySearch struggle with. If there was an easy answer, we would have access to it. It will be interesting to see how much impact will be made by the push to involve youth and put emphasis initially on the stories. Stay tuned and keep trying!

    Dave Midgley

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  3. I agree this is a problem. Sometimes I feel that church members would feel the responsibility for gathering their ancestors if the Church quit providing extracted names for ordinance requests. If members were turned away from the temple when there were no ordinances to perform, would they feel more responsibility to at least try to research or at least get names from other researchers in the ward? It's kind of like helping a person quit smoking (sorry for the analogy) but giving them a cigarette a day until they feel they can quit. Hopefully the new direction will help, and I agree that the Church needed to try something different. Kudos to them for making all this available to us!