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

Monday, February 3, 2014

Family History Work in the Ward -- Theory and Reality

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has very specific instructional material for its leaders. Quoting from the website and the Handbook 2, 5.4:
Priesthood and auxiliary leaders teach members to participate in family history work by identifying their ancestral family members, requesting temple ordinances for them if needed, and providing these ordinances in the temple themselves if possible.
In describing the supplement to the Handbook concerning family history, the website states:
To Turn the Hearts is a leader resource guide provided as a supplement to Handbook 2: Administering the Church, to help priesthood leaders support members in their responsibilities to seek after their dead and provide them the saving ordinances in the temple. It includes supplemental videos (see below) that document how the Springfield Illinois Stake used temple and family history work to strengthen individuals and families.
(Note, links may not work unless you are registered with an LDS Account and sign in using your username and password).

The purpose of the guide, To Turn the Hearts, is stated in the Overview on page iii:
This guide describes how leaders can organize, lead, and implement temple and family history work in wards and stakes. It describes how family history can be an integral part of the ward council’s efforts for the salvation of souls. It also describes how leaders can strengthen themselves and others through participation in the work.
The resource guide explains how each administrative level of the Church should function from the Area Family History Advisor to the Stake Presidency and at level to the local Ward Family History Consultant. For the Ward family history organization to work effectively, each of the other administrative levels needs to perform their specific functions. For example, if the Stake President, High Counselor, and Bishop are functioning but the High Priest Group Leader is not doing his job, there is no line of communication from the Family History Consultant to the Ward Council. In this example, it will not matter if the Family History Consultant is dedicated and knowledgeable, little family history will be accomplished on the Ward level. The Ward Family History Consultant will feel the effect of any of the individuals failing to perform their function as outlined in the guide.

As I teach classes and help patrons at  the Mesa FamilySearch Library, I often encounter patrons who have been recently called to be Family History Consultants in their Ward. They come seeking information about their callings. Few of them have been given any understanding of their callings by their leaders. The Mesa FamilySearch Library regularly provides a monthly series of classes to teach Family History Consultants and their leaders their responsibilities. Recently, these classes have been growing in attendance to the point they have been held in our largest classroom that seats over 150 people. But our classes cannot make up for the failure of any of the other leaders in the chain.

I can see from the guide and the supporting videos how the program should work. But in traveling around the United States and attending various Wards as I present at genealogy conferences, I seldom find that the family history is functioning at all in nearly all the Wards I visit. This is like having someone die of thirst next to a lake of pure, clean water. The guide and all the supporting materials are freely available on the website. The instructions are clear and easily understood. It is unfortunate that these clear instructions go unheeded and even unread.

The solution to the disparity between the instructions of the guides and handbooks is easily erased with a dedication to following the instructions concerning the programs.

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