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

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#RootsTech -- The Impact on Family History in the LDS Church

What will be the impact of the comparatively large RootsTech 2014 Conference on the role of family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? First, as a side note, let me explain something about why I use the full name of the Church in my blog posts. The Church's Newsroom which is the official resource for news media, opinion leaders and the public, has a style guide for writing about the Church. The suggested rules are as follows:
  • In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
  • Please avoid the use of "Mormon Church," "LDS Church" or the "Church of the Latter-day Saints."
  • When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or "the Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged.
  • When referring to Church members, the term "Latter-day Saints" is preferred, though "Mormons" is acceptable.
  • "Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as "Mormon pioneers."
  • The term "Mormonism" is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms "Mormons," "Mormon fundamentalist," "Mormon dissidents," etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: "The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other … churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death."
OK, now with that said, the question is about the impact of the series of RootsTech Conferences on family history in the Church. First, the average member has had little or no contact with the previous conferences. With more than 14 million members, having a few thousand attend any one conference ind Salt Lake City is not a shared experience. By comparison, the Church's Semi-annual General Conference is held in the Conference Center, just north of Temple Square. The building seats abut 20,000 people and is almost completely filled for each of the five regular General Conference sessions. The General Conference is broadcast all over the world. Notwithstanding this huge coverage, there are still many members of the Church who miss most or all of the Conference sessions due to work or lack of interest.

Now, RootsTech 2014 is aimed at the general Church population but reaches only a very small percentage of the entire Church population; those who are actively involved in family history or genealogy. Efforts to broaden the impact through involvement of celebrities from outside of the genealogical community and other publicity efforts have been effective in the Salt Lake metropolitan area to raise awareness of the Conference but generally, through out the Church, very, very few members have yet to hear about the existence of the Conference. This will likely change beginning with the broadcasts and re-broadcasts of 44 of the class sessions in over 600 Stakes worldwide. But we will have to wait to see if this is really the case.

I think that RootsTech is a fabulous opportunity for all those who attend. Up until now, the genealogical community both inside and outside the Church has been marginalized. Efforts by the large genealogy companies, such as all of the ads by, have had an amazing impact on the awareness of people generally about genealogy. RootsTech will certainly add to the general perception that genealogy is an accepted pursuit for more than just old, retired people. But when I attended a Ward in Provo, Utah this past Sunday and went to a family history class, few of the participants had heard anything at all about RootsTech and in fact the announcement that was made to the class was incorrect and I had to correct what was said.

It is almost always the case that from small things there can be large changes. RootsTech is like a seed being planted that can, with the proper nurture, turn into a large tree. But that will take time and there are a lot of people whose attitude towards family history will have to take a dramatic change.

I applaud the efforts of the entire RootsTech team and especially those from FamilySearch who have provided this tremendous opportunity to learn and interact with genealogists and other interested, from all over the world.

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