Located under the Get Help drop-down menu on the FamilySearch.org startup page, the Consultant Planner is a very useful way to begin assisting and teaching others about their family history. All Temple and Family History Consultants should be aware of this new method for allowing consultants to view and help those who need assistance.
In the most recent past, providing assistance to others on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree involved personal contact directly with the person being helped i.e. sitting side-by-side working on the computer or establishing contact through a helper number. For example, I have an elderly friend who is physically unable to efficiently operate his computer. As a volunteer, and as a Temple and Family History Consultant, previously I would've had to obtain his name, helper number, and date of birth. Then I could work on my computer and view his portion of the Family Tree and make changes if necessary. Any changes made would show as having been done by my friend. Theoretically, he could also follow and observe any changes or actions taken by logging into the Family Tree while I was working. Although working with the Helper Number was possible, it required some explanation and was, in some instances, awkward.
It is also possible, in close family relationships situations that family members could share their both their logins and passwords. I have several friends who are actively working on their spouse's genealogy and use their spouse's login and password to gain access to that spouse's portion of the Family Tree. Of course, this is not a good procedure for people who are unrelated and especially without explicit permission. In reality, if my spouse were not visible in the Family Tree, I could add in my spouse's information (thereby creating a duplicate entry) and then add in information about any living parents or grandparents (also creating duplicate entries) and then I would be able to view all of the information about the deceased people in that family. This is a result of having a unified family tree.
In the past, to help people with their portion of the Family Tree, I have merely requested that they supply me with the ID numbers of their first deceased ancestors and I was able to assist them in their research efforts. Obtaining this information was sometimes complicated.
FamilySearch.org has now provided another way to provide help which involves an easier method of establishing contact. This is the Family History Consultant Planner.
Using this method first involves contacting the person to be helped directly to obtain permission to view and work with their portion of the Family Tree. It is also a good idea to explain in detail why you are asking to help and how you will proceed to help them find names to take to the temple. If permission is obtained, the consultant then clicks the link on the Consultant Planner on FamilySearch.org to invite the person to be assisted. FamilySearch then sends an email message to the person requesting their permission to allow the consultant access to their portion of the Family Tree. When the person allows this contact by clicking on the invitation, the consultant is notified that the invitation has been accepted and can proceed to work with their Family Tree portion.
In addition, the Consultant Planner provides background information about the content of the person's ancestry. The Consultant Planner also provides links to resources provided by FamilySearch including record hints, obituaries, featured records, and other links. In the case of my elderly friend, unfortunately, he has no family members who can provide the assistance he needs. So, I am able to act and help him obtain names to take to the temple. In the case of teaching members how the process works, consultants can now expedite the contact necessary to do the preparation for a one-on-one training session. See Principles for Helping Others.
From my perspective, I think it is very important that the consultants have the expertise to properly support those who need help. In the case of preparing for instruction, the consultant should use the access to the Family Tree merely to review and examine those people who are the ancestors of the person being helped. Where direct help is needed, the consultant should be careful to make sure that the help is necessary and that all entries made are properly documented with sources. For more information on the process involved, take the time to read and study the blog post cited above.