Lehi family history building serves public and accommodates FamilySearch software engineers

Credit: Deseret News Archives, Deseret News Archives
Credit: R. Scott Lloyd
Credit: R. Scott Lloyd
Credit: R. Scott Lloyd

LEHI, Utah — The newest family history facility in the Church might be regarded as a combination FamilySearch Center and a haven of technical talent for the Family History Department.

The FamilySearch Building in Lehi, a four-story complex at Thanksgiving Point, was dedicated Jan. 18 by Elder Bradley L. Foster, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Family History Department.

The “public face” of the building is the 8,000 square-foot Lehi Family Search Center, serving 28 local stakes of the Church, said Stephen T. Rockwood, president and CEO of the Church’s FamilySearch International. But it also includes office space for employees of the FamilySearch and the Family History Department.

“This is primarily the technical talent of FamilySearch,” Brother Rockwood explained in an interview following the dedication.

“We brought all of our software engineers under one roof to be able to work and collaborate more closely together,” he said. “Other, non-technical, people are here as well. But this now puts most of our workforce in three main areas: here in Lehi for the technical side, Salt Lake City for the genealogy side and our offices around the world to serve local areas.”

Prior to giving the dedicatory prayer, Elder Foster offered brief remarks to the assembled guests, primarily leaders of the 28 stakes who will be served by the new FamilySearch Center.

“Family history has the power to bless those beyond the veil; it also has the power to bless the living,” he remarked. “I pray that your families, the members of your wards and your stakes, will have that opportunity in this building.”

Drawing from 1 Nephi 17, the account of Lehi’s family in the wilderness coming to the land they called Bountiful and then building a ship to cross to the promised land, Elder Foster applied the words “[God] doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them” (see verse 3) to the new building and its purpose.

“Much like Nephi and his ship, I’m not sure any of us can imagine what gathering over a hundred billion people into families will be like,” Elder Foster said. “We are counting on the help of the Lord as we try to accomplish this work. This building, with all of the many functions, the relationships that each of you will have here, the revelation we will receive inside this building, will guide us as we build Heavenly Father’s family tree after the manner which He has shown us and will continue to show us.”

The FamilySearch Center portion of the building includes the “Discovery” experience that has been introduced in similar facilities in Layton and St. George, Utah, and at two facilities in downtown Salt Lake City: the Family History Library and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

Designed to appeal to visitors of all ages and skill levels, it draws on information in the FamilySearch database to let them find out more about themselves and their ancestors. Family members can interview parents and grandparents for recording in high definition video in the studios.

Casual seating and collaboration areas invite people to work together to discover facts about their families.

More than 100 computers and special equipment enable guests to transfer family memories from old tapes to DVD and to preserve printed family photos and scrapbooks to USB drives or to upload them directly to their accounts.

The new building is located in an idyllic setting at Thanksgiving Point, a 55 acre garden, farm, museum and golf course complex founded in 1995 by Church members Alan and Karen Ashton.

In an information video at the start of the dedication service, Brother Rockwood said the building was strategically located midway between Salt Lake City and Provo to draw from the rich pool of nearby technical talent.

Amenities for employees include a café and wellness center.

“It helps us to attract and retain top employees,” he said. They’re in an environment that allows them to be creative and to be able to use the gifts and talents they’ve been given to further the work of the Lord.”

The FamilySearch Center, which will be the family history facility for the 28-stake area, is an advantage for the workplace, because it allows the engineers to write their software and immediately try it out in the center and then receive feedback in real time, Rockwood said.

Speakers at the devotional service included Elder James R. Rasband, Area Seventy, who chairs the local 36-stake coordinating council.

Referring to the visit of the Old Testament prophet Elijah to Joseph Smith to restore the sealing powers, Elder Rasband said, “What is remarkable to me about this building is that it will help fulfill this promise of Elijah on a global scale, on a local scale and on an individual scale.”

He added, “It’s exciting to think of all the FamilySearch’s software engineers and other FamilySearch employees coming together in this one building. Those of you who have used FamilySearch to explore your family tree, prepare a family name or to post memories and photos of your ancestors know what a remarkable tool it is.”

Already, FamilySearch adds more than a million records a day and preserves more than 400 million historic records each year in its database, Elder Rasband said. “This new facility will only accelerate that work and bless members of the Church throughout the world and persons not of our faith throughout the world.”

Kory A. Boyd, president of the Lehi Utah Stake, said tens of thousands will likely visit the center and discover “fun facts” about their own family heritage. But some, he said, will have the experience of finding names of ancestors at the center who need temple ordinance work and take those individuals to the temple. “They will feel a stirring in their heart that is indescribable,” he said.

Jill Hunt, who with her husband, Craig, is an inaugural director of the Lehi FamilySearch Center also spoke. She said the center was opened for two hours the previous week as a “sneak preview” for neighbors at Thanksgiving Village. Some 200 people came for a tour.

“We heard a variety of comments that night,” she said. “Some were, ‘This is fun, much better than I thought it would be.’ ‘I need to add some stories.’ ‘I’m bringing a whole box of pictures to scan.’ ‘I want to bring my grandmother here to video-record her history.’ ‘I have a lot of work to do!’”

“The Lehi FamilySearch Center will be a place where guests of all ages and all levels of expertise in family history will be welcome,” she said. “It will be a place of peace, of help, of bonding with family and ancestors. … It will be a place of learning and growing, where faith and testimony will increase. Those who come will gain strength in resisting temptation, a greater understanding of the plan of salvation and a greater love for our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

A public open house of the new FamilySearch Center will be held Thursday, Jan. 18, from 1 to 8 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 19 from 9 a.m to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Jan. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The address is 3201 Garden Drive in Lehi.

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