In a dual-purpose talk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke of new computer technology to aid family history research and of the instrument that family history work is for proclaiming the gospel and strengthening the members.
"The Church is reaping a great harvest by using today's technology to make available on CD-ROM the fruits of diligent labor by thousands of extraction workers," he said. "The first four of these Resource Files containing millions of extracted records are now available through Church Distribution Centers. . . . Other Resource Files on compact disc will be released in the future, each making records available to home users. The Church is aggressively working toward developing other products that will simplify genealogical research, making it faster and easier to access needed information and trace family histories."These are the Resource Files to which Elder Christofferson referred:
- The 1851 British Census Resource File. "It contains names extracted from the 1851 census for three counties in England - Devon, Norfolk and Warwick. Searching for a name in the census is now a matter of a few seconds instead of a few hours."
- Australian Vital Records Index. "This set of four CDs includes an index of births, christenings, marriages and deaths from New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia for selected years ranging from 1788 to 1905."
- British Isles Vital Records Index for the period 1538-1888.
- North America Vital Records Index for 1620-1888.
Elder Christofferson also mentioned SourceGuide, released earlier this year, a new computer product that puts the collected knowledge and experience of hundreds of genealogical experts at members' fingertips. "Though it does not contain genealogical data, SourceGuide helps members select the most useful types of records to search and provides advice and tips for finding information about their ancestors.
Turning to the other purpose of his talk, Elder Christofferson emphasized that members of the Church must never fail to link family history with the need to be anxiously engaged in performing temple ordinances.
"Family history is obviously a crucial tool in redeeming the dead, but it can also play an important role in proclaiming the gospel and strengthening members of the Church. There are a number of ways that you who are priesthood leaders and those who hold family history assignments as well as missionaries can utilize this tool to bless others."
He asked that priesthood leaders think of simple ways in which they can coordinate the efforts of the stake mission, full-time missionaries, family history consultants and Family History Center staff.
"Currently, missionaries are being trained to use family history as one means of introducing investigators to the gospel, of involving new converts in significant gospel activities and of encouraging less-active members," he said.
"Stake and full-time missionaries may invite ward family history consultants to join them as they teach investigators about work for the dead in the fourth missionary discussion and as they teach converts about eternal families and temples in the fifth discussion for new members."
He said family history consultants can meet with new converts to show them how to submit ancestral names for temple ordinances.
Also, family history consultants, priesthood and auxiliary leaders or other ward members can go to the temple with new converts to perform baptisms for the dead, he added.
"Converts who go to the temple to do proxy baptisms are more likely to attend Church and have fewer problems with the lifestyle changes of Church membership. What is true of new members in this regard is also true of currently less-active members. Their participation in family history would bring the same blessings of testimony and fellowship."
Elder Christofferson said a family history center can be thought of as a place where members and missionaries can bring neighbors, friends, investigators and less-active members to look for information about their ancestors and to hear a brief orientation about the doctrines that relate to family history work.
He gave these steps to help beginners find information about ancestors and provide temple ordinances for them:
- Help beginners fill out as much of a pedigree chart and family group record as they can with information from their own memory and that of family members.
- Teach them to look in their homes for information they may have about ancestors.
- Encourage them to visit the Family History Center to see if their family names are in the FamilySearch Ancestral File, a computerized collection of millions of names.
- Help them choose the ancestors for whom they will perform ordinances. There are guidelines in the Church's publication A Member's Guide to Temple and Family History Work.
- Help them use TempleReady to prepare names for ordinances.
- Encourage them to perform temple ordinances for their ancestors. Ward members can perform ordinances that new converts cannot yet do themselves.
"With even minimal coordination between priesthood leaders, family history workers and missionaries, it will not be difficult to use family history as a tool for conversion and retention of new members and activation of less-active members," Elder Christofferson declared.