As a young girl, Diana Boley often spent time at her grandmother’s home where she heard stories of her pioneer ancestors. Her grandmother loved doing family history work and had filing cabinets full of her family’s records throughout her home.
One particular day, when Diana Boley was around age 12, her grandmother told her a story of one of her pioneer ancestors.
“She told us a story about one ancestor who pulled a handcart across the plains and he only had one arm,” she recalls. “And that little instant in my life touched my heart and instilled the Spirit of Elijah in me.”
Since then, she has shared her grandmother’s love she had for family history work and tried to share that passion by sharing those stories, as well as finding more with her own children.
“I love it, and I want my kids to be as excited about it as I am,” she said. “As a youth, no one really knew how to teach me how to do family history as I’ve gotten older I have figured it out.”
That is why she and her son, Jerod, 15, attended the Conference on Family History and Genealogy held at Brigham Young University on July 29.
“There are so many opportunities for the youth now with FamilySearch and the photos and the stories and the sourcing and everything that FamilySearch does,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for the youth to take advantage of and learn how to do it at such young ages.”
The Boleys are not alone. They joined with hundreds of participants of all ages gathered on the BYU campus from July 29-Aug. 1 to learn from experts as they participate in “Strengthening Ties that Bind Families Together Forever,” as the conference’s theme states.
The conference, held in the BYU Conference Center, included more than 100 classes for all different levels of genealogists, focusing on helping individuals gain new skills and helpful information. One day of instruction included a “youth track” that focused specifically on topics for youth.
Elder Paul E. Koelliker, an emeritus Seventy, spoke on the topic “Family: A Pattern of Heaven” during the keynote address on July 29. He encouraged all to “look at what really matters” as they connect with their family — whether it is their children and grandchildren or their family who came before them. He encouraged listeners to “think beyond the charts” as they find the stories that will strengthen their testimony and help their family come closer to their Heavenly Father through participating in temple ordinances.
“Love is the deep, driving force for all we do in our relationships,” he said. “When we have that feeling of love, we have the desire and energy we need to sow seeds that nurture the growth needed for the harvest. It is your privilege and responsibility to get those ordinances done.”
Because of that need, the Lord has expedited temple building throughout the world and provided tools for this work to take place, he taught.
Drawing from the words of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, Elder Koelliker spoke of the great leader’s desire to communicate with his children and people. He felt so strongly about his message that he had it written down and distributed among the people. It is as individuals heed his counsel and “open your ears that you may hear” that they are able to serve others as they turn their hearts to their fathers and take their names to the temple.
“How well are we doing?” Elder Koelliker asked.
Although there has been much progress in family history and temple work over the past few years, Elder Koelliker recognized that more work is needed. He asked, “What will it take to move the body of the Saints? What will it take to move the majority of the members of the Church from going to the temple to bringing our own names to the temple to do the work for our kindred people?”
It is through uncovering and sharing the stories of ancestors that the softening of hearts will come, he said. By sharing stories of faith and helping children and grandchildren know their ancestors, individuals are able to know and cultivate a love for and connection to their family.
“Write down your stories under the direction of the Spirit so your posterity can know your testimony,” said Elder Koelliker.
As individuals tell and re-tell their family stories, an eternal desire to link families develops and a desire to do family history work increases.
Elder Koelliker invited the guests over the course of the conference to think of five things they could do to further the work of the Lord through family history.
Sharing ideas of his own, he invited listeners to think of family history as a broader idea as they move ahead in a forward direction. He encouraged listeners to increase their temple worship and invited them to find a cousin or other family member they can take to the temple.
“Be open to new technology and ideas for connecting with others,” he said, adding that many tools are provided to help in family history work.
It is through that love for and remembering family that individuals develop a desire to be vigilant in establishing and retaining their family line. Through discovering ancestors in the past and creating a record for the future — just as King Benjamin made a record for his people and future generations — individuals are able to develop a strong connection in their family tree.
“This is a time of change, and we have got to make family history a priority,” he said. “This is the work of all people.”