Family history resources for priesthood leaders and ward councils

Family history work adds spiritual experiences that help strengthen members’ testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That was the heart of a RootsTech 2016 workshop aimed at helping provide family history resources for priesthood leaders and members of ward councils.

Merrill White, area manager for FamilySearch, who directed the workshop, shared some of the successes wards and stakes have had as they implemented “Find, Take, Teach,” a family history program announced at RootsTech 2015.

He focused first on the Gilbert Arizona Highland West Stake and invited Lance McIntosh, family history multi-area manager for North America, to share his thoughts about the successes he witnessed working with the stake president, Daniel A. Barker.

About 18 months ago, the Quarterly Report used in local units of the Church began measuring the number of members and converts submitting names to the temple. Brother McIntosh said, “President Barker told me that was an eye opener because it showed how poorly they were doing. And they had never actually noticed that before.”

President Barker told Brother McIntosh, “I realized then that we had to do something and that something had to be major.” Confessing he had never taken a name to the temple himself, President Barker asked his counselors, stake clerks and members of the high council if they had. They told him no. “We were 0 for 17,” he said.

President Barker told Brother McIntosh he challenged the leaders of the stake to find names, take them to the temple and teach others to do the same. They were using the principles of “Find, Take, Teach” before the Church announced it as an official program.

“The stake presidency was doing it first. They were the ones pulling people in and helping them find the names,” said Brother McIntosh. “It’s key that a leader have a personal experience.”

In a short time the stake had increased the percentage of people submitting names from 2 to 5 percent explained Brother McIntosh. “Keep in mind, the Church average is about 4.7 percent.”

The stake set a goal to take names to the temple in October of 2014 . “The challenge was for every member of the stake to bring an ancestral name,” said Brother McIntosh. By the date of the stake temple outing, the percentage of name submissions jumped to 28.4 percent. And a year later, the stake was at 42 percent.

Overall, the keys to the success of this stake were leaders who went out and found their own names and gained their own testimony, said Brother McIntosh. Another key was making sure others had quick success when starting to look for names. And the final key was going out and teaching others how to find names.

The next presenter to share ideas for family history success was Lyon France Stake President Roland E. Lepore, who helped his stake move from a submission rate of 4 to 10 percent.

“I put together ten things that were critical to us in the Lyon stake for family history work,” he said:

1. The conviction of family history work is at the center of salvation.

2. It needed to be in the stake goals.

3. Use the network of people and resources already in place.

4. Share personal experiences.

5. Extend personal invitations to members. Have them report back.

6. Invite every future missionary to do a name submission and indexing.

7. Hold stake youth events.

8. Plan family history workshops in conjunction with stake conference.

9. High councilors participate in the work and share experiences with others.

10. Challenge recent converts to participate in family history work.

“How sweet it is to hear about the wonderful experiences members are having doing family history work,” said President Lepore. “I know we are making progress because we went from 30 indexers doing 30,000 names to over 250 indexers doing over 500,000 names.”

Also represented at the workshop was the Laguna Niguel California Stake. Brother White found out that President Robert L. Davis had visited a coordinating council led by Elder Alan D. Haynie, General Authority Seventy, and heard the promise of protection from the adversary given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to youth who do family history work.

“ ‘I’ve got to have this protection for my youth,’ ” said Brother White quoting President Davis. President Davis started a stake family history committee led by the high councilor. He then called a stake mentor. The committee met once a month with the ward consultants and high priests group leaders. “All they did was share best practices,” said Brother White.

“From there it started to spread,” said Brother White. “Here are a few things that they did.”

• Made individual in-home visits.

• Kept it simple.

• Taught people, not lessons.

• Family history themed youth conference.

• Called youth as family history consultants.

• New converts took names to the temple.

“We remain committed to this work,” said President Davis. “We devoted our stake conference to family history.”

Over one year later the number of people in the stake submitting names rose from 7 to 29 percent, said Brother White. “We are all entitled to the Spirit for the role in which we are engaged. I invite you to take that inspiration and use it in your ward and stakes,” he said.

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