Calling it a “gathering place” for the living and the dead, Elder Kyle McKay, Area Seventy, on Nov. 1 dedicated a state-of-the-art FamilySearch Center in Layton, Utah, about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City, that will support 38 local stakes, consolidating four smaller family history centers in Layton, Kaysville and Clearfield.
Stake presidents from the area and about 110 staff members of the Church’s Family History Department and their spouses were among attendees at the dedicatory service that emanated from one room and was carried by television monitor to several rooms throughout the new center.
The Layton FamilySearch Center “is really a unique facility in all the world,” said President Chad Webb of the Layton Utah Valley View Stake as he conducted the meeting.
The 13,979 square-foot center has 140 computers, 60 of which are touch-screen monitors, he said.
“There’s a family room, children’s area, a family recording room, photo- and slide-scanning equipment, recording equipment that will allow users to convert VHS recordings to DVD recordings.”
Elder Lyle R. Elmore, who, with his wife, Sister Linda M. Elmore, has been called to direct the new facility, showed its features to a visiting Church News reporter prior to the service. Some are reminiscent of the Family Discovery Center at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.
He pointed out three large touch-screen monitors where visitors can type in their FamilySearch.org account number and bring up what happened in the year they were born and view a map showing where their ancestors came from.
“The third screen is a ‘relative finder’ where they can go in and find who they’re related to,” he said.
He showed two recording studios that users can reserve for an hour at a time and make video and audio recordings by answering questions in 10-minute segments.
Recordings are instantly emailed to the patrons.
The recordings are also preserved in the Photos and Stories section of their account on the FamilySearch website.
Elder Elmore pointed out the family room where families members can work together on family history, perhaps transferring VHS recordings to DVD.
In a children’s area, youngsters will be entertained by Church videos that are shown or by the talents of professional storytellers on staff. They can build temples using Lego blocks.
Prior to giving the dedicatory prayer, Elder McKay said, “This marvelous facility is really just a waypoint on the path toward the temple. That’s why it’s here, to bring families together here so they can be sealed together there forever and ever.”
He called it “a house of teaching, a house of learning, a house of instruction, a house of revelation.”
“All who come here will come seeking,” he said. “This is a house of seeking. It is a house of finding. It is truly a house of God, established and erected to put forth and carry forth His purpose, which is to save His children.”
Calling it a “gathering place,” he recalled that the Old Testament speaks of those who died as having been “gathered to their fathers.”
“Here in this house, before we get gathered unto our fathers, we are able to gather our fathers unto us and go with them to sacred places,” he said.
Among speakers at the service was Sister Elmore, who said a goal of the center is to give each patron a good experience from the time they enter the center in finding information about their families.
“When we scan our pictures, when we see pictures of our ancestors, when we read stories, we become familiar with our families,” she said. “And isn’t that what it’s all about?”
Elder Elmore said many miracles have already happened at the center, even though it hasn’t opened yet, as staff have engaged in “find, take and teach” experiences: finding ancestors, taking [their names] to the temple and then teaching others how to do it.
Elder Gene R. Chidester, Area Seventy, also spoke, saying the facility could also go by other names, such as the family connection center. “You can go there and find out who was the first member of your family to join the Church.”
Elder Steven K. Randall, Area Seventy, spoke of the visit of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith, telling him that Elijah would come in fulfillment of prophecy. That would be the beginning of the latter-day work of salvation for the dead in temples.
Steve Rockwood, managing director of the Family History Department, touched on the theme of the new center being a gathering place for those on both sides of the veil. “The veil will be extremely thin within these tens of thousands of feet,” he said.
President Jeremy Jaggi of the Utah Ogden Mission said, “I represent the rescue of the living, but we cannot do that without the help of those who have gone before us, and this work is coming together.”
Located at 915 West Gordon Ave. in Layton, the facility was remodeled from an existing building that had served at separate times as a university extension service center and a bank. It is located just north of a Deseret Industries store.