RootsTech 2013: Experiencing the joy of family history

Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy expressed Church leaders’ “desire is to help faithful, temple attending members of the Church become awakened through the gifts of the Spirit to the full measure of the blessings to be found in loving and bringing their family names to the temple.”

Elder Koelliker, an associate executive director of the Family History Department spoke March 23 during the RootsTech 2013 Family History and Technology Conference. His address was part of a specialized training session for members of ward councils, except for Young Men and Young Women leaders, who received training in a separate concurrent session.

Elder Koelliker named three things that priesthood leaders should focus on with regard to family history: to help members identify and qualify their ancestors for temple ordinances, to encourage the telling of stories “to touch their hearts and awaken a desire to know their family,” and to organize the work of stakes and wards to open the doors for more members to experience the joy of family history.

Elder Koelliker showed a brief video documenting the experience of an elders quorum president who lacked interest in family history. His stake president assigned him to have a family history experience.

He invited the ward family history consultant, who was only 17 years old, to come present a home evening lesson to his family. She gave led the young children in the family in putting on costumes and re-enacting the experience of their great-great-great-grandmother who, while living on the frontier, hid while Indians raided her house.

Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy speaks at RootsTech 2013.
Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy speaks at RootsTech 2013.

In the video, the family history consultant reflects that to fill that role, “you don’t need someone who has been a genealogist their whole life; you just need someone willing to learn and is able to get people excited.”

Reflecting on the experience of having his family learn about family history the father said, “Now I’m invested. It’s more than just curiosity. I want to take these people to the temple.”

Elder Koelliker commented, “It doesn’t matter what the age of the consultant is. What matters is that experience turns out to be positive.”

He observed that she went to their home. “They had a word of prayer together, and she could see that this wasn’t going to work in a genealogical fashion. So she went immediately to the story and engaged the children in the story.

“Did you notice what happened at the end? Who was sitting at the computer? A 9-year-old sitting on his father’s lap, counting up the ‘greats’ for his great-great-great-grandfather.

“That’s part of the turning process, brothers and sisters, of getting the hearts where they need to be.”