Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Dale G. Renlund shared their united testimony of the "truthfulness, the divinity and the reality" of temple and family history work on Feb. 28.
The members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who are assigned to serve on the Church’s Temple and Family History Executive Council provided information and inspiration during an evening leadership instruction meeting for ward and stake leaders.
The training, held in Conference Center Theater in conjunction with the annual RootsTech family history conference, was live-streamed on lds.org.
Accentuating the importance of temple and family history work, the leaders were joined on the stand by three other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other members the Temple and Family History Executive Council.
Each leader offered counsel and direction to ward temple and family history leaders and consultants, helping them understand the responsibilities of their calling, discover how temple and family history service can strengthen families, and learn how to organize temple and family history service in their wards.
Where temple and family history work fit in wards
Because of the organizational adjustments that have occurred in the past year, there has been some confusion among temple and family history consultants wondering where they fit in the ward organization. Elder Renlund shared various ways this could be organized depending on the size and strength of the ward or branch.
To aid a ward’s vision and attitude, a temple and family history plan should be developed by the ward council and approved by the bishop. This could include a plan to reach out to 10- and 11- year old children to do family history work, or it could be a plan to work closely with those who the missionaries are teaching so that new converts are ready with family names on their first time to the temple.
To effectively engage consultants and enhance communication, coordination meetings need not be long, should be people-oriented and at times could be done by text, email or phone rather than in a formal meeting, Elder Renlund said.
Asking that wards clarify their leadership patterns, plans and coordination meetings, Elder Renlund promised: “As you do, the Lord will hasten His work on both sides of the veil, and you will be blessed in the process.”
How home, family and the temple are connected
In his remarks, Elder Stevenson focused on the promised blessings of family history and temple work and creating personal connections with our ancestors. Recently, he was in Rome, Italy for the open house tours. While hosting VIP tours, he described:
“I cannot recall one person who did not seem visibly touched as the doctrine of the eternal family and eternal marriage was described along with the great plan of happiness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” he said. “I will forever remember the Spirit bringing both me and an esteemed leader of another faith to tears as I described this sacred ordinance.”
In addition to Elder Stevenson’s reflections on the significance of eternal ordinances in the temple while in Rome, he was reminded that he had Italian ancestors.
For a brief "hands-on" portion of his remarks, he demonstrated using the Family Tree app on his phone how he traced his lineage back to a maternal great-great-great-grandfather, Jean Pierre Stalle who was baptized in the mid-1800s in northern Italy.
He then shared the app’s “Memories” feature to further describe the Stalle family’s emigration to America. This information included a journal entry about Jean Pierre’s death near the Sweetwater River with a handcart company in August 1856 and with how his widow and four children eventually reached the Salt Lake valley without their father.
He encouraged family history consultants to help members in their units take advantage of the My Family booklet and Family Tree mobile app in strengthening these connections.
“The home, the family and the temple are inseparably connected — one leads to the other,” he said. “In no other work are we more home-centered than in temple and family history work.”
Elder Stevenson then repeated one of his previous teachings in relation to connecting with ones’ family history: “Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will lead us to our family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will lead us to the temple.”
For his part of the meeting, Elder Bednar was joined by eight members of a local ward who have key roles in temple and family history — the bishop, the president and first counselor of both the elders quorum and Relief Society, the ward temple and family history leader and two youth who are temple and family history consultants.
Sitting in council, Elder Bednar asked them to summarize what they had heard and learned from the evening’s instruction, with the group offering suggestions and emphasis. In several instances, he invited other leaders to add insights.
The summaries included:
- Have a simple ward temple and family history plan.
- Communicate and coordinate frequently, effectively and concisely.
- Focus temple and family history efforts on individuals.
- Remember the added value of and motivation from family history stories and memories.
- Take advantage of FamilySearch accounts and the Family Tree app features, rather than create a ward’s own programs or aids.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help when facing a research roadblock.
- Allow efforts to be home-centered and Church-supported, rather than Church-supplanted.
- Consider calling recently returned missionaries as well was recently assigned missionaries waiting to their service as ordinance workers in the temple.
- Find ways for youth and even children to be engaged in temple and family history efforts.
Noting that each year 500,000 youth, converts and other Latter-day Saints become eligible for first-time temple ordinances, Elder Bednar invited wards “to help people prepare to worthily receive, remember and honor temple ordinances.”
'Discover who you are'
Elder Bradley D. Foster, a General Authority Seventy and the executive director of the Church’s Family History Department, underscored the Family Tree app features as key “to first discover who you are, which will lead you to discover who your family is, which will ultimately lead you to discover how you’re connected to your Heavenly Father.”
FamilySearch International CEO Steve Rockwood encouraged the use of both local family history consultants as well as the “help” buttons on the the mobile app and website, allowing members to tap into “a huge global network.”
Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, said many 11-year-old children are qualifying for limited-use recommends following the recent age-group progression changes. “Not only are they coming to the temple,” she said, “they are coming with family names to perform ordinances for and — this is even better — they’re bringing their families with them.”
Elders Stevenson and Renlund added their endorsements of the mobile app to help with temple and family history efforts.
Elder Stevenson said in an age where talk of technology often revolves around hazards and cautions, Family Tree “is a place where technology is filling the measure of its creation."
Elder Bednar concluded the training with a statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith: "The building up of Zion is a cause that interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we lived; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and wrote and prophesied of this our day; — but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in, and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory.... A work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets — a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family."
Elder Bednar, standing with Elder Stevenson and Elder Renlund, gave voice to their united witness of the "truthfulness, the divinity and the reality" of temple and family history work.
“We invoke upon you a blessing that you may see, that you may participate in and that you may be blessed both now and throughout eternity by the lessons you learn and through the service that you give,” he concluded.