Temple and family history work is not a segmented, separate work, nor is missionary work. Rather, they both are integral to the all-inclusive work of salvation and the gathering of scattered Israel. Temple and family history work is a means of ministering to all of God’s children, including the “new and tender” Latter-day Saints — the youth and the newly baptized.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other General Authorities and general officers participated in the annual Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction held Thursday, Feb. 27, in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.
Elder Bednar said the recent adjustment in the Young Women classes and Aaronic Priesthood quorums results in them having essentially the same responsibilities in the work of salvation as Relief Societies and elders quorums. They will no longer have lessons, activities and events to simply entertain or to check off a “to-do” list.
“The youth need to be anxiously engaged in this work right now. They will help identify things to do — ways of accomplishing this work that majestically move this work all over the earth,” he said. “Please do not underestimate what those Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes can accomplish.”
When the elders quorums, Relief Societies, Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes are “laser-beam singularly focused” on the work of salvation, “the miracles that occur in the advancement of this work in the earth will be astronomical,” he said.
‘All means all’
Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Family History Department, introduced the meeting’s theme, “Ministering to All through Temple and Family History.”
“In this context,” he said, “all means all of Heavenly Father’s children — active and less-active members of the Church, children, youth, young single adults and those not of our faith. All means literally all.”
He quoted President Russell M. Nelson’s teachings that the gathering of scattered Israel is “the greatest work on the earth” and that “anytime you do anything that helps anyone — on either side of the veil — take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that.”
A video showed a young family helping an elderly sister in their ward, using the My Family booklet and FamilySearch on a laptop computer to identify her ancestors and to help complete temple work with a proxy baptism for her great-grandfather, of whom she had known nothing previously.
The video, Elder Hamilton said, set the tone of an evening full of demonstrating practical and actionable ideals of ministering through temple and family history work, sometimes with technology and some not.
Use a metaphorical reflex hammer
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded listeners that 2019’s meeting presented organizational suggestions, focusing on councils and individual leadership roles and the preferred pattern of councils creating a ward temple and family history plan, linked with and synergizing plans developed in each organization.
Ward and organizational plans, he added, should be simple and home-centered, focusing on ministering to unique needs of individuals and families, with particular emphasis on young people and recent converts.
Elder Renlund’s emphasis in the 2020 meeting underscored that while the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies direct the work within their own organizations and coordinate with the Primary, Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood presidencies, a key catalyst is the ward temple and family history leader. His primary responsibilities are to help leaders and presidencies minister to others and to coordinate the work of ward temple and family history consultants in such ministering efforts.
In an entertaining and repetitive demonstration, Elder Renlund invited Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a General Authority Seventy, to sit at the front of the stage with his legs crossed. Using his medical background, Elder Renlund then pulled out a reflex hammer and said a ward temple and family history leader’s response to concerns and requests should be as reflexive, predictable and immediate as when a doctor taps a patient just below the kneecap, or patella.
Role playing as if he were a ward leader identifying a ministering concern or need — with Elder Bowen representing the ward temple and family history leader — Elder Renlund tapped the hammer to the knee of Elder Bowen, who responded with an exaggerated kick and exclamation, “How can I help?”
Elder Renlund repeated the act several times, inviting several Church leaders on the rostrum to represent ward council members — as well as Aubrey and Tucker as Young Women class and Aaronic Priesthood quorum leaders — to participate in the role play.
Questions in the demonstration — prompting the “How can I help response” included:
- “We’re thinking about using family history to reach out to our less active members in the ward.”
- “We are anxious to get all our newly baptized members to the temple within 60 days of their baptism.”
- “We are trying to come up with a new idea for a Primary activity for boys and girls.”
- “We are trying to get the teachers quorum in our ward to righteously use technology instead of spending so much time playing games.”
- “I am concerned about mothers with young children who feel overwhelmed because of the extra time at home on Sundays.”
- “I’m a priests quorum assistant and the young men need an activity that doesn’t involve a rake.”
- “I have a young woman in my class that struggles with anxiety and depression.”
“Brothers and sisters, can you use a metaphorical reflex hammer and ‘hit’ your ward temple and family history leader while telling him your challenge. Can you do that?” asked Elder Renlund. “He serves, he helps, he coordinates, he mobilizes resources for you to execute that portion of the ward plan that pertains to all in your organization under your direction. He can facilitate ministering to all.”
Ministering to the ‘new and tender’
Sister Reyna Isabel Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, initiated a segment on ministering to “those who are new and tender in the gospel, including youth turning 12 and new converts,” she said, quoting Elder Renlund’s instruction from two years earlier.
Helping the “new and tender” in such efforts can be done by using the tools the Lord has provided to invite others to learn their own family story and then bringing the names of their ancestors to the temple, she said.
Sister Aburto invited 16-year-old Julie and 10-year-old Nicolas to review a video of how ward members ministered to a newly baptized family by helping them do family history and temple work, culminating with temple baptisms performed for ancestors.
“Temple and family history is all new to them, so having someone who is already familiar with this work can increase the spiritual power of the experience,” said Sister Aburto.
President Joy D. Jones, the Primary general president, asked Julie and Nicolas to walk her through using the “Ordinances Ready” feature in FamilySearch’s Family Tree app to find names to take to the temple and the app’s “All About Me” feature to help learn of and compile family stories.
“It is easy to connect to family across generations by small and simple things like these activities,” Sister Jones said. “As new and tender members grow in their experiences connecting to family and serving generations in the temple, their foundation in Christ becomes more solid.
“The data is indisputable, sisters and brothers — as youth minister to others through temple and family history, we see an increased rate in the number of young men being ordained elders and serving missions, and we see an increased rate of young women staying on the covenant path and receiving the blessings of temple ordinances in their lives; and for new members who engage in ministering through temple and family history, they are retained on the covenant path at higher rates.”
‘Natural and normal, genuine and authentic’
Elder Brent H. Nielson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department, underscored how missionary work is an integral part of ministering through temple and family history, with “natural and normal, genuine and authentic” conversations and questions being ways for members and missionaries to engage anyone.
Quoting President Nelson, he added: “People have an inborn desire to know something about their ancestors. … Conversations flow easily when those who are drawn to speak with the missionaries are invited to talk about the people that they love.”
Questions could include “tell me about your family;” “do you have a grandparent you feel especially close to?” “where did your ancestors come from?” and “what stories do you know about them?”
Elder Nielson pointed to “Family Discovery Activities” on the Family Tree and Memories apps, to “Find a Person” on Family Tree, to share and preserve photos and stories in Memories and to share the My Family booklet as helpful resources and efforts. And he invited Sara Hammon and Kayla Jackson to demonstrate how a conversation about families could easily lead to talk about temple and family history opportunities.
Elder Bednar initiated his concluding segment by inviting the meeting’s youth and young adult participants to join him in a panel discussion, asking a pair of questions: “What have you personally learned as you prepared for tonight and as you have participated? And what will you do with what you have learned?”
Responses from the participants ranged from a readiness to apply the activities and app features at home to feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost and a sense of growing closer to deceased ancestors.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who will speak at Saturday’s Family Discovery Day at RootsTech, shared a brief testimony. “I think we’ve been taught how we can inoculate ourselves in a spiritual way,” he said of the evening’s messages and methods.
Apostolic promise to the youth
Elder Bednar concluded by asking the Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Young Women class presidency members to stand.
“On behalf of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, we have confidence in you. You are the Lord’s battalion,” he said. “These adjustments that have been made now organize the work of salvation, so that it is focused and sosimple. We know, we witness, we testify that you will contribute to helping great things happen in this work all over the earth. We expect you to surprise the adults. We expect you to seek inspiration and revelation in your youth.
“We promise as you are engaged in the work of salvation, you will be safeguarded, you will be guided, you will be protected. What you learn about receiving revelation to help in this work will bless you in magnificent ways.”
Elder Bednar concluded with a united declaration of the reality of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. “They are real. They know you by name. Our Beloved Heavenly Father will hear and answer your prayers. The Savior Jesus Christ has marked the path and led the way. Please follow Him. Come unto Him, and follow Him.
“We love you, and I again express our confidence in you, and we look forward to the miracles you will help to create.”
More about the Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction
When: Thursday, Feb. 27, held in conjunction with the annual RootsTech conference
Invited: Members of stake and ward councils; youth councils; elders quorum, Relief Society, Young Women and Primary presidencies; ward mission leaders and missionaries; ward temple and family history leaders and consultants; and Aaron Priesthood quorum and Young Women class presidencies.
Opportunities to view: Held at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, the meeting was also livestreamed, with the recording to be available for on-demand viewing two weeks after Feb. 27 on ChurchofJesusChrist.org/familyhistory.