When Bishop Daniel Grahl Saucedo saw a news article in May about the “21 Day Family Connections Experiment: A Family History Project,” he immediately thought of the youth in his ward.
He and other leaders in the Cavalhada Ward, Porto Alegre Brazil South Stake, had been looking for ways to help the youth stay connected amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every day for three weeks, Bishop Saucedo, the youth and their leaders did a short, fun family history activity. Many of the activities came from pre-made plans on the Connections Experiment website.
Their favorite activity? Recreating old family pictures and sending them to each other.
Bishop Saucedo said the best part was the youth involving their parents. “It helped the youth get closer to them and to talk about their relatives, their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents,” he said.
Throughout those 21 days, the youth in the Cavalhada Ward experienced the benefits of family connections — along with more than 5,000 individuals worldwide who participated in May’s experiment.
In honor of Family History Month, the Connections Experiment is launching its second 21-day group experiment Oct. 1-21. The purpose of the experiment is to explore the benefits of family connections and provide a broadened perspective of what family history is. The experiment is free and open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.
“We all need a boost of positivity right now,” said Taralyn Parker, assistant project manager. “We’re six months into the pandemic. It’s a politically charged time. There’s a lot of divisiveness. … Here’s an opportunity to gather those you love and do something to make yourself feel better, feel more connected.”
Exploring the benefits of connection
Upon joining the Connections Experiment, participants take a brief survey to gauge their current mood. They can choose from a variety of pre-made family history plans or build their own. Plans include daily prompts for 5- to 10-minute activities. At the end of the 21-day period, participants take a follow-up survey to measure how their mood has changed.
Although the 21-day challenge is not a controlled scientific experiment, the data and comments gathered in May suggest that doing family history work regularly may have a strong positive effect on mood. Most participants saw an improvement, even if they didn’t do family history every day, Parker said.
“Any little amount you can do will benefit you,” she said. As she has learned doing the experiment with her young children, “it’s not a to-do list — it’s a tool.”
Lyn Wroe, a member of the Regents Park Ward, Brisbane Australia Beenleigh Stake, stumbled upon the 21-day experiment in a Facebook group and decided to give it a try. “I thought, this is a great way to spend isolation,” she said.
The family history enthusiast said she enjoyed having a simple challenge to do each day. For her, the activities became a distraction from the pandemic.
“I saw a big change because I wasn’t focusing on COVID-19,” she said. “I felt like there was something worth getting up for every morning. I’m a cheerful person anyway … but I saw the benefits of it. My family saw the benefits of it. And I was excited about what I discovered.”
Wroe now serves as a team member with the Connections Experiment, helping to promote it in her area.
“Family history is not a chore,” she said. “Family history is not ‘another thing’ to do. It’s something you can do all the time. And it’s not just the past — it’s the present.”
What’s new in October’s experiment
Parker said new features for the October experiment include updated family history plans, a connections idea generator and text and email reminders. A new app has been launched in the Google Play Store and is expected in the Apple App Store soon.
“We really worked hard to make it more accessible and easier to integrate into our participants’ lives,” she said of the experiment.
Sarah Day, a 17-year-old high school junior in the Parkway 5th Ward, South Jordan Utah Parkway Stake, participated in May’s experiment and is the mastermind behind the app.
She had never programmed before but as one who felt the project’s benefits, she said she wanted to volunteer time and effort. It was a learning process of “trial and error” as she taught herself how to program an app in about a month.
Sarah said she hopes the app will be a “quick and easy” tool for finding and sharing family history plans and ideas — without having to go to the website.
To those wondering if they should try the experiment, she said, “The benefits of family history have really affected my life and benefited me in more ways than I can count. I know that it can help them too, and that they should go and try it.”
“Come as you are and do what you can,” Parker added. “Family history isn’t a ‘one size fits all.’ Choose the parts that you love. Choose the things that bring joy to your family. Whether that is sharing stories at bedtime or taking pictures and making memory books -— do what brings your family the most joy and connection.”