How a Chinese-speaking ward in Utah found dozens of family names last month to take to the temple

For some, finding and printing a family name to take to the temple can seem like a daunting task.

Such was the case for Yan Peng, who doesn’t know much about using a computer or cellphone — not to mention the difficulty of finding Chinese records, a challenge that she and her fellow Chinese ward members face.

But more important than technological ability, Peng had a desire. 

With the help of ward temple and family history consultants, Peng was able to log into the FamilySearch Family Tree app and use the Ordinances Ready tool to print a temple ordinance card for her deceased mother. 

A few days later, she was baptized for her mother in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. 

“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Victor Fong, temple and family history leader for the Edgemont 22nd Ward (Chinese), Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake. Relaying Peng’s experience, he said, “There’s nothing that can stop you if you really want to do it.”

Peng was one of 61 members of this Chinese-speaking ward in Provo that found and printed family names during the month of October to take to the temple. Such an accomplishment had previously taken the ward an entire year to do. 

“It’s been inspiring to watch them come alive this year,” said Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake President Jeff Alexander of the ward’s family history efforts. 

Prophets and apostles have promised specific blessings for those who find and take family names to the temple and teach others to do the same. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “You will find not only protection from the temptation and ills of the world, but you will also find personal power— power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family members to each other and heal that which needs healing.”

To help inspire other units with their own family history goals, Edgemont stake and ward leaders identified three keys behind the Chinese-speaking ward’s success: provide hands-on learning, eliminate roadblocks and develop consistency.

1. Provide hands-on learning

Members of the Chinese-speaking ward could list several reasons why family history is perhaps more challenging for them than their English-speaking neighbors. 

Bishop Peter Chan said besides the fact that Chinese genealogical records can be difficult to find and read, “most of [the members] don’t have the family support to do this work since they are here in America. Many of them also don’t have the opportunity to go back home … and get that genealogy information.”

Members of the Edgemont 22nd Ward (Chinese), Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake are pictured in 2018. In October 2021, a total of 61 ward members found and printed family names to take to the temple.
Members of the Edgemont 22nd Ward (Chinese), Provo Utah Edgemont South Stake are pictured in 2018. In October 2021, a total of 61 ward members found and printed family names to take to the temple. Credit: Peter Chan

As Fong has met with ward members, he’s learned that many of them want to participate in family history — they just don’t know how. 

On Sunday, Oct. 31, the ward held a combined elders quorum and Relief Society lesson with a brief demonstration of Ordinances Ready and time for members to pull out their phones and practice. The talks during sacrament meeting the hour before focused on blessings and principles of family history. 

Earlier in the month, family history consultants met with the ward council so they could help during the second-hour meeting. “We had all these ward council members who stood up, walked around and tried to provide individualized, technical support for members. And that was very helpful,” Bishop Chan said. 

2. Eliminate roadblocks

Prior to the Sunday meeting, ward leaders and stake technology specialists set up a wireless printer in the Church building. This allowed members to print names from their cellphones during the meeting, rather than waiting until they went home. 

Leaders also set up a projector so they could navigate the FamilySearch app and Ordinances Ready on a big screen and members could follow along. 

“I think the preparation, the actual hands-on experience, helping members — those things all make a difference,” Bishop Chan said. 

3. Develop consistency

Sam Andrus, the stake high counselor over temple and family history work, has been helping coordinate monthly 10-minute Zoom calls for ward leaders to report their family history activities to the stake. “We basically just say, ’What did you do this month? What do you have planned for next month? And what can the stake do to help?’ …” Andrus said. “Ultimately the goal is to get them engaged.”

Fong does a similar thing with families in the ward. “Every Sunday we set up interviews with two or three families through Zoom,” he said. These meetings help keep members accountable and provide an opportunity for them to ask questions and get help. 

Bishop Chan added that they are following the area presidency’s instruction to have each family that comes in for tithing settlement meet with a temple and family history consultant. 

When asked how he plans to keep the momentum going, Fong said, “Hopefully we just keep doing what we do … spread the word … and continue to [meet] with members.”

“It just takes a focus,” President Alexander said, noting that having counselors in the elders quorum and Relief Society focused on temple and family history as well as missionary work strengthens the gathering of Israel. 

“It’s all about helping to train people and reaching out to help people be trained, rather than waiting for somebody to come to you,” he said. “If they can just catch that vision of ‘how do we organize this and begin to help people learn,’ it changes everything.”