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Episode 174: RootsTech 2024 theme ‘Remember’ reaches across nationalities, religions and generations

Church News podcast explores what to expect at RootsTech, plus behind-the-scenes insights from filming President M. Russell Ballard before his death

Remember” is the theme of RootsTech 2024, a three-day global online and in-person family celebration conference happening February 29 through March 2, 2024, in Salt Lake City. Hosted by FamilySearch International, the event will also include a never-before-seen video featuring the late President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recorded before his death.

This episode of the Church News podcast explores what to expect at this year’s RootsTech convention and the theme “Remember” with Jen Allen, director of events at FamilySearch International, and Jonathan H. Wing, senior product manager at FamilySearch International.

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Transcript:

Jonathan H. Wing: In the lead-up to RootsTech 2024, I’ve had multiple instances where the Spirit has confirmed to me that every individual in this world is worth remembering. They’re important to our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. And each of them has a story that’s worth remembering. I know that personally because of my experiences that I’ve had with my parents. And I know that as we seek out those who have gone before, as we strive to understand their stories and their life experiences, and especially their testimonies, the things that they knew about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His gospel, their words and their stories can be like scripture to us.

1:00

Sarah Jane Weaver: This is Sarah Jane Weaver, executive editor of the Church News, welcoming you to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Remember” is the theme of RootsTech 2024, a three-day global online and in-person family celebration conference happening Feb. 29 through March 2 in Salt Lake City. Hosted by FamilySearch International, the event will also feature never-before-seen video of the late President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which was recorded prior to his passing.

On this episode of the Church News podcast, we explore the theme “Remember” with FamilySearch director of events Jen Allen and Jonathan Wing, product manager. Welcome, both of you, to the Church News podcast.

1:52

Jen Allen: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Jonathan H. Wing: We’re excited to be here.

1:55

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, it’s fun to have you back. We love RootsTech. We love all that has exploded with the popularity of this event and the globalization of this event in recent years. And so I’m excited to talk about it. Why don’t we start and, Jen, have you give us just an overview of what RootsTech is and why it should matter to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so many others.

2:21

Jen Allen: Yeah, thank you. RootsTech is the premier family history family celebration conference that we hold in Salt Lake City, but it is worldwide now. Everyone from all over the world can join. We provide RootsTech in 11 languages. Now, it’s growing to over 35 languages, depending on the session you’re joining. And we have millions that come from all over the world that tune in. But here in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace, we also welcome thousands of people who come to learn and discover their family and find maybe some tips and tricks along the way to help them.

Jen Allen, FamilySearch director of events, is interviewed about her work with RootsTech 2023.
Jen Allen, FamilySearch director of events, is interviewed about her work with RootsTech 2023 at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

3:00 

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Jonathan, you’ve been involved in this for how many years now?

Jonathan H. Wing: Since 2016.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow. And tell us how it’s evolved since that time.

3:10

Jonathan H. Wing: It’s pretty remarkable to consider where the event has been even prior to my involvement in 2011. That doesn’t seem like a long time ago. But in its infancy, this event started by bringing technologists and genealogists together to see how they could ignite the industry. Here we are — how many events have we had, Jen? Thirteen? Fifteen?

3:37

Jen Allen: Yeah, there’s 15 events total, yeah, including the one we did in London that one year.

Jonathan H. Wing: Yeah. So we’ve had 15 events now, and this event is a global phenomenon. There are participants in over 240 countries and territories in the world, with millions coming with the motivation of connecting with those who’ve came before.

3:59

Sarah Jane Weaver: And what I love about FamilySearch and its evolution is that it started, at least as far as I could tell, for people who really understood family history, genealogy, how to connect to their family line. And it’s evolved to a place where it also is relevant for people like me, who are really trying, who want to connect to our family tree but maybe don’t know the technical skills yet. There’s also some leadership training as part of this event every year. And then there is a Family Discovery Day, where members of the Church are not only able to connect to their own family, but to leaders of the Church and understand how family had blessed their lives.

And so this is not just a conference for, you know, Aunt Betty, who knew how to create a family tree, right?

4:58

Jen Allen: Yeah, we really try to create experiences for everybody. So I appreciate that because there’s many levels that we’re all on, you know, and how much time we can dedicate to this. And yes, those very enthusiast genealogists, we welcome them, and we love them and they come. But there are also experiences and learnings for anybody, whether you’re just dabbling, or you love the photos and the memories experience part, or you’re even just trying to further your worship and find names for a temple.

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5:31

Jonathan H. Wing: I think that’s been the most instructive observation as event planners within this space. There are so many ways in which people engage with family history. And I look at it as a spectrum. There’s this one end where you’re the hardcore genealogist, you’re all about finding the records, validating research. And then on the other side of the spectrum, there are those who are just interested in seeing photos or stories or documenting their own story through journals or photos on social media. It’s that simple. But wherever anyone is on that spectrum, the desire is universal; a desire to connect, that desire to remember, that desire to be remembered is universal. So what’s beautiful about RootsTech is that there is something for everyone, no matter where you are on that spectrum.

6:24

Sarah Jane Weaver: The first time I ever thought that people across the board, inside the Church, outside the Church, inside the culture that’s familiar to me or other cultures was when I saw the movie “Coco.” I was like, “Wow, this feels like it could have been produced by members of our Church.”

6:40

Jen Allen: That’s right. And there’s so many opportunities like that, where we see mainstream, you know, the desire to connect and belong and be part of that, like, ecosystem. We see that in the normal, outside world, where it’s about connection. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to hone in on during this event.

7:03

Jonathan H. Wing: I’ll never forget when “Coco” came out, because Jen took the entire team to the theater. It was one of the best days.

7:11

Sarah Jane Weaver: The only time you ever went to the theater as part of your work day?

Jonathan H. Wing: It was the only.

Jen Allen: OK, maybe. Maybe we’ve done it a few other times, but that was definitely the most memorable because the content was so relevant to what we were doing.

7:23

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and for those of our listeners who aren’t familiar with that movie, it takes the Latino culture that has a tradition for remembering those who have passed on and celebrates the dead and the connections and the family. And everything that — everyone who comes before us that makes us who we are.

I’d be interested in hearing how you came up with the theme “Remember.”

7:44

Jonathan H. Wing: Interestingly enough, conversations around “Remember” started three years ago.

Jen Allen: That’s right.

Jonathan H. Wing: But we learned a few things coming out of the year 2021 and the year that we chose the theme “Choose connection.” As our audience was changing and as we were starting to have a more global presence, we realized that we needed to pick a theme that is localizable, one that could resonate with our audience globally. And “Remember,” we had a committee of 30 people around the world that came together, and “Remember” was one that rose to the top. And so it’s great that, you know, those conversations that started years ago are now being implemented.

One of the first lessons that I learned coming to FamilySearch International and working here is just this expanded vision of what family history is. Oftentimes, we think merely of the past or solely of the past. But family history really is this connection between the past, the present and the future. And even though with “Remember” you think of looking to the past, it really is connected to this expanded vision of past, present and future in that: How does remembering help me now, here in the present? And how do I want people to remember me? So there’s this beautiful connection to what I would say is a core motivation for most people when it comes to engagement in family history.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Sister Susan Gong speak on the Salt Palace stage wearing leis for RootsTech 2023.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, speak at the final day of the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 4, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

9:13

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I want to talk about Family Discovery Day, because this year, the moment that I think people will remember from that day is a celebration of the life and the family history of President M. Russell Ballard, who died on Sunday, Nov. 12. He at the time of his death was the longest-serving general authority in the Church. And he is someone who cared so much about his own family history, his own heritage that connected him to the Prophet Joseph Smith through his brother Hyrum Smith, as well as some really important relatives on the Ballard side of his family, including his grandfather, who was also an Apostle.

You couldn’t have known how that would turn out when you started taping. Was that something that made you nervous, to actually go down a path where you’re taping the life story of a 95-year-old leader months and months before the event?

10:11

Jen Allen: Yeah. I mean, we find it a remarkable experience that we were able to film that with him earlier — well, last year, now. And it was funny; so, every year, we go and request, you know, an assignment from an Apostle who might be assigned to Family Discovery Day. And it’s always taken to the president of the quorum. And so we had a list of names. And he looked at that list and said, “Yeah, OK, I think that works great. But what about me?” And we thought, “Oh, well, we didn’t even know that was an option. Yes, of course, we would love to film with you and capture your story.”

And so it was such a moving experience for us, even, because he raised his hand and wanted to have this experience and to film his story. So that’s what opened the door right there at the beginning, as he kind of raised his hand and said, you know, “I would love to do it.”

11:09

Jonathan H. Wing: That’s what sticks out to me, too. This is a message he wanted to share. And you asked if there was any fear or if we were nervous. Not at all. The moment that we were informed about President Ballard’s participation in Family Discovery Day, it was an immediate, “Well, of course.” And I think within the context of the theme “Remember,” here’s an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sunset of his life. He misses his spouse. He thinks of her often. There’s lots that he remembers and can pull from. There was no question that this was the direction that we should go. There was no sense of nervousness; we just moved forward. And it was an experience that I’ll never forget. You were there.

Jen Allen: Yeah.

Jonathan H. Wing: And we were so lucky to work with Sarah. She was the interviewer of that address. So I’m going to ask you a question. Am I allowed? Sarah, what was that experience to you? What did it mean to you to be a part of that production?

12:19

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, this is a leader who was in every way a mentor to me in my career. It is not an overstatement to say I loved him like a grandfather or even a father. I remember the morning my own father died. He was the first call I got. And it’s because I had an appointment with him that day and had to cancel it. And so I sent a note to his office that said, “I can’t come.” And his response was to pick up the phone. And the advice he gave me was very tender and actually came full circle, like so many family interactions, too, because it’s what gave me comfort when the Church lost him. It’s what helps all of us as we understand that this is one phase and that there’s a next, and now he’s with Sister Ballard.

And to see him — and I don’t want to give away any of your taping here — but when you think about things that matter to President Ballard, it’s all the pioner legacy of the Church that his ancestors sacrificed so much for, and then the temple ordinances that had great meaning to him, especially after he lost his wife. So to sit with him in the Kirtland Temple and have him talk about the sealing power may be one of my favorite moments of my career of all time. That had to be meaningful to you two as well.

13:53

Jen Allen: Yeah. It was incredible just to see him in places that were so meaningful to him and deeply moving. I’ll never forget watching him walk up those stairs to the upper room of Carthage Jail, you know, thinking, “That’s a lot of stairs, even for me,” but he flew up them, I felt like. And then to share his most, you know, deeply moving and meaningful experiences and memories from that and to have that familial connection so deeply rooted for him.

It was incredible just to see him in his element, I would say, sharing incredible stories that mean so much to him, in both Kirtland, we were in Nauvoo, even in his apartment in Salt Lake City. And we can’t wait for everybody to see this just incredible tribute. We loved it, and then even more when it’s just so much more touching even, now that he has passed, and to see those incredible stories come to life.

President M. Russell Ballard is interviewed in Carthage Jail in Illinois.
RootsTech crews in June 2023 film President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Carthage Jail, where his great-great grandfather Hyrum Smith was killed by mobs. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

14:54

Jonathan H. Wing: When we were preparing for the production, the crew and I flew out to these locations beforehand to determine exactly where we would be filming with him. It is a miracle that we were able to film in the Kirtland Temple. What a remarkable experience. I’m so glad you brought that up. It was definitely memorable for all of us who were there, and will be for those who watch.

I remember when we were at Carthage, and we were trying to determine where do we film with him. And the moment we walked into the martyrdom room, there was a sense of the Spirit that was there. The presence of the Spirit was so strong. And before the tour — because we were taking a tour — before the tour guide was able to finish, I just said out loud, “This is where this interview needs to take place.” And everyone was just kind of silent because it came out of nowhere. But it was just this really strong impression that that’s where it needed to take place.

And then fast-forward a few months later when President Ballard was there, and seeing the emotion on his face as he talked about his direct ancestor Hyrum Smith, and feeling that connection as well. Because even though these are personal family history stories for President Ballard, these are Church history stories that should mean something to every member of the Church. It’s so remarkable to have participated in an experience that was so deeply personal for him, but so incredibly relevant for every member of the Church.

16:33

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I also remember being in Carthage Jail. There was a moment which our photographer actually captured. It’s a beautiful photograph, where President Ballard did the interview and then took a moment and looked out the window. And then he was standing at the window in the room where Hyrum Smith, his great-great-grandfather, had died, and then looking down where Joseph Smith would have fallen after his own death. And I had this moment where I thought, “Wow, he is contemplating the moment that Joseph and Hyrum gave their lives for the Church.” And my next thought was, “President Ballard also gave his life to the Church.”

This is also a sentiment that has been expressed by President Jeffrey R. Holland, who is now the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. But President Ballard served for so many decades doing whatever was asked, going wherever he was asked. Here he is 95. He is not at home sitting on the couch; he is getting up every day. And in fact, in our interviews, he made a really tender comment. He said, “Well, if in the morning, when I wake up, if I am still here, then I get up, and I go to work.” And so that’s what he did. He got up, he had had multiple health issues that he had dealt with and overcome, and kept going to work in spite of it all. He’d lost his wife, he talked about the loss of grandchildren.

His life is a reflection of all of our lives. It’s just — it’s not easy, and we just keep going in the work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President M. Russell Ballard is interviewed in the Kirtland Temple, in Kirtland, Ohio, in June 2023.
RootsTech crews film President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the Kirtland Temple, in Kirtland, Ohio, on Friday, June 2, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

18:22

Jonathan H. Wing: That’s a beautiful sentiment. I think that’s one of the crowning blessings, I would say, in being part of these productions for Family Discovery Day. You’re exposed to a level of discipleship that is profoundly impactful as you witness individuals, remarkable men and women, who have devoted their lives to Jesus Christ and who have experienced the same challenges and vicissitudes of life that every single one of us have, that they’ve chosen the Savior every step of the way.

18:59

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I want to talk about others that have been featured before, because there is some unforgettable footage that have come from the work the two of you have done in recent years with Family Discovery Day. It hasn’t been too long since President Jeffrey R. Holland, who is now acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, lost his own wife. She was buried in St. George. And as we wrote her obituary at Church News, we went back to footage that you shot in St. George in their car with a GoPro. There they are, in an informal way talking about their youth in this city. They’ve got their three kids in the car. It is charming footage.

19:46 

Jen Allen: Yeah, and we have to give credit to Elder Holland at the time because he was our first candidate, if you will, for filming that style. You know, it was the pandemic, so we weren’t able to have a live stage anymore. That’s usually where we filmed and captured these moments. And so he allowed us to do some really creative and fun things, including GoPros in a car and then just driving, talking about family stories as they drove around the neighborhoods and streets of St. George. It was so much fun.

20:21

Jonathan H. Wing: I’ll never forget the conversation Jen and I had. It was just the two of us, when we said, “GoPros in the car. Can we do that?” I mean, we really weren’t sure. But we were trying to think creatively and differently because of the constraints that were there with the pandemic. But it ended up really changing the course and the direction that we’ve gone with Family Discovery Day and how we treat each of these sessions. They are a family history journey that outlines significant stories from their own family history, but also significant events from the more recent history, the experiences that they’ve had in their younger years that have shaped who they are and who they’ve become.

21:07

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and there’s a moment that I love from that footage, where they’re in front of the school. They’re actually in conversation that we don’t get to glimpse very often as members of the Church, because we see them behind a pulpit. And so now we’ve got them in a little more casual setting. And President Holland says, “Well, when I was here, I was shy,” and Sister Holland says, “You were never shy.”

Sister Patricia Holland sits by President Jeffrey R. Holland and looks at him as they record a presentation for RootsTech in St. George.
President Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, record a presentation in St. George, Utah, as part of RootsTech Connect Family Discovery Day Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.   | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Jen Allen: That’s right. Yeah.

Sarah Jane Weaver: But you’ve done this with other leaders. Tell us what that looked like.

21:38

Jonathan H. Wing: To be in Brazil with Elder and Sister Soares, to see where they grew up, to see where they served their missions, it was an unforgettable experience. Elder Soares was on the Sugarloaf in Rio, reciting his apostolic message in four different languages. It was so remarkable to hear him testify so many times. And our crew, they weren’t members of the Church, but they were touched. They were crying. We could see tears coming down their face. And it was just another testament of, “This is a man who is called of God.”

22:20

Jen Allen: Yeah, Brazil was incredible. Just so many opportunities. And even before, when we weren’t filming in their homelands like this. My brother was just reminding me that he listened to President [Russell M.] Nelson — Elder Nelson at the time — when he took the stage at RootsTech with Sister Wendy Nelson. And they shared some incredible experiences for them. So we’ve just — we’ve had some really awesome, just fun messages, whether it’s been on the stage or us following them with cameras on the city streets of Brazil or St. George or Kirtland and Nauvoo. It’s been such a fun journey to bring those stories to light in different ways. And we hope it will continue.

23:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: And that presentation by President and Sister Nelson actually changed my life because there were some invitations in there for people to engage in their own family history and take those names to the temple. And until that moment, I had never thought that that was something I could do, that that was something I should do. And the result is that it elevated my temple participation. Suddenly, everything that I did in the temple became more meaningful because I was doing it to somebody that was connected to me.

So, let’s talk about what happens at RootsTech that helps with leadership. Every year, you have a leadership session. I think there’s some really, really good direction that comes out of that. It shows a huge level of support from the highest level of Church leadership for your conference. And it’s an opportunity for all of us to learn and to extend and to accept invitations at the same time. 

24:04

Jen Allen: Yeah, and speaking of temple, this year’s leadership instruction features discussions and counsel about how to help first-time temple attendees have a really positive and very spiritual experience in the temple, finding strength in the temple. And this year, we were able to record with Elder Andersen, Elder Gong, Sister Yee, Sister Porter, Elder Hamilton and Elder Duncan. Just some incredible discussions. They modeled a council discussion, and they’ll be talking about a new tool that’s available for leaders that will help them find a name for a new member to take to the temple immediately. So it’s just an incredible experience, all of it coming together.

But those leadership instructions have been going on for several years now, all available on Gospel Library. So if you have kind of that calling that has to do with temple or family history — which, by the way, is kind of a lot of callings these days — you may want to go back and dig into those and see some of those incredible words of advice and counsel that have come from them.

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25:16

Sarah Jane Weaver: My husband’s father was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He recently passed away, and it has given us the opportunity to look back on his life, on his family tree, and actually take some of those names to the temple. It’s been enormously meaningful. Our children are the ones who have led the charge. They’re the ones who figured out how to get the family name cards. They’re the ones that were pushing us to move forward on this. But they proved to be enormously meaningful experiences as part of our family story.

Now, each of you probably always have family history experiences. I’d love if you could share something that has helped you connect to your family this year.

26:08

Jen Allen: So, every year with our own family history, you would think working for FamilySearch, that’s all we do is genealogy and seeking out our family. But believe it or not, we’re pretty busy just providing an event for people to discover their family.

And so, this year, my personal story and journey has been one of miracles. My family comes from Russia, and they were Jews and had to escape and leave their hometown. So finding those family members has been so, so hard. And all because of one incredible woman that my brother actually ministers to, she has come in and helped us. And I have been so touched this year, because I am not in a position where I can dive really deep into a really hard genealogical concern in our family. But yet, this woman has come in and, through prayer, she is filling the pool of my ancestors on the other side of the veil, helping her and helping all of us discover.

And just recently, we did a marathon day in the temple, starting with all of our kids and grandchildren in the temple. And my dad entered the waters of baptism in the temple for the first time in 40 years. And that was just an incredible experience for my children to see their grandpa be baptized for his direct-line ancestors. And we stayed all day and did all of the work that we could do in one day. And it’s just been an incredible experience to see the Spirit open our hearts and minds and find these people that have been wanting to be found.

And I am so blessed to be able to witness that miracle and the experiences that we’ve had as we’ve now, for the first time ever, hundreds of names in all of our lists as we’re just lining up to go to the temple and do it one by one.

A large crowd in the Salt Palace listens to Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Sister Susan Gong during RootsTech 2023.
People listen as Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, speak at the final day of the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 4, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

28:11

Jonathan H. Wing: This year, I had an incredible experience with my mom and family history. Over the past few months, I’ve been traveling a lot on assignment to create videos that highlight the family history journeys of young adults. We’re so excited to share those at RootsTech because these young people had incredible experiences going to their homelands, traveling to where their family history ties back to. But as I was doing this and experiencing it, I realized, you know, I haven’t even had this experience on my mom’s side. I’m half Filipino. My mom was born in the Philippines in a very small, humble village. And eventually, she moved to Manila.

But I was given the opportunity to travel to Manila on assignment. And I was lucky enough to go with my mom and two of my sisters. As we were driving the streets of Manila, it was an experience I’ll never forget. I think there was genuine fear that “What if I don’t connect in the way that others have? Or what if others don’t think I’m Filipino enough?” There were all of these questions in my mind, but all of those dissolved as soon as we landed. It was this immediate connection. There were discoveries that were made that are too personal really to share. But that helped me understand why I am the way I am. That gave context to my upbringing.

And it was beautiful to connect with Filipinos who are so much like my mom and her family, and to go to the temple in Manila and to participate in the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, uniting families and binding them to the Savior in the land where my mom came from was something I will never, ever forget.

30:06

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, this makes me so excited. I have family from the Isle of Man. This summer, for the first time, I’m going to travel there with a few of my cousins and my aunt. And mostly, I just want to go where they lived. I want to see how they lived. I want to learn a little bit more about what life looks like for them.

Now is a good time to transition as well. What else can we expect from RootsTech?

30:35

Jen Allen: Yeah, so RootsTech is all about learning and giving you the opportunities to learn, to experience, coming and participating in classes or watching hundreds of classes online — whatever level you are — coming into the expo hall and experiencing the innovations and technology that are available to you in this space and even testing out and trying some of those products. Some incredible opportunities. Why don’t you share a little bit about the main stage.

31:06

Jonathan H. Wing: The main stage is where a lot of our attendees find and feel motivation and inspiration for the work of family history and genealogy. We have three general sessions. Each general session during the event will feature keynote speakers, including Steve Rockwood, the CEO of FamilySearch International. We have comedians taking the stage. We’ll have Kirby Heyborne as our host again this year, and Henry Cho, who is a Korean American comedian, who will also be keynoting that first day.

We’re so lucky to have Lynne Jackson, the direct descendant of Dred and Harriet Scott, who will be speaking about her own family history and healing on Friday, together with Nancy Borowick. Nancy Borowick is a world-renowned photographer, Sony Artisan. And we first heard about Nancy back in May. And her story is incredibly compelling. She lost both of her parents to cancer and used photography as a way to document those last moments that she had with them. But all of this really is to serve as entertainment but also inspiration.

What I love about RootsTech is that the subject matter, again, is universal. Every single one of these keynote speakers has their own story, has a family, have had experiences that have made them who they are. And we’re so lucky to share all of that on the main stage.

This year, we’re also trying something new where we have featured mainstage sessions called the RootsTech Forums. We have four of them. There will be a FamilySearch tech forum, where the newest innovations on FamilySearch will be shared. The innovation and tech forum, where the industry will highlight the newest AI innovations within the industry.

We also have Jared Spataro, who is a VP from Microsoft who will be sharing a message about how Microsoft has adapted to artificial intelligence. We also have the impact forum, and we’re so lucky to be featuring Robyn Fivush. Individuals might not recognize her name, but her research has been quoted by so many members of the Church and some of our leaders. Really, she, together with Marshall Duke, were the pioneers in gathering empirical evidence that knowing your family’s story leads to better behavior, lower anxiety, better family relations. It really was groundbreaking research that was highlighted in the New York Times about 10 years ago.

But we’re so lucky to be featuring her and hearing a little bit more about that research, along with other organizations that are coming to share how they’ve built their businesses and their organizations on that foundational research. And on Saturday, we will be having the global FamilySearch session, where we’ll highlight the incredible work that’s happening globally through FamilySearch’s efforts to meet the needs of our audiences globally.

34:14

Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, you have to register for Family Discovery Day, but it’s free. Anyone who wants more information about the conference can go to RootsTech.org. And the good news for all of us with kind of crazy, busy schedules is that there’s a free online event that will feature all the mainstage presentations as well as the keynote speakers.

A congregation sings together at RootsTech 2018.
The congregation sings “Families Can Be Together Forever” during the Family History Leadership Session at RootsTech on March 1, 2018. | R. Scott Lloyd, Church News

34:36

Jen Allen: That’s right. Yeah, go to RootsTech.org. We recommend everybody go and at least register for the online free experience, because you’ll be able to tune in and watch everything that we’ve mentioned today and experience that, even from the comfort of your own home if you’re not ready to dive in deep and join us at the Salt Palace.

34:57

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and as we all get excited for whatever level of participation we can do at RootsTech, I want to wind up today with a tradition we have at the Church News podcast, which is to give our guests the last word and to have them answer the question: What do you know now? So, Jonathan, let’s start with you, and then we’ll finish with Jen. And maybe you both can just tell us what you know now after your work with RootsTech and with family history and with contemplating the theme “Remember.”

35:32

Jonathan H. Wing: I think what I know now isn’t something that I didn’t know; maybe it’s just more of a confirmation of what I already knew. But in the lead-up to RootsTech 2024, I’ve had multiple instances where the Spirit has confirmed to me that every individual in this world is worth remembering. They’re important to our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. And each of them has a story that’s worth remembering. Each of them has experiences that are extremely meaningful to those who may have influenced. I know that personally because of my experiences that I’ve had with my parents.

Just yesterday, we had a health scare with my mom. And it just reminded me of how important her life is to me, how important her example and her faith is to me. And I know that as we seek out those who have gone before, as we strive to understand their stories and their life experiences, and especially their testimonies, the things that they knew about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His gospel, their words and their stories can be like scripture to us and can inspire us to build our faith and our testimony in our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His gospel, and the plan of our Father in Heaven.

37:12

Jen Allen: I know that Heavenly Father is utilizing the incredible people on this earth to make connections, to find and seek belonging among people all over the world. And He’s using technology and innovation and incredible talents of people, whether they’re at FamilySearch or elsewhere, to help further that work of connection with His children. And I know that family connections help open the door of revelation when we open that door and allow our ancestors and our family members to speak to us on the other side. They want us to discover, to find those connections and to celebrate family, more than anyone.

And I am so grateful for the leaders that we have to show us the way in that and that they are allowing us to experience that for ourselves, to discover our family and to remember, on both sides of the veil, and I know that the work is being hastened at this time and in this season because of all of the efforts of people on this earth.

38:52

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News executive editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so it can be accessible to more people. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests; my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen; and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channels or with other news and updates on the Church on TheChurchNews.com.

President M. Russell Ballard looks out the window at Carthage Jail in June 2023.
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, looks out the window at Carthage Jail during RootsTech filming in June 2023. President Ballard died Nov. 12, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Related Story
Episode 125: Elder Kevin S. Hamilton and FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood on how RootsTech 2023 is ‘Uniting’ family history fans worldwide — virtually and in-person
Episode 71: RootsTech 2022 organizers on what it means to ‘Choose Connection’ in a divided world
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