Outside of the temple, the home is the most holy sanctuary there is—a place where families are counseled to maintain the spirit and to strengthen familial bonds. Committing to a family-focused Sabbath will sanctify its restorative power and nurture a stable family life.
Discovering the stories and connections of your family’s ancestors is a great start to redirecting your family’s focus on the Sabbath day. Family History centered activities not only invite the spirit into our homes, but also unify our families and remind us of the Savior’s love as we ourselves take on the task of becoming Saviors on mount Zion. To sanctify your Sabbath through family history, here are some activities to try in your own home.
1. Reserve family names and commit to attend the temple.
FamilySearch.org is more user friendly than it has ever been before. Each Sunday afternoon, get your family’s laptops, smartphones and tablets together and begin your hunt for the needed ordinances of your ancestors. You may want to start by printing out your fan chart to see where work needs to be done and what holes need to be filled. Explore your FamilySearch Family Tree digitally and familiarize yourself with the records and stories attached to your ancestors. Search for records in the FamilySearch database, or other partner sites, to fill any holes in your chart. Additional partner site apps are also available to assist you in your search. Start with your direct line and work back to your earlier ancestors. If your tree appears to be full, experiment with the decendancy feature to find cousins that need their work done. There will always be needed ordinances waiting to be found.
After you have found names, commit to go to the temple. Set a date with your family and schedule your coming weeks accordingly. The time dedicated in your home to moving the Lord’s work promises a Sabbath brimming with the spirit, which will remain in your home throughout the week.
2. Host a family get-together, teleconference or Skype.
Exchange living memories with grandparents and other extended family members. It is an excellent opportunity for families to ask questions about their origins and to become familiar with family traditions that have been passed through the generations. Not all families live close enough to gather together in person. The blessing of modern technology makes it possible for families to participate in family history work over large distances. Take advantage of the opportunities that this age affords us and give your family the chance to hear the stories of their ancestors first-hand. Use the occasion to record living memory in the My Family: Stories that Bring Us Together booklet or online. Add these experiences to your FamilySearch.org family tree if you do not yet have four generations completed.
3. Index names for the FamilySearch database.
Indexing is a great family activity for the Sabbath. It is especially popular among youth and young single adults whose aptitude for today’s technology drives efficiency and yields a sense of accomplishment. Many of the rising generation attest to the spirit that it brings into their lives as a result of their willingness to perform the work. The indexing database of FamilySearch.org caters to various experience levels by segmenting the projects by difficulty. Indexing proves to be a low-key activity. It allows the family to bond over the Lord’s errand while within their homes.
4. Catalog headstones.
When the weather is nice, if your family enjoys being outdoors, take a walk or hop in the car and drive to a nearby cemetery. Partner companies like BillionGraves.com work with FamilySearch.org to catalogue headstones by archiving photographs and transcribing the engraved information through a mobile app. This archived information provides vital records necessary for temple ordinance work. Visiting gravesites builds an appreciation for the lives of those who have passed. The sweet spirit that results promotes generosity and gratitude for those who came before us. Grab your smartphone and enjoy the summer sun while your family spends quality time together. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also create an account on BillionGraves.com to transcribe existing headstone photos and attach them to FamilySearch records.
5. Upload photos, audio, and documents to your Family Tree.
Preserving the stories of your family is important for you and future generations. Learn about the realities of your ancestors’ lives. By doing so you will foster a better appreciation for the contribution they made to your life. Exploring the existing records in your home is a great reminder of what has passed in your life and the lives before yours. Many families have scrapbooks or boxes of photos that would benefit from being digitally preserved. This process is made easier with the availability of the FamilySearch mobile app. Gather family photographs and take pictures of them using your smartphone. Then attach them to a family member in FamilySearch using the memories function. You might also utilize your devices to record and then upload audio of family members giving oral biographies or explaining family traditions. Any additional documents that you attach to your family tree are helpful for keeping a thorough record.
6. Start a record for yourself or your family.
Records have to come from somewhere, so begin keeping one for your family now. Family journals provide a means of collaboration between siblings and parents. They invite each family member to share their unique perspective. Younger children may wish to include drawings of their lives if they do not yet write well. Record-keeping options can also extend beyond the traditional pen and paper. Your family may consider an online journal, blog or a family website. Letters and emails may also be preserved or copied and included within the journal. Even your Facebook page can now be compiled into a family record with the website MyToday. Let the individual characteristics of your family’s needs determine what works best for your records and watch as the spirit fills your life for your efforts. You might also choose to use the Sabbath day to write the answer to one question a week for one year about your life. After one year, the answers to these questions will tell a story about your life that your descendants will lovingly read and treasure.
7. Create collages or anthologies that reflect your family’s history.
Your ancestors may have lived a vastly different life from you, or maybe they share some similar traits. As you explore the records of your family history, arrange a visual compilation to represent your ancestors’ occupations, medical histories, residences, memorial items etc. You may want to create a hard copy or utilize websites like Collage.com or Pinterest.com which assist users in gathering and organizing information. Spend time on the Sabbath to find out about these occupations and what they entailed. Research the medical histories that are included in your family and what the conditions were like. Find out about ancestral residences and what everyday living might have included. By creating a tangible or visual representation, you flesh out the reality of their existence. Your ancestors’ relationship to you will be better understood, drawing them closer, and cultivate a love for the work of salvation.
8. Compile family and ancestral traditions and try them.
The traditions passed down from generation to generation have endured because they establish unity within the family. As you research your family history take note of and preserve records of family traditions. You can preserve physical copies and archive digital ones in your FamilySearch account with the Memories function. Take the time on Sunday to try these traditions and discover why your ancestors were determined to continue them. Try a recipe from your great aunt, listen to or sing music that was passed down your family line, or play a game of which your ancestors were avid participants. Use this time to experience what their lives were like to better appreciate them and your current family.
9. Visit the past residences of your ancestors.
If your ancestors were nearby, take a trip to see the house or neighborhood that they lived in. Or if you can’t physically be there, try using GoogleMaps and explore the area digitally. Take advantage of the time with your family to discuss what life must have been like and what they find to be similar and to be different compared to your lives today. Draw attention to these details and reflect on what you are grateful to have. Gratitude will always invite the spirit into your home. Document your experience with photos to provide a more complete record of your ancestors’ lives. Do the same for your future family by documenting your own home. You may want to include when your house was built, what the neighborhood was like, and how long you lived there.
10. Record living memory for your future self or family.
Ponder what you might want to tell yourself in a few years, or what you want your future children to know about you at this time in your life. Then record the memory. You might want to write a letter to be opened sometime in the future—a year from now, or maybe ten years from now. Videotape family biographies or document a family tradition. Start a journal or scrapbook of your life to share with your posterity, or put together a family time capsule that includes items that you feel represent your life. Keep in mind what you wish you had records of from your own family history, and then seek to provide it to your successors.
As you strive to dedicate your Sabbath day activities to the Savior, turn your heart to your family history. Family history is an invitation for the spirit to teach and dwell in your home. Reserving the time to discover your ancestors will strengthen your family, hone your focus, and consecrate your Sabbath day observance to the Lord.