Life is busy. And, when you think of everything we’re asked to do to become better disciples of Jesus Christ—serve others, attend church, read our scriptures, pray, attend the temple, do family history, endure well, judge not—life can go from busy to downright overwhelming.
That’s why this statement from Elder Allan F. Packer in the October 2014 general conference addressing the charge to do doing family history really spoke to me: “Family history is more than genealogy, rules, names, dates, and places. It is more than a focus on the past. Family history also includes the present as we create our own history. It includes the future as we shape future history through our descendants” (“The Book,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 100).
Yes! To an overwhelmed woman, that thought brought a sense of peace. By that definition, I’ve done family history—and chances are you have too. I’m still working on my genealogy skills, learning how to find a name on FamilySearch.org and how to take a name to the temple to perform proxy ordinances. But it’s not an everyday thing. Being present with my children is an everyday thing, and as Elder Packer said, “Family history also includes the present” as we create our own histories. Here are three ways we can do that more regularly.
Share Family Stories and Pictures
My kids love bedtime stories. My husband and I have probably read every book in our house to them over a dozen times. When we’re tired of reading the same old stories, we share stories from our own lives.
In his general conference address, Elder Packer said, “A young mother, for example, sharing her family stories and pictures with her children is doing family history work” (“The Book,” 100).
One of my fondest memories as a child was when my mom used to read from my grandfather’s old journal. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather, so his stories of being a sailor in the navy, written by his hand in a spiral notebook and read by my mom, connected him to me in a very real way.
Photos and stories can do that for our descendants. My kids love to look through my old pictures and have me share the stories behind the photos. It’s fun to reminisce, but more importantly, I believe these history lessons help build character. Through hearing about my good times and bad times, lessons I learned from my parents, and memories I have of my grandparents, my children understand better that they belong to something bigger than themselves. They come from a rich family heritage, and every photo and story is a thread in how they came to be.
Start Family Traditions
For the past three years, we’ve had “gratitude rolls” at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s an idea we tried after reading about it on a blog. For my kids, it’s the best thing about Thanksgiving.
Before Thanksgiving dinner, we each write what we’re grateful for on small, individual sheets of paper, and we roll them into a crescent roll before baking them. At the dinner table, we take turns opening our rolls like fortune cookies, reading the blessing on the piece of paper, and trying to guess who wrote it. After the author is found, that person shares why he or she is grateful for that thing or person. Besides being fun, it keeps our Thanksgiving conversation centered on gratitude.
With three years of gratitude rolls now behind us, I consider it a family tradition. That’s what is so great about creating your own history. It’s never too late to start or change it. Family traditions are the moments that make up the memories that will be added to our family stories long after we are gone.
Record Your Memories
I’ve made the resolution to write in my journal so many times I’ve lost count. And, sadly, I still don’t do it. But that doesn’t mean recording memories isn’t important to me.
If you scan my phone and my social media pages, you’ll find them filled with pictures and posts about my children, my husband, my faith, and my family. We share the good (and sometimes the bad) on social media. Why not save it somewhere that lasts longer?
Earlier this year, FamilySearch released its Memories app for iOS and Android devices to do just that. The mobile application not only allows you to upload priceless family pictures in a safe space that can be seen and shared by family members, it also helps you capture priceless memories as well.
The record feature on the app allows you to interview family members and record important details of their lives and unique experiences. It’s the tool that is most precious to me. One of my most prized interviews has been with my grandparents. Hearing their personal stories in their own words is a blessing. Being able to share that audio with the rest of the family on FamilySearch.org is priceless.
Going back to the counsel of Elder Allan F. Packer, “Family history is more than genealogy, rules, names, dates and places.” It’s also about being more present. It’s about shaping the future in how we teach our descendants. It’s about living the gospel at home.