Manti, Utah, is one place you’re likely to hear that statement, “My family history is all done. We came from the early pioneers, so our families have completed all our genealogy.”
Manti is one of the oldest settlements of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah. The city lies in the shadow of the Manti Temple which was dedicated in 1888. A lot of people there think there is no work left to do on their family history, but the youth of the Manti First Ward proved that’s not always the case.
Five years ago, the Manti Stake issued a challenge that every member find at least one ancestor’s name who needed temple ordinances. Scott and Melissa Olsen decided to meet that challenge. Scott says, “We went to the Family History Center and searched for green arrows, those symbols that mean an ancestor needs at least one temple ordinance completed. We found one male.” They went back to the computer and checked back another generation. “We found four more needing temple work,” Scott said.
Scott says the stake project got a little enthusiasm going. “Some found a few names. Others found none. A few found enough names for everyone to do.” The stake kept the program going and tied it to Stake Temple Nights.
Scott was called to the Manti First Ward Bishopric three and a half years ago. He thought about how people were saying it was too hard to find names for the temple and decided to find a more efficient way of looking.
“Over that year, things began to gel,” Scott says. He got with his brother and learned how to effectively use FamilySearch.org. “Eventually my own family learned how to research, including my kids and brothers. We began finding a lot of names and wondered why everyone thinks it’s difficult.”
At the beginning of 2013, the stake issued a challenge to the youth to index 2,013 names. One of the young women leaders in the First Ward suggested a temple hop at the end of the challenge for those who met the goal. Just before the end of the year, the leaders asked the youth to find names of ancestors to take on the temple hop trip.
Jill and her helpers put together a family history room at their ward building with borrowed lap tops. “We got the young people excited. The youth enjoy working, helping, and celebrating their successes with each other. The adults began to catch on, but it’s the youth who have taken it over.” Jill says.
At the first of last year, the Bishopric and youth leaders decided to challenge every youth to either find 100 family names or spend 20 hours working on family history and find at least find 20 names. “Everyone who did would qualify for a temple hop trip.”
“It worked,” Jill says. “There were 30 of the youth who found more than 100 names. Twenty-two of them were able to get away for the temple hop. “We started at the Jordan River Temple on Friday evening. Then we went to Bountiful where a couple of people let us stay in their homes. The bishop of that ward organized a group of their youth to go with us the next morning to the Bountiful Temple. Then we went on to the Ogden Temple and finished at the Salt Lake Temple on Saturday night.”
Scott says, “Saturday was a long day. We finished at the Salt Lake Temple Baptistery about 10:00 PM so we didn’t get home until midnight. I thought the kids would be exhausted and sleep all the way, but they were excited and happily talking about their experiences at the four temples.”
So youth groups of the Manti First ward found more family names to take to the temple than the number of people who live in Manti. They did it by learning how to use FamilySearch.org and researching descendants.
This year Jill says they have a new challenge. “We’re asking ward youth to choose two out of five goals: index 500 names; find 50 family names to take to the temple; research a new family member who is not already in your pedigree and prepare that name to take to the temple; spend 15 hours adding content on FamilySearch (such as photos, stories, histories); and write a biography of an ancestor, living or deceased, and add to FamilySearch.”
They are inviting the youth leaders to join in this challenge–to be part of the experience and not just watch from the sidelines.
In the city that was the earliest settlement outside of Salt Lake Valley, the Manti First Ward youth have been pioneers of family history. They opened the trails and now want their parents to follow them as they research their family’s past.