I remember a time when family history seemed to become the focus of general conference talks, Ensign articles, and goals that were set by wards and stakes in the Church. I also remember that, initially, I didn’t do much to get involved in family history. It seemed like an intimidating lifestyle change that I didn’t have time for, and I saw it as something my grandparents did very well—meaning that I did not need to worry about it.
My hands-off approach to family history first started to change as I was picking classes for a recent semester at Brigham Young University. My roommate suggested that we take a family history class together, and that sounded like it could be fun. In the first few classes we began to learn the basics of family history. I discovered that family history is not as complex as I had imagined. Right off the bat, I was able to begin indexing, and with a small amount of instruction, I was able to see that there was a lot of work that I could get started on in my family tree. This surprised me, since my family had already done a lot of work.
During the semester I began to develop a testimony of family history, and how it brings us closer to those beyond the veil. One of our assignments was to index several batches and record our experience while doing it. I began working my way through some census records and began indexing the records of a young family with a few young children. As I began to type in their names, I could start to picture this family in my mind. I looked at the ages of the children and the profession of the dad, and I felt like they were very close to me as I was typing in their names.
Since taking the class I have continued to make time to do family history. As I have done so, I have had many experiences that have strengthened my testimony of family history. I feel that I have been blessed in every aspect of my life as I seek for ways to include family history in my busy schedule of school and work. My young single adult (YSA) ward has had several family history activities, and it is cool to see how contagious the work becomes once you start. Here are some activities that my YSA ward has done to get everyone involved:
- Divided up into groups and visited a family history center during the Sunday School hour of church.
- Had a “March Madness” indexing challenge, which divided up the ward through apartments, and tallied the total number of names indexed by various apartments each week, with a grand prize at the end (we made sure to emphasize the importance of indexing each week and who it really benefits so as to not get too competitive).
- Publicized indexing parties in different apartments on Sunday evenings.
- Held family history classes during Sunday School, and invited everyone to bring a laptop, with a goal of helping everyone find a name to take to the temple during the class.
In the next few weeks, our ward is going to get members further involved by introducing them to Elder Neil L. Andersen’s challenge from RootsTech to find a name, take the name to the temple, and teach someone else how to do the same thing. This is a great lesson topic for Sunday School, family home evening, or any other teaching setting.
Elder Andersen is not the only Church leader to promise blessings to those who participate in family history. Elder Richard G. Scott said that family history work is a “sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life” (“The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 94), and Elder David A. Bednar stated that you will be “safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 27).
I am glad that I have learned that I don’t have to wait until I am a grandpa to get involved in family history. I am blessed in my life now, as a young single adult, to have learned that as we turn our hearts to our fathers, their hearts turn to us, and we can be blessed as much as they will be blessed through this marvelous work.