by Kathryn Grant
“The artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and family history work is being erased; this is one great work of salvation.” —Elder David A. Bednar
Have you ever thought about the relationship between missionary work and family history? They might seem like separate efforts, but in truth they are closely related. As members of one eternal family, we have been charged to play an important role in the literal gathering of Israel. We best accomplish this when love for others and for God are our motivation, and when we are prepared to be led by the Spirit. When this is the foundation we build upon, family history can be an effective tool in conversion and convert retention.
In a presentation given at RootsTech 2017, President Russell M. Nelson observed, “People have an inborn desire to know something about their ancestors. That becomes a natural opportunity for our missionaries.”
Many people, President Nelson said, do not know the names of all eight of their great-grandparents. In this context, he continued, “Missionaries can make this suggestion: ‘I have a friend at our Church who can help us [find their names].’ . . . That friend at church, of course, is the ward temple and family history consultant.”
Family History in Missionary Work
Our callings provide us with a perfect opportunity to help investigators and new members participate in the plan of salvation through family history. We can help them gather the family of God in a number of important ways:
- Embrace the Find–Take–Teach model and its principles.
- Study “Gathering the Family of God” by President Henry B. Eyring, from the April 2017 general conference. Ponder and pray for inspiration regarding the doctrine of gathering and how to present basic truths in a clear manner.
- Consistently do your own family history and attend the temple on behalf of your deceased family members. As you do so, you will be more in tune with the Spirit and will be better prepared to help others.
- Work closely with the ward mission leader and the full-time missionaries. President Russell M. Nelson said that if he were a missionary today, one of his best friends would be the ward the temple and family history consultant.
- Let missionaries know you’re available to help investigators and new members with family history.
- Talk with missionaries about how they can use family history and temple work to share the gospel.
- Help the missionaries with their own family history, teach them how to use the six principles for helping others, and then help them to teach someone else.
- Use social media. Social media is a great way to let investigators and new converts know about your love for family history and to invite them to get started. Through social media, you can reach people you might otherwise be unable to reach.
- Become familiar with resources such as:
Help others become familiar with these resources as well.
- Provide training. If you have a leadership calling, train those who serve under your direction to use temple and family history work in missionary work and convert retention.
- Teach other members how to share the gospel through family history and temple work. “Tell me about your family” is a great conversation starter. Members can also show investigators the FamilySearch.org website to help them learn more about their ancestors.
Strengthening New Converts through Family History
Temple and family history work is a particular blessing to new members because it helps them stay strong when challenges inevitably come. In the Family History Leadership session at RootsTech in 2017, Elder Dale G. Renlund explained: “Convert participation in temple and family history work is positively correlated with retention at one year. In our research, new converts consistently disclose that when they are vicariously baptized for their deceased ancestors or make new discoveries in their family history, they re-experience the same feelings they initially felt as investigators. These feelings and memories build a defense against the challenges they face during their first year in the Church.”
You can help new converts build that defense and re-experience the spiritual feelings of their conversion in several ways:
- Extend the hand of fellowship. Reach out to new members not just as a consultant or leader but as a brother or sister in the gospel.
- Invite the Spirit. Teach new converts how to gather their family using the power of the Holy Ghost given to them at their baptism. Point out moments where the Spirit is present, helping them to recognize the Holy Ghost in their lives.
- Focus on the first four generations. Help new members know that through family history and temple service, they become part of a multigenerational family in the Church.
- Point them toward the temple. Elder Quentin L. Cook instructed temple and family history consultants to “work with the end in mind—assisting members in taking their family names to the temple.” Performing sacred ordinances in the temple helps new converts stay strong.
In her RootsTech 2017 presentation, Sister Wendy Nelson related a powerful teaching from President George Q. Cannon: “Those who are joining the Church are joining quite precisely because their ancestors have been praying for one of their posterity to join the Church so that they, the ancestors, can receive their essential ordinances by proxy.”
We can help answer these prayers and assist the Lord in gathering His family as we help investigators and new converts participate in family history. Their testimonies will increase, and they will experience joy as they connect with and serve their family members beyond the veil.