Perhaps the greatest thing ward temple and family history consultants can do to help gather Israel is to create personalized family history experiences for others. But what exactly is a personalized family history experience, and how does a consultant go about creating one?
A personalized family history experience is a simple activity or lesson that helps another person or family feel closer to ancestors and to each other. This is the spirit of Elijah, a manifestation of the Holy Ghost testifying of the divine and eternal nature of families.
Building Blocks of an Experience
A recent class on serving as a ward temple and family history consultant highlighted six key elements or building blocks that consultants can choose from to create a personalized family history experience.
- Help—answering specific temple and family history questions and needs
- Discovery—uncovering new and uplifting information about family, ancestors, and homelands
- Family Tree—sharing, preserving, and building the FamilySearch Family Tree
- Memories—preserving photos, stories, audio recordings, and other family memories
- Records—finding, interpreting, and attaching historical records
- Temple—contributing to the completion of an ancestor’s gospel ordinances
Of the six building blocks mentioned here, the discovery and temple building blocks are foundational—meaning that consultants should try to incorporate these elements whenever possible. Discovering something new about one’s family or ancestors inevitably invites the spirit of Elijah into a person’s heart.
Personalized Experiences in the Book of Mormon
Learning about ancestors isn’t enough. We have a divine responsibility to help, when possible, with their temple ordinances.
Consider the prophet Lehi in the Book of Mormon. He had a personalized family history experience when he searched the brass plates that Nephi and his other sons had obtained from Laban.
And what was the result of this search? Almost immediately after receiving the plates, Lehi participated in a temple service of his day—he built an altar and offered sacrifice. Then he gathered his family and shared with them what he was learning. He reminded them of the promises Heavenly Father has in store for those who love and honor Him.
Lehi’s experience demonstrates the profound relationship between temple and family history, as taught by Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “The home, the family, and the temple are inseparably connected. . . . Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you to your family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you to the temple.”
A few basic principles will help consultants create more meaningful personalized family history experiences and bless the lives of the people they serve.
- The first principle is to pray. God knows who is prepared for a personalized family history experience. He knows too the story, activity, or even photograph that could soften that person’s heart and turn him or her to God. Consultants can pray to be led to ancestors waiting for their temple ordinances and ask that the person or family they are helping do the same.
- The second principle is to prepare. Getting things ready for a personalized family history experience takes time—time to pray, time to plan, and time to talk to the other person or family and find out what they are interested in learning about.
- The third principle is to minister. Consultants serve people one-on-one, as the Savior did. They meet in homes and in meetinghouses—wherever is most convenient. They likewise adapt their teaching methods to the other person’s physical or spiritual circumstances.
- The final principle is to invite. Following a personalized family history experience, the consultant invites the person to build on what he or she has discovered. These invitations are simple and achievable. They point towards a particular task that the person can do on his or her own or that a family can do together.
Personalized Experiences Today
Unlike the prophet Lehi, people today are unlikely to find their personalized family history experience in a collection of brass plates, although the consequences of the experience can be very similar! Here are a few examples of what a modern personalized family history experience might look like:
- Reading stories about ancestors on FamilySearch.org.
- Using online tools to explore a specific homeland—Google Earth, for example, to see images of an ancestor’s birthplace.
- Creating an audio recording of family members sharing memories, and then uploading the recording to FamilySearch.org.
- Finding the birth or marriage certificate of a particular ancestor and attaching it to his or her profile page on FamilySearch.org.
- Completing the necessary tasks on FamilySearch.org so that an ancestor’s gospel ordinances can be reserved and completed.
Experiences such as these will strengthen families and point them to the temple. But this list is just a short one. In practice, consultants will need to be creative and observant as they search for the activity that is just right for the person or family they are helping!
For a more detailed description of tools and ideas that ward temple and family history consultants might find helpful, be sure to watch Serving as a Ward Temple and Family History Consultant.
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