At RootsTech 2018, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided counsel for temple and family history consultants, priesthood leaders, and ward council members. They discussed how to teach and strengthen people through family history.
Read a transcript of the leadership session from Sister Joy D. Jones and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom below, or watch the video.
Message from Sister Joy D. Jones
It is a privilege to be with you this evening as we consider the rising generation’s involvement in discovering, gathering, and connecting their families. Children love to learn about their ancestors.
Family stories can teach them important lessons and help them develop a foundation of strength they can draw from throughout their lives. Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, said, "It’s wonderful to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers by telling important family history stories in ways that are accessible and memorable."
Children resonate to meaningful family stories and love discovery experiences. Temple and family history consultants can lead young people into the world of family history along with their parents and other family members. Like you, I realize that working with children might require different methods than working with adults.
But I promise you that it’s worth the effort and the necessary adaptations and creativity. Plus, it can be fun. Acting out a meaningful family story, learning about their family culture or even family recipes, viewing pictures of their relatives as children, or talking about and recording their four generations in the My Family booklet are all simple ways to begin connecting with children.
However, quoting President Nelson again, "If our collections of stories and photos should ever become an end point in themselves–if we know who our ancestors are and know marvelous things about them, but we leave them stranded on the other side without their ordinances–such diversion will not be of any help to our ancestors who remain confined in spirit prison."
So what are some of the specific benefits of children participating in family history, of not only learning their family’s stories but also helping to free those beloved ancestors? First, parents often notice an increase in confidence in their children. Studies actually demonstrate that children who are more familiar with their family narratives show more resilience, more self-control, and less anxiety.
Second, children sense that they are part of something greater and experience a feeling of belonging. Family history creates an intergenerational consciousness that helps bind the generations together.
Third, family history leads children to pray and better understand how to listen to the Spirit. They may not know how to do all aspects of family history research at first. But they learn how to pray for and listen to the Spirit and to trust the promptings they receive.
Fourth, children can have a powerful influence in encouraging their family members to take part in discovering, gathering, and then connecting ancestors by performing ordinances in the temple. Family history work is missionary work.
Fifth, children often have a pure and simple faith that helps them to be successful as they do family history research.
Sixth, many Church members never learn the blessings of family history until later in life. As our children learn to do family history at a young age, they have experiences that stay in their hearts for years to come and create positive lifelong habits.
Seventh, Primary children have begun submitting names to the temple, either for their family members to perform the ordinances or in preparation for their own 12th birthday, when they can receive their limited-use temple recommends and perform the baptisms and confirmations themselves.
Children with experience in family history are excited to go to the temple, not only to experience the sacredness of the Lord’s house, but also because they feel a connection to their ancestors and want to perform their ordinances for them.
When possible, parents are highly encouraged to attend the temple with their children the first time and even subsequent times. After children participate in the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, parents and other family members can then complete the remaining ordinances.
I testify that our Heavenly Father has provided this special way for our children to receive greater protection, increased power to resist sin, and a more deeply rooted love for their families as they learn to discover, gather, and connect their ancestors in the temple.
Children can be instrumental in the work of salvation. They can lead us as they contribute to this inspired cause, which is turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Let’s now watch two temple and family history consultants as they do an in-home visit with the Morrison family. Please pay particular attention to how these consultants prayerfully prepared to gently guide the patrons to discovery experiences.
My name’s Julene Davidson. I am a family history consultant. You don’t need someone that’s been a genealogist their whole life. You just need someone that’s willing to learn. I guess I’m the person that gets people excited.
All right. So remember what we talked about, guys. We have the family history people to come and help us a little bit.
I’m thinking for the younger kids, we are going to need to do stories.
I’m going to take the kids. Do you guys want to do story time and dress-up?
And be [INAUDIBLE]?
Let’s go upstairs, then.
Jim is a cool guy. You can tell he has a strong testimony. He’s always known he’s needed this, but he hasn’t gotten started yet.
The story we did in the play was about my great-great-great-grandma and the Indians that raided her house. She went and hid in the cellar, and the Indians didn’t find her.
Where are [INAUDIBLE]?
Where is the [INAUDIBLE]?
I think one of the challenges that they are going to have, and that a lot of people have, is when you are already strong in the Church and you are already going to the temple and partaking of the sacrament and doing everything you can, you are already receiving blessings. And so sometimes it’s hard to see how it can be so much better.
These are my great-great-great …
Does it say he was a blacksmith?
That’s what it looks like.
That was just really, really cool to be there with Landon, and searching for that and finding that information together.
Now I’m invested. It’s more than just curiosity. I want to get these people to the temple.
Message from Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
I’m grateful to participate in this leadership session and to be an additional witness to Sister Jones about how family history can bless children. In the video, we witnessed the success of engaging children in family history, of making the experience both informational and inspirational. This is vital as we seek to instruct and edify our children and youth.
As children mature spiritually, it is essential that they have personal experiences that allow them to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. This is how they become converted unto the Lord and never fall away. As the Lamanites taught by the sons of Mosiah were described, the gospel is the plan of God, whereby each of us can gain "eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God."
The gospel teaches us our true identity as a son or a daughter of God and the indispensable role of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His glorious Atonement. When these eternal truths go from our heads to our hearts to our souls, we transform from those with faith to those with testimonies to those who are converted.
Family history is a superb vehicle for this magnificent process. As children and youth and those young in the gospel engage in family history research, it is easy for the Spirit to embrace them because this work is at the heart of the gospel.
It is because service to others is reflective of our love for Jesus Christ. It combines the first commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," with His admonition, "If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me."
Recently the decision was made to enlarge the Priesthood Preview the Primary has long held for 11-year-old boys to temple and priesthood preparation for 11-year-old boys and girls. Boys and girls have a need to learn about the priesthood and the temple and to prepare to qualify for limited-use temple recommends preparatory to receiving temple recommends that will for a lifetime represent the keeping of covenants.
Connecting family history to the temple and the further service we render in the house of the Lord results in increased gospel understanding and greater opportunity for spiritual experiences. We must not teach these concepts–our identity, God’s plan, the power of the priesthood, family history, and temple service–as independent. But all have elevated meaning and purpose when understood as one eternal round.
Here is the ideal. A family together researches their ancestry, connecting them with those who have come before with stories of faith, sacrifice, and perseverance. Family names are prepared for temple ordinances. With parents and adult children holding temple recommends, and youth over the age of 12 holding limited-use recommends, the family together attends the temple, and baptismal and confirmation ordinances are performed.
Ordination, endowment, and sealing ordinances are subsequently performed by the adult members of the family. If any individual or family does not currently have the ideal circumstance, just do your best. We all have a vital place in this holy process. And importantly, do not forget our children. Engaging them from the youngest of ages, and as they grow in understanding and spiritual sensitivity and hope and opportunity, will bless them forever.
The seeds of the gospel will be planted and nurtured and will bloom with beauty. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.