Family History Work Needs More Participants, Says Elder Packer
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
A little adds up to be a lot when everyone joins together to do family history work, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy said during the annual Family History and Genealogy Conference at Brigham Young University on July 30.
“Each of us has some stories in our lives that are worth recording and worth remembering,” he said. “[Stories] that are inspirational and can be motivational and helpful for future generations.”
Although many came to the conference to learn about helpful hints for their own searching or new ways of doing things in the family history world, Elder Packer reminded listeners that it is up to them to help others get involved in such an important work.
“A lot of things are changing. Let’s not have any of us in the position of being done,” he said. He added that the change raises questions: “What are we going to do individually as we are involved? What is the role that we will choose to play?”
It is important to be involved and to then help others be involved, Elder Packer taught.
“My purpose is to invite you to help shape the future by becoming part of bringing about this change in the hearts and minds of people. My purpose is to invite you to be agents of change. Think about what you will do and how you will do it.”
In a work full of “coincidences,” Elder Packer told listeners they need not worry whether the Lord will help them.
“Anyone who has worked in family history for any time knows that there are no coincidences,” he said. “You experience a disproportional number of such coincidences. There is more to this work than meets the eye.”
This year marks the 45th year of the conference and the first year a specific “youth track” was available, encouraging people of all ages to participate and be involved.
Those in attendance at the conference represented six countries and 24 of the states in the U.S., with varied abilities and skill levels.
Although the motivations for doing family history differ for each person, all have the invitation to “find their fathers” and help others to do the same.
“This change of heart is the harder part of all of the changes of technology and records and things that are taking place,” he said. “In spite of a large percentage of interest in family history, really it is a relatively low number of people that are involved. … But everyone can do something. And a lot of individuals doing just a little can make a big difference.”
The biggest challenge is to help those who are not involved start to become involved because they want to, Elder Packer said.
“I invite you to be change agents and to help remove the obstacles in people’s minds that have kept them from doing [family history],” he said. “Many of you are people of influence in your communities. You are teachers and can help in that regard.”
In order to help others understand the importance of family history work, Elder Packer shared some of the benefits of doing family history research and reasons why there is a great need for the involvement of many more people.
Fun and fulfillment
People want to have fun and feel good, Elder Packer taught. Part of that fulfillment comes from knowing about themselves and knowing why they are the way they are.
“Family history can do this for people,” he said. “There are a surprising number of youth doing indexing, for example. It has been interesting to us that the youth want to give up some of their … time to index.”
Greater unity in families and society
Societies and families are struggling today, but family history can bring an understanding of common backgrounds, experiences, and interests. That focus can have a very powerful unifying impact on families.
The Bible teaches that doing family history work is a responsibility. As members of the Church, the responsibility goes further with performing ordinances within the temple, Elder Packer said.
“We find and record family connections, but we then invite and encourage relatives to take those names to the temple to have those ordinances performed,” he said.
Strengthening the youth
Sharing something he read in a magazine article, Elder Packer said research shows that children who are best able to handle stress are those who know the most about their family’s history.
As children, grandchildren, and descendants hear about the past, they are more able to meet the future, Elder Packer said. He added that sharing stories and working alongside the youth helps them to understand more their heritage and also guards against the influence of the adversary.
Elder Packer showed a video of a family history consultant—a young woman—going into the home of a family in her ward. Instead of using pages of notes and charts, the young consultant organized the children to act out a story from their family’s history. By getting the younger children involved, their family history came to life, sparking an interest.
Elder Packer said that as individuals learn about their heritage, they are able to learn how to change the present and shape the future.
“As you tell stories, you have to adapt to your audience,” he said, later adding that “the new family history center is the home—you can do so much there.”
In addition to the benefits that come from being involved with family history work, there are many reasons why today’s resources make it easier than ever to start.
With advances in technology and the availability of online tools, many of the obstacles of access, distance, cost, and knowledge are being removed. Cooperation between companies, organizations, and people has helped in the collecting, indexing, and posting of vital information.
Now is the time to involve many more people in family history work, Elder Packer taught. Individuals have the opportunity to influence and motivate with the tools and resources available. As individuals do this, people who have not had the time or interest to do this work will make meaningful contributions, he said.
“I invite you to become agents to bring about this change which will shape the future by inspiring and motivating thousands of people to start and to continue after they have started,” he said. “Each of us can do our part.”