Family History Missions 101
Contributed By Jace Whatcott, Church News staff writer
- You can serve a family history mission away from home, close to home, or even from home.
- The Lord needs people willing to devote their time and effort to His work in all aspects, whether that be proselyting or doing family history work.
- To learn more: visit familysearch.org/mission,call toll-free 1-855-346-4774, send an email to email@example.com.
The use of the phrase “hastening the work” is quite common in the Church.
Proselyting missionaries help in hastening the work, as reflected in the fact that new missions have been or will yet be created, and young people are encouraged to be worthy and may serve missions at younger ages than was originally anticipated.
But President Thomas S. Monson has taught that in addition to missionary work and ordinance work for the living on a worldwide scale and at a quickened pace, “hastening the work” includes doing the work for those who have passed beyond the veil and yearn for entrance into the fold (see “Hastening the Work,” Ensign, June 2014, 4–5).
For this, the Church calls and sets apart missionaries who work specifically with family history. With an increased emphasis on temple and family history initiatives, the Family History Department is looking to add more missionaries either as couples or as singles.
There are three different types of family history missionary experiences to help accommodate a variety of life circumstances. Members can serve a family history mission away from home, close to home, or directly from home. “If a missionary wants to serve a full-time mission away from home … for 18 to 24 months, we offer that experience,” said Art Johnson, recruiting and workforce development manager with the Family History Department. “If they want to serve locally in their community, we have those service experiences available. If they want to serve from home, we offer that, as well.”
Serve away from home
One opportunity is found serving in Salt Lake City in the largest mission in the Church, the Family and Church History Headquarters Mission on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Missionaries in Salt Lake City analyze genealogical records, assist patrons with their research, do photo duplication, or work with FamilySearch products and services. Any needed training is provided. With so much work and with so many missionaries, there is plenty of room for creating relationships with those who serve nearby. In sharing in the love of family history work and service, missionaries are able to make lasting friendships.
Other opportunities to serve away from home include the preservation of historical records in archives around the world by capturing digital images of those records with equipment provided by FamilySearch. These digital images are then processed for indexing and made available to the public on FamilySearch.org. “Every year, genealogical content is destroyed—census records are burned, courthouses flood,” said Brother Johnson. “We feel that there is a race against time to preserve this content before the next disaster happens.” Missionaries who preserve these records perform a vital service allowing these records to be kept and preserved for all time. Full-time couples may also be assigned to serve in area offices helping to promote family history efforts around the world.
Serve close to home
In addition to the Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City, there are 14 FamilySearch libraries in the western United States and one FamilySearch library in London, England. Missionaries help people find their ancestors and prepare their names for the temple. Although the location of a local FamilySearch library provides a convenient way to serve, Brother Johnson made it clear that a commitment is required. “We are looking for missionaries to serve anywhere from 15 to 30 hours a week, assisting patrons as they walk in and ask questions,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for members to both be blessed for their service and for them to bless others through their service.” In giving their time and energy to the Lord, family history missionaries are rewarded with a sense of fulfillment and life-changing experiences.
Sister Pat Jensen, who serves with her husband, Elder Brad Jensen, has enjoyed serving as the director of the Riverton FamilySearch Library. Not only does she enjoy the work of family history, but she loves the people with whom she serves. “We work with 150 of the best people on the earth,” she said. People of all ages visit the FamilySearch library in Riverton every week. An average of 400 youth visit weekly. “[In the past], the youth would come in and be a little rowdy,” she said. “Our regular patrons were not happy with the noise.” However, after becoming accustomed to the visiting youth, the complaints came because of the quiet. Sister Jensen said the patrons missed the vibrancy and excitement about family history work that the youth brought with them. For a missionary to be able to serve in one of these types of missions, the candidate must live close to one of the 15 FamilySearch libraries.
Another close-to-home opportunity is to serve in a records operation center. There are several locations, mostly in the western United States, where missionaries will do anything from helping to prepare genealogical content for indexing and publication to scanning books and creating a digital copy. Elder David Slagowski and Sister Barbara Slagowski, who assist with the set up and management of various records operation centers, are serving their second mission together. “We are really working for the Lord and doing things that are important. We know we are on a mission,” said Sister Slagowski. In addition to their love of the work, they have cherished the chance they get to meet other missionaries. “The favorite part of our mission has been getting to know the other missionaries and seeing their dedication and willingness to do the work,” said Elder Slagowski.
Serve from home
Because the Family History Department receives over 500,000 phone calls, emails, or chats annually—about the same number of patrons that visit the family history library in Salt Lake City every year—there is a huge need for members willing to serve missions from their homes. “We’ve created an opportunity where hundreds of members of the Church serve from their homes across the world,” said Brother Johnson. “Missionaries serve in a virtual contact-center setting from the convenience of their homes.” Missionaries use their Internet connection and their personal phone as their workstation. For missionaries to be up to date on everything FamilySearch, they are trained for 20–25 hours per week for up to seven weeks. The training is done through webinars, Skype, and other means of communication. Once missionaries have finished the training and logged on to begin work, they will be connected to the FamilySearch hotline, through which they can receive calls from people all over the world. They provide friendly, accurate, and timely assistance for any family history question. Even though these types of missionaries will be working directly from home, the Family History Department has created ways for them to interact with other stay-at-home missionaries. Through the same means that is used for training, “missionaries can develop close relationships and friendships.”
Preparation to serve
Interested members should visit the Family History Missionary website found at familysearch.org/mission. There, they can learn about the options that are available, and with that information, they can choose which of those options will be the best fit for them. Once they have done their research, they’ll go in for an interview with both their bishop and their stake president, both of whom will help the candidate with the missionary application. Brother Johnson suggests that all are encouraged to find ways to serve, not just those living within the United States. “One thing that we want to emphasize,” said Brother Johnson, “is that this is not exclusively a North American or English service opportunity, but a global service experience provided in multiple languages.” The Lord needs people willing to devote their time and effort to His work in all aspects, whether that be proselyting or doing family history work. “There are members that live their whole lives without being able to wear the [missionary] badge. This gives them an opportunity to wear that badge. If they have a desire to serve, they can be called to the work. We’ll create a mission experience that fits the member’s individual circumstance.”
• More information about part-time and full-time family history missions can be found by visiting familysearch.org/mission, by calling toll-free 1-855-346-4774, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.