RootsTech Youth Panel Shares Family History Experiences
By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
Young Latter-day Saints around the world are engaged in family history and temple work, following priesthood instruction from prophets and apostles, as exemplified by six youth in a panel discussion presented March 23 during free training sessions for Church members held in conjunction with the RootsTech 2013 Family History and Technology Conference in Salt Lake City.
As shown in video clips during the panel, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve in an October 2011 general conference address invited young people to search out their ancestors and “prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead.” He urged them to help other people identify their own family histories.
Elder Richard G. Scott, in a video clip from last October’s general conference, counseled Church members: “Have you prayed about your own ancestors’ work? Set aside those things in your life that don’t really matter.” He said one doesn’t have to be a genealogist anymore to do so. “It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who can’t help themselves.”
Displayed during the discussion was a letter sent to priesthood leaders from the First Presidency last October, saying, “We especially encourage youth and young single adults to use for temple work their own family names or the names of ancestors of their ward and stake members.”
Panel member Flannery Cash of the Normal Ward, Peoria Illinois Stake, spoke of her experience identifying 350 ancestral names that she was able to take to the temple.
“We had had several lessons in Young Women and Sunday School classes about family history, so I just started getting on to FamilySearch.org,” she said. She tried to find as many names on her ancestral lines as she could of people for whom ordinance work needed to be done.
She expressed the conviction that she will one day have the opportunity to meet each of her ancestors for whom she has facilitated the vicarious temple work and will be glad then that she took the time to help.
Panel member Sam Mathias of the Kaysville 17th Ward, Kaysville Utah Stake, was motivated by a deacons quorum lesson to go to the FamilySearch.org website, where he found that two of his great-great-grandparents needed ordinance work of baptisms and confirmations done.
“I called my grandma and told her, ‘They need their baptisms done; can I do it?’ She said, ‘Sure you can, Sam.’”
Asked what advice he would give to young people, he recommended they go on the website, find their pedigree charts, and click on the temple symbol by the names to find out what work is needed.
Jordan Hintze, also of the Kaysville 17th Ward, said he went to a family history center with is father, where he learned about indexing and found how easy it is to do. He decided to make it the basis of his Eagle Scout project and taught 150 other young people how to index.
“We found out that pizza and genealogy go well together,” he said. He helped organize a pizza party with young men and young women in his ward and later with a neighboring ward during which they did family history indexing.
Jordan said he learned that people get interested in family history in different ways, some through indexing and some through searching for their own ancestors, and it is good to find what works best for individuals.
Julene Davidson of the Cabezon Ward, Albuquerque New Mexico West Stake, was included in the panel via remote Internet connection. Called as a ward family history consultant at age 17, she was invited to come to a member family’s home to help them become interested in family history. There, she involved the young children in dressing up and putting on a skit to reenact an experience from the life of their great-great-great-grandmother. This helped the family come to know and love their ancestors more and desire to take their names to the temple.
Asked how she approached her role as family history consultant once she was called, she said she immersed herself immediately in the work by going on FamilySearch.org. But more important, she said, is the need to prepare oneself spiritually.
“Before I met with people, I would pray to know how to help them, because family history is so much more than finding names. It is about bringing people to the temple.”
Asked what role stories play in family history, Julene said it helps to know that one’s ancestors experienced and overcame trials and that children especially become engaged in the work when motivated by stories from their ancestors’ lives.
A video clip was shown about the experience of panelists Mckayla Faddis and Nathan Smith of the Lehi Utah South Stake in getting other young people in their stake involved in family history.
During their discussions as a youth group about how to get young people involved, the figure of 40 kept coming up: It took 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple, for example, and Jesus fasted for 40 days.
They produced an Internet video inviting young people from the stake to prepare during the next 40 days to take names to the temple for doing baptisms for the dead, either from their own family lines or the ancestry of people in their wards.
For five Sundays, Mckayla and Nathan made themselves available at the stake family history center to help youth in the stake find names for temple work.
“Within 40 days, we wanted to get every youth in our stake to the temple, but not just to the temple to do any name, but to find a name for themselves.”
Mckayla said, “It was an awesome experience to help them be all excited about it and to be getting into this work that I love so much.”
In a session prior to the panel discussion, Ryan Sharp, a popular speaker in Especially for Youth programs, told young people that engagement in family history provides protection against the adversary, helps people become more proud of their heritage, gives hope for the future, is fun, gives a chance to serve others, and provides the opportunity to participate in the work of salvation and makes the temple experience more meaningful.
He invited a few audience members to share their own experiences they have had finding a name and bringing the name to the temple to perform the work. One young man said he felt a connection to the person whose name he had found.
A young woman said that she and her grandmother went on to the FamilySearch.org website and found four names of people needing temple work. She told of the joy of going to the Draper Utah Temple with her Young Women group to be baptized for ancestors they had found.