Every Sunday morning in chapels throughout the Church, members are learning where and how to shake the family tree and what to do with the fruits of the shaking.
The priesthood genealogy class, instituted Churchwide in 1971, plays a significant role in helping build a generation of members who are excited and concerned about genealogy work, according to Elder Theodore M. Burton, president of the Genealogical Society and Assistant to the Council of the Twelve.
The classes meet for 12 weeks under the direction of the bishop, usually under supervision of the high priests group leader, to learn the fundamentals of research and proper methods of preparing records for submitting names for temple ordinances. When class members have completed their work, including practical experience in a genealogy library, a new class is called and the process begins again.
The class provides an introduction to the pedigree chart, family group record form, personal record form, four-generation program, and sacred-experience history, all of which are elements of the book of remembrance. Class members also study in detail the procedures for submitting names to the temple and the sources of research, including libraries, family organization, and family records.
Although most of the classes are held in conjunction with the Sunday School, many are held on week nights.
The genealogy program is not an auxiliary program, stresses Elder Burton. It is a vital priesthood program, done under the direction of the bishop, with the high priests group leader as adviser.
The class has brought about new interest in genealogy work throughout the Church and among all ages, according to Genealogical Society officials. Particular interest has been shown by teenagers and young adults. “Genealogy had been only research and forms to me,” declared one young woman, “but now it has become people—people I care about and want to know better.”
Other comments from recent class participants include the following:
“What a relief to have genealogy simplified! This class, the format, the orientation, and the spirit in which the subject has been taught have truly inspired me to greater effort.”
“This class has stimulated my wife and me to go to the temple more regularly.”
“It has been brought to my mind more vividly that temple work and genealogy are truly among the basic priesthood programs.”
“The family organization is now more important to me.”
“For the person who has no knowledge of genealogy work, the basic course is the logical starting point where one can learn the fundamentals of research and the proper procedures for preparing records to be submitted to the temple. For the person who already has this fundamental knowledge but has been neglecting the work, the basic course is an ideal refresher and motivator.”
Ward members should take the course as a complete series and should contact their bishop to find out when the next class will begin.
In order to make the class as effective as possible, special instruction is available for class teachers. A subseminar for the Family Exaltation and You course will be held as part of the Eighth Annual Priesthood Genealogical Research Seminar at Brigham Young University July 30 to August 3.
Teachers will receive special instruction in the use of branch genealogical libraries, meetinghouse libraries, preparation and use of instructional materials, records processing, the role of ward record examiners, and good teaching techniques. Every stake and ward in the Church has been asked to send at least one representative to the seminar.
An indication of the value and spirit of the seminar is shown in the following comments from former students:
“Your classes were filled with the spirit of Elijah, and inspiration flowed over us all. … In the two Saturdays I worked in the genealogy library, I added 16 generations to my lineage. Now I must make these people more than just names. I must read the references given and become acquainted with them.”
“I never feel closer to the Lord than when I am doing genealogy. Home responsibilities and small children often make it difficult for me to do all I would like to do, but I know there are ways to get the work done. This class has come at a time when I need added encouragement. Sharing experiences with others is deeply inspiring. The veil separating those who have gone before becomes very thin when you do your duty diligently.”
Yes, that is the spirit of the work—the spirit of desire coupled with knowing how and where to harvest the blessings that come from this exciting activity.