Chapter 5

Personal Revelation and Family History

“Chapter 5: Personal Revelation and Family History,” Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261 (2012), 22–25


President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency taught: “The process of finding our ancestors one by one can be challenging but also exciting and rewarding. We often feel spiritual guidance as we go to the sources which identify them. Because this is a very spiritual work, we can expect help from the other side of the veil. We feel a pull from our relatives who are waiting for us to find them so their ordinance work can be done” (“The Phenomenon That Is You,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 55).

In this lesson students will study the role of faith as it pertains to family history work and how exercising faith can bring inspiration from the Holy Ghost to assist them as they search out records of their kindred dead. You can strengthen their resolve to exercise faith so that they may receive personal revelation in the important tasks of identifying their ancestors and providing them the ordinances of salvation. This lesson can also assure students that worthy spirits in the spirit world appreciate our efforts in their behalf and are anxious for their temple ordinances to be performed.

Some Doctrines, Principles, and Gospel Truths

  • Effectively seeking out our kindred dead requires us to exercise faith in Jesus Christ.

  • As we proceed in faith, we can receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost to assist us in doing family history work.

  • The righteous desires of our ancestors in the spirit world may influence our family history efforts.

Suggestions for Teaching

Effectively Seeking Out Our Kindred Dead Requires Us to Exercise Faith in Jesus Christ

Write: “Faith is a principle of action and of power” on the board, and ask:

  • What does it mean to you that faith is a principle of action?

  • What does it mean to you that faith is a principle of power?

After several students have shared their responses, explain that as you go through this lesson students will benefit from considering what faith has to do with family history work.

Divide your class into three groups. Assign the members of each group to study one of the following scripture blocks:

  1. James 1:5–6; 1 Nephi 15:11; Doctrine and Covenants 8:1, 10; student manual heading “The First Vision is an example of asking in faith” (5.1.2). Importance of asking in faith.

  2. Alma 32:37–41; student manual heading “Faith is a gift of God” (5.1.1). Faith is nurtured through righteous actions.

  3. Mosiah 8:18; Ether 12:6, 16, 18; Doctrine and Covenants 35:8; student manual heading “Faith opens doors” (5.1.3). Miracles are wrought according to faith.

As students study their materials, ask them to consider answers to these questions:

  • What is the general principle being taught? (See italicized statements above.)

  • How would you apply family history work to the principle you studied?

After giving students time to report their findings, share this quotation by Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy:

Elder Kevin W. Pearson

“Desire, hope, and belief are forms of faith, but faith as a principle of power comes from a consistent pattern of obedient behavior and attitudes. Personal righteousness is a choice. Faith is a gift from God, and one possessed of it can receive enormous spiritual power” (“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 2009, 39).

Ask students:

  • What kind of “spiritual power” would you like to receive from the Lord as you work on family history?

  • What did Elder Pearson say we must do to receive this power?

  • How have you felt like the Lord has rewarded your faith in the past? (Answers here need not be directly related to family history work.)

Assure students that as they press forward with faith in the Lord and seek His divine blessings and guidance, they may receive the spiritual power that Elder Pearson spoke of in seeking after their kindred dead.

Note to teacher: Many of your students may be young and have many important commitments in their lives. Remind your class that all things are to be “done in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27). They do not need to spend an inordinate amount of time on family history work in order to receive the blessings discussed in this lesson.

As We Proceed in Faith, We Can Receive Inspiration from the Holy Ghost to Assist Us in Doing Family History Work

Write the following thought on the board:

As we proceed in faith, we can receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost to assist us in doing family history work.

Ask students:

  • How would you anticipate that the Holy Ghost might help someone involved in family history work?

Have a student read aloud from the student manual under the heading “Revelation comes in different ways” (5.2.3). As the student reads this commentary, have the rest of the class consider how the Holy Ghost might manifest Himself to those participating in family history work.

Note to teacher: You might consider using some of the references in the student manual heading “Scriptures to study and ponder” for this section to help your discussion of this important doctrine.

  • In addition to the ways we have already discussed, what other ways might the Holy Ghost give inspiration to you while you are doing family history work? (Possible answers are given below.)

    The name of a certain ancestor seems to occupy your mind.

    You may feel inclined to pursue a certain family line in your research.

    You could feel impressed to look for more information about a certain ancestor.

    You might be guided to look for information in a certain area or location.

    You might feel a sense of peace that an individual has accepted the temple work performed on his or her behalf.

    You may recall where certain information is stored.

    You may be led regarding whom you can ask for assistance and what questions to ask.

Consider dividing your class into four groups. Assign each group to read one of the accounts from the student manual under the headings “Guidance of the Spirit helps us to do family history” (5.2.4), “Are you not on the Lord’s errand?” (5.2.5), “A stirring within my soul told me there was something more I could do” (5.2.6), or “The name almost leapt off the page” (5.2.7). As students read, encourage them to write down words or phrases that indicate the individual was receiving inspiration and guidance from the Spirit. After sufficient time have students briefly share their stories with the class and tell how the Holy Ghost assisted the individual in each story.

Invite students to share how the Holy Ghost has already given them inspiration as they have worked on family history. Share your testimony of the reality of the third member of the Godhead and that as they proceed in faith, hope, and charity, they can receive His inspiration and assistance in doing family history work.

The Righteous Desires of Our Ancestors in the Spirit World May Influence Our Family History Efforts

Draw a circle on the board, and label the interior “Earth.” Draw another circle around the outside of the first circle, and label it “Spirit World.”

Have students turn to the student manual under the heading “We can receive guidance from beyond the grave” (5.3.1). Ask a student to read aloud the quotations from Elder Melvin J. Ballard (1873–1939) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Add “Us” in the inner circle; write “Our deceased ancestors” in the outer circle.

Point to the drawing on the board and ask:

  • In what ways can family history work connect us and our deceased ancestors? (Possible answers include: We receive blessings because of our efforts to help others in the spirit world; we turn our thoughts to them, as perhaps their thoughts are turned to us; if they are converted to the gospel, they need someone on earth to do the proxy work for them; when we complete ordinances for our deceased ancestors, generations are linked together.)

Invite a student to read the statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency from the introduction to this chapter. Ask students to explain what that statement means to them. (You could write it on the board.)

“We feel a pull from our relatives who are waiting for us to find them so their ordinance work can be done.”

Share with students that one possible meaning is that if we have deceased relatives in the spirit world who are ready for their ordinance work to be done on earth, we can be influenced through the Holy Ghost to feel eager to do their work. Or, we could have a lingering feeling that there is something we need to do next in family history work.

Have students silently read Moroni 7:35–37, looking for how these verses might apply to family history work. After students have shared their thoughts, you might share one of the stories from the student manual under the heading “The Righteous Desires of Our Ancestors in the Spirit World May Influence Our Family History Efforts” (5.3).

If you have one or more students in your class who seem filled with enthusiasm for family history work and work consistently at it, consider having them share with the class what they are doing, what successes they have had, and how they have felt the workings of the Holy Ghost within them as they do this work.

Conclude the lesson by sharing your testimony of the importance of demonstrating faith through obedience and persistent effort and of the role of the Holy Ghost as we participate in family history work. Invite students to take a few minutes to write down how they plan to apply the things they have learned in today’s lesson. Close the class by encouraging students to press forward with faith in their family history efforts and to act on the inspired thoughts and feelings that come to them regarding their efforts in behalf of their deceased relatives.