Chapter 6

Computers and Family History Research

“Chapter 6: Computers and Family History Research,” Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261 (2012), 26–28


Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the commission to do family history work has been made easier by new technology: “The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 475.] New technology makes it easier than ever to fulfill that responsibility” (“Generations Linked in Love,” Ensign, May 2010, 92–93).

This lesson focuses on computer resources that can help students do family history research. Students should already have been introduced to and encouraged to register online. Ideally, they will have gained at least some experience with the site by the time you teach this lesson.

From this point forward in the course, students should become increasingly adept at using FamilySearch to identify their deceased ancestors and to provide the saving ordinances for them in temples. You might start each class by allowing students some time to report their progress.

Some Doctrines, Principles, and Gospel Truths

  • The Spirit of the Lord has influenced technological advancements to further His work, including family history.

  • The Church’s family history department develops and maintains computer resources for family history research.

  • Other sources are available to help you progress in your family history research.

Suggestions for Teaching

Note to teacher: Because of the length and amount of material in this lesson, it is suggested that you take two class periods to teach this lesson.

The Spirit of the Lord Has Influenced Technological Advancements to Further His Work, Including Family History

Ask students:

  • About how many of Heavenly Father’s children live on the earth right now? (The current estimate of the world’s population is just over 7 billion.)

Draw a line on the board representing this population as shown:

number line
  • If this shaded area represents the total number of Heavenly Father’s children now living on the earth, how much of the line would represent the number of Heavenly Father’s children who are Latter-day Saints?

Draw a representation of the current Church membership (14–15 million) as shown:

number line

Ask students:

  • How are so few of us going to be able to bring the blessings of the gospel to so many of Heavenly Father’s children—both those who are living now and those who have lived in the past?

Note: Scholars have estimated that around 75 billion people have lived on the earth up until now. Also, students may benefit from reading President Brigham Young’s (1801–77) statement in the student manual under the heading “Modern inventions accelerate family history work” (6.1.1).

Note to teacher: In addition to the acceleration of the work because of computers and an increasing number of temples across the earth, you might also point out to students that “the great work of the millennium will be the temple ordinances for the dead who are worthy to receive it” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, ed. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:121). During the Millennium, the dead will be able to more freely help locate their records.

You may have a student ask, “Why not wait until the Millennium, since the research will be so much easier then?” There are various ways to respond to such an inquiry; the following information should be helpful:

Family history and temple work benefit the living to the extent that even if it failed to also assist the dead at all, it would still be of inestimable worth to the living. Family history work is a tutorial to keep our focus on the work of the Lord. Repeated experience in the temple keeps the sacred words of the endowment and sealing fresh in our memories. Every time we go to the temple for the dead, we have reviewed for us what Heavenly Father expects of us. Genealogical research and temple work also give us opportunities to experience increased guidance from the Holy Ghost.

After students respond, ask them to read Joel 2:28–29.

  • What did Joel prophesy would happen? (The Lord would “pour out” His Spirit.)

Tell students that President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) identified part of the fulfillment of this scripture about the Lord pouring His Spirit upon all flesh. Ask students to listen for what President Hinckley identified as you have a student read President Hinckley’s statement in the student manual under the heading “Ancient prophecies are being fulfilled” (6.1.3).

  • What did President Hinckley identify as part of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy? (Modern inventions.)

  • What inventions and technological improvements have you seen during your lifetime?

  • What would you say about the pace of technological advancement since the time your grandparents were your age?

  • How has the work of the Lord benefitted as a result of these technological advancements?

Note: If family history work is not mentioned, ask: “How has family history work benefitted as a result of technological advancements?”

Read the statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson from the student manual under the heading “Joel’s prophecy is being fulfilled” (6.1.4).

Indicate to students that in the October 2011 general conference of the Church, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles specifically addressed his remarks to the youth of the Church. Have a student read his comments from the student manual under the heading “Youth have skills to contribute” (6.1.5).

  • What reason did Elder Bednar give for youth of the Church to become more involved in family history work?

  • How have you found this to be true?

Testify that the Lord has increased the power and ability of worthy Latter-day Saints to help redeem the dead through inspired modern technology.

The Church’s Family History Department Develops and Maintains Computer Resources for Family History Research

If you have the classroom facilities to show demonstrations from the Internet, or if your class meets in a facility where computers are available for student use (such as a family history center), demonstrate or guide the students through several exercises on the FamilySearch website (

Note to teacher: This will require a large portion of time; perhaps one or more class sessions.

If you do not have classroom computer resources, do your best to explain (or have a family history consultant explain) some of the opportunities available on the FamilySearch website, and make assignments for students to practice at home (students should have already registered and started becoming familiar with the FamilySearch website from assignments in previous lessons).

Use some of the help or tutoring options as you demonstrate or move through the various screens of FamilySearch.

Other Sources Are Available to Help You Progress in Your Family History Research

This would be a good time to have a family history consultant in your area attend class to briefly introduce himself or herself and explain the purpose and calling of a family history consultant. (Be sure to receive approval for the visit from your S&I leader and from the consultant’s bishop.)

Ask if there is a student who would like to share how some of the resources provided by the Church have been helpful to him or her, or how a ward or branch family history consultant has helped him or her with family history work.