“Introduction,” Introduction to Family History Teacher Manual: Religion 261 (2012), v–viii

This manual is designed to assist you with lesson preparation by providing introductory information to the chapters, identifying scriptures and gospel principles, and suggesting ways you can help students understand the doctrines and apply them in their lives.

If you are not well trained in family history but have the responsibility to teach this course, you need to become familiar with the Church’s family history website: You will benefit from reading the introductions and working through the tutorial exercises available on You also need to become familiar with other resources that are available as you teach this course, such as the Brigham Young University Religion 261 website:

You should be familiar with the techniques you will encourage your students to use. Take time to learn the current methods for recording and submitting family history information.

Purpose of the Teacher Manual

This teacher manual is intended to serve as a resource for both newly called teachers with little teaching experience and teachers with years of experience. Select those teaching ideas that best meet the needs of your students. Feel free to adapt them to your teaching style, but also be willing to try the teaching approaches found in the manual. You will undoubtedly have your own ideas that can be easily adapted into the prescribed lesson material. The 12 lessons in this course fall into two main categories: (1) The doctrinal framework underlying why we do work pertaining to redeeming the dead, and (2) The activities and methods related to doing family history research and temple work—what to do and how to do it. As the course progresses, it presents doctrinal lessons interspersed with lessons on how to do family history work.

How This Manual Is Organized

Religion 261 is designed to be taught in a single semester. This manual contains 12 chapters, each with a corresponding chapter in the Religion 261 student manual. If your class meets twice a week, each lesson should last approximately 50 minutes. If you teach once a week, adapt the course material to your individual teaching circumstances. Because most institute classes meet for more than 12 class periods, more than one class period could be used to study a lesson—in particular, some of the “how to” lessons will work better if they take more than one class period to teach. It is also intended that much of the class time may be devoted to actually doing family history research.

There are three sections to each lesson in this manual:

  • Introduction

  • Some Important Doctrines and Principles Developed in This Lesson

  • Suggestions for Teaching


The introduction highlights general themes contained in the lesson and will help you gain an initial vision of the overall lesson.

Some Important Doctrines and Principles Developed in This Lesson

This section contains a list of central doctrines, principles, and other ideas developed in each lesson. In addition to the doctrines and principles identified in the manual, you might know other important truths and be prompted to teach them. This is your prerogative as the teacher and may be necessary for you to meet the needs of your students and to follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Before teaching additional principles, however, you should survey the other lessons in the manual. If a principle or doctrine is not addressed in a particular lesson, it may be presented in another lesson that supports the topic more completely.

Suggestions for Teaching

This section develops each of the identified doctrines and principles with specific teaching suggestions. As the teacher you should adapt the lesson suggestions to fit classroom organization, meet student needs, observe time constraints, and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

Decide What to Teach

The Holy Ghost will be more likely to guide you in determining what to teach if you first take time to become familiar with the content of the prescribed lesson material and identify and understand key doctrines and principles. Inasmuch as there are several doctrines and principles developed in each lesson, decide what level of emphasis to give each segment of the lesson. As you seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost, He will help you determine the needs of your students and how to use the materials in this manual to meet those needs. Students will probably be eager to learn how to research and what to do to locate necessary information as quickly as possible. If students understand the doctrine of redeeming the dead, they are likely to want to research information pertaining to their kindred dead. Because of the importance of both of these issues, the doctrinal and practical (how-to) lessons in this manual have been interspersed. This will help students deepen their doctrinal understanding as they proceed in learning how to do research.

As you teach this class, think like a beginner. Many of your students will have little or no knowledge about how to proceed with family history work. Most students will likely be anxious to find a name in their ancestry to take to the temple. Help them get to the computer for family history name preparation as quickly as possible. As the teacher of this course, one of your goals should be to help each student prepare a family name for the temple and, where possible, do the work in the temple for that individual.

Decide How to Teach

Remember the role of the student as you select different teaching methods for a lesson. Speaking to religious educators, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

“Make your objective to help students understand, retain, and use divine truth. Keep that objective foremost in every aspect of your preparation and teaching. …

“… Assure that there is abundant participation because that use of agency by a student authorizes the Holy Ghost to instruct. It also helps the student retain your message. As students verbalize truths, they are confirmed in their souls and strengthen their personal testimonies” (“To Understand and Live Truth” [an evening with Elder Richard G. Scott, Feb. 4, 2005], 2–3). A worthwhile goal for the course would be for you to expect students to be spiritually mature and to take their role as learners seriously.

When preparing to teach, consider the difference between a teacher-centered approach and a student-centered approach. There is a big difference between a teacher who asks, “What will I do in my class today?” and one who asks, “What will my students do in class today?” Or, “What will I teach today?” and “How will I help my students discover what they need to know?” The second approach produces deeper, longer lasting, and more meaningful learning than the first. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Encourage students to read assigned sections of the student manual before each lesson.

  • Ensure that teaching methods are in harmony with the message being taught and are conducive to the influence of the Spirit.

  • Establish relevancy and purpose. When students see the relevance of what they are studying to their own situations and circumstances, they are generally more motivated to learn and apply gospel teachings.

  • Give students the opportunity to ask and answer questions. The use of good questions is a valuable tool in helping students take responsibility for their learning. You may wish to invite them occasionally to come to class with a question written down. Help students see that the questions they ask in class may prove to be more important in the learning process than questions asked by the teacher.

  • Create an environment where students feel the Spirit of the Lord and have the privilege and responsibility to teach and to learn from one another (see D&C 88:78, 122). Avoid using lecture as the main teaching method. Instead, use a variety of methods and approaches. Allow students to discover truths by guiding them to truths you and others have found. Provide opportunities for students to explain, share, and testify of what they are learning and experiencing.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that effective teachers help students find answers for themselves: “I have observed a common characteristic among the instructors who have had the greatest influence in my life. They have helped me to seek learning by faith. They refused to give me easy answers to hard questions. In fact, they did not give me any answers at all. Rather, they pointed the way and helped me take the steps to find my own answers. I certainly did not always appreciate this approach, but experience has enabled me to understand that an answer given by another person usually is not remembered for very long, if remembered at all. But an answer we discover or obtain through the exercise of faith, typically, is retained for a lifetime” (“Seek Learning by Faith” [an evening with Elder David A. Bednar, Feb. 3, 2006], 5).

Use inspiring stories and quotations about family history, and invite class members to share success stories from their own experience.

Student Manual Commentary

The Introduction to Family History Student Manual contains valuable commentary by General Authorities and officers of the Church. Numerous teaching ideas in this manual refer you to the commentary found in the student manual. Encourage students to use this resource both in class and out.

Each chapter of the student manual concludes with a “Questions to Ponder” and “Suggested Assignments” section. Many of these questions and activities can be adapted into teaching ideas for use in class.

Computers and Family History Research

You will need to assess the computer needs and capabilities of your students and the availability of computer facilities in your area. Some institutes have access to stake family history libraries and have received permission from appropriate priesthood leaders to use those facilities for institute family history classes. Depending on where you live, many of your students may own their own computers and will be able to bring them to class. Consult with your institute director, local priesthood leaders, and students to determine whether your students will practice doing family history work on their home computers, personal laptops, stake computers, or a combination of these.

This teacher manual does not address the specifics of computer programs and procedures for doing family history work. Technologies change too rapidly for a printed manual to stay current. By the time an institute manual is printed, some procedures may have already been upgraded or eliminated. The Church Family History Department is continually improving and simplifying the computer process for research and name submission for temple ordinances. This manual does recommend some websites, but these too may become outdated or otherwise change over time. should be the primary computer source for students to use in gaining practical experience.

You should incorporate computer activity into this course as best fits the computer situation and needs of the students in your location. Plan to get students working on computers as early as possible in the course.

Adapting the Manual to Those with Disabilities

When teaching students with disabilities, adapt the lessons to meet their needs. For example, many lessons require students to read either aloud or silently and to write responses on paper. To adapt to nonreading students, you might consider reading aloud yourself, having fellow students read, or using prerecorded materials to narrate the scriptures (such as an mp3, CD, or audiocassette). When lessons call for written responses, you might encourage oral responses instead.