Kelley could not find Samuel’s wife. Kelley knew her name, but Samuel’s wife just wasn’t where she was supposed to be. It was like unraveling a mystery, and it was frustrating. “His wife had a nickname, and we had to get a special form for the census to get her record. Then we had to put their names in code before we asked for it. We would do these names in code, and then we were wrong, wrong, wrong.”
For a little while one Saturday afternoon in Anchorage, Alaska, Kelley Staats, a Beehive in the Anchorage Sixth Ward, got a taste of what doing family history was really like. Even though Kelley was having a hard time for a few minutes, she was actually having a great time figuring out how to find information from census, cemetery, immigration, and church records.
The family history experience was just one of the day’s activities held by the Anchorage Alaska Stake especially for the Beehives, all the 12- and 13-year-old girls in Young Women. The older brothers and sisters of these girls were attending their annual youth conference on the same weekend, but their Young Women leaders felt that the Beehives in the stake, while not yet old enough to attend youth conference, would have a good time and accomplish a lot in a day-long activity.
“Planting Temple Seeds” was the theme for the day. The stake center adjacent to the new Anchorage Alaska Temple was the selected location. The girls planned several activities all tied to their theme. Flowers needed to be planted on the temple grounds. The girls brought their gardening spades and enthusiasm for the project. They also were prepared to do baptisms in the temple. And they would also have the opportunity to fill out family group sheets and investigate family connections in the cultural hall, where tables represented different places and types of records that needed to be checked. It was a day to plant a lot of seeds, both literally and spiritually.
The Beehives of the Anchorage Alaska Stake are really grateful for having a temple so close. Until the temple was completed here, many of the girls had never had the opportunity of being inside a temple. But after the dedication in 1999, most have been able to perform at least one baptism.
Juli Thomas of the fifth ward describes the feelings she gets going into the temple: “It’s nice and quiet and very beautiful in there with all the paintings and the carpet and tiles. You feel the Spirit as soon as you walk into the font area. It’s kind of a warm feeling that washes over you. You feel good about what you’re doing and about yourself and about everything.”
Jessica Goodrich of the sixth ward described her first experience in the temple: “You walk in, and everything is white. I think it’s quite pretty and very quiet. The first time I went, everyone came up to me and said, ‘It looks like you’re enjoying this,’ because every time I was baptized, I’d come up with a huge grin on my face. It was just a happy feeling.”
Pulling on their gardening gloves, the girls divided into three large groups and took turns planting seedlings around the temple under the direction of the head gardener. After receiving some instructions, the girls dug in, literally. Rebecca Lamb of the fifth ward said, “It was neat planting the flowers because you know they will be pretty and everybody will want to look at them. It’s going to look really, really nice when everything is blooming.”
The groups loved planting flowers and making sure all the gardens around the temple were neat and weed free.
For the family history experience, the two organizers, Liz Seymer and Asti Liang, borrowed some real-life family histories from stake members. They wrote the stories, leaving out some important details but leaving in clues to help uncover these facts. From the clues given them, the girls had to figure out where they needed to go for more information. Around the cultural hall were tables and resource people. One had census records. Another represented cemetery headstones. Others represented the Church’s Family History Library and computerized records. If the girls asked the right question of the person in charge of the table, they were rewarded with the correct answer. But if they didn’t know the correct question to ask, they didn’t get an answer, just as in real life. They had to retreat and do a little more figuring.
Mounted on easels to one side were the photographs of the families the girls were researching, as if they were just waiting to be found. Hilary Ekstron of the sixth ward said, “Our group had to go to five different places just to find out one thing. But it was really interesting.” It was surprising how quickly the girls became involved in their “mystery” family as they were introduced to certain types of records and how information is recorded.
After a day of changing from casual clothes for digging in the dirt of the gardens to Sunday dress for temple attendance, the girls were pleased by the activities that day.
Bille Jean Leffler of the 10th ward said, “I thought it was going to be something where we just sat and listened. I didn’t know it was going to be this much fun being together. It’s nice.”