Indexing Mania

By Mindy Raye Holmes

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Going to the temple is not the only way to help redeem the dead. Take it from these youth who have learned a fun way to participate in family history.

After coming home from a Mutual activity one night, twins Garrett and Blake, 12, and older brother Trevor Gneiting, 15, raced to see who could get on the computer first. But it wasn’t games or surfing the Internet they were after. All three of them wanted to work on the FamilySearch indexing they had just been trained to do at a local family history center.

“We all enjoyed doing it,” Garrett says. “It was like a game we could always do because our mom couldn’t get angry about it.”

FamilySearch indexing is a way to help with family history by using a computer to get names off of records and make them available online for those searching for ancestors to find.

Providing this service is something that will affect many people because it helps those looking for their ancestors’ information so that it can be submitted to the temple.

“I know that I’m helping to find people that maybe wouldn’t have had the chance to have their work done,” says Amanda Pace, 18. “It’s cool to know that even if I don’t go to the temple for them myself, I can help them get there.”

Starting the Project

These youth and others from the Payson 20th Ward in the Payson Utah Mount Nebo Stake started indexing after their bishop challenged them to index 250 names each to qualify to go on a trip. He also extended the challenge to the leaders as well as the youth.

“We challenged them that we leaders could index more names than they could,” says Bishop Steven Pace. “The losers had to serve the winners dinner … and the leaders ended up serving the youth dinner.”

Four months after the challenge was issued, the youth had far surpassed the original goal of 250 names per person and had indexed more than 50,000 names altogether. The leaders realized the goal was too low and upped the challenge to 1,000 names, and they made the challenge not only between the leaders and youth, but also between the different quorums and classes.

“The priests quorum needs to pick it up,” says Kendall Little, 17, who has indexed more names than any of the other teens. “We don’t want to be one of the bottom two classes, because then we have to do dishes on the trip.”

Peeking at the Past

The youth were originally motivated by the competition, but now they say they do indexing because it’s fun, and they know they are helping those who lived before.

“I like to think about the people we are doing this for and how much they must appreciate it,” says Miranda Hyer, 14. “When I first started indexing, I thought they were just old people who lived a long time ago, but they’re not that different from us.”

One of the big differences between the times of the people in the records and today is the writing style used. The youth said the only hard thing about indexing is trying to figure out how the names are spelled when the writing is hard to read.

“Some of the cursive writing is like hieroglyphics,” says Jason Trauntvein, 12. “My mom would have to come and help me.”

Being able to distinguish names that were difficult to read taught the youth that they were doing the work of the Lord and that He was helping them.

Amanda says there were times when she would think she knew what a name was while she was indexing and then just have a feeling that it was something else. “Then I’d look at it again and I’d see that it clearly said the name I was feeling,” she says. “Those were really good experiences.”

Living in the Present

Having experiences helping those who lived in the past has also helped these youth strengthen their testimonies and live in the world today.

“Doing indexing helped show me the importance of temple work,” says Kendall. “I also know that God is willing to help us and give us the answers if we’ll just listen to Him.”

The willingness to provide this service is something that has changed them. And it’s also given them something worthwhile to do during their free time.

One time when Trevor had some extra time after taking a biology test in a class, he got on a computer and started indexing. Other students were on the computers playing games although the teacher told them not to. “The kids who were playing games got in trouble,” Trevor says, “but the teacher just told me to finish up my batch.”

The youth say being able to index names has been a satisfying endeavor, and counting the names they have indexed is way better than any score they could get on a computer or video game.

Looking to the Future

All of those names the youth indexed are real people who lived before, so there are thousands of Heavenly Father’s children being affected by their efforts with indexing, people Kendall says he hopes to meet one day.

“If you think about it, you’re kind of making lots of friends that you’re going to go meet eventually when you die,” he says. “Then they’ll all come and say, ‘Thanks for doing my name,’ because without you their work may have never been done.”

Receiving so many blessings has taught these youth and their leaders something many Church members have discovered: indexing is easy, fun, rewarding, and engrossing.

Using their computer skills, these teens have had some amazing experiences while indexing. Some have felt that they were receiving heavenly help as they worked. Others have discovered the significance of doing temple work.

Photographs by Mindy Raye Holmes and courtesy of Trudi Hyer