“Thousands Find Roots through Missouri Project,” Ensign, July 1979, 77–78
When it started, the project was just a good idea. But by the time it was done, nearly six thousand families in the Kansas City and Independence, Missouri, area knew more about their genealogy and more about the Church.
Bill Slamin of Kansas City, Public Communications council director, first got the idea not long before “Roots II” was shown on television nationally this winter. He realized that the genealogy-oriented TV program, telling of a black family’s history, would give the Church an opportunity to tell nonmembers about the genealogy program.
Brother Slamin, who produces media advertisements professionally, produced announcements for local radio and television stations to air while “Roots” interest was high.
Although he did the production work and made the contacts with the media, he didn’t work alone. President Edward A. Johnson of the Missouri Independence Mission helped plan and produce an information packet on genealogy Missionaries also helped. The presidents of the Kansas City and Independence stakes also supported the project and enlisted the help of stake members.
It worked simply enough: the announcement told listeners and viewers that if they wanted to learn more about how to trace their family tree, they could call a certain number. That number connected them to a bank of thirty telephones set up in the Independence Visitors’ Center and the Independence stake center. Manning those phones from 6 A.M. to midnight for three weeks were volunteers from the Independence and Kansas City stakes.
Some 5,900 persons within broadcasting range called the number and requested information. The information—the packets prepared by stake members and missionaries—came hand-delivered. Nonmembers living in the mission boundaries received the packet from missionaries working with members. Those living outside the mission either received it by mail or from missionaries serving in their locale.
“The first visit was strictly public-service,” says President Johnson. Missionaries and members delivering the packets explained genealogy work and answered questions. Those nonmembers interested in a second visit—and eighty percent were—had an opportunity to learn about the plan of salvation.
Every telephone call received a follow-up visit or packet from missionaries or members.
Several people who first learned about the Church through the genealogy approach have been baptized. “There are large numbers of people being taught,” President Johnson says. “There was a dual thrust—planting seeds of the gospel and establishing good will.” Many of those who called requesting information on genealogy work have actually done genealogy work now. Some also attend sacrament meetings and firesides and genealogy miniclasses conducted by members.
“As the program continues,” says President Johnson, “we have found that the Spirit of Elijah is in the hearts of a lot of people. Now rather than us asking if we can tell them about the gospel, they’re asking us.”