PROVO — Rachel Bybee first became interested in family history when she researched her ancestors in preparation for a pioneer trek. The 16-year-old from Spanish Fork, Utah, then participated in an indexing project at a mutual activity. That led her to organize an indexing class for a Young Women personal progress project. An opportunity came for her to assist a friend as he arranged an indexing event for his Eagle Scout service project. That was followed by another family history personal progress project. When Bybee learned that BYU was hosting its 45th annual Family History and Genealogy Conference July 30-Aug. 2, she was thrilled to register and attend with some friends.
“I came to the realization that these are real people. It’s fun. I love the stories,” Bybee said. “Parts of my family history are blank and still need to be discovered. I really want to get my family into it. This conference has helped me learn ways where I could involve people and record my history for the future.”
Bybee’s is one example of many Latter-day Saint youths who are engaging in family history work and having fun, meaningful experiences.
In the October 2011 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of Twelve, invited “the young people of the church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah.”
“I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead. And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories,” the apostle said in his 2011 remarks. “As you respond in faith to his invitation your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”
In the October 2012 conference, Elder Richard G. Scott, also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said Russian teens were invited to each index 2,000 names and then qualify at least one name of their own family for temple ordinances. Those who accomplished the goal were invited to travel to the new Kyiv Ukraine Temple. Elder Scott related the story of one young man who found family history to be more fun than computer games.
“When I started indexing, I didn’t have time to play games. When the project was over, I even lost interest in gaming,” the young man said. “Genealogy work is something that we can do here on earth, and it will remain in heaven.”
Following Elder Scott’s remarks, the First Presidency sent a letter to priesthood leaders in the church that encouraged “youth and young single adults to use for temple work their own family names or the names of ancestors of their ward or stake members.”
The overall response from young people since Elder Bednar’s invitation has been terrific, said Dennis Brimhall, the managing director of the LDS Family History Department and familysearch.org.
“What we've discovered is that almost spontaneously the youth have found an interest in family history because they have matched their technology skills with something they perceive as having real value," Brimhall said. “This is a bit of a sweet spot for our youth."
Last March, nearly 2,000 teenagers participated in a special youth-oriented program held in conjunction with the RootsTech 2013 Family History and Technology Conference in Salt Lake City. During the event, six young men and women participated in a panel discussion and described their experiences regarding family history and temple work.
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