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Family history mission leads to family, ward blessings for one convert

By Emily Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 25 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

First, we grouped the youths into teams, with the young men separate from the young women. To emphasize the meeting of generations, each team had a representative from each quorum or class: each had a deacon, a teacher and a priest, with the same pattern applied to the teams for the young women (a Laurel, a Mia Maid and a Beehive).

Next, the bishopric assigned members — active and less active — to each team. They first assigned the families of the youths to their own teams, then divided the other members among all the teams. They were careful to make sure each team got at least one less-active family.

Once the teams were organized, we needed to train the youths. We first held a fireside to talk about family history and related promises (for help and blessings). We talked about simple doctrine, reviewing recent talks and teachings. The youths brought laptops and other devices, and we made sure they each could sign on to FamilySearch successfully. They split into groups, with those who already knew how to research teaching the others.

We provided the youths with a simple form that helped them call each of their assigned families and explain the project. Those families that declined the invitation to participate were not contacted again about the project. The families that agreed to participate were asked if they had access to computers and Internet, and appointments to visit were scheduled. When the youths went to visit each of these families, they made sure of the following three things:

  1. Everyone in the family was able to sign on to FamilySearch and knew how to use it.
  2. The family could successfully enter at least three generations back.
  3. The family found at least one new name that needed temple work completed.
Any families who wanted more help with research were given as referrals to the ward family history consultants, and the less-active families or others who wanted further help were given as referrals to the ward missionaries.

Bridget was a member who appreciated the special connection she felt to her family through this youth project. She said, “It was a heartwarming experience to find my ancestors. I felt the Spirit with me as I saw the names of my long-dead family. … I was thrilled to find information about my husband’s family and that someone had been working on his line as well.”

Ninety-three percent of the youths participated, including less-active youths. Out of 243 households, 178 chose to be visited by the young men and young women. Of the families the youth visited,

  • 22 percent had never signed on to FamilySearch and were then able to do so;
  • 46 percent had never entered their information onto Family Tree and were then able to do so;
  • 40 percent asked for further help with ancestry work;
  • 11 less-active families were referred to the missionaries for further information about help returning to church.
The project was so successful that five other wards in our stake repeated the process using the same pattern and getting similar results.

This experience prepared many of the high school seniors heading straight to their missions by teaching them how to use FamilySearch and how to show others how to use the site. It taught practical skills for these future home and visiting teachers, as they called to make appointments and went together on a visit. It helped the youths develop the desire to learn about their own families and actively contribute to their collective progression.

The project culminated in a special ward temple trip to the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple, where we as a ward researched and brought all our own family names for each of the ordinances. We scheduled it such that our ward also provided the workers for the sessions, and many new temple workers were called. Many special experiences were shared.

Grief has been hard since I lost my mother, but I remember the difference I felt after doing my father’s work. I know that in five months, when we are able to do the temple ordinances for my mother, that same deep peace will come. It is beautiful to be able to keep that promise and complete the work of our goodly parents. It is the one good thing that I can do for them.

For me and my brother, it will be a miracle to be sealed to our parents. We are converts and do not take it lightly. It is the turning of hearts to the parents, even as we feel their hearts turn to us. It is the restoration of love and the sealing of healing.

For more information about serving a family history mission, please visit familysearch.org/mission or email mission@familysearch.org.

Emily Christensen lives with her husband in Oklahoma. Her doctorate is in marriage and family therapy and she is pursuing a second degree in Hebrew and Jewish studies. Her blog is housewifeclass.com and her email is housewifeclass@gmail.com.

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