1 of 14
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
RootsTech attendees examine the many vendors at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

Now that nearly 200,000 people from more than 40 countries around the world (both in person and online) have experienced RootsTech 2017, a family history and technology conference with its overall theme of finding, celebrating and strengthening family connections, Latter-day Saint leaders and FamilySearch have one more message to share.

"Go try this at home," Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of FamilySearch told the Deseret News in an interview. "The home is our real target place, the ultimate family history center."

Whether it's making something delicious in the kitchen, singing around the piano, or working on a project together, exploring traditions that bring families together is what RootsTech organizers hope people will do when they return home, Rockwood said.

RootsTech was hosted at the Salt Palace by FamilySearch, a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It offered the latest innovations in genealogy technology as well as news, encouragement and support from church leaders regarding family history work.

Wider audience

Content from the conference, including video files of events and many classes of all levels, will be made available online at rootstech.org and through thousands of localized Family Discovery Day events in communities around the globe, said Elder Bradley D. Foster, executive director of the LDS Church's Family History Department.

"RootsTech is a production center for content so it can go out to family discovery centers and church members," Elder Foster said. "Everybody can have an experience."

New calling

In addition to supplying RootsTech content, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a change to the calling of family history consultants. While speaking at RootsTech, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the calling will now be "temple and family history consultants."

"To simplify our efforts in finding names and taking them to the temple — going forward, all family history consultants, center directors and indexing directors at all levels will now be called 'temple and family history consultants,'" Elder Cook said in a leadership meeting, according to an LDS Church News article. "These temple and family history consultants will be instructed to always work with the end in mind — assisting members in taking their family names to the temple. New training will be available on the website."

In an hour-long video, Rod DeGiulio, vice president of Priesthood Area Support for the Family History Department, discussed the new calling and three tools designed to assist in the work.

First, the Family History Leadership Guide, which will be available in the Gospel Library app by April, will provide information and links to training content.

Second, local leaders can record progress and set goals in new Family History Activity Reports, located in LDS Tools under "Leader and Clerk Resources," also accessible on lds.org.

Third, by clicking "Help Others" from the "Get Help" menu at the top right corner of FamilySearch.org, consultants can use "The Consultant Planner" in their work with individuals and families to assemble their family tree in FamilySearch.org and prepare names to take to the temple.

"(Family history work) is all about families gathering families, on both sides of the veil," Elder Foster told the Deseret News. "The power of families gathering families eliminates barriers and unleashes incredible power. You have to experience it personally to understand it."

Missionary work

While LDS Church leaders hope the calling change brings more focus on the temple, it will also open doors for missionary work and strengthen the faith and testimonies of new converts, Elder Foster said.

In his remarks during a leadership session at RootsTech, Elder Foster explained that only 25 percent of LDS Church members can trace their ancestry back four generations. Among new converts, the figure drops to 2 percent.

"When people, new converts, go to the temple shortly after the retention rate is phenomenal," Elder Foster told the Deseret News. "When new converts go to the temple for their own family members, here’s what they begin to think 'I’m not the only member of this church. I’m helping my family join this church.'"

In his leadership session remarks, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reinforced the need for members and missionaries to use family history as a missionary tool.

"Experience has shown that new converts become zealous missionaries. If we do this correctly, they will become zealous missionaries with effects on both sides of the veil and they will endure to the end and qualify for their own exaltation," Elder Renlund said. "When members and missionaries work together, great things will happen."

Invitation

With more temples dotting the earth and advanced technology, "this is the most blessed time in all history" for family history work, Elder Cook said in the leadership session.

"One of our major, if not our principal emphasis this evening, is to have leaders not only teach what needs to be done (the doctrine is relatively simple), but also if we are to be successful, we need to teach the promised blessings that flow as a result of uniting eternal families by doing family history and temple ordinances for those on the other side of the veil," Elder Cook said.

In giving a keynote address with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, on Family Discovery Day, President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said "exaltation is a family affair."

"We are to be strong links in the chains from our ancestors to our posterity," President Nelson said during the event. "If our collections of photos and stories should ever become an endpoint in themselves, if we know who our ancestors are and know marvelous things, but we leave them stranded on the other side without their ordinances, such diversion will not be of any help to our ancestors who remained confined in their spirit prison."

President Nelson concluded by inviting Latter-day Saints to make a sacrifice for their departed loved ones.

"I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of sacrifice, and preferably a sacrifice of time, you can make to do more family history and temple work this year."