In the October 2011 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder David A. Bednar challenged youths throughout the church to get involved with family history work now.
“Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people. But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults," said Elder Bednar, who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. "You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family.”
Since that time, many youths have discovered family history work has a valid place in their lives.
“My patriarchal blessing said I would be involved in family history work, and I originally thought it would be when I was old and wrinkly,” said Meagan Twitchell, 18, of Centerville.
After her bishop asked her to work as a family history consultant in her ward, she realized family history work is for everyone.
“It’s not just about finding names to take to the temple. It’s about finding people you are related to, hearing their stories and finding out who they are,” Twitchell said. “We’re finding people, we’re finding other children of God who we can help. And that’s a great blessing to do.”
Searching out family stories also pulled in David Turley, 26, of Salt Lake City. He had to interview someone in his family as an assignment for an institute class and felt strongly he should talk to his grandmother.
"A couple of weeks later she passed away, and besides what I had done, no one had recorded her family history,” Turley says. “It wasn’t much, but I had her testimony and some fun stories from her that I could share with the family.”
After that experience, Turley says he realized the importance of recording his family’s stories now.
“Even though I am young,” he says, “many of the people I love and care about are old. Someone has to do some interviews and talk about it, or they will pass away and we won’t have the chance.”
Since recording his grandmother’s history, Turley has also had success researching family names. He went back three generations and found enough names for many of his extended family to have a family night at the temple.
“We thought the work had been done forever, but it was wonderful to do it knowing that these people had been waiting for years,” Turley said. “It’s amazing what you can find when you just sit down to do it (family history work).”
“It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies,” Elder Bednar states in his talk. “Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord — not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”
FamilySearch.org is the LDS Church’s family history site where anyone can create an account and start researching their family history and preparing names to take through the temple.
Jessica Hunt, 19, of Pleasant Grove, says she knew about the site because her father works as one of the programmers for FamilySearch. But it wasn’t until she jumped in herself and started exploring that she discovered how exciting family history work could be.
“I found over 300 people whose temple work hasn’t been done,” Hunt says. “I think it’s really neat because you wonder how long they’ve been waiting. It’s nice to know you can get it done.”
“Parents and leaders, please help your children and youth to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah,” Elder Bednar said. “But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves. Any young person can do what I am suggesting, using the modules available at lds.org/familyhistoryyouth.”
Julianne Zabriskie, 15, of West Mountain, Utah County, said the best advice is to just start. “It’s not that hard to get started. And once you do, it’s a great Sunday activity or just something to do.”
Julianne and her brothers, Chase and Parker, have all had success finding names to take to the temple.
“Just pray about it and ask for help,” 14-year-old Chase said. “You will know what to do and how to do it.”
“Thinking about who you’re doing it for and why you are doing it for them helps,” added Parker, 12. “You can talk to plenty of people who know how to do it.”
Twitchell agrees there are plenty of people available to encourage you along the way. For her, it was through other family history consultants that she had her questions answered and testimony strengthened.
“The other family history consultants in my ward have helped me realize what family history work really is,” Twitchell said. “It’s finding stories and finding people.”
Melissa Draper lives in Payson, Utah, with her husband and their three children. Her passions include being a wife and mother, writing, running and music.