Motivational keynote addresses from entertainer and Utah native Donny Osmond and journalist A.J. Jacobs, who is organizing a Global Family Reunion, highlighted the third and final day of RootsTech 2015 Saturday.
Saturday’s events were largely comprised of “Family Discovery Day,” a track of sessions presented by general authorities and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which puts on the annual family history conference under the auspices of its Internet genealogy service, FamilySearch International.
Family Discovery Day swelled Saturday’s RootsTech attendance to well over 20,000, making it the largest family history conference in the world, with attendees hailing from 35 countries and 49 states of the union.
David Archuleta, pop singer and recently returned LDS missionary, and Studio C, a popular sketch comedy troupe and social media sensation from BYUtv, capped this year’s conference with a closing social that appealed to the several thousand youthful attendees at Family Discovery Day.
During a closing concert, an Archuleta music video was shown featuring a Spanish language song he composed expressly for RootsTech that conveyed the message of receiving a legacy from one’s ancestors. In the video, a young boy seems to see his deceased ancestor who helps him learn to play the guitar. At the close of the concert, Archuleta performed the song live for the audience.
In the morning keynote session, Jacobs, a New York Times writer and best-selling author, spoke about his efforts to organize a “Global Family Reunion.” Based on the idea that all living people are cousins to one another, the reunion will be held June 6 at the New York Hall of Science on the grounds of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. See www.globalfamilyreunion.com for more information.
He was followed by Osmond, who spoke of his 50-plus year international career in show business that began with his brothers in Ogden. He punctuated his speech with several songs. He paid tribute to his father, who, thrown out of the house in his early teens, made his way in the world by seeking a job with a local grocer, grew up to marry his sweetheart, raised nine children and became a success in life.
“If your parents are still with us, if your grandparents are still with us, take advantage of your opportunities to interview them," he said. "Take advantage of every moment so you have no regrets. Go to their home. Talk to them. Call them. We all have smartphones; I saw them when I was singing! Record audio, record video. FamilySearch has made it so easy to document these things and upload them.”
In a session for Family Discovery Day titled, “Gathering, Healing and Sealing Families,” Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Allan F. Packer and Elder Kent F. Richards, both of the Seventy; and Sister Neill F. Marriott of the Young Women general presidency spoke of the important role family history work can play in individuals’ lives, in their families and in their congregations.
Leaders spoke of the joy families will find as they research their family history and then take those names to the temple — together.
During the session, Elder Richards, director of the Temple Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that temples around the world would have a designated “Family Temple Time” to allow families to schedule time to attend the temple together.
“We have instituted family priority time at each temple, where time will be set aside in the baptistry for patrons to come as families,” Elder Richards said. “This will make it faster for families to perform baptisms together in the temple.”
The instruction has gone out to all temple presidents, the leader explained, adding that patrons can check on lds.org to find the days and times designated for families at their temple and call for an appointment.
Relief Society general president Sister Linda K. Burton joined the General Young Women presidency, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Sister Carol F. McConkie and Sister Neill F. Marriott, Sunday School general president, Brother Tad R. Callister and Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy and his four daughters for the session titled, “Gathering, Healing and Sealing Families.”
The leaders spoke of the importance of inviting all members of a family to participate in family history work — especially through the small and simple things. Each of the leaders shared stories of people who were able to do family history work — many of them youths — in an effort to “find, take and teach.”
As families seek, discover and find the names and the remarkable stories in their own family history they find lessons in the lives of their ancestors.
“Stories are a powerful means to covert a lifeless name to a living personality,” Brother Callister said. “They have the power to be sermons without preaching.”
As they take those names to the temple, they are able to connect their families, as well as teach others how to do the same.
In a session presented in Spanish, Elder Enrique R. Falabella, a member of the church’s First Quorum of the Seventy, declared, “Blessings don’t have feet! We must go to them. If we are to enjoy the wonderful blessings promised, we must take part in this great work. The possibilities are endless, and the promised blessings have great power.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared, “Our Father’s plan is about families, symbolized by a great tree. In order for a tree to live and grow, it needs both roots and branches. We likewise need to be connected to both our roots — our parents, grandparents and other ancestors — and our branches — our children, grandchildren and other descendants.”
In his session, which he presented with his wife, married children and their spouses and grandchildren, he said, “So much of family history work and the blessings that come to families as a result of this great work are done by and because of the faithful daughters of Eve. Without Eve and her daughters, there would be no family history, because there would be no family. Without the righteous influence of women, families would disintegrate, and social chaos would prevail.”
Contributing: Marianne Holman Prescott and Ryan Morgenegg