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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News Archives
Elder Richard G. Scott helped pioneer family history work from paper records to records on computer disks.

One of Elder Richard G. Scott's lesser-known contributions to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came in family history work, according to Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder.

Elder Scott, who died at age 86 on Sept. 22, directed the Family History Department from 1984-88.

Turley did not work in the same department at that time but interacted with Elder Scott on the Records and Reports Committee, chaired then by Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales, a future member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

At that time, Elder Scott, then a member of the Seventy, represented the Family History Department on the committee. Elder Dean L. Larsen, then-church historian and recorder and a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, represented the Church History Department.

It was during those years that family history work advanced from paper to computers, Turley said.

"Basically, his contribution was that he moved family history from the paper world to the computer world, particularly with the launch of FamilySearch on disks," Turley said. "He helped people go from paper records to tracking genealogy electronically through the Ancestral File and the International Genealogical Index."

Turley said Elder Scott organized a group of engineers and oversaw this difficult task.

"Building the systems that he oversaw was quite complicated," Turley said. "The engineering skill that he brought into the responsibility, combined with his sense of the spiritual nature of family history, allowed for the creation of a product that helped to advance family history in a way that would not otherwise have been possible at the time. He is really the one that got the average church member involved in family history using computers."

Even after Elder Scott left the Family History Department to accept another assignment, he maintained his association with Turley, who served as managing director of Family History from 1996-2008.

"He would invite me to his office and talk family history because he had been involved with it for so long," said Turley, who considered Elder Scott a mentor.

"He had launched the FamilySearch program on disks and was interested in family history products, even when he was not directly over the department. He wanted to be kept up to date. He wanted to understand the vision of what we were trying to do. He was very supportive. Having developed the FamilySearch program on disk, he was extremely supportive in our efforts to later move it to the Internet."

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