For the month of March 2021, our ward had a focus month encouraging temple and family history work for our ward members and new converts. I was first asked by a member of our bishopric back in February if I would be willing to head these activities for March, and to be honest I said, “No, please, anyone but me!” I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer the members of my ward because to that day I had never indexed or looked for a name to take to the temple.
Up to that point I had been coasting because I have two grandmas who are dedicated to family history. I felt I was doing my part by being the good granddaughter who would take their stack of names to the temple and do proxy baptisms and initiatory ordinances. After a lot of humming and hawing, I decided I would accept the calling.
New Ways to Encourage Temple and Family History Activity
So, knowing nothing about family history, I decided to try and make it fun. Because of COVID-19, we had some ward budget left from canceled activities. I was able to get some gift cards together to use as weekly and month-end prizes. Everyone would be able to participate at home or online in whatever capacity they were comfortable.
These challenges were announced on Sundays and posted on our ward Facebook page weekly. For example, one week the goal was to go to the temple grounds and just be there. Another activity was to call a parent or a grandparent and ask them to tell you about an ancestor. We also had challenges for the whole month: like indexing 200 names and making sure ward members had a current temple recommend.
Some of the challenges were the big ones like finding a name, but most of them were the small things like reading or watching a talk, making sure they had four generations on their family tree, posting about an ancestor on their Facebook page, attending one of our activities, and inviting people to the activities, which also encouraged missionary work.
At the end of the week, they would message me what challenges they had done, and I kept a tally of their completed challenges. We’d have winners at the end of every week that were drawn out of a hat, and we had overall winners at the end of the month for who had done the most challenges.
Assessing Our Needs
To assess what needs there were in the ward, I did a poll on Facebook of members who wanted to learn more, and those who felt like they had a pretty good Idea of what they were doing in family history. We had a small activity for those members and new converts who wanted to learn more and be taught by our temple and family history consultant. Members who reported that they knew what they were doing would also walk around and give support. So, everyone had hands-on help.
We also had a sacrament meeting dedicated to temple and family history work. We used a second hour block to teach people about indexing and give members a place to come and index and ask questions. It was really cool to see people who actually had questions or were stumped and wanted to learn and get the chance to do that in an open environment.
All our efforts took our ward’s previous months numbers from 50 indexed names to over 1600 names. We found 10 names to take to the temple, and two of our recent converts now have a family history account with members of their family on their tree. It felt good to see an increase in our ward’s participation in temple and family history work. I think giving members a place and direction to work on family history plants seeds of faith that, as we know, will grow over time (see Alma 32).
Strengthening My Testimony of Temple and Family History Work
In my own experience, I decided to visit my grandma and ask her about her research. My grandma is normally as tough as nails, but when I went to her and expressed that I wanted to learn more about my family history, my grandma cried. After I recovered from the shock of making my grandma cry, she told me that she had been praying for her grandchildren to have the desire to participate in family history work.
My grandma is a convert, and all her beloved ancestors never had the opportunity to hear the gospel on the earth. She takes it as her personal responsibility to them to give them the chance to be baptized and make those covenants so that they can have everlasting life and be sealed to their loved ones for time and all eternity. Those ancestors mean so much to my grandma, to her parents, and to their parents.
Up to this point, I had been acting like I didn’t care about them. I have never met any of them, including her parents who died young. I had learned, though, that it is our duty to serve those people who crossed oceans, broke prairies, and paved the way for the lives we are so lucky to live today. It is the least we can do to give them the same opportunity as us to have the option of exaltation in the celestial kingdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:23).
I am so grateful to have the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. I know that the Prophet on the earth today is President Russel M. Nelson, and what he and the other Apostles tell us is the word of God.
I am so grateful that I was taught by my parents about the gospel and that we have the charge to share that with the living and the dead. I know that our Saviour died on the cross so we can try again to be better and do better. I am so grateful that I am sealed to my family for eternity. Because of all the hard work my grandmas have done, we will have the chance to be reunited as generations because of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.