Saving our Families

Saving our Families

Family research shows how vital it is to teach our children about their family roots. Psychologist, Marshall Duke, conducted research demonstrating that children who have the most self-confidence have what he called a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ “They knew they belonged to something bigger than themselves,” said Dr. Duke. “The ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

In the Surrey BC Family History Centre, much is offered to help parents teach their children foundational family stories. Church-wide, more than 4,000 Church Family History Centres are operating. Now two Canadian centres, Surrey, BC and Brampton, Ontario, are among 26 Family History Centre pilot programs throughout the Church.

Sister Jeannie Vance, the Surrey Centre program director, has created family discovery activities and exploration bins to interest family members of all ages. “The Family History Department in Salt Lake gave us some concepts and possible activities, and then we were encouraged to follow the Spirit to develop what was needed in our area,” explains Sister Vance. “This means each centre has a different approach to helping people have those heart-turning experiences that make them want to seek out their ancestors, learn the stories and do the temple work.”

Regarding the program changes, Surrey Stake President Travis Wolsey said, “It is a tool to ignite excitement for family history, not just for searching out our dead, but also for gathering stories from living relatives - grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so forth.”

President Wolsey and his wife, Christine, prepared their children for an activity night at the Family History Centre by teaching them indexing skills. While in the centre, their seven-year-old, Nathan, enjoyed reading books, coloring pictures, and playing with pioneer games. Before the outing, 12-year-old Caroline completed her My Family booklet for a personal progress project.  During the visit, she entered information into Family Tree. Sister Wolsey scanned photos of Swedish and Finnish ancestors. Within 10 minutes, she inserted the pictures into her FamilySearch account and attached them to the ancestors’ names on her family tree. “This process of quickly scanning and uploading simplified the work and made it very much worth the trip!” said Sister Wolsey. “Our children all want to continue doing this work at home. When our 14-year-old son, Morgan, entered his information onto Family Tree, then Sister Vance taught him how to link all his father’s data to his own. Immediately, he had so much information on his family tree!”
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Sister Barbara McMullin, a ward family history consultant, explains that the Family History Centre has expanded to include two more classrooms accommodating the Family Discovery activities. “We invite families to use their own room together, where computers are wireless and movable,” she says.

There are pictures and activities to interest children, such as writing their own journals and learning about toys that their grandparents used. Sister Vance explains, “These activities transport the children’s interests from the centre to the home and extended family.” Young women, scout groups, older couples, and Primary children make use of the centre’s resources.

Earlier this spring, President Wolsey pondered how to help his stake members gain blessings promised in talks by church leaders Elder Richard A. Scott and Elder David L. Bednar. “They promise that we will be protected from the adversary as we are involved in family history work,” said President Wolsey. “I was excited to learn that in stakes where leaders, including high counselors, participate actively in family history, name submissions to the temple are double the average of stakes that do not have strong leader participation.” The stake president acted by inviting his high council to index 10 names, to visit the Family History Centre and to take an ancestor name to the temple within six weeks. In addition, he gave four assignments to all stake members that he called “The Elijah Project”, to be completed by November 1st. Concurrently, President Wolsey was excited that his stake was selected to participate in the pilot project expanding the Family History Centre to include Family Discovery activities. “The timing was good to put these two projects together,” he said.

Sister Myrna Olson, a ward family history consultant, emphasized the four goals of the Elijah Project. “The first goal is to do indexing of 100 names causing you to feel the Spirit of Elijah.” Members throughout the Church caught the vision of this important work on the Worldwide FamilySearch Indexing Day held July 20th. That evening, Sally and Keith Haysom organized a Ward Family Home Evening, with 55 members in attendance who indexed 1,997 names. Stake members continue their indexing projects completing and, in many cases, surpassing the goal of their stake president.

Second, members are asked to tour a Family History Centre with the new activities available. ”I can’t believe what is there!” exclaims Sister Olson. “There are great records available, there are seminars and activities for children. I go to the Family History Centre every week and recognize, see, and feel that the spirit of Elijah works there. It is not run by people, but people go there and listen to revelation to do their work.”
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The third goal of the Elijah project is to complete a four generation pedigree chart using the My Family booklet. “This booklet is a tool to gather family stories, then members enter the information at,” explains President Wolsey. “The stories are what connect us,” says Sister Olson. “They are like ties that bind us. Stories bind us more than charts and dates.”

The fourth goal is to take ancestor’s names to the temple for sacred ordinances. “That activity is the real purpose of the project,” says Sister Olson, “to do the temple work for our ancestors.”

“When you see the progress in these Elijah Project goals,” she explains, “it is like getting past the front porch when you visit a friend. You can go into the kitchen, into the halls, into the living room and there is so much there. The Family History Discovery Centre is more than just names, places and dates.”

President Wolsey explains, “Doing family history, indexing and Family Tree are all good activities, but it’s better when we do them to receive the promises of the prophets. This work will protect us as we become connected, sealing our families together in the temple. When our daughter took her aunt’s name to be baptized in the temple, she didn’t really understand what she would feel after this first temple experience. Afterward, she just kept saying over and over again, ‘I love you guys!’ That was the Spirit of Elijah touching her heart.”
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The work to connect generations is combined with a promise. President Henry B. Eyring wrote in the July 2014 Ensign First Presidency message: “I bear testimony that the feelings of love you have for your family members - wherever they may be - are a fulfillment of the promise that Elijah would come. He did come. Children’s hearts are turning to their fathers, and fathers’ hearts are turning to their children. When you feel the urge to find the names of your ancestors and take those names to the temple, you are experiencing the fulfillment of that prophecy.”