Following Elder Quinton L. Cook’s April 2014 General Conference message about engaging youth in family history research, Bishop Carlos Teixeira felt that he needed to do something about it in his ward. At the same time, Stake President Travis Wolsey initiated “The Elijah Project” to teach members about name indexing and family history so they would be moved to do their own temple work.
With that inspiration, Bishop Teixeira organized youth and family history leaders, who then initiated a boys-against-girls indexing challenge. The youth met the contest with excitement, putting aside less important activities to do indexing throughout the summer.
Writers for Canada.lds.org interviewed the youth as their indexing challenge was completed.
What were your first impressions about the youth indexing challenge?
Britney: We needed to beat the boys!
Michael: I figured out that this indexing is not just for older people. It is for everyone.
Ashley: Some of us thought, why are we doing this? It is so much work. But then it ended up being fun.
Heather: Each group took turns getting a boost with their numbers. But in the end the girls’ and boys’ indexing scores were pretty close.
How did Skyping help with your research?
John: Skyping helped us to teach youth who didn’t know how without having to wait for the next Sunday or youth meeting. Most of us didn’t know how to do obituaries. Kassel showed us on Screen Share how to do the work. After that, skyping allowed us to work together and help each other without having to actually meet, so that saved time. We live pretty far from each other.
Josh: I read about a lady who died when she was 112. She was a practicing doctor until she was 102! She figured out from her studies that sugar causes most diseases, so she lived with a sugarless diet. There was another story about a woman who made an amazing landing of her husband’s plane when he, as the pilot, had a heart attack.
Heather: I got to index an 1810 death record from Manchester England. It was difficult because half the people had died under the age of ten and the oldest was 42 years old. There were three newborns and several children five or six years old who died, so that was very emotional for me.
Ashley: When our youth went to the temple to do baptisms, I got a more common name. Usually I have a hard time remembering names, but this name I remembered. I felt that I had indexed this name! I was super excited as I did the baptism for her.
Amber: Indexing made me feel like I could do my part in the church.
Michael: Indexing was hard to figure out, but one day it became more interesting because I indexed the name of someone who developed an important vaccine. Not all the people are obscure. Many people made a difference in life!
Apar: I indexed a record where a baby died very young. I compared that to my own family because my dad’s brother just had a baby. I put myself in the place of this family and realized how sad that would be.
Kassel: I indexed an obituary of an 18-year-old youth. He played hockey at a high level and his debut was coming up. He died just one day before that important day.
Emma: In a record from Pennsylvania, four children died between two and four years old. I gained an appreciation for how our death rates are better now. We are blessed to not lose our family members when they are young.
John: I indexed a name of a person who was told he should not play sports because of health concerns, but he kept at it and made it to the Paralympics.
Britney: I indexed three to four people who had my last name, Vicente. That made me want to prepare names for the temple for my own family.
Sidney: I learned about a lady who died after she was a widow at 101 years old. She had 40 children. All of them were young when they died.
What did you see as a result of the youth indexing challenge?
Ashley: We were more motivated to be a part of activities and excel at this. We had more attendance to our young men and young women meetings. One person indexed 8,000 names in one week!
Denielle: It was exciting that we were able to index 35,394 names in about a month and a half. We’re a small group, so imagine what a larger group could do!
Sheral: My 18-year-old cousin recently died. We’re going to take her name to the temple.
Chelsie: During my summers, I usually don’t do a lot of productive things. Since we received this challenge, I found I grew closer to Heavenly Father and closer to the youth in my ward. Family history activities helped my testimony grow. This is missionary work for those who have died. It is one of the bigger ways we can hasten the work.
Sister Walton: I had done some indexing before but had set it aside for a while. During the youth challenge, knowing that what I did counted for our girls’ numbers, made me get back into indexing.
Brother Sewell: Competition helped me to do more indexing than I would have done. I would take my first 10 minutes before work to index, and rather than going home to watch TV, I would do a batch of indexing.
Brother Santos: I saw youth excitement, and great bonding. I saw youth happy and changing habits to do productive work.
Sister Santos: I remember telling a friend that this is my favorite calling, working with young women. I looked for a way to help youth stay on the right track. The answer came when I heard Elder Bednar tell us that when youth to do family history, we can keep them safe. I see this as a big possibility to help the young people. Our youth really love this indexing. How productive their summer was! Even if I wanted to stop them from indexing they wouldn’t because they are having so much fun!
Bishop Teixeira: Indexing has brought our youth close to each other better than any other activity save treck or temple trips. Their countenances shine! I’m less worried about them. So are their leaders and parents. Isn’t that wonderful? (Many youth nod.) I saw their self-confidence grow, I saw spirituality increase, influence toward better choices, unity and camaraderie in their youth groups, and much joy as they competed, sharing worthy goals together. And the adults in our ward are doing indexing and family history because youth inspired them!
What would you youth say to others after this experience?
“We challenge everyone in our ward to double our number to see how much one ward can do. Now the Primary and the adults are indexing, too!”
“We extend a challenge to other youth groups to double the number of names we indexed!”