At RootsTech today, leaders of the family history department of the LDS church announced changes to the names of family history consultants. They will now be known as “temple and family history consultants.” The primary objective of temple and family history consultants will be “to assist members with a personalized one-on-one family history experience” which will enable them to perform temple ordinances (Temple and Family History Callings at LDS.org). See also Feb 9, 2017 Letter to Priesthood Leaders.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “All of our vast family history endeavor is directed to temple work. There is no other purpose for it. The temple ordinances become the crowning blessings the Church has to offer” (“New Temples Provide the ‘Crowning Blessings’ of the Gospel,” Ensign, May 1998, 88).
In the LDS General Session, Elders Bradley D. Foster, C. Scott Grow, Erich W. Kopischke, Eduardo Gavarret, and Ian S. Ardern of the Seventy shared their thoughts about how this change will help align the goals of family history and temple work more fully. They want members to have a spiritual experience with finding ancestors and then take that ancestor’s name to the temple to participate in “both halves of the blessing.” (see Howard W. Hunter, “A Temple Motivated People,” February 1995)
Elder Grow shared about his family’s reunion in which they discussed family history work. His 14-year-old granddaughter, who was asked to be a family history consultant in her ward, talked to the whole family about family history. She hadn’t received a lot of training, and didn’t know what to do, so she prayed about it.
Elder Grow said that they are hoping to have better training for new temple and family history consultants in the future.
Elder Foster emphasized that the family is responsible to conduct family history research and do temple work, not the consultant. The consultant is to guide and assist. The role of the consultant is to help people gather their families on both sides of the veil.
Elder Ardern agreed that family history is a family affair. He said that we should have mom and dad and the kids all involved.
The subject of memories came up. What role do photos and stories play in temple and family history work? Elder Foster’s answer was wonderful. He said, “memories help us get to know our ancestors. Though their bodies have died, they are still alive! We are just getting to know them.” Thinking about the spirits of our ancestors still existing after death is a powerful motivation to get to know them better through family history research.
Elder Ardern brought the conversation back to the importance of temple work when he said that the power of godliness is found in the ordinances of the priesthood. This work might start with family history, but it must end with temple work.
Elder Kopischke said that if we believe in the plan of salvation, then we go and do family history work. That’s when our belief becomes conversion. He told about one young woman who said, “I love my great grandmother. I just took her to the temple and had a great time.” This young woman never got to know her great grandmother in life, but was able to spend time in the temple with her through proxy ordinance work. Elder Kopischke asked, “Why do we have to do 10 or 20 baptisms? Why not just one? And learn something about them before we go to the temple for them.
Elder Foster asked Elder Kopischke, knowing what he knows now, what he would have done differently when he was a bishop. He mentioned some of the challenges that bishops face: helping youth stay converted, encouraging young adults to go on missions, and struggling families. Elder Kopischke said that the best way to help in these situations is to help people have special spiritual experiences finding ancestors and taking them to temple.
Elder Gavarret talked about preparing names for the temple with his first granddaughter when she reached age 12. Before they went to the temple, Elder Gavarret shared shared a little bit about each relative with her. It made a difference to her. When we talk about the stories behind the names, it makes a difference.
Elder Ardern also talked about his granddaughter. When he asked, “shall we talk about where you come from?” she leapt at the chance. They opened the family book and looked at the pedigree. She found herself on the tree and they followed her interests as they discussed. Elder Arden said that prophets have made promises that as children and youth engage in family history they have a better understanding of themselves and their patriarchal blessings, and are armed to better withstand the fiery darts of adversary.
Elder Kopischke said that kids don’t have to be 12 to prepare names for the temple, you can be any age. He shared an experience his extended family had playing a game with a big family tree they made and moving photos around while trying to figure out who’s who.
Elder Gavarret told about a unique way that his family preserves memories and connects with the new generation – creating a family newspaper. They share with relatives who are nonmembers and find that this is a way to establish a good relationship with nonmembers in their family.
Elder Kopischke said that no one wants to be alone in heaven – if you can’t interest your family in the gospel, you can at least do temple work for your ancestors so they’ll be there with you.
Elder Ardern said that nobody should feel alone when they do temple and family history work – and that’s what consultants are for. They have great power as they tap into prayer and listen carefully to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. This power increases as they engage other family members in the work. Family history is truly a family affair.
Lastly, these leaders spoke about the blessings they have noticed from doing temple and family history work. Elder Kopischke said he feels that his ancestors close-by helping and guiding him and giving him hints as he researches about them.
The direction of the family history department going forward this year can be summed up in the idea of “families gathering families” on both sides of the veil through focusing on the temple.