Tamra Stansfield, director of the Family History Library, spoke at RootsTech today about helping LDS church members turn their hearts to their ancestors with one-on-one guidance at the family history center. She encouraged the family history center directors and consultants present to use the Spirit and their experience (or lack thereof) to help people accomplish what they want to do. Her class was titled, “Family at the Center: Making the Family History Center a Sacred Place.”
Tamra shared that when she gives tours of the FHL, nonmembers ask, “why do you do this and why do you do it for free? ” She answers, “Because we believe in families and we believe we are affected by those who went before us.”
How did the Savior teach? He taught to the level of the person. He said “come follow me.” Do what I do. He could have put on a dazzling display, but that would have left his followers behind. We can ask, how can we serve more like our Savior? We are commissioned to help people turn hearts to ancestors, and we can do this more effectively if we make this a prayer led experience.
There’s an innate pull within everyone to know their ancestors but there’s a big gap between that desire and the steps it takes to prepare a name for the temple:merging duplicates, adding a source, etc. Tamra shared that this one-on-one program that they will share today is building a bridge from the desire to know ancestors, to finding a name for the temple. Helpers shouldn’t stand in front of the person and tell them to follow, nor should they stand behind and say, “go over there.” Helpers should walk with them over the bridge. As the learner uses their agency and chooses what to do, the helper goes with them and answers their questions. They guide and give what is needed but nothing more.
Tamra shared a video from Sheri Dew, a beginner to family history, in which Sheri shared that her family history consultant helped the most by not making her feel dumb when she asked so many questions. Sister Dew also said that her consultant helped by giving her a small assignment do work on after their session.
Tamra shared a video with family history consultants in Mexico sharing what worked for their family history center. They used a one-on-one experience and individualized lesson plan. One sister said, “If one teaches a large group, no one will finish with a name to take to the temple. If you do it one-on-one, then it becomes easy.”
Tamra said that people need to feel welcomed and safe in our FH centers. She invited Jill, a FH center director from Texas, to share ideas that have worked in her FH center. She said that they madee their center a cozy, welcoming place by inviting members to bring photos of their ancestors to frame and put on the wall, making it look more like a home. She shared several stories about how praying for help and doing “presearch” before meeting with someone creates wonderful success. One man whose family history was “all done” asked Jill to help him find someone in his tree who needed temple work. She prayed and was led to find a daughter of the man’s ancestor who died. She shared the information with the man and they were amazed to find a touching poem printed in the newspaper by the girl’s father expressing his grief at her passing.
The president of the church headquarters mission spoke last and talked about the power of prayer, missionaries, and sharing the gospel through family history. One missionary helped a professional basketball player who came to the family history center searching for information about his deceased father and grandfather. They didn’t find anything. The missionary asked him if there was anyone he could call for help, and they called an uncle. His uncle said, “where are you?” The basketball player replied that he was in Salt Lake City. His uncle said, “oh, the Mormons, they will probably help you. They know a lot. They probably know too much.” It was a moment of serendipity that they called right at that moment, because the uncle was about to go somewhere and wouldn’t have been able to answer the phone. The phone call came right at the exact moment for him to be able to talk. Next, the uncle found his father’s birth certificate in the glove compartment of his car and was able to get the data from the birth certificate and use that to find the 1920, 1930, and 1940 census information. After this miraculous experience, the missionary reflected that she was grateful that the Lord heard and answered her prayer.
Tamra ended with the plea to be sensitive as we help others. Not everyone can sing that they came from parents “kind and dear,” but family history has a power to heal. As we research the lives of our ancestors and walk in their footsteps, it helps us be more patient and understanding.
Go forth and seek to help others with one-on-one experiences in family history!