A few years ago Diana wrote about a youth activity she created with a Mission: Possible Theme. I recently adapted this idea so the missions could all be completed using the Family Tree app on a smartphone. This was a really successful activity and I’m excited to share my adaptation along with all the materials you will need to carry out the activity with your own youth group or family. Youth and leaders alike enjoyed themselves and commented about how much fun they had. Some voiced their surprise that a family history activity could be so much fun. What I loved about this activity is that no computers were required, making it scalable to any size group, and the youth learned how to do relevant family history tasks that they can repeat anytime and anywhere.
50 youth sit gathered around tables that each have a packet of mysterious manila envelopes and pencils stacked in the center. The opening prayer is said. As soon as the prayer closes, the lights go out. At the same instant, the Mission Impossible Theme starts playing. Some exclamations of surprise and laughter are heard. After about ten seconds, the youth begin to wonder aloud what is going on. Suddenly, a spotlight illuminates “Ethan Hunt” in one corner of the cultural hall. He reads the following message:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become involved in the youth battalion and gather Israel on both sides of the veil.
Your reward includes a deeper conversion to the Savior, a strengthened testimony, increased help from the other side, and greater spiritual protection from temptation. Though the task may be difficult, the rewards are significant.
There are five missions on each table. Complete as many as you can in the next 40 minutes. When you complete a mission, present the mission paper to the leader at the corresponding table for a treat and a ticket to put in the prize drawing.
For further instructions, open the envelopes at your tables. Good luck.
This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.
Ethan then “disappears” (the spotlight turns off). After 5 seconds, a small self-destruct sound effect is heard, and the lights come back on. The youth open their envelopes and begin their missions. For the next 40 minutes, they are engaged in family history activities using the family tree app on their smartphones.
Preparing and Carrying out the Activity
The first thing I did was create an invitation based on Diana’s example. This was sent digitally to the youth and parents via text, email, and GroupMe.
I then created the five missions. One thing I added to the missions was a “Take Home Tip” at the bottom of each mission to encourage the youth to continue participating in temple and family history work in these simple ways on an ongoing basis.
Mission 1: Preserving Your True Identity
This mission was designed to encourage youth to begin making a record of their own lives. It included tasks like adding a profile photo to their page at FamilySearch and then typing in the answer to one of the questions included in the Record My Story family history activity at FamilySearch.
Mission 2: Eyewitness Accounts
This mission taught the youth that the most accurate stories are told by those who were eyewitnesses. They first read a story about an ancestor, tried to determine who told the story, wrote down one thing they learned, and then created an eyewitness account of their own by adding a photo of one of their parents or grandparents to their profile and writing about a quality they admire in that person.
Mission 3: Where’s the Proof?
This mission emphasized that written records prove that someone existed in a certain time or place. We can help ensure that our family tree is accurate by adding proof to the profiles of our ancestors. This activity walked the youth through finding and evaluating a record hint for a descendant of one of the ancestors of their choice.
Mission 4: Friends in High Places
This mission used the Famous Relatives family history activity to help the youth discover the famous people they are related to. One part of the mission was to record how many people in each category they were related to. At the end of the activity, we had prize drawings for “Most Presidential,” “Most Athletic,” etc.
Mission 5: Creating Eternal Connections
This mission walked the youth through using Ordinances Ready to reserve a name for baptisms, then helped them connect with that person by viewing their relationship, when and where they were born, family members, and sources that were attached.
The youth could choose which Missions they wanted to work on, and they worked to complete as many as they could in a 40-minute time period. Every time they completed a mission, they would show their paper to a ward consultant at the table that corresponded with the mission. They would receive a piece of candy and a ticket to sign and place in the drawing. At the end of the activity, we had prize drawings for the following items:
- The winners of each category in the Famous Relatives mission each one a king-size candy bar.
- Three overall winners were drawn from the ticket jar. The more missions they completed, the greater chance the youth had of winning. The prizes for these three were $5 gift cards to some favorite local food places: Sodalicious, In-n-Out Burger, and Crumbl Cookies.
This was a really successful activity, and I am happy to share the materials with you so you can implement it in your own ward. Here’s everything you will need:
- The Invitation – I created mine with Canva, and I’ve made it into a template so you can customize it with your own date and place.
- Someone who is willing to dress up as Ethan Hunt and read the opening message (see text above). We invited our bishop to do this.
- The Mission Impossible theme song to be played over the sound system or a portable speaker. Get this from any music streaming service.
- A “self-destruct” sound effect. We chose a free one from Zapsplat.
- A spotlight or bright flashlight. We had an overhead spotlight in our cultural hall that we were able to turn on at the right moment.
- 9″ x 12″ Mailing Envelopes – five for each table (one envelope for each mission at each table). Here are the envelope labels.
- Printed “Missions.” Here is a link to the files. Note that the Where’s the Proof mission has two pages. We printed that one double-sided. I put eight copies in each folder but ended up with a ton of extras. I might try four or five next time, with a few extra copies at the corresponding consultant tables in case any table runs out of one of the missions.
- A poster for the youth to record the number of famous relatives they had in different categories for Friends in High Places.
- Pencils at each table.
- Fun-size candy bars for the treats for completing each mission.
- King-size candy bars to match the number of categories in Friends in High Places.
- Tickets or slips of paper for the drawing for three larger grand prizes – at the suggestion of our youth committee members, we opted for $5 gift cards to popular food places.
Prior to the activity, set up enough tables for the number of youth you expect to have in attendance. Place a bundle of five mission envelopes at each table, along with enough pencils for every youth that will sit there. Set up five small tables on the edges of the room where consultants can sit and answer questions, hand out prizes and tickets for completed missions, etc. Set up a table where you can display the prizes and have the ticket jar. Make sure you consider all the logistics. Where will Ethan Hunt be standing when he reads the message? Who will operate the spotlight? Who will man the lights? Who will run the sound effects? Above all, plan for a fast-paced evening of fun!
I hope the information and materials presented here will be helpful as you are looking for ways to engage your youth in family history work. I also created a RootsTech presentation that explains this activity. If you would like to watch it, you can find it here. If you decide to use or adapt this idea, I would love to hear how it goes! Come back and leave a message in the comments below.