Temple and family history work

by Matthew Walker

Preston Temple

My patriarchal blessing tells me that I will “find enjoyment in fulling [the] duty” of completing family history work. As a 16-year-old receiving this blessing, I didn’t think too much of this. I knew that my mum and grandmother had done a lot of work and much of my family tree had already been completed. They also attended the temple often to process their findings, so it was not something I thought I needed to think about.

It wasn’t until I went to university that I set myself up properly with an account on FamilySearch, and even then, it was a couple of years later and after getting married that I realised I could link my account to the work my family had already done, so that I wouldn’t have to manually type my family tree.

In recent years I’ve been trying to do as much as I can to get to grips with FamilySearch and understand its crucial role in doing work for others in the temple. As names have become ‘unreserved’, I’ve been trying to save them for my family so when we can go back to the temple, we can continue to do the work.

As part of my new Elders Quorum calling, I helped create a survey for my ward to find out members’ skillsets, and where they needed support in doing temple and family history work. I enjoyed going over these results and learning about people’s experiences in family history work and using the FamilySearch website. The results from the survey gave us great insight into members’ confidence levels and skillsets.

Based on the results, we created a month of weekly activities to best support members in the work.

In the first week, we challenged members to make time for the temple by booking baptistry time for their family, checking their temple recommends for renewal, or preparing cards to take to the temple in readiness for when it reopens. We also held a virtual tour of the Temple Square renovations at the Salt Lake Temple. We are grateful for the sister missionaries who made time to host us virtually.

In the second week we invited members to index one batch of records and held a virtual ‘indexing’ workshop to help build confidence in indexing document images. We also held a competition, led by two of our youth members., to see which team could index the most in a set amount of time.

I appreciate the youth in my ward and their amazing skills at indexing. They are experts and the future of temple and family history work in the ward looks very bright.

London Temple

In the following week we wanted members to focus on the Memories function within FamilySearch. We encouraged members to find time in the week to write down a memory and upload it to the FamilySearch website. We also hosted a workshop for anyone to learn more about using the ‘Memories’ function. One of our Family History consultants, a new member, created an easy-to-understand guide on using the Memories mobile application.

I often like to think of the story about my Nana, my dad’s grandmother, who lived on a diet of fish and chips and Neapolitan ice cream, exclusively. Our visits were always enjoyable for this reason, as well as for others. At a family funeral, I have been told that Nana took my dad to one side to a nearby grave and told him, “This is where I’m going to be buried, and after me there’s still one space left. It’s yours if you want it!” My Dad has since offered the space to me, but I think I may yet save it and offer it to my son one day. I like this story because it gives me an insight into where my dad’s family’s humour comes from, and it’s a memory worth holding on to so that it can be shared for years to come.

In the last week of the month, we focussed on searching for new ancestors and finding Sources. We hosted another workshop for anybody to join, with guest speakers from our stake, who gave valuable insight from their experiences about using Sources on FamilySearch.

I love doing work in the temple, and the blessings this provides my family. I enjoyed President Nelson’s final talk at the most recent general conference when he spoke about temples. Here he said, “Temples are a vital part of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness. Ordinances of the temple fill our lives with power and strength available in no other way. We thank God for those blessings”.

Speaking about the temple closures during the pandemic he shared, “When the incidence of COVID-19 in your area is within safe limits, your temple will be reopened. Do all you can to bring COVID numbers down in your area so that your Temple opportunities can increase … keep your temple covenants and blessings foremost in your minds and hearts. Stay true to the covenants you have made. … We want to bring the house of the Lord even closer to our members, that they may have the sacred privilege of attending the temple as often as their circumstances allow”.

I’m looking forward to being able to attend the temple again soon, to continue the work for my ancestors and to allow all those who have lived before us to access the blessings I have been given. I have felt the Spirit while working on my family history, and I am grateful for the chance to give my ancestors the opportunity to accept the blessings of the gospel. I know that Jesus Christ is my Saviour and that he atoned for our sins so that we may live with our Heavenly Father again.