In the April 2014 General Conference, Elder Cook put forth the idea of “Family Tree Gatherings”: a recurring effort where families bring family histories, stories, and photos to share. He said,
“Our young people are excited to learn about the lives of family members-where they came from and how they lived.”
“Family history centers are now in our homes.”
I really liked this idea, and I have spent some time pondering how to make this work the best for our family. Then Elder Allan Packer spoke about this same topic in the October 2014 General Conference:
“Temple and family history work is part of living the gospel at home. It should be a family activity far more than a Church activity.”
“Family history is more than genealogy, rules, names, dates, and places. It is more than a focus on the past. Family history also includes the present as we create our own history. It includes the future as we shape future history through our descendants. A young mother, for example, sharing her family stories and pictures with her children is doing family history work.”
I have also been watching some of the sessions online from the recent Rootstech conference held in Salt Lake City. Many of the sessions mentioned the importance of sharing and passing on family stories (I especially enjoyed the Family Discovery Day sessions).
I know that I need to be doing family history work. My family (as well as my husbands family) goes back many generations in the church. Our ancestors were some of the first members and pioneers. Which means that there are a lot of generations in the church now, and a lot of genealogists who have kept and recorded the important dates and places. Searching out new names in our family line to take to the temple would definitely take some digging.
But sharing the stories of ancestors is the part that is intriguing to me. My children (age 10, 7, and nearly 5) love to hear stories. They like to hear about when I was young, but honestly, my stories are running out! So it is time to look deeper and gather stories and photos of our ancestors to share. Like Elder Packer said, sharing family stories is the perfect fit for a young mother!
I am doing this in a few ways.
1) Collecting stories from my parents: I am conducting interviews with my parents, in two different methods. For my dad, it is working well for me to send him an email with a question (for example: Where did you live as a child? Describe your home.) Then he can respond in writing when he has time. My mom is not so computer proficient, but she can recall and tell her stories verbally. So I am planning regular phone calls to her where I can transcribe the stories she shares.
2) Collecting photos and stories from ancestors: This step will take a little more digging, and I will need to enlist the help of extended family. Thankfully I know that the information is out there, I just need to do a little digging and compile it in a way that I can share it with my children.
3) Preserving our own family history: I can’t forget the history that we are currently making! Keeping up our family blog and keeping my children’s schoolwork, photos, memories, etc. organized is important too.
4) Building connections with living family: Sadly, we live far away from any family members. That means that we have to work a little harder to stay connected to cousins and siblings. Technological advances certainly help, and we are working on some good old-fashioned letter writing to cousins.
5) Sharing stories: share stories at bedtime (or anytime!) with my children, and make the stories I collect available to my siblings and their children also.
Whew! This is getting long-winded!
To get my family involved, our FHE tonight will be our first “Family Tree Gathering”. Yesterday I introduced the topic by showing them a clip from Elder Cook’s Family Discovery Day session. I skipped to 11:30 in the video and we learned and sang “The Hearts of the Children” song.
Our scripture of the week is Malachi 4:5-6
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…”
After discussing the scripture and some of the quotes from above, we are going to spend some time on Family Search introducing the children to our ancestors!