Note: Family Discovery Day at RootsTech is a free, one-day event of inspirational messages, instructional classes, interactive activities, and exciting entertainment to teach LDS members (age 8 and up) how to find their ancestors, prepare and take their names to the temple, and teach others to do the same. See RootsTech.org for more information.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Family Discovery Day opened with announcements from Elder Allan F. Packer, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He announced that there were about 13,000 individuals in attendance with 120,000 participating through live streaming at lds.org. In addition, the presentations were recorded and will be used during 1300 Family Discovery Day events held in over 55 countries and presented in 10 languages. Ultimately, the presentations will reach over a quarter of a million members and their friends. Once this material is incorporated into curriculum lessons, websites, and printed publications these messages will reach millions of Church members.
Elder Packer said that earlier that day a meeting was held among Church leaders. The Missionary Department announced two new pamphlets, Learning and Serving in the Church and Families and Temples. The Family History Department announced a new beginner resource card titled Strengthening Eternal Family Bonds through Temple Service: Start Building Your Tree. The card and online experience were created to help new members record their family lineage and identify those who may need temple ordinances. The My Family booklet is now available in 42 languages around the world. The Temple Department announced that members will now be able to print family ordinance cards on white paper on any printer and then take these cards to the temple to perform ordinances for their ancestors.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley
Following these announcements, Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley, took to the stage for the keynote address. After introducing his wife, he remarked that when he is not with his wife, he is “ruthless.” Together they shared a family history story that you can listen to below.
Ashley described the discovery of dynamite by Alfred Nobel. It was a combination of two known substances, kieselguhr and nitroglycerin. This was likened to family history and temple blessings, together they’re a powerful combination.
The Renlunds discussed the challenge given by Elder Neil A. Anderson to those in attendance at RootsTech in 2014: “Prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple.” In 2015 Elder Anderson added, “and help someone else do the same.” “This opportunity for blessings excludes no one,” Elder Renlund says. His wife Ruth added, “the temple ordinances are central to individual power.”
The Renlunds then read from Ezekiel 47: 1-5, 8-9 and explained that Ezekiel saw an angel who brought him to the House of the Lord. As the water left the house, it grew into a river and out to the sea, … “for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh.” According to Elder Renlund, the river that increases represents the blessings of the temple and he likened the growth of the river to the exponential growth of progenitors doubling each generation.
Ashley quoted President Russell M. Nelson, “While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living. It has a refining influence on those who are engaged in it. They are literally helping to exalt their families.”
Elder Renlund closed by adding his apostolic voice in support of the temple challenge and extended a promise of protection for the individuals engaged in this work and for their families. The challenge was modified to include not only baptisms but all ordinances. He promised “personal power, power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family together and heal that which needs healing.” He closed by declaring his witness of Jesus Christ and the restoration of the sealing power to earth.
Sister Sheri L. Dew and Sister Wendy W. Nelson
Elder C. Scott Grow was asked to recap a few ideas from the previous presentation, specifically the apostolic temple challenge, before introducing Family Discovery Day’s next guests. Elder Grow reminded everyone that the apostolic temple challenge to find as many family names for temple ordinances has been reissued and expanded the challenge to include all ordinances, not just baptisms. He stressed that this challenge is for everyone. “A promise of protection and personal power, power to change, power to progress, power to learn, power to be sanctified, power to heal, the power to be sealed, and seal the hearts of our families together” has been issued. He quoted President Howard W. Hunter by saying, “I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing.”
Elder Grow then introduced two good friends, Sheri L. Dew and Wendy W. Nelson for a family history discussion. These good friends then publicly conversed about Sheri’s resistance to pursuing family history. Wendy shared some of her spiritual experiences with Sheri and the blessings that have come into her life since she took Elder Richard G. Scott’s challenge. In the end, Sheri took the apostolic challenge to find as many ancestors to take to the temple to receive their ordinances as she will complete this year and to help others do the same. I encourage you to watch their presentation.
Sheri responded to Elder Grow’s question of how this is to be accomplished by saying, “Something will have to change and I’ll figure it out. I don’t yet know exactly when or how, but it will work … I’m sure I’ll have to give up something, the question is what?”
Elder Grow than asked those in the RootsTech audience, “(1) What did you learn? (2) What did you feel? Select one idea expressed in this presentation and make it a part of your life.”
Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom
Elder Enrique R. Falabella, who serves as an executive director of the Family History Department, began this session by expressing his enjoyment of Family Discovery Day. He said, “The Lord has inspired the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to help the members of the Church to strengthen their testimony in Heavenly Father and in His Son Jesus Christ through keeping the Sabbath holy. What a great opportunity we have now to spend some time on the Sabbath doing family history Our ancestors will be eternally grateful and we will be blessed.” He then shared that this was the first idea that came to his mind to help Sister Sheri Dew meet her commitment to bring her ancestors to the temple. After his remarks, he introduced Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom.
“There is no age requirement to be touched by the Spirit of Elijah,” says Brother Stephen W. Owen. He went on to say that by becoming involved in family history, one discovers the power and purpose of relationships in God’s plan. “Relationships are at the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He then quoted the greatest commandments. He said that the Savior focused on relationships and was not distracted by anything temporal. He suggested that as we’re focused on our relationships with our Heavenly Father, our Savior, our family, and others we are focusing on what lasts and Christ’s gospel can move from our head to our heart.”
Brother Owen invited his youngest daughter Jessica on stage to share her family story. Jessica delivered her first child, Annie, two months premature. Annie was born with a condition where all of her muscles would contract and this happened about 60-70 times a day. Jessica and her husband Sam would cheer her on to get through each episode, but four and a half months later, Annie passed away. Jessica shared how her father, through his own grief, counseled them to get through this together. Jessica shared her gratitude for the plan of salvation and testimony that families can be together forever if we do our part. Brother Owen returned holding his one month old grandson, Archie, Jessica and Sam’s second child and Annie’s little brother.
Brother Owen then quoted from a song called “Grandma’s Book of Memories”:
“When Grandma opens up her book of memories,
these strangers all begin to look like friends to me.
I can see where I have come from and where I belong,
And where I got the color of my hair.
And I won’t be afraid when I follow them home,
because I’ve got friends already there.”
He mentioned the sealing power of the priesthood that can strengthen and bind family relationships. He went on to say, “We are each an important link in our family chain. And each of us, regardless of our current family circumstances. can begin working on the things that last. I recognize that not everyone has had the opportunity to nurture and develop family relationships, but don’t be discouraged. Stronger relationships can begin with you, right now, where you are. Through all kinds of family history and temple work, you can increase in love and help your family heal, going in both directions, towards your ancestors and towards your posterity. Maybe you’ve started your family history and have become discouraged because of damaged relationships or missing information. Don’t give up. Keep seeking the eternal. Pray and look for connections, relationships, and stories and when you begin to find those personal connections … you’ll start to understand what it’s like to have your heart turned to your fathers and the gospel will have an opportunity to move from your head to your heart. You will feel for yourself the power and eternal nature of family relationships … Let us remember that Christ suffered alone so that we can be together. Because of Him, we can have relationships that endure, relationships that include our Heavenly Father, our Savior, and our loved ones. I testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of relationships that transcend death and have eternal value. And, I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom then took the stage. She started by sharing an experience she had five years ago when an apostle asked her, “What is the taproot that will anchor a child in the wind?” A taproot is the first and largest root that sprouts from the seed. It grows downward and provides stability. Taproots can make a plant drought-resistant. She shared the story of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. Children need to know who they are, where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going so that their lives take on a sense of purpose.
Sister Wixom quoted President Russell M. Nelson saying, “We need … women [to] call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.” She extends this call to all members of the Church in the lives of children. She then asked how does this related to family history. She said that she loves family history and loves family stories. Then she made two confessions: (1) she now makes cookies for her husband while he does family history research, and (2) she does not scrapbook; she has plastic container with pictures for each child for their future book.
She recognizes the importance of family history and shared a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. as saying, “They are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith (History of the Church, 6:52). We make our ancestors real by telling their stories.
She said that she began with a two-minute exercise to write everything she remembered about her deceased father. Then she began to discuss recording her memories of others and considered how these stories and phrases could strengthen the next generation. She stressed that they must be shared and preserved and recommended the FamilySearch Memories app.
She closed by testifying, “We can anchor all generations to the taproot as we share precious pieces of information about those wonderful men and women, perform their sacred temple ordinances, and seal our families together. Of this truth I testify. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Britain Covey and Taysom Hill
Elder Bradley D. Foster introduced two young men to illustrate the “importance and power of family.” He continued, These young men show us what it looks like and “what good families produce.” He then introduced Britain Covey, a wide receiver for the University of Utah, and Taysom Hill, a quarterback for Brigham Young University.
For some Family Discovery Day fun, each player was asked to find two youth in the audience to help with a relay race. No spoilers here; you must watch the video to know the outcome :)
Once the race was decided, it was time for these young men to be interviewed. The presentation highlighted Britain’s mission call to Chile and Taysom’s temple marriage. Both shared missionary experiences on and off the field.
About leaving his football career for a mission with no guarantee upon return, Britain said, “Scoring a touchdown is awesome, but it’s a difference type of happiness that this gospel and this mission brings and I guess this is what I’m excited to share.”
After this presentation, Family Discovery Day closed with a concert by Lower Lights. Mark your calendar for next year when Family Discovery Day will be held again on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
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