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Monday, September 16, 2013

Letting the Future Teach the Past

by Casey Peterson (bio)

The content of this post started 36 years ago, connected one year ago, to a period of time over 100 years ago, that affects my life today. Let me explain.

Manti Temple, 1927, via Keepapitchinin
Last year four of our five children were participating in competitive sports, all five were involved in music lessons, I was finishing my coursework for my doctoral degree, and in spare time we have the work of running our family farm. Yet somehow, one Saturday opened up where no games were scheduled, no animals were out, and no ward activities were happening. My 15 year-old daughter Callie suggested we go do baptisms for some family names she had prepared with the help of my mother. We drove to Manti with our two oldest kids, and had a marvelous time at the temple. Returning home, we asked Callie about the ancestors we had been baptized for that day, starting the remarkable chain of events that connected so many years, generations, and needs.

At the age of 4, my father was killed in a farming accident. One of the results was that I knew very little of my paternal family history, even though I grew up in a town settled by my ancestors. Driving back from Manti that day opened up many questions, but also many lessons about my family that my 15 year-old daughter knew that I didn't. Upon our return, we sat as a family and researched and learned together about fascinating facts. About my great-great-grandpa who converted in Denmark, came to Utah, was called to settle Fillmore, and served as the town Mayor, orchestra conductor, barrel maker, bishop, farmer and molasses mill owner. I knew his name because my kids and I still have his brand that we use on our cattle and horses, but my daughter Callie taught me so much more. That common interest also brought Callie and I closer.

Then I read in Elder Bednar's book Act in Doctrine the following:

"It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation. But do not overly program this endeavor or provide too much detailed information or training. Invite young people to explore, to experiment, and to learn for themselves."

Upon reading this, and about the example he gives about three young men teaching a family history class, I submitted names to my Bishop to call four youth in our ward to teach a family history class. The only requirement was that class participants bring a laptop, smart phone, tablet, etc. Our instructors ranged in age from 12-15, and guided the course for our ward. Attendance reached 45 people, with each working on their own family history. Class was about exploring, experimenting, and learning for themselves. If a question was asked that the instructors didn't know, they would research and return with the answer. It was a great experience, and I noticed that many more questions were asked because youth were more approachable and less intimidating to ask. The instructors also worked with their youth classes and taught quorums and classes to find and prepare names for temple trips. It has been a blessing to watch.

Little did I know how a Saturday temple trip would bless my knowledge of my family, would lead to a family history course in the ward, which in turn helped heal and mend other families, and would strengthen my current relationships with my children.

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