Full Session: President and Sister Oaks

    Brothers and sisters, please welcome to the stage General Authority Seventy and Family History Department Executive Director Bradley D. Foster.

    Elder Bradley D. Foster

    Welcome to Family Discovery Day 2018. To begin this session, we would like to welcome Zoe Olaveson to offer an opening prayer.

    We acknowledge General Authorities and General Auxiliary Leaders here today and the many families that are here—families of all sizes and shapes. Thank you for being here. This message given here today will be translated and shared all over the world. There are many different types of speakers. You may feel at times motivated to applaud, and that’s OK. Or you may not, and that’s OK too. You’re a beautiful sight. We love you, and we’re grateful to have so many of you here with us, as well as the estimated 300,000 that are watching online.

    The American writer David Eagleman has said there are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. Everybody deserves to be remembered. Everybody deserves to have their names spoken again and again.

    Remembering each family member is a powerful theme in the recent award-winning video movie, Coco. It’s a captivating story of a young Mexican boy, Miguel, who went on a journey of discovery that took him to the land of the dead, where he discovered his ancestors. When he learned the story of his great-great-grandfather, he created a strong personal connection, along with a greater sense of purpose and belonging. Like all of us, when he discovered and remembered his ancestors, he discovered himself. We’re fortunate to have with us today singer-songwriter Alex Melecio. We will be pleased to hear him sing "Remember Me" from the movie Coco. Alex, please.

    Elder Foster

    Thank you, Alex. Thank you, Alex. Discovering and remembering our ancestors helps us to know who we really are, what we’re doing here, and where we go after this life. The gospel teaches us that Heavenly Father does have a plan for all of us. As we discover, gather, and connect our families together for eternity, we’re personally participating in His plan.

    I have learned that when we discover who we are in relationship to God and to each other, we think differently, and we act differently, and we treat other people differently. Discovering is often underestimated. It is a powerful tool in helping our families know who they are and where they came from. Now, there are many methods of discovery—simple photos, stories, and now DNA are among the most powerful. Everybody deserves their own moment of discovery. Photos and stories provide a treasured experience between those that are living and those that have passed.

    I’d like to share one of my favorite FamilySearch videos with you. As you watch it, notice how the children react as they discover their ancestors through photographs.


    This way, this way.

    Whoa, this place is huge.



    So how many pictures are here? Millions?





    Close. Think about all the pictures you’ve ever seen—family pictures, vacation pictures.

    That’s a lot of pictures.


    Grand Canyon, my parents’ honeymoon.

    So how many pictures are here?

    Just all the important ones.

    Halloween. My life as a hobo.

    That’s you.

    Listen. Can you hear them?

    Hear what?

    Listen. Just listen.

    I can’t hear anything.

    The pictures—they’re talking.

    The pictures are talking?

    Yeah, but you have to be quiet. You have to be very, very quiet, and you can hear them.

    Well, what are they saying?

    They’re saying, "Keep me."

    The pictures are saying, "Keep me"?

    "Protect me."

    "Protect me"?

    "Share me."

    "Share me"?

    "Keep me, protect me, share me, and I will live forever."

    I can hear them.

    I can hear them too.

    This place is cool.

    What’s this place called?

    We call it FamilySearch, where families live forever.

    FamilySearch. Cool.

    "Keep me, protect me, share me." Huh.

    Elder Foster

    Did you notice the wonder in the children’s eyes? Could you see them connecting to their ancestors as they saw their lives unfold? Did you feel what they felt as they heard the plea, "Keep me, protect me, share me, and I will live forever"? How did that make you feel about your own family?

    As we discover our family, we have a natural desire to gather them. We gather our present family around us at the dinner table, at family reunions, and on special days of celebration. We gather our past family members as we keep, protect, and share their photos, and stories, and records in the family tree. That same spirit we feel upon discovering our family will guide us to gather them on the other side of the veil.

    In the Book of Mormon, Alma describes to his son Helaman the value of gathering such records when he said, "And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people." As we gather the stories of our living and deceased family members into the family tree, we enlarge the memory of our family, and they can live forever. We learn and benefit from the lessons learned in their lives, and then we desire to be connected as families for eternity through temple ordinances. Elder Renlund has taught that this discovery, gathering, and connecting give us power to turn the hearts of our family together and to heal that which needs healing.

    I know that our family on the other side of the veil pray for us. They want to be connected to us and to their Father in Heaven for eternity. And they will help us as we discover who they are, gather their names and memories into the tree, and connect them with us through temple ordinances. Can you hear them? This is Heavenly Father’s plan for all of His children. I know this to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    Now we have the great privilege to hear from President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency and President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks. At the conclusion of their presentation, we invite you to visit the expo hall or other classes. Please rejoin us here at 2:30 to hear from Evie Clair, Kanya Clark, and Alex Melecio during the next session. President and Sister Oaks, we invite you to the stage and welcome you to Family Discovery Day.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Brothers and sisters, Kristen and I are thrilled to be with you for this Family Discovery Day. As servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are all involved in discovering our ancestors.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Why? The bones of our ancestors lay in the ground, and their spirits are in heaven, but we live on in the stories that their lives told and retold, their challenges, their courage, their noble deeds.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    A recent study by a university in the South concludes persuasively that if you want a happier family, create, refine, and retell the stories of your ancestors’ positive moments. Emphasize their ability to bounce back and persist through adversity. That act alone will increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

    Family stories count. Children should know that they belong to something bigger than themselves.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    We welcome you to FamilySearch.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    This is the place where we speak of all the families of the earth, yours and ours. We are all part of one great family under God our Heavenly Father.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    We are so honored to be with you on Family Discovery Day and to be part of the great mission of FamilySearch, whose Family Tree has the contributions of over 4 million people. With almost 22 million photographs and nearly 6 billion names to search, FamilySearch allows us to search out our ancestors.

    These trees represent a living, vibrant organism, growing and expanding and building in momentum. And we are all part of this tree. We’re all connected by it. Your name and the names of those you love, now living and deceased, are all part of it. It increases daily, growing with the addition of names of new ancestors and memories of real people who now live and did live.

    And as we gather names to the tree, the spirit of this great work ignites within us the desire to unite with our ancestors, and our connection with all mankind increases.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    We become connected to our ancestors in the family tree by our knowledge of their lives. We bond with them as we understand the circumstances and personal values that shaped them. They are real people to whom we owe our existence in this world and whom we will meet again in the hereafter.

    We learn better who we are, where we come from, and are blessed with a clearer vision of where we are going. When individuals and families search out their ancestors’ inspiring actions and words, they will receive strength and direction for their own lives.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Our objective today is to share with you ideas that you can use with your own families to influence them. Children love to participate, to learn, and to take responsibility. With intentional parenting, we create opportunities for this to happen. Our family histories, combined with true doctrine, create a powerful combination that naturally leads to the temple. Today we will show how to discover family members, gather their stories, and connect with them as an eternal family.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Join us as we remember those who came before and look at ways to discover more about them.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Most of us are here today because we heard stories of our ancestors. I know that I would not be sitting on this stage without such stories. The journals we keep and the stories we tell have the capacity to teach the gospel to those who come after us, even if faith may have skipped a generation or if ancestors are not on earth to share their testimonies.

    I longed to know my mother’s father, who died the year before I was born. My mother’s mother had died when she was only four, and so my mother especially adored her father, Joseph Stras Peery, and filled our home with his writings. I learned to love him too. For hours down in our basement, I would pore through his journals and piles of family photos. In truth, much of my religious training came from this grandfather, a man I had never met in this life. His thoughts, his faith, his stories of our family, their heartbreaks and victories, persistence, and love of the Savior inspired me. But the story of his father, my great-grandfather, David Harold Peery, empowered me with hope and faith.


    David Harold Peery was the most eligible bachelor in Tazewell County, Virginia, in 1852. At the age of 28, he already owned a farm, hired others to work the land, and opened the county’s most profitable store. Many mothers tried to betroth him to their daughters without success. During this time, a Mormon family, the Higginbothams, returned to Virginia after being driven out of Nauvoo. Penniless and destitute, they worked to save money to join the Saints in the west.

    The Higginbothams sent their daughter to purchase supplies at a local store, David’s store. Family tradition says it was love at first sight. Their courtship in Tazewell County sent people astir. David had let Miss Nancy Higginbotham, that little Mormon girl, capture his heart.

    David prospered, and the marriage flourished, with one exception—David disliked Nancy’s religion. He attended no church, professed no religion, and made every attempt to dissuade Nancy from her religion. Using his money and influence, he twice sent for preachers to come and reconvert his wife to Protestantism. But Nancy had studied the scriptures and was able to defend herself against the ministers’ arguments.

    Speaking of one of the ministers, Nancy’s sister Elizabeth Letitia said, "Nancy could wind him up so tight he couldn’t think of a word to say." David is reported to have angrily dismissed the preacher, saying, "You say you are a graduate of the ministry and yet you don’t know a thing about religion. The idea of your letting my young wife out argue you." Nancy’s faith could not be shaken.

    1861 marked the outbreak of the Civil War, and David enlisted in the Confederate Army. He left Nancy with their daughter and found himself living in a disease-ridden army camp, an unfortunate circumstance that would prove a fatal blow for his family. When he returned a short time later with typhoid fever, David’s mother and father, Nancy’s father, Nancy, and their newborn son all died from the disease. Only David and his two-year-old daughter survived.

    Broken and sorrowful, David recalled the conversations he’d had with Nancy about Mormonism and eternal marriage, which prompted him to open her LDS books and read. David soon surrendered to the restored gospel and asked Nancy’s mother where he could find a Mormon elder. The closest leader was 25 miles away. David mounted his horse and rode through the cold November snow in pursuit of baptism. When he arrived, the two men cut through six inches of ice to perform the ordinance.

    David later took Nancy’s remaining family members to Utah. He settled in Ogden and married Nancy’s sister, Letitia, and again became a prosperous businessman, mayor of Ogden, and part of the delegation that secured statehood for Utah. He served a two-year mission in the southern states, and in 1877 was called by Brigham Young to be a stake president of the Weber Stake in Ogden. Known as a wise and reasonable Virginian respected for his beliefs, business skills, and honesty, David Harold Peery died in Ogden on September 17, 1901.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    I am so thankful for Nancy’s determination and strong faith in Jesus Christ. I’m also thankful for a great-grandfather who humbled himself and sought the Lord in his time of grief and made us an eternal family.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    I’ve had a lifelong interest in discovering my ancestors and writing about them. Here are some examples: A history of my father, Dr. Lloyd E. Oaks; a history of my mother, Stella Harris Oaks, some of which we will read later; and a history of family ancestors who crossed the plains by wagon and handcart called 50 Pioneers. And here are the first two volumes of the journal written by my great-grandfather Abinadi Olsen during his mission to Samoa. We will share more of the impact of this journal later.

    An essential follow-on to discovering our family members is to gather their stories and share them again and again. My mother, Stella Harris Oaks, died before any of our grandchildren were born. As our granddaughter Stephanie Ward Steeleman said, "The only way I can know my grandmas is through the histories written by my Grandpa Oaks."

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    To help our children better know their great-grandmother, Dal and I invited many to a Stella party, where we gave him a copy of the Stella history and read from it and showed pictures. This is the poster we used in that party.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    An ancestor’s words and actions can help guide our lives. These words written by my mother, Stella, are a good example of this. Here I quote, "To find one’s own personal relationship with Heavenly Father, to never doubt that he guides the details of our lives, to be able in life’s conflict to say 'Thy will be done’ is the attaining of the ability to walk by faith." My mother continues, "This ability is something that each soul must find in his own way through the creative living-out of any and all trying experiences that may come along. My proving ground came in learning to be obedient to a frightening command, that of accepting the imminent death of my husband after only 11 years of marriage and accepting the challenge of being a mother and woman alone in the world." That’s the end of the quote.

    Now, meet our granddaughter Ashley Boulter Schroeder, who will describe the effect on her of our teaching her about her great-grandmother Stella H. Oaks.


    My name is Ashley Schroeder. I am an Oaks granddaughter. Throughout my life I have been taught that each generation stands upon the shoulders of the previous generation. As a family, we often sit together and tell stories of our adventures together. I have learned how to love and be loved in my family. My grandparents have established a tradition of having the best cousin parties, from scavenger hunts, teddy bear parties, to going to see the Nutcracker ballet and having a sleepover.

    One of the most meaningful memories is of a party to celebrate my great-grandmother Stella Oaks. I remember the table was decorated all in yellow because yellow was her favorite color. We were asked to wear hats because Stella loved wearing hats. In fact, she was never seen without a hat on. At this dinner, my grandfather, Elder Oaks, gave each of us a copy of her biography. He had marked favorite sections, and we sat together as a family around the table, and we read aloud the stories of her life.

    As I learn about my ancestors, I can actually feel their love, strength, and guidance. Their lives become part of mine. We become one. Grandma Stella was a courageous and strong-willed woman and mother. Now, as a mother of four children, I know I am standing on her shoulders, building on her legacy. As I try to implement different traditions in my own family, I look to my parents and my grandparents as a model for establishing righteous traditions. I am so grateful for the plan of salvation, which makes us one and unified with our families.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    We wanted all the children and young parents in both of our families to get to know many of the great qualities of those who came before, qualities that will help them stand strong in the days to come. So we invited our grandchildren and Kristen’s grand-nieces and -nephews to a gathering to introduce ancestors. We researched ancestors’ attributes and created posters with their pictures and notable qualities.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    The children selected some of the qualities shown on the posters and signed up for these. Then we removed the cover sheet and introduced them to the ancestor and the story of how they show that quality in their lives. Heaven came close to earth, and we could feel warmth and inspiration as we participated in this activity. Join us now for a brief view of it.


    Family history starts with learning about our ancestors, who were real people who lived and loved their children and their grandchildren. We need to be sealed to them so that we can live with them in the next life. Tonight we’re going to learn about some of those ancestors, and each of you is now invited to take a pen and write your name on the poster that lists the qualities you want to build into your life.

    Listens to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Let’s see which of our relatives listened.

    Perform for an audience. We have quite a number of our children who’ve signed up for this.

    Joseph Stras Peery—from his youth, he loved public speaking. But it was on Temple Square, where he acted as director, that he found his greatest joy.

    Janett Bethers Oaks—she was mostly housebound in their small two-room sod log cabin, where she gave birth to all but the last two of their 16 children.

    Imagine living in a house where there are 16 children—it’s only two rooms.

    That’s like eight bunk beds, right?

    Stella Harris Oaks—she was elected twice to the Provo City Council.

    So just like you, your ancestors loved the temple many years before you guys were born.

    His hopes for abundant life and profitable crop never came true. He was a farmer, but he just had so many problems, and he never really had good crops. We have talked about the Holy Ghost and the promptings. Can anyone remember that story? Matthew, come on up and tell us.

    When Chastity Harris was playing with her kids in the riverbed, a voice urged her to get out of the riverbed quickly and to get her kids out. Quickly she got the kids right out of the riverbed. A big wave with logs and a lot of sharp stuff went down right where they were playing.

    And what if they had stayed in the riverbed?

    We wouldn’t be here.

    Thank you. That was really good. Grandpa asked me to show you a picture of the temple. Is it important for us to go there and take the names of our ancestors?



    And can we be closer and connected to our ancestors if we go to the temple often?




    Does it help you to know their stories?

    Yeah. Yeah.

    Yeah, it makes you stronger. Does anyone want to be a better person after they’d heard about their ancestors tonight?




    Oh, yay.

    I want to show you this saying, a favorite saying of my father. Can one of you read that? Let me ask Hannah to read it, because she’ll read it in a loud voice.

    If the gospel is worth anything, then it is worth everything.

    Thank you. Now, that’s a principle that stands for everything we’ve been talking about. The gospel is worth everything in our lives, and I pray that all of you will remember that as you remember the great qualities of the ancestors we talked about today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    So cute.

    We love our family, OK. We invited Joy Jones, General President of the Primary, to share her vision of teaching family history to children.


    I’m so excited about children and their involvement in temple and family history work. One way is being taught to sit down with a computer or an iPad—they can sit down and in just a matter of minutes, or maybe an hour, and they gather names of these wonderful family members who have been forgotten. It’s amazing how they have this inborn, innate ability with technology.

    Children can be the instigators in their families. They can be the ones to lead out and say, "Mom, where did you and dad get married? And when did you meet? Wait, what was your life like when you were six years old?" We can share in the car, we can tell stories at bedtime, we can tell stories at the dinner table or when we’re one-on-one with children or grandchildren. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of preparation. It doesn’t take anything but just a desire to share.

    I have a few resources that I’d love to share that would be a blessing to children and families as they’re talking about temple and family history work. This booklet, Families and Temples, would be great to use in a family home evening or on a Sunday evening to understand the temple and its purposes and why family history is so important.

    My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together. Families can sit down and write out their four generations together and talk about those family members as they do so. I love it that the Friend magazine, each month right now they’re including an article, or a story, or an activity that children can do to understand family history better and to participate in it with their families. This is a wonderful new resource as well. Gathering the Family of God. It’s a coloring and activity book that is just full of wonderful teachings, as well as darling pictures for children to color.

    I have a testimony of the power and blessings of temple and family history work. I know that our Heavenly Father is blessing these precious children, and I hope that we won’t underestimate their abilities. I hope that we won’t underestimate the power of the Spirit that is within them. This work will lead our children to our Savior. It will lead them to the temple. It will develop a love for the temple, and the whole purpose of loving the temple and participating in temple work is to come to know our Savior and to have a testimony that He lives, and He loves each and every one of these dear children. And I say this in His name, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Thank you, Sister Jones. Youth today are totally connected by technology. When we can guide them and connect their technological expertise to FamilySearch, a powerful spiritual journey begins. They connect with real ancestors of great consequence to them who may have waited years to have their saving ordinances performed. And it’s an explosive combination. Our logging on to FamilySearch is far more rewarding than logging on to Facebook. Let’s take a look at the impact young temple and family history consultants can make.


    My name is James Covey, I’m 12 years old, and I’m a youth temple family history consultant.

    I’m Maci Nydegger, and I’m 12 years old, and I’m a temple family history ward consultant.

    You know, the stake president that—we were talking about the family history consultants, and they were saying, well, who is it that’s over there? We’re like, well, it’s usually the younger ones. Well, then let’s give them the calling. And so it’s all, in our ward, anyway, right now, deacons and Beehives. And they’re the ones that are over here doing this.

    I think the people that I’ve helped the most are just kids from the school that come in, people that bring their friends in, or adults that come in that have no idea what they’re doing. They’re like, oh, we just need some help and stuff.

    And especially teaching the 11-year-olds, because it’s really fun to introduce them to it because they get so excited about seeing the ordinance work that they can do once they turn 12. And they can take their own names to the temple. So I really like that because it makes it original for them. And it’s not just so much their parents finding names, but they get to find their own names, and they did the work.

    I like just finding names to take to the temple in the future because I’m not 12 yet. But I will, and just when you find names as a family, you just feel the connection of how much you love each other.

    Right before I turned 12, I came and I did some family history. And it was my first time actually looking for names, and I found a bunch. And it was really cool. So we went with my parents after I got my recommend, and we did all those names. And it was just a really cool experience for me.

    The times that I do find a couple names, or just, like, crying in the corner and just so giddy. And they’re just like, yes! I get to do these names. And it makes the temple a lot more personal to me, and it’s just great.

    I think they’ve all taught their families—I know my daughter has—a lot about family history and just what a spiritual experience it is, because it has been for her and for us.

    I feel really good teaching them, because teaching them gave us extra confidence. So we know how to do this, and we can teach them. So it’s all good.

    It’s the coolest feeling that I’ve felt, and it’s a feeling of warmth and comfort. And the feeling is just seeing that I’m doing family history. It’s such a cool feeling to know that you’re doing something right. And you feel the Spirit.

    These youth are the ones that will be teaching you and all the adults. And it’s so true. It’s amazing.

    She’s the one doing all the teaching, and we’re doing the listening and being taught. I think that gives her a lot of confidence in the work that she’s doing.

    I just remember that I couldn’t find some names. And I just said a prayer to myself, and I found a bunch of names instantly.

    We came here after school. Nobody was really finding anything. It was just kind of one of those days. We all said a prayer together, and instantly everyone—I found, we all found, so many names that day. And it just makes me realize how important prayer is and how if we stay in tune with Heavenly Father—because He wants to help us—but as long as we stay in tune with Him, then we’re able to get the work done.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Wasn’t that great? FamilySearch can be like a sacred portal connected to heaven. And in reality, the visions and blessings of old are returning, and angels are coming to visit the earth. Youth working in family history feel the transforming power of working for family members beyond the veil. Family history has eternal consequences in the life of each person you serve, but it can also have very immediate blessings in the life of the person performing the work.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    As we observed youth doing family history, we saw them experience almost instantaneous joy and increased confidence. They become more connected to their families. They no longer feel so alone. They begin to feel a celestial kinship. They learn what it means to feel the Spirit. Family history offers a healing influence and an assurance that each person is precious in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.

    An important part of learning about our ancestors ought to occur in the home. That is where the hearts of the children can most effectively turn to their fathers. I’ve loved reading to my children and grandchildren. And now, though it is more difficult to arrange, I enjoy reading to my great-grandchildren. To help in our reading to children, we created a compilation of family experiences, spiritual promptings, and miracles called Tell Me a Story. One of the best stories is the one Matthew just related in the video, which tells of my grandmother Chastity Olsen receiving a childhood inspiration to save other children by getting them out of the riverbed near their home in Castle Dale, Utah.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    We have learned that, to be remembered, family stories need to be told and retold again. And we recommend that everyone create their own family history book. FamilySearch’s roots have also encircled the globe. In Guatemala, Lacey and Lindsey, the twin daughters of Nancy and Elder Kevin R. Duncan, then-area president, were motivated by Elder Neil Andersen and inspired by the Spirit to create a family history video. Though only 19 years old, these Duncan twins provide proof that family history is an international endeavor. Join us as we view a glimpse of their video.


    My experience doing family history is very beautiful because I am able to learn more about my ancestors by asking my family about what stories they know about our ancestors. I think they’ve been able to help me because there are times when one doesn’t know exactly what decisions to make, but when one learns more about their ancestors, they are able to see what things they did and how it worked out for them, and so it has helped me make better decisions.

    Well, I’ve had a lot of experiences because ultimately, I’ve realized that they are not just names, they are people. And each time that I enter the temple, I try to imagine what they are like, or what did they do and like to do. And so, family history has become more important and more profound for me, and I’ve been able to love my ancestors more, and that has also given me a greater desire to keep working.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Our grandaughter Stephanie Ward Steeleman shares how knowledge of her ancestor Abinadi Olsen empowered her to meet a personal challenge. Here we see Stephanie with her Sunday School class, with whom she shared an experience from his life. This is a video I requested, and Stephanie prepared it personally.


    I felt like I should share the story of my great-great-great-grandfather Abinadi Olsen, who was called to serve a mission to Samoa from 1895 to 1898. The first passage that I shared with my kids in my class was from the opening paragraph of Abinadi Olsen’s mission journal. And this is what he wrote: "I, Abinadi Olsen, bid my wife, Hannah Seely Olsen, and four children, Chastity, Orange, Henning, and Hazel, one long and loving embrace. After this most trying moment, I seated myself in the carriage and drove down the street. Heaven only knew my thoughts, as I cannot write them."

    Personally, I thought of the strength of my great-great-great-grandmother Hannah. She was left to raise her family on her own for more than three years. My husband returned from a six-month deployment. I had been left to care for our children. But we talked to my husband on the phone or video chat every single day. And when I think of how challenging those six months were for our family, even with the assistance of technology, the faith shown by my Grandma Hannah Seely overwhelms me. I have a deep admiration and respect for her.

    I admit that in the past before I’ve said, I can’t do family history work because I’m just really involved in helping the living. However, this experience teaching my class about Abinadi Olsen and several other experiences recently have given me a change of heart. For example, last summer my then-seven-year-old came to me and said, "Can I see my fan chart on Family Tree?" So now on Sundays she often clicks through, learning her ancestors’ names, looking at the pictures, reading stories that have been uploaded, and then she shares what she’s learned with her younger sister.

    That’s Grandma.


    Grandpa Oaks and Grandma Oaks, I love you.

    Family history is about turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. We replaced our Sunday night storybook reading with reading from Abinadi Olsen’s mission journal. It was a really small change, but now our ancestors are supporting our family and lending us their faith. Life is busy, but this is important. Family history is not about guilt over all the work left undone. It is about gaining knowledge of ancestors, leaving your own legacy of faith, and linking generations.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Discovering and gathering our family members naturally leads us to the temple, which is the way to eternal life.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Our great-granddaughters from California are good examples of this. One of them appeared with me in this picture just a few years ago. Later she became deeply involved in family history under the inspired direction of her Young Women leader, Melanie Burk.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Melanie has the gift of involving others in sacred work and making it fun. She literally gathered her Young Women and walked them to the temple. And Elder Oaks said that’s too far, but they walked. At church Melanie saw youth not engaged and not really listening, or missing class. But she prayed for inspiration, and the answer came. Involve them in family history. She realized these tech-savvy youth were hungry to be taught. Through the ward council, she requested to teach the youth family history. In her words, they just caught fire and came closer to their Savior. To quote one of her youth, "I found the blessings of Heavenly Father and what He had for me, and I just had to do a little bit of work."

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    The miracle of all this is that the youth came to understand who they are and feel a connection and closeness to their Savior, Jesus Christ, and those who came before. As she worked in family history, the change in our great-granddaughter Kaitlyn was dramatic.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Here’s a letter from Melanie. Melanie writes, "In the beginning, Kaitlyn struggled with recognizing the Spirit. But as she became involved in family history, she became a real leader with great outreach. I watched her serve others endlessly. And as she did, she developed more self-confidence and a happy, glowing countenance. Focused on serving, Kaitlyn began to recognize and feel the Spirit of the Lord that blessed her life daily." Melanie concludes, "My reward as her leader is seeing Kaitlyn go often to the temple to do baptisms, carrying a half-inch thick stack of names she did with our ward. What a blessing to her, her family, and countless others."

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    This picture of two girls going to the temple was drawn by Samantha Ward, Kaitlyn’s younger sister. Every year, FamilySearch invites young social media influencers who are engaged in family history to attend this RootsTech conference, speak to the press, and share their experiences on their own social media channels. This year, to our great surprise, Kaitlyn was invited to participate. I invite Kaitlyn to come on the stage, and I invite you to recognize a VIP RootsTech influencer.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Yahoo! Kaitlyn.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Kaitlyn, how did you get interested in family history?

    Kaitlyn Ward

    So before I started family history, I believed the two greatest myths of family history—that all of my work had been done, and that it was only for old people. And it wasn’t until one of my Young Women leaders took me one-on-one that I really started getting interested in family history. I actually remember before my first meeting I was really nervous. And so I was able to pray to my Heavenly Father that I would have the faith and strength to do my family history and the guidance to follow the lines that needed to be followed.

    And when I got there I actually surprised myself by having fun, which was really surprising to me. We had started laughing over names and places and just silly little things that made us giggle. And somehow, through all of this mad laughing, we managed to find a name. And that name was Martha Ward. We prepared this name and printed it up and took it to the temple. And the Spirit was so strong there.

    And this experience in family history has helped me actually make my own silly little motto, and that’s as long as you have a family tree, there’s definitely work that needs to be done on it. And even if you think it’s all done, I’m sure you’ll still be able to find something more.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Kaitlyn, is there a particular ancestor—oh. Yay, Kaitlyn! Is there a special ancestor who influenced you, Kaitlyn?

    Kaitlyn Ward

    Oh, absolutely. My fourth-great-grandmother Margaretta Unwin Clark. She traveled from England across the plains in the Martin Handcart Company in 1855, and she experienced insurmountable death and loss. And her life story is riddled with courage, and faith, and overcoming trials. And because of the death and loss that she had experienced and the courage that she had even with that, it strengthens me to know that even though I have lost loved friends and family members here on earth, that I will be able to see them again and that death is truly not the end.

    And because of this experience that I had with Margaretta, one time when I was doing family history, her name popped into my head, which I kind of thought was a little odd because she is a pioneer and has tons of descendants that are religious, and I thought there was no way that any of her descendants’ work had been missed. But it was a prompting of the Spirit, so I figured better safe than sorry. I should follow it anyway.

    And while I was doing so, I found out that three of her granddaughters still needed their work done. And I was able to request these names and take them to the temple. And I know that Margaretta and her three granddaughters were all there with me and have strengthened me ever since. And family history has given me a role model, and a guardian angel, and courage, and strength, and the strongest testimony that I have ever had.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Thank you, Kaitlyn.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    Yay, Kaitlyn.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Beautifully done. Beautiful.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    I have a note here. The results of Kaitlyn’s interest in family history were reported by her sister Samantha. This is what she wrote. "Our youth group of the Del Norte Ward, Poway, California, had a summer program to find as many names as we could. Kaitlyn and I came in first and second. So I wanted you to know about her sister too. Thank you.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Brothers and sisters—

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    We’re so proud of her. It’s OK.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Brothers and sisters, we are grateful to all of you in this marvelous audience for joining us today. As we conclude, we encourage you to share these ideas with your family.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    The power of family stories and traditions.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    The importance of teaching and training children and youth.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    All of this leads to increased individual strength and furthering family service in the temple.

    President Dallin H. Oaks

    We invite all to FamilySearch, the largest living family gathering in all the world.

    Sister Kristen M. Oaks

    And remember, your ancestors are waiting for you to connect with them.


    OK, 1, 2, 3.


    President Dallin H. Oaks

    Brothers and sisters, we live in the last days, wonderful days in which the Lord has promised that knowledge will flow down from heaven until nothing shall be withheld from those who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Technological resources, unthinkable only a short time ago, have been revealed and are being eagerly used by the rising generation. We must teach that generation to use it for holy purposes like FamilySearch, not for the evil or even for the trivial.

    A part of the beginning of this dispensation was the angelic utterance that the time had come for the hearts of the children to be turned to their fathers. Through the work of family history, our hearts become bound to our ancestors, our loved ones on both sides of the veil. As we unite in this sacred work, we discover the existence and great qualities of those who have gone before. We gather them into our hearts and the binding links of our family organizations, and we connect them into eternal families through the ordinances of the temple.

    Family history also connects us to heaven. It gives us an eternal perspective. As President Russell M. Nelson has said, "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." End of quote.

    As the Prophet Joseph Smith declared to Church members, "Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free."

    In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.