FamilySearch Indexing: A Priesthood Tool for Blessing Lives
FamilySearch indexing has been in the spotlight lately. Maybe you’ve noticed the recent feature articles on the LDS Newsroom site and in the Ensign, Liahona, and New Era magazines. Or maybe you’ve read about indexing in conjunction with the extensive news coverage of the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project (co-sponsored by FamilySearch).
With all of this attention, it seems FamilySearch indexing is “coming out of obscurity,” which makes this an opportune time to ask, “Exactly how should I be thinking about indexing?”
Is indexing a commandment? Clearly not, though some would like to be able to cite it in the standard works. Is it an “optional program?” Some early language may have described it that way, but that doesn’t quite match the First Presidency’s recent reference to it as being “vital to family history and temple work.”
Perhaps the best way to think about FamilySearch indexing comes to us from To Turn the Hearts, the new Leader’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. In the overview of the guide, it states that “[this guide] describes how family history can be an integral part of the ward council’s efforts for the salvation of souls.”
Notice that it doesn’t describe family history as an integral part of the ward council’s efforts for the salvation of departed ancestors. Rather, it speaks only of souls, implying both the living and the dead, and echoing the teachings of Christ: “For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him” (Luke 20:38).
From this perspective we could say that family history and temple work is all about saving the souls of the living. And that is precisely the finding of the priesthood leaders in Springfield, Illinois, who utilized family history work to invite the sanctifying and strengthening power of the Spirit of Elijah (which is as a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to the eternal nature of your family) to bless the lives of stake members. In Springfield, family history work helped to reactivate struggling members, strengthen families, and lead seekers of truth into the waters of baptism.
Different Work, Same Blessings
Indexing shares a similarity to other forms of family history activity. It is a work blessed by the same Spirit of Elijah and is a means of achieving the same types of positive results in the lives of Church members. One young sister described her experience after her bishop issued an indexing challenge to ward members. Her concluding statement is instructive. As she put it, “Because it involved service, sacrifice, and saving others, we felt its purifying effect.”
Though indexing is relatively new to many in the Church, priesthood leaders are rapidly coming to recognize it as a powerful tool for achieving hoped-for outcomes in the lives of those they lead. That was certainly the case in the Sacramento California Stake where a simple suggestion to use indexing as a way to give every member a meaningful calling led to an amazing blessing for the entire stake.
Indexing has been described as a “gateway” for introducing Church members to family history and temple work. The foundational skills it teaches can prepare Church members to become better researchers and help them better understand and decipher genealogical records. In fact, it’s an excellent way to help youth respond to Elder Bednar’s invitation to get involved in family history work.
But indexing is a complete family history activity in and of itself, within easy and convenient reach of old and young alike wherever they have access to the Internet. Indexing can bring generations together in a fun, collaborative, and sharing activity—whether in a family, ward or branch, or class or quorum setting. And because there are no minimum standards of Church activity or worthiness to participate, priesthood leaders can feel good involving everyone.
Indexing is so flexible that even the ill, aged, and homebound can be included and feel the joy of giving. Moreover, indexing allows individuals to start and complete a meaningful family history activity in as little as 30 minutes. Truly indexing is a gift from the Lord, provided in our day to bless His children.
If you haven’t already discovered the blessings of FamilySearch indexing, we encourage you to learn more and take steps to incorporate it more completely into your local family history program. Blessings await those who do.