Sunday, March 15, 2015

Engaging the Youth in Family History

Steve Rockwood addressing students at the Pasenga School in Samoa

This week we participated in some powerful experiences with the youth of Samoa.  First, there was a special assembly at the Pasenga School.  Then there was a devotional for youth and YSA.  Over 1400 people attended at the Latopa Stake Center where the speakers were.  Others joined by broadcast at stake centers all over both Upolu and Savai'i islands.

One of the key messages brought to the young people here is the importance of their role in "hastening the work" and especially in advancing family history.  They were reminded of Elder Bednar's Conference talk from October 2011 in which he spoke of how this rising generation as "digital natives" are uniquely prepared to carry the work of preserving family records forward.

Steve Rockwood reminded the youth about the story in the Book of Mormon in which the prophet Lehi sends his sons back to Jerusalem to get important records, the Brass Plates of Laban.  It was the young people of that day who were needed to get the information which would be vital to their family and their whole civilization moving forward.   Likewise, it will be the youth of the church today who will bring energy and vitality to efforts in seeking out and preserving key family history information.

Brother Rockwood also taught them the analogy of the bow tie.  He selected young people out of the audience to come stand at the podium to represent a family.  He started with one young girl, an individual who had the opportunity to decide that night whether she would be like Nephi who said: "I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded me,.." (1 Nephi 3:7)  He then began pulling up other people to represent her parents, her grandparents, her great - grandparents...those we have been teaching about as "Sulima / Sulima"  (15-15)...  meaning the 15 people who represent someone's 4 generation.  He also added some others to represent aunts, uncles and other extended family.

Brother Rockwood talked about the decision this girl would make that night about whether or not to take on the challenge of the 15 in 15 program would have eternal consequences for all those people standing there....but that was not all.   He then showed the other half of the bow tie - her future spouse, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.   With energy and passion Brother Rockwood  helped the young people participating at this devotional how one person's commitment to living the gospel, teaching their family, and searching out their kindred dead could truly bind together the generations in a way that would ultimately influence hundreds of lives.

As members of the family reached out to share the blessings of the gospel - either as full time missionaries or simply in conversations with their friends and associates, they can help others to discover the blessing of family history.  With that, the ripple effect goes even further.

It was a powerful lesson taught in a way that touched many hearts.

Throughout the night I kept noticing a young girl in the front row of the chapel who simply radiated joy.   Her eagerness to learn and her readiness to feel the spirit were so evident.   After the meeting ended I had an opportunity to meet this young girl and visit with her.  Her name is Miracle.  Somehow, that name seemed to truly fit.  I believe she can be a miracle to her family and her community.  I see this wonderful young woman of faith and virtue doing some big and important things in her life that will influence many generations.

It has been so powerful to be part of these meetings.   As our time in Samoa comes to a close, we are being reminded all over again why we are doing this mission.   Families are eternal.  The gospel is true.  There are remarkable promises of blessings for those engaged in this work.  We want to share those blessings.   So yes, sometimes it is hard and it most definitely requires sacrifices. It has certainly taken us beyond our comfort zone.  But when it gets tough, we just say "bring it on".  We are ready for this work.   We wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

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