I wish I could say I was into family history—I really do.
I wish I could say I love the thrill of finding a new ancestor and submitting their name for temple work, but that hasn't happened yet.
Here's my typical cycle with family history: I find 10 spare minutes in my incredibly busy day and think, "Hey, maybe I should do that family history I keep putting off." So then I log online, see way too many websites and buttons and steps in the process and think, "Nah. I don't have the time to figure this out. Better just play a few games of online solitaire." (Spider version, of course).
Then a few days later I get a text from my sister saying she just learned we're related to Mary the mother of Jesus and several European kings, and I start feeling guilty because I really should be doing family history.
But then I suppress my guilt by saying, "Hey, my sister's already rocking it, and I go to the temple often, so . . ." That's usually when I have to run off to some meeting or run to the store, and I bury my guilt in my to-do list.
Please tell me I'm not the only Mormon who functions this way.
What Changed My Entire Outlook
But recently, I had an experience that completely changed my outlook and even erased my guilt.
Why? Because not all Mormons are the same, so not all Mormons do family history the same.
And here's the secret: you're probably doing more family history than you think.
So stop the whole guilt, shame, denial cycle right now and take a few moments to change your outlook, too.
Back to the event that brought about this epiphany. My sister was in town (the one who is like the poster child for family history work), and I thought it would be fun if she and my mom tagged along while I explored Temple Square's Family History Discovery Center for a new story I was writing.
When I say Family History Discovery Center, your reaction was probably the same as mine—not another dim, prison-like room filled only with computer screens and eerie silence. It's not like that at all.
This place blew my mind.
First off, they hand you an iPad and you basically don't need to do a single thing besides sign in with your lds.org account. Then, presto! Your family tree is already right there. That means all you have to do is wander the interactive, full-wall displays that look like something more out of Star Trek than Temple Square, plug in your iPad, and enjoy the interactive maps, theaters, pictures, and more.
(I'm being dead serious right now. If you want to find out how an LDS version of Face Swap plays into family history, you might want to learn more about the Discovery Center here. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time!)
I won't bore you with the nitty-gritties, but that whole experience fundamentally changed how I see family history. It wasn't a dusty library somewhere or a musty basement with a flickering computer monitor. This was hi-tech. This was relevant. This was fun.
So for those of you who think you (dare I say it) hate family history, here are a few truths that might change your mind.
1. Family history is learning about people you love from your past, no matter how you do it.
So that one time I was on a road trip with my parents and they started to tell me about my eccentric relatives in Montana who burned their social security cards and lived in houses made out of straw (no joke), that was family history. When my grandpa would tell me incredible survival stories from WWII, that was family history. When my grandma gave me a family tree for Christmas showing me how I was related to the Queen of England (only about 143 people would need to die for me to become the next heir to the throne), that was family history.
2. Family history is about creating memories for the future.
And I'm not only talking about journaling. Instagram, photo books, videos, stories—any way you record a piece of who you are and what you believe, that's family history. Everyone has a different voice, so record yours however you want to be remembered.
3. Family history is fun.
Going to the Discovery Center with my mom and my sister, we laughed for probably 10 straight minutes. I learned the top grossing movie the year I was born (Aladdin—Score!) and that my mom was born the same year bubble wrap was invented, and my grandma was born the year King Tut's tomb was discovered. I discovered my grandmother had an older sister even she might not have known about. I found interesting, exciting, and powerful things about myself I had never known before. And while I might not be to the point where I can do all the online searching and indexing yet, I know I am and can contribute to my family history in a way no one else can.