Family history center at Utah State Prison thrives

As part of his platform in running for president of the United States, Joseph Smith called for prisons to be "turned into seminaries of learning." He said, "Rigor and seclusion will never do as much to reform the propensities of man as reason and friendship."

In that spirit, perhaps the Prophet would approve of the South Point Family History Center at the men's facility of the Utah State Prison, arguably one of the busiest and most productive among the thousands of family history centers operated by the Church. This month, it is observing 20 years of existence, commemorated by a recent fireside held at the prison.

Without benefit of Internet access, a privilege denied the prison inmates, the center's patrons last month extracted some 146,000 names as part of the FamilySearch indexing project whereby volunteers around the world digitize microfilmed records to make them accessible to enthusiasts researching their genealogical information via personal computers. That eclipses a previous high of about 30,000 set last September, said Elder Ed Lunt who, with his wife, Sister Penney Lunt, serves as a Church missionary coordinating 58 volunteers who come to the prison to supervise and help the inmates who use the family history center.

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