“Unapproved Training”

Q: (January 1, 2015)

I am having some problems with my Bishop concerning the Sunday School classes listed in the consultant help section. They are concerned that the First Presidency hasn't approved this. Have you had any problems with that?



This is a really good question. After input from site editors and Jim Greene, the Family History Department's Member Outreach Manager and Market Segment Manager for the Rising Generation, here's our best answer for now. There is no First Presidency approved instructions for Family Tree training, but according to Greene:Screenshot 2015-07-02 20.17.15.png

"Sunday School courses are approved by IP/Correlation, which process includes First Presidency approval. These Sunday School lessons that are approved,... are old and out of date, but at this point in time that is the only officially approved material for teaching members in a Sunday School or official curriculum setting. Now that said, let me give you some information and suggestions.

"First, because of the changing nature of the program, for the foreseeable future, there is no point in creating a new manual every 2-3 months, especially since it takes almost a year to receive the full approval. Therefore, we are looking into ways to formalize the doctrinal teachings, which do not change, into the regular curriculum. Once individuals understand the doctrine, and that (via the Leaders Guide: To Turn the Hearts, which is also officially sanctioned) the FH structure dictates that each ward have consultants, who report to the High Priests Group Leader, and whose job it is to visit with the members and assist them in learning the process, then they then can work with the consultants, and the consultants with them, to learn how (line upon line) to Find ancestors, Take them to the temple for vicarious ordinances, and then Teach others.

"Please understand that the goal is to get every member at least the fundamental knowledge to Find, Take and Teach. We do not want to turn them into Genealogists. We do not want them to hinder the work of genealogists either. We need them to learn the basics of how to use various techniques to Find—and as a part of find, document and source. Clear names so that they can Take them to the temple. And then Teach others how to do the same. Some of these will want to continue on and learn more advanced techniques, and when they express that desire we can share those techniques with them.

"Suggestion: Working with the HPGL,[a consultant should] ask him what would be an acceptable way to start. If he doesn’t know, see if he will take the question to Ward Council. Suggest that consultants be called and trained using the Leaders Guide, and other online (non-curriculum) resources, so that they are prepared to meet with and teach the ward members, not only in SS class, but in their homes or in the FHC. The FH department is investigating how best to teach the doctrine of FH vs the how-to. They are looking for an acceptable way to incorporate this into church curriculum.” (Greene)

     We assume this site might be one of the "other online (non-curriculum) resources" that Greene referred to. Mark Shepherd has done a great job including the Family History materials distributed from the Distribution Center, on FamilySearch.org and lds.org, and updating those materials which are "old and out of date", according to Greene. How-to instructions for Family Tree cannot be published in a User Guide on FamilySearch.org, because the program keeps changing. A site editor, Kent Jaffa suggests, since FamilySearch has stopped publishing manuals for Family Tree, ward and stake Consultants, High Priest Group Leaders and the Ward Council need to develop their own training materials. See this presentation, titled Consultants, High Priest Group Leaders, and the Ward Council, on how these groups need to interact with each other according to the Handbook of Instructions and the manual To Turn the Hearts.

      As seasoned Family Tree teachers, missionaries and consultants, our purpose is to be of help by making training ideas and materials. Editors on this site are not only very knowledgeable regarding family history and Family Tree, but we are in frequent contact with FamilySearch engineers who inform us of their upcoming changes and who seek our feedback. As some of us create materials, we also seek engineers' input. Some of us have presented at many FH Fairs, at the SLC and Riverton FH Libraries, at the BYU Genealogy Conference, and currently teach at local FH Centers, including the Harold B Lee BYU FH Library. Some of our editors, like Kathryn Grant and Heather McPhie, have had their presentations posted on FamilySearch in the Learning Center and also on this site. Until the online family history program moves into a final format, we don’t think we are going to see any printed, approved materials, and consultants will have to develop their own materials, use those presented at fairs or conferences, or use those that others have prepared such as those on this site. And all of us have testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

      The Prophet Joseph Smith said that our greatest responsibility on earth is to seek after our dead. This presentation, Prophecies and Promises, has many great family history quotes by Prophets and Apostles. Now that all temple ordinances need to be submitted through Family Tree, members MUST be trained how to use it. Please feel free to share this with your bishop and Stake President. They might be more comfortable if the course was provided as a supplement to the regular approved Family History curriculum, which as stated, is currently out of date, as Greene stated.

Submitted on 2015/01/04 at 4:10 am By Mark Shepherd

     ... I didn’t realize posting a SS course on the website would be controversial. My intentions were to share some things that I believe have been beneficial in our ward, which consists predominantly of multi-generational Church members. The idea of using workshops was based on To Turn The Hearts, (p. 17-18), which states “Holding a temple and family history class is a good way to increase participation and interest in family history. … The class may be taught during Sunday School. … Lessons are generally conducted as workshops in which members actually complete their own family history work.”

As has been mentioned, there aren’t any currently approved materials (and there will not likely be any in the future) regarding the specifics of how to teach these workshops. I have tried to incorporate relevant information from Members Guide to Temple and Family History Work (which FamilySearch has acknowledged is out of date), along with several other workshops to cover the basics so that members can learn to complete their own family history work. A few other scriptural and general authority quotes have been added.

All or parts of the course may be used (or not used) at the discretion of ward leaders and/or consultants. I would appreciate feedback regarding any portion of the course that is not in harmony with gospel principles or basic family history concepts.

Submitted on 2015/01/04 at 3:08 am by Heather McPhie

Cathy, Last year at RootsTech 2014, Shipley Munson instructed the Family History Consultants that they were to teach the 1st lesson from the old manual because it contained the doctrine, and they should teach the last lesson from the old manual because it contained the policies, but that all the lessons in between should be about teaching people to work on their own family history and letting them work on it hands on. That is the instruction I’ve been following as I’ve been teaching my own Sunday School class. And that is what I remember him saying too last year. It corresponds with what Jim has said above.

Submitted on 2015/01/03 at 12:29 am by Amy Archibald

I wanted to share what my Sunday School class is like. I have taught the Member’s Guide only twice in the past 2 years. The rest of the time has been spent learning about all the new changes to FamilyTree, How-To-Dos, Partner products, sessions from family history conferences, LDS General Conference talks, etc. My class is open to anyone at any time. If I have been teaching people in their homes and they want to come to class, they can come at any time, or not come. I have about 8 people that come weekly and others that pop in and out.

Weekly we go around the room and quickly share what “family history adventures” we have had in the past week. This keeps everyone accountable to the goals they have set for themselves. It also inspires others and at times one person’s experiences help another. Then we spend about 20-30 minutes on whatever topic I’ve prepared.

About every 4-6 weeks we cover all the new changes to FamilyTree. I used to do this monthly, but now I email my class during the week and forward blogs and other items to them to help them keep abreast of program changes.

This past month we have talked about FH Goals for 2015 – I asked the class to write down their top 5 goals on half of a paper and on the other half I asked them to write down what I (their teacher and consultant) could do to help them personally achieve their goals. And what topics for class they felt they needed more help with or training on. Then I kept the half that applied to me and they kept the other half. I now have a dozen or more topics that my class (8 students) need particular help with for them to achieve their goals. Guess what my classes will be covering for the next 3 months? What my class specifically needs.

I am the only consultant in my ward. There are weeks where I am making 6-8 home visits and other weeks where I am following up with people via email or phone calls. The HPGL has been tasked with some other pressing assignments from the Bishop and hasn’t had the time or resources to be much involved with FH. I report to the Bishop and have been able to get all the direction and help I need. I have been set apart for my calling and as such I know that I have the Spirit to direct my work

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 10:05 pm | In reply to bookwalk.

Name of Submitter withheld, but great ideas:

I’m pushing my ward to do a FH class. Its been over two years. What material am I going to use?

… the Bishop, HPGL can correct me if I err if I teach this class again.

The key statement here in the approved curriculum static media is:

“Family history consultants can provide personal help to participants during the class as well as after the class in members’ homes or family history centers. Resources available for the class include the Instructor’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, the accompanying Temple and Family History Course DVD, and the Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work. Leaders should go to the Serving in the Church section of LDS.org to find additional resources.”

The last sentence pretty much opens it up. Look at lds.org and dive into the resources and sublinks, even puzilla is on there… much of the “church” media you are building upon, as any class setting would.


I’m going to teach with the resources that will help my class to “Find, Take, Teach”. Am I going to FS, FT to show hints, Person details, Merge…? YES. Ancestry website to show records there? YES. Show Puzzilla? YES. Show a video that helps them do something later, after class is over? YES. Create my own “cheat sheets” and pass them out? YES. Think back on what manual told you everything. We don’t read the lesson out of the manual. We rely on inspiration, supporting material (scriptures, other articles, training) and class participation to make it successful. Teaching a class about the Old Testament is not like teaching/training a class to use the snowblower.

… the material [on this site is not cast] as approved curriculum and that the FS and LDS brand logos are not part of the letterhead or footer material like approved curriculum is. I recently attended an “Early Return Missionary” fireside. It was great, in the chapel and they have a rotating 8 week program in the church. I have never heard of any such program and I gather this is a local effort, maybe even a trial program. Don’t know. What I did notice in their handouts (stake president, bishop, missionary, family) was there was no official church brand logos or copyright, nor letterhead on the media. [And none appear here on this site.]

… Is such and such organization providing “approved” media? If you want approved, go to the handbook. It is a guide of how to fulfill a calling, not what specifically to teach. If I were asked to teach a class and asked what media I would be using I would say, “I would like the class members to come away with a deeper understanding of turning the hearts… and that at the end of the class that they have learned FS FT and can Find, Take, Teach. I will use the FS and FT sites and material provided by the church as well as media and other sites (like Ancestry) that helps them accomplish FH work after the class.”

Isn’t it fun to be having the problem though? In a few short months you go from a backroom to a website that people are wondering about “who are these guys”. Maybe someday you’ll be on that lds.org page.

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 1:51 pm by Cliff

My personal experience (opinion) only: After about 40 years of experience, I have never had much success with a “FH Class.” FH learning only works by doing (hands on the keyboard) and only needs to involve whatever an individual’s specific needs and interests are. Every individual’s situation is different. An approved class is academic, in my opinion.

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 7:56 pm | In reply to Cliff from Lampwalk

FH Classes do make a difference–seeing the new statistics for our Stake/ward for number of temple submissions–our Ward was highest in the Stake–as we consistently hold FH Sunday Classes. We also have FHC’s, which most of the other units in the Stake do not, but we have far more members who get hands-on during the class and then go home and submit names than actually visit the FHC. We hold a variety of classes–the traditional Member’s Guide (several members do not have computers or internet at home) with 2 or 3 hands-on segments, and then other short topic-oriented classes–3 or 4 weeks. Think about Seminary–the formal classes on a daily basis are absolute necessity. Also, other classes–why do we have any SS Classes? If they are not useful, then we may as well only hold Sacrament and let everyone teach themselves, but it’s for the “weak”–the less active, the new members, the prospective member, the newbie to Family History, etc, etc.

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 7:48 pm by Lampwalk

FH SS classes are under the Bishop’s direction, not the SS President, so that seems to imply that local revelation (Priesthood) should be from the Bishop. I realize there are other classes that can be held under the FHC itself and they seem to be under the FHC Director(s) and don’t necessarily need to follow a manual as such, and anyone can check with their HC over FHC’s if they want approval of their teaching materials.

In Turn the Hearts, p 17-18 talks about the FH Sunday Class…for resources, it mentions, Instructor’s Guide to Member’s Guide, Member’s Guide AND “Leaders should go to the Serving in the Church section of LDS.org to find ADDITIONAL RESOURCES.

Explain to your Bishop that he is the Sunday Class supervisor and has every right for revelation concerning your SS class, but explain that Turn the Hearts is the newest Leader’s Guide approved by the First Presidency to augment and replace outdated Handbook information and that’s where the above direction “go to Serving in the Church Section of LDS.org to find additional resources.—p 18.

I would give him his own personal copy of Turn the Hearts with that information highlighted. Also, the keyword on implementation of Member’s Guide is “Resources…INCLUDE (vs restricted to) …. Member’s Guide.

This is letter of the law vs spirit of the law…but the Bishop does have the final say, but I think he would be glad to be in agreement with the First Presidency as they have approved Turn the Hearts several years ago.

Submitted on 2014/12/31 at 11:24 pm by James Tanner


I will be posting a blog post on this subject later this afternoon.

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 7:39 pm | In reply to James Tanner by Diane West

I have read Jim Greene’s reply to “unapproved training”. I agree that most training that is approved is out of date. We need some good training like is posted on this site for Sunday School. My problem is in what else she said in the article like:

“each ward have consultants who report to the High Priests Group Leader, and whose job it is to visit with the members and assist them in learning the process”.

We are a church of return and reporting, but it doesn’t always happen even with HT and VT. Also the HPGL generally does not know, or in some cases, does not want to know anything about family history. Most of them can not teach consultants or ward members. What if each ward were to call a “consultant Leader” that would teach the other consultants (and maybe even the HPGL!) and report to the HPGL who in turn would report to the High Counselor over FH. The HPGL needs to be getting names from Ward Council members for the consultants to visit in their homes and/ or to be taking the Sunday School class. Each consultant should have a least two or four members that they are working with in their homes and reporting monthly to the “Consultant Leader” who in turn reports to the HPGL who in turn reports to the High Council member over FH. He reports to the Stake Presidency who report to the regional FH person. So many of our consultants believe their only responsibility is to work in the FH center for two hours a week. There is a huge breakdown with consultants knowing their responsibilities and in reporting.

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 3:12 pm | In reply to Cliff by Cathy Anderegg

That’s why we used to have new missionaries in the SLC FH Library take a 6 week, one hour a week, course, using Leland Moon’s Sandbox Family Tree database (training.familysearch.org), where they had hands on experience on a program that could be messed up without fear of ruining their own program. As one of the teachers for the library, this was highly successful, and anyone can use it for any class anywhere.

Submitted on 2015/01/02 at 2:40 pm by Gordon Collett

Doc. & Cov. 46:1-2 — Hearken, O ye people of my church; for verily I say unto you that these things were spoken unto you for your profit and learning. But notwithstanding those things which are written, it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit. If I were in this situation talking to my bishop, I would discuss that Family History, as with almost any topic in the gospel, can be broken down into three aspects:

The doctrines and principles of salvation – these do not change and can be obtained directly from the scriptures or any prior approved manual to be taught in class. These are things such as why we do temple work.

The practices of family history work – these will change and the current handbooks and counsel need to be followed. These are things such as the 110 year rule and who one may submit ordinances for.

The tools of family history work – there should never be an approved manual that must be followed for these because everyone has their own style of working and own set of skills. These are things such as how to use Family Tree and fall in the same category as Church classes on flower arranging and car repair. When was there ever a Church manual for those topics? Proper instruction is important because if you teach how to repair a car incorrectly, someone is going to cause a major accident. So you get an expert mechanic to demonstrate how to work on a car. Likewise, if you teach how to use Family Tree incorrectly, someone is going to really foul up the Tree. Therefore, one should use any resource available, including those on this this site, that will most clearly explain and teach the current best practices for using Family Tree to document family history and submit temple work.