"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
September 30, 2015
Getting in the (Family History) Zone: It's a Marathon, Not a 50-yard Dash
by Kathryn Grant

Experienced marathon runners know that pacing can make or break a race. If you push yourself too much at the beginning, you may not have the stamina you need later during the race. But an even pace puts you on track (so to speak) for a successful run.

With so many of Heavenly Father’s children waiting for their temple ordinances, family history is definitely a marathon. But sometimes we treat it more like a 50-yard dash. In our haste, we may try to shortcut important parts of the course. There’s even a risk of getting burned out when the track doesn’t end after 50 yards, even with the shortcuts.

What are some indications that we may be treating family history like a 50-yard dash instead of the marathon that it is?

  • Making a goal to get your family history “done”

  • Not wanting to research, but just “find a name”

  • Trying to clear large numbers of names in a short period of time without making sure the information is correct and that ordinances are really needed

  • Sharing large numbers of unverified names with the temple system

But here’s something interesting: did you know that when the Church measures family history participation on a local level, the person who submits one name is counted the same as the person who submits a thousand names?

There’s an important message in that approach. The point isn’t to get your family history “done” by submitting large quantities of names quickly. Rather, the point is to enjoy the journey and make steady, consistent progress. You’ll be most effective at family history (and enjoy it more) if you do.

The trouble with the 50-yard dash approach is that it actually slows temple work down in the long run. Think about it: we know there are many names in Family Tree that appear to need ordinances, but they are actually duplicates that already have temple work performed.

However, when large numbers of duplicate names are submitted to the temple (which happens when people go into Family Tree and just start reserving names without verifying them), many hours are spent repeating ordinances for those who already have them. And those who are waiting continue to wait.

But here’s the great thing about running the family history marathon at a regular, consistent pace: Suppose you found just one or two carefully-researched, valid names each week. You’d still have plenty to do keeping up with the temple work! Not only that, over time your expertise and knowledge would grow, and you would soon be averaging more than just one or two names a week.

“Out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Run the race at a steady pace. Don’t become incapacitated because you think you have to do it all. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not doing more.

Be consistent, careful, and prayerful, and you will make meaningful progress. You’ll also bring unspeakable blessings to your loved ones on both sides of the veil.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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