'They are not forgotten' — Family history brings stake together
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In the October 2011 general conference, Elder David A. Bednar reiterated the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith who said: "The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead."
The Sacramento California Stake took that responsibility to heart and conquered the OMNI Project 2011: "One Million Names Indexed" in October.
Those who participated in the OMNI project ranged in age and location. Nine-year-old Craig Blankenbiller and Hunter Finega, 15, indexed a combined total of 4,000 names. Capt. John T. Boynton, serving in Iraq, was challenged to participate in the OMNI project by a member of the Laguna Creek 4th Ward. Capt. Boynton indexed 2,000 names while deployed to Iraq.
"Even though I am over here serving my country, I can serve my Heavenly Father through such an inspired project," Capt. Boynton said via Skype to members gathered for an OMNI devotional on Sunday, Nov. 6. At that time it was announced that a total of 1,076,322 names had been indexed.
Sacramento California Stake President John Cassinat was inspired to initiate the project after a meeting for stake presidents. Through FamilySearch, the 1871 UK Census was identified and assigned to the stake.
"We learned that the impossible was not indexing over one-million names," President Cassinat said. "The impossible was making the time to do it."
The stake members managed their time and worked together to accomplish their goal. Through online correspondence they were able to help each other and share indexing experiences.
President John McKinney, a counselor in the Sacramento California Stake, was the main correspondent with the Church Family History Library. He noted that in January there were nine people indexing on a regular basis. After an April bishopric meeting the numbers increased slightly. The OMNI project was announced in July and by the end of the OMNI project, 1,033 people had signed up to index and 816 people indexed in October alone.
"This is a great way for you to be able to have a family history experience in your life," President McKinney said.
Peni Tutu'ila Talanoa of the Liahona Tongan Ward knew there might be challenges in his ward but he had faith that members could help.
"The majority of our members have never touched a computer, let alone used one," Brother Talanoa said. "This was a great hurdle to overcome, but for those that were willing and had the faith to go for it, it became a great testimony for them."
Talaiasi Teu of the Liahona Tongan Ward had the faith to index despite a language barrier and lack of computer skills. Brother Teu asked his grandchildren for their assistance and the family was strengthened through their efforts.
In his conference address, Elder Bednar encouraged youth to participate in family history work. He noted that the "rising generation" can offer assistance to those who may not be familiar with technology and FamilySearch.
"It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies," he said. "Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord — not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are preparation to contribute to the work of salvation."
Sharon McIntosh shared the work with her 3-year-old grandson, Joey. Sister McIntosh would tell him the letter to press on the keyboard and he would do it. "Indexing is fun to do," Joey said.
Many blessings came to those who indexed. Jess Hays of the Laguna Creek 2nd Ward was converted through the work. El Stone of the Laguna Creek 4th Ward relied on her testimony that the veil was thin and received help as she worked through the names. Despite breast cancer, Aloie Hoeft of the Liahona Tongan Ward, along with her family, made time to index.
Beverly Monson Smith posted her thoughts on Facebook. Though many people in the 1871 UK Census suffered a hard life, "think of their rejoicing now because you (we) are logging their precious names into the database, and they are not forgotten, they are one more step closer to their salvation! God remembers."
"We are the Lord's agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent 'the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse' (Doctrine and Covenants sections 110 and 115) when He returns again," said Elder Bednar. "This is our duty and great blessing."