What happens when you take 13,000 family historians and throw in 30,000 more people of all ages, shapes and sizes? RootsTech Family Discovery Day. The now-annual Saturday event has become a RootTech staple. Its main sponsor is the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and themes focus on family history in the LDS Church. Entire families are invited and it is free for families, but registering in advance is a must. The day usually sells out weeks before Family Discovery Day begins.
This year’s event was another great one, just like in years past. The exhibitor hall filled with families starting at 10 a.m. and kids crowded around the Family Discovery Experience display where people could take lots of pictures in front of green screens with pictures super-imposed from around the world. Attendees could also find out the origins of their names and various ancestors as well. There were wheels to spin for prizes and a scavenger hunt through the hall.
Beginning at 1 p.m., President Russell Nelson spoke with his wife, Wendy as the keynote speakers. Prior to their address, Nathan Pacheco treated the crowd to a couple of spiritual-based songs. Pacheco said he was honored to be a part of the day. “I love singing and this is a beautiful event to be a part of,” he said. Music has been part of his family story, with his mom teaching piano through his life. “We were all raised with music and it was an integral part of our family,” Pacheco said backstage just before he sang his beautiful rendition of, “The Prayer.”
Once the Nelsons took the stage things got comfortable as the couple shared with us one of their favorite activities: playing scrabble. They two put together a little scrabble board for the audience, inserting words that the feel makes up the key parts of family history. They shared the meaning behind the words heart, family, Elijah, stories, detour, sealing, sacrifice and missionary. The couple talked warmly of their own family histories and shared sweet stories of how their family history has had a profound effect on their families. Both the Nelsons have engaged in a large family story-sharing event in the last year. Their words of encouragement left audience members (me included) inspired to find and share some family stories with my children.
In the media hub I got to chat with three more LDS church leaders (members of the Seventy) who shared with us where things are moving with family history work in the LDS church. There will be more training offered starting immediately as Elder Scott Grow told us that family history consultants now number at just over 90,000 across the world, more than LDS missionaries. He said that because of this a better training method is being implemented and their title is being changed to “Temple and Family History Consultants.” The leaders suggested ways to engage all family members in the work of family history and also shared the idea that family history is not just for LDS people – that all people love to hear and learn of their family history. Watch for a full story on their thoughts later this week.
We were treated to the concluding speakers for the day, Sheri Dew and former Brigham Young University football players and former Philadelphia Eagles Vai Sikahema and Reno Mahe. Vai is currently a popular newscaster in Philadelphia and Reno is the running back coach at BYU. The two Pacific Islanders came out on stage sporting lava lavas and we knew we were in for a real treat. They freely admitted their lack of knowledge on family history, but by the end of their address, had both committed to doing some family history work in the next year, making specific commitments to the large crowd and to Sheri Dew. Dew interviewed the two about their rich island heritage as they made, ‘Otai, a popular drink served on the islands. It was touching to hear about the sacrifices their family made to be a part of the LDS church and also Reno’s positive outlook after losing his young 4-year-old daughter Elsie earlier this fall in a tragic accident. “Her death has made us as a family have a goal to shoot for so we can be with her,” Reno said in an interview after the address.
The day was special and touching and as the two players talked in the media hub the crowds gathered and they stayed taking pictures until the lights literally shut it down. My daughter got one of the last pictures with them. A highlight to a truly rewarding day.
*We have loved re-capping each day of RootsTech this past week. Now please watch for individual stories from the presenters and different experiences we had last week over the next few weeks. We will go more in-depth, telling some of the great stories we heard and hope they will inspire you like they did us. You won’t want to miss it!