Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Training Family History Consultants

This is the first post in what I plan to make a section in the Table of Contents of my blog specific to LDS family history consultants. I hope it can become a resource and forum for them and those who direct their work.

I recently received an assignment to serve as Family History Consultant Trainer in my stake. I am beginning by traveling around my stake and visiting with high priests group leaders and consultants in each unit.

I live in southwest Virginia and our stake is large geographically and very diverse. We have university towns and we have more isolated mountain communities. So resources and computer skills vary widely. In many of the mountain communities, high speed internet is rare in the homes of the members. Likewise, the skills and understanding of consultants varies from those who really don't use computers at all to the very knowledgeable and skilled. So, the challenge is to understand how to help each do the best possible in his or her specific circumstances.

As I have pondered how to approach training for each group, I came to realize that a trainer for consultants must take the same approach as we ask the consultants to take as they work with their members. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to serving as a family history consultant, so training needs to be individualized.

So, let me launch this endeavor by talking about individualizing training--and that applies both to training consultants and helping members with their family history.

I was given my assignment in December--just after our Stake Conference. Our stake president had asked us to read the Book of Mormon before the next stake conference, so my husband and I had re-set our reading of the Book of Mormon to the beginning. Naturally, my new assignment was much on my mind, and I had been praying for direction. And, lo and behold, my answer came as we were reading in 1 Nephi. In 1 Nephi 8, we read of Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life.  Then, beginning in 1 Nephi 11, we have the account of Nephi learning about the meaning of the vision.

1 Nephi 11:10
And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
Before teaching and frequently as he was teaching, the personage asked what Nephi desired. We ask consultants to do the same as they work with members--find out what their personal goals and desires are in the realm of family history. Those goals and desires will be as individual as the people they work with and we must start there if we are going to be successful in helping them feel the Spirit of Elijah and having a heart-turning and successful experience. Likewise, in training consultants I am beginning by talking to them about how they envision their calling; what are their successes; what are their challenges; what do they wish they understood better....

1 Nephi 11: 11-12
And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof... And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked....
After learning what is desired, the personage shows him something--not everything all at once, just a bit at a time. Successful consultants and trainers of consultants do the same. Step-by-step, just a bit at a time. "Look at this with me."

1 Nephi 11: 14-18
...what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
A couple of instructive things here. First,  after we show something, we check for understanding. "What beholdest thou?" and "knowest thou [what this means]" or in other words, "What do you understand from this?"

And then, isn't it interesting that the teaching of Nephi didn't actually start with what he asked to understand? He asked in verse 9 to know the interpretation of the tree in Lehi's vision. But the angel starts with Mary and the birth and mission of Jesus. Why? Nephi needed some background before he could really understand the tree. So with our members and consultants. We find out what they want to learn or do and we show them things to get them to what they want--and sometimes that involves backtracking a bit to give them sufficient background to understand.

I love this approach! It not only helps me understand how to be a good resource to the family history consultants in our stake, but it also gives me a good way to help them understand the need to learn the desires of their members before meeting with them to offer assistance.

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