SALT LAKE CITY — “We are the gatherers” and “You can do this” were the common, repeated themes offered by Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, during their Saturday keynote address during Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2019.
In a 50-minute conversation on the main stage of the conference, Elder Bednar, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Bednar reviewed the importance of the restored gospel and its saving ordinances — including those done in temples. They also spoke of being covenant-keeping disciples of the Savior.
“We have the responsibility to help gather together in one all things in Christ,” Elder Bednar said. “We are the gatherers.”
The Bednars shared several examples in two types of “gathering” — the collecting of family names, information, memories and stories for family history, and the linking of eternal families through temple ordinances for ancestors.
They also shared what Sister Bednar called “non-tech” and “high-tech” methods of gathering.
She first asked her husband to share a little about one of his ancestors. He spoke of Luke Syphus, a third-great-grandfather from England who was baptized in the Latter-day faith, married and — while immigrating to Australia — became acquainted with Joseph Ridges.
Baptized in Australia and going into the lumber business in Australia with Syphus, Ridges built an organ that he later donated and delivered to the church for its old adobe tabernacle on Temple Square. He later was asked to design and help construct a newer, larger organ for the new Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Sister Bednar asked Elder Bednar to summarize his feelings sharing that story in two or three words. He responded: “Gratitude, simplicity and love.”
She then allowed several minutes for attendees to share a relative’s story with someone sitting nearby and to summarize their feelings in a word or two.
Said Elder Bednar: “Notice how these very simple conversations — stimulated by inspired questions — can invite our friends and family members onto a path of discovery, giving them an opportunity to act and thereby open their hearts to the power of the Holy Ghost and the spirit of Elijah.”
The Bednars then guided attendees to open the Family Tree app on mobile phones, first going to the “Find A Relative” feature. He said that of the 7,822 attendees using the app, he was related to 3,702; she noted her relatives totaled 4,152.
Elder Bednar also pointed out the app’s Ordinance Ready feature for church members to take names to the temple for ordinance work such as proxy baptisms and sealings of spouses and of children to parents.
“These are just two of the many features on the Family Tree app that allow you to discover, to gather and to connect with each other,” he said.
In her conclusion, Sister Bednar said: “I know God lives. I know that he is anxious to help us discover, gather and connect. It is part of his plan for this latter day, and we are the gatherers.”
Underscoring the “we are the gatherers,” statement, Elder Bednar added several promises: “I promise that as you consistently act and do the very simple things you know you should do, you will become ever more effective in the work of the gathering of Israel and you will help many individuals and families on both sides of the veil. Your capability and service will be magnified.
“I promise the doors will open, heavenly help with be available to you and you will be blessed to know that you can do this.”
The Bednars’ presentation served as the featured event of Saturday’s Family Discovery Day, the free, final-day event concluding RootsTech 2019. It was also live-streamed on lds.org.
“I want to state one obvious fact,” Elder Bednar said. “RootsTech is the premier family conference in the whole world.”
With classes, activities and booths featuring family history tools, technology and resources, RootsTech is hosted by FamilySearch, the family history arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The four-day event drew an estimated 25,000 attendees in person and another 100,000 viewing online through live broadcasts.
Tyler Stahle, RootsTech marketing communications manager, said event organizers were thrilled with the successes of this year’s event and grateful for attendees who participated.
“For us, we’ve loved seeing the growth of the conference,” he said. “Interest in one’s family history is growing throughout the world, and RootsTech provides a platform for the industry to come together and celebrate connections."
The event is going global itself, with the recent announcement of a first international expansion — RootsTech London, scheduled for Oct. 24-26. “We look forward to the chance to take the magic of RootsTech to people throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the Bednars' name as "Bendars."