Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Family History, History departments joined

Published: Saturday, June 10, 2000

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The Church's Family History and Historical Departments have been consolidated into the Family and Church History Department, effective June 1, the First Presidency announced.

"We are confident that this organizational change will optimize Church resources and result in other positive benefits to the Church and its members and friends," the announcement letter stated.

Richard E. Turley Jr., who has served as managing director of both departments, will become the managing director of the new department. The consolidation will "slowly weave the two departments together," he said.

Brother Turley explained that "these two departments have a history of growing side by side. The Church Historian's office, predecessor of the Historical Department, developed out of the office of Church Historian, which actually goes back to the very first day on which the Church was formally organized on April 6, 1830.

"On that day the Lord gave a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that begins, 'Behold, there shall be a record kept among you.' (Doctrine and Covenants 21:1). From that day until the present, we have been keeping records about the growth and development of the Church.

"The Family History Department was organized in the Church Historian's office, so this is really a return to the beginning."

He said the two departments "have a lot of complementary functions already. Both gather historical material, both catalog it or organize it in some way, both store it for long-term preservation, and both make it accessible to the public in some form or another. The professional staff members who work to accomplish those tasks do so in essentially the same way, even though the subject matter differs."

He said the new department will allow members to research not only the names and dates of their ancestors, but also add "some biographical detail about their own ancestors."