Record management tips

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MLS membership

Managing membership records is the responsibility of the ward clerk, who may be assisted by a membership clerk. The following techniques and procedures can help keep these records accurate and consistent.

Member names

Main article: Naming conventions

With increasing cultural diversity in many areas of the world and additional complexity in name conventions, the proper entry and display of member names can become quite confusing. The basic principle is to make the official name on the Church records the same as the person's legal name, but exactly what the person's legal name is is not always clear. Language differences, immigration and immigration status, culture, naming conventions and different systems for spelling or writing a name can all lead to different names.

When the legal name isn't clear or you don't understand it, ask the member to provide a legal document showing how the name is spelled (of course, legal documents aren't always correct, and this may lead to helping the member correct the legal document).

Preferred names

When the transition was made to MLS (around 2004), the preferred names entered in MIS were lost. The default is the member's full name. Most of the names on each unit's records likely have been fixed by now. There are probably some that need to be fixed or records may come from other units with the preferred name still including the entire full name. Having the full name out for everyone in the ward or branch (and certain people in the stake or district) to see like that may violate the member's privacy as this level of information may be confidential and/or sensitive. When in doubt, each member should be given the opportunity to choose their preferred name.

Ideally, a member's preferred name should be the first and last name by which he or she is commonly known. For example, "Doe, John" as opposed to "Doe, Jonathan Buck". Try not duplicate names within your unit. To accomplish this, include middle initials and/or suffixes in the preferred first name. For Spanish surnames, consider having the preferred last name be just the first surname or the first surname and the initial of the second (e.g. "Perez B., Jose").

Contact details


Every family's record should have a physical street address on it. If the mailing address is different (such as a PO Box), it should be entered as the mailing address (to export mailing addresses, see Exporting Mailing Labels). Both addresses should be concise and conform to the standards of your country's postal service.

  • United States - see the U.S. Postal Service conventions and Postal Service abbreviations. The linked convention tool converts an input address to the standard U.S. Postal Service conventions. To denote in MLS which addresses have been verified using this tool, one may use the "+4" in the zip code.

    One wrinkle on the USPS site: it may occasionally return an address, but say it is "non-deliverable". In that case, it may be an acceptable physical / residential address, but it is not a mailing address. In this case, a mailing address is needed as well.

  • United Kingdom - the Royal Mail provide an on-line tool that will look up postcodes from addresses or addresses from postcodes. Note: there is a limit of 15 searches per day.

If a physical address is not available for a family, then the family's membership in the ward cannot be verified (e.g. is the family in the correct unit). A PO Box alone, a rural route and box, an apartment complex name, or merely a city and state is not enough information. If a member's location is known (or is easily found), get the physical address and add it to the record. If not, send the record to Address Unknown. CHQ has resources for tracking people down not available to local units. If a member's address is no longer correct, every effort should be made to obtain the correct address (see Locating members). If the new address is not in the local unit, the record should be moved to the appropriate unit within one month.

If members living outside the local unit's boundaries are found, talk to the bishop (or branch president) about it. There may be a legitimate reason for the departure from policy. Ultimately, exceptions to boundaries have to be approved by both bishops (or branch presidents), both stake presidents, and then the Office of the First Presidency.

Telephone numbers

Each family record should include a telephone number (or numbers) including an area code. If the number is unlisted, then put "unlisted" in that field. If a number cannot be located, input "unknown". In either case, the home teachers and/or visiting teachers should be asked if they know the telephone number.

When a valid telephone number is known but not a valid address, might be able to help. Anyone can search a phone number and will return addresses listed for that number in the national databases. This can also be useful in verifying that the number already on a record goes with the name and address.

Formats: (Decide on a format; best if the stake decides this, and everyone follows it.)
(555)555-1212 (This format takes one extra character of space)


Single members

A single adult member who lives alone, or "whose parents are not members should be his or her own head of household" (Membership Supplement). Regarding single adult members who live at home, the Record Keeping FAQ says "any single member who is over the age of 18 can be designated as his or her own head of household. . . . As a general guideline, you should do whatever best serves the interests of the family." The bishop makes this decision. Young single adults who are members of a single adult ward or branch will of necessity be their own head of household.

Adult children

If a household has a child who is 18 or older and does not live with the parents, the child's records should be moved to the appropriate unit (certain exceptions apply). If a parent is unwilling to identify the child's current location, send the record to Address Unknown.

There have been a few instances where a family was sent from Address Unknown to a local unit where the "family" has multiple adult children. In this case, it is likely that only the head of household actually lives there. If such a household record is received, every effort should be made to track down the adult children to ensure their records are in the correct unit as it is not enough to separate an adult child into his or her own household. If an adult child cannot be located, send his or her record to Address Unknown.


Something that often gets forgotten is creating records for children under age eight for newly baptized members. Often this does not occur until a child turns eight or the family attends the temple together. It is the ward clerk's responsibility to see that this gets done. Parental consent to create a record is required. A brief overview of membership records could be given to new members concerning their children under age eight.

A unit may notice children under 18 who have their own households. These children should be associated with the appropriate household, if possible, such as an older sibling (any age), grandparents, or some other member (such as foster parents) that they live with. If you have two or three children who are members but no one else in the home is, the oldest can be the head of household.

Sometimes a child will have two membership records with slightly different information such as different birth dates, different last names, or different spellings of names. These differences should be resolved and the records should be merged using MLS.

Members in correctional and care center facilities

Members that have been incarcerated or reside in a care center, should have their records moved to the appropriate unit assigned to the facility if they are going to reside there for more than 2 months. Many of these units are Active MLS (which can be verified by the administrative office) and should be given stewardship over the members' records that reside in the facility.

Members serving in the military

Members that are serving in the military have several places in which the records should be kept [1]. Members that are attending basic training or are away on a temporary assignment, and have not been assigned to a more permanent duty station, should have the records kept in their home ward. When the member receives their duty station assignment, the records can then be moved to the unit that supports the station. If the member is assigned to a temporary overseas assignment, the records are to be kept in the unit that supports the domestic duty station.

To search for a duty station in CDOL, go to Advanced Search, Organization Type and select Military Installation. If there isn't a duty station found, for example if the area is in an active war zone, the record stays in the home ward.

Updating records in another unit

Occasionally, during the annual review of a member's Individual Ordinance Summary, they will notice that there is information that is not correct for a member of the family (i.e. birthdate and ordinance dates). If the member of the family does not reside within the unit, the corrections to the membership record will need to come from the local ward clerk where that member resides.

The Church Directory of Organizations and Leaders and Meetinghouse Locator are great tools in assisting the location of another unit or leader.

If an ordinance date is missing from the record, it is best to have the local priesthood leader contact the administrative office for assistance.


MLS provides a useful tool called the Membership Validation Report. Running this report examines all the membership records in the unit and identifies inconsistencies or possible problems which should be resolved. This report can be run periodically to ensure new records are validated, especially during the first few months of service of a ward or membership clerk. Once both are trained and experienced, the report can be run this less often.

See also


  1. Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 13.6.8

This page was last modified on 27 March 2013, at 19:46.

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