April 27th, 2008

For the Strength of Youth—Family

I gave the following talk in another ward today:

photo credit: { karen }

The Pattern of Family

In a masterful discourse given at a CES fireside one year ago, Elder Bednar spoke of the various ways we can drink of the living waters we find in the scriptures. He noted three ways we can more fully immerse ourselves in these waters. One way was to observe patterns and themes:

In my judgment, diligently searching to discover connections, patterns, and themes is in part what it means to “feast” upon the words of Christ. This approach can open the floodgates of the spiritual reservoir, enlighten our understanding through His Spirit, and produce a depth of gratitude for the holy scriptures and a degree of spiritual commitment that can be received in no other way. Such searching enables us to build upon the rock of our Redeemer and to withstand the winds of wickedness in these latter days. (David E. Bednar, “A Reservoir of Living Water”)

Having been given this instruction, I have noticed in the past year a strong pattern or theme on one gospel topic that has repeatedly caught my attention. I have been assigned to speak today about this same subject.

The topic I refer to was mentioned several times in the October 2007 General Conference. Numerous remarks were given to stress its importance and encourage our participation in improving its situation. Three months later, a Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting was held, where instead of the standard invitation being extended to leaders of the church, all adult members were invited. The subject of this entire meeting was dedicated to the topic I have been referring to: the family.

In the opening remarks of the Leadership Training Meeting, Elder Holland remarked on this repetition:

Our theme today, “Building Up a Righteous Posterity,” continues the Church’s ongoing emphasis on family matters. Two years ago, the broadcast focused on the topic “Supporting the Family,” containing counsel we will refer to today.
You’ve also heard other spoken and written messages, including carefully worded letters from the First Presidency regarding the need to strengthen and protect the family. One of those letters, to have been read in sacrament meetings and delivered to families by home teachers, contains this language: “We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. . . . However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting)

Elder Holland continues:

You realize we are addressing the entire adult population of the Church in this broadcast. It may seem unusual to have young single adults invited to a discussion primarily about building up a righteous posterity. But we have extended that invitation consciously. You single adults must and will be the parents of tomorrow. And while you’re planning and preparing for that opportunity, you are very much part of your own parents’ posterity now and in the future. We are praying for all such to be righteously devoted to the family principles the Church and your parents espouse.

Furthermore, we know that others in our audience and in the Church are not now married, nor do some have an intact family fitting the ideal we regularly refer to in the Church. Please be assured we are fully aware of the many different circumstances that exist among our members. We love every one of you. We also realize that as more and more families are in disarray and as many cultural forces devalue marriage, children, and traditional family life, the General Authorities and general officers of the Church feel increased urgency to speak of ideals and gospel-centered principles. Otherwise, the moral drift which the world inevitably experiences could take us to a point where earnest people in and out of the Church are truly at sea when it comes to divine expectations in marriage and eternal family standards. (Jeffrey R. Holland, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting)

Continuing the emphasis, the church issued a press release yesterday discussing how representatives and leaders are working with governments around the world to strengthen families:

In the last two years the Church has also partnered with governments in Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Hong Kong to host events aimed at educating the public in the fields of strengthening marriage, addiction recovery and family history research.

For example, on its Web site the Taipei city government features resources provided by the Church designed to encourage parents to hold a weekly family night with their children. Suggestions include having a short lesson about moral values, singing, eating snacks and playing games together.

Because of the Church’s emphasis on religious freedom, several governments have invited Latter-day Saint experts to sit on drafting committees as constitutions are written. The Guatemalan government has sought suggestions from Church representatives while forming a Ministry of the Family.

Having been taught concerning the family on numerous occasions, and seeing so much emphasis placed upon this subject, we are led to ask “why?”. Why has this counsel been oft-repeated from so many angles? Why, in a world filled with iniquity and turmoil, do the prophets—they whose charge it is to “cry repentance unto this people”—choose for their remarks a subject that to some might seem quite innocuous?

Warn and Forewarn

One possible answer to these questions might have been given over a decade ago. Indeed, it would seem more in line with the nature of prophecy to have been warned of a problem before its occurrence. As President Benson once wrote, “Prophecy is a miracle of knowledge of events before they transpire. Prophecy is history in reverse. It is not speculation nor guessing, but it is a divine disclosure of future events through inspired instruments.”

The prophecy in this case, and one possible answer to our questions, comes from a talk given by President Hinckley in a 1995 General Relief Society Meeting. Most of us are aware that this is the setting in which “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was given. Few, however, recall the words spoken by our prophet just before the new statement was read. Prefacing this proclamation, he said:

With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World”)

We were told this thirteen years ago, and what has happened since? A review of developing cultural trends, legislation, marital statistics, and other data clearly demonstrate the sophistry, deception, and slow stain of the world President Hinckley mentioned. But why do we have the proclamation? Was it necessary? Was it a warning voice for future events? What are we to learn from it?

At a press conference just seven months after issuing this proclamation, President Hinckley remarked:

Why do we have this proclamation on the family now? Because the family is under attack. All across the world families are falling apart. The place to begin to improve society is in the home. Children do, for the most part, what they are taught. We are trying to make the world better by making the family stronger. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 209)

With prophets and apostles continuing their emphasis on the family and encouraging us to work towards strengthening our own, we would do well to pay attention and support the cause. We know what’s at stake, and we know what is required of us to achieve success. Like any other goal, creating and working towards a family grounded upon gospel principles requires a significant investment of “sweat equity”—time, energy, patience, and love.

For the Strength of Youth

In its latest revision published in 2001, the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet was expanded to include a few new topics, such as education, tithes and offerings, service to others, and family.

Now, lest we adults tune out any of the valuable information given in this pamphlet, I echo the remarks of Sister Julie Beck, who said:

[The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is] a resource that has to be always in front of our youth. And parents and leaders have to live it. You can’t be the leader who tells youth what movies to avoid, and then you go to those movies. You can’t be the mother who says, ‘Don’t wear that immodest dress,’ and then you’re wearing one. You can’t be the father who says, ‘Pay your tithing,’ but you don’t. (Julie B. Beck, “For the Strength of You”)

We as adults must first live and exemplify the principles in this document before encouraging our youth to do likewise. Both hypocrisy and sincerity are easily detected, especially by children. Thus, the principles contained in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet are not just for the youth alone, but for all of us. Some have suggested referring to this pamphlet as “For the Strength of You”, rather than “youth”, in order to emphasize its broad applicability to all of God’s children, regardless of age.

Having clarified to whom the pamphlet applies, let’s review what it has to say about the family:

Being part of a family is a great blessing. Your family can provide you with companionship and happiness, help you learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and help you prepare for eternal life. Not all families are the same, but each is important in Heavenly Father’s plan.

Do your part to build a happy home. Be cheerful, helpful, and considerate of others. Many problems in the home are created because family members speak and act selfishly or unkindly. Concern yourself with the needs of other family members. Seek to be a peacemaker rather than to tease, fight, and quarrel. Remember that the family is the most sacred unit of the Church.

Honor your parents by showing love and respect for them and by being obedient. Be willing to help in the home with chores that need to be done. Participate in family activities and traditions, including family prayer, family home evenings, and family scripture reading. These traditions strengthen and unify families. Set a good example for other family members.

Strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters. They can become your closest friends. Support them in their interests and help them with problems they may be facing.

The pamphlet instructs youth that their family can provide them with companionship and happiness. As parents and leaders, are we fully providing this to the best of our ability? Youth are told here that their family can help them learn correct principles. What principles are we teaching our youth by our counsel and example?

Youth are counseled to honor their parents by showing love and respect. Are we, then, living our lives in such a way that would merit such respect? Do we hold family prayer and scripture time, allowing our youth the opportunity to participate and benefit?

Clearly, this document contains as much counsel for parents and leaders as it does for the youth. The family can and should be a crucial asset in a child’s development, and we should be doing everything in our power to make the ideal home not some distant dream or conceptual theory, but a reality.

Families as Individuals

In light of the frequent mention of families, it’s important that we understand what a family truly is. Is a family a loose organization of unique individuals or a unified body of pre-chosen members? Is it a business enterprise allowing each partner to assist the other in achieve wealth and power? Is it a cooperative where each member uses whatever resources the others can offer in achieving their personal desires?

The “Proclamation” defines a family by illustrating the ways in which husband and wife unite themselves, share a common purpose with distinct roles, and work together towards the mutual goal of exaltation. Similarly, it describes in what ways the children of the family lay claim upon their parents for support, love, and nurturing.

To understand families, we must understand individuals. Any human institution—be it a business, church, government, or family—is composed of individuals. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so too the family makes or breaks itself based on the actions of each participating individual.

But where there is potential for weakness, there is also an opportunity for strength. The Lord has promised us that a recognition of our weakness in humility will allow Him to bless us and make our weak things become strong.

Since as individuals we are imperfect and flawed, it follows then that our families will likewise be a work in progress. Few, if any, have the “perfect family”, though to some the grass may appear greener in another neighbor’s yard. We each have our personal problems and family foibles, and though we frequently fall short, we are all working towards the ideal. In addition, the composition of our families can differ based upon any number of circumstances. Elder Holland spoke of this in the Leadership Training Meeting, when he said:

Now, I hope this helps you understand why we talk about the pattern, the ideal, of marriage and family when we know full well that not everyone now lives in that ideal circumstance. It is precisely because many don’t have, or perhaps have never even seen, that ideal and because some cultural forces steadily move us away from that ideal, that we speak about what our Father in Heaven wishes for us in His eternal plan for His children. (Jeffrey R. Holland, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting)

As we Saints strive to become “perfect in Christ” in pursuit of this ideal, we cultivate a healthy dependence upon the Savior and reliance upon the Atonement. This is the method by which our weak things become strong, just as it is the method by which our families will become wholesome, happy, and full of love.


As President Hinckley often taught that any gospel instruction should conclude with a challenge and invitation to progress, I feel to repeat a few lines of instruction from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet that will help us to bring our families closer to the ideal established by the Lord.

First, we are told to do our part to build a happy home. The “Proclamation” tells us that “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So, doing our part in this effort might entail preparing a spiritually uplifting Family Home Evening message, sharing our testimony in a relaxed setting with a child, or simply and sincerely living the teachings of Christ.

Next, we are counseled to be cheerful, helpful, and considerate of others. This might be done by counting our many, many blessings, expressing gratitude for our family members through word and deed, and seeking to fulfill the needs of our spouses, children, or parents before we our own.

We are also instructed to become peacemakers instead of teasing, fighting, and quarreling. This might entail turning the music down a notch, speaking in softer tones, or being more quick to forgive.

To repeat Elder Bednar’s promise, we are told that if we observe the patterns of gospel instruction, we will be able to “build upon the rock of our Redeemer and to withstand the winds of wickedness in these latter days.” There are, perhaps, numerous reasons why the subject of the family is so stressed by our sustained leaders. But whatever the purpose, our duty is clear. We must heed the warnings, implement the teachings, and strive to improve our families in whatever ways we each need to.

I testify that the family is a divine organization established for our immediate and eternal benefit. I believe it is a microcosm of God’s own family, allowing us as children, spouses, and parents to experience in some small degree the joys that can come from having a unified family and righteous posterity. I testify that while I barely understand it, the Atonement is real, and can heal our families and make the weak parts strong. We have that promise, and it is up to us to take advantage of it.

3 Responses to “For the Strength of Youth—Family”

  1. brother #3
    April 28, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    why are you giving talks in other wards?

  2. Connor
    April 28, 2008 at 2:15 pm #

    As part of my stake calling, I give a talk in a different ward about every four months.

  3. Jillian
    May 6, 2008 at 10:23 pm #

    That was a beautiful talk. Everything was worded well, and it provided a message that everyone needs to hear.

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m lovin’ it. Thanks, and keep up the great work!

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