LDS join world emphasis on families

In a demonstration of common interest in the family, representatives from 41 nations gathered in Prague March 19-22 for the World Congress of Families.

Among participants were official representatives of the Church: Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy and president of the Europe East Area, who was the presiding Church leader of the LDS delegation; Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and a member of the Pacific Area presidency; Elaine L. Jack, general president of the Relief Society; Lucie L. Didier and Marie K. Hafen.Elder Hafen, former president of Ricks College and BYU provost, and a former professor at BYU's J. Reuben Clark School of Law, addressed the congress on the subject of how modern law can protect the family. Lynn Wardle, a law professor at BYU, presented a paper countering the legal claims of same-sex marriages. (See reports on page 7.) Richard Wilkins, a law professor at BYU, presented a brief report on a computerized database BYU is establishing called "NGO (non-governmental organizations) Voice" to share information about United Nations statements affecting families.

Restoring the family as the first social institution and as the center of civilization was one of the primary aims of the congress, which began with this definition: "The family is a man and a woman bound in a lifelong covenant of marriage for the purposes of: The continuation of the human species, the rearing of children, the regulation of sexuality, the provision of mutual support and protection, the creation of an altruistic domestic economy, and the maintenance of bonds between the generations."

As the congress concluded, Elder Didier said: "This was the first time we witnessed a silent international majority expressing not only concerns about the attacks against the family, but also were able to give once again the true definition of family. All speakers addressed the modern perils that the family in our day have to face. They also reaffirmed the God-given laws that make the family succeed in life. It was reassuring to see consensus of all speakers referring to our Heavenly Father, the Creator of men and women, and the eternal law of marriage."

Elder Hafen said that groups supporting the family and academics came together because they have a common interest in the family.

Sister Didier observed, "It was good to be with so many organizations who agreed on the importance and meaning of the family, the need for mothers to be in the home to save the children." She said that the participants "were very friendly and seemed committed to the principles discussed."

Pres. Jack said that she was impressed with the diversity of the people who addressed the congress. "They were knowledgeable, invested and well prepared," she said. Pres. Jack further said, "The traditional family has become an issue because of the United Nations meetings held during the past few years trying to adopt major international platforms with changing rhetoric on human rights. One purpose of this meeting was to provide a counterbalance to some of the United Nations meetings of recent years which have been trying to redefine the family and human rights. Emerging democracies in many countries are wanting to understand human rights in a way that would best serve their citizens."

Czech Prague Mission Pres. Edwin Morrell said that he was impressed by the topics that people came together to discuss. He noted that while some things were more pertinent than others, "The hearts of those attending were in the right place."

Sister Norma Morrell said, "There were so many people from many countries who showed their caring for the same things about families and the importance of families."

Copies of the Church's "Proclamation to the World on the Family" were distributed in 15 languages.

Among other participants at the congress were several Latter-day Saints, including members of the Steven and Claudia Goodman family of Sandy, Utah. The Goodmans have performed musically at several international conferences with emphasis on the family, including the UN conference in Istanbul, Turkey, last year. The performance in Prague was the first international appearance since three of the Goodman children were killed and the father and two other children were injured in an automobile accident last December.

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