Boosting family in troubled times

Church members in Sweden unite efforts with others

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Endeavoring to stem societal tides and bolster the family as an institution, Church members in Sweden have had a memorable year in 2003.

The chief event occurred in May in observance of United Nations Family Day. A celebration May 15-17 in Stockholm resulted from the efforts of three organizations: Church public affairs in Sweden; Haro, an independent organization working to promote freedom of choice for families; and Hem & Skola, a school and home organization for students and parents in the greater Stockholm area.

Per Nilsson, national director of public affairs for the Church, said an open house involving lawmakers opened the celebration. "We, through a member of parliament contact, Marietta Porbaix-Lundin, were able to rent a room in which a joint family petition was read aloud and handed over, nicely packaged, to invited politicians," he said. "All 11 members of parliament cheered the effort to safeguard family values and asked us to carry on and not give up. Also, a new, locally produced family brochure was presented to all members of parliament and all visitors to the rest of the family events."

Later, Brother Nilsson and celebration committee chairman Per Akebrand met with Tuve Skaneberg, a member of parliament with special interest in family and Christian values. Also present were Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Seventy, a member of the Europe North Area presidency; Sweden Stockholm Mission President Gary E. Baugh, and their wives. "Elder Rasband explained the Church's view that strong families are the basis of a strong, well-founded society and then presented Mr. Skaneberg with a framed copy of 'The Family: a Proclamation to the World,' " Brother Nilsson said.

The day ended with a family concert at the Teachers College in Stockholm, attended by about 350 people, of whom an estimated 35 percent were friends of other faiths. Featured were Ninni Bautista, a Church member and professional musician leading a joint choir with about half Church members. Also performing were the LDS group Unitone, the entire Bautista family of nine children, other soloists and a choir of Primary children from both Stockholm stakes.

The finale two days later was a performance in Ralambshovsparken, a giant park in the center of Stockholm. The three-hour program featured Louis Herrey with his two young sons singing "Diggy Lo, Diggy Ley," the song for which Louis and his brothers became popular and won a European pop singing contest in 1984. Also featured were cheerleading groups, a folk dance team, and young stars from a musical school. A family history research attraction, 4-H garden, a petting zoo and booths distributing literature promoting families were also part of the event. About 900 spectators attended.

Earlier in May, the first Latter-day Saint Family Award was given to a Christian kindergarten operated by the Swedish state church (Lutheran) in the Haninge area where the Church's Stockholm Sweden Temple is located. "The backbone attendance at the kindergarten has been LDS children," Brother Nilsson said. "This mutual relationship has been very nice and, in effect, a bridge-building effort." Of 21 invited kindergarten staff, 16 came for the award presentation.

A 2 1/2 hour program concluded with an expression from 82-year-old staff member Karin Eriksson recalling treasured memories of associations with Latter-day Saints, and from the Lutheran priest in charge of the kindergarten, Per Hilmer, who said there are more elements that unify than separate them as Christians and upholders of the family.

"The event was extremely well received, and now we expect this family award to be repeated in similar fashion in other parts of Sweden," Brother Nilsson said.

Efforts to promote the family continued in late October with an award presented at the Saturday evening session of the Stockholm Sweden South Stake Conference to a newspaper editor. Poul Heie, editor-in-chief of Villa Aktuellt, received the "Family in Focus" award from Elder Hans Mattsson, Area Authority Seventy.

"In connection with the United Nations International Family Day, Poul Heie published articles about the family on the editorial pages of the paper," Elder Mattsson said. "It is a pleasure to see a person, with both financial and ethical responsibility for a paper that has about 900,000 readers have the courage to stand up for his values and risk being under fire with regard to the criticism, breaking up and belittling of the family that occurs today."

Setting the tone for the yearlong endeavor to promote the family was the visit Feb. 19 of Richard G. Wilkins, managing director of the World Family Policy Center at BYU and Allan C. Carlson, president of the Howard Center for the Family, Religion and Society. The two, who have fostered a worldwide movement to safeguard the traditional family, spoke to members of parliament from three political parties.

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