CHICAGO — Young married Latter-day Saints are serving “on the frontline” in matters of great consequence to the Church.
“You are the rising generation and you are raising the next generation,” said President Dallin H. Oaks at a Saturday devotional for young marrieds. “You are doing what is vitally important to the Church in our day. We love you for that and for your faithfulness in pressing forward with what is most important to all of us.”
An overflow crowd filled the Clark Street Meetinghouse in a downtown section of the Windy City. As subzero temperatures in the region have snagged headlines over the past several days, for local Latter-day Saints the joy of hosting a member of the First Presidency was perhaps augmented on Saturday by warmer temperatures, which made the early February conditions feel almost pleasant.
Many young married couples face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, said President Oaks in his remarks. They are raising children in environments often hostile to the mission and teachings of the Church. Respected institutions and leaders question the existence of right and wrong, along with time-honored standards for civilized behavior and standards.
Such challenges concern the Church.
“Your generation has grown up with an avalanche of information about the history of the Church that is new to many and concerning to some,” he said. “The time-honored principles of relying on and trusting the Lord and His servants are questioned by some.”
Additionally, many members — “and you are surely among them” — live in areas where they are a small minority. Each day they associate, and are sometimes governed by, persons who have “radically different” beliefs and standards.
“We are taught to love our neighbors, but it is not easy to love and live with those who have different standards and sometimes challenge us and our standards in a persuasive or even threatening way,” he said.
President Oaks said the leaders of the Church are mindful of young married couples with children. They pray for them and are alert to their circumstances when considering Church issues.
“For example, the voices of young mothers who had great difficulty managing children during a 3-hour block of meetings on Sunday was an important consideration in reducing our worship meetings to two hours and Primary’s duration commensurately.”
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The General Authorities, he added, value “the experience and voice and wisdom” of the sister leaders, particularly the General Officers of the auxiliary presidencies.
“These sisters were consulted frequently on the important developments announced during the last year, and their advice was embodied in all of them.”
President Oaks admonished young fathers to “rise up to your responsibilities,” lead their families in righteousness and be united with their wives and children.
He acknowledged that some Latter-Saint couples face conflicts over important values and priorities. Matters of Church history and doctrinal issues have led some spouses to inactivity. Some spouses wonder how to best go about researching and responding to such issues.
“I suggest that research is not the answer,” he said.
“But the best answer to any question that threatens faith is to work to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “Conversion to the Lord precedes conversion to the Church. And conversion to the Lord comes through prayer and study and service, furthered by loving patience on the part of spouse and other concerned family members.”
President Oaks also offered suggestions on teaching children. Answering a child’s difficult question is one of the most important things a parent can do.
“When you are asked a difficult question, such as a puzzler about Church history, be honest and, if necessary, say you don't know. But then be sure to say what you do know: ‘I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God’."
Parents should carefully manage the time they spend with their children, he added. Be careful not to focus on things that are “merely good” and leave little time for that which is “better or best.”
“Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.”
President Oaks also encouraged parents to study President Russell M. Nelson’s many family themed addresses, which include “precious content” for teaching children.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in anchored to the family. Its highest aspirations are to perpetuate family relationships throughout eternity.
“In our theology and in our practice, the family and the Church have a mutually reinforcing relationship,” he said. “The family is dependent upon the Church for activities and for doctrine and ordinances governed by priesthood keys. The Church exists to provide those unique resources that will perpetuate family relationships in the eternities. The priesthood presides in each.”
Church leaders and teachers should use every possible opportunity to recognize the preeminence and strengthen the position of the home and family.
A strong Church, he concluded, first requires strong families.
President Oaks’ wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, also shared a few brief remarks and her testimony. She counseled the young married couples to strive to maintain a positive attitude and to support one another. Seek opportunities to worship together and make the home a classroom of gospel learning, she said.
Elder Wilford W. Andersen, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Kathleen Andersen, along with Elder K. David Scott, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Sister Auralee Scott, joined President and Sister Oaks in a panel discussion.
The panel answered questions from the audience on a variety of family related subjects — including queries about finding family-Church-work balance and principles of happy marriages.
Elder Andersen noted that Chicago is "a special place" for President Oaks, where he studied, taught and practiced law for over 16 years.
"His love for the saints and theirs for him was palpable. His powerful and sincere testimony of the Savior encouraged and strengthened us all. What a privilege it was to be taught by President Oaks.”
Joseph Tateoka contributed to this report.