Church Delegates Attend World Congress of Families

Print Share

    “As the year 2000 approaches, the decay of the family throughout the world is accelerating,” wrote organizers of the recent World Congress of Families held in Prague, Czech Republic, on 19–22 March 1997. “Yet signs of hope are also emerging. At this critical moment in human history, we must come together to point the way toward the restoration of the family as the center of civilization in all places.”

    Official representatives of the Church were among 600 people from 41 nations who participated in the gathering. Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy, President of the Europe East Area, was accompanied by Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy, a counselor in the Pacific Area Presidency, and Sister Elaine L. Jack, at the time general president of the Relief Society but recently released. Elder Hafen spoke in a congress session, and Brigham Young University law professors Lynn Wardle and Richard Wilkins also spoke. Copies of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” issued by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102), were available in 15 languages.

    According to congress organizers, “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.” The three goals of the gathering were to “explore common sources of family decay, develop and issue a declaration from the families of the nations to the governments of the globe explaining the proper relationship between the family and the state, and define those social and economic settings which most encourage the flourishing of family life.”

    Elder Didier commented that “trends presented daily in the media represent an intellectual and political ideology hostile to the family structure and to family values. Those trends, if not changed, will destroy our civilization. This was the first time we witnessed a silent international majority expressing concerns about the attacks against the family. Speakers reaffirmed the God-given laws that make the family succeed in life.”

    Elder Hafen quoted Alma 38:12 in his address: “Bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” He observed that “family law traditionally acts as a bridle on human passions, stating expectations and steering us toward long-term relationships of loving commitments. Without that bridle, our passions and our principles run wild, harming both individuals and society.”

    Referring to worldwide trends emphasizing the personal autonomy of children, Elder Hafen noted that while “abandoning children to their rights” sometimes lightens parents’ responsibilities, it is actually a “profound form of child neglect.” Speaking of society’s tolerance of homosexual behavior and yet the majority’s opposition to same-sex marriage, he said, “Most people intuitively recognize that if the law endorses everything it tolerates, we will eventually tolerate everything and endorse nothing—except tolerance.”

    Elder Hafen concluded his address by saying, “Bridled love passionately nourishes families, while unbridled passion destroys families.”

    In his address, Lynn Wardle discussed how “there is strong support for same-sex marriage in certain subgroups of society,” particularly the entertainment media and academic communities. In contrast, Brother Wardle observed, “Heterosexual marriages have been given special legal preference because they make uniquely valuable contributions to the state, to society, and to individuals. Heterosexual marriages have been singled out … for preferred status because they are so important and valuable to society and to the stability and continuity of the state. … Claims for same-sex marriage challenge us and our entire generation to reexamine the importance of the institution of marriage.”

    Sister Jack expressed that “it was heartening for us to find so many organizations promoting family values. There is great strength in banding together and reinforcing each other. I particularly appreciated ideas expressed by Nicaragua’s minister of education: promoting a love for truth opens to students a means to morality and happiness, and we need to teach with joy because sad parents and teachers cannot teach values.”