God has a plan for each of His children. Marriage and family is a central part of that plan. “Our high priority on family life is based on our conviction that God created the family—and ordained family life—for His purposes. Hence the conviction that the duties of parents and families, and the principles we will discuss, are indeed ‘divinely appointed.’”
That was Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s message Thursday at the eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, a triennial gathering organized by the Roman Catholic Church. More than 17,500 people from 100 countries are attending this year’s event, which features presentations from many global religious leaders and thinkers, including a visit from Pope Francis later this week.
In a breakout session, Elder Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared (with the help of two local Mormon families who shared personal stories) important principles and activities that unify Latter-day Saint homes, including family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, family fun, family history, family councils and family time together. He also shared a three-minute video of First Presidency teachings on the family.
He invited his audience to “prayerfully consider what you’ve heard and how these principles and practices — or adaptations of them that fit your circumstances — could bless your family and the families of those you serve.”
Elder Christofferson said family prayer helps the powerless find empowerment; family scripture study (Mormons read four books of scripture) instills preparation to meet life’s challenges; and family home evening (a century-old Mormon practice of spending one night a week together) strengthens families. He also said learning family stories gives a family “a little more confidence and resilience in facing [its] own challenges.”
“When we planned this [event], we tried to reach out to different faith communities to get some help on how to be good families,” said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. “I don’t think anybody does it better than the Mormon community and the Latter-day Saints. I’m grateful that you are willing to help teach us.”
Though some are abandoning the fight to strengthen families because they think it is a lost cause, Elder Christofferson said it’s critical to take the long view.
“I’ve heard it said that raising children is like growing a garden,” he said. “You can’t force plants and flowers to bloom when you want, the way you want, but you can do much to provide an environment that makes flourishing likely. That’s what we’ve been talking about today. The essential element is not just what we do, but what we allow God to do through us.”
This year is the first time the World Meeting of Families has been held in the United States since it first met in 1994 at the order of Pope John Paul II. This year’s event theme is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”