Asia Area Presidency Message
The FamilyThe Family
Elder Leonard Woo
Of the Seventy
'Mother?' I would holler, as I walked in the front door every day when returning home from school. Upon hearing her voice, my young heart would feel assured and settled. It was then that I would go about my schoolwork or to play. The simple routine of hearing her voice and knowing she was somewhere in the house had a calming effect on me; it meant that all was well. This daily routine nurtured my confidence and helped me handle the many challenges I would face later in life.
My parents raised ten children despite my father's meagre income as a carpenter. Every now and then, well-intentioned relatives would question my parents' wisdom in having so many children, given my father's limited income. My mother would simply reply, 'Tian sheng tian yang.' This Chinese saying means, 'Heaven will help feed all the children that one has faith to bear.' That was a profound statement of faith in God coming from a woman who had no formal education and no knowledge of the gospel.
Looking back, despite being raised in a poor family, I had an incredibly rich childhood. Our family of twelve ate dinner together every evening. We sat around a round wooden table with tiny wooden chairs that were handmade by my father, chatting and laughing as we shared the events of the day. We did not have money to eat in restaurants, but whatever was lacking on the table was made up by the convivial mood around the table. These are cherished memories of my humble but happy family.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” President Gordon B. Hinckley taught this and many other divine principles as he read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to the sisters at the General Relief Society Meeting in Salt Lake City twenty years ago. 1
The First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles whom we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators have the keys, power and ability to foresee unfolding social trends, particularly those that could hurt marriages and families. They authored this prophetic proclamation to warn of many destructive trends in society - trends that were being insidiously promoted by the adversary to undermine the many essential building blocks of a happy and successful family.
Twenty years ago, anyone following current events would have observed an increasing number of “shafts in the whirlwind” 2 and “fiery darts of the adversary” 3 attacking the family at all fronts. The list of these “shafts” and “fiery darts” is long - it includes issues related to same gender attraction, cohabitation before marriage, pornography, divorce, abortion, reluctance of married couples to have children, spouse and child abuse, infidelity in marriages, neglect of parental responsibilities and so forth. On such issues and circumstances affecting families, what was difficult twenty years ago is undoubtedly even more challenging now.
The Family Proclamation was never intended to be merely a document for doctrinal dissertation or discussion. Its compelling objective is to teach, warn and inspire us to act in ways that will protect our marriages and families. I wish to share just three family habits that, as reiterated by the prophets, can protect families against the increasing “shafts in the whirlwind” and the “fiery darts of the adversary.” As Alma taught his son Helaman that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass,” 4 these simple habits can help bring to pass the salvation and exaltation of family members:
1. Personal and family prayer1. Personal and family prayer
The most valuable gift that parents can bestow upon their children is to teach them to pray. Nothing will protect and bless your child more in his or her life than this single well-developed habit. This vital practice will connect your child to a divine and infinite lifeline. It is of grave concern to the Church that many children are growing to adulthood not having developed this crucial habit. In addition, we should pray as a family. We should frequently let our children hear us pray in simple language and with faith in God, reflecting our complete trust in Him.
2. Personal and family scriptures2. Personal and family scriptures
In Lehi's vision of the tree of life, no one was able to reach the tree of life to partake of the precious fruit unless they held on to the iron rod. 5 It was revealed to Nephi that the iron rod represented the word of God, 6 or the scriptures. Developing a scripture-reading habit is one of the most difficult and challenging endeavours for many individuals and families. But do not give up trying. Remember what the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “He who reads it oftenest will like it best.” 7 Much like playing an instrument, you will only truly enjoy it after you have put in the hours needed to master it. In addition, as family members struggle with personal weaknesses, they would be wise to heed the counsel of President Faust who said, “I believe reading the scriptures is the best washing machine for unclean or uncontrolled thoughts.” 8
3. Family Home Evening3. Family Home Evening
My wife and I did not achieve successful family home evenings every Monday. But I must give her credit for making most family home evenings enjoyable. Since she had a captive audience for thirty minutes or so each week, she would creatively use the time as a teaching moment to address what she had observed to be amiss in the family during the week. The icing on the cake was of course the long anticipated delicious refreshment at the end.
We once glimpsed a measure of success when our daughter Valerie remarked to her Primary teacher that her favourite day of the week was Monday - because of family home evening. An unusual answer, as most school-going kids dislike Mondays. We were heartened and encouraged by that remark.
In an April 2002 General Conference address, President Hinckley highlighted the importance of succeeding at home: “I am confident that when we stand before the bar of God, there will be little mention of how much wealth we accumulated in life or of any honors which we may have achieved. But there will be searching questions concerning our domestic relations. And I am convinced that only those who have walked through life with love and respect and appreciation for their companions and children will receive from our eternal judge the words, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord' (Matt. 25:21).” 9
Family is indeed the basic unit of society and “no other success can compensate for failure in the home.” 10 Every ingredient needed for a happy and successful family can be found in this proclamation. The courage of my parents to have many children, my mother’s decision to stay at home, and the habit of the whole family having dinner together every night, are some examples of the ingredients mentioned in the proclamation. I testify that great blessings will flow and families will be strengthened and fortified against the adversary if they will study, ponder and follow the many divine principles in this inspired “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” 11 In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. ■
Caption: Elder Leonard Woo
1 See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona or Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129.Liahona or Ensign
2 See Helaman 5:12.
3 See 1 Nephi 15:24.
4 Alma 37:6.
5 See 1 Nephi 8:19.
6 See 1 Nephi 11:25.
7 Teachings of Presidents of The Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 66; see also History of the Church, 2:14.Teachings of Presidents of The Church: Joseph Smith (2007) History of the Church,
8 James E. Faust, “The Power of Self-Mastery,” April 2000 General Conference, lds.org/general-conference/2000/04/the-power-of-self-mastery.
9 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2002, 54.Ensign
10 J.E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization (1924), 42; see also lds.org/media-library/video/2012-05-0907=teachings-of-david-o-mckay-the-importance-of-a-strong-family.Home: The Savior of Civilization
11 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World, ”Liahona or Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129.Liahona or Ensign