News Story

Strong Families are Good for Society, Church Leader Says

Australian Latter-day Saint leader, Elder Peter Meurs, recently told attendees at Sydney’s World Congress of Families, that strong traditional marriages and families enrich societies.

Drawing upon examples from his own marriage, family, church and work, Elder Meurs stressed the need for people from across society to help traditional marriages succeed, and for family relationships to be based on solid principles of love, kindness, honest communication and selfless service.

“My wife, Maxine, is here with me today.  I always love it when she can travel with me.  We are active parents and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

“If you were to come to our church meetings you might be surprised to see whole families sitting together—husbands and wives and children, grandparents and grandchildren all worshipping in the main church meeting.  In addition, we attend separate classes and activities for every age group.”

To exemplify the significance of religious belief in his family, Elder Meurs described a personal experience when, a few years before, he had been having dinner with work colleagues.  During the meal, he received a phone call from Clinton Snow, the then boyfriend of his daughter Sarah. 

“When I stepped out to take the call, Clinton asked me if he could marry Sarah.  He was living in Melbourne and Sarah was in Perth (which is a good way to have a relationship!). When I went back in to tell the good news to my associates they were, firstly, shocked that Clinton had even called, secondly surprised that Clinton and Sarah were not already living together and, thirdly, that they would be getting married at all.  But they got married and now have three children.”

Elder Meurs indicated that Mormons believe the Church is a scaffold supporting the family, not the other way around.  “The family is central, the very centre, and the most important unit in the Church,” he said. 

At his workplace, Elder Meurs and his colleagues emphasise with employees “how important it is that they share what they’re doing with their families.  We also teach concepts that relate to family, such as safety — ‘I am my brother’s keeper’.”

Other keynote speakers at the Congress were:  politician, Kevin Andrews; Dr Ian Harper, a director of Deloitte Access Economics; Catholic Bishop Peter Elliott; and Rabbi Shimon Cowan.

Dr Lloyd Newell, a professor at Brigham Young University and the host of the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Dr Justin Coulson and his wife Kylie of the Sydney Mortdale stake, also spoke at the Congress.  Presentations were also given by a number of other Mormon delegates.

According to Congress delegate, Carolin McIlwaine, a Latter-day Saint from Adelaide, “The theme of the Congress, ‘Happy Families, Healthy Economy’, was a wonderful means of bringing together like-minded people from many backgrounds around the world who believe that their countries will not be successful unless their families are also strong.”

“Although there were disturbing facts from around the world about the disintegration of families, there were many encouraging and uplifting things discussed as well,” she said.

A children’s choir comprising young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints performed at the Congress. Their day began at 5.30am to rehearse and make their way from Sydney’s western suburbs into the inner city suburb of Eveleigh where the Congress was held.

According to Latter-day Saint national director of public affairs, Rosely Webster, the young children were “perfect ambassadors for the Church and an inspiration to all.”  

“They sang like angels and illustrated the need for us to strengthen traditional families and the children within them,” she said.

A member of the Church’s Hebersham stake presidency, Kimball Hobby, who guided the participation of the children, said, that watching the children’s choir in action was one of the choicest experiences he had had while serving as a Latter-day Saint leader

The Seventh World Congress of Families, held in mid-May in Sydney, was attended by 600 delegates from around the world.  The Congress was the first to be held in the Southern Hemisphere and the first in an English speaking country. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honour marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

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