I was surprised not to see more people reacting to Elder Anderson’s talk about reaching out to children that do not come from picture perfect families and helping them feel welcome. In light of all of the controversy over the Church’s policy regarding LGBTQ baptisms, I thought this was a much needed talk that was filled with Christlike charity. But it was also a valuable talk in many other respects.
I really liked that Elder Anderson starts out by emphasizing that there are “many different and complex family configurations” in the world today, but that the Church “will continue to carry the standard, the ideal, the pattern of the Lord.” I was no longer a”youth” by the time I began looking into the Church. But for me the Church’s teachings of the ideals of marriage and family were aspects of doctrine that both intrigued and perplexed me. I think they are an increasingly distinct beacon in a world moving further away from such ideals. Of course, they will be difficult to accept for many–truth often is. But there is no way to get around or escape our distinctive doctrines about the family.
But despite this ideal, many many children do not come from such a background. And Elder Anderson emphasizes that we should never stigmatize others for their background. To the contrary, these individuals need more help, guidance, and role modeling from members of the Church. “We will continue to teach the Lord’s pattern for families, but now with millions of members and the diversity we have in the children of the Church, we need to be even more thoughtful and sensitive.”
He spent a considerable amount of time speaking of those who join with out family support. As one who joined the Church as a young single adult and without family in the Church, Elder Anderson’s words really struck me as true. It was intimidating to join a brand new Church and to change my life even in my young twenties. I have such admiration for those who at even younger ages make the difficult decision, often alienating or upsetting family members.
Elder Anderson quotes from several converts who joined in their youth. All of those quotes really resonated with me:
“I knew deep in the recesses of my mind that God was my Father and that He knew me and loved me.”
“As I learned the principles of the gospel and studied the Book of Mormon, it was as though I was remembering things that I had already known but had forgotten.”
“Students who were Church members had a light about them. I came to realize that that light came from their faith in Jesus Christ and living His teachings.”
“I was in the homes of families that lived the gospel. It showed me a standard that I felt I could have in my own family.”
For me, and for many others who join it is a combination of doctrine and example. The truth resonates when reflected through the lived experience of other members. Even if one gains a witness of the truth of the doctrine, one can be put off from membership if members are not friendly and welcoming. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
At the end of the day, we are all asked to realize that “[w]hile a child’s earthly situation may not be ideal, a child’s spiritual DNA is perfect because one’s true identity is as a son or daughter of God.” Youth, whatever their background, can become valiant disciples of Christ. They just need our support, mentoring, and love.