"In these last days, what the world really needs is courageous parenting from mothers and fathers who are not afraid to speak up and take a stand," Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy said during the Sunday afternoon session of general conference.

"Your bright and energetic youth are the future of the Church, and for that reason, they are a prime target of the adversary."

Challenges and temptations are coming at teenagers with the speed and power of a freight train, Elder Lawrence said. Strong parents are necessary to fill the responsibility of protecting their children — both spiritually and physically.

Elder Lawrence spoke of the courage parents need in helping their children stay faithful. He shared examples from the scriptures — Alma and his son Corianton (Alma 39:12) and Eli in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 3:13) — of faithful parents who loved their children although they strayed. Just as in the scriptures, parents today who love their children cannot afford to be intimidated by them, Elder Lawrence said.

"Young people understand more than we realize; because they too have the gift of the Holy Ghost," he said. "They are trying to recognize the Spirit when He speaks, and they are watching our example. From us, they learn to pay attention to their promptings, that if they 'don't feel good about something,' it's best not to pursue it."

Elder Lawrence said that parents need to be united when making parenting decisions.

"If either parent doesn't feel good about something, then permission should not be granted. If either feels uncomfortable about a movie, a television show, a video game, a party, a dress, a swim suit or an Internet activity, have the courage to support each other and say 'no.' ... if your spouse doesn't feel good about something, show respect for those feelings. When you take the easy way out by saying and doing nothing, you may be enabling destructive behavior."

Elder Lawrence warned parents about allowing their children to prematurely pair off in romantic relationships, as well as allowing children to spend nights away from home. He warned that too often, violations of the Word of Wisdom, law of chastity, and exposure to pornography and sometimes even encounters with the police occur when spending a night away from home.

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"There is a great deal of wisdom displayed when parents stay up and wait for their children to return home," he said. "Young men and women make far better choices when they know their parents are waiting up to hear about their evening and to kiss them good night. ...Peer pressure becomes more powerful when our children are away from our influence, and when their defenses are weakened late at night. If you have ever felt uneasy about an overnight activity, don't be afraid to respond to that warning voice inside. Always be prayerful when it comes to protecting your precious children."

Fortifying homes comes by establishing righteous patterns, Elder Lawrence said. He listed five ways families can fortify the youth of the Church: family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, family dinner together and regular one-on-one interviews with each child.

"Try to imagine what the rising generation could become if these five righteous patterns were practiced consistently in every home," he said. "Our young people would be like Helaman's army: invincible."

— Marianne Holman