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Strategies for strengthening families from SVU education conference

By Bryce Pendleton

For Mormon Times

Published: Tuesday, June 7 2011 4:30 a.m. MDT

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Hundreds of Latter-day Saints gathered from around the country to receive practical lessons and doctrinal instruction on how to strengthen their families and improve relationships at the 15th annual Southern Virginia University Education Conference 2011 on Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4. The theme of the two-day education summit was "Family ... Forever."

Day one featured a keynote address by New York Times best-selling authors Richard and Linda Eyre. Other speakers included Michael A. Goodman, associate professor of LDS Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University; Scott and Angelle Anderson, popular speakers on the topic of parenting; and Barbara Heise, assistant professor of nursing at BYU. Attendees also enjoyed two musical performances by soloist Vanessa Joy and pianist Marvin Goldstein.

Linda and Richard Eyre: Beware of entitlement

The Eyres expounded on the conference's theme with their keynote address, “Families Can Be Together Forever.” They encouraged parents to endure the mundane, day-to-day challenges of parenthood by allowing glorious eternal principles to permeate their lives.

Speaking of the difference between the ethereal view of families and the “common light of day,” they reminded attendees that although the family is forever, it is the most difficult and complex management challenge parents face.

Richard Eyre, who received a master's degree from Harvard and served as a mission president in London, warned that the "cult of the individual" — focusing too heavily on individual rights, individual freedoms, freedom of expression, self-help, self-love or valuing the individual at the expense of all else — threatens our society and is contrary to the plan of happiness.

"Individuals are not eternal," he said. "In the sense of progression, growth, expansion and worlds without end, it's the family that’s eternal."

The Eyres told conference attendees that according to their research, children's sense of entitlement is the most difficult parenting problem facing the world today.

"Nothing destroys like entitlement," Eyre said. "The actual, practical effects of entitlement are always the same: the loss of initiative, motivation and creativity at the onset of instant gratification and higher and higher expectations."

Michael A. Goodman: Seeing the family's role in the plan of salvation

Michael A. Goodman presented a doctrinal approach to understanding the role of marriage and the family in the plan of salvation.

Comparing eternal marriage to a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, he said that it would be nearly impossible to complete such a puzzle if we are unable to see a picture of what the end result should look like. Quoting President Boyd K. Packer, he said, “It’s much easier to figure out where we are once we figure out where we are trying to go.”

Relating this to the doctrine of eternal marriage, Goodman said, "If we don’t keep clearly in our mind the end goal, sometimes we lose the motivation to do what’s needed."

Goodman, who served as president of the Bangkok Thailand Mission and has a doctorate in marriage, family and human development, said the diagram Latter-day Saints often use to represent the plan of salvation should rather be called a map because it says nothing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ or of the eternal family.

Quoting President Spencer W. Kimball, Goodman said, “The family is the great plan of life as conceived and organized by our Father in Heaven.”

He explained that the “three pillars of eternity” — the Creation, the Fall and the Atonement — more accurately describes God’s plan of salvation because they outline the necessary requirements for us to become like God.

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