Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Haitian Daniel Delva laughs with his family while saying good bye in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010.

The holidays are upon us, and with them come ample opportunities to interact more closely with family. These can be joyous opportunities for reliving fond memories and creating new ones. But although these holiday gatherings tend to be the moments most often captured in photos and videos, anyone who has enjoyed the blessing of an abundant family life can attest that daily family life is challenging and repetitive: too many errands, too little time, too many bills, too little money, too many tasks, too few (willing) helpers.

Family life is potent. Because of its constancy and intimacy it tends to amplify what is both good and frustrating within our character and those of spouses, parents, children and siblings. Interesting, then, that someone as experienced and wise as John Adams would say that "The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families." It could be quite a gamble to task the unregulated cauldron of private family life with providing the foundation of national character and morality.

But for all the challenges and variability of family life, can we really identify a better institution for teaching life's most important lessons? Think of the ability of a mother, who has nurtured life within her womb and at her breast, to teach a rambunctious child how to appreciate the worth and dignity of all life. Think of the perspective of a father, who has toiled to woo and provide for the love of his life, to teach a teenager the value of knowledge and work. And is there anyone as adept as an older sibling for helping a younger child to understand the value of fair play and friendship?

The family is the basic unit of society because none of us come into this world as fully formed contributing individuals. We must be nurtured and trained from utter dependency to self-actualized independence. Along that path to maturation we must learn basic morality, justice, sociability and holiness.

But family is not just about the maturation of children. Adults too need continual refinement. They require ongoing lessons in charity, patience and faith. They also require a bridle for their passions. The regular care for family and spouse teach these refining lessons. Indeed, no social institution is better suited to achieve the daunting goals of maturation and refinement than a family formed on a foundation of love and trust.

Some may say that we have over-idealized the family. All families fall short of their highest aspirations and some suffer from terrible dysfunctions. Nonetheless, the social science for the importance of keeping families healthy and intact is compelling. Stable families inoculate against addiction, crime, ignorance and poverty. Because stable families have proved to be the most effective method for nurturing children, for teaching responsibility and morality, for refining adults and for stabilizing society, the Deseret News has made the family one of its core areas of editorial emphasis.

In coming months you can expect to see increased emphasis in our commentary and reporting about the family. Indeed, we believe that our other areas of editorial emphasis — faith in the community, financial responsibility, excellence in education, values in the media and care for the poor — are in many ways constituent of the overarching concern we have for strengthening the traditional family.

News organizations have often assumed the role of watchdog, helping to inform the public of pending threats to important ideals and institutions. The Deseret News wants to be an effective watchdog for the institution of the traditional family. We want to keep you informed of threats to the family and ways that you can protect against such dangers.

We have done this recently with our "Out in the Light" series that documented the devastation caused to families by pornography addiction. That series also provided families with tools to overcome this scourge. We are emphasizing the family through commentators like Richard and Linda Eyre, who appear in our editorial section today and whose column "Why the Family" appears each Monday in the Deseret News.

No social institution is as important or as fragile as the family. We hope that as we focus on its promise and its threats that you will be empowered to strengthen your own family and enjoy its resplendent blessings.