Recently, I spent a week in New York City at the United Nations to participate in the Commission on the Status of Women. I had the privilege of working with other BYU-Idaho students and members of United Families International to defend the family.
While there, we spent time lobbying government officials from all over the world. Our goal was to help them realize that strong families lead to strong societies, which is why they should make sure UN documents have language that supports the family.
People come from all over the world to participate in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW for short). Many of these people were part of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), lobbying for issues they felt strongly about. I met women who were advocating for an international right to abortion, for the total decriminalization of the sex trade, and for essentially the elimination of any sort of gender differences in society today.
As I talked with people from such different backgrounds, and with such different passions, I couldn’t help but think of our Savior. Throughout the New Testament, we see how He deals with a variety of people. He “taught the truths of eternity,” but He did so in a way that was full of love.
I found myself in many situations wondering what Christ would say or do. While most of us will probably not be defending the family at the UN, we all have opportunities in our daily lives to stand for truth and righteousness — to defend the family as “the fundamental unit of society.” I certainly can’t tell you how to respond in every situation; in fact, I often wonder myself how I should respond! But in studying Christ’s life, I have been able to learn a few principles that we can use to guide us as we defend the family.
1. Open your mouth
While at the UN, I attended quite a few events put on by various countries or NGOs. In one event, a gentleman from Tanzania expressed his concern about rising rates of teen pregnancy in his country. He proudly declared that they were fighting for comprehensive sex education as a solution to this problem. (Comprehensive sex education includes a pretty explicit curriculum, promoting sexual freedom, pleasure, and experimentation as a normal part of growing up.)
At the end of the panel discussion, they opened up the floor for questions. My hand shook, but I knew I needed to open my mouth. Before I knew it, my hand was in the air. The moderator pointed at me to ask the first question.
I took a deep breath. As respectfully as I could, I asked about comprehensive sex education. Since the curriculum is very focused on pleasure, wouldn’t a curriculum focusing on the effects and consequences of sexual activity be more helpful in reducing teen pregnancies?
The man simply stated that he and I have differing opinions, quickly moving on from my question. But afterward, several people came to me and thanked me for speaking up. “Are you pro-family?” they asked eagerly. They were excited to find another individual who was striving to defend the family.
Christ was the ultimate example of opening His mouth. At the right time and in the right place, He boldly defended that which God has declared sacred. He invited all to repent and follow Him. He even fearlessly cast out the money changers from the temple, saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
As we learn of the true doctrine of family, we can defend it in the same way that Christ defended truth: by opening our mouths.
2. Follow the Spirit
While opening your mouth is an important aspect of defending the family, following the Spirit is key. We see this in Christ’s own life. At times, He boldly rebuked; at times, He “answered nothing.” Instead of just reacting on a whim, Christ carefully and intentionally responded to every situation. Indeed, He did “nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.”
I’ve experienced times when the Spirit has prompted me to boldly defend the family in my conversations, and I’ve also experienced times when I was supposed to just listen. I often fall short in doing exactly what God would have me do. But as we strive to follow the Spirit in defending truth and light, the Lord will guide us.
Elder Richard G. Scott taught that spiritual guidance can come with practice:
Have patience as you are perfecting your ability to be led by the Spirit. By careful practice, through the application of correct principles, and by being sensitive to the feelings that come, you will gain spiritual guidance.
As we seek to do God’s will, He will guide us to defend the family the way the Savior would.
3. Love, love, love!
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the Savior’s life is love. He displays this perfect love in countless stories throughout the New Testament. One of my favorite stories illustrating the love of Christ is that of the woman taken in adultery.
This woman, caught “in the very act” of adultery, was brought before Christ by the scribes and Pharisees. In a challenging way, they bring up the law of Moses. According to the law, this woman should be stoned. “But what sayest thou?” they demand.
His response is telling. Instead of directly answering their question, He invites them to ponder on their own lives. “He that is without sin among you,” He says, “let him first cast a stone at her.” Soon, the crowd gathered is “convicted by their own conscience.” One by one, they trickle away, until no one is left to accuse her.
Ultimately, Christ turns to the woman with love. As no one stayed to condemn her, Christ says powerfully, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Christ does not excuse the sin; in fact, He still invites her to repent. But He treats this woman with such love, kindness, and compassion.
When we deal with those who may have differing views, we must see them as the Savior sees them: with love.
Defend Like Christ
Only as we truly love our enemies will we be able to hear the whisperings of the Spirit. Through that Spirit, God will give us the courage to open our mouths and defend the family — just as Christ would. Whether you defend the family in the halls of the United Nations or within the walls of your own home, you can be an instrument for good!