BYU’s World Family Policy Center Sponsors Geneva Family Conference 

By Gary and Joy Lundberg

Consider the impact of having top scholars from different parts of the world and from differing faiths coming together with a wealth of research that will help protect natural marriage and the family. This is exactly what happened August 23-25, 2004 at the European Regional Dialogue on the Family in Geneva, Switzerland, in preparation for the Doha International Conference for the Family. And the impact was electrifying. The key sponsor of this event, the World Family Policy Center (WFPC) of Brigham Young University, worked for many months in preparation for this historic conference in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Twenty-two scholars from Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada, the Czech Republic, Sweden and the United States presented papers addressing issues regarding Family, Marriage, Human Dignity, Parents and Children, and Family Values. Papers presented at this Conference and the Asian/Pacific Dialogue to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 11-13, 2004 will be published in a book and presented at the Doha International Conference for the Family, providing some of the most comprehensive scholarship in support of the family.

As missionaries assigned to WFPC we attended the conference, which was held in the CICG United Nations conference hall near the UN building in Geneva. Elder Deon and Sister Julie Greer arranged for this excellent venue for the conference. They are serving as public affairs missionaries in Geneva. Our specific duties at the conference included meeting and greeting speakers and attendees, answering questions and assisting with the physical needs of the conference.

It was a thrilling experience to have so many scholars gathered together sharing their research. Their studies bring to the surface the problems that we must be aware of in our efforts to protect marriage and the family. Sister Bonnie Parkin, General President of the Relief Society, was one of the speakers. She has an ongoing interest in the work of WFPC and is very supportive.  We enjoyed her presentation as she told of the work the Church is doing worldwide to support families and related projects. She’s a great lady, giving unselfish service throughout the world. Her husband was with her and we enjoyed getting to know him, too.

The conference began with greetings from Professor Richard Wilkins, Director of WFPC. He introduced Mr. Abdullah Nasser M. Al-Khalifa, Secretary General, Supreme Council for Family Affairs State of Qatar and Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations USA (in photo with Richard) who greeted the audience and spoke about the Doha International Conference for the Family. The Doha conference is the most significant UN-sanctioned event during the 2004 International Year of the Family. It will be held in Doha, Qatar November 29 and 30, 2004. 

In this article we’ll touch on just a few of the presentations, though all were excellent. We were impressed with a speech by Jane Adolphe, a law professor from Michigan who received law degrees from Canada and Italy. She spoke on “Securing a Future for Children: The International Obligation to Protect and Assist the Natural Family.” She said, “. . . nations must clearly educate the public that healthy married families are the best possible familial environment for children; the good of the spouses, and the good of society.” She went into detail to clarify portions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the UN in 1948, which still stands, especially Article 16:3, which states, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” The UN continually departs from this and needs constant reminders that this is indeed a vital part of what is needed to sustain societies.

Mrs. Michaela Freiova, manager of the Czech Civic Institute of The Czech Republic, spoke on “Atheism: Its Impact on Family, Morality, and Human Life.” Her message was significant in showing how certain special interest groups, particularly feminists, are persuading governments in Europe to “oust religion” because it causes wars and deprives people of rights. She told how it was in many cases, ie Hitler and communism-both being void of religion and in fact denouncing it- were the cause of major wars and conflict. She brought out how these liberals blame wars on Islam by not defining the difference between faithful Muslims and the Taliban. It was interesting and sad to realize how much influence these special interest groups have in creating an atheistic world.

Dr. Dean Byrd, Professor at the University of Utah Medical School (a devout Latter-day Saint) talked about “Gender Complementarity and Child-rearing: Where Tradition and Science Agree.” His speech was excellent. He’s highly respected in his field and said his greatest success has been in helping homosexuals become heterosexual and able to enjoy normal married relationships with spouses of the opposite sex, and raise good families. Gary and I had lunch with Dr. Byrd and thoroughly enjoyed our one-on-one with him. He’s a brilliant light in this controversial work, and very friendly.

Our friend from previous conferences and forums, Tuve Skanberg, a member of the Swedish Parliament, spoke on “Family-Friendly Child-Care Services in a Welfare State: An Outline of the Swedish Christian Democrat Party’s Family Policy.” He is working tirelessly to help his government see the importance of having a mother at home with her children in the early years. He is a minority in his parliament; a great and dedicated Christianwho is trying with all his heart to make a difference in Sweden.

Dr. Peter Colosi was superb in his presentation about “Mother Teresa, John Paul II and Christian Personalisms vs. Peter Singer and Utilitarianism: Two Radically Opposed Conceptions of the Nature and Meaning of Family.” We were not familiar with the teachings of Singer, who is highly respected in some fields of academia and is receiving awards for his “brilliant” work, which troubles us deeply. He is Satanic in his philosophy, teaching that certain people should not be allowed to live if they require too much of the care and funds that could go to others to create a “greater good.” Part of his philosophy includes killing babies and children who will never grow up to make contributions to society, but will only be a drain on society. He teaches the same regarding the elderly who require similar care in their declining years.  It is absolutely frightening to contemplate this philosophy and is beyond our comprehension that it is being considered by certain scholars and philosophers as the answer to society’s problems. Is this yet another sign of the last days? Dr. Colosi said that when Peter Singer’s own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer he hired round-the-clock help to take care of her, and, to his credit, did nothing to end her life prematurely.  However, what he did do was to apologize to his students for his error in caring for his mother and misusing funds that could have gone to a “greater good,” and suggested that they shouldn’t do what he did, but rather do what he teaches. This line of thinking is shocking.

Dr, Bryce Christensen presented an excellent paper on “The Family in Utopias: The Real-World Domestic Consequences of Diverging Utopian Ideals.” His research on what certain philosophers consider Utopia was alarming. For example, he stated that Plato “abolishes marriage and the family in his social blueprint.  Plato’s plan (attributed to Socrates) requires rulers to share their wives in common and parents to surrender all child-rearing to the collective. ‘No parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent.'” It had our heads spinning to think of what warped ideas are out there influencing policy makers. In our work at the UN we have talked with delegates in some countries where it is required that children are to be raised by state nurseries and schools while it is the law that mothers work out of the home within three months of the birth. He cited other philosophers who encourage wives’ economic independence from husbands, with no responsibility to cook, sew, etc in the home. This is all becoming too familiar. No wonder in a recent address President Faust encouraged mothers to teach their daughters to cook and sew, among other household duties. Also, in citing more modern philosophers he said, ” . . . most utopians have hailed the secularized state as the leading agency in forging the ideal society they hope to create in the absence of family-reinforcing religious institutions.” Their idea of the ideal is to have no religion, exactly the direction far too many countries are going, including the U.S. Dr. Christensen’s paper was eye-opening and depressing to think about. Sadly, we have to be in the know in order to fight the evil doers. (Photo is Dr. Bryce Christensen (left) chatting with another presenter Reverend Frank Gelli)

Samantha Callan a young mother who is working as Senior Researcher for CARE for the Family in England spoke on “Marriage in 21st Century Britain: Setting the Research Agenda.” We visited

with her at length about her family philosophies. She is involved in research and surveys regarding marriage in the UK. She quoted British Professor Andrew Oswald, who said, “Marriage causes a physiological benefit that enhances mental and physical well-being and helps to prolong life…exactly how marriage works its magic remains mysterious. It is important that a new generation of tests be designed to find the answer.” Ah, the Lord does know what he is doing. She said that “Although leading social scientists predict that ‘the early 21st century will continue to be distinguished by greater family diversity, increasingly endorsed by formal legal codes’ aspirations remain high for marriage. British reports show that over 80% of young people wish to get marriage at some time in the future, and a British teen magazine survey showed that 92% of teens believed in marriage. Now that is heartening! Samantha, a good Christian woman, is on our team, without a doubt. She does most of her research from her home, convinced that mothers need to be home with their children. We felt a special bond with her as we talked privately for about a half hour during a break, and hope to keep in touch. We gave her the brochure The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

Richard Wilkins concluded the conference with a stirring message as he praised the presenters and reminded us of how important it is to have all of us working together to protect marriage and the family throughout the world. He spoke about growing up as a child, living in a home with loving parents, with a great grandmother living in a home on one side and grandparents in a home on the other. He said it was an ideal childhood, one that he wishes every child could experience. “Our work,” he said, “is to do all we can to help the children of the world have the best possible family situation surrounding them.” It was a great conference. (Photo shows Richard at the podium and WFPC executive director Scott Loveless seated)

Other Wonderful People at the Conference

We enjoyed getting to know Latter-days Saints from other countries who attended the conference. One was Heidi Ringheim from Denmark, an avid worker for the family in her country, including lobbying members of parliament. We also enjoyed conversations with Francesco Volpicelli, the bishop of the Geneva French speaking ward and active in forming an organization to protect the family. He thoroughly enjoyed the conference and will be sending reports to us about his organization. We also enjoyed getting acquainted with Afton and Bob Beutler who are in Geneva to lobby at the UN for the Worldwide Organization for Women (Salt Lake City based). Afton is especially influential about what needs to be done at the UN to protect family policy. We enjoyed becoming acquainted with Lynn Driscoll, who is very involved in promoting family values and family-friendly laws in England. We loved her beautiful English accent. We were charmed by Jens (pronounced Yens) Petersen, a convert from Denmark. He told us his eyes were opened at this conference and since his return to Denmark has written to us saying that he met with the minister of the new family ministry in their government and he is going to have a community meeting there in Odense, Denmark. He is fired up and we’ll be working with him via email as he proceeds. We’re thrilled about his involvement.

We also enjoyed meeting many new friends of other faiths who were in attendance, including Madam Saad and Sureena Thurairajah, from the Malaysian government. They gave us a a gift of friendship, a beautiful scarf from Malaysia, They are the official organizers over the Asian/Pacific Dialogue that Richard Wilkins has been working with. We gave them each a copy of the Save the Family song CD. They are lovely women who are deeply concerned about marriage and the family in their country. We look forward to being with them again at the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian conference in October.

We met many other wonderful people from different cultures and faiths who are working to protect family values. We invited them to join in having their own community meetings on protecting the family and to send reports of their meetings to us for our book of reports for the Doha Conference, which will show the UN the great worldwide grass-roots support there is for the family. This book of reports will be a companion volume to the scholars book of research papers on the family. It was a choice opportunity to connect with these good people and encourage them and others in this vital work. We need many more to help us in this effort. Please click on to see how you can help. You are needed!

Fireside in Geneva

Since we were there for the conference we were invited to present a fireside in the Geneva Branch the following Sunday. It was a sweet opportunity to share our ideas on strengthening marriages and families. An interpreter was provided for the French speaking members. It was a great group of dedicated Saints, and they were so very appreciative. Afterward, some people stayed to share their marriage and family problems and ask for our suggestions.  We didn’t mind and only hope we helped in at least some small way, mostly listening and encouraging them to seek guidance from the Lord. We offered them our hugs and prayers.

Marriage: A Reason to Celebrate

We stayed on a few days to celebrate our wedding anniversary in the Swiss Alps at the charming village of Zermatt, nestled at the foot of the Matterhorn. All we can say is, if you ever have the opportunity to visit Switzerland, don’t miss Zermatt. It’s surrounded by breathtaking beauty. What a great way to celebrate our forty-nine years of marriage.