I received that message just days ago and unfortunately didn't have time to respond before her talk. But I am flattered that someone asked my thoughts. Usually when I give advice I get "Oh Mom!" or "Yeah, I know that, Mahmm", or the dreaded "Motherrrr" (accompanied by excessive eye rolling). Thank you Shelly for asking. By the way, I don't even know Shelly. I'm being asked by a complete stranger! Which is kind of cool. On the other hand, maybe that's why I'm being asked. She doesn't know who I really am.
So even though my response is a little late I thought it would make a good blog post. Here it goes.
First off, I would remember who my audience is. Members don't come to church to have their faith ripped apart. They come to hear words of encouragement, fellowship, and to worship. This is not the time to be saying that the proclamation is all wrong and that everyone who believes in it is crazy. Nope, not a good beginning at all.
In fact, I would just ignore the proclamation and focus on the family part.
I would likely start with the pre-existance. I would talk about the War in Heaven and the Plan. How Heavenly Father and Mother wanted each of us to have free agency and make our own choices. How Jesus was willing to offer himself as the way back home and how Lucifer wanted to take away our choices and force us all to come back. I would say that it was likely that Lucifer fought very hard to have it his way and that it caused such upheaval and chaos that he was given the choice, to come down to earth to receive a body, or to leave altogether, not get a body, but be the leader of his own realm. He chose to leave and since that time has tried to entice and trick others to follow him. Of course our Heavenly Parents knew he would do that and decided to allow it, because of free agency.
I would then go into how the family is our first community, our first government, our first social experience, our first love and that the family is the core for all of society. It is within family that we should be able to grow, learn, love, and feel safety. I would also add, that families are imperfect and it's these imperfections that allow us to learn. I would say that families come in different ways and sizes. That we are born into, married into, adopted into, or even just welcomed into family and that no one should define what our family is or isn't.
I would say that our Heavenly Parents love us as we are. That they don't set out tiny boxes to fit their glorious children into. That our spirits are bigger than those small boxes that the cultures of our world have created. That we are to expand on our own personal gifts, whatever they may be, and not be held back by gender roles, racial identity, or other man made traditions. That we are all to strive to be like Jesus, strong, kind, loving, and that Jesus did not establish that women had to be one way and men another but that we should all be like Him.
I would suggest that we do not rush into marriages and that we choose carefully and when we establish marriages that we remember the commandment to "honor our father and mother" and not leave them out of the wedding ceremony no matter what beliefs they hold that may be different from ours. That we start our marriages with inclusion. That important family members not be left out. That marriage is the godly union between two people at its core, but it is also the joining of two families. That if need be we hold our marriage ceremony in a place where all can attend and hold a sealing ceremony privately at another time. God attends ALL marriages and doesn't limit Him/Herself to grand and expensive buildings that leave people out.
I would tell couples that it doesn't matter who stays home and takes care of the children, as long as the children are being taken care of. Sometimes, if the woman is making more money in a satisfying career, it makes more sense for her to continue to do so. I would also add that having children is a choice that each couple makes and no one should tell them what to do.
I would tell women that education and a career is important. That we never know what might happen. Yes, being home with children is also important and no one should feel less than for choosing to do that, however anything can happen. Death, divorce, illness or unemployment may require a stay-at-home mom to leave the home and find employment and no one hires someone who doesn't have employable skills and a recent work history. She needs to have a trade or a degree and have some of her time devoted to being in the work force.
I would also tell fathers to come home. Even if it means they have to abandon their church callings, because their first calling is to their family. I would tell families to prioritize their lives. Really put family first. Jobs and careers are important because they are needed to take care of family, but everything else is flexible. Spend time with family. Come home at night and don't leave it to your wives to raise the children alone. Forgo the unpaid second job at church and instead concentrate on really giving. Giving to your wife, to your children and to your community. Involve your children in your service projects and charity work. Take time to have fun. Don't turn everything into a "lesson". Lessons are learned naturally, not out of manuals. Let your children see more than a suit going out the door or sitting on the stand. Have them help you do chores. Go golfing, go camping, go swimming, go to the theatre, the ballet or the game. Let them see you read, cook, sew, and even cry. Let them see and know you, not the suit.
I would also tell families to take back the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a gift from God for rejuvenation and relaxation. It isn't about replacing one work day for another. If we're emotionally and/or physically drained from Sunday, if we dread Sundays, if Sunday is a battleground, if Sunday is another work day (just different work) then we are doing the Sabbath wrong. We can still go to church and keep God in our sabbath, but we can also enjoy the gifts that our Heavenly Parents have given us. Take back the Sabbath and spend time with family, or spend time alone, or spend time with friends or do all of it. I would say that we don't need to have others define for us how we should relax and rejuvenate, but that we exercise our free agency and do what is right for the individuals in our family.
I would tell parents to love all their children, even the ones who are different, the ones who are rebellious and the ones who have their own paths to travel and I would remind them that God loves all His/Her children and continues to bless even those we think are not doing the right things.
I would tell parents that being gay is no reason to turn your children away. That many gay youth have committed suicide because they have been rejected or feel hopeless. That if we love our children we will love them, not just when they are what we want them to be.
I would tell parents that if their adult children leave the church, it does not mean their children are leaving them. I would tell them that those who leave still deeply love and respect those who are in the church and it hurts to leave. That we shouldn't jump to conclusions that our children have lost the spirit, want to sin, have been offended, want things easy, or are just rebellious. It means that their children have different paths to follow. I would suggest that instead of trying to "fix them" by telling them things they've heard all their lives, that they take the chance and ask to hear what their children believe. I would remind them that we can not agree with everyone's choice, but we can support their choices. That the war in heaven was fought so that we would all have free agency and that with holding love, and berating our loved ones for not doing/thinking/believing the same way as we do, is not the way of Heavenly Father and Mother. I would say that we were all sent to different lands, different cultures, and different religions. That we were trusted to learn and make good decisions and I would also point out that not every decision is right or wrong. Sometimes the paths in front of us are all right, they just have different challenges and experiences, but they all lead home to God. I would tell parents to embrace all their children and let them know they are welcome home, no matter what they believe or how they choose to live their lives. I would also remind them that if they make their children feel unwelcome, then they will lose much for their children will leave them and take with them their own children.
I would also warn parents against labeling children as failures simply because they leave the church or are inactive. I would instead ask them to focus on the accomplishments of their children. Are they kind? Do they help other people? Do you enjoy their company? Are they taking care of their loved ones? If so then you have done your job. You have created responsible caring members of society. The rest is up to them.
I would also warn against unrighteous control and abuse. That those two things have no place in family relationships. That we don't allow others to abuse us and that we don't abuse others. That we can lose our families with those behaviors. I would remind couples that they are equal partners commissioned with the responsibility to take care and teach Heavenly Father and Mother's children and I would remind children that they are to respect their parents, even in their old age when they may or may not be able to make their own decisions.
I would remind everyone of Jesus' commandment. Love thy neighbor as thyself. For in that commandment there is no room for abuse or unloving controlling behavior.