The Mormon family is as diverse as any family unit one might come across, and is found in virtually every society, class and race of people across the globe. Mormon families are not immune to the challenges of life, including financial uncertainties, health problems, divorce, the myriad worthwhile distractions competing for our time, or the barrage of unwholesome outside influences constantly looking for attention. Notwithstanding these many challenges, there are certain themes and principles common to most Mormon households, and include activities such as prayer, learning, worship, developing relationships, and service to God's children.
First, prayer allows us to commune directly with our Heavenly Father, and Church leaders encourage Church members to pray daily as individuals and as families in order to receive direction from God. The old adage that "families who pray together, stay together" rings true here.
Second, from the Church's beginning in 1830, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to obtain both spiritual and secular knowledge, and to develop their God-given talents. Mormon families and individuals are encouraged to study the scriptures daily in order to learn God's word. Furthermore, modern prophets such as President Gordon B. Hinckley have encouraged Church members to "go on to college or whatever school, vocational school, whatever your choice is, but take advantage of every opportunity that you have because the Lord has laid upon you a mandate through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning not only spiritual learning but secular learning," and to "read the word of God in sacred books of scripture. Read from the great literature of the ages. Read what is being said in our day and time and what will be said in the future."
Third, worship is central to the Mormon family. Mormon families worship God together in a variety of ways to include attending church meetings on Sundays and performing sacred ordinances in the Holy Temple. The act of worshiping together as a family serves to strengthen the family and draws them closer to God.
Fourth, Mormons believe that familial relationships developed during our time on earth will continue after this life, and that a family can be together throughout eternity. This doctrine helps to guide our thoughts, words and actions when it comes to how we treat family members and gives us hope that death is not the end. We have been instructed to set aside Monday night (or another if that won’t work) to have what we call Family Home Evening, where the family can spend time together singing, praying, discussing the gospel, doing fun activities, and in general just building bonds.
Fifth, as Mormon families look to the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, they try to follow His example by serving God's children. Family members are asked to consecrate both time and resources to help others in need, and by so doing, the family not only serves their fellow men but also God. Further, modern day apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, has taught that "as we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.”
The bottom line is that there are no perfect Mormon families, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23). Nevertheless, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives great hope to both individuals and families that we may have eternal life. And, when families follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, principles such as prayer, learning, worship, developing relationships, and service to God's children become important components of family life.
Each April and October, the LDS Church has a worldwide conference broadcast to buildings and homes throughout the world. At these conferences, the leaders of the church, men and women, address the body of the church with talks they have prepared after fasting and prayer to know what the Lord would have them address to the members of the church. Sometimes in a conference, themes will appear as multiple talks might address a certain subject, however, there are always a wide variety of topics discussed since the conference lasts 12 hours. The presentation begins with a General Young Women’s conference a week before the main general membership conference. On that Saturday night, the broadcast is directed only to the women. A week later, the general conference starts on Saturday morning and afternoon, each with a 2 hour session. That night there is a Priesthood session for only the men making a total of 6 hours that day. On Sunday, another morning and afternoon session are held of 2 hours each.
When I was a child growing up in Pennsylvania, I typically dreaded conference because we would drive to the chapel where they would haul out a radio and set it on a table by the pulpit and we would sit as silently as possible for each session we attended and listen to audio broadcasts of things I didn’t understand. As I got to be a teen, sometime in that time frame we got a satellite dish at our chapel and were able to watch conference broadcasts live on video. That was a big improvement and much more interesting. Today, living in Utah, I can just watch most of conference at home with my family. The church doesn’t broadcast the Saturday night women’s and men’s sessions on TV to provide an opportunity for those groups to get together and feel the companionship of their fellow saints while they gather for conference in a local chapel.
If you would like to browse a General Conference page, check one out here on the LDS church website.
If you would like to just see a “highlight” reel, the church prepared one here which I think is the first time. It’s about 18 minutes long and just shows short clips from talks in conference given by the men we sustain as prophets of God, that is those men called as Apostles of Jesus Christ, the longest serving of which is appointed as the President of the Church on earth and the Lord’s prophet just as a modern day Moses. Today, that man is Thomas S. Monson and I know him to be a prophet of God.
I stumbled on some great little videos at http://www.mormonsmadesimple.com that explain basic things about the church and thought I’d post them here. This video shows what a typical church service is like in a Ward. We refer to 3 types of “units” in the church which are based on size and geography: Branches, Wards, and Stakes. (See Units on the Jargon page for an explanation)
Someone just forwarded me an interesting article from USA Today entitled, “Mormon president can do no wrong to religion’s members.” The author discusses how we have 15 men in the hierarchy of the church (3 in the First Presidency and then the Quorum of the 12 Apostles) that we regard and sustain as “prophets, seers, and revelators” and how some members hold them in such high esteem that they may believe them infallible. The church has never taught that these men were anything but imperfect men, chosen by God to this high calling. Jesus Christ is the only perfect person to walk the earth. What does “prophets, seers, and revelators” mean? A basic approach is to view this as a prophet is one who is called to be the spokesman for God right now. He gives us counsel concerning the will of the Lord that we need to hear in our day and age. A seer is one who is able to translate ancient languages through the power of God and know the past. A revelator is one who reveals the future as inspired by God to know it. The scriptures contain many examples of prophets. Just like Moses, Noah, and Isaiah, Mormons believe there were prophets among the people of the ancient Americas as recorded in the Book of Mormon. We also believe in modern day prophets because God loves all of his children and wants them to have his guidance. In the scheme of things, when in the history of earth has a prophet been more needed than in our day today? Why would God abandon us when he provided prophets in the past eras? He hasn’t abandoned us. You can listen to a prophet any time by going to this link to the LDS church’s General Conference page. Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on earth today.