By Sarah Dustman
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was the keynote speakers at the Strengthening Marriage and the Family: Building a Christ-Centered Home conference on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne. The Fort Wayne Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend sponsored the joint conference.
Fred Everett, co-director of the Office of Family Life in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, introduced Bishop Rhoades’s talk, titled “Building Marriage and Family on Solid Rock: Christ, Faith, and Love.”
Bishop Rhoades began by saying that he was grateful for the collaboration between the diocese and the LDS Church. He also said that the topic of marriage is a “paramount of importance” and that the Western world is seeing marriage and family in a crisis. However, he added, the crisis is not just because of the recent redefinition of marriage.
The family is “the primary cell of society,” and things such as materialism, relativism and secularization weaken it, he said. The most impactful weakening is secularization, or “diminishment of faith,” and absence of religion in a family can make it harder to sacrifice one’s self. With materialism, idols such as power, money, comfort and pleasure are used for the self and not for the family, which could cause corruption in a marriage.
He added that it’s difficult to focus on strengthening the family if the difficulties aren’t first discussed. He encouraged both the Catholic Church and the LDS Church look to God’s design for marriage, and family plans created by Him in order to love. He explained that with faith and trust in God, a married couple sets out on God’s path for them without knowing the joys, burdens and plans that may come their way.
Bishop Rhoades then discussed faith in marriage and family life. “Love must be built on solid rock,” he said. Love is more than just feelings, however, and that the rock of true love comes from God. Without love built on solid rock, the foundation of marriage and family collapses.
Marriage is an everyday task that requires the couple to say, “I do” every day to the vows they took at their wedding, he said. He recalled Pope Francis’s three “magic phrases” for love: The first is “May I,” which focuses on being a polite request to enter into one’s life with respect and care; the second is “Thank you,” which is necessary to keep alive the awareness that the person — whether a spouse, child, or parent — is a gift from God. The third is “I’m sorry,” which focuses on acknowledging our mistakes and apologizing for them instead of accusing someone else of our own wrongdoing.
Bishop Rhoades led into discussing the importance of developing a relationship with God through cultivating a prayer life individually as well as in the family. The common phrase, “The family who prays together stays together,” was mentioned in relation with cultivating a family prayer life. In addition, he said that at weddings he tells couples not to let a day go by without praying for their spouse.
All families have their struggles, he said, but he is convinced that a Christ-centered family turns to the Lord in mercy and perseveres in faith and love because “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
The conference also consisted of speakers and breakout sessions from members of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the Fort Wayne Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The topics included a vision of strong marriage, conflict resolution, the relationship between husband and wife, the family, parenting, teaching teens about sexuality and the Gospel in the home.
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