BYU professors Loren Marks and Dave Dollahite are passionate about researching the connections between families and faith. As we mentioned in an article in our most recent Connections issue, that passion has grown into a decade-spanning, religion-spanning project. Amongst the Jews, Muslims, and Christians included in their research, prayer was universally acknowledged as a
“catalyst for change,
a facilitator of humility and positivity, as well as of communication and understanding among couples
a unifier of couples and an aid in resolving conflict.”
The families interviewed were, in fact, very open in discussing prayer, says Dr. Marks. “We did not ask any direct questions about prayer, yet prayer was directly mentioned by our participants in substantive ways nearly 300 times and by a majority of the participants.”
Eleven studies conducted over the last ten years combine to show the following, as expressed here:
the ability to unite during challenges, more than avoiding challenges, defines strong marriage,
marriage [partners] benefit not merely from sharing the same faith, but from sharing similar levels of involvement and commitment, or have a ‘shared vision’ of faith and family life,
youth spiritual development is more successful when based on certain anchors of religious commitment,
it is not necessarily what families believe, but what they do that matters most.
They provide a variety of tips gleaned from their research here.
Dr. Loren says that he will be studying specific religious activities, such as the Jewish Shabbat, the Mormon Family Home Evening, and the Muslim Ramadan, next. He will also be analyzing the ways in which people emotionally struggle with religion and what religious parents believe are the paramount traits they need to possess and exemplify in regards to their adolescent offspring.
The School of Family Life Director, Dean Busby, began the meeting by making a wonderful parallel between the first verses in the Gospel of John, and the proclamation on the family. The first verses of the gospel read:
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14. And the Word was made flesh…
Busby then compared Christ being made flesh to the doctrines in God’s Plan of Happiness found in the proclamation. “What the proclamation did more than anything,” said Busby, “Was to coalesce and organize the doctrines about the family into one constitutional document. The question is: can we take this declared word and make it flesh? Can we bring it to life in our lives and in the lives of those around us?”
“The proclamation can become [flesh] by our choices and by the way we decide to give it meaning each day.”
A student speaker from the School of Family Life, Savannah Keenan, served her mission for the LDS church in St. George, Utah and Santa Maria, Brazil. She taught the gospel of Jesus Christ within the homes of many. She said, “I learned through these experiences that anywhere in the world, and in any situation, and in any kind of home, every single family can and will be blessed as they apply the principles taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
The leaders of the LDS church have counseled the SFL faculty to focus on promoting principles found in the proclamation on the family. SFL professor Dr. Sarah Coyne told about a time following a difficult period in her life where she felt inspired by God to do something to follow that counsel. She began a longitudinal study in which she looked at “digital natives”— kids who have never been alive without internet readily available. It will be a study that will follow them into their young adult years. She studies both the good and the bad that came from media use, answering questions like “What are the precursors to developing an addiction to media?”
“Kids spend more time with media than anything…including sleeping,” said Coyne. So it is important to give parents “tools to help children not only survive, but thrive in this media environment.” And then she testified, “One of the ways we can strengthen the family is to understand the ways that families use media.”
“I testify to you that God is in the School of Family Life,” said Coyne, “We’re part of a plan that is bigger than us all.”
The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, “We call upon responsible citizens…everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” And the School of Family Life has chosen to take that calling seriously. While it may be intimidating to be part of something so important to the world’s future, Coyne offers her encouragement.
“We do not have to do these things alone,” she said, “He will guide our thoughts and our efforts to be able to be the kind of scholars that he needs us to be; scholars that will build his kingdom and defend the family, scholars that will be a voice of reason and goodness in a world that desperately needs it right now.”
President Kevin J Worthen, as the keynote speaker, also offered some wonderful insight on the importance and relevance of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. “[The Proclamation] puts many social issues for us in an eternal context,” said President Worthen, “And that makes all the difference in the world: when you start understanding what God is trying to accomplish in that context.”
He then shared an important insight from the LDS Church Handbook:
God established families for three reasons:
To bring us happiness.
To help us learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere.
To prepare us for eternal life.
President Worthen continued:
“The proclamation on the family is a constitution for us about what things are most important in our lives… it provides us with specific advice on how to make [God’s] plan real in our lives.”
The School of Family Life plays an integral part of the FHSS college mission and we thank their faculty and students for their important contribution to it. May the Family: A Proclamation to the World be a constitution for our family lives, and may we become the scholars and people our Heavenly Father wants us to become.
Watch the full celebration below:
What ways have you found to implement the Proclamation in your family’s life?
Come celebrate 20 years of the The Family: A Proclamation to the World with students and faculty of the School of Family Life at a special conference on November 19th. President Kevin Worthen and Dr. Sarah M. Coyne will be guest speakers, and the objective of the conference is to energize and inspire university students and faculty about the Proclamation.
Over the last 20 years since the Proclamation was released, we have seen a shift in the world’s opinion of the purpose of marriage and family or lack thereof. As the church has stated, “A wide range of social ills has contributed to this weakening of marriage and family.” As Latter Day Saints, it has become increasingly important to understand the doctrine of family and to live it. A quarter of students at BYU are married and many others are anxiously preparing for marriage. This anniversary celebration serves as a wonderful reminder to those in the early stages of raising families that marriage and family are central to God’s plan.
The Family Proclamationwas written by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was first read by President Gordon B Hinckley on September 23, 1995 in Salt Lake City, Utah as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting.
President Worthen is the current president of Brigham Young University. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Monterrey, Mexico. He graduated summa cum laude with both his bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees from Brigham Young University in 1982. After working as a clerk for Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey of the D.C. Circuit Court and then for Justice Byron R. White of the U.S. Supreme Court, he joined the respected law firm Jennings Strouss & Salmon in Arizona in 1984. In 1987 Worthen returned to the J.Reuben Clark Law School as a faculty member. From 2004-2008 he served as dean of the Law School before being names BYU’s advancement vice president. He has been the president of Brigham Young University since 2014.
He and his wife Peggy have three children and two granddaughters.
Dr. Sarah M. Coyne
Dr. Coyne is an associate professor of human development in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. She received her BSC degree in Psychology from Utah State University, and her PhD in Psychology from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England.
Her research interests involve media, aggression, gender, and child development. She will soon be starting a major longitudinal study that will examine how parents and children can use media to strengthen family bonds in this digital age. This research agenda will support and help us understand the statement, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on … wholesome recreational activities”, as described in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. She has 4 young children and currently lives in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Does religious participation strengthen or weaken families? That’s the question posed by the American Families of Faith Project. Its purpose is “to explore the processes at work at the nexus between religiosity and family relationships that lead to positive outcomes.” FHSS professor David Dollahite and his colleagues interviewed 200 families of different faiths to learn how and why religion strengthens their relationships. After years of research and analysis, they have discovered what really works, no matter a family’s religion.
Dollahite is an expert in the field of family and religion studies and is co-director and founder of the project that began 13 years ago. But his interest in that nexus began 35 years ago when he chose to enter the family life program at BYU. “I was a new member of the [LDS} church,” he said, “and I wanted learn how to become the best husband and father I could possibly be.”
He will share the gems of his research–the “best practices” of religious families–at this year’s Virginia Cutler Lecture, held in 250 SWKT, on October 22nd at 7pm. Dr. Loren Marks, co-director of the project, says of the study that they had: “an embarrassment of riches [in data] – more than we’ll be able to touch in our lifetime.”
Come find out more about:
Avoiding and resolving marital conflict.
It’s all about how you live your faith – and how you perceive God.
Learn about how “anchors of religious commitment” and a strong religious identity can help children live meaningful religious lives.
Having meaningful conversations about religion.
It can be hard to talk to children and spouses about faith and religion, you’ll learn how to make it happen (and how to make it effective).
Learning from (and emulating) other faiths.
It is one thing to respect or tolerate other religions. It is another to admire and learn from them.
Balancing faith and family life.
The combination can either build or break down your family. It’s all about doing it the right way.