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Many share concern about guarding sanctity of family

Echoing the warnings given for years by Church leaders, Elder Horacio A. Tenorio, who was released as a member of the Seventy, declared at general conference last month, "We must make of our homes fortresses to protect our families against the constant attacks of the adversary."

Battle lines are clearly drawn, as evidenced by continual assaults in society against the solidarity of the family unit. Yet indications are that many people in the secular world share Church members' concern for the sanctity of the family.In the United States, the week of Nov. 20 is National Family Week, an annual event designated by presidential proclamation and promoted by Family Service America based in Milwaukee, Wis. This year, it has double significance, as the United Nations has designated 1994 as the International Year of the Family.

The First Presidency endorsed the designation in a statement published in the Church News Jan. 1., that reads in part: "We join in this recognition of the importance of the family. The strength of any nation lies in the strength of its families. Our Heavenly Father intends that the greatest happiness and deepest joys should come in our associations and our concerns for one another as fathers, mothers and children.

"Strong family life comes of the perception that each of us is a child of God, born with a divine birthright and with unlimited potential. Strong family comes from parents who love and respect one another, who teach and nurture their children in the ways of the Lord, instilling within them the time-honored values of honesty, integrity, industry and service."

Many households are headed by single parents, usually mothers, who struggle -sometimes heroically and successfully- to raise and nurture children without the benefit of a partner. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that nationwide one out of every four children now live with only one parent, and in more than one-third of those families, the parent has never been married.

Divorce, early widowhood, out-of-wedlock births, and some mass media messages continue to erode the traditional "nuclear family" consisting of father, mother and children.

Despite societal trends, a survey released last December by the Family Research Council based in Washington D.C. hsows that Americans overwhelmingly share traditional values pertaining to the family. Among its findings: 83 percent believe it is better for a child to be born in a two-parent family; 87 percent believe it is better for a child to be cared for by his or her own mother than day care; 93 percent believe that children suffer when their parents divorce; and 84 percent believe that children are harmed by the presence of sexually explicit materials and adult entertainment in society.

The United Nations, in designating this year as the International Year of the Family, emphasized that "families, as basic units of social life, are major agents of sustainable development at all levels of society and their contribution to that process is crucial for its success."

The Church has long advocated family home evening as a tradition to build and safeguard family solidarity. In a recent letter read in sacrament meetings, the First Presidency re-emphasized family home evening, reminding Church members that Monday night should be reserved for it.

Among secular organizations championing the family as society's basic building block is Family Service America, which coordinates a network of almost 300 counseling and support organizations for families. It takes the lead in promoting National Family Week and works with congressional representatives to initiate enabling legislation and secure the required number of co-sponsors.