Prominent leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are in the country to promote family values, which they claim is integral in building strong communities and a strong country.
“We believe that if a family is strong, there is a mother and a father who are raising children, educating them well, helping them know what the values of family are, it makes the whole nation strong and when there is a breakdown of the family . . .people aren’t marrying, their children are raised without a mother and a father, that’s where its starts breaking,” elder Brent Nielson of the Philippines Area Presidency said when he visited The Manila Times on Thursday.
He said promoting family worship and values is one of the missions of the Latter-day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon church.
Every year, the LDS sponsors a family values award in other countries like Australia and New Zealand.
Elder Larry Echo Hawk, second counselor in the Philippines Area Presidency, said that promoting family values in the Philippines is a personal campaign for him after the church changed their struggling family.
“I am a convert to the Church, meaning I was not born as a member and my family struggled because of the Pawnee heritage. When I was growing up my family relocated to Mexico and in the early years of my childhood, I didn’t think my family would stay together,” Hawk said.
“My family have never gone to college and received college education, but when Mormon missionaries came into our home, our family, a remarkable change happened. Six children were born to my parents and they all went to college. Three became lawyers and three were graduates from a recommended university of the Church in Utah,” he added.
Hawk was the former United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. He joined the administration of President Barack Obama on May 20, 2009 as the head of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also served as Attorney General of Idaho from 1991 to 1995.
Hawk said that missionaries who visited their home taught their family about the message of God and at 17 he started to read “The Book of Mormon” for the first time.
He said the Mormon church has much to offer in modifying families, teaching family values, and teaching people to live by spiritual standards.
“I believe that values and standards of the Church will help people of the Philippines be motivated and have the ability to attain education and to raise their prosperity; economically, educationally, spiritually, to be able to help them grow and to become the very best and happiest persons ever,” Hawk said.
He added that it is also important to know people’s ancestors and family history to connect the people who are living now. Ancestors can now be easily traced through www.familysearch.org.
The LDS has been donating wheelchairs under its “Wheelchair program” every year. The church also helped victims of Typhoon Pablo last year in Mindanao by building homes and finding jobs for stricken families.
Recently, the church’s leaders and members extended assistance to victims of typhoon Labuyo, coordinating with the Philippine Navy and other private entities to determine what the victims need.
The LDS’ membership in the Philippines is growing. There are 670,000 Mormon members, and the church has 888 chapels and 21 missions in the country.