This week’s gathering of global religious leaders at the Vatican to discuss the importance of marriage fuses two key beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: the importance of marriage between man and woman, and the importance of interfaith cooperation in common causes for good.
"At this time of rapidly declining moral values and the challenges to traditional family structures and relationships throughout the world,” a Church statement says, “we are pleased to unite with the Catholic Church, other fellow Christian denominations and other world religions in standing firm and speaking clearly about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman."
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the Church’s First Presidency, will join other religious leaders and scholars from 14 faith traditions and 23 countries beginning Monday, November 17, in a historic three-day colloquium, or conference, hosted by the Catholic Church. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric will accompany President Eyring.
What to Expect
Pope Francis will open the conference, titled “The Complementarity of Man and Woman.” Leading religious figures and scholars, according to a Vatican press release, "will explain how their tradition understands the relationship between the man and the woman in marriage, as it is lived in this world, and as it reflects the divine plan."
President Eyring is among the religious leaders who have been asked to offer a “witness” to the importance of marriage from their faith’s perspective. He will speak Tuesday, November 18. (See a complete schedule for each of the three days.)
Other speakers include several Catholic leaders, the Rev. Dr. Richard D. Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in California; Dr. Russell D. Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and other speakers from the Sikh, Tao, Islamic, Anglican, Mennonite, and other religious traditions. (See a full list of the conference presenters.)
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Here’s what I hope comes out of the meeting, wrote Dr. Russell Moore, “I hope that this gathering of religious leaders can stand in solidarity on the common grace, creational mandate of marriage and family as necessary for human flourishing and social good. I also hope that we can learn from one another about where these matters stand around the world.”
Bishop John C. Wester, who heads the Salt Lake City Catholic Dioceses said, “I think there have been many topics, frankly, and many occasions where the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have come together for the common good.” Speaking generally of those interfaith partnerships between Catholics and Mormons, and specifically about marriage Bishop Wester said, “I think it’s a gift really from God that we can come together this way.”
The gathering will also premiere six short films that examine men and women and marriage the world over. Each film features a variety of interviews with young and old, single and married, women and men, lay and religious, from many cultures, continents and religions. Video topics range from the beauty of the union between man and woman to the loss of confidence in marital permanence to the cultural and economic woes that result from the disappearance of marriage.
“It’s time to bring together the religions of the world to speak with one voice,” Princeton Professor Robert P. George, who is participating in the colloquium, said in an interview Sunday in Rome.
The importance of marriage and its place in society and in God's eternal plan has been emphasized repeatedly by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1995 The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued The Family: A Proclamation to the World, a document that declares the Church's position on the family and warns of the consequences of its breakdown (See also The Divine Institution of Marriage).
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