Sunday, March 3, 2013

By the Word of Our Testimonies

A few Family Celebrations ago, my friend Angela Fallentine shared the story "Finding the Family Proclamation on the Front Seat." 

She recently emailed me to say that the country where she lives (New Zealand) had selected her (and her husband) to present testimony on their beliefs about marriage in front of Parliament.  

I was impressed by her willingness to stand for truth and righteousness and to be put on the hot-seat that way!  I wondered if ultimately that wasn't the very reason why God sent them to live in NZ, because he needed someone to deliver the message and he knew they would answer the call.  

Hearing about her experience gave me cause to ponder what I might say or how I might act when called upon to stand and be counted.

I asked Angela to share her experience with us.  Here's Angela: 

I was asked to share my story on defending the doctrines and principles as taught in The Family: A
Proclamation to the World to New Zealand Parliament a few weeks ago. Thank you for this opportunity!

Late last year my husband and I (American-Canadians who live in New Zealand) became aware of a new
bill going to Parliament called “Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Bill” which would legalize marriage
between two men or two women. Just as in the United States, the airwaves and Internet were filled
with talk of this bill—on both sides of the issue. Everyone in the country had the opportunity to send
in a submission to the Capital, which would result in some being chosen to appear before Members of
Parliament to discuss and defend their submission. We signed all the petitions we could on opposing
this bill and shared it with family and friends. We knew that if the voice of the people were to be heard,
we needed to put our beliefs into action, for wherever and whenever our Heavenly Father’s doctrine of
marriage and family are concerned, silence is precisely what Satan wants.

For Family Home Evening last October, my husband and I decided to write our thoughts to Parliament
defending traditional marriage between a man and a woman. There was a little box you could mark to
indicate whether or not you would be willing to present your submission to the government in person.
We looked at each other and said something to the effect, “We don’t know if we’ll get picked but we
should at least be willing to stand as witness of God at all times, in all things and in all places.” A few
months passed by and to our shock, we received word from Parliament that we both were chosen to
appear before the Committee to discuss our submission. They decided to do something unique with us
as we were a husband and wife with separate but similar submissions: They doubled our speaking time.
We found out that we were the only members of the Church in the country who were chosen. Now the
pressure was on!

Our minds were swirling with all sorts of information and questions. Why us? What could we possibly
say or share that could make a difference? There are so many wonderful talks, websites, research
on marriage and the family. Where do we begin? We asked some friends and family for ideas but
ultimately, we knew it was only between us and the Lord. We had about a week to prepare, and the
pressure was intense--we prayed and studied constantly. We came to know, more than ever before,
that the home is truly comparable to the Temple in terms of sacredness. We know that any outside
influence from the adversary disrupts the process of receiving revelation and feeling the Spirit in our
homes—which is precisely what Satan wants.

A few days before we were to present, we individually received our own powerful witnesses of exactly
what the Lord needed us to write down and bring to the Members of New Zealand Parliament. I felt
impressed to go back to the 1995 General Relief Society Meeting where President Gordon B. Hinckley
explained and announced the historic “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” I have had a handful
of powerful experiences where words of either Prophets or Apostles or the scriptures have literally
shook me to the core, and this was one of them. I couldn’t deny it; and this meant I was now responsible
to say things that no one else in the country would—things that would be unfamiliar or unpopular to say
to the world these days. My husband had a similar experience and felt the hand of the Lord direct him
to some profound thoughts and a story from President Uchtdorf. Although we were still nervous about
what would go down at the hearing, we had absolute confidence and assurance that what we were

about to read to Parliament was precisely what the Lord wanted. And that’s all that mattered.

Yet somehow, our confidence began to weaken as the day of the hearing came and the knots in our
stomachs remained as we found out that this would be an audience hostile to religious belief and
traditional family values. We dressed in our Sunday best and entered the ballroom of a hotel near the
Auckland Airport where the Parliamentary Hearings were held for those in the North Island. Members
of Parliament were at the front and the format for the Hearings mirrored a debate, with a moderator
in the middle and Members of Parliament on both sides surrounding the room. Members of the press
were on one side, and the video cameras on the other, filming each presenter. As we sat there, we
heard arguments and pleas from both sides of this heated debate, but there was a striking lack of
discussion on family, womanhood, fatherhood or religion. Some MP’s sneered and scoffed at a young
Taiwanese woman who testified that gay marriage was legal in her home country and the effects it had
on society, while other MP’s cheered and praised those who were championing immorality and gay
adoption. The longer we sat there, the more we realized that what we were about to say would be in
such stark contrast to the other presenters from either side of the debate that it would be very hard for
them to hear.

As they called our names, we walked up together and sat down at the hearing table. The moderator
told us we had ten minutes to give our speeches and then be questioned on the content of them. My
husband, John, started first. As he shared a powerful story by President Uchtdorf and defended truth,
and marriage and the family, I have never been more proud to have this good man by my side. There
is something inspiring about seeing a man defend family and childrenJ After he finished reading his
statement, they asked me to read mine, leaving time for debate afterwards. As I started to read, I
heard my voice echoing in the quiet room. I didn’t feel fear, but instead felt strength and power—and
surprised (?) to feel some trembling deep inside as I read excerpts from the words of a Prophet of God.
The power of President Hinckley’s words were tangible as they hung in the air of the ballroom.

After I finished, the moderator announced that the questioning will begin. It was soon obvious that
these MP’s were hostile to religious belief, traditional marriage and the family, and the importance
of womanhood and fatherhood. Questions such as “Why is marriage so important anyway? Why not
make broadened to include everyone? Should marriage be protected as a legal right? What exactly
makes up a family? Aren’t we all part of a family and why should it matter exactly how it happens?”
At every opportunity, we answered with clarity that only a man and a woman create a family; the
redefinition of millennia of history would water down the roles of mothers and fathers; gay adoption
would automatically rob children of either a father or mother in the home, and so forth. We ignored the
cameras, reporters and the videographers, and stuck to our guns firmly and politely. They thanked us
for a clear and concise presentation and we handed each individual our statements and a copy of The
Family: A Proclamation to the World. We left the ballroom shaking and holding hands (tightly I might
add!) We were given no accolades or support from the audience and it felt as though no one was on our
side. Yet we had the strong feeling that although what we said would have been hard for many to hear,
it was exactly what Heavenly Father wanted us to say.

All in all, we feel it was both the easiest and hardest experience socially or politically that we had
ever been through. Easy in that when the Lord asks us to do hard things for Him, we know He’ll bless
us. Difficult in that it was stressful and emotionally draining. This experience changed our lives,
strengthened our marriage, and our solidarity in defending the doctrine and principles taught in The
Family: A Proclamation to the World. In a nutshell, it was awesome! Although hard, it was such a
positive experience! We know that although we were randomly picked to do this in New Zealand, there
are millions of wonderful people out there who would have done (and will do) the same thing when
given the opportunity. As I said earlier, wherever and whenever our Heavenly Father’s doctrine of
marriage and family are concerned, silence is precisely what Satan wants.

Here is the transcript of Angela's testimony before Parliament:

Good afternoon, I am honored at the invitation to participate with you. As you can probably
tell by our accents, my husband and I are immigrants to this country. We left our homeland of
Canada and America to start a new life for ourselves and for future generations. In Citizenship
Ceremonies, the beautiful New Zealand national anthem is sung, and I feel it is particularly
fitting to share a few of its words today--for anthems are hymns that evoke powerful feelings in
the hearts of a country’s people :

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.

I’d like to expound briefly on a few points in my submission, leaving opportunity for discussion

There has never been a time, at least in recent history, when we have been confronted with
more challenging problems in our homes and families. We need not remind you that the world
we are in is a world of turmoil, and of shifting values. Shrill voices call out for one thing or
another in betrayal of time-tested standards of behavior. So many of the youth of the world,
and likewise so many of their elders, listen only to the voice of self-gratification. The moral
foundations of our society have been badly shaken.

There are those who would have us believe in the validity of what they choose to call same-
sex marriage. We know there are a small number of people in this country who have feelings
of affinity for the same gender. We love and regard them as our brothers and sisters. However,
we cannot condone so dramatically redefining marriage without serious and sobering
consequences for our families, communities, education systems and long held religious
traditions and institutions of this country.

With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning
standards and values, those who have gone before us—as if they were standing here today-
- would warn and forewarn on this bill to change marriage. In furtherance of this, I would like
to reiterate our submission today with a reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices
relative to the family which have been repeatedly stated throughout history.

We, as a husband and wife and as citizens of this country, proclaim our belief that marriage
between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s
plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit
son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal
plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father
and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. By divine design, fathers preside
over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities
of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of
their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers help one another as equal

We stand with those who have gone before us and warn that the disintegration of the family
will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and
modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those
measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
The accumulated wisdom of centuries declares with clarity and certainty that the strength of
any nation is rooted within the walls of its homes. The institution that will save our broken
society is not Parliament, it is the home.

Thank you.


So I come back to the question, dear readers, that I hope we'll all ponder today.  Where will we stand when the time comes to answer the question what do we believe about marriage?  How will we choose to defend it?  It is a question that we must answer, at least in private, for ourselves, once and for all.

I have long felt that our testimonies are powerful in and of themselves, but a scripture that I read in Revelations recently confirmed that.  It says, "

 And there was awar in heaven: bMichael and his cangels foughtagainst the dragon; and the ddragon fought and his angels,
 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more inaheaven.
 And the great dragon was acast out, that old serpent, called thebDeviland Satan, whicdeceiveth the whole world: hwas castout into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

 11 And they aovercame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their btestimonyand they loved not their lives unto thecdeath.
What will you do with the word of your testimony?  Hopefully in the days ahead, the word of our testimony will shine as brightly as it ever did...or this war of right and wrong continues to be waged here on earth.  Thanks, Angela, for sharing your valiant example with us!