PHILADELPHIA — The Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia praised Mormon families on Thursday at the World Meeting of Families and thanked the LDS Church for a significant financial contribution to the event.
"When we planned this, we tried to reach out to different faith communities to get some help on how to be good families, and I don't think anybody does it better than the Mormon community and the Latter-day Saints," said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. "We have a lot to learn from you, and I'm grateful you're willing to help teach us."
The archbishop made the comments in the middle of a presentation by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Archbishop Chaput, who spoke at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in January and whom Elder Christofferson called a good friend earlier in the day, is the host of the World Meeting of Families. He also is the host for the visit of Pope Francis here Saturday and Sunday. Months ago, he invited Elder Christofferson to make one of the World Meeting's many presentations that have drawn 18,000 Catholics from around the world.
"We have a warm relationship," Elder Christofferson said, "and I feel honored that he would ask us, I think for the first time, to be a part of the World Meeting of Families. I hope it will continue."
Two LDS families joined Elder Christofferson onstage for his presentation, titled "Principles and Activities that Unify Mormon Families."
"It is an honor to stand with you in support of the family," Elder Christofferson said.
Based on questions and interviews, the largely Catholic audience came looking for ideas for unifying their families and appreciated the plainspoken experiences shared by the LDS parents and children.
Each of the nine children in the two families shared impromptu comments about ways their families live their faith together, but 5-year-old spark plug Ivy Anderson stole the show as Elder Christofferson asked the families how they pray together, read scriptures together, hold family nights together and draw strength by learning about their family history.
Ivy just started kindergarten, and she knows how to read and has enough energy to literally climb the walls at home, her parents said.
When the two families and Elder Christofferson explained family home evening, now a 100-year-old Mormon tradition, Ivy made it real.
"My favorite part of family home evening is the treats, and they're Rice Krispies," she said to sustained laughter.
The Andersons, parents Jeremy and Brandy and five children: Caden, 16, Ruby, 14, Ashton, 12, Wyatt, 8, and Ivy. They are from Wilmington, Delaware.
Dee Bostic is a single mother and an executive assistant in an investment firm. She lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and is the head of a household with three generations: her mother Kathryn Campbell, and her children, Kara, 18, now a freshman at Utah State University, Haley, 17, Corryn, 15, and Hunter, 10.
Home evening became an extended discussion when questions emerged in the audience about what kinds of lessons the families teach during home evenings and how they manage to set aside a dedicated time.
Stephanie Giles, a Catholic mother of six from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, asked how a large family with schedules that conflict could have a night together at home.
LDS leaders dictate that no church activities are scheduled on Monday nights so that they can be available for family home evening, but the Andersons and Bostics explained they hold family home evenings on Sunday night instead because of school activities and sports schedules.
Dee Bostic said her sports-mad children don't play with their teams on Sundays.
"Nothing, nothing else takes priority," she said. "Sunday is about God and family only."
"I hope our priests are listening," Giles replied. "Our kids go to a Catholic school and they have a lot of Sunday events."
Giles said she attended the presentation because her family is trying to build family unity.
"I know Mormons have a strong reputation for striving for family unity. I wanted to see what I could learn," Giles said. "As a Catholic, we believe the family is the fundamental unit. If I can learn something from the Mormons to help us, I'll learn from the Mormons."
She said her family prays together, but she now might add her children to the scripture study she does with her husband. As for Sundays, she said, "We just are going to have to be firm about activities. Are we serious about God and the church? If so, we may have to say 'sorry, no Boy Scouts on Sunday night.'"
The Bostics get up at 5:30 a.m. each day to pray together as a family in the hallway of their home. It's hard for everyone, but they've relied on it.
"It's just a hot mess if we don't have family prayer in the morning," Haley said.
Jeremy Ashton said he often learns about things he didn't know were happening with his children during his family's joint nightly prayer.
Both families also read scriptures together daily. The Andersons read each night after dinner.
"We're not that ambitious," Jeremy Anderson said. "We read seven verses per day, and try to do it every day of the week."
They started 14 years ago, and they have read the Book of Mormon three times. Fourteen-year-old Ruby said scriptural language gets easier with each repetition.
Dee Bostic and her mother explained their opposing views on family scripture time. Kathryn Campbell would impose it because of its importance. Her daughter lets the children choose to teach them about agency.
"If they're in a contentious spirit," she said, "I'd rather not have them bring us down, though the spirit that scripture reading brings usually extinguishes any contention we have."
Haley claimed to be the most contentious, but said it "physically hurts" her to be upset or make a smart comment "because what we are reading is true, and I can't stand to bring an unholy presence to what is holy."
Giles said she always thought family scripture study had to be more scholarly.
"They each took one verse? We could do that," she said. Then she smiled and boiled it down to the 5-year-old spark plug.
"If Ivy can read," she said, "we can read."