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In our opinion: In the American family is the heart and soul of the nation found

We encourage all to engage in this year’s American Family Survey and lean into conversations it will inspire

SHARE In our opinion: In the American family is the heart and soul of the nation found

Rnwh Moustafa, 4, of Jersey City, N.J., plays under an American flag in New York on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. The Deseret News and Brigham Young University will be releasing the sixth annual American Family Survey.


Society has become increasingly transactional. Politics and business, once centered in personal relationships of trust, have become nothing more than a market where transactions and deals are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Community and family life has been pushed away from relationships and toward disconnected transactions.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an international religious leader, philosopher and award-winning author, who served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations from 1991 to 2013.

While speaking with Deseret News opinion editor Boyd Matheson on KSLRadio’s “Inside Sources,” Rabbi Sacks noted, “The human condition is overwhelmingly about relationships — about faithfulness: staying true, loyal and committed to one another despite all the tensions, setbacks, misunderstandings, backslidings, and all the multiple ways in which we fall short. It is about consecrating the bonds between us. It is about transcending our solitude. The overemphasis on “I” and the loss of “We” leaves us isolated and vulnerable. It is not good to be alone.” 

The solutions to the troubles of transactional living in modern society begin to be answered in the dynamics of family living. 

On Sept. 22, the Deseret News and Brigham Young University will release the sixth annual American Family Survey during an online event hosted by survey partners including the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute. The survey is designed to demonstrate the experiences of Americans in their relationships, marriages and families, and how those experiences impact a variety of social and public policy issues.

Deseret News editor Doug Wilks commented that the American Family Survey explores “the heart of America” and gives voice to a populace more focused on family living, economic concerns and work demands than by the divisive political rhetoric that often dominate headlines.

Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute commented, “Once upon a time, the pollsters regularly asked Americans about ordinary life. These questions are largely missing today in favor of the latest poll on political news or political scandal. Something very important has been lost,” Bowman said. 

The 2020 survey contains critical insight relating to many aspects of family life and will spark crucial conversations for community, government and business leaders.

Rabbi Sacks has noted, “The family is where we learn the delicate choreography of relationship and how to handle the inevitable conflicts within any human group. It is where we first take the risk of giving and receiving love. It is where one generation passes on its values to the next, ensuring the continuity of a civilization. For any society, the family is the crucible of its future, and for the sake of our children’s future, we must be its defenders.” 

Good public policy is centered in strengthening homes, families and communities. It is vital for leaders to move away from transactional interactions where power, money and influence are traded on contracts. For society to succeed it must bend toward relational commitments and covenants. Rabbi Sacks said it this way: “One way to conceptualise the change needed is by moving from a social contract — which invites us to think about what we can gain — to a social covenant — which invites us to think about the impact we can have on others. A contract is a transaction focused on interests and who benefits. A covenant is a relationship focused on identity and what can be transformed.”

Transforming our communities, especially those currently floundering in economic upheaval and civil unrest, cannot be done through transactions. Society requires personal and family relationships in order to flourish. 

We encourage all to engage in this year’s American Family Survey and lean into conversations it will inspire. Such dialogue, centered in family, will transform society toward its highest aim and empower individuals to achieve their most noble dreams.