BYU-Idaho students have prepared to participate in the United Nations meetings this March to advocate for the family through the United Families International, a charity devoted to strengthening the family.
Tim Rarick, a faculty member in the Home and Family Department, is taking a team of seven BYU-I students to meet and visit with delegates from different countries to discuss and explore topics around the family.
“The United Nations has a variety of commissions and conferences if you want to call it that, initiatives throughout the year,” Rarick said. “We always go to the commission on the status on women, which is every March.”
He said the team flies to New York and stays five to six days participating in events to promote strengthening the family.
“At the U.N., you meet with delegates of all these small countries, and there’s these documents at the U.N. that has certain language in it that may be anti-family,” said Chris Baccile, a senior majoring in marriage and family studies. “(United Families International) has to make sure that these smaller countries understand that language or else when that document goes through, they’re really affected by that.”
Alexis Priestley, a senior studying child development, said that in preparation for the trip, students receive a U.N. manual to familiarize themselves with the language used in the legal documents and conversation.
“Because bigger countries sponsor and give aid to smaller countries, it’s important that they are able to follow the guidelines the U.N. has set,” said Hannah Joyce, a senior majoring in marriage and family studies. “But it’s hard to do so when it’s contradicting some of the laws they have in their (small) country that are against moral tradition.”
Baccile said that the bigger countries can act like bullies to the smaller countries if the smaller countries do not agree with the terminology. He said the bigger countries will withhold certain things to force the smaller countries to comply.
“We are bringing the truth to light in front of them,” Joyce said.
Deborah Wené, a senior majoring in marriage and family studies, is one of the few students who has gone more than once. She said this is her second year and that the group is not only representing BYU-I when they go to the U.N.
“We don’t go as BYU-Idaho, we go as United Families International,” Rarick said.
Rarick said the students have held events in the past in which they present and discuss certain topics and the audience can ask questions and argue their stance on the topic.
Wené said she thought it was neat to be able to discuss problems that one country has with different people who suggested different solutions.
“We are not representing the Church, but we are representing a group of people who are for the family,” Priestley said. “I think you have to get to a point where you’re prepared to make a stand and that’s not always easy because it’s not always popular.”
Rarick said there was a student who was at an event one year that had very liberal opinions being voiced. He said the student was very shy but started to walk toward the front of the room.
Rarick said he was nervous about what she was going to say and how the people would react to it.
Rarick said she asked, “Are you saying that churches that have existed, religions for thousands of years, need to now change their doctrines because it doesn’t fit into what you believe? Basically you’re saying your opinion should trump theirs even though they have existed for this long?”
He said he couldn’t remember if that was what she asked exactly, but she listened to the spirit and found confidence in herself.
Rarick said BYU-I faculty has made it clear that this group should only attend as a neutral group, not religious.
“To me, this is part of President Eyring’s prophecy where he said, ‘Where did that come from?’” Rarick said. “Well, come to Rexburg, come to the United Nations and you may not be able to see it, but you’ll feel it.”