A group of BYU-Idaho students have teamed up with United Families International to influence policy makers and world leaders to support and fight for traditional family values at the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women.
While preparing for their presentations and discussion at the conference, students said they realized they need to become disciple leaders and advocates for truth and the family.
Elizabeth Warner, a marriage and family studies student, said she changed her major after feeling strong direction from God to study marriage and family with an emphasis in advocacy and policy. The opportunity to advocate at the UN stood out to her from the moment she heard about it.
"It was kind of that same feeling you get when something stands out to you in a scripture and just sticks, that's the kind of feeling I had," Warner said. "I knew it would be something that would be a very good experience for me, an opportunity to promote the family, to promote light and truth in a secular place where we really need help."
Allie Gillespie, also a marriage and family studies student, said her experience at BYU-Idaho has given her the confidence she needs to present to such an esteemed group of leaders.
"The start of being a disciple leader is gaining knowledge," Gillespie said. "You spend your time studying and you learn from others too. Then you can go out and share and promote the light and truth."
Without much experience in advocacy, Gillespie said she is grateful and a little bit surprised she is able to participate at the UN commission.
"I believe everyone can be an advocate and use their skills to be a disciple leader," Gillespie said.
Colin Haueter, another marriage and family studies student going to the commission, said his time as a missionary, working as an aid in the Idaho State Legislature, and studying how policy impacts families, has prepared him for the UN trip and a life of advocacy after.
"Brother Rarick's child and family advocacy class was just incredible and has helped me so much," Haueter said. "I learned to be able to articulate my thoughts more clearly when it comes to controversial issues, which has helped prepare me so much."
Haueter said he has learned and practiced teaching about the importance of the family to a non-religious audience. He said this will help him keep his viewpoints valid in other's eyes while still teaching an eternal truth.
"The family is divine, it's of God, but its purpose isn't solely religious," Haueter said. "Yes, it's the unit of exaltation, but it's also the best way to be happy and I want people to have their best shot at happiness."
As a member of the Church, Warner says it's a challenge to teach such a basic truth without using her usual gospel vocabulary.
"It takes a different skill set to be able to share light and truth with others without using religious terms, without having the affiliation of the Church," Warner said. "It is different from what we have done before having been missionaries."
Warner said she has also spiritually prepared to be a greater influence to others she comes in contact with at the UN.
"We are going into a place where a lot of people have views that are against God's plan, that are opposed to women staying at home with their children, that are for women being able to choose to have an abortion," Warner said. "To be spiritually prepared, I have been trying to go to the temple regularly and study in the scriptures diligently, all the regular things we should be doing so that we can bolster ourselves."
The students all said that being spiritually prepared will help them know what to say in the right moment and lead them to those who can make the greatest impact on families across the globe.
"Hopefully people that are there who are just going along with the crowd will have opportunities to get out of that line of thought," Haueter said. "That's one of the things I am most excited about, being able to be an influence at a personal level as well as a national and an international level."