The Family: A Proclamation to the World Stands Firm and True Today

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In the January 1971 inaugural issue of the Ensign of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the then First Presidency gave the following message:

Family unity and family commitment to the gospel are so important that the adversary has turned much of his attention to the destruction of families in our society. On every side there is an attack on the basic integrity of the family as the foundation of what is good and noble in life. … Liberalization of abortion laws throughout the world suggests the existing disregard for the sacredness of life. Families are torn apart by increasing use of illegal drugs and the abuse of legal drugs. Contempt for authority by more and more young people usually begins with disrespect and disobedience in homes. Respected magazines proclaim, “the myth of motherhood” and champion the more radical ideas of women’s liberation.

Message from the First Presidency – Joseph Fielding Smith

This First Presidency message goes on to say:

The primary function of a Latter-day Saint home is to ensure that every member of the family works to create the climate and conditions in which all can grow toward perfection. For parents, this requires a dedication of time and energy far beyond the mere providing of their children’s physical needs. For children, this means controlling the natural tendency toward selfishness.

Ibid.

On September 23, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented The Family: A Proclamation to the World as an outline and guide regarding God’s theology of the family, marriage, gender and more. It also provides counsel for home and family improvements and a warning about the consequences of the disintegration of the family (The Family: A Proclamation to the World-History)

This proclamation came over 24 years after the inaugural issue of the Ensign, and statement of the then First Presidency Message regarding the family. And for the past 26 years – this proclamation stands firm and true for all Latter-day Saints, and all of the world. However, this does not prevent it’s plain and precious truths to be attacked, dismantled, and criticized.

One such criticism comes from an Op-Ed article written by Richard Davis and published in the Sunday, December 26, 2021, edition of the Salt Lake Tribune. This writer happened to have seen a posting on his Facebook newsfeed by another fellow Latter-day Saint member where the article is shared. And the reader’s assessment and commentary regarding this Op-Ed article shares these thoughts:

This Tribune Op-Ed (attached) clearly disfavors the FamProc.

But for what reason? The author doesn’t argue that the document conflicts with Church teachings past and/or present. The author doesn’t argue the document contradicts Jesus’ words or teachings or revelations. The author doesn’t cite research on gender dysphoria or the difficult plight of transgender persons. He doesn’t claim the document is sexist or that it exercises unrighteous dominion. The author gives but one, single, solitary reason:

People are increasingly accepting of gay marriage so a double-down on the FamProc makes us look outdated and out-of-touch.

That’s it.

The editorial suggests the author’s LDS, yet he seems unaware that Christ was radically uninterested in the *approval* of his ideas. In fact, Christ knew that his followers would be hated for these ideas—these truths (“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world…the world hateth you.” John 15:19; see also John 17:14, 16). 

The Op-Ed article by Richard Davis as printed in the Salt Lake Tribune

Non-Canonized Argument Refuted

I agree with my fellow Latter-day Saint. One reads the op-ed and there appears to be only one main criticism and that is the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage. However, there is another underlying criticism that Davis offers. It is in this statement of the Op-Ed article:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World” has never been canonized by a vote of the church in general conference; it was only announced.

This statement comes after Davis remarks:

The Lesson on this proclamation was unusual because Sunday School addresses the scriptural canon of the church – the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ has never been canonized by a vote of the church in general conference; it was only announced

Whether the Proclamation has or has not been officially canonized as scripture does not make it less authoritative. Actually, the Family: A Proclamation appears to have come from divine revelation.

Shari Drew wrote a book – Insights from a Prophet’s Life: Russell M. Nelson (2019) and is quoted:

One day in 1994, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spent the day in their council room in the Salt Lake Temple discussing issues surrounding the family. They considered everything from the increasing ubiquitous nature of pornography to potential anti-family legislation of various kinds. This was not a new discussion, but that day the entire agenda revolved around this one vital topic

The Family: A Proclamation to the World – as quoted from Insights from a Prophet’s Life: Russell M. Nelson

The quote continues:

The Twelve reviewed both doctrine and policies, considering those things that could not be changed – doctrine – and those things that possibly could be – policies. They discussed issues they saw coming, including an intensified societal push for gay marriage and transgender rights. ‘But that was not the end of what we say. … We could see the efforts of various communities to do away with all standards and limitations on sexual activity. We saw the confusion of genders. We could see it all coming.

Ibid

The conclusion was that there needed to be a statement outlining the Church’s stand on the family. According to various Church Leaders remarks on the development of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we learn that it was based on:

  • Divine Revelation after study, prayer, meditation, and discussion
  • Based on established doctrines of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ – to include all standard works of the Church
  • According to President Boyd K. Packer, many leaders of the Church attended various conferences on the Family that were sponsored by the United Nations and notices marriage was not mentioned
  • The Proclamation was reviewed and approved and announced due to a conference on family that appeared to convene in Salt Lake City

Therefore, the historical background on the development of The Family: A Proclamation to the World rebuts Davis’s assertion that the document was not merely an announcement it was a firm declaration of truth and doctrine based on revelation, prayer, meditation, and study by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Gordon B. Hinckley.

Culture War: Gospel of Christ always conflicts with social and cultural Ideologies

When Christ began his ministry – his teachings conflicted with the long-held traditions of the religious leaders. They also conflicted with a prevalent view and belief that the messiah would come and liberate the city, the people, and the nation of Israel from the foreign occupation of the Roman Empire. They were not expecting a messiah that would come to call men unto repentance, to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Nor were they expecting someone who would declare that he’d lay his life down and on the third day – raise up from the dead. And Christ knew the hearts and imaginations of men. This is the reason he counseled his disciples on multiple occasions that the world hates him:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. … If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours. But all these things will they do unto you for name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. … He that hateth me hateth my Father also. … But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without cause

John 15:17-25, KJV

Yet Richard Davis appears to question the motivation behind the First Presidency, and the firm teaching of eternal truths, pure doctrine of Christ, and revelation by stating:

Also, church leaders have said that church members should put the culture wars behind them. Although there are many parts of the proclamation that nearly everyone would agree with, the family proclamation was part of the culture war. It was church leadership setting down a marker against same-sex marriage. One of the church leader’s quotes in the teacher’s manual that could be shared with the class … said that the proclamation declarations are “visibly different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy of the world in which we live:” and continued to include same-sex marriage and child rearing by same-sex couples as examples.

Davis continues:

This kind of language, along with the proclamation’s call to change government policy to reflect the proclamation, seems to be intended to reignite the culture wars rather than end them.

While I agree that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do well not to get caught up in the culture wars that pit firm, clear, plain spiritual truths and doctrines against prevailing worldly and social attitudes that undermine said teachings – sometimes we must take a stand and on what scripture teaches.

And if Davis had actually spent any serious amount of time in scripture study, the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, he’d come to know and understand that whenever our Heavenly Father calls a prophet and commissions that person with a work – it is to call men unto repentance. It is to call men unto Christ. To receive salvation and eternal life. And yet the Savior laments on the reality of the human condition and nature:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto the, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate

Matthew 23;37 (cf Matthew 23-1-39)

This statement of the Savior comes after a list of woes pronounced upon the Pharisees, scribes, and religious leaders for their hypocrisy and neglect of the Law (Torah).

Samuel the Lamanite Preaching the Gospel and calling the wicked unto Repentance Helaman 13:4

In 1 Nephi, we continually read the rebuking of Laman and Lemuel because of their wickedness, stubbornness, and hard-heartedness. The cry of the Father unto them to shake of the chains by which they are bound (2 Nephi 1:13). Samuel the Lamanite standing on the wall and prophesying while arrows are being strung and shot toward where he was preaching (Helaman 13:4). In the Pearl of Great Price, we learned that Adam, Enoch, Noah, and many others were called to preach and call men unto repentance (Moses 6). The reason? In the calling of Enoch to preach unto the children of men – God declares:

…I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off; And for these many generations, ever since the day that I created them, have they gone astray, and have denied me, and have sought their own counsels in the dark; and in their own abominations have they devised murder, and have not kept the commandments, which I gave unto their father, Adam. Wherefore, they have foresworn themselves, and, by their oaths, they have brought upon themselves death; and a hell I have prepared for them, if they repent not: And this is a decree, which I have sent forth in the beginning of the world, from my own mouth from the foundation thereof, and by the mouths of my servants, thy fathers, have I decreed it, even as it shall be sent forth in the world unto the ends thereof. … Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.

Moses 6:27-68

And the reason the Gospel is preached in a manner to where it is to call all men unto repentance:

Behold Satan hath come among the children of men, and tempteth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God.

Moses 6:49

Furthermore, Scripture tells us the following truths. Mosiah 3:19 teaches that the natural man is an enemy to God (See, Robert Millets Essay: The Natural Man: An Enemy to God). This is also reflected in the teachings of the Apostle Paul where he says:

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, his none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness

Romans 8:5-10

And in the letter to the Christians at Corinth:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

There are many other scriptures that not only call all men and women unto repentance, but they also call us all into a life of obedience to our Heavenly Father’s will and teachings. This includes upholding the sacredness and sanctity of marriage as ordained of God despite the cultural and social influence today.

Thus, the argument that The Family: A Proclamation to the World is seen as an intention to ignite the culture wars rather than end them – is a non-sequitur. Because what Christ reveals – and from what the Father reveals – generally goes against prevailing social norms, attitudes, and beliefs. Pure doctrine of Christ is constantly in conflict with presenting culture because the world stands against the truth of who Christ is. They’d rather deny Christ, and the Father, in order to erect their own version and idol to please their itchy ears and carnal mindsets.

To end the culture war means to either accept the world and be of the world – or accept Christ and take up one’s cross daily and be transformed by the renewing of their mind on the things of God (Luke 9:23, Romans 12:1-2).

Apostasy – A Moral Choice

Richard Davis appears to make this point quite clear when he shares his thoughts:

Bringing back the culture wars is not likely to help the church to retain young adults who have no problem with same sex marriage. Nor is it likely to aid the church’s missionary work, particularly among young people. Instead, the more probable consequence is more people walking away from the church because they view it as homophobic.

He further states:

The first thing that church members viewing that lesson read was a statement by a church leader declaring that “our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is [a test] for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.

He then concludes with this sentiment:

However, if the exclusion of others beyond the traditional nuclear family (mother, father, children) that is implicit in the family proclamation becomes a litmus test, many church members, and particularly its next generation, may not pass.

And the quote Richard Davis is referring to (which he neglects to actually quote – instead, cherry-picks one word – is from The Plan and the Proclamation given at October 2017 General Conference by Elder Dallin H. Oaks (which gives insight into the nature, purpose, and reason for the Proclamation). Elder Oaks actually quotes President Ezra Taft Benson in his concluding remarks:

Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself.” I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.

The test being referred to is whether or not we are willing to endure sound doctrine and truths revealed by God’s servants. If people turn away – they do so of their own accord and willingness. Yet, there are consequences such individuals may face. Consequences that have an eternal impact if they refuse to turn from the views of the world and walk the path of repentance and seek forgiveness. Yet, many will continue to walk away.

Upon teaching the disciples, many found such things difficult to hear and understand. Because of this, many of His disciples turned and walked away (John 6:60). Personal apostasy is a moral choice. That is the blessing of mortality. We have the freedom to choose. Deuteronomy 30:15 tells us that the Lord has set before us life and good, death and evil. If we choose life and good – we are blessed. If we choose to turn away, God will deny us, and we shall perish (Deuteronomy 30:15-18). In 2 Nephi 2;27, we read:

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

These two passages speak to a profound and spiritual truth – we are free to choose for ourselves. We either choose Christ and follow Him and are blessed with life and righteousness and immortality and eternal life; or we choose self, and follow our vain imaginations, our carnal minds, embrace the sophistries of the culture and society, live and love according to the dictates of the world. Because, to choose the latter – one is choosing eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom (2 Nephi 2:29).

There is no middle ground when it comes to Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing those things that we want to accept and believe in and then toss out those things that we disagree with because of present cultural and social influence. Christ himself declared that he is the truth and the life, and no person can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). He also is the light that has come into the world and yet many rather remain in darkness because if they were to come into the light – their deeds would be exposed and shown for what they are (John 3:19).

A Call to Repent and Turn Away and Come unto Christ

The wonderful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the reality that all of us mess up. All of us sin. Many of us struggle in this life to find meaning and purpose. We are neither better or worse than anyone else. The truth is that our Heavenly Father desires us to repent, to turn our hearts toward Him, and to seek forgiveness through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ. Many scripture passages speak to the blessings toward those who turn away from their folly, from their wickedness, vain imaginations, and rebellious and sinful ways. He draws near unto us. He is willing to forgive us. After all – this is the heart of the parable of the prodigal son. All of us are on the road of repentance – seeking forgiveness. It is our own personal journey.

This is where the heart and love of God and Christ rests. So also, it ought to be where our own hearts and love should rest as well. Embracing those who have fallen away and made their return back to the faith. To embrace them, forgive them, support them, and encourage them to live the principle truths and commandments that our Heavenly Father has already taught us.

And this is the invitation to those who are finding themselves question The Proclamation. Find themselves experiencing a sense of loss, confusion, and lacking any direction. Our Heavenly Father desires for each of us to return to Him. To experience the blessings of immortality and eternal life. To taste the sweetness of forgiveness and peace that the world is never able to offer.

It is only if we are able to turn our hearts and minds over to Christ, to take up our cross and follow him, and walk in true obedience and humility. If we are not willing to do so, it is because of our pride and the love of the world – for the world despises Christ and denies his truth and authority – changing Christ to that of man’s desires, imaginations, and will – to serve man’s carnal and vain imaginations and ego.

Therefore, choose you this day whom you will follow – Christ, our savior and redeemer, or the world that is influences by the carnality and temptations of the adversary.

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