Monday, September 28, 2015

The Family Proclamation Turns Twenty

It was the last full weekend of September of 1995. For women in my church, that meant there was a worldwide broadcast, coming out of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, which we could watch by satellite at our various church buildings around the world. So I had an evening out with friends, leaving the kids at home with our husbands. A similar evening took place this last Saturday as well.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World 
On September 23, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley had been the 15th President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for only a little more than half a year. We had heard from several women leaders, all uplifting and encouraging. And then the final speaker was President Hinckley. He also spoke in that context of love and encouragement, and inspiration, building us up. And then he dedicated a large portion of his talk to reading to us this proclamation, called, “The Family: A Proclamation to theWorld.”

A proclamation is not exactly a common thing. There were three in the 1800s. There were two in the 1900s. “The Family” is the second. Because it is such an unusual thing, we church members were surprised that it seemed so simple, and a repetition of what had been basic doctrine all our lives. But now, two decades later, we can see that it was declaring God’s word ahead of each concept being subject to disbelief and even attack.

I’ve written about it before. The first was recounting an experience Constitutional law professor and leader in defending the family, and my friend, Richard Wilkins had with it at the first international conference on family that he attended:

He told me that he spoke about the Proclamation on the Family, issued shortly before that by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which he was a devout member (as I am). At the time it came out, the issues in the Proclamation were such standard doctrine to us that he said he wondered at the reasoning. Since that time, he says he sees it as prophetic; every line in it is challenged in the world today. But in 1996 he happened to take a brochure of the Proclamation with him and had it in his pocket. When he shared those ideas, the opponents to the family (the previous speakers) hissed their disapproval, but the room at large gave him a standing ovation. They came up to him afterward to thank him for speaking what so many of them believed, and they formed long-standing alliances to work toward protecting the natural family from the international onslaught.
At last year’s Humanum Summit at the Vatican, one of the speakers, a Muslim, quoted two paragraphs from our Family Proclamation, as reported by Elder L. Tom Perry, one of two apostles who attended.

It is not a proclamation to all the Mormons in the world; it is a proclamation to all people in the world. It is our belief that it is the word of God through his prophets on the earth today—and that it what it is even to those who do not believe in God, or that these men speak His words.

To those of us who know what it is, we might have a framed copy in our homes (I do). We might carry a copy with us (I do). We might have parts or all of it memorized (I’m working on that). Sometimes we refer to it as The Family Proclamation. For anyone, it is worth reading and considering.

It is and always will be true that civilization is built upon strong families. So when so much of the world fails to understand this basic truth, The Family Proclamation is what God is telling us. You’ll want to read the whole thing, but I’m summarizing here, in bullet points, to bring out the specific points:

·         Marriage is between a man and a woman, and is central to God’s eternal plan for His children.
·         All human beings—male and female—are created in God’s image, and gender is part of who we are from before life on earth and into eternity.
·         Family relationships can be perpetuated beyond the grave; families are intended to be united eternally.
·         The first commandment, to Adam and Eve, to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force; procreative powers are only to be employed between lawfully wedded husband and wife (no sex outside of marriage).
·         The means by which mortal life is created (sexual intercourse) is divinely appointed, and we affirm the sanctity of life.
·         Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children, to raise them in love and righteousness.
·         The family is ordained of God; children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.
·         Happiness in family life is most likely to come from living the teachings of Jesus Christ, by maintaining principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
·         By divine design, fathers preside in love and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for the families, while mothers are responsible for the nurture of their children; fathers and mothers help one another as equal partners.
·         Warning: those who violate covenants of chastity, abuse spouse or offspring, or fail to fulfill family responsibilities will stand accountable before God.
·         Warning: disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
·         Responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere should promote measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Back in 1995 everyone (almost everyone) knew that marriage was defined as between a man and a woman. Certainly everyone sensible knew that male and female was basic to who a person was, and was not open to a whim or mental choice. People still knew that children were entitled to two parents—a mother and a father—who should be married. “For the sake of the children” was something people thought about and knew what was best, rather than fuzzily thinking maybe government ought to accommodate any adult desire, regardless of the child’s needs.

We can witness, already, wherever the family breaks down, or where marriage is denigrated to something akin to “whatever people engaged in a sexual relationship want it to be for the time being,” children do not get what they are entitled to, and their lives tend to be troubled. Such children grow up to populate our prisons and welfare rolls. Failure is not a certainty, but the odds against children raised without the stability of two married parents is a heavy handicap to overcome.

How do we get thriving civilization? Start with a religious, self-governing people. Base the structure on strong families. These are things we know. And yet, in a very short time, knowing it is less common, and is being labeled as evil and bigotry.

But there is no other way to civilization. And without civilization, we have the misery of savagery, which we are seeing, in all its horror, in news around the world and around our own country.

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is even more remarkable today, because we can see how true it is, by contrast with the counterfeits being pushed on us by the uncivilized. Those of us with clear vision can see that following this proclamation would repair our world.

You can watch President Hinckley read the Proclamation here.
His daughter, Virginia Pearce, wrote a blog post of her memories of that evening, worth reading, here

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