"The Family: A Proclamation to the World" is a 1995 statement issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which defined the official position of the church on family, marriage, gender roles, and human sexuality. It was first announced by church president Gordon B. Hinckley during a General Relief Society meeting. (It was originally published on September 23, 1995.)
In understanding the origin of this proclamation, we better understand it's purpose.
February 1981, Church Headquarters
The First Presidency published a nine-page guidebook for church leaders concerning the problem of homosexuality. The guidebook provides information on the church's position on, the causes, how to assess needs and how to counsel homosexual behavior.
The forward to the booklet states: "Homosexuality is of grave concern to the Church because-
1. It violates the Lord's eternal plan for man's progress by perverting the proper use of procreative powers and loving relationships,
2. It deprives God's children of the happiness and fulfillment possible only in family life.
3. It debases and demeans those involved.
4. It is as sinful as heterosexual adultery and fornication.
5. It may involve violent and criminal behavior."
August 7, 1984, Church Headquarters
Dallin H. Oaks writes a twenty-one page memo entitled "Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals." In the memo Oaks repeats President Kimball's theory that "homosexuality can be cured" and that "we do not consider the evil thinker to be guilty of as grave a sin as the evil doer."
"What they [homosexuals] really seem to crave is public approval of their practices. They want the right to proselyte their lifestyle and to practice it in public without penalty or public disapproval."
The entire "memo" seeks to point out "a basis to approve discrimination in these areas against person with the homosexual condition..." areas such as employment, housing, etc.
September 3, 1991, Hawaii
In Honolulu, Hawaii a local court hearing was held for the state's first case of same-sex marriage, Baehr v. Lewin.
November 14, 1991, Church Headquarters
On November 14, 1991, the First Presidency released a letter addressing homosexuality titled "Standards of Morality and Fidelity."
One part of the letter reads: "The Lord's law of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior, is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline."
1992, Church Headquarters
The First Presidency updates the booklet called "Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems"
May 5, 1993, Hawaii Supreme Court
The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state's refusal to issue marriage licenses constitutes sex discrimination under Hawaii law. As such, the discrimination may only be practiced if the state can demonstrate a "compelling public interest" in denying marriage to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court returns the case to the circuit court to issue a new decision based on whether such a compelling interest exists.
February 1, 1994, Church Headquarters
The First Presidency issued another latter on February 1, 1994 which (in part) reads: "The principles of the gospel and the sacred responsibilities given us require that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints oppose any efforts to give legal authorization to marriages between persons of the same gender. Marriage between a. man and a woman is ordained of God to fulfill the eternal destiny of His children. The union of husband and wife assures perpetuation of the race and provides a divinely-ordained setting for the nurturing and teaching of children. This sacred family setting, with father and mother and children firmly committed to each other and to righteous living, offers the best hope for avoiding many of the ills that afflict society."
February 1995, Honolulu, Hawaii
The Church announced it had decided to file a petition to intervene in the Baehr case in order to "protect freedom of religion to solemnize marriages between a man and a woman under Hawaiian law."
March 1995, Honolulu, Hawaii
The Circuit Court of Hawaii rejects the church's petition to become a party to the Baehr case. The judge ruled that the request was without merit, since nothing in the licensing law requires a minister to perform any marriage in behalf of the state, rather it merely permits them to do so when it is in harmony with their religious practice and belief. According to the judge, the church failed in its petition to demonstrate that its arguments against same-sex merit were ones that had not already been raised by the state.
September 23, 1995, Conference Center
President Gordon B. Hinckley reads The Proclamation on the Family at the General Relief Society Broadcast.
April 1997, Honolulu, Hawaii
After the Proclamation was written, the Church reentered the Hawaii Case and included the document as an appendix to the amicus curiae brief filed by the church.
December 1999, Honolulu, Hawaii
December 1999, the case for Baehr vs. Lewin was dismissed and Hawaii rejected same-sex marriage.
December 2, 2013, Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii passed the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act that finally legalized same-sex marriage.
June 26, 2015
Same-sex marriage was made legal nationwide in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. According to Frank Lowe, one of the main reasons that same-sex marriage was legalized was due to an amicus brief that was written by the children of LGBTQ parents. These children (which included Lowe) spoke of the healthiness and the strong ability LGBTQ+ individuals have in being parents. Studies show that same-sex parents are just as good as, if not better, than different-sex parents. (To learn more, read Raised by Unicorns by Frank Lowe.)
November 2015, Church Headquarters
Five months after same-sex marriage was legalized, the Church released a new policy: “Children of same-sex couples will not be able to join the Mormon Church until they turn 18 — and only if they move out of their parents’ homes, disavow all same-sex relationships and receive approval from the church’s top leadership as part of a new policy adopted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” [New York Times, Mormons Sharpen Stand Against Same-Sex Marriage, Goodstein, Nov. 6, 2015].
When Hinckley announced the proclamation, he said it was “a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history" [Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World, Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference 1995].
But is this true? Does the Family Proclamation reaffirm standards and doctrines and practices that the church leaders have repeatedly stated? Let's take a look...
In the Family Proclamation it reads: "All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God… Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
The Church teachers that our gender is eteral. Males have always been male and females have always been female. However, in the 1965 General Conference address William J. Critchlow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that he saw: "a conscious choice to be male or female." In other words: We choose our gender. It isn’t eternal.
Additionally, in 1967 BYU Professor Hyrum Andrus stated: "Nowhere in scripture or in any authoritative source is the central primal life of man said to be 'an intelligence' that existed as a living entity in the form and stature of man." In other words: It’s not in the scriptures that we were intelligences in the form of men or women before this world began. Gender isn’t eternal.
In 1972, BYU Professor Rodney Turner stated: "The principles of agency must have played a part in anything God did. The arbitrary assignment of sex would have rendered Him particularly vulnerable to criticism." In other words: God let us choose our gender.
Even the Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley himself added to these teachings when he said in 1983, "I know of no doctrine which states that we made a choice when we came to the earth as to whether we wished to be male or female. That choice was made by our Father in Heaven in His infinite wisdom." In other words: Heavenly Father chose our gender. Therefore, it isn’t eternal.
My question then is: If gender is a choice of the individual spirit or even of God, does that mean it is still essential and eternal?
Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith taught: "I take it that men and women will, in these kingdoms [the lower kingdoms called the Terrestrial & Telestial Kingdom], be just what the so-called Christian World expects us all to be neither man nor woman, merely immortal beings having received the resurrection" [Doctrines of Salvation vol. 2]. In other words: Gender is not eternal.
Joseph Fielding Smith also stated: "Is not the sectarian world justified in their doctrine generally proclaimed, that after the resurrection there will be neither male nor female sex? It is a logical conclusion for them to reach and is apparently in full harmony with what the Lord has revealed regarding the kingdom's into which evidently the vast majority of mankind is likely to go" [Answers to Gospel Questions]. In other words: Gender is not eternal.
How can gender be eternal if it ends past the resurrection for the "vast majority of mankind"?
In addition to the eternal nature of gender, did you know that a large number of individuals are born with both sexes? This is called Intersex. Intersex is the “i” in LGBTQIA and this is when an individual is born with sex characteristics including chromosome patterns, gonads, or genitals that do not fit the “typical binary pattern for male or female bodies.” It was published just last year that 1.7 percent of the population is intersex. (This is about the same number of redheads in the world!) I know that looks small but with a population as large as ours, that is well over 70 million individuals born neither male nor female, but a combination of both that varies from intersex-individual to intersex-individual. And research today shows that individuals born intersex are healthy just the way they are born. Rarely is surgery necessary for intersex individuals. Is this part of God’s plan? Is their gender eternal? Are they not also patterned after the image of God?
If a person can be born into a body with the wrong gender (as is implied with intersex individuals) then who is to say that a gendered spirit cannot enter a body that presents the wrong gender? Doesn’t it stand to reason that a female spirit can be placed in a male body? And what of these individuals? Why are they punished for transitioning to the gender they feel suits them best? Why does the church invalidate them? If the science of intersex exists, which it does, then why can’t those who are transgender fall under the same reasoning?
(For more information, Emily Quinn's story as an intersex individual is very important.)
Questions to Consider
In the Family Proclamation it reads: "We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” The modern Mormon Church considers monogamy to be the Lord's order of marriage, however, this has not always been the case.
Polygamy & Polyandry
Shortly after the Church was founded, Joseph Smith commanded the members to live the "law of polygamy" which required men and women to marry outside the law. Joseph Smith had over thirty wives to which he was not legally or lawfully wed. In fact, at least eleven of those women were already legally married to other men [see Zina Huntington Jacobs, Marinda Johnson Hyde, Elizabeth Davis Durfee, Mary Rollins Lightner, and at least seven others]. Despite this fact, however, same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the United States in 2015.
Not only were early Mormon leaders required to marry outside of the law -per God's commandment, according to them -but the highest salvation required that men marry more than one woman.
The Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage
The temple endowment ceremony changed to accomidate the legalization of same-sex marriage. In the older temple endowment ceremony it read as follows: "Elohim: …give unto them the Law of Chastity, and put them under covenant to obey this law, which is, that the daughers of Eve, and the sons of Adam shall have no sexual relations except with their husbands or wives to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded.” The updated temple endowment ceremony accomidates for the recent legal changes by saying: "Elohim: …give unto them the Law of Chastity, and pu them under covenant to obey this law, which is, that the women of my kingdom and the men of my kingdom shall have no sexual relations except with those whom they are legally and lawfully wedded according to my law.”
The Family Proclamation does not "reaffirm" the Church's past teachings on marriage when polygamy, polyandry, and marriage outside of the law were God's requirements for the highest degree of salvation.
Questions to Consider
If the problem lies in the parenting abilties of same-gender couples, studies show (and are continuing to show) that LGBTQ parents are just as healthy, if not healthier, than hetersexual parents.
Studies on LGBTQ Parenting
Center for Surrogate Parenting, 2008 | According to one study published in 2008, "LGBT parents [are] an asset for their school communities, they were also more likely to be involved and engaged in their children's day-to-day educational life"
American Psychological Association, 2012 | Another study, conducted in 2012, "lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children"
Live Science 2012 | Another study published in the same year stated that "Gay parents tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents... That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.”
The Washington Post, 2014 | A study in 2014 found that "Children of same-sex couples fare better when it comes to physical health and social well-being than children in the general population, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.”
American Sociological Review, 2020 | A study in 2020 shows that "The results indicate that children raised by same-sex parents from birth perform better than children raised by different-sex parents in both primary and secondary education.”
Frontiers in Psychology, 2021 | Additionally, a study published in 2021 showed that lesbian mothers "were just as likely to have good mental health and positive relationships with their children as were heterosexual mothers, and that their children were no more likely to show emotional and behavioral difficulties, poor performance at school, or atypical gender roles behavior than were children with heterosexual parents.”
Questions to Consider
The Family Proclamation sets out specific roles for husbands/fathers and wives/mothers.
For the men it reads: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
For the women it reads: Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
In his recent General Conference address in October 2022, Elder Soares spoke of the roles of men and women in the family. He talked about having an “equal partnership” and the interchanging roles of nurturing, providing for, and protecting their family. He said that, “..nurturing and presiding are opportunities, not exclusive limitations."
One thing that I have learned (and perhaps this is limited only to me) but when roles are given in the marriage or family, roles are sometimes not met, and when they are not met, resentment and anger and even heartache can occur. Dividing the family structure into “his roles” and “her roles” is not healthy. However, when the roles are dissolved and you each take what you can carry, true partnership occurs. There is no longer a plethora of unmet expectations.
I was a nanny for four years. In the family that I nannied for, the mother was a doctor and the father stayed at home. This felt very strange to me at first. Why would this family, who are members of the church, set up their family against the Family Proclamation? After a time I grew to understand that the mother had great skill in being a doctor, she was needed in her field, and the children thrived in this seemingly unique set up. And their father was just as vital to their upbringing. That was the first time I’d seen a family set up differently than the church had prescribed and had witnessed first-hand how good it could be. Why does the proclamation not allow for this family or families like them?
If gender is eternal, and gender encompasses the “natural” roles of masculine and feminine natures, then why does the church behave as though it were fragile and that if not pressed to stay the same, it would likely dissolve?
To me, gender is a social construct. Don’t misunderstand me, there are distinct differences in male and female genitalia, I understand that, but as far as “gender” goes, these norms, stereotypes and assignments are built by society. The Family Proclamation basically says that children need to be reared by a male figure -and all that the masculine role implies- as well as a female figure -and all that the feminine role implies. But why?
Questions to Consider
The Proclamation states that: "We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan." It goes on to say that: “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”
The Means By Which Mortal Life is Created
It seems a no-brainer when one is asked "What are the means by which mortal life is created?" but in this day and age, however, there are many answers. Couples who struggle to become pregnant use medications, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, artificial insemination and often adoption as a way to build their family. Science is advancing in such a way that same-gender couples could eventually conceive children without the need of the opposite gender. [See the article published in Science & Tech in 2022; the article published in New Scientist published in 2019, and the article published in Nature.com in 2004.]
In 1984, President Oaks boldly (and incorrectly) stated: "One generation of homosexual ‘marriages’ would depopulate a nation and, if sufficiently widespread, would extinguish its people. Our marriage laws should not abet national suicide" [Dallin H. Oaks Apostle, Quorum of the Twelve “Principles to Govern,” August 7, 1984]. Same-sex partnering has always been a minority. Here Elder Oaks is asserting an impossible situation (everyone will enter into a gay marriage) to which he can then predict a horrible outcome (same-sex marriage is national suicide). (Except I still don't see how that can be true even if everyone DID enter into a gay marriage, couples could simply have children the same way same-sex couples have always had children -adoption, sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, etc.)
As I said earlier, the Family Proclamation states: “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” In discussing the means by which couples have children, we must also consider the church's teachings on birth control.
In 1916, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that: “Those who attempt to pervert the ways of the Lord, and to prevent their offspring from coming into the world in obedience to this great command, are guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the category. There is no promise of eternal salvation and exaltation for such as they, for by their acts they prove their unworthiness for exaltation and unfitness for a kingdom where the crowning glory is the continuation of the family union and eternal increase which have been promised to all those who obey the law of the Lord. It is just as much murder to destroy life before as it is after birth, although man-made laws may not so consider it; but there is One who does take notice and his justice and judgment are sure.
“I feel only the greatest contempt for those who, because of a little worldly learning or a feeling of their own superiority over others, advocate and endeavor to control the so-called ‘lower classes' from what they are pleased to call "indiscriminate breeding."
“The old colonial stock that one or two centuries ago laid the foundation of our great nation, is rapidly being replaced by the ‘lower classes' of a sturdier and more worthy race. Worthier because they have not learned, in these modern times, to disregard the great commandment given to man by our Heavenly Father. It is indeed, a case of survival of the fittest, and it is only a matter of time before those who so strongly advocate and practice the pernicious doctrine of ‘birth control' and the limiting of the number of children in the family, will have legislated themselves and their kind out of this mortal existence" [Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Relief Society Magazine, v. 3, no. 7, July 1916].
In his book Gospel Doctrine published in 1959, Joseph F. Smith reaffirmed Joseph Fielding Smith's perspective that birth control was "a crying evil" and a "crime" and that those who use it "are going to reap disappointment by and by" and that he believes it is "one of the greatest crimes of the world today, this evil practice" of using birth control. [See Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith, p. 278]
In a the October 1956 General Conference, Joseph Fielding Smith also taught: “Those who willfully and maliciously design to break this important commandment [of having children] shall be damned. …Small families are the rule today. …If we refuse to live by the covenants we make… then we cannot receive the blessings of those covenants in eternity." President Joseph Fielding Smith went on to teach that certain spirit children are assigned to us: “How will a young married couple feel when they come to the judgment and then discover that there were certain spirits assigned to them and they have refused to have them? Moreover, what will be their punishment when they discover that they have failed to keep a solemn covenant and spirits awaiting this mortal life were forced to come here elsewhere when they were assigned to this particular couple.”[Conference Reports, Oct. 1965, p. 29].
In 1969, President Ezra Taft Benson stated: “The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its pills and practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father's children. We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else. There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity” [Prophet Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1969, p. 12].
In 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28) was the directive given in the Garden of Eden. Selfishness is an element that breaks and corrodes and destroys marriages as it destroys lives and all that is good. It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” [Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference April 1979, Fortify Your Homes Against Evil].
In his book Mormon Doctrine, Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Today the cry is heard in some quarters that these statements calling upon parents to provide bodies for the spirit hosts of heaven are outmoded. Massive birth control programs are being sponsored on a national and international scale. Fears are expressed that the earth cannot support the number of people that unrestricted births will bring. But God's decree and the counsel of the prophets remain unchanged. The real need is not to limit the number of earth's inhabitants, but to learn how to care for the increasing hosts which the Lord designs should inhabit this globe before the last allocated spirit has been sent here to gain a mortal body. Amid all the cries and pressure of the world, the position of the true Church remains fixed. God has commanded his children to multiply and fill the earth, and the earth is far from full” [Mormon Doctrine, p. 86].
The current posoition that the church has on the use of birth control can be found on their official website. (Interestingly it says that "sexual relations within marriage are not only for the purpose of procreation, but also a means of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual ties between husband and wife." Isn't this what every same-sex couple wants?) Concerning birth control it says simply that "Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple." As I am reading this again, I can see how carefully they worded it. My initial thought was that this stance is a far cry from where the church stood before. They don't seem to be teaching that one can no longer achieve salvation if they take birth control. Good for them! And yet, the use of the word "consequences" makes me think that perhaps the leaders do still believe that salvation cannot be achieved, but that it is no longer ethical for them to demand that couples never take birth control.
Another thing I wish to point out is the earlier phrase used by Joseph Fielding Smith when he said that "small families are the rule today." I wonder how shoched he would be to find that small families are also the rule of nearly every member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Below is a list of each of the top fifteen members of the church with the number of children they have.
President Nelson - 10
Oaks - 6
Eyring - 6
President Ballard - 5
Holland - 3
Uchtdorf - 2
Bednar - 3
Renlund - 1
Rasband - 5
Soares - 3
Andersen - 4
Christofferson - 5
Gong - 4
Cook - 3
Stevenson - 4
While I do not judge anyone for the amount of children they chose to have or not to have, it feels hypocritical for a church leader to tell their members to have large families when they themselves only raise three or four, or less.
According to one study "Married same-sex couples show higher rates of childrearing." The study also shows that "same-sex couples are seven times more likely then different sex couples to be raising an adopted or foster child” [See How many same-sex couples in the US are raising children? by Goldberg and Conron, UCLA, July 2018].
Questions to Consider
The Family Proclamation further states that: "We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."
Questions to Consider
Is the Family Proclamation a
Revelation or Guide?
In an address given by Elder Packer in 2010, he says: "Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation and would do well that the members of the church to read and follow.”
However, in the printed/text version of this same talk, some of the words have been changed. It now reads: “Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow" [Boyd K. Packer, Cleansing the Inner Vessel, 2010, text version].
In a talk given by President Dallin H. Oaks in 2017, he laid out how the Family Proclamation was created. “The inspiration identifying the need for a proclamation on the family came to the leadership of the Church over 23 years ago. It was a surprise to some who thought the doctrinal truths about marriage and the family were well understood without restatement. Nevertheless, we felt the confirmation and we went to work. Subjects were identified and discussed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve for nearly a year. Language was proposed, reviewed, and revised. Prayerfully we continually pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what we should say and how we should say it. We all learned “line upon line, precept upon precept,” as the Lord has promised (D&C 98:12).
“During this revelatory process, a proposed text was presented to the First Presidency, who oversee and promulgate Church teachings and doctrine. After the Presidency made further changes, the proclamation on the family was announced by the President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley. In the women’s meeting of September 23, 1995, he introduced the proclamation…”
[The Plan and the Proclamation, General Conference Oct 2017, Dallin H. Oaks].
To me, this sounds as if the document came from the bottom up instead of from the top down. Oaks says that the Twelve Apostles dicussed these topics for nearly a year. Language was "proposed, reviewed, and revised" but Oaks does not say by whom. Certainly he is trying to imply that such was discussed by the Apostles themselves, but it seems more likey that this language was proposed by the church's lawyers and members of Kirton and McConkie (the Church's law firm) to help combate the legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii in the case of Baehr v. Lewin. It sounds as if the church is moving away from the idea that this document is a revelation. And if that is the case, why is this uninspired document still the standard for every family in the world? Can another document be fashioned that holds space for other cultures, other gender identities, and other ways of living? Must there even be a set standard of what the "right family" should look like?
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