The Family: A Proclamation to the World: Part 3 Sacred Duties and a Call to Action

This is the third part of my analysis of the Family Proclamation. In this part, the proclamation focuses on the practical matters of raising children. As a newly wed and hopefully a father some day in the (near) future, this part of the Family proclamation means a lot to me:

HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

I love that the proclamation mentions that Husband and Wife first have a responsibility to “love and care for each other.” In all things, our spouse is our first responsibility and our closest confidant. I have seen marriages harmed because parents put children above their relationship with one another. Spouses have an obligation to strive to become one flesh and to always draw closer to one another. No matter how long (or short) one has been married, the spouse must always remain the most important person in the world.

Raising children in righteousness is described as a “sacred duty” and I think that language is quite appropriate. I also think it is quite wonderful how the list of things to teach blends the secular and the spiritual. Children must be taught to serve God, to serve one another, and to be righteous members of society. All three of these must be in place for a child to grow into a responsible and virtuous adult. All too often, the teaching of the world places emphasis on one of these attributes, but does not place the proper balance on all three of them. I have known individuals who are incredibly passionate about social justice and changing the world, but do not show love to their neighbor and do not value their relationship to God. Despite the good that these individuals seek to do, it seems to me that they tend to self-destruct. Likewise, individuals that focus solely on God’s commandments are likely to grow up without the proper love and charity of the savior and be judgmental and hate filled. Children that are raised with a love of God as well as all mankind are much more likely to diligently and consistently do good and be a light unto the world. The gospel is all about striking that proper balance.

If all parents truly knew that they would be accountable for God for “the discharge of these obligations,” I wonder how society would be different? Would fathers walk away from their wives and children if they knew they would have to stand accountable for their stewardship? I like to imagine that a proper understanding of this fact would change how we live our lives. When I think of this principle, I reflect on my mission. I saw a major difference in the conduct and success of those missionaries that understood the great stewardship God had given them. Those that truly shone understood that God had entrusted them with the spiritual destiny of each person in their area. These great missionaries understood that every time they slacked off or failed to open their mouths, someone could miss out on the chance to hear the Gospel and receive its blessings. A family is a similar stewardship and we should similarly be motivated to use every opportunity to strengthen the faith and testimony of those whom God has entrusted in our care.

THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity . . . .

The idea that “[c]hildren are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony” is a powerful one. It is a stunning indictment of our society where almost half of the children in America are born to unwed mothers. In some communities, such as among African Americans, this percentage is as high as 72 percent! In our modern culture, we focus almost exclusively on the right of parents. Thus, divorce without questions and on demand is accepted as an individual right. Abortion on demand is permitted because of the autonomy and personal freedom of parents. Alternative forms of marriage are promoted as equal because of the emotional and physical needs and desires of adults. Forgotten in all of this is the interest of children. We have invested so much time, effort and money to help raise children out of poverty, but have failed in the one area that can truly make the biggest difference.

Complete Fidelity is something that society does not tend to understand. TV Shows and movies are filled with examples where cheating is encouraged, expected and cheered. For instance, one of my favorite TV Shows is the Good Wife and I am ashamed to admit that I have cheered as the married lead character had an affair with her boss. Scandal and affair among politicians, actors and athletes is par for the course On the less extreme end of the spectrum, I was deeply disappointed when Al Gore and his wife Tipper decided to separate after nearly 40 years of marriage. Al Gore has since found a girlfriend. Complete fidelity means exactly that. Complete fidelity no matter what happens. It means working hard to stay passionately in love no matter what obstacles stand in the way and despite the passage of time.

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.

Many happy families do not know Jesus Christ. Indeed, parents had a loving relationship without knowing the savior. Yet, when ever I read this first sentence I reflect on the words of Lev Tolstoy “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Even though many do not know or understand the Gospel of Christ in this life, we are all inspired by the light of Christ and all good ultimately comes from Christ. His teachings provide a blueprint for happy family life. His teachings help us learn how to put off the natural man and to grow charity and other attributes needed for happiness. He teaches us “faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion.” He teaches us everything needful for happy family life. Especially for those of us that are lucky enough to know about him, he provides the perfect example.

The truth is, marriage is tough. Married couples have to learn to put aside their own individual (at times selfish) desires, passions and appetites and learn to function as a unit. It isn’t always an easy thing to do. It is Christ and his atonement that makes that possible for me.Even though I have countless rough edges, I feel like I have been smoothed and polished by Christ and his gospel. I know that I am much more likely to have a successful family because of my knowledge of and faith in Christ.

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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

This paragraph is one of the most controversial of the Proclamation and certainly one that seemed naive to me when I first read it years ago. Nevertheless. I do know that this part of the proclamation is inspired. I love that the proclamation speaks of husband and wife as complimentary “equal partners.” God has envisioned unique roles for men and women. While men are put in the role of presiding and providing, this truly does not make them superior or greater. Unlike in the rest of society where leadership is equated with importance and power, leadership in the family is a responsibility and an opportunity to grow. Importantly, women have a unique ability to bring life into the world that is unparalleled. In creating life, women “participate with God in His work of creation.” This is an immense and awe inspiring blessing and responsibility. While economic and family circumstances may require adaptation, God has given us an ideal that is most likely to lead to happiness. Every individual is personally accountable to God, and we are not in a position to judge the decisions on others. Nevertheless, the prophets of God continue to preach God’s ideal without apology.

WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

The Proclamation returns to the theme of accountability in a powerful way. Both individuals and societies are accountable for the well-being of the Family. As already mentioned, individuals will stand condemned by their own shame and guilt if they violate chastity, abuse their spouse, or fail to provide for their family. More shockingly, is the promise of calamities that will come as a result of the “disintegration of the family.” These promises are not new. Indeed, as the second world war raged, the leaders of the Church issued a proclamation that echoed the Family Proclamation’s teachings on the family and warned of the calamities and destruction that faced the world… (As an appendix of Sorts, I am including a lengthy citation from this proclamation because I find that it is far more relevant today than when first issued in the 1940s).

Though many argue that changing the structure of the family to allow gay marriage or alternative arrangements is harmless, because of the Family Proclamation I know better. I don’t know exactly what harms legalizing gay marriage might bring, but ultimately, I trust in the promises of God’s servants.

WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

The proclamation ends with a call to action to each of us as “responsible citizens” and more particular to leaders. If we believe in the words of the Proclamation we need to do everything we can to fight measures that are contrary to the family and also to do what we can to strengthen the family. Much of this is individual as we seek to provide an example in a culture awash with immorality and sin. On the other hand, the proclamation also speaks of measures (i.e. Laws) and focuses not merely on the personal but also on the political. We should not become blinding or single-minded in our focus. Though gay marriage is the currently front upon which the definition of family is being fought, if those that believe in the family continue to be defensive we will lose. Instead, the Proclamation calls on us not merely to “maintain” the Family, but also to “strengthen” it. Our legislators must be tasked with not merely maintaining the (disastrous) status quo but also seeking to repair the breach and reaffirm the role of the family.

I am so grateful for the Family Proclamation and the clarity it brings. Because of the proclamation I know how I must live my life and to what goal I am streaming. I know that God loves me and that he loves my family. I am grateful that I have a testimony of this inspired document

____________

Appendix

These days through which we are now passing present many problems which are new to all of us but are particularly strange to the younger generation — those who have little background of experience and whose knowledge is limited and immature. Infidelity, atheism, unchastity, intemperance, civil corruption, greed, avarice, ambition — personal, political, national — are more powerful today than at any other time in the lives of us now living. They are pulling and thrusting us almost at will into new fields of action, new lines of thought. They are shaking the faith, undermining the morals, polluting the lives of the people. They have thrown many so far off balance in all of their activities, economic, social, political, and religious, that they stand in real danger of falling. Satan is making war against all the wisdom that has come to men through their ages of experience. He is seeking to overturn and destroy the very foundations upon which society, government, and religion rest. He aims to have men adopt theories and practices which he induced their forefathers, over the ages, to adopt and try, only to be discarded by them when found unsound, impractical, and ruinous. He plans to destroy liberty and freedom — economic, political, and religious, and to set up in place thereof the greatest, most widespread, and most complete tyranny that has ever oppressed men. He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night; he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Without their knowing it, the people are being urged down paths that lead only to destruction. Satan never before had so firm a grip on this generation as he has now.

In the midst of this welter of lying and deception, of woe and misery, of death and destruction, of violent disorder and threatening chaos, the only saving forces on earth are the eternal principles of the everlasting gospel of Christ and the rights and powers of the Priesthood of Almighty God. We of this Church stand as the sole possessors of these mighty forces which we have for our own blessing, salvation, and exaltation, not only, but also we hold them in trust for all mankind, those who now live, those who are dead and gone, and those to be born in the future, that they, too, all of them who will receive and obey the gospel, may likewise be saved and exalted.

Standing thus, we have the loftiest, the most vital, the most sacred responsibility and obligation which God can bestow upon man — a responsibility and obligation which transcends every other that can come to us and for the meeting of which God will hold us strictly accountable. To this high calling we must dedicate all that we have, all that we are, and all that we may become. No lesser consecration than thin will meet the full measure of our divinely imposed duty.

In the awesome war we must wage to bring righteousness and salvation to men, we must stand shoulder to shoulder and go forward as one. To this glorious conflict to destroy sin and set up righteousness, we call every member of the Church. We must reinforce our determinations, renew our resolutions, retake our covenants, to serve God and to keep His commandments.

From the great war in heaven until now the armies of righteousness have marched under one banner. They have obeyed Him who stands at the head. They have not, as it were, been, and we may not be, of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, “some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch,” for all these inherit not the celestial kingdom. To gain the celestial glory we must receive the gospel, and the testimony of Jesus and the prophets, and the everlasting covenant.” (D&C 76:11-101.)

The Lord has Himself organized us for this great conflict against unrighteousness, foreseen from before the foundations of the earth were laid. He has prescribed the rules and regulations for our government while in this field of action. He has placed at our head His mouthpiece on earth and has given him full authority to direct us in this conflict. He who disobeys or dishonors that head is a traitorto the Lord’s cause. Unrepentant, he must be cast out from the Lord’s people.

We who serve under the Lord’s anointed, must serve with full loyalty and devotion. We must heed his instructions and admonitions. The principles, the ordinances, the rites and ceremonies — few as they are — may not be changed by any of us. The Lord casts off those who “transgress His laws, change His ordinances, and break His everlasting covenant.”

The principles of the gospel are all-embracing — they are everlasting, unchangeable, ultimate truth. They will fit every situation, every problem, every contingency that may arise in the life of man. There are no local problems, no peculiar situations, in ward or stake, that may not be solved under these principles. It will not do for any Church officer or member to work out for himself a different course from that prescribed. This will lead to disorder, and the Lord’s house is a house of order. When new light is needed, or further instructions, the Lord will make them known through His appointed representative What we should seek, is wisdom to apply the old and true principles to new situations. Let us not suppose that man has recently changed in his essential qualities or habits, for this is not true; all that has happened today is that some basic passions which, through the generations, mankind had brought under control, have now broken loose in something of their primeval strength. They are not new passions. We possess the principles which brought them under subjection once; these principles were given to man in the very beginning for this exact purpose; we must now apply them again to conquer these same old foes of righteousness This is not a new world; it is an old and sinful world again returned, and now once more to be reconquered and rejuvenated.

We must cling to the rigid simplicity of the principles Jesus taught, to the strict simplicity of the ordinances He has established — neither elegance nor pomp, nor elaborate ritual and ceremony had any place therein; we must keep the everlasting covenant.

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The Family: A Proclamation to the World: Part 2 – Eternal Families and Divine Truth

This is part 2 of a series looking in depth at The Family: A Proclamation to the World

WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim . . . .

As mentioned in the previous post, any doubt about the divine nature of the Proclamation should be eradicated at this point. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are speaking collectively and issue a solemn proclamation about the divine nature of marriage the family. 

Solemn Proclamations of course have an important history in the Church with the leaders of the Church being commanded to issue a solemn proclamation to the leaders of the world. The leaders of the church were urged to provide warning and counsel to “all the nations of the earth” Likewise, the Family Proclamation can be viewed as a divinely inspired responsibility to provide warning and counsel to the world. 

 2 Your prayers are acceptable before me; and in answer to them I say unto you, that you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel, and of this stake which I have planted to be a cornerstone of Zion, which shall be polished with the refinement which is after the similitude of a palace.

3 This proclamation shall be made to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof, to the honorable president-elect, and the high-minded governors of the nation in which you live, and to all the nations of the earth scattered abroad.

 4 Let it be written in the spirit of meekness and by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall be in you at the time of the writing of the same;

 5 For it shall be given you by the Holy Ghost to know my will concerning those kings and authorities, even what shall befall them in a time to come.

 6 For, behold, I am about to call upon them to give heed to the light and glory of Zion, for the set time has come to favor her. (D&C 124)

Thus, the Family Proclamation can be seen as part of the sacred calling of the Prophet and Apostles to teach and warn the world and to glorify and perfect the saints.

. . . that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

This sentence succinctly explains why family is so vital to members of our church. It explains why we are willing to continue to fight unpopular battles and to speak out even when vilified. Simply put, in the Lord’s plan little matters more than the fate of families. While most religions place great value on the importance of family and view family as divinely inspired, the crux of our unique message to the world is “that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” As a missionary in Russia, I saw how this doctrine changed the hearts of those who understood it. Everything we do and teach in the church revolves around God’s plan for the family.

I love what Elder Oaks said in this most recent conference: 

Knowledge of God’s plan for His children gives Latter-day Saints a unique perspective on marriage and family. We are correctly known as a family-centered church. Our theology begins with heavenly parents, and our highest aspiration is to attain the fulness of eternal exaltation. We know this is possible only in a family relationship. We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life. We look on marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God’s plan and a sacred duty of those given the opportunity to do so. We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.

The next paragraph elaborates on the first explaining why marriage between a man and a women is so vital to God’s plan.

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

This part of the Family Proclamation explains that the our identities as men and women, sons and daughters is not merely a social construct or chance, but part of our “divine nature and destiny.”  

One interesting note is that this part of the family proclamation speaks of our “heavenly parents” and yet speaks about how “All human beings-male and female- are created in the image of God.” While we do not speak frequently in the Church of our Heavenly Mother, I like to think of this part of the proclamation as a beautiful homage to her. Our heavenly parents are so unified and have “become one flesh” that the proclamation and scriptures at times speak of them as one. Thus, this part of the proclamation is setting an example of perfect oneness and unity for us to follow in our own marriages.

The reference to our “eternal identity and purpose” is also revealing. The doctrines in the Family Proclamation are not merely issued to provide us with guidance and happiness in this life, but in the eternities. The choices we make here truly have eternal consequences, and the society we are raised in heavily weighs on the opportunities and choices we can make in this life. For this reason, the proclamation targets all facets life that bear on the family: It is direct to the rulemakers as well as to the theologians, to the legislatures as well as to the loving newlyweds.

IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

Recently in Sunday School, my wife and I were asked to discuss this paragraph of the Family Proclamation. As we looked at it together, we were both struck at how many divine truths are contained in this short paragraph. I imagined someone completely unfamiliar with the teachings of the church reading this paragraph. Just from this short portion he would learn that: 1) We believe in a premortal existence in which we lived with our  heavenly father. Moreover, we “knew and worshipped” him as our “eternal father.” 2) We accepted his plan. 3) Bodies were divinely given to help us to gain experiences, and progress towards perfection. 4) Our goal is to become like our father in heaven and become “heirs of eternal life.” 5) Families can be eternal because of God’s plan. 6) We are a covenant making and keeping people. 7) Temples are built in order to provide eternal covenants and ordinances. 8) These covenants and ordinances are essential for salvation and exaltation both as individuals and as families. 

If every individual truly knew and understood these truths, it would dramatically altar the way he or she lived. Such truths when understood change behaviors and destinies. Indeed, in a single paragraph, the proclamation sums up practically every doctrine that at first attracted me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: the premortal existence, eternal families, temple ordinances etc. 

President Eyring beautifully explained the impact these truths should have on how we live our lives:

Understanding these truths ought to make it easier for us to feel like a little child, not just as we read the proclamation but throughout our lives, because we are children—but in what a family and of what parents! We can picture ourselves as we were, for longer than we can imagine, sons and daughters associating in our heavenly home with Parents who knew and loved us. Also, we know that in the premortal world we were men or women with unique gifts because of our gender and that the opportunity to be married and to become one was necessary for us to have eternal happiness. But now that we are here we can picture ourselves home again with our Heavenly Parents in that wonderful place, not only as sons and daughters but as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, grandsons and granddaughters, bound together forever in loving families.

With that picture before us we can never be tempted to think, “Maybe I wouldn’t like eternal life. Maybe I would be just as happy in some other place in the life after death, for haven’t I heard that even the lowest kingdoms are supposed to be more beautiful than anything we have here on earth?”

To counter such attitudes, we must have the goal of eternal life not just in our minds but in our hearts. What we want is eternal life in families. We don’t just want it if that is what happens to work out, nor do we want something that might seem to be only approaching eternal life. We want eternal life, whatever its cost in effort, pain, and sacrifice. 

Thus, truly understanding the family proclamation should give each of us a deep conviction to achieve eternal life no matter the cost. It should also give us a deeper appreciation of why violations of the law of chastity are such a serious sin (Indeed ” most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost” (Alma 39:5)). Sexual relations are the means by which we participate in the work of God and help to bring his sons and daughters to earth. Thus, the proclamation next turns to the divine and sacred duty of parenthood and the consequences that come from improper usage

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. 

 

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.

The proclamation reminds us that the commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” was the first commandment given to Adam and Eve. Its primary suggests to us its sacred importance. Lack of understanding of the importance of children has led to a declining birth rate that threatens the viability and continued stability of nations. More importantly, lack of understanding of the importance of children has led to a culture and society that emphasizes gratuitous self pleasure rather than responsibility.

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.

Unfortunately, our society has forgotten the sacred importance of the powers of procreation. In the media, we are constantly bombarded with “role models” who cheat and break their marriage bonds. We are made to cheer for those living in sin. Meanwhile, those that value chastity and purity are depicted as hypocrites and phonies. It is no wonder that we are drifting further and further from God’s understanding of Chastity. Gay Marriage, is just the latest and most radical symptom of this pernicious slide towards vice. However, the proclamation reminds us that the Law of Chastity is not merely a social construct by commanded of God.

Elder Oaks explained in the most recent general conference:

Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.

Our twelfth article of faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior.

Thus, as Elder Oaks explained, we can never compromise on our divine understanding of the family in order to earn acceptance from the world. As the Apostles did in the proclamation, we must proclaim God’s standard to the world. We must never call wickedness good or accept sin as virtue. 

 

The Family: A Proclamation to the World: Part 1- Introduction

As I promised last week, I am going to look at the family proclamation in depth. I want to really share my feelings about various portions of the proclamation. I truly think the Family Proclamation is the inspired word of God for our day. As I mentioned, I received a personal witnesses of this truth through diligent prayer, study and exercising faith. If any part of the Proclamation continues to trouble you, I urge you to seek a personal witness from Heavenly Father of its truth. I know that in time he will reveal its truth unto to you as he has to me

 

THE FAMILY


A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD

The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The First Thing that stand out to me about the Family Proclamation is that it is addressed to the world at large. There are many implications to that. First of all, these concerns are not merely American concerns or concerns of “the ultra  conservative Utah church” has some have argued. Instead, these are doctrines and truths that the whole world needs to hear. The Family proclamation is a universal document that teaches God’s truth to people of every nation, kindred and clime. 

As a missionary, I gained a witness of this truth. The people I taught in Russia were suffering from the decay of the family. Declining birthrates, alcoholism, drug abuse and other ills had ravaged the family life of so many. While some rejected the document as Americanized, those that read it and sought to apply its principles were blessed. 

Second, we should not the authors of this document. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, those whom we sustain biannually as Prophets Seers and Revelators have issued this proclamation. As such, this should settle the often debated question of whether the Proclamation is inspired doctrine or mere speculation. The leaders of Christ’s Church are speaking in their official capacity. This isn’t idle speculation or merely the pet theory of a single member of the Twelve. It was read from the pulpit at the Relief Society meeting by President Hinckley and has been quoted extensively by probably every single member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

Those still doubting the divine nature of the proclamation should ponder the words of President Eyring spoken at a BYU Devotional on the topic: 

Since the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a proclamation only four times. It had been more than 15 years since the previous one, which described the progress the Church had made in 150 years of its history. Thus, we can understand the importance our Heavenly Father places upon the family, the subject of the fifth and most recent proclamation, given on 23 September 1995. 

Because our Father loves his children, he will not leave us to guess about what matters most in this life concerning where our attention could bring happiness or our indifference could bring sadness. Sometimes he will tell a person such things directly, by inspiration. But he will, in addition, tell us these important matters through his servants. In the words of the prophet Amos, recorded long ago, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). He does this so that even those who cannot feel inspiration can know, if they will only listen, that they have been told the truth and been warned.

The title of the proclamation on the family reads: “The Family: A Proclamation to the World—The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Three things about the title are worth our careful reflection. First, the subject: the family. Second, the audience, which is the whole world. And third, those proclaiming it are those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. All this means that the family must be of tremendous importance to us, that whatever the proclamation says could help anyone in the world, and that the proclamation fits the Lord’s promise when he said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

Before we examine the words of the proclamation, let us note that the proclamation’s title tells us something about how to prepare for the words that follow. We can expect that God won’t just tell us a few interesting things about the family; he will tell us what a family ought to be and why. Further, we know that our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, want us to become like them so that we can dwell with them forever in families. We know that from this simple statement of their intent: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

I bear witness that the Family Proclamation is truly inspired of God and was issued by his chosen servants. We should all carefully read its words and ponder the divine truths contained therein

CES Fireside: Elder Tad R. Callister

Tonight, Elder Callister spoke as the CES Devotional speaker and I was excited to hear his remarks. Elder Caliister has been one of the most consistently powerful speakers from among the Quorum of the Seventy, and has written memorably about the Atonement and Great Apostasy. His talks on the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Divinity of the Calling of Joseph Smith have been vigorous and forceful. He is one of the general authorities most forcefully engaging in apologetics and defending the divine nature of the church.

Overall, I enjoyed Elder Callister’s remarks and I think that having general authorities that do such apologetic sermons is essential to the growth and viability of the Church.  However, I am glad that not all talks are like this one. Having too many sermons of this sort would meant missing out on many other divine ways of communication. I love how God inspires and uses different leaders with different skills and convictions. Some focus more on service, others on the atonement, others on the divine nature of the family. All together, God orchestrates a beautiful symphony of ideas with each general conference.

Notes from Elder Callister’s talk:

Elder Callister began by addressing the Youth as future leaders of the Church. He then explained that he would talk about the Church to which we belong. This is the true church of Christ, and while this does not mean that other churches have no truth, this is the only church that has all truth revealed thus far in this dispensation, and the only church that has the priesthood power. 

Evidence: Church is built according to a divine blueprint (Story of building a new house for his family)…. Changes to the blueprint come through divine revelation. The divine blueprint only matches one single house, likewise God’s blueprint only matches Christ’s Church. Christ built his church according to a blueprint found in the New Testament. 

Changes were made: Originally preach only to Israel, but change order/revelation given to Peter sent Gospel to the whole world.

Teaches two important governance principles: 1) Blueprint could be changed but only by revelation 2) Such revelation would only come to the prophet. Church led by divine revelation and by order. 

One should investigate the divine blueprint until he finds the one church that fully matches that blueprint… He might find similarities elsewhere, but only one that matches the blueprint in every material respect.

Turning to the blueprint:

1) Organization-

a. Founded on Apostles and Prophets (Needed til we all come in the unity of faith- So we are not carried about in every wind of doctrine)… Lack of Apostles led to doctrine being distorted or lost. There is no change order or revelation getting rid of Apostles and Prophets. Other offices as well… Seventies and etc. Chosen not because of worldly knowledge but by God (Fisherman, Tent Maker etc) So too today. No application process “ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you.” Given priesthood and power of God. Holders are entitled to Christs endorsement and approval

b. Name should be Church of Jesus Christ. It is his Church. Not after certain disciples or prophets etc….We take upon ourselves o name other than that of Christ.

Reformation had been around for 300 years before the restoration. No one had used the name Church of Christ before (although they have since).

3) Teachings of the Church: Embodied nature of Christ. Separate identity and roles of Father and Son (oneness of will but seperate identity), chance for the redemption of the dead (baptism for the dead etc), Degrees of glory (Third Heaven), Eternal Marriage (Neither Man without Woman nor Woman without the man– Heirs together of the grace of life etc…)

4) Ordinance- Infant blessing but not baptism… Baptism is essential (by immersion), Baptism for the Dead (proof that God really meant what he said and yet is just) (Baptism must be of water not merely desire), Manner of giving gift of Holy Ghost by laying on of hands

 

5) Fruits- Healthy lifestyle, existence of miracles, angelic visions and revelation, missionary work

6) Revelation/ link to heaven- Not just a man made organization based on reason.

All this will only match one church. This one. If someone leaves they will miss out on all of these eternal blessings. He will look in vain elsewhere.

Acceptance of doctrines leads to acceptance of Joseph Smith and his divine calling.

Those against the Church try to cast it in its worst light ( like a prosecutor after final statements), but after cross examination inconsistencies and flaws come out. Hardball questions of opposition prove to be too much and witness is discredited. Critics try to throw one sided questions, but questions go both ways. Churches critics can not withstand cross-examination to the following questions: 1) How did Joseph Smith know to restore doctrines and ordinances from the bible when they were not being taught by contemporary churches- Why was he the only one to discover and restore them? 2) If this Church is not Christ’s Church than why does it have the same fruits as Christ’s Church?

However, there are certain questions that trump all others… Some are simply more important than others in discovering the truth. If you  come to know Church has same fruits, or Book or Mormon is true you know Joseph Smith is prophet and the Church true. At that point all other questions cease to be important. It is like the Supreme Court ruling on an issue as all other lower court decisions become irrelevant. These are the foundational pillar questions for knowing the truth.

He can live with some flaws in prophets or historical/scientific anomolies (they will be corrected in time), but he can not live without doctrines of the gospel and certainty of eternal marriage. Choice is an easy one and a rational one.

May we have spiritual eyes to see corollary between blueprint and church today.

 

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Family: A Proclamation to the World

In Sunday School today, as an introduction to the Marriage and Family Sunday School class that my wife and I will be in, we discussed the Family Proclamation. As we did so, I reflected on my tumultuous relationship with that inspired document, and as I read it was filled with greater respect for its inspired message. Though I have talked about it in the past, I want to speak a bit more about how I came to truly feel that the proclamation was inspired. In my next post, I plan to go through and share my thoughts about some of the specific things shared in the proclamation:

As I have mentioned in several posts on this blog, when I first began investigating the Church, the Church’s stance on Gay Marriage and the very traditional doctrines contained in the Family Proclamation quickly became an enormous stumbling block for me. I was going to school at Brandeis University near Boston and had a very liberal viewpoint on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. I had two really close guy friends (they lived right next door to me my first and second year of college) who were dating and planned on getting married in the future. Even before learning about the Church, I had dated a less-active member, and her views on traditional gender roles bothered me greatly. While I’d always wanted to marry and have children, I thought that there were many different paths to happiness and that none were superior or ideal.

Even though the family proclamation was a sore spot for me, I gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the Church and was baptized. After baptism, the issue of gay marriage continued to bother me and even though I spent hours praying on the topic I still did not feel relief. At a Young Single Adult conference in Boston I even asked Elder Ballard a question about the Church’s attitude towards homosexuality and felt dissatisfied with the response. Nevertheless, I also continued to actively participate in the Church and prayed for greater light and understanding.

More than anything else, it was attending the temple that really changed things for me. After I received my own endowment, I went with my ward to the Manti temple and participated in proxy sealings. As I knelt across the altar, the spirit bore witness to me of the truth of the church’s teaching on the family. Last week, my wife and I attended her sister’s wedding in the Atlanta temple and as we watching the sealing ordinance I was again reminded of the sweet spirit that I felt that day.

As I prepared to enter the MTC and continued to attend the temple, that witness continued to grow. When I did proxy work for some of my own relatives, I felt stronger than I have ever felt before that God desires for us to be eternally happy as a family unit. I am so grateful for the experience that the spirit has born to me on this topic.

I think about my experience whenever I hear members of the church question whether the Family Proclamation is truly an inspired document. I think of the powerful spirit that bore witness to my soul that this document is inspired of God.

I also remember the powerful witness that President Eyring bore of the Family Proclamation soon after it was published. As a missionary, I had President Eyring’s book Draw Closer to God which contains the talk and it was one that I truly came to cherish: 

 

Since the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ  through the Prophet Joseph Smith , The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a proclamation only four times.  It had been more than 15 years since the previous one, which described the progress the Church had made in 150 years of its history. Thus, we can understand the importance our Heavenly Father places upon the family , the subject of the fifth and most recent proclamation, given on 23 September 1995. 

Because our Father loves his children, he will not leave us to guess about what matters most in this life concerning where our attention could bring happiness or our indifference could bring sadness. Sometimes he will tell a person such things directly, by inspiration. But he will, in addition, tell us these important matters through his servants. In the words of the prophet Amos, recorded long ago, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). He does this so that even those who cannot feel inspiration can know, if they will only listen, that they have been told the truth and been warned.

The title of the proclamation on the family reads: “The Family: A Proclamation to the World—The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Three things about the title are worth our careful reflection. First, the subject: the family. Second, the audience, which is the whole world. And third, those proclaiming it are those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators.  All this means that the family must be of tremendous importance to us, that whatever the proclamation says could help anyone in the world, and that the proclamation fits the Lord’s promise when he said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

I know through the witness of the spirit and through the words of those that I sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators that the family proclamation is from God and as binding upon our generation as the words of Moses, Jesus or Paul were upon their generations. In my next post, I will turn to the specific words of the proclamation….

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