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….