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.