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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