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Mormonism and The Family: A Proclamation to the World

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Question: Is the Mormon document "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" official doctrine?

Church leaders have repeatedly taught that the Proclamation is official doctrine

Some do not like the doctrines taught in the Proclamation on the Family, and claim that it is not "scripture" or not "official doctrine." What have Church leaders said on this matter?

Church leaders have repeatedly taught that:

  • The Proclamation is official doctrine.
  • It was written and endorsed by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  • It does not teach new doctrine, but merely reiterates and emphasizes principles long taught in the Church.
  • It is an inspired, prophetic, and vital instruction for our day.
  • Members have a duty to hold it up, teach it, and live its principles.

Those who wish to claim that the Proclamation is not official are either ignorant of these teachings, or are seeking to deceive their audience.

That marvelous document [the Proclamation] brings together the scriptural direction that we have received that has guided the lives of God’s children from the time of Adam and Eve and will continue to guide us until the final winding-up scene.
—Elder David B. Haight[1]

Official doctrine

Proclamations are unusual

President Henry B. Eyring made the significance of the Proclamation clear, and described the weight which the apostles attach to it:

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.[2]

President Hinckley announced that the Proclamation was a reiteration of doctrine

The Proclamation was first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley at a General Relief Society Meeting on 25 September 1995. Before reading it, he said:

With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as 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. I now take the opportunity of reading to you this proclamation....[3]

President Hinckley did not, then, regard the doctrine within the Proclamation as radical or new—it was intended to be a reconfirmation and reiteration of doctrines long taught by "the prophets, seers, and revelators of" the Church.

Origin of the Proclamation

President Boyd K. Packer described the circumstances behind issuing the Proclamation:

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued a proclamation on the family. I can tell you how that came about. They had a world conference on the family sponsored by the United Nations in Beijing, China. We sent representatives. It was not pleasant what they heard. They called another one in Cairo. Some of our people were there. I read the proceedings of that. The word marriage was not mentioned. It was at a conference on the family, but marriage was not even mentioned.

It was then they announced that they were going to have such a conference here in Salt Lake City. Some of us made the recommendation: "They are coming here. We had better proclaim our position."[4]

The intention, then, was to proclaim the Church's official position on these matters.

Standard for official doctrine

Elder Neal L. Anderson taught:

There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many (emphasis added). Our doctrine is not difficult to find.[5]

The Church's official website emphasized:

With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith (emphasis added).[6]

Elder D. Todd Christofferson echoed this idea:

The President of the Church may announce or interpret doctrines based on revelation to him. Doctrinal exposition may also come through the combined council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Council deliberations will often include a weighing of canonized scriptures, the teachings of Church leaders, and past practice.[7]

Thus, statements by the united First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and official proclamations are official Church doctrine. The Proclamation on the Family qualifies on both counts.

To learn more: Official doctrine

All fifteen apostles involved in preparing the Proclamation

President Boyd K. Packer said:

In 1995 that great document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”9 was prepared by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles....

The hope is that Latter-day Saints will recognize the transcendent importance of the family and live in such a spiritually attentive way that the adversary cannot steal into the home and carry away the children....(emphasis added)[8]

Scripture?

The Proclamation is not canonized scripture—that status applies only to The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.

The Doctrine and Covenants states:

Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same (D&C 1:37-38).

President Henry B. Eyring applied this verse to the Proclamation:

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).[9]

While not canonized scripture, then, the Proclamation may well meet the criteria for the broader use of the term scripture in LDS thought:

And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation (D&C 68:4).

"Significant, major, revelatory, scripturelike"

President Packer told a Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast:

A proclamation in the Church is a significant, major announcement. Very few of them have been issued from the beginning of the Church. They are significant; they are revelatory. At that time, the Brethren issued "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." It is scripturelike in its power.

When you wonder why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do and why we will not do some of the things that we will not do, you can find the authority for that in this proclamation on the family. There are times when we are accused of being intolerant because we won't accept and do the things that are supposed to be the norm in society. Well, the things we won't do, we won't do. And the things we won't do, we can't do, because the standard we follow is given of Him.

As we examine this proclamation more closely, see if you don't see in it the issues that are foremost in society, in politics, in government, in religion now that are causing the most concern and difficulty. You'll find answers there - and they are the answers of the Church.[10]

"Marvelous," "Scriptural direction"

Elder David B. Haight said:

I spoke to the audience and to this young mother about the proclamation that was issued five years ago by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, a proclamation on the family, and of our responsibility to our children, and the children’s responsibility to their parents, and the parents’ responsibility to each other. That marvelous document brings together the scriptural direction that we have received that has guided the lives of God’s children from the time of Adam and Eve and will continue to guide us until the final winding-up scene.[11]

"God-given," "scripturally-based doctrines"

Elder M. Russell Ballard:

False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.[12]

Statements by apostles and prophets about the Proclamation

"A prophetic document"

Elder M. Russell Ballard said:

Brothers and sisters, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the proclamation to the world on the family, which was issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1995 (see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). It was then and is now a clarion call to protect and strengthen families and a stern warning in a world where declining values and misplaced priorities threaten to destroy society by undermining its basic unit.

The proclamation is a prophetic document, not only because it was issued by prophets but because it was ahead of its time. It warns against many of the very things that have threatened and undermined families during the last decade and calls for the priority and the emphasis families need if they are to survive in an environment that seems ever more toxic to traditional marriage and to parent-child relationships.[13]

Within this context of the preeminent importance of families and the threats families face today, it is not surprising that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used strong words in the proclamation to the world on families....[14]

"An inspired document" "historic"

President Boyd K. Packer:

In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” an inspired document issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we learn that....[15]

We have watched the standards of morality sink ever lower until now they are in a free fall. At the same time we have seen an outpouring of inspired guidance for parents and for families.

The whole of the curriculum and all of the activities of the Church have been restructured and correlated with the home:....And then the historic Proclamation on the Family was issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles.[16]

Those who attack "the inspired proclamation" are "false prophets and false teachers"

Elder M. Russell Ballard:

False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.[17]

"Reiteration" of doctrine

Elder L. Tom Perry said:

The doctrine of the family and the home was recently reiterated with great clarity and forcefulness in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It declared the eternal nature of families and then explained the connection to temple worship. The proclamation also declared the law upon which the eternal happiness of families is predicated, namely, “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife."[18]

Critical doctrines

Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

In the passing years I have developed much appreciation for the institution of the family. Other institutions simply cannot compensate fully for failing families. If we will hold fast to the Church's proclamation on the family, we will see that we hold the jewels, as it were, that can enrich so many other things. Let the world go its own way on the family. It appears to be determined to do that. But we do not have that option. Our doctrines and teachings on the family are very, very powerful, and they are full of implications for all the people on this planet.[19]

President Eyring regarded the Proclamation as describing the things that "matter...most":

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.[2]

Important

Elder Robert D. Hales:

To know and keep the commandments, we must know and follow the Savior and the prophets of God. We were all blessed recently to receive an important message from modern prophets, entitled “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (see Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). This proclamation warns us what will happen if we do not strengthen the family unit in our homes, our communities, and our nations. Every priesthood holder and citizen should study the proclamation carefully.

Prophets must often warn of the consequences of violating God’s laws. They do not preach that which is popular with the world. President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “popularity is never a test of truth” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” in 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1981], 29).

Why do prophets proclaim unpopular commandments and call society to repentance for rejecting, modifying, and even ignoring the commandments? The reason is very simple. Upon receiving revelation, prophets have no choice but to proclaim and reaffirm that which God has given them to tell the world. Prophets do this knowing full well the price they may have to pay. Some who choose not to live the commandments make every effort to defame the character of the prophets and demean their personal integrity and reputation.[20]

Other leaders on the Proclamation

Elder W. Eugene Hansen:

Again the proclamation on the family, modern-day revelation....As we ponder these inspired words of modern revelation....I leave you my witness that the proclamation on the family, which I referred to earlier, is modern-day revelation provided to us by the Lord through His latter-day prophets.[21]

Elder Eran A. Call:

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, two years ago solemnly proclaimed to the world our beliefs concerning marriage, parents, and the family. I challenge each of you to read, study, and live by this inspired proclamation. May it become the guideline and standard by which we live in our homes and raise our children.[22]

Elder Claudio R.M. Costa:

The Lord instructed us how to take care of our families when He told us through His prophets in the proclamation to the world....[23]

Duty to teach and support the Proclamation

Today I call upon members of the Church and on committed parents, grandparents, and extended family members everywhere to hold fast to this great proclamation, to make it a banner not unlike General Moroni’s “title of liberty,” and to commit ourselves to live by its precepts. As we are all part of a family, the proclamation applies to everyone.
— Elder M. Russell Ballard[24]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted:

This declaration is not politically correct, but it is true, and we are responsible to teach and practice its truth. That obviously sets us against many assumptions and practices in today’s world....(emphasis added)[25]

Elder M. Russell Ballard:

Brothers and sisters, as we hold up like a banner the proclamation to the world on the family and as we live and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will fulfill the measure of our creation here on earth. We will find peace and happiness here and in the world to come. We should not need a hurricane or other crisis to remind us of what matters most. The gospel and the Lord’s plan of happiness and salvation should remind us. What matters most is what lasts longest, and our families are for eternity. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.[24]


Question: Have the doctrines in the Mormon document "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" long been taught in the Church?

Yes, the doctrines contained within the "Proclamation" are longstanding doctrines within the Church

President Hinckley observed, on introducing the Proclamation:

With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as 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. I now take the opportunity of reading to you this proclamation....[26]

The doctrines taught are, then, longstanding ones in the Church.

This article reviews each line of the Proclamation and presents a sample of past teachings on the same subject.

"marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God"

  • "Marriage is ordained of God. It is a necessary and delightful condition. It is the only true state, and the failure of many marriages does not change the rightness of marriage."[27]
  • "It is my purpose to endorse and to favor, to encourage and defend marriage. Many regard it nowadays as being, at best, semiprecious, and by some it is thought to be worth nothing at all. I have seen and heard, as you have seen and heard, the signals all about us, carefully orchestrated to convince us that marriage is out of date and in the way."[28]

"the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children."

  • Many of the social restraints which in the past have helped to reinforce and to shore up the family are dissolving and disappearing. The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us....There are those who would define the family in such a nontraditional way that they would define it out of existence....We of all people, brothers and sisters, should not be taken in by the specious arguments that the family unit is somehow tied to a particular phase of development a moral society is going through. We are free to resist those moves which downplay the significance of the family and which play up the significance of selfish individualism. We know the family to be eternal."[29]
  • "The work of the adversary may be likened to loading guns in opposition to the work of God. Salvos containing germs of contention are aimed and fired at strategic targets essential to that holy work. These vital targets include—in addition to the individual—the family, leaders of the Church, and divine doctrine."[30]
  • "In this marriage relationship comes the greatest of exaltation and the greatest experiences of life. You will come to know that most of what you know that is worth knowing you learn from your children."[31]
  • "I desire to emphasize this. I want the young men of Zion to realize that this institution of marriage is not a man-made institution. It is of God. It is honorable, and no man who is of marriageable age is living his religion who remains single. It is not simply devised for the convenience alone of man, to suit his own notions, and his own ideas; to marry and then divorce, to adopt and then to discard, just as he pleases. There are great consequences connected with it, consequences which reach beyond this present time, into all eternity, for thereby souls are begotten into the world, and men and women obtain their being in the world. Marriage is the preserver of the human race. Without it, the purposes of God would be frustrated; virtue would be destroyed to give place to vice and corruption, and the earth would be void and empty."[32]
  • "the greatest responsibility and the greatest joys in life are centered in the family, honorable marriage, and rearing a righteous posterity."[33]
  • "Alas, it may be true that those who do not believe in God, who is a loving parent and who is the Father of the human family, will also never be able to accept the eternal importance of the institution of the family, except as something that is socially useful—little wonder we arrive at different conclusions or that we have different priorities."[34]

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God."

  • "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27).
  • "Seest thou that ye are created after mine [Christ's] own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh (Ether 3:15-16).
  • "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all" (Moses 1:6).
  • "God instituted marriage in the beginning. He made man in his own image and likeness, male and female, and in their creation it was designed that they should be united together in sacred bonds of marriage, and one is not perfect without the other."[35]

"Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."

  • "We are begotten in the similitude of Christ himself. We dwelt with the Father and with the Son in the beginning, as the sons and daughters of God; and at the time appointed, we came to this earth to take upon ourselves tabernacles, that we might become conformed to the likeness and image of Jesus Christ and become like him; that we might have a tabernacle, that we might pass through death as he has passed through death, that we might rise again from the dead as he has risen from the dead."[36]
  • "The gospel teaches us that we are the spirit children of heavenly parents. Before our mortal birth we had “a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father” (statement of the First Presidency, Improvement Era, Mar. 1912, p. 417; also see Jer. 1:5). We were placed here on earth to progress toward our destiny of eternal life. These truths give us a unique perspective and different values to guide our decisions from those who doubt the existence of God and believe that life is the result of random processes."[37]

"Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

  • "When the frailties and imperfections of mortality are left behind, in the glorified state of the blessed hereafter, husband and wife will administer in their respective stations, seeing and understanding alike, and co–operating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. Then shall woman be recompensed in rich measure for all the injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality. Then shall woman reign by Divine right, a queen in the resplendent realm of her glorified state, even as exalted man shall stand, priest and king unto the Most High God. Mortal eye cannot see nor mind comprehend the beauty, glory, and majesty of a righteous woman made perfect in the celestial kingdom of God."[38]
  • "Some people are ignorant or vicious and apparently attempting to destroy the concept of masculinity and femininity. More and more girls dress, groom, and act like men. More and more men dress, groom, and act like women. The high purposes of life are damaged and destroyed by the growing unisex theory. God made man in his own image, male and female made he them. With relatively few accidents of nature, we are born male or female. The Lord knew best. Certainly, men and women who would change their sex status will answer to their Maker...."[39]
  • "Dear brethren and sisters, the scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles and prophets speak of us in premortal life as sons and daughters, spirit children of God. Gender existed before, and did not begin at mortal birth."[40]

"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father"

  • "The spirits of men and women are eternal (see D&C 93:29-31; see also Joseph Smith, Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 158, 208). All are sons and daughters of God and lived in a premortal life as his spirit children (see Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9, D&C 76:24). The spirit of each individual is in the likeness of the person in mortality, male and female (see D&C 77:2; 132:63; Moses 6:9-10; Abraham 4:27). All are in the image of heavenly parents."[41]

"accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life."

  • And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he [Jesus Christ] said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abraham 3:24-26).

"The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave."

  • "There is another dimension to marriage that we know of in the Church. It came by revelation. This glorious, supernal truth teaches us that marriage is meant to be eternal. There are covenants we can make if we are willing, and bounds we can seal if we are worthy, that will keep marriage safe and intact beyond the veil of death."[42]

"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."

  • "Oh, brothers and sisters, families can be forever! Do not let the lures of the moment draw you away from them! Divinity, eternity, and family—they go together, hand in hand, and so must we! (italics in original)[43]

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife."

  • "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth...." (Genesis 1:28).
  • "Before leaving our discussion of unchanging plans, however, we need to remember that the adversary sponsors a cunning plan of his own. 34 It invariably attacks God’s first commandment for husband and wife to beget children. It tempts with tactics that include infidelity, unchastity, and other abuses of procreative power. Satan’s band would trumpet choice, but mute accountability. Nevertheless, his capacity has long been limited, “for he knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6)."[44]

"We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force."

  • "There seems to be a growing trend against marriage from degenerate areas of the world and a very strong trend toward marriage without children. Naturally the next question is, “Why marry?” And the “antimarriage revolution” comes into focus. Arguments are given that children are a burden, a tie, a responsibility. Many have convinced themselves that education, freedom from restraint and responsibility—that is the life. And unfortunately this benighted and destructive idea is taking hold of some of our own people."[45]

"the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife."

General statements

  • The voice of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in unmistakable terms warns:
“… sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. Each has fallen under his solemn and awful condemnation. … [Such cannot] … escape the punishments and the judgments which the Lord has declared against this sin. The day of reckoning will come just as certainly as night follows day.”
Then speaking of those who condone and justify evil whether from press or microphone or pulpit, they continue:
“They who would palliate this crime and say that such indulgence is but a sinless gratification of a normal desire, like appeasing hunger and thirst, speak filthiness with their lips. Their counsel leads to destruction; their wisdom comes from the father of lies.” (Message of the First Presidency to the Church, Improvement Era, November 1942, page 686.)[46]
  • "As we have said on previous occasions, certainly our Heavenly Father is distressed with the increasing inroads among his children of such insidious sins as adultery and fornication and homosexuality, lesbianism, abortion, alcoholism, dishonesty, and crime generally, which threaten the total breakdown of the family and the home…"[47]
  • "There is a practice, now quite prevalent, for unmarried couples to live together, a counterfeit of marriage. They suppose that they shall have all that marriage can offer without the obligations connected with it. They are wrong! However much they hope to find in a relationship of that kind, they will lose more. Living together without marriage destroys something inside all who participate. Virtue, self-esteem, and refinement of character wither away. Claiming that it will not happen does not prevent the loss; and these virtues, once lost, are not easily reclaimed."[48]
  • "God Himself decreed that the physical expression of love, that union of male and female which has power to generate life, is authorized only in marriage."[49]
  • "Whether we like it or not, so many of the difficulties which beset the family today stem from the breaking of the seventh commandment (see Ex. 20:14). Total chastity before marriage and total fidelity after are still the standard from which there can be no deviation without sin, misery, and unhappiness. The breaking of the seventh commandment usually means the breaking of one or more homes."[50]

Premarital sexual relations forbidden

  • "Let every youth keep himself from the compromising approaches and then with great control save himself from the degrading and life-damaging experience of sexual impurity."[51]

Adulterous sexual relations forbidden

  • "Now the lust of the heart and the lust of the eyes and the lust of the body bring us to the major sin. Let every man remain at home with his affections. Let every woman sustain her husband and keep her heart where it belongs—at home with her family."[52]
  • "And now a word of warning. One who destroys a marriage takes upon himself a very great responsibility indeed. Marriage is sacred! To willfully destroy a marriage, either your own or that of another couple, is to offend our God. Such a thing will not be lightly considered in the judgments of the Almighty and in the eternal scheme of things will not easily be forgiven. Do not threaten nor break up a marriage. Do not translate some disenchantment with your own marriage partner or an attraction for someone else into justification for any conduct that would destroy a marriage."[53]

Homosexual relations forbidden

  • "Every form of homosexuality is sin....May we repeat: Sex perversions of men and women can never replenish the earth and are definitely sin without excuse, and rationalizations are very weak; God will not tolerate it."[54]
  • "A modern prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, has warned us:... . when toleration for sin increases, the outlook is bleak and Sodom and Gomorrah days are certain to return." His predecessor, President Harold B. Lee, warned of the growing social acceptance of "that great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah... adultery: and beside this, the equally grievous sin of homosexuality, which seems to be gaining momentum with social acceptance in the Babylon of the world... " Many today are as indecisive about the evils emerging around us—are as reluctant to renounce fully a wrong way of life—as was Lot's wife. Perhaps in this respect, as well as in the indicators of corruption of which sexual immorality is but one indicator, our present parallels are most poignant and disturbing. It was Jesus himself who said, "Remember Lot's wife." Indeed we should—and remember too all that the Savior implied with those three powerful words."[55]
  • In this day of the “new morality” as sex permissiveness is sometimes called, we should be made aware of the Lord’s concern about immorality and the seriousness of sex sins of all kinds.
We have come far in material progress in this century, but the sins of the ancients increasingly afflict the hearts of men today. Can we not learn by the experiences of others? Must we also defile our bodies, corrupt our souls, and reap destruction as have peoples and nations before us?
God will not be mocked. His laws are immutable. True repentance is rewarded by forgiveness, but sin brings the sting of death.
We hear more and more each day about the sins of adultery, homosexuality, and lesbianism. Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be brought into the open.
It is the sin of the ages. It was present in Israel’s wandering as well as after and before. It was tolerated by the Greeks. It was prevalent in decaying Rome. The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are symbols of wretched wickedness more especially related to this perversion, as the incident of Lot’s visitors indicates.[56]

"We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed."

  • We are appalled at the conscious effort of many of the people in this world to take it upon themselves, presumptive, to change the properly established patterns of social behavior established by the Lord, especially with regard to marriage, sex life, family life. We must say: “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (See Isa. 29:14.)[57]
  • "The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God, but he has commanded that this be confined within the relationship of marriage."[58]
  • "...in the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love."[59]

"We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan."

  • “Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.” (D&C 49:15–16)[60]
  • "Eternal love, eternal marriage, eternal increase! This ideal, which is new to many, when thoughtfully considered, can keep a marriage strong and safe. No relationship has more potential to exalt a man and a woman than the marriage covenant. No obligation in society or in the Church supersedes it in importance."[61]

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children."

  • "Make sure, young man, that you treat your wife with reverence and with respect. Treat her as your sweetheart, your loving companion, the mother of your children."[62]

"Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness"

"to provide for their physical and spiritual needs...to teach them...to observe the commandments of God"

  • And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents (D&C 68:25).

"to teach them to love and serve one another"

  • And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another (Mosiah 4:14-15).

"to teach them...to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live"

  • "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" (Articles of Faith 1:12).
  • "The desirability of this country will persist so long as its citizenry are a God–fearing people with the integrity to obey the law of the land. This includes the laws we do not like as well as the laws we do like."[63]
  • "Let our citizenship be spirited but always appropriate and befitting who we are."[64]
  • "Discipleship includes good citizenship. In this connection, if you are a careful student of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people; and causes, not candidates."[65]

"Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony"

  • A higher and higher percentage of children grow up with only one parent. This is certainly not the way of the Lord. He expected for a father and a mother to rear their children. Certainly any who deprive their children of a parent will have some very stiff questions to answer. The Lord used parents in the plural and said if children were not properly trained “the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25.) That makes it a bit hard to justify broken homes. Numerous of the divorces are the result of selfishness. The day of judgment is approaching, and parents who abandon their families will find that excuses and rationalizations will hardly satisfy the Great Judge.[66]

"and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity"

  • "Once marriage vows are taken, absolute fidelity is essential—to the Lord and to one’s companion."[67]

"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ"

  • "The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children can be happy at home and that the family can continue through eternity. All Christian doctrine is formulated to protect the individual, the home, and the family."[68]

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

  • "... the home and family have been the center of true civilization. Any distortion of the God-given program will bring dire consequences. The families worked together, played together, and worshiped God together."[69]
  • "We hope our parents are using the added time that has come from the consolidated schedule in order to be with, teach, love, and nurture their children. We hope you have not forgotten the need for family activity and recreation, for which time is also provided. Let your love of each member of your family be unconditional. Where there are challenges, you fail only if you fail to keep trying!"[70]

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness"

  • "Brethren, as patriarchs in your homes, be worthy watchmen."[71]
  • "It is the will of the Lord to strengthen and preserve the family unit. We plead with fathers to take their rightful place as the head of the house. We ask mothers to sustain and support their husbands and to be lights to their children."[72]

"and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families"

  • "Both men and women are to serve their families and others, but the specific ways in which they do so are sometimes different. For example, God has revealed through his prophets that men are to receive the priesthood, become fathers, and with gentleness and pure, unfeigned love they are to lead and nurture their families in righteousness as the Savior leads the Church (see Eph. 5:23 ). They have been given the primary responsibility for the temporal and physical needs of the family (see DNC 83:2)."[73]

"Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children"

  • "Women have the power to bring children into the world and have been given the primary duty and opportunity as mothers to lead, nurture, and teach them in a loving, spiritual environment."[74]

"fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners"

  • Most of what men and women must do to qualify for an exalted family life together is based on shared responsibilities and objectives. Many of the requirements are exactly the same for men and women. For example, obedience to the laws of God should be the same for men and women. Men and women should pray in the same way. They both have the same privilege of receiving answers to their prayers and thereby obtaining personal revelation for their own spiritual development....In this divine partnership, husbands and wives support one another in their God-given capacities. By appointing different accountabilities to men and women, Heavenly Father provides the greatest opportunity for growth, service, and progress. He did not give different tasks to men and women simply to perpetuate the idea of a family; rather, He did so to ensure that the family can continue forever, the ultimate goal of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan.[75]
  • "The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth. The first fundamental, then, is to work toward righteous unity."[76]

"Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."

  • "We need to recognize the hard mortal realities in all of this and must use common sense and guidance by personal revelation. Some will not marry in this life. Some marriages will fail. Some will not have children. Some children will choose not to respond to even the most devoted and careful nurturing by loving parents. In some cases, health and faith may falter. Some who would rather remain at home may have to work. Let us not judge others, because we do not know their situation nor do we know what common sense and personal revelation have led them to do. We do know that throughout mortality, women and men will face challenges and tests of their commitment to God’s plan for them. We need to remember that trials and temptations are an important part of our lives. We should not criticize others for the way they choose to exercise their moral agency when faced with adversity or affliction."[77]

"Extended families should lend support when needed."

"We warn that individuals...will one day stand accountable before God" [if they]

  • "God bless you, our beloved people. Listen to the words of heaven. God is true. He is just. He is a righteous judge, but justice must come before sympathy and forgiveness and mercy. Remember, God is in his heavens. He knew what he was doing when he organized the earth. He knows what he is doing now. Those of us who break his commandments will regret and suffer in remorse and pain. God will not be mocked. Man has his free agency, it is sure, but remember, GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED. (See D&C 63:58.)"[78]
  • "That society which puts low value on marriage sows the wind and, in time, will reap the whirlwind—and thereafter, unless they repent, bring upon themselves a holocaust!"[79]

"violate covenants of chastity"

See above.

"abuse spouse or offspring"

  • Spouse abuse
    • CITE
    • CITE
  • Child abuse
    • Cite
    • CITE

"fail to fulfill family responsibilities"

  • "There is no lack of clarity in what the Lord has told us. We cannot shirk. He has placed the responsibility directly where it belongs, and he holds us accountable with regard to the duties of parents to teach their children correct principles and of the need to walk uprightly before the Lord—and there is no substitute for teaching our children by the eloquence of example."[80]

"the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets"

  • Why do we take our destiny in our own hands? From the building of the first colonial cabin, the home and family have been the center of true civilization. Any distortion of the God-given program will bring dire consequences....Could it be possible that many of us, like a cork in a stream, have been swept off our destiny line by false concepts, perilous ways, and doctrines of devils? By whom are we enticed? Have we accepted the easy way and veered off from the “strait and narrow” way to the easy and comfortable way and the broad way which leads to sorrowful ends?[81]
  • "As we have said on previous occasions, certainly our Heavenly Father is distressed with the increasing inroads among his children of such insidious sins as adultery and fornication and homosexuality, lesbianism, abortion, alcoholism, dishonesty, and crime generally, which threaten the total breakdown of the family and the home…"[82]
  • "Society without basic family life is without foundation and will disintegrate into nothingness."[83]

"We call upon" all "to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family"

  • "Furthermore, many of the social restraints which in the past have helped to reinforce and to shore up the family are dissolving and disappearing. The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us. Whether from inadvertence, ignorance, or other causes, the efforts governments often make (ostensibly to help the family) sometimes only hurt the family more. There are those who would define the family in such a nontraditional way that they would define it out of existence. The more governments try in vain to take the place of the family, the less effective governments will be in performing the traditional and basic roles for which governments are formed in the first place."[84]


Question: Has the Latter-day Saint ("Mormon") Proclamation on the Family been taught frequently?

Yes. This is an important point for judging the importance that Church leaders attach to it

Elder Neal L. Anderson taught:

There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many (emphasis added). Our doctrine is not difficult to find (emphasis added).[85]

Repeated Publication of the Proclamation

Reference to the Proclamation as event of historical significance

Teaching

Educational series (also ran in Ensign)


Question: Since there are people that are born intersex, experience gender dysphoria, or identify as transgender, does this invalidate the Latter-day Saint ("Mormon") doctrine of eternal male and/or female gender?

The Criticism

Some secularist critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints point to the existence of intersex humans, people who experience gender dysphoria, or people who identify as transgender in order to invalidate the doctrine of eternal, binary gender.

Intersex people are defined as those that:

are born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies."[86]

Transgender people are those that identify with, dress as, and/or have gender-reassignment surgeries performed on them to become, identify with, and or act as a different gender than the one they were proclaimed to be at birth.

Gender dysphoria is the dissonance caused by not identifying with the gender (male or female) that one is proclaimed to be apart of at birth.

It is claimed that this invalidates the doctrine of gender as outlined by "The Family: A Proclamation to the World":

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.[87]

It should be noted here that "gender" is used synonymously with "biological sex".[88]

It should be first noted that those who make this argument commit the naturalistic fallacy in logic. Just because it occurs in nature, that does not, by necessity, make the behavior inherently correct.

Secondly, it is important to understand that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not oppose same-sex marriage because it wishes to discriminate against LGBTQAIP+-identifying individuals. On the contrary, the Church values their service and hopes that they will find meaningful service within the Church organization. Additionally, the Church espouses a particularly detailed set of doctrines—believed to have come through divine revelation—that outline the purpose of our pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal life that make accepting LGBT sealings within the Church virtually impossible without surrendering core doctrinal values and propositions. The first part of this article will detail some philosophical objections to this criticism and then outline the aforementioned doctrinal propositions that Latter-day Saints would be reticent to relinquish.

The Problem of Ontology

The philosophical study of ontology studies issues such as cause, being, and the self. What is the self? What is identity? Philosophers have debated these issues for a long, long time. The next section (or three subsections) will detail important claims in mainstream LGBT thought regarding ontology and the problems associated with those claims.

Feelings are not Being

Latter-day Saint researcher Ty Mansfield PhD. pointed out something important in regard to feelings not forming identity:

“Being gay” is not a scientific idea, but rather a cultural and philosophical one, addressing the subjective and largely existential phenomenon of identity. From a social constructionist/constructivist perspective, our sense of identity is something we negotiate with our environment. Environment can include biological environment, but our biology is still environment. From an LDS perspective, the essential spiritual person within us exists independent of our mortal biology, so our biology, our body is something that we relate to and negotiate our identity with, rather than something that inherently or essentially defines us. Also, while there has likely been homoerotic attraction, desire, behavior, and even relationships, among humans as long as there have been humans, the narratives through which sexuality is understood and incorporated into one’s sense of self and identity is subjective and culturally influenced. The “gay” person or personality didn’t exist prior to the mid-20th century.

In an LDS context, people often express concern about words that are used—whether they be “same-sex attraction,” which some feel denies the realities of the gay experience, or “gay,” “lesbian,” or “LGBT,” which some feels speaks more to specific lifestyle choices. What’s important to understand, however, is that identity isn’t just about the words we use but the paradigms and worldviews and perceptions of or beliefs about the “self” and “self-hood” through which we interpret and integrate our various experiences into a sense of personal identity, sexual or otherwise. And identity is highly fluid and subject to modification with change in personal values or socio-cultural context. The terms “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” aren’t uniformly understood or experienced in the same way by everyone who may use or adopt those terms, so it’s the way those terms or labels are incorporated into self-hood that accounts for identity. One person might identify as “gay” simply as shorthand for the mouthful “son or daughter of God who happens to experience romantic, sexual or other desire for persons of the same sex for causes unknown and for the short duration of mortality,” while another person experiences themselves as “gay” as a sort of eternal identity and state of being.

An important philosophical thread in the overall experience of identity, is the experience of “selfhood”—what it means to have a self, and what it means to “be true to” that self. The question of what it means to be “true to ourselves” is a philosophical rather than a scientific one. In her book Multiplicity: The New Science of Personality, Identity, and the Self, award-winning science and medical writer Rita Carter explores the plurality of “selves” who live in each one of us and how each of those varied and sometimes conflicting senses of self inform various aspects of our identity(ies). This sense seems to be universal. In the movie The Incredibles, there’s a scene in which IncrediBoy says to Mr. Incredible, “You always, always say, ‘Be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!”[89]

Thus, there is big difference between feelings and the meaning or labels that we assign to feelings. Thank goodness that feelings are not being. Couldn't we imagine a time where someone would want to change feelings that they didn't feel described their identity such as impulses for pornography, drugs, or violence? This does not mean that the author is comparing sexual orientation to bad impulses, this is simply to point out that feelings do not inherently control identity. We assign identity to feelings.

These points demonstrate that we all have to seek out something else to determine identity that is enduring, real, and meaningful. Some of us turn to God for that identity. Others may subconsciously or consciously create some form of a platonic entity to ground our morality and identity i.e. "Love binds the universe. Love is my religion". But the basic point still stands—our feelings may be used to form identity, but that identity--the identity based in our feelings that we are having now--isn't enduring; and we must turn to the unseen world to form abiding and real identity.

Where We Get Identity From is Based in What Epistemic Assumptions We Assume

Since feelings are not being, we need to turn to somewhere to get identity. Thus, we need to make a decision as to where we place our moral authority. There are a number of different approaches one may take to form identity and the concept of the self. Where we place our authority reveals what we believe about epistemology or the source from which we should gain normative (what should be the case) or descriptive (what simply is the case) knowledge from the world.

Scientism

Some people (such as our critics) turn to a school of thought known as scientism which is "the promotion of science as the best or only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values." Thus, if something is scientifically understood as good, then all should believe it is good. This position is the most likely to deny the existence of God and rely solely upon what is scientifically observable for morality. This is probably the position most in opposition to the Gospel. The global problem of skepticism, however, makes scientism untenable for establishing morality. If there is no actual reality that is being observed, and reality is just an illusion, then what is the point in using science as our basis for morality?

Naturalism

Some people ascribe to naturalism which is "'idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world.' Adherents of naturalism (i.e., naturalists) assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws." Some naturalists are faithful Latter-day Saints who believe in God, other naturalists don't believe in God at all (a position known as atheism) or don't believe in the Latter-day Saint understanding of God. Naturalist atheists would probably be those who would oppose obstention from accepting homosexual behavior as correct and moral.

We've already seen that atheistic naturalism needs to find a compelling solution to the problem of skepticism, a solution which doesn't currently exist[90], to make their morality work. Those religions that accept homosexual behavior as inherently correct because of belief in a different articulation of God's attributes and character are also going to oppose us strongly.

An additional problem with the above two epistemic positions is that they don't provide any solution to the "Is-ought problem". Without a compelling solution to these issues (including the problems of identity), there is no grounding for the claim that denying multiplicity of genders or the proclaimed gender identity of those that experience gender dysphoria is prejudiced discrimination.

Latter-day Saints

To understand the Latter-day Saint position and to see its validity, one must look through a Latter-day Saint lens. The most common metaphysical belief among Latter-day Saint theologians, philosophers, and laypeople is that of materialism (D&C 131:7) which is the assertion that all things that exist have matter. If something does not have matter, it does not exist. Latter-day Saints deny creatio ex nihilo or the belief that the universe was created out of nothing and instead affirm creatio ex materia which is the belief in creation from pre-existing, eternal matter. Latter-day Saints also affirm the existence of a sovereign God who is corporeal (meaning "has a body") and anthropomorphic (meaning "human"). He reveals knowledge about himself--occasionally by making physical appearances (Joseph Smith-History 1:17) and sending angels (Joseph Smith-History 1:30-33)-- but most of the time, he provides revelation through the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:5). It may be argued that, with things such as the global problem of skepticism, that we should turn to the unseen (but still material) world for truly abiding knowledge of who we are, why we're here, where we come from, and where we're going. We can't turn to "just science" to establish abiding identity. Revelation from God may be the only thing that can establish true identity! But now, what does revelation from God tell us?

The Doctrine of Binarized Gender Essentialism is not based on scientifically observed phenomenon from a fallen world, but an ideal that was experienced in the pre-existence, at creation, and what the ideal will be post-resurrection/exaltation.

Many people fail to recognize that the doctrine of binarized gender essentialism is not based on scientifically observed phenomena from a fallen world, but on an ideal that was experienced in the pre-existence, at creation, and what the ideal will be post-resurrection/exaltation. We believe this ideal has been revealed by God to prophets.

Doctrine from the Pre-existence

In the pre-existence, our Heavenly Father and Mother created us (exactly how we're not sure and don't have an official doctrine on the point)—male and female— from spirit matter (sometimes referred to as "intelligence" Abraham 3:21). There are many scriptures that bear the doctrine of binarily gendered spirits out.

Doctrine from Creation

We know from repeated statements in scripture that all people—male and female— were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26; Mosiah 7:27, Ether 3:15, Doctrine and Covenants 20:18, Moses 1:6; 2:26, 6:9, Abraham 4:26). If there is any ambiguity as to the notion that we all had binary gendered spirits before coming to earth, this doctrine solidifies that fact. Some have stated that since the translation is rendered as "God" that this suggests some gender neutrality in the scriptures. This is implausible.

Michael Coogan:

The traditional translation is "in the image of God he created them." This does not entirely make sense, since the last line speaks of "male and female," and God in the Bible is not androgynous but male. An alternative is to understand elohim in the second line in its plural sense: humans are male and female in the image of the gods—because the gods are male and female, humans are as well. Which male and female deities are the model? Although the entire pantheon is a possibility, the divine couple, Yahweh and his goddess consort, are more likely.[91]

Thus, "God", our creator, may be more properly referred to as "Gods" (Abraham 4:1). These Gods, according to Dr. Coogan, are a male and female deity. This male and female deity would then be the creator of our spirits since "God" is the father of our spirits (Num. 16:22;27:16; Mal. 2:10; Matt. 6:9; Eph. 4:6; Heb. 12:9). Thus we learn something about what the ideal will be post-resurrection/exaltation.

These Gods created the mortal tabernacles Adam and Eve—a male and female— and provided spirits to inhabit their bodies. God commanded Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth. The reasons are obvious as to why a male and female would be commanded to do such: they're the only ones who can procreate without the need of additional technological and/or vicarious/proxy assistance.

As an aside, there is scientific evidence in favor of binarized gender.[92] While males and females do overlap significantly, we are different in meaningful ways.

Doctrine from The Fall

We learn that, after the fall, that thorns, thistles, and noxious weeds would torment man. We learn that nature would become chaotic in some ways and divert from the creational ideal. Thus nature has an order to it, but not complete order. These revelations that we have received about creation remind us what the ideal was during the pre-existence, at creation, and what the ideal will be post-resurrection/exaltation.

During this time of the fall, we have no evidence that God creates any of our bodies. Our biological parents, living in this fallen world, create(d) our bodies. Those bodies are subject to the affects of the Fall. We only have evidence that God created our spirits and the bodies of Adam and Eve. This is simply one of the effects of the fall that we have to overcome. Everyone has them. Christ asks us to take up our cross (Matthew 10:28; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 14:27) and overcome the natural man (Mosiah 3:19). Will one presume that someone is created with Downe's syndrome, autism, depression, anxiety, depression, etc? Such would make God evil, and as a scriptural truism, God is not evil. Those who identify as LGBT will need to wrestle more sincerely with the problem of evil and theodicy.[93]

Doctrine from Resurrection

We know that at resurrection, our bodies will be perfected and stripped from the effects of the Fall (Alma 11:43-45).

Doctrine from Exaltation

We learn that upon resurrection, we will be judged. When we are judged, and if we obtain the celestial kingdom, we will become Gods and go on to have everlasting increase. This is only done with husband and wife—male and female—sealed in holy temples of the Lord (D&C 132:18-20)—based upon the pattern followed at creation.

Thus we see that the doctrine of binarized gender essentialism cannot truly be harmed by those that identify as transgender, are born intersex, or who experience gender dysphoria. All of these things are based upon what is observed scientifically in a fallen world. Our doctrine is based upon what we believe God has revealed about the ideals manifested at pre-existence, creation, and what will be manifested once we are resurrected and exalted. We see that the disagreement is not based upon what is observed. All of us can observe the existence of these people. Where we (in this case members of the Church and secularists and/or progressive members) disagree is about where one's epistemic assumptions should lie i.e. where to turn to for knowledge about morality and/or ideals to categorize nature with.

The Argument from Personal Revelation

There are often claims from members of the Church who identify as transgender and other members of the Church who support transgenderism that they have received personal revelation that they are meant to identify as the gender that they currently identify as and/or that gender is not meant to be binary. Both situations are highly improbable. For the first issue, it would require that God allow a person to enter the body of an individual when their sex chromosomes are unknown. Since life is not conceived until a sperm and egg cell meet, and since the sperm determine the sex of the individual, it seems highly unlikely to suppose that God would allow someone to inhabit a body that did not accord with their correct gender. Though perhaps the people act on their own when entering the body and thus sin. Thus this is highly improbable--though theoretically possible.

For the second issue: since this is a topic that involves the ontological makeup of the entire human family and since the revelation on this issue seems to already be very clear, this type of revelation does not lie within the stewardship of those that identify as transgender or those that support transgenderism, but with the prophet of God and the prophets have consistently declared a nature of either male or female (D&C 28:2-4; 42:53-58; 112:20; see above for scriptures outlining identity). Thus, it is more than likely that these individuals have been deceived by false Spirits (D&C 50:1-2) and their testimonies should be disregarded. If these individuals were to receive true revelation that this was the case, they would be placed under strict commandment to not impart it to other people until that revelation accorded with the prophets (Alma 12:9). Some argue against this using the example of Cornelius who received revelation that he would receive baptism—supposedly before Peter received the revelation to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Yet there are two problems:

  1. The Savior had already given the command to the apostles to go to all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature and baptize them (Mark 16:15-16; Mormon 9:22-24[94]). Thus, this wasn't necessarily a question of what but of when. This was not a revelation about essential missiological outlook, it was a revelation of when to execute it. Thus the example is not analogous to this situation.
  2. Even if we were to assume that a revelation to Cornelius signaled the future change of the Church in ancient times, that is certainly not how the Lord has wished to distribute revelation in modern times as seen in the three first scriptures from Doctrine and Covenants cited at the top of this section.

Argument from Fallibility

Some argue that the prophets are simply wrong on this issue and have presented a few examples to bolster their case.

Additional Light

Some argue that there may yet be additional light added to this question because of questions that need to be answered regarding LGBT issues. Usually, disagreement over this issue stem from one side's insistence on deducing conclusions based on propositions already established in Scripture (which the author adheres to) and the other's insistence that there needs to be additional revelation on this issue. Questioners ask things like the following:

  • What if people are born into the wrong bodies? As addressed above, its theoretically and theologically possible, though not very probable. Since the personal revelation of these individuals involves the essential ontological nature of the human species, their revelation should still not be considered as relevant for the Church as a whole and it is likely that they have been deceived by false Spirits.
  • What constitutes being male and female? Some people accept the premise in The Family: A Proclamation to the World that all children of God are male and female but ask what constitutes maleness and femaleness. What if a male has feminine characteristics and/or is the more nurturing one in the familial relationship? What if a female is more industrial and earns money for the family? The first thing to be pointed out is that the Family mentions that individual circumstances may necessitate individual adaption. The second point is that the main function of males and females is creational as is seen from our pre-mortal existence, the creation narratives, and from scriptures pertaining to our exaltation (see above).

Simple Fallibility

Latter-day Saints do not believe in the doctrine of infallibility. Prophets are considered mortals that can make mistakes at times. Some advocates of the LGBT position have argued that the prophets are simply wrong on this issue (usually for reasons discussed above). The problems with the position are outlined above. The position is the result of revelation that has come to prophets over three thousand years beginning with the authorship of the J source of the Pentateuch circa 1000 BC. If the prophets have gotten our essential ontology wrong for that amount of time, it's difficult to imagine how we can trust them. This wouldn't be just because of how long of time, but also because of how easily deducible it is from the scriptures what our eternal identity and purpose is and the fundamental rewriting of that purpose. It makes God deceptive.

The Argument from Priesthood Restriction

As an additional means of justifying opposition to the Church's position on same sex marriage, some point to the pre-1978 restrictions on people of African descent from holding the Church's priesthood or officiating in temple ordinances, including the Church's disavowed explanations for the restrictions. If the Church was wrong about their explanations for that, could it be wrong about this issue? This has been examined in another article on the FairMormon wiki.

As a final word which we wish to emphasize:

FairMormon joins The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in unequivocally condemning the discrimination of any of God's children based upon gender (or gender identity), race, sexual identity and/or orientation, and/or religious affiliation..


Question: Was “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” drafted by lawyers in Hawaii in response to legal concerns the Church had over the legalization of gay marriage?

It seems that it is true that these legal concerns played a role but it does not appear that they played the only role.

It is claimed by some that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was drafted by lawyers in Hawaii in response to legal concerns the Church had over the legalization of gay marriage. This issue has been discussed at length elsewhere. To discuss, two posts will be reproduced that address this question—one post responding and giving more context to the other. Citations will be retained for easy reference. In the first article, a blogger for Rational Faiths lays out the historical background of the Family Proclamation and the concerns over same-sex marriage in Hawaii. In the second, another blogger adds more historical context to the situation in response to the first[95].

From Amici to Ohana: The Hawaiian Roots of the Family Proclamation (written 15 May 2015)

[. . .] we remind ourselves what was happening in the Mormon American West in the early 1990s. Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet and titular leader of the LDS Church, but he was in ill health, to say the least. First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley was the public spokesman in many places (a supportive role he continued throughout successor Howard W. Hunter’s administration until he became the new president of the Church on March 12, 1995). Boyd K. Packer was the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since Hinckley was serving in the First Presidency rather than the larger quorum. President Packer and Spencer W. Kimball had regularly addressed the Church at large regarding issues related to gender roles, sexuality, family values, and chastity.

Our trip in time will help us to understand the context for the creation of the LDS Proclamation on the Family. While there were other places dealing with same-sex marriage and gay rights at the time, notably Colorado and Alaska, Hawaii’s issues were pivotal. Perhaps our historical insights will make a difference in how we view the document.

After September’s arguments in Baehr v. Lewin, it is only a couple of weeks before the ruling is issued. In early October 1991, Hawaii’s Regional Representative Donald L. Hallstrom picks up a newspaper to read that the first same-sex marriage case in the state has been decided. The verdict: Case dismissed for, among other things, failing to state a relievable claim, and the couples appeal to the state’s supreme court. If Hawaii’s highest court takes the case, same-sex marriage could come to Hawaii. Hallstrom makes sure his priesthood leaders are aware of the situation.

Despite the flurry of activity surrounding October’s General Conference and the illness of President Benson, within weeks the First Presidency still comes up with a letter addressing homosexuality. On November 14, 1991, their letter titled “Standards of Morality and Fidelity” reads in part:

We call upon members to renew their commitment to live the Lord’s standard of moral conduct. Parents should teach their children the sacred nature of procreative powers and instill in them a desire to be chaste in thought and deed. A correct understanding of the divinely appointed roles of men and women will fortify all against sinful practices. Our only real safety, physically and spiritually, lies in keeping the Lord’s commandments.

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.

Justices heard the case in October 1992, and the appellate ruling came down on May 1993: If the government planned to prevent same-sex marriages, it needed a compelling reason to do so. Otherwise, limiting who one may marry is sex-based discrimination, which is unconstitutional in Hawaii. The high court sent the case back to the trial court for review using the higher court’s guidelines, which gave the legislature time to take action during its next session in January 1994.

Legislatively, Mormons and Catholics worked to influence the outcome of bills aimed at keeping marriage between a man and a woman by providing expert testimony, hiring lobbyists and reviewing legislation, and generally working behind the scenes and out of spotlights.

Publicly, the First Presidency issued another letter dated February 1, 1994, presaging the language that would be found in the Proclamation on the Family. An excerpt from this letter appeared in the Church Handbook of Instructions beginning in 1998 and remained there until its 2010 revision:

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. We encourage members to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender.

After another year of working with legislators, attorneys and others in Hawaii, in February 1995, 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.” Elder Hallstrom reinforced the importance of this move by the church, saying “There are times when certain moral issues become so compelling that the churches have a duty to make their feelings known.” The trial court eventually rejected the petition on grounds that the church had failed to demonstrate it had any “property or transaction” in the case at hand, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision.[96]

Over on the Mainland, an ailing President Howard W. Hunter died. He’d served as LDS president from the time Benson died in May 1994 until March 3rd, 1995. On March 12, 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley became the president of the Church. It was still less than one month after the announcement that the Church would be intervening in the Baehr case, but before the petition to intervene was denied. Priesthood leaders were hearing reports from Hawaii about the progress of same-sex marriage cases and Area President Loren C. Dunn prepared to fly out to Hawaii and begin gathering a coalition together in the Fall.

Two weeks before the October 1995 General Conference, President Hinckley met with the General Relief Society presidency to discuss their plans for their general meeting that would be held the last Saturday in September. At that time, he informed President Elaine Jack and her counselors Aileen Clyde and Chieko Okazaki that he had a Proclamation on the Family that he was going to introduce at conference and that during the course of their meeting, he had decided that he would like to make it public during the Relief Society meeting. He also asked the General Relief Society presidency to adjust the focus of their remarks so that they would address the idea of “traditional families” rather than the diversity curriculum they had previously prepared. The audio is not strong in this video, but it is a recording of Aileen Clyde speaking at a women’s conference at Claremont Graduate University in 2011, telling this story.

Sister Okazaki also discussed how the General Relief Society presidency learned about the Proclamation when she sat down with Greg Prince in November, 2005. Prince captured that interview in the Spring 2012 issue of Dialogue. As she recalled,

[I]n 1995 when “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was written, the Relief Society presidency was asked to come to a meeting. We did, and they read this proclamation. It was all finished. The only question was whether they should present it at the priesthood meeting or at the Relief Society meeting. It didn’t matter to me where it was presented. What I wanted to know was, “How come we weren’t consulted?…

They just asked us which meeting to present it in, and we said, “Whatever President Hinckley decides is fine with us.” He decided to do it at the Relief Society meeting. The apostle who was our liaison said, “Isn’t it wonderful that he made the choice to present it at the Relief Society meeting?” Well, that was fine, but as I read it I thought that we could have made a few changes in it.

Sometimes I think they get so busy that they forget that we are there. (p. 136)

Back in Hawaii, legal work surrounding the Baehr case continued. This time, it was Baehr v. Miike and over the summer both the LDS Church and its political organization Hawaii’s Future Today filed amicus briefs for the lower court to consider. The lower court heard the case on September 10, 1996 and issued its ruling on December 3, 1996, finding that same-sex couples were entitled to receive marriage licenses.

The case was again appealed to Hawaii’s Supreme Court and this time, on April 14, 1997, the LDS Church filed an amicus brief[97]. In this brief, the Church cited the Proclamation on the Family as evidence of the centrality of tradition marriage in Mormon doctrine and practice for the first time. One of the requirements for filing an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief is that the petitioner submitting the brief must present to the court valid reasons why the court should allow the petitioner, who is not a party to the case, to be heard on the matter. Conveniently, the Proclamation ties all of the major family-related policies and teachings together in one place, making it easy to include as an exhibit in a legal brief. Two decades later, it has become quasi-scriptural for many Mormons, further confirming the notion that, as it proclaims, “the family is central” not only to “the Creator’s plans” but also to Mormon religious beliefs and practices as well. In 1998, Hawaii’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment exempting same-sex marriage from sexual discrimination and noting that marriage in Hawaii would be between one man and one woman. LDS and Catholic lobbyists and political groups, working together under the banner Save Traditional Marriage ’98 (which grew out of the group, Hawaii’s Future Today, organized in late 1995) were influential in getting both the legal language and the grass-roots support for the amendment. When the Baehr appeal was finally heard again in 1999, same-sex marriage was found unconstitutional in Hawaii, and it remained so until December 2013. The Proclamation on the Family began its national political role when it was read into the official records of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 17, 1995, four days after President Hinckley met with U.S. President Bill Clinton. It has been used in dozens of court cases, legislative sessions, hearings, and conventions in the United States and around the world wherever issues of same-sex marriage, gender roles, abortion, family values, or Defense of Marriage Acts have been brought up.[98]

Family Breakdown, the Welfare State, and the Family Proclamation: An Alternative History* (Written 1 August 2015)

[...]Rational Faiths has an enlightening and informative post on the origins of the Family Proclamation. She effectively demonstrates that the controversy surrounding Baehr v. Lewin–the first major victory for same-sex marriage proponents–gave birth to the quasi-canonical document. I do not dispute the influence of this legal case in the creation of the Proclamation. However, I do think there are other possible influences and contexts that helped mold its final shape. I hope to explore one of these possibilities below. [. . .]

we remind ourselves what was happening during the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s in the American political climate. For the majority of the period we discuss, [the author's] description is apt: “Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet and titular leader of the LDS Church, but he was in ill health, to say the least. First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley was the public spokesman in many places (a supportive role he continued throughout successor Howard W. Hunter’s administration until he became the new president of the Church on March 12, 1995). Boyd K. Packer was the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since Hinckley was serving in the First Presidency rather than the larger quorum.” Divorce and family breakdown had been addressed for decades by Church leadership, while President Benson had taken the lead over most of his apostolic career in attacking socialism and other related (at least in his view) systems such as the welfare state. Yet, this particular stretch saw the development of a political and social climate that was ripe for the creation and reception of a document like the Family Proclamation. However, this story[99] begins a couple decades earlier with the writing of the (in)famous Moynihan Report by Democratic sociologist and then Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965.[100] The report argued that the nation’s history of racism and slavery had led to the disintegration of the black nuclear family and exacerbated the problem of poverty among African-Americans. Though often misunderstood by both the Left and Right, Moynihan used surprisingly conservative frankness about family statistics to argue in favor of more liberal government policies geared toward boosting education and employment. Though published in early 1965, there was relatively little public discussion on the topic of family breakdown until the mid-1980s. Yet, academic research on family structure continued to grow. Then, in 1984, political scientist Charles Murray’s Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 burst on to the scene. Then a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Murray argued that the U.S. welfare system created perverse incentives followed by rational, understandable responses. Some of the results, Murray believed, were the choices to remain unmarried and unemployed in order to continue receiving welfare benefits.[101] Murray’s statistical analyses were controversial, but highly influential in the years to come.

The focus on family breakdown also increased in broader circles, thanks largely to Bill Moyers’ 1986 CBS documentary The Vanishing Family – Crisis in Black America. While Murray could be dismissed due to his conservatism and easily marginalized to an obscure corner of academia, Moyers had strong liberal credentials thanks to his time as White House Press Secretary under Lyndon Johnson and his prolific career in journalism. The report allowed for a more open discussion among the masses on the subject of family breakdown. The documentary also highlighted the intertwining elements of work, family, and welfare. For example, when Moyers interviewed one young man who had fathered 6 children by 4 different women, he asked, “How do [your children] make it? Where do they get the money?” In response, the father answered, “Well, the majority of the mothers are on welfare. Welfare gives them their stipend for the month. So, what I’m not doing, the government does.” While the documentary aired in January, several General Authorities addressed welfare and its relation to family and work in the April conference of that year. “When we depart from the Lord’s way in caring for the poor,” said Thomas S. Monson (then the Second Counselor in the First Presidency),

chaos comes. Said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Political Analysis, as reported this year in a Dallas, Texas, newspaper:

“The USA’s welfare system is a disaster. It is creating poverty, not destroying it. It subsidizes divorce, unwed teenage pregnancy, the abandonment of elderly parents by their children, and the wholesale dissolution of the family. The reason? We pay people to be poor. Private charities have always been better at providing relief where it is truly needed.”

In 1982 it was my privilege to serve as a member of President Ronald Reagan’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives. Meeting in the White House with prominent leaders assembled from throughout the nation, President Reagan paid tribute to the welfare program of the Church. He observed: “Elder Monson is here representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If, during the period of the Great Depression, every church had come forth with a welfare program founded on correct principles as his church did, we would not be in the difficulty in which we find ourselves today.” President Reagan praised self-sufficiency; lauded our storehouse, production, and distribution system; and emphasized family members assisting one another. He urged that in our need we turn not to government but rather to ourselves.

Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales stated that both the rich and poor tend to “shut their hearts to…love and compassion. The rich languish in their abundance and justify turning the poor away as “welfare cases.” The poor are likewise entrapped, becoming dependent on others in a system destined to trample initiative, undermine family responsibility, foster divisiveness, and erect barriers to equity, opportunity, and fellowship. The Lord rejects such welfare programs.” Hales explained that the Church welfare program “requires that we develop self-reliance and live providently. Provident living requires us to develop proper attitudes—a willingness to forego luxuries, to avoid excess, and to fully use what we have—learning to live within our means.” Elder James E. Faust declared that one “bedrock principle” the saints must build upon “is that the responsibility for welfare rests with me and my family. In 1936 the First Presidency said in a great statement of purpose, “The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves.””

The conversation about family breakdown began to find acceptance a few years later even among Democratic politicians with the influence of future Clinton adviser William Galston’s article “A Liberal-Democratic Case for the Two-Parent Family.”[102] Galston’s paper has been identified as playing a key role “in persuading Democratic members (plus staffers) of the National Commission on Children, in 1991, to endorse unusually direct language on the importance of two-parent families. Similarly, if not the paper itself, then certainly Galston himself and his circle of colleagues, were influential in shaping candidate Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign rhetoric about paternal responsibility and welfare reform, among other things. At root, “A Liberal-Democratic Case” gave essential and welcome cover to men and women on the left side of the continuum who had perhaps long shared the paper’s ideas, but who had been reluctant…to speak out.”[103] This same National Commission on Children acknowledged in 1991, “Children do best when they have the personal involvement and material support of a father and a mother and when both parents fulfill their responsibility to be loving providers.”[104] During this time, the LDS Church’s welfare system was praised in the media by outlets such as the Heritage Foundation. “The Latter-day Saints Church has one of the most effective and compassionate welfare systems in the world,” affirmed conservative pundit Tucker Carlson in Policy Review. “It works because Mormons realize that welfare has the same properties as nitroglycerine: if utilized correctly it can heal and sustain. If used wantonly it will certainly destroy. The Mormon welfare system’s primary goal is not to provide material necessities for those in need, although it does accomplish this efficiently. It focuses instead on strengthening the family, teaching a vigorous work ethic, and helping the needy to help themselves. Its themes are ones the secular world would do well to study.”[105] Once again, the intersection of work, family, and welfare was highlighted.

And, of course, there was Vice President Dan Quayle’s well-known 1992 “Murphy Brown speech” in which he discussed “the breakdown of the family structure, personal responsibility and social order in too many areas of our society.” The speech earned its nickname from the single brief reference to the TV show Murphy Brown: “a character,” Quayle maintained, “who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.” The speech was met with ridicule from pundits and even uncertainty from the White House. However, the following year social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead wrote her famous piece “Dan Quayle Was Right” in The Atlantic Monthly. Reviewing the scholarly literature from the past couple decades, Whitehead argued,

Taken together, the research presents a powerful challenge to the prevailing view of family change as social progress. Not a single one of the assumptions underlying that view can be sustained against the empirical evidence. Single-parent families are not able to do well economically on a mother’s income. In fact, most teeter on the economic brink, and many fall into poverty and welfare dependency. Growing up in a disrupted family does not enrich a child’s life or expand the number of adults committed to the child’s well-being. In fact, disrupted families threaten the psychological well-being of children and diminish the investment of adult time and money in them. Family diversity in the form of increasing numbers of single-parent and stepparent families does not strengthen the social fabric. It dramatically weakens and undermines society, placing new burdens on schools, courts, prisons, and the welfare system. These new families are not an improvement on the nuclear family, nor are they even just as good, whether you look at outcomes for children or outcomes for society as a whole. In short, far from representing social progress, family change represents a stunning example of social regress.[106]

Murray returned later that year with a WSJ article on the increasing illegitimacy among both whites and blacks:

Every once in a while the sky really is falling, and this seems to be the case with the latest national figures on illegitimacy. The unadorned statistic is that, in 1991, 1.2 million children were born to unmarried mothers, within a hair of 30% of all live births. How high is 30%? About four percentage points higher than the black illegitimacy rate in the early 1960s that motivated Daniel Patrick Moynihan to write his famous memorandum on the breakdown of the black family. The 1991 story for blacks is that illegitimacy has now reached 68% of births to black women. In inner cities, the figure is typically in excess of 80%. Many of us have heard these numbers so often that we are inured…But the black story, however dismaying, is old news. The new trend that threatens the U.S. is white illegitimacy. Matters have not yet quite gotten out of hand, but they are on the brink…In 1991, 707,502 babies were born to single white women, representing 22% of white births…As the spatial concentration of illegitimacy reaches critical mass, we should expect the deterioration to be as fast among low-income whites in the 1990s as it was among low-income blacks in the 1960s. My proposition is that illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time — more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else. Doing something about it is not just one more item on the American policy agenda, but should be at the top.[107]

That same month, President Hinckley (then called as the First Counselor in the First Presidency) lamented what he saw as the moral decline of the United States:

We in America are saddled with a huge financial deficit in our national budget. This has led to astronomical debt. But there is another deficit which, in its long-term implications, is more serious. It is a moral deficit, a decline in values in the lives of the people, which is sapping the very foundation of our society. It is serious in this land. And it is serious in every other nation of which I know. Some few months ago there appeared in the Wall Street Journal what was spoken of as an index of what is happening to our culture. I read from this statement: “Since 1960, the U.S. population has increased 41%; the gross domestic product has nearly tripled; and total social spending by all levels of government [has experienced] more than a fivefold increase…But during the same…period there has been a 560% increase in violent crime; a 419% increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling in divorce rates; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200% increase in the teenage suicide rate.”

The following two years saw the publication of Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps by sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur and Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem by Institute for American Values founder David Blankenhorn. These two volumes further supported the idea that the two-parent household was the ideal environment for raising a child. General Authorities continued to bemoan the changing family dynamics within the country. In 1994, Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of “several terrible trends which, if uncorrected, will produce an even worse coalition of consequences.” These trends included the fragmentation of family life:

  • In ten years, one-half of all children born in America will be illegitimate.
  • More and more children have no functioning fathers. Already 70 percent of our juvenile criminals come from fatherless homes.
  • Less than half of all children born today will live continuously with their own mother and father throughout childhood.

These various trends in the public and political perception of welfare, work, and family breakdown eventually culminated in the passing of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act under President Clinton. As one author explains, “The federal government’s Healthy Marriage Initiative is best understood as the product of two major movements: one…in celebration and service of marriage itself; with a second, an integral part of the drive for welfare reform.”[108] According to welfare expert Ron Haskins, the issue of out-of-wedlock births began to rival the welfare state in the “Republican hierarchy of social ills.”[109] Bill Clinton “had been more outspoken than any other president about the tragedy of illegitimacy; he was even given to stating flatly that it was “wrong” for young people to have children outside of marriage whom they could not support.”[110]Haskins contends that five major factors led to reform:[111]

  1. The public did not approve of able-bodied people being supported on welfare for extended periods.
  2. The 1988 welfare legislation increased welfare enrollment due to its generous benefits.
  3. Experimental programs were shown to increase work and reduce welfare spending.
  4. Part of Clinton’s campaign rhetoric was “ending welfare as we know it”: a very foreign concept for a Democratic presidential candidate.
  5. Republicans won both houses of Congress in 1994, replacing the Democrats that were unwilling to back the strong work requirements in Clinton’s previous bill. Clinton vetoed the first two Republican bills, but finally passed a modified bill in 1996.

It was within this context that the newly-minted President of the Church Gordon B. Hinckley revealed the Family Proclamation at the General Relief Society Meeting in October of 1995. President Hinckley provided a grave background for its introduction:[112]

How bitter are the fruits of casting aside standards of virtue. The statistics are appalling. More than one-fourth of all children born in the United States are born out of wedlock, and the situation grows more serious. Of the teens who give birth, 46 percent will go on welfare within four years; of unmarried teens who give birth, 73 percent will be on welfare within four years. I believe that it should be the blessing of every child to be born into a home where that child is welcomed, nurtured, loved, and blessed with parents, a father and a mother, who live with loyalty to one another and to their children. I am sure that none of you younger women want less than this. Stand strong against the wiles of the world…There are those who would have us believe in the validity of what they choose to call same-sex marriage. Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.

Here, welfare and family breakdown are put side-by-side with same-sex marriage. While the Proclamation dedicates considerable space to heteronormative marriage and gender essentialism, it also focuses on the rearing of children: “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…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” (italics mine). The portion on father/mother responsibilities is typically interpreted as a mere restatement of traditional (or outdated) gender roles. However, the concept that “fathers are to preside over their families…and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” may stem from the political and public discussions revolving around fatherless families and welfare-dependent mothers (recall the absent father from Moyers’ documentary). “Work” is listed among multiple “principles” upon which “successful families and marriages are established…” On an even more dire note, the Proclamation warns “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” (italics mine). The language surrounding parental responsibility and specifically working, present, faithful fathers fits quite well into the national politics of the day. Statements similar to the Proclamation’s final line could be pulled from any of the above cited works: “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.” From Murray to Moyers to Whitehead to Clinton, concern over welfare dependence and family breakdown had been growing among General Authorities and the public at large. While same-sex marriage legalities most definitely played a leading role in the Proclamation’s conception, I think it is safe to say that the American discussion regarding family fragmentation (especially fatherlessness) and welfare dependency also paved the way for it and helped shape its final draft.[113]

Boyd K. Packer gives additional context

Boyd K. Packer gave further context to the Proclamation’s Origin:

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve issued a proclamation on the family. I can tell you how that came about. They had a world conference on the family sponsored by the United Nations in Beijing, China. We sent representatives. It was not pleasant what they heard. They called another one in Cairo. Some of our people were there. I read the proceedings of that. The word marriage was not mentioned. It was at a conference on the family, but marriage was not even mentioned. It was then they announced that they were going to have such a conference here in Salt Lake City. Some of us made the recommendation: "They are coming here. We had better proclaim our position.”[114]

The doctrines have long been taught by the Church

The doctrines contained within the Proclamation are doctrines long taught by the Church. We address this elsewhere on the wiki.

Many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants started out as similar documents

Some sections of the Doctrine and Covenants started out as (1) council minutes, (2) official statements of church policy written by lawyers like Oliver Cowdery, (3) letters written by Joseph Smith, (4) excerpts from peoples’ notes recording things that Joseph Smith taught. Examples include D&C 130 and 134. More may be found by reading the headings of the revelations. Those who are bothered by a revelation or doctrinal disquisition being first drafted by others may be comforted knowing that many revelations have been ratified in similar ways.


Notes

  1. David B. Haight, "Be A Strong Link," Ensign (November 2000).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Henry B. Eyring, "The Family," Ensign (February 1998).
  3. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World," Ensign (November 1995), 98.
  4. Boyd K. Packer, "The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character," CES Fireside (2 February 2003).
  5. Neal A. Anderson, "Trial of Your Faith," Ensign (November 2012).
  6. "Approaching Mormon Doctrine, LDS Newsroom (4 May 2007).
  7. D. Todd Christofferson, "The Doctrine of Christ," Ensign (May 2012).
  8. Boyd K. Packer, "Fledgling Finches and Family Life, BYU Campus Education Week Devotional, 18 August 2009.
  9. Henry B. Eyring, "The Family," Ensign (February 1998).
  10. Boyd K. Packer, "Proclamation on the Family," Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast (9 February 2008).
  11. David B. Haight, "Be A Strong Link," Ensign (November 2000).
  12. M. Russell Ballard, "Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers," Ensign (November 1999).
  13. M. Russell Ballard, "What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest," Ensign (November 2005).
  14. M. Russell Ballard, "Let Our Voices Be Heard," Ensign (November 2003).
  15. Boyd K. Packer, "Counsel to Youth," Ensign (November 2011).
  16. Boyd K. Packer, "Parents in Zion," Ensign (October 1998).
  17. M. Russell Ballard, "Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers," Ensign (November 1999).
  18. L. Tom Perry, "Obedience to Law Is Liberty," Ensign (May 2013).
  19. Neal A. Maxwell, "Sharing Insights from My Life," BYU Devotional 12 Jan 1999.
  20. Robert D. Hales, "'If Thou Wilt Enter into Life, Keep the Commandments'," Ensign (May 1996).
  21. W. Eugene Hansen, "Children and the Family," Ensign (May 1998).
  22. Eran A. Call, "[https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1997/10/the-home-a-refuge-and-sanctuary?lang=eng The Home: A Refuge and Sanctuary," Ensign (November 1998).
  23. Claudio R.M. Costa, "[https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/don-t-leave-for-tomorrow-what-you-can-do-today?lang=eng Don't Leave for Tomorrow What You Can Do Today," Ensign (November 2007).
  24. 24.0 24.1 M. Russell Ballard, "What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest," Ensign (November 2005).
  25. Dallin H. Oaks, "As He Thinketh in His Heart," evening with a General Authority (February 2013)
  26. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World," Ensign (November 1995), 98.
  27. Spencer W. Kimball, "Fortify Your Homes Against Evil," Ensign (May 1979).
  28. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  29. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  30. Russell M. Nelson, "The Canker of Contention," Ensign (May 1989).
  31. Boyd K. Packer, The Things of the Soul (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 228 [Address given to Brigham Young University student body 14 April 1970.]
  32. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 272.
  33. Ezra Taft Benson, "To the Single Adult Brethren of the Church," Ensign (May 1988).
  34. Neal A. Maxwell, "Family Perspectives," BYU Devotional, 15 January 1974
  35. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 272.
  36. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 428.
  37. Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign (November 1993).
  38. James E. Talmage, "The Eternity of Sex," Young Woman's Journal 25 (October 1914), 602–3 as found in Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980), 137 n. 4.
  39. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  40. Boyd K. Packer, "For Time and All Eternty," Ensign (November 1993).
  41. Boyd K. Packer, "The Play and the Plan," CES Fireside, 7 May 1995, Kirkland, Washington.
  42. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  43. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  44. Russell M. Nelson, "Constancy Amid Change," Ensign (November 1993).
  45. Spencer W. Kimball, "Fortify Your Homes Against Evil," Ensign (May 1979).
  46. Spencer W. Kimball, "Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future," Ensign (May 1971).
  47. Spencer W. Kimball, "Fortify Your Homes Against Evil," Ensign (May 1979).
  48. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  49. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  50. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  51. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  52. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  53. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  54. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  55. Neal A. Maxwell, Look Back At Sodom: A timely account from imaginary Sodom Scrolls (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1975).
  56. Spencer W. Kimball, "The Foundations of Righteousness," Ensign (November 1977).
  57. Spencer W. Kimball, "Why Call Me Lord, Lord and Do Not the Things Which I Say?," Ensign (May 1975).
  58. Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign (November 1993).
  59. Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), 311.
  60. Cited in this context, for example, in Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  61. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  62. Boyd K. Packer, The Things of the Soul (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 228 [Address given to Brigham Young University student body 14 April 1970.]
  63. James E. Faust, "The Integrity of Obeying the Law," Freedom Festival Fireside, Provo, Utah, 2 July 1995; cited in James P. Bell and James E. Faust, "Citizenship" in In The Strength Of the Lord: The Life and Teachings of James E. Faust (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999), 274.
  64. Neal A. Maxwell, "All Hell Is Moved," BYU Devotional (8 November 1977).
  65. Neal A. Maxwell, "A More Determined Discipleship," Ensign (February 1979).
  66. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  67. {{Ensign|author=Russell M. Nelson|article=Children of the Covenant|date=May 1995}{
  68. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  69. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  70. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  71. Spencer W. Kimball, "Strengthening the Family, the Basic Unit of the Church," Ensign (May 1978).
  72. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Counsel to the Saints and to the World," Ensign (July 1972), 27.
  73. M. Russell Ballard, "Equality Through Diversity," Ensign (November 1993).
  74. M. Russell Ballard, "Equality Through Diversity," Ensign (November 1993).
  75. M. Russell Ballard, "Equality Through Diversity," Ensign (November 1993).
  76. Ezra Taft Benson, "https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1982/10/fundamentals-of-enduring-family-relationships.p32 Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships]," Ensign (November 1982).
  77. M. Russell Ballard, "Equality Through Diversity," Ensign (November 1993).
  78. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  79. Boyd K. Packer, "Marriage," Ensign (May 1981).
  80. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  81. Spencer W. Kimball, "God Will Not Be Mocked," Ensign (November 1974).
  82. Spencer W. Kimball, "Fortify Your Homes Against Evil," Ensign (May 1979).
  83. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  84. Spencer W. Kimball, "Families Can Be Eternal," Ensign (November 1980).
  85. Neal A. Anderson, "Trial of Your Faith," Ensign (November 2012).
  86. Wikipedia, "Intersex" <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex> (accessed 4 January 2019)
  87. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" <https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&old=true> (accessed 4 January 2019)
  88. Church Newsroom, "General Conference Leadership Meetings Begin" ,https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/october-2019-general-conference-first-presidency-leadership-session> (accessed 7 October 2019). “'Finally, the long-standing doctrinal statements reaffirmed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World 23 years ago will not change. They may be clarified as directed by inspiration.' For example, 'the intended meaning of gender in the family proclamation and as used in Church statements and publications since that time is biological sex at birth.'”
  89. Ty Mansfield, "'Mormons can be gay, they just can’t do gay': Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective" FairMormon Conference, 2014. <https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2014/mormons-can-gay-just-cant-gay> Accessed October 17, 2019
  90. See Jennifer Nagel, "Epistemology: Three Responses to Skepticism" Wireless Philosophy. February 19, 2019. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xehTcQeqDWs>. Accessed October 17, 2019; Jennifer Nagel, "Epistemology: New Responses to Skepticism" Wireless Philosophy. February 26, 2019. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cKyPeDYh8w>. Accessed October 17, 2019.
  91. Michael Coogan, "God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says" (New York City, NY: Grand Central, 2010), 175.
  92. Steven Pinker, "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" (London: Penguin Books, 2003); W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline, "Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives" (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013); Diane F. Halpern, "Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities: 4th Edition " (London: Psychology Press, 2013); Paul Seabright, "The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012); Walker Wright, "Does More Gender Egalitarianism Reduce Gender Differences?" <https://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2018/01/24/does-more-gender-egalitarianism-reduce-gender-differences/?fbclid=IwAR1oFl4vcY1OFXfuhbjUiVlUAxWkA4etZ46LUBMK_lRGBW973oEckRjD-A0> (accessed 20 August 2019); Walker Wright, "Does Gender Egalitarianism Reduce the STEM Field Gender Gap?" <https://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2018/02/21/does-gender-egalitarianism-reduce-the-stem-field-gender-gap/?fbclid=IwAR19NhT5L-r2mV5OinYIlE-h--7xzrXwdi8F2XZxqxMoqkLmBq9UePNbvk4> (accessed 20 August 2019)
  93. See David L. Paulsen, "Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil" BYU Speeches, September 21, 1999
  94. Be sure to see our article on the longer ending of Mark.
  95. These articles are reproduced for quality. They have been reproduced in full for preservation. Citations are retained for easy reference.
  96. The trial court’s decision came in April 1995 and the Supreme Court upheld that position in its January, 1996 ruling.
  97. Hawaii’s Future Today, the political group led by Mormons and Catholics, also submitted an amicus brief in this case on March 17, 1997 and on May 12, 1997, Utah joined an amicus brief filed by 11 other states as well.
  98. Laura Compton, “From Amici to ‘Ohana: The Hawaiian Roots of the Family Proclamation” <https://rationalfaiths.com/from-amici-to-ohana/> (accessed 19 August 2019)
  99. The following narrative draws heavily from Chapter 1 of Mitch Pearlstein’s From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation (Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2011).
  100. Officially “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.
  101. It should be stressed again that Murray saw these responses to welfare benefits as rational. For example, “If Phyllis and Harry marry and he is employed, she will lose her AFDC benefits. His minimum wage job at the laundry will produce no more income than she can make [on welfare], and, not incidentally, he, not she, will have control of the check. In exchange for giving up this degree of independence, she gains no real security. Harold’s job is not nearly as stable as the welfare system” (Murray, Losing Ground, 160-161).
  102. William A. Galston, “A Liberal-Democratic Case for the Two-Parent Family,” The Responsive Community 1:1 (Winter 1990-1991).
  103. Pearlstein, 2011, 11.
  104. Beyond Rhetoric: A New American Agenda for Children and Families: Final Report of the National Commission on Children (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991), xix.
  105. Tucker Carlson, “Holy Dolers: The Secular Lessons of Mormon Charity,” Policy Review 59 (Winter 1992): 25. Available from Business Source Complete. See also Chiung Hwang Chen, Ethan Yorgason, “”Those Amazing Mormons”: The Media’s Construction of Latter-day Saints as a Model Minority,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 32:2 (Summer 1999): 107-128.
  106. See also Isabel Sawhill, “20 Years Later, It Turns Out Dan Quayle Was Right About Murphy Brown and Unmarried Moms,” The Washington Post (May 25, 2012).
  107. Charles Murray, “The Coming White Underclass,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 29, 1993), A14. He expanded this research nearly 20 years later in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Forum, 2012).
  108. Pearlstein, 2011, 19.
  109. Ron Haskins, Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2006), 7. Quoted in Pearlstein, 2011, 20
  110. Ibid., 8.
  111. Ron Haskins, “What Works Is Work: Welfare Reform and Poverty Reduction,” Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy 4:1 (Winter 2009): 40-41.
  112. The following month, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell visited President Clinton at the White House, presenting him with a copy of the Family Proclamation as well as “a volume containing six generations of his family history and another containing that of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.” The conversation is said to have “covered a range of issues, including welfare, education and the need for parents to be actively involved in their children’s lives.” It was the following year that the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act was passed.
  113. Walker Wright, “Family Breakdown, the Welfare State, and the Family Proclamation: An Alternative History*” <http://www.withoutend.org/family-proclamation-alternative-history/> (accessed 19 August 2019). Wright notes that the title may be misleading and that “complementary” may be better than “alternative”
  114. Boyd K. Packer, "The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character," CES Fireside (2 February 2003).