Note: In case you missed it, last week was the 25th anniversary of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” A dear blogging friend of mine, Montserrat, invited me to participate in a blog celebration of the Proclamation by sharing a post. Her celebration can be found at www.cranialhiccups.com. Here is my contribution:
Part of my job requires that I do typesetting. Thankfully I’m not loading lead type into a printing press à la EB Grandin, but sometimes I need to resort to less than high-tech means. When attempting to make an accurate copy of something, one of the oldest tricks in the book is to take the two pieces of paper, hold them up to the light, and see if they line up. When the copy is judged against the original, the differences are easily spotted.
What works for printing also works for other parts of life. I have found that there are some things that I can use as a reference for comparison – to see if things “line up.” One of these is “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
Before moving forward, I want to state in the clearest of terms: I see the Family Proclamation as doctrine. Not just a list of good ideas, or religious themes written by some men in the Church. My basis for this belief is three-fold:
1) The Church defines “Doctrine” as, “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.” (link)
The Family Proclamation is one of those proclamations.
2) It was written as described here: “With divine inspiration, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications.” (link)
3) When I first read the Proclamation, after it was presented in the General Relief Society meeting TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, it immediately struck my heart. The Spirit witnessed to me that it was true doctrine, and I have considered it to be true doctrine ever since. (Sure, it would be very cool to see it become part of our canon of scripture, but it isn’t really necessary.)
I must admit, that when I first read it, I was actually a little underwhelmed because what it taught seemed so obvious – as in “Duh!” Around that time I was a young father serving in the Church, which provided many opportunities to teach and be taught the principles of the Proclamation. It became THE focus of so much teaching over the next few years that at times it seemed almost redundant to me.
Little did I know that 25 years later, the Proclamation would stand as a bulwark against a rapidly declining culture and society across the globe. A few years ago, then Elder Dallin Oaks referred to it this way:
The gospel plan each family should follow to prepare for eternal life and exaltation is outlined in the Church’s 1995 proclamation, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”3 Its declarations are, of course, visibly different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy of the world in which we live. (link)
Who could have seen that coming? The Lord and His representatives, that’s who.
For 25 years, I have had the blessing of having The Family: A Proclamation to the World, to hold up as a basis for comparison, to see if things line up.
For example, the Proclamation states, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
I have a marriage, and a family that I wanted – and still want – to be successful. I have always been able to hold my priorities up to the light of the Proclamation to see how my priorities and behavior line up. Sometimes they line up better than others, but the doctrinal standard is the constant. When I don’t line up – it is me that needs to change.
Another section of the Proclamation teaches, “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.”
The short counsel from the Lord through the Proclamation is infinitely more valuable than any book you can buy on raising a family.
But over the years I have learned that the Proclamation is bigger than just me, or the Church. As it is aptly titled, it is meant for “The World,” and the world could sure use some of its truth.
The philosophies of men, the influence of the adversary, and ever-changing social and societal norms, can make things confusing, even for members of the Church. Again, holding these dogmas up to the light of the doctrine as taught in the Proclamation can make it easier to see if things really line up – or not.
There are many examples, but here is one: Much has been made about evolving ideas regarding gender. Some claim that there are multiple genders, or that people are “gender fluid.” Holding these ideas up to the simple clarity of the Proclamation helps us see how they do not line up with the Lord’s doctrine when it is stated:
“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.”
Of course, any member of the Church is free to believe this simple doctrine – or not. But it should cause us concern that the only way we can embrace these current worldly ideas on gender is to distance ourselves from the doctrine that God has revealed.
There are many other instances where cultures, societies, politics and even religious differences are clearly shown to be out of alignment with God’s teachings, merely by studying the Proclamation.
I am grateful for the doctrines contained in the simplicity and beauty of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” They help me see more clearly what lines up with what God wants for me, and wants me to know.
Together with the other sources of doctrine outlined earlier, the Proclamation has blessed my life, and the lives of those closest to me.
There is peace and hope when things line up.