Mormonism and prophets/Mormonism and the Proclamation on the Family/Official doctrine

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE


    Is the Proclamation on the Family not official doctrine?

Questions


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?

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Answer


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 and 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.

Detailed Analysis

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]


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)

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