The Family: a Proclamation to the World

il_570xN.158960051My Experience with the Document

I was present at the meeting when the “Family Proclamation” was first read. I’ve never had a lot of issue with the idea of the standing of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so the impact of the prophet reading the statement first to a meeting of the women of the church was lost on me. I was struck by the power of the Holy Spirit witnessing to me that these are true principles. I recognized that many of the things that I had been taught in my six years as a member of the church were now neatly and succintly organized for my reference. I have read the proclamation many times, and I love it.

I was married at the time the proclamation was issued, and walked out on my first husband about four years later. Even though I had received many confirming witnesses that leaving the marriage was the best choice I could make for my children as well as myself, there were statements about things like violating covenants that would haunt me from time to time. Even though I recognized that it was not just my mistakes that caused the need for a divorce, I was the one who made the first move to end the marriage. As I watched my children reap the consequences of a bitter divorce, guilt became one of my regular companions.

It took many years for me to recognize that family blessings were still available to my children, and that has carried me through the teenage years (when each one of them decided leaving the faith and living with their father was the best life choice they had). I am watching my children slowly returning to the roots that I was blessed to give them.

This past week, I was blessed to be married and sealed for time and all eternity to a man that I have adored for at least eight years. (We’ve both lost count. We could look up the dates, but really don’t feel it’s necessary.) The family proclamation has now taken on new meaning for both of us. We have both survived previous marriages, and never want to go there again. We want to claim the promises made to us in the holy temple of the Lord. The proclamation now serves as a guide to help us build our life together on a solid foundation.

My Basic Take-aways from the Family Proclamation

  • Selfishness is not part of the bargain
    • Love, service, and devotion should define the ideal family. Selfishness, whether in the form of abuse, infidelity, choosing personal pursuits over family life, or other “me first” expressions, will wreck happiness at home quickly. In the LDS faith, a temple marriage is a covenant, which runs much deeper than a contract because God becomes one of the parties in the agreement.
    • While selfless love and service seem to run counter to the idea of meeting individuals needs, if lived correctly, each member of the family has their own needs met and more. Love for others grows as we serve, and we receive willing, voluntary acts of love and kindness from those we love most.
    • No family will be perfect and ideal during our mortal existence. However, if love, service, and fidelity have been woven into the basic family relationship, talking and repentance will get the family back on track.
  • Each family member has a responsibility.
    • Again, this runs counter to the idea many people hold about home and family: “home is where I can kick back and take it easy,” or “home is where I can let it all hang out.” Having the opportunity to rest and recharge is an important part of life. Vacations are wonderful.
    • On the other hand, putting together a happy family is hard work. Beyond chores and yardwork, children and parents have a responsibility to each other to create an environment where each feels loved and safe.
    • There will be bad days, weeks, months, and even years. But again, if the basic commitment of love is in the home, the family will be ok.
  • The family pattern was established by God.
    • Maybe I should have listed this one first, because it lies at the basis of whether you can accept the family proclamation, or not.
    • Either God is real, or He isn’t. Either the Book of Mormon was written by inspired ancient prophets, or it wasn’t. Either God the Father and Jesus Christ called Joseph Smith to be the first modern-day prophet, or they didn’t. Either we have a prophet on the earth now, or we don’t. It’s that simple.
    • If you have received a testimony through the witness of the Holy Spirit that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a living prophet, then the family proclamation is inspired of God. If so, the principles it contains are true and correct.
  • “We teach true principles, and then we work with the exceptions.”
    • I have lived most of my adult life as an exception to the teachings of the ideal family. I raised my children as a single mother. For a long time, I allowed that realization to cause me to feel like I was a “second-class Mormon.”
    • One day, I heard a talk that related a story about a church congregation being established in a part of the world where it had not existed before. As principles and doctrines were being taught, someone objected that local culture would make part of it too hard to live. A wise leader stood and emphasized that the church teaches correct principles, and we are asked to align ourselves with them as best as possible. Then, the church leaders can work with any true exceptions.
    • From my personal experiences, I know that God loves single parents, and He is ever watching over the children who suffer for the mistakes of the grown-ups charged with their care. I know he loves those who are attracted to members of the same gender. I also know that His decrees are immutable. What I know most of all is that miracles happen when the choice is made to be a humble follower of Christ. The Atonement goes far beyond washing away sin — it also gives us access to the strength and guidance that comes from a Savior who has been there (that is what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane) and truly understands. He can lead us to where we need to be if we will only follow.

Further Reading:

The Official Proclamation

Prophets and Apostles Have Spoken about the Proclamation

What do Mormons Believe about Family?

Nine Family Home Evening Lessons about the Proclamation on the Family