The HistoryLearn How the Family Proclamation Came About
What is The Family: A Proclamation
to the World?
For 25 years, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have used “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” as a guide in their homes, families, communities and world meetings concerning the family (Seymour, 2015). It is one of the most influential proclamations the Church has given, declaring foundational truths and bringing together core doctrines of Jesus Christ’s gospel found throughout ancient and modern scripture. The family proclamation “is the basis of Church teaching and practice … and will continue so for the future” (Oaks, 2017).
On September 23, 1995 Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, introduced this official proclamation outlining God’s theology of the family, marriage, gender and more. It also provides counsel for home and family improvement and a warning about the consequences of the disintegration of the family. President Hinckley’s words prefacing the announcement of the proclamation “created an important context for the document that would be the capstone … and foundation for all discussions about the family” (Pearce, 2015). Before reading the proclamation, he declared:
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 (Hinckley, 1995).
Since then, the proclamation has stood as a standard in defense of the family. It has stood as a beacon of timeless truths. Its clarion call has been sounded throughout the world; echoed within the halls of the United Nations parliaments, governments and the homes of millions of people in nearly every nation.
History & Background
As witnesses and participants of the revelatory process that resulted in this proclamation, apostles and prophets have testified of the inspiration and revelation that came from their efforts.
President Russell M. Nelson:
“One day in 1994, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spent a day in their council room in the Salt Lake Temple discussing issues surrounding the family. They considered everything from the increasingly ubiquitous nature of pornography to potential anti-family legislation of various kinds. This was not a new discussion, but that day the entire agenda revolved around this one vital topic.”
“The Twelve reviewed both doctrine and policies, considering those things that could not be changed—doctrine—and those things that possibly could be—policies. They discussed issues they saw coming, including an intensified societal push for gay marriage and transgender rights. ‘But that was not the end of what we saw,’ Elder Nelson explained. ‘We could see the efforts of various communities to do away with all standards and limitations on sexual activity. We saw the confusion of genders. We could see it all coming.’
“This extended discussion, along with others over a period of time, led to the conclusion that the Twelve should prepare a document, perhaps even a proclamation, outlining the Church’s stand on the family to present to the First Presidency for consideration.” Source: Sheri Dew in Insights from a Prophet’s Life: Russell M. Nelson (2019), 208.
President Dallin H. Oaks:
“As one of only seven of those Apostles still living, I feel obliged to share what led to the family proclamation for the information of all who consider it. The inspiration identifying the need for a proclamation on the family came to the leadership of the Church over 23 years ago. It was a surprise to some who thought the doctrinal truths about marriage and the family were well understood without restatement. Nevertheless, we felt the confirmation and we went to work. Subjects were identified and discussed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve for nearly a year. Language was proposed, reviewed, and revised. Prayerfully we continually pleaded with the Lord for His inspiration on what we should say and how we should say it. We all learned “line upon line, precept upon precept,” as the Lord has promised (D&C 98:12).”
“During this revelatory process, a proposed text was presented to the First Presidency, who oversee and promulgate Church teachings and doctrine. After the Presidency made further changes, the proclamation on the family was announced by the President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard:
“As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I participated in the process of drafting that inspired document. It was a remarkable experience for all of us. As we travel the world, we see things–both within the Church and outside the Church. We were troubled by much of what we were seeing. We could see the people of the world wanting to define the family in ways contrary to God’s eternal plan for the happiness of His children. Various world conferences were held dealing either directly or indirectly with the family. Major agenda items were introduced by some delegates that would have greatly weakened the family; yet, through the significant contributions of Church leaders, members, and other like-minded people, the language and thus the effects of those proposals were softened.”
“In the midst of all that was stirring on this subject in the world, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles could see the importance of declaring to the world the revealed, true role of the family in the eternal plan of God. We worked together through the divinely inspired council system that operates even at the highest levels of the Church to craft a proclamation that would make the Lord’s position on the family so clear that it could not be misunderstood.”
President Boyd K. Packer:
“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.”
He later added:
“In 1995 that great document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” 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.”
Why is the family proclamation so significant?
On the 10th anniversary of the proclamation in the October 2005 general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the “prophetic document” was ahead of its time in defending traditional family values. Its clear and simple language stands in contrast to society’s confusion and convoluted definition of family.
“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,” said the Apostle, who is now the quorum’s acting president.
Since the Church was established in 1830, only six proclamations have been issued by Church leaders — the two most recent being the family proclamation and “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World” read by President Russell M. Nelson during the April 2020 general conference.
Others include the 1841 proclamation detailing the progress of the Church; the 1845 proclamation on the Restoration of the gospel; the 1865 proclamation on the nature of God; and the 1980 proclamation on the 150th anniversary of the Church’s organization. The first three proclamations were issued in the first 35 years after the Church’s organization, and the last three came in the past 40 years.
Proclamations are different from official declarations, doctrinal expositions or statements on policies. Rather than being specifically directed at Latter-day Saints, proclamations are generally directed to the world.
How have Church leaders used the family proclamation?
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” has been cited more than 150 times in general conferences and used in interfaith discussions at the Vatican and other international stages over the past 25 years. At the World Congress of Families held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in August 2009, President Nelson — then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — quoted excerpts from the proclamation to emphasize the importance of the family as the fundamental unit of society.
“On all sides, the family is under attack,” he said. “Many wonder if the institution is no longer needed. Our response is certain. If there is any hope for the future of nations, that hope resides in the family. Our children are our wealth; our children are our strength; our children are indeed our future!”
Addressing religious leaders at the Vatican in November 2014, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency called for “a renaissance of happy marriages and productive families” based on the principles of the family proclamation.
“As we work to build and encourage faithful, loving marriages in which men and women become as one and nurture their families, the Lord will multiply our efforts,” he said. “As we join together in this work, I promise progress toward that happy result.”
Speaking during a faith-based panel discussion about refugee integration at the United Nations in New York City in April 2017, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham expressed her hope that faith-based organizations “will all work together through small and simple means to accomplish extraordinary things.”
“As defined by my faith, and by the United Nations, the family is the fundamental unit of society,” she said, drawing on the family proclamation. “Thus, care should be taken to protect the family, especially those in dire circumstances.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles underscored the family as the cornerstone in society as he spoke to members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies in Argentina in May 2018.
“My friends, the family matters,” he said, after introducing the family proclamation. “Indeed, a nation’s values and strengths are but the sum total of the values and strengths of its families.”
Source: Walker, S. (2020, September 23). In 25 years, ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ has gone from UN to Vatican and beyond.
The Theology of the Family
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “a theology of the family. We call it the plan of salvation, the plan of happiness. It is a theology of the family … [with] three pillars of that theology. First is the Creation, the time when the family unit was formed. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “We have always understood that the foundations of the family, as an eternal unit, were laid even before this earth was created” (Beck, 2009).
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.” Its declarations are, of course, visibly different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy of the world in which we live. In our day, the differences most evident are cohabitation without marriage, same-sex marriage, and the raising of children in such relationships. Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world consider this family proclamation as just a statement of policy that should be changed. In contrast, Latter-day Saints affirm that the family proclamation defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.
We have witnessed a rapid and increasing public acceptance of cohabitation without marriage and of same-sex marriage. The corresponding media advocacy, education, and even occupational requirements pose difficult challenges for Latter-day Saints. We must try to balance the competing demands of following the gospel law in our personal lives and teachings, even as we seek to show love for all. In doing so we sometimes face, but need not fear, what Isaiah called “the reproach of men.”
Converted Latter-day Saints believe that the family proclamation, issued nearly a quarter century ago and now translated into scores of languages, is the Lord’s reemphasis of the gospel truths we need to sustain us through current challenges to the family” (Oaks, 2017).
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is properly known as a family-centered Church. But what is not well understood is that our family-centeredness is focused on more than mortal relationships. Eternal relationships are also fundamental to our theology. “The family is ordained of God.” Under the great plan of our loving Creator, the mission of His restored Church is to help the children of God achieve the supernal blessing of exaltation in the celestial kingdom, which can be attained only through an eternal marriage between a man and a woman (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–3)” (Oaks, 2018).
The gospel plan each family should follow to prepare for eternal life and exaltation is outlined in the proclamation. Its declarations are, of course, visibly different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy of the world in which we live. In our day, the differences most evident are cohabitation without marriage, same-sex marriage, and the raising of children in such relationships. Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world consider this family proclamation as just a statement of policy that should be changed. In contrast, Latter-day Saints affirm that the family proclamation defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur (Oaks, 2017).
“The family is not an accident of mortality. It existed as an organizational unit in the heavens before the world was formed; historically, it started on earth with Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis. Adam and Eve were married and sealed for time and all eternity by the Lord, and as a result their family will exist eternally” (Hales, 1997).
From the official Church website:
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.
I testify that the proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life. It has been the basis of Church teaching and practice for the last 22 years and will continue so for the future. Consider it as such, teach it, live by it, and you will be blessed as you press forward toward eternal life.
Forty years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself.” I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of those tests for this generation. I pray for all Latter-day Saints to stand firm in that test.
“The Plan and the Proclamation.” October 2017 General Conference.
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 scripture-like in its power. When you wonder why we are the way we are, … you can find the authority for that in this proclamation on the family. … You’ll find answers there—and they are the answers of the Church.
“Proclamation on the Family,” Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast, 9 February 2008.
“Approaching Doctrine” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (4 May 2007). Retrieved from https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine
Beck, Julie B. “Nourishing and Protecting the Family” (May 2009). Retrieved from https://womensconference.byu.edu/sites/womensconference.ce.byu.edu/files/julie_b._beck.pdf
Ballard, Russell M. “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood” 19 August 2003, BYU Campus Education Week.
Dew, S. Insights From a Prophet’s Life (2019), 208.
Doctrine and Covenants Church History Teacher Manual, “Lesson 159: The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
Hales, Robert D. “Clothed with Charity: Talks from the 1996 Women’s Conference” (1997), 134.
Hinckley, Gordon B. “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign (25 November 1995): 100
Hinckley, Gordon, B. Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1: 1995–1999 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 32.
Oaks, Dallin H. “The Plan and the Proclamation,” Ensign (November 2017).
Oaks, Dallin H. “The Truth and the Plan”, October 2018 General Conference.
Packer, Boyd K. “The Instrument of Your Mind and the Foundation of Your Character,” CES Fireside (2 February 2003).
Packer, Boyd K., “Fledgling Finches and Family Life, BYU Campus Education Week Devotional, (18 August 2009).
Pearce, Virginia Hinckley (2015, September 23). ‘A Proclamation to the World’ is 20 years old. Retrieved from https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/family-proclamation-20-year-anniversary
Seymour, N. (2015, November 05). The Family Proclamation: A clear standard to the world. Retrieved from https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/2015-11-05/the-family-proclamation-a-clear-standard-to-the-world-29984
The Family Proclamation: A clear standard to the world. Retrieved from https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/2015-11-05/the-family-proclamation-a-clear-standard-to-the-world-29984
Wilkins, Richard G. (2005) “The Principles of the Proclamation: Ten Years of Help,” BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 44 : Issue 3 , Article 3. Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol44/iss3/3