The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Today there is chaos in the world. There are governments failing, despair, suffering, neglect. Equally as tragic is what is happening in homes around the world. More and more single-parent families, divorces, abuse, teenage pregnancies…Are these developments completely isolated? There is a wider lack of family values in the home and this is having an impact on societies and civilisations around the world. As a result, the First Presidency in 1995 published ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’.

It states “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents…” (The Family) – this already highlights an important fact – our first family experience is not here on Earth. We lived in a family before this life, we are all spirit brothers and sisters in the express image of our Father in Heaven. President Joseph F Smith once said “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body.” The family ideal is something that is innate to us, else why would the whole human family still focus around the basic structure of the family? God is our loving Heavenly Father and as such “…shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live.” (Hebrews 12:9) As a good father cares for and knows what can help their children, our perfect Heavenly Father knows truly what is best for us – hence why we need to listen to his commandments, including His words on the family.

The Proclamation later says “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.” What a great blessing is this  – our family relationships can last beyond the grave. A husband and wife can have the assurance, not just a wish, that they and their children will be sealed together forever as they keep their covenants. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say…” (D&C 82:10) God has to give us the blessings if we are obedient to His commandments. What a great comfort it is to know that God will always be faithful to keep His promises as long as we are faithful to strive to keep our promises.

The Proclamation then begins to talk about the elements of the law of chastity that needs to be followed in order to obtain the previously mentioned blessings. It first says “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” A couple of things can be drawn from this. First, between man and woman. It talks about this in the scriptures, including Romans 1:27. There is a reason for this – we have been commanded to replenish the earth, hence why we are commanded to not impede the Lord’s plan to create eternal families and this cannot be done unless man and woman are together.

Also, the proclamation specifically says a husband and a wife. This goes beyond a certificate – this is much deeper and abiding. When a man and a woman take vows to be loyal, they promise to each other that they will honour and cherish one another until the day they die, and beyond in an eternal marriage. The power behind that is incredible – when each person in this mutual agreement has the same goal in mind, great things can happen “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:11)

It goes on to say “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed.” (Family Proclamation) The sacred power is to be used only within the boundaries the Lord has set. Temptation is strong to disregard the commandments of God in this area. However the Lord has promised help through difficult challenges. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.(1 Corinthians 10:13) There are many who suffer the same temptations but the Lord will provide a way if you will lean on him.

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.” (Family Proclamation) People who truly love one another and understand God’s eternal plan will not sacrifice their eternal happiness and safety for immediate pleasure now. They will put all their efforts into building that eternal marriage and strengthening one another.

We are also to love our children, it says “…mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” (Family Proclamation) There are a couple of ways people can neglect their parental responsibilities. One is to neglect spending time with their children and developing eternal relationships and instead focus on other, less important things. “All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.” (D&C 83:4) and “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) These verses relate to the physical and spiritual maintenance of our children. It is the duty of the parents to provide for these needs – “But if any provide not for his own, and specifically for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith…” (1 Timothy 5:8).

It then talks about how children deserve to be raised by parents “…who honour marital vows with complete fidelity.” (Family Proclamation) Each child has this right. When this principle is attained – love, trust and commitment in family relations will develop which will inevitably lead to more happiness and unity in families, spreading to the community.

Also “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” (Family Proclamation) Life’s greatest joys are to be found in the home, however this feeling of unity cannot be reached with no effort – a strong relationship takes effort, such as doing and implementing the guidance in the Family Proclamation. However, as we do those things, that brings great happiness now and forever. We can achieve that. Through activities such as family home evenings, we can achieve security and unity in the home.

As with all commandments, there being positive consequences if we follow them, there are also negative consequences if they are not followed.  We will hurt those around us if we do not fulfil our duties “Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you.” (Jacob 2:35)

We are called upon to strengthen the family and be examples of purity, in fact we are to “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God…” (D&C 121:45) – we will be able to stand before the Lord and say with confidence that we have lived the best life we can. We will then receive the Holy Spirit’s guidance, strength, comfort and protection as we follow this guidance.