Doctrine & Covenants Lesson 51 (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)
Since its announcement in 1995, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”1 has been received worldwide with gratitude and reverence which regard it as akin to scripture. Its inspired language and timeless principles are like a rod of iron guiding us through these troublesome times, as traditional family values are being quickly abandoned by the world.
We are a family Church, and the topic of eternal families is a constant theme. Nevertheless, family circumstances may vary among class members, and we must be sensitive to these differences. Everyone is part of a family with both earthly and heavenly parents. And no faithful Saint who desires and lives for it will ever be denied the blessing of an eternal family in the end.
The Family Is Central to God’s Plan
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was presented by President Gordon B. Hinckley at the general Relief Society meeting in September 1995. Since that time, it has been reprinted in many languages for Church members and others throughout the world It has also been presented to government leaders in many lands.
President Dallin H. Oaks taught:
“Latter-day Saints who understand God’s plan of salvation have a unique worldview that helps them see the reason for God’s commandments, the unchangeable nature of His required ordinances, and the fundamental role of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our Savior’s Atonement reclaims us from death and, subject to our repentance, saves us from sin. With that worldview, Latter-day Saints have distinctive priorities and practices and are blessed with the strength to endure the frustrations and pains of mortal life. . . .
“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.”2
PARAGRAPH 1 OF THE PROCLAMATION
This paragraph discusses why God has given us this inspired proclamation. Marriage and family are “ordained of God” and “central to [His] plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Why do we have this proclamation on the family now? Because the family is under attack. All across the world families are falling apart. The place to begin to improve society is in the home. Children do, for the most part, what they are taught. We are trying to make the world better by making the family stronger.”3
● D&C 131:2–3 In order to achieve the highest degree of exaltation, we “must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it.” Thus, like the Apostle, Paul declared, “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11).
PARAGRAPH 2 OF THE PROCLAMATION
● We are all spirit children of God, created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). This doctrine teaches us about our eternal potential. The knowledge that we are a member of Heavenly Father’s family can affect the way we feel about our earthly families. It can also strengthen us as we consider our divine potential. The world would have us believe that gender is not an eternal principle. This paragraph also declares that gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
● I once attended another ward and stood in the hallway watching children exit their Primary classes. One young boy of about 6 years walked past me in a little suit and tie, looking every bit like a missionary. On his head was a cardboard crown his teacher had made for him. He carried it very proudly, relishing his “kingship.” Across the front of the crown were the words “I am a child of God,” and across the back “Future King.” This knowledge of our future potential is central to the purpose of families, as well as of the Church.
PARAGRAPH 3 OF THE PROCLAMATION
● The purposes of mortal life are to obtain a body, gain earthly experience, and progress toward perfection. All of this was designed to be accomplished within earthly families.
● D&C 105:33; 124:30; 132:7 Sacred ordinances make eternal families possible. For marriage and family to be eternal, the marriage ordinance must be performed in the temple by one who has the authority to declare it “eternal.” Those who receive this ordinance must keep the covenants that are associated with it, or it will not be considered eternal. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “If a person violates a covenant, whether it be of baptism, ordination, marriage, or anything else, the Spirit withdraws the stamp of approval, and the blessings will not be received.”4
PARAGRAPHS 4 AND 5 OF THE PROCLAMATION
● The power to create mortal life is sacred. God has given strict commandments regarding the use of the power to create mortal life. This is because it is central to our Father’s plan to provide mortal bodies for His spirit children and to teach them concerning their divine potential.
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Children are the inheritance of the Lord to us in this life and also in eternity. Eternal life is not only to have forever our descendants from this life. It is also to have eternal increase. . . . We can understand why our Heavenly Father commands us to reverence life and to cherish the powers that produce it as sacred. If we do not have those reverential feelings in this life, how could our Father give them to us in the eternities?”5
Elder Jeffrey R: Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “The body is an essential part of the soul. . . . We declare that one who uses the God-given body of another without divine sanction abuses the very soul of that individual, abuses the central purpose and processes of life. . . . In sexual transgression the soul is at stake—the body and the spirit.”6
Parents are responsible to help children understand the importance of moral cleanliness through both precept and example. The Church has also plainly stated its teachings on sexual purity, as found in For the Strength of Youth  and A Parent’s Guide .
PARAGRAPH 6 OF THE PROCLAMATION
● Spouses’ sacred duty to care for each other. Married couples must strengthen their love for each other continuously. President Gordon B: Hinckley taught: “When you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another: Selfishness is the great destroyer of happy family life: If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on throughout eternity.”7
● Parents’ sacred duty to teach their children. As children observe righteous support and affection between their parents, they will learn how to love and care for each other and how to behave when they have families of their own. “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God, and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” Parents will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
● D&C 93:40 The Lord has commanded us to “bring up your children in light and truth.”
● Mosiah 4:14–15 King Benjamin taught that this means we “will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”
● D&C 68:25, 27–28 The Lord declared in our own day that “inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. . . . And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands. And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.”
● The Church has continually promoted practices that can lead to this result:
— Family home evening
— Family prayer
— Traveling together
— Working together
● President Howard W. Hunter counseled: “Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.”8
● Parents can work together with the Church to teach their children, but the primary responsibility remains at home. President Spencer W: Kimball said: “It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children: The Sunday School, the Primary, [Mutual,] and other organizations of the Church play a secondary role.”9
PARAGRAPH 7 OF THE PROCLAMATION
● “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Some have wondered why the scriptures do not contain more instruction concerning families and family life. In fact, they are full of those principles. The proclamation states that “successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” In other words, all of the principles of the gospel pertain to families. At home, we have the primary context in which the gospel should be lived to its fulness.
● By divine design, fathers are to “preside . . . in love and righteousness.”
● D&C 121:41–43 This means to preside as Christ presided; not by edict or with the threat of force, but “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy” (D&C 121:41-43).
● D&C 121:45–46 Only when the priesthood is exercised in this manner can a man’s “confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood . . . distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”
● Fathers are also primarily responsible to provide for the needs of their families. Boys and young men must be taught to prepare themselves now to provide for their families by gaining a formal education and learning practical and valuable skills.
● Avoiding abuse of all kinds. A marriage performed in a holy temple strengthens our commitment to our spouse and children and our resolve to keep our temple covenants. It should also affect the way we treat our family members in this life. The proclamation warns that those “who abuse spouse or offspring . . . will one day stand accountable before God.” Church leaders have spoken out against abuse of any kind. President Gordon B. Hinckley said to the priesthood brethren: “Never abuse your wives. Never abuse your children. But gather them in your arms and make them feel of your love and your appreciation and your respect. Be good husbands. Be good fathers.”10
● “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” Girls and young women must prepare themselves now to fulfill this responsibility. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “If there is to be a return to old and sacred values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, that integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled, and that love is nurtured. . . . Sisters, guard your children.. . . Nothing is more precious to you as mothers, absolutely nothing. Your children are the most valuable thing you will have in time or all eternity. You will be fortunate indeed if, as you grow old and look at those you brought into the world, you find in them uprightness of life, virtue in living, and integrity in their behavior.”11
● The shared responsibilities of fathers and mothers. Parents must help each other in their duties, as equal partners. This means that fathers must also nurture their children. And it means that mothers must be willing to help in providing for temporal needs. This may, in some circumstances, mean finding ways to bring in additional resources. It also means that both must be equally involved in financial planning and decisions about the use of resources.
THE FINAL TWO PARAGRAPHS OF THE PROCLAMATION
● Strengthening families is everyone’s responsibility. There are serious consequences for family disintegration, and all people need to strengthen the family in society. In response to this call, both parents and children should reflect on the things they have done to help bring greater strength and unity to the family.
● Individuals and families should also work to promote stronger families in our communities. President Gordon B. Hinckley told a gathering of mayors and other public officials: “To you men and women of great influence, you who preside in the cities of the nation, to you I say that it will cost far less to reform our schools, to teach the virtues of good citizenship than it will to go on building and maintaining costly jails and prisons. . . . But there is another institution of even greater importance than the schools. It is the home. I believe that no nation can rise higher than the strength of its families.”12
CONCLUSION—NO EMPTY CHAIRS IN ETERNITY
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “The plan of the Father is that family love and companionship will continue into the eternities. Being . . . in a family carries a great responsibility of caring, loving, lifting, and strengthening each member of the family so that all can righteously endure to the end in mortality and dwell together throughout eternity. It is not enough just to save ourselves. It is equally important that parents, brothers, and sisters are saved in our families. If we return home alone to our Heavenly Father, we will be asked, ‘Where is the rest of the family?’”13
1. Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.
2. “The Plan and the Proclamation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 29.
3. “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 5.
4. Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, 45.
5. “The Family,” Ensign, Feb. 1998, 15.
6. In Conference Report, Oct: 1998, 99-100; or Ensign, Nov: 1998, 76.
7. “Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Dec: 1995, 67.
8. General Conference Address, October 1994.
9. The Teachings of Spencer W Kimball, ed: Edward L: Kimball , 332.
10. “Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, June 1999, 2.
11. “Walking in the Light of the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 99.
12. “U.S. Conference of Mayors,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 109.
13. In Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 88; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 65.