|The Proclamation on the Family
Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Building Up a Righteous Posterity
February 9, 2008
President Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I’m grateful to participate in this meeting and greet all of you across the world on this very sacred and solemn occasion with perhaps the most important subject that we could bring to you from the leadership of the Church. We have watched, as you have watched, the patterns of the world and have become increasingly concerned about the matters of home and family.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored Church, and the initial introduction was the appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith. In that great First Vision, as we refer to it now, two great transcendent ideas were revealed that have guided the Church ever since.
The first: He is the Father. Of all the titles that God might have given to Himself, He chose the one that’s closest to all of us. He is our Father. We accept that—that we are the children of God. And with the Son being there, it became a family introduction. And so the Father and the Son appeared.
In a revelation given shortly thereafter, the Lord said, “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments” (D&C 1:17).
Living by Revelation
And that was a beginning. It was the pattern, that we are to act and organize and live according to the revelations that the Lord had given. These revelations, as you know, compiled in the book of the Doctrine and Covenants and the revelations in the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price, form the scriptural foundation for the Church.
We found that the Lord did not organize the Church according to the patterns of the other churches of the world. That is, there is no professional clergy. We don’t have seminaries as such to prepare clergymen or clergywomen to guide the Church. It is summed up in another sentence that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, . . . the Savior of the world” (D&C 1:20).
We find in that an equality of the brethren who hold the priesthood and the women who stand at their side. We work together, and we’re organized first as families. We all have the right to inspiration and revelation, and oh, how we need it in this world, especially in the great challenge of raising a family.
Raising a Righteous Posterity
Now, the theme of this meeting is to raise up a righteous posterity; it is an obligation. The first commandment given to Adam and Eve was that they were to multiply and replenish the earth, and the processes of multiplying and replenishing the earth were given to them in their bodies. And that pattern would continue through all of the annals of human history.
So we had the first family—Adam and his wife, Eve, and then their children. We know that there had been a war in heaven and that there had been a rebellion and that Satan had been cast out. He was determined to destroy the works of the Almighty and was informed enough or wise enough or even inspired enough to know that the place where he should start his destruction was with the family. We see that in the account of Adam and Eve. Then as the history of the Church unfolded, the responsibility of parents and children emerged.
A Proclamation to the World
Not too many years ago there came a movement in the world having to do with the family. The United Nations called a council on the family in Beijing, China. We sent delegations to that council on the family and to other councils that were held. And then it was announced that one of them would be held near our headquarters, and we thought, “Well, if they are coming here, we had better proclaim ourselves.”
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. And at that time, this was a little more than 10 years ago, the Brethren issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” It is scripturelike in its power.
Now, you will hear in the other presentations that are made many references to the proclamation on the family. I thought it would be of good purpose to read it to you. We know we’ve read it. But if we read it slowly and carefully and articulate it very well, it may have more revelation than you thought was there.
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.
Let me just read the proclamation to you, and you listen to it and see if you don’t see in it the things that are foremost in society, in politics, in government, in religion now that are causing the most concern and difficulty. And you’ll find answers there. And the answers that are there are the answers of the Church.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” 1
“The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of [all] His children.”
We know in the Church from the doctrines that have been revealed to us that we had a premortal existence. It didn’t all begin with the population of the earth with humankind. And the doctrines of the gospel were not new when they were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. They were from all eternity and will be for all eternity. Now listen carefully:
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.”
The Great Plan of Happiness
Note that it describes it as the plan of happiness. It is described elsewhere, in the Book of Mormon, as the “great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8).
“The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. 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.”
“The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
You’ll note as we go through this that declarations such as this are challenged. The world wants to change it. We will not. We cannot. When you wonder who we are and why we are, remember that we have this pattern and we will follow it.
“We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.”
Our position on such things as divorce, abortion, and gender issues are stated and outlined in the revelations, and the proclamation on the family is the clearest statement that we find of those issues.
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). 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. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”
And in the Church we recognize no other pattern for marriage—marriage is between man and woman.
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I’ve always felt that the ultimate end of all of the activities and programs of the Church rests in a man and a woman and their family being happy at home.
“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
“We warn”—we don’t often use that word, but it’s appropriate here—“We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”1
Doctrines and Ordinances
Now, you will hear in the presentations made in this Churchwide meeting practical applications and instruction and counsel and guidance, but it’s all centered back on the revelations of the scriptures, on doctrine, and on the principles as proclaimed in this proclamation on the family.
When you young people who now look forward to marriage and a family life look around and see the dangers, there is only one place on this earth where the family can be fully protected, and that’s within the ordinances and the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Live the gospel, and you’re going to be all right.
The world isn’t a very pleasant place to live in, and there are challenges and disorders and patterns of life and death and all of the problems that come to us, and yet the answers are found in understanding that the family is the fundamental unit of the Church. All of the activities of the Church are calculated to strengthen the family.
Help for Families
Sometimes we may move a little away from our position of supporting families to having the families responsible to support the Church. Local leaders need to use care in organizing activities and programs of the Church to bring the young men and young women forward and prepare them for married life and then help them in their early marriage years and on to old age.
I’m finding that old age is an interesting experience. I have wondered about the patterns of love and family association, the romantic love of youth. Will that be preserved? Oh, yes. That will not only be preserved but glorified and augmented.
Now, it’s not easy to establish a family in this life and to raise children. But with the Church as it is, you find the help that you need.
We know how to pray, we know how to teach, but there are times when we need help. Always, everywhere, there’s a priesthood file leader. We’ve been taught the patterns of revelation and know that we have individual revelation. When we are unsure, we can turn to priesthood file leaders. And if we follow them, we’ll get safely through modern life with our children and our grandchildren.
Now in our family we have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and still have the need to turn to the priesthood file leaders, to do what we are ordinarily expected to do in the Church. There are times of challenge and difficulty and danger and disappointment, but protecting families is what the Church is about. We do everything we can in the Church to protect the families, and then there is the priesthood leadership, the power that’s present everywhere in the world, in every nation where the Church exists—men who are ordained to the priesthood and women who are wise and maternal, with motherly instincts.
When our children left home to go a great distance and settle their family in a distant city, we saw them leave and had the comfort of knowing that they would have a family there. And we told our children on more than one occasion, “You won’t be able to telephone us very often because of the expense. But you will have a grandma there. Where will you find your grandma? In Relief Society. And you’ll have wise counsel and be able to have the same strength that you’ve had in our own family. And when you go, it just broadens the family circle.”
Now, if you’ll listen to the instruction that will be coming in this session, you’ll find that there is inspiration and direction. Know also that when we’re baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is another ordinance, separate from baptism, in which the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred. Brethren holding the authority place their hands upon the head of each individual, each person who has been baptized, and confer upon him or her that gift, and it is to be a light and a teacher and a corrector and a guide as we move through life.
Guidance and Blessings
I don’t think it’s called for for members of the Church to live in fear, to see all that’s going on around us and say, “How can we ever raise a family when all of this temptation and difficulty is about us?”
Well, you can, because you can be guided and you can teach your children to be guided. In all of that you can live a happy life and find in the consummation of all of this, in the next existence, that the family can be together.
Now, sometimes there are those that are lost. We have the promise of the prophets that they are not lost permanently, that if they are sealed in the temple ordinances and if the covenants are kept, in due time, after all the correction that’s necessary to be given, that they will not be lost.
So I extend my blessings to all of you across the Church as you enjoy family life, either as parents or as children or in any pattern that is your pattern, that you’ll be blessed and watched over, that the power of the Holy Ghost will be present in your life and the guarding power of the priesthood ever present will be there to correct you, to bless you, to boost you, and to confirm in you a testimony.
God Is Our Father!
I know that God lives, that He is our Father, that He is our Father! I don’t quite know how to say that word. It’s a word we say almost glibly. But He’s our Father; He loves us. And in that same pattern, we who lead the Church have that same feeling to all who are members of the Church and all who might be. So I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon all of you and the blessings of the Father upon all you as members of the Church as we face the responsibility of raising up a righteous posterity, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.