A decade has passed since President Gordon B. Hinckley introduced “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” on September 23, 1995. Since then, the proclamation issued by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has stood as a standard in defense of the family.
Speaking of the proclamation, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “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” (see this issue, p. 41).
Based on gospel truths, the proclamation has been a guide in the home, the community, and world meetings concerning the family; a pillar of strength in political circles; a missionary tool; and a building block for greater Church emphasis on the family.
A Warning Ahead of Its Time
In modern society, where family values have deteriorated, the proclamation offers eternal truths concerning the importance of founding families on righteousness. The proclamation was issued before society at large recognized the extent of the decline of the family, said David C. Dollahite, professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.
Before introducing the proclamation at the general Relief Society meeting in 1995, President Hinckley described the state of society: “The world we are in is a world of turmoil, of shifting values. Shrill voices call out for one thing or another in betrayal of time-tested standards of behavior. The moral moorings of our society have been badly shaken” (“Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 98).
The proclamation clearly states doctrine that promotes the sanctity of the family in a society where families are being undermined by adultery, divorce, cohabitation, abuse, homosexuality, abortion, teen pregnancies, pornography, disobedient children, economic struggles, an increasing unwillingness among married couples to bear and rear children, and more.
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how the eternal perspective of the proclamation provides a better perspective for understanding the value of family relations: “A child hearing and believing the words of the proclamation regarding families united eternally would begin a lifetime of looking for a holy temple where ordinances and covenants perpetuate family relationships beyond the grave” (“The Family,” Liahona, Oct. 1998, 12; Ensign, Feb. 1998, 10).
A Guide for Families
“The more surely you rear your children in the ways of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with love and high expectation, the more likely that there will be peace in their lives,” said President Hinckley (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 99).
The proclamation states: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).
Virna Rodríguez of the Panorama Ward, Guatemala City Guatemala Mariscal Stake, told the Church magazines that in a world of confusion, the proclamation is a guide: “It has helped us prioritize our activities, know our responsibilities, and recognize our blessings.”
Lee Mei Chen Ho from the Tao Yuan Third Ward, Tao Yuan Taiwan Stake, said the proclamation has taught her that family relationships help develop divine characteristics such as faith, patience, and love. “When I try to improve myself according to the proclamation, I can experience real happiness,” she said.
The proclamation offers solutions, according to Richard G. Wilkins, professor of law at Brigham Young University. “The fact is … the family is the best place for men, women, and children to be,” he said. “There are problems in families, and they need to be fixed. … The proclamation addresses the things that go wrong in families. It reminds people that our homes can be, and should be, a refuge and a sanctuary.”
A Call to World Leaders
Since 1995, the proclamation has been translated into 77 languages and distributed to many world leaders. The proclamation asks citizens and government leaders to protect family values: “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.”
“There are a number of [pro-family] organizations that have been established in the last 10 years,” Brother Dollahite said. Many of those organizations are acquainted with Latter-day Saint beliefs concerning the family. “The proclamation has been used as the basis or at least as one of the sources of language or ideas to craft statements that support marriage and family life,” he said.
On December 6, 2004, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the findings of the November 2004 Doha Declaration, which contains many of the proclamation’s central teachings. Among the principles contained in the declaration that are similar to those in the proclamation is the concept that marriage is between man and woman, with each partner of equal esteem.
At the European Regional Dialogue Conference on the Family in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 2004, Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, was given the opportunity to speak. She supported her comments with the proclamation.
A Compass for Research and Advocacy
Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy has said, “The proclamation serves not only as a handbook for family living, but also as a compass for family research and advocacy” (“The Eternal Family,” BYU Magazine, winter 1998, 29).
Brother Wilkins, managing director of the World Family Policy Center, said the center’s goal is to “develop good, scholarly support from BYU and around the world for the principles in the proclamation and to bring them to the attention of world leaders, because many people understand and share the values of the proclamation.” He said reasoned evidence and discussion tend to bring support for the family from large international audiences.
Each year BYU hosts 40 to 50 ambassadors from various nations for a conference on the family. The proclamation is presented to every leader at the research-oriented conference. “We don’t preach to the ambassadors about religion,” Brother Wilkins said. “We bring in distinguished sociologists who talk about how marriage between a man and a woman is unique and produces more positive outcomes for society and individuals than other forms of relationships.”
A Banner to the World
Brother Dollahite, editor or coeditor of several books on the proclamation, said: “I think that anyone who reads it with an open mind and an open heart is going to be touched by the Spirit. They may not recognize why it just seems to ring true to them, but, as does scripture, to honest hearts and minds it very much rings true.”
In El Salvador, Church members partner with school administrators throughout the country to teach moral lessons. One of the lessons is about families, and among other Church materials, the proclamation is used.
A teacher in El Salvador attended a chapel open house because she had seen the moral lessons given in the schools. “I have seen the change in my students’ lives, and I said to myself, ‘I will go to see if I can find something to help my own family,’” she said. “After visiting the presentations, I think the only thing I have to do is to make the decision to change. I want to receive the missionaries because I need help for my children” (Central America News of the Church, in Liahona, Jan. 2004, N13).
“Today I call on members of this Church and on committed parents, grandparents, and extended family members everywhere to hold fast to this great proclamation,” Elder Ballard said, “to make it a banner not unlike General Moroni’s ‘title of liberty,’ and to commit ourselves to live by its precepts” (see this issue, p. 42).