On September 23, 1995, in a general Relief Society meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley introduced “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This proclamation from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declares to the world the Lord’s standards and doctrines concerning the family. The proclamation also provides counsel for strengthening families and a warning about the consequences of the disintegration of families.
Note: Make sure each student has a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This document can be found on page 129 of the November 2010 issue of the Ensign or Liahona, in the Duty to God and Personal Progress booklets, in True to the Faith under “Family,” and on LDS.org. You can also find a copy of the family proclamation in the appendix of this manual.
Suggestions for Teaching
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issue a proclamation to the world concerning the family
Before class, list the following words and phrases on the board:
The importance of marriage and family
Sexual relations outside of marriage
Roles of mothers
Roles of fathers
Begin class by asking the following questions:
By the raise of hands, how many of you have had questions or know someone who has had questions related to one or more of the issues on the board?
Where can we find the Lord’s instructions on these topics?
Distribute copies of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to students. (You may want to invite students to number the paragraphs in the proclamation so they can follow along easily when you refer to different paragraphs.) Explain that President Gordon B. Hinckley announced this proclamation on September 23, 1995, in a general Relief Society meeting. Just before President Hinckley read it, he stated some of the reasons why the world needs the truths it contains. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Hinckley. Ask the class to listen for reasons why the world needs this proclamation.
“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” (“Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 100).
Why was this proclamation issued to the Church and the world?
Explain that when we study “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” we can receive answers to many questions regarding the family. To help students identify doctrines that will help them more clearly understand the subjects listed on the board, invite five students to take turns reading aloud from paragraphs 1–5 of the proclamation. Ask the class to follow along and look for doctrines that relate to the topics on the board. Stop after each paragraph to allow students to report what they have found. Invite students to mark the doctrines they find on their copies of the family proclamation.
As students report, invite them to write on the board the doctrines they identify. Students might identify and write the following doctrines:
Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God [paragraph 1].
The family is central to Heavenly Father’s plan [paragraph 1].
Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose [paragraph 2].
The plan of happiness enables family relationships to continue after death [paragraph 3].
God’s commandment for husbands and wives to have children remains in force today [paragraph 4].
God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between a man and a woman who are legally married [paragraph 4].
The creation of mortal life is a sacred and important part of Heavenly Father’s plan [paragraphs 3 and 5].
As students report each doctrine they have identified, use one or more of the follow-up questions below to help them understand the doctrine better.
How does this doctrine relate to the topics listed on the board?
Why do you think it is important to understand this doctrine?
How can understanding and believing this doctrine influence the decisions you make?
If students do not mention any of the doctrines listed above, help students locate and discuss them.
The family proclamation helps us establish successful families
Invite students to think about what they would like their future families to be like.
What types of activities, characteristics, attitudes, and beliefs do you think will bring happiness to your future family?
Divide students into small groups. Invite each group to read paragraphs 6–7 of the family proclamation aloud together. Invite them to look for things that can help them achieve happiness in their families. After sufficient time, ask the following questions to the whole class:
How is happiness in families most likely to be achieved? (Students should identify the following principle: Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may want to suggest that students mark this principle in their copies of the family proclamation.)
According to paragraphs 6 and 7, what are some principles that help families find happiness? (Consider inviting a student to write students’ responses on the board.)
Invite students to discuss the following questions together in their small groups. Provide each group with a copy of the questions, or write the questions on the board.
What examples have you seen of families following the teachings listed on the board?
Why do you think families that follow these teachings are more likely to be happy?
Note: Because of the sensitive and individual nature of family relationships, do not invite students to discuss the following activity aloud. Instead, encourage students to reflect on these teachings individually and ponder how they can improve.
After the groups have had time to discuss the questions, ask students to ponder which of these teachings they live in their families and how doing so has added to their families’ happiness. Invite students to consider which of the teachings in the proclamation they could live better in an effort to bring greater happiness to themselves and their families. You might invite students to write down a goal of how they plan to better live these teachings in their families.
As time permits, choose two or more of the following questions to discuss as a class:
According to the last half of paragraph 7, what are the responsibilities of fathers? In what ways have you seen your father or other fathers fulfill these responsibilities?
According to the last half of paragraph 7, what is the primary responsibility of mothers? In what ways have you seen your mother or other mothers fulfill this role?
What does it mean that these responsibilities are given “by divine design”? (They were established by our Heavenly Father.) Why do you think this is important to understand?
Which phrases in paragraph 7 help us understand how fathers and mothers are to help each other? (Students should identify the following principle: Fathers and mothers are obligated to help each other as equal partners in their family responsibilities.)
Why do you think it is important for mothers and fathers to understand that they are equal partners?
Invite students to share how they have seen mothers and fathers work together as equal partners.
As students discuss the need for fathers and mothers to support one another, you may want to direct their attention to the following sentence near the end of paragraph 7: “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” Assure students that the Lord is aware of these circumstances and that He blesses parents and families as they strive to fulfill their obligations.
According to the final sentence of paragraph 7, who else can assist mothers and fathers in their responsibilities? (Extended family members. You might point out that children may also help their parents.)
Explain that every family has its own difficulties but that every family can live the teachings of Jesus Christ and find happiness.
Invite a student to read aloud paragraphs 8 and 9 of the family proclamation. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what will happen if we do not fulfill our responsibilities in our families.
What will happen if we neglect our family responsibilities? (Students should express that the Lord will hold us accountable if we do not fulfill our responsibilities in our families. They may also point out that the disintegration of the family will lead to calamities.)
What responsibilities do you think children have in the family?
Invite students to ponder how they are fulfilling their responsibilities in their families. If you invited them to record a goal to better live a teaching from the family proclamation in their families, encourage them to seek the Lord’s help as they seek to accomplish their goals.
Conclude by asking a few students to share their testimonies of any of the truths taught in this lesson. You may also want to share your testimony of the doctrines and principles in the family proclamation.
Commentary and Background Information
Marriage between a man and a woman
Quoting two passages from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why marriage between a man and a woman is essential in Heavenly Father’s plan:
“Righteous marriage is a commandment and an essential step in the process of creating a loving family relationship that can be perpetuated beyond the grave.
“Two compelling doctrinal reasons help us to understand why eternal marriage is essential to the Father’s plan.
“Reason 1: The natures of male and female spirits complete and perfect each other, and therefore men and women are intended to progress together toward exaltation.
“The eternal nature and importance of marriage can be fully understood only within the overarching context of the Father’s plan for His children. …
“‘Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose’ and in large measure defines who we are, why we are here upon the earth, and what we are to do and become. For divine purposes, male and female spirits are different, distinctive, and complementary.
“After the earth was created, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden. Importantly, however, God said it was ‘not good that the man should be alone’ (Genesis 2:18; Moses 3:18), and Eve became Adam’s companion and helpmeet. The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females were needed to implement the plan of happiness. Alone, neither the man nor the woman could fulfill the purposes of his or her creation.
“By divine design, men and women are intended to progress together toward perfection and a fulness of glory. Because of their distinctive temperaments and capacities, males and females each bring to a marriage relationship unique perspectives and experiences. The man and the woman contribute differently but equally to a oneness and a unity that can be achieved in no other way. The man completes and perfects the woman and the woman completes and perfects the man as they learn from and mutually strengthen and bless each other. ‘Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 11:11; italics added).
“Reason 2: By divine design, both a man and a woman are needed to bring children into mortality and to provide the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children.
“The commandment given anciently to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force today. ‘God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. … The means by which mortal life is created [are] divinely appointed.’ Thus, marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel.
“A home with a loving and loyal husband and wife is the supreme setting in which children can be reared in love and righteousness and in which the spiritual and physical needs of children can be met. Just as the unique characteristics of both males and females contribute to the completeness of a marriage relationship, so those same characteristics are vital to the rearing, nurturing, and teaching of children” (“Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006, 82–84).
The Church’s position on same-sex marriage
“The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and behavior. While maintaining that feelings and inclinations toward the same sex are not inherently sinful, engaging in homosexual behavior is in conflict with the ‘doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture … that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children’ [“First Presidency Statement on Same-Gender Marriage”].
“Because the Church believes that the sacred powers of procreation are ‘to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife … any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.’ Accordingly, the Church favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. However, ‘protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not remove Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people’ [“The Divine Institution of Marriage,” Aug. 13, 2008, mormonnewsroom.org]” (“Same-Sex Attraction,” LDS.org).
Supplemental Teaching Ideas
The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Video presentation—“Gender Is an Essential Characteristic”
After students identify the doctrine that gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose, you may want to show them the video “Gender Is an Essential Characteristic.” This video is available on LDS.org.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Video presentation—“The Family Is Ordained of God”
To illustrate families following some of the principles taught in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the proclamation on the family, you may want to show a portion of the video “The Family Is Ordained of God” (time codes 0:00–3:29). This video is available on LDS.org. Invite students to watch for how families can make an extra effort to live by these principles.
If you and your students discuss the following topics, you might also want to show additional corresponding segments of “The Family Is Ordained of God”:
Responsibilities of fathers (time codes 3:29–5:39). Invite students to watch for examples of how fathers can fulfill their responsibilities.
Responsibilities of mothers (time codes 5:39–7:22). Invite students to watch for examples of how mothers can fulfill their responsibilities.
Fathers and mothers working as equal partners (time codes 7:22–9:06). Invite students to watch for examples of how fathers and mothers can help each other fulfill their responsibilities in their families.