3: The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 8–12


Doctrinal Overview

The purpose of the gospel is to prepare God’s children to live eternally as families. Understanding and living by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” can help us work toward this goal. Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“You can imagine the importance our Heavenly Father places upon the subject of this … proclamation.

“Because our Father loves his children, he will not leave us to guess about what matters most in this life concerning where our attention could bring happiness or our indifference bring sadness” (“The Family,” [CES fireside for college-age young adults, 5 Nov. 1995], 1; or To Draw Closer to God [1997], 157; see also student manual, 104).

1st Presidency during family proclamation

Principle

Understanding the proclamation on the family helps us prepare for eternal marriage.

Student Manual Readings

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (83)

“The Family,” Elder Henry B. Eyring (104)

Selected Teachings on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (84)

Statement in “Satan Tries to Destroy Happiness,” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (in “Happiness in Marriage,” 135)

Statement in “Satan Tries to Destroy Happiness,” President Gordon B. Hinckley (in “Happiness in Marriage,” 134)

Suggestions for How to Teach

Student manual. Invite students to read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (student manual, 83). Next have them read “The Family,” by Elder Henry B. Eyring (student manual, 104). Discuss the importance of the proclamation on the family.

Discussion. Have students read aloud several statements from the selected teachings on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (student manual, 84). Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:38. Note the Lord’s declaration that all His words will be fulfilled. Testify that the proclamation on the family qualifies as the voice of the Lord’s servants. Have students identify the proclamation’s promises and warnings to individuals and nations. Discuss any events or trends in your community or nation that this proclamation warns about.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Student manual. The proclamation on the family addresses ways we can withstand Satan’s attacks on marriage and the family. Read the statement by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the subsection “Satan Tries to Destroy Happiness” (in “Happiness in Marriage,” student manual, 135). (You may also want to read additional statements from this subsection to reinforce the point.)

Have students turn to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (student manual, 83) and find key words that indicate the seriousness of its counsel. Write their answers on the board. If students do not identify the following phrases, add them to the list:

  • “We … solemnly proclaim” (par. 1)

  • “We declare” (par. 4, 5)

  • “Held accountable before God” (par. 6)

  • “We warn that individuals” (par. 8)

  • “We warn that … individuals, communities, and nations” (par. 8)

  • “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere” (par. 9)

Group work. Read the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Perhaps our greatest concern is with families. The family is falling apart all over the world. The old ties that bound together father and mother and children are breaking everywhere” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 94; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 69).

Make copies of the following five statements, each on a separate handout. Divide the class into groups of three or four and give each group one or more of the statements. Explain that these statements describe some of the challenges that confront families. Have students turn to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (student manual, 83). Have the groups review their assigned statements looking for problems faced by families. Then have them review the proclamation on the family looking for ways the proclamation helps us prevent or combat those problems. Have each group list on a piece of paper the problems and solutions they find.

Statement 1

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted:

“‘[In the United States the] parents of nearly 2,750 children separate or divorce each day. …

“‘Every day over 500 children ages 10 to 14 begin using illegal drugs, and over 1,000 start drinking alcohol. Nearly half of all middle-schoolers abuse drugs or alcohol or [become involved in immorality]’ [Louis S. Richman, “Struggling to Save Our Kids,” Fortune, 10 Aug. 1992, 34–35]. Data from other nations are equally alarming.

“These and many other ills of our society today have their source in the breakdown of the family. If Satan can weaken or destroy the loving relationships among members of families, he can cause more misery and more unhappiness for more people than he could in any other way” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 85; or Ensign, May 1993, 69).

Statement 2

President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, stated:

“‘Since 1960, the U.S. [has experienced] … a 560% increase in violent crime; a 419% increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling in divorce rates; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200% increase in the teenage suicide rate’ (William J. Bennett, “Quantifying America’s Decline,” Wall Street Journal, 15 Mar. 1993, p. A12). …

“One need not, of course, read statistics to recognize a moral decay that seems to be going on all about us” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 76–77; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 54, 59).

Statement 3

Elder Alexander B. Morrison, then a member of the Seventy, wrote:

“Federal government statistics [for the United States] for 1993 [indicate that] … over 1.2 million babies were born outside of marriage (31% of all births, up from 28% only three years previously). …

“Nearly one in four pregnancies now ends in abortion, with approximately 1.6 million abortions performed in 1990 and more than 28 million abortions [since] 1973. …

“The number of divorces in America has increased by nearly 200 percent in the last thirty years; only about 50 percent of U.S. marriages now are first-time marriages. …

“The percent of children living in single-parent homes has more than tripled in the last three decades, to its current level of nearly 29 percent of all families with children. Approximately 90 percent of single-parent homes are fatherless. …

“The reported incidence of child abuse increased from 101 per 10,000 Americans in 1976 to 390 per 10,000 in 1990, an almost fourfold increase” (Zion: A Light in the Darkness [1997], 4–7).

Statement 4

Elder Alexander B. Morrison, then a member of the Seventy, wrote:

“In The Atlantic Monthly (April 1993), Barbara Defoe Whitehead pointed out that divorce or out-of-wedlock childbirth are transforming the lives of American children. …

  • Children in single-parent families are two to three times as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems. …

  • Children in single-parent families are more likely to drop out of high school, to get pregnant as teenagers, to abuse drugs, and to be in trouble with the law. More than seventy percent of all juveniles in state reform institutions in the United States come from fatherless homes. …

  • The father-child bond is severely, often irreparably damaged in families disrupted by divorce or illegitimacy. Close to half of such children have not seen their father at all in the past year. Many fathers have simply vanished. …

“Barbara Whitehead has stated that ‘survey after survey shows that Americans are less inclined than they were a generation ago to value sexual fidelity, lifelong marriage, and parenthood as worthwhile personal goals. Motherhood no longer defines adult womanhood; equally important is the fact that fatherhood has declined as a norm for men …’ [“Dan Quayle Was Right,” Atlantic Monthly, Apr. 1993, 55–56]. …

“… No society can long survive that denigrates, demeans, and devalues fatherhood. Men who do not look upon fatherhood, preceded by an honorable marriage, as a sacred privilege and obligation, deny their own manliness and can never rise to their divine potential, either in this world or the next” (Zion: A Light in the Darkness [1997], 11–14, 18).

Statement 5

Elder Eran A. Call, then a member of the Seventy, said:

“The home is being threatened and challenged more today than ever before. Today less than half of the children born in the United States, and in many countries in the world, will spend their entire childhood in an intact family [see Barbara Defoe Whitehead, “Dan Quayle Was Right,” Atlantic Monthly, Apr. 1993, 47]. Infidelity, divorce, abortion, and abandoned homes are on the increase. The father is rapidly losing his traditional role as caregiver, breadwinner, protector, moral educator, and head of the family.

“During 1960 to 1990, a 30-year period, births outside of marriage in the United States increased 500 percent and divorce increased 400 percent [see David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (1995)]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 37–38; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 28).

Invite a student from the first group to present that group’s findings. If other groups studied that statement, have them add anything else they found. Continue with a student whose group studied another statement, and so on until you have discussed all the statements. Testify that the proclamation on the family presents the Lord’s solutions to many problems faced by families today.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Group work. Divide the class into groups of three or four and assign each group a paragraph from the proclamation on the family (student manual, 83). Have the groups look for ways the principles in their paragraph can help them make decisions in dating and courtship. Discuss their findings. If students do not mention the following points, include them in the discussion:

  • “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and … the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (par. 1). This principle helps us see why marriage is desirable and necessary.

  • Every man and woman “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny” (par. 2). This principle helps us understand why we must treat all those we date with respect.

  • “Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for … families to be united eternally” (par. 3). This principle helps dating couples understand the necessity of choosing an eternal companion wisely.

Conclusion

Share the first three paragraphs of the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the subsection “Satan Tries to Destroy Happiness” (in “Happiness in Marriage,” student manual, 134). Ask students what influence they think the principles in the proclamation should have on their decisions in dating and courtship. Testify that the proclamation on the family is an inspired document given for our safety and blessing by true prophets of God. Encourage students to study the proclamation often and apply its principles in their lives.