The Family is Ordained of God

January 5, 2009 | 23 comments
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The power of the Proclamation on the Family is its doctrine. The Proclamation does not have powerful language. Its mostly written in passive-voice sentences and ‘be’ verbs.

This month’s new Primary song sets phrases from the Proclamation to (bad) music, including “the family is ordained of God.” I tried rewording. I discovered that at least this phrase is right. “God ordains the family” sounds too much like a mass priesthood conferral.

It is attempted to steady the ark and it is failed.

What are your thoughts on the language and syntax of the Proclamation? No beating dead horses, please.

Comment warning.

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23 Responses to The Family is Ordained of God

  1. Tom Rod on January 5, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Too much worry over a simple document, IMHO.

  2. Mark N. on January 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

    It seems that in church lessons where it it mentioned or referred to in some way, there is almost always the obligatory “don’t you think this will be added as a new section to the D&C someday?” question on the part of the teacher or one of the class members.

  3. Last Lemming on January 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

    A Google search on the phrase “ordained of” turned up the following institutions that are allegedly ordained of God on the first page:

    1. the family (2 mentions– the Proclamation at lds.org, and this post)
    2. marriage (1 mention — a Brent Barlow speech at BYU)
    3. slavery (7 mentions).

    Maybe its not the passive voice. Maybe we just need a different word than “ordained.”

  4. BTD Greg on January 5, 2009 at 11:52 am

    “It seems that in church lessons where it it mentioned or referred to in some way, there is almost always the obligatory “don’t you think this will be added as a new section to the D&C someday?” question on the part of the teacher or one of the class members.”

    It does seem that way. On the other hand, it also seems like the Church’s continued emphasis on the Proclamation points toward canonization. Doesn’t it?

  5. Matt W. on January 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Last Lemming: That’s sort of an unfair comparison, since the 7 mentions for slavery are all joined to the same speech/book by F. A. Ross.

  6. Bookslinger on January 5, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Would it go to the Pearl of Great Price first, or directly to the D&C ?

  7. Matt Evans on January 5, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Adam, I’m glad you asked about the language. Every time I read it I regret the choice of “wholesome recreational activities” — “wholesome recreation” would read so much better. “Recreation” is a good and honorable noun.

  8. Matt Evans on January 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

    Look at the number of syllables in each of the list’s items: 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 3, 1 . . . 11! E.B. White would not be happy. Dropping the final five syllables would make it less awkward.

  9. BTD Greg on January 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I wonder if the passive voice was used to sound more God-like and serious.

    Alternatively, some English stylists (the minority) argue that passive voice is acceptable where the object, rather than the subject, is the focus. Maybe the passive voice is being used here to emphasize the importance of family and the abstract concepts that are being touted.

  10. Adam Greenwood on January 5, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Matt Evans,

    Agreed.

    BTD Greg,

    I agree with the minority of English stylists in principle.

  11. Mark N. on January 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Look at the number of syllables in each of the list’s items: 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 3, 1 . . . 11!

    For a second there, I thought somebody was about to claim they had found an example of Chiasmus in the Proclamation.

  12. jsg on January 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    On the canonization topic, I find it interesting that the new D&C/church history curriculum focuses on the Proclamation in the penultimate lesson, and the Proclamation is inserted as an appendix in the class member study guide. I don’t think this was the case four years ago.

  13. BTD Greg on January 5, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    jsg,

    I remember teaching the Proclamation as the penultimate lesson in Gospel Doctrine four years ago. I think it was included in the study guide as well, but I can’t be sure.

  14. California Roland on January 6, 2009 at 1:25 am

    When the Proclamation first came out in 1995 it struck me as material that could be canonized.

  15. mlu on January 6, 2009 at 2:15 am

    When the church does things that seem to conflict with my professional training, I start by assuming my trainers and I are less highly evolved. It’s served me in good stead.

    Mormons have their own style. It’s often indirect. #9 strikes me as being on the right path. Maybe if English verbs included all tenses, so we could say with only one verb: God did ordain, does now ordain and will always ordain the family. . .

  16. Adam Greenwood on January 6, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    “God did ordain, does now ordain and will always ordain the family”

    Nice phrasing. Actually the present tense of the verb *can* mean that. “God ordains the family” can mean God’s timeless decree in favor of the institution of the family. But using the present tense of the verb that way is rarer in English and maybe a little confusing for that reason.

  17. Rob Perkins on January 6, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Sure to cause every Mormon to wonder “ordained to which Priesthood office, and buh what?”

    I checked an abridged Oxford dictionary (Get a Mac! “Free” dictionary!) which shows it’s a transitive verb whose indirect use here is contextually standard: “order or decree (something) officially : equal punishment was ordained for the two crimes,” so it’s not even an anachronistic use, just uncommon and perhaps technical.

    Do the Evangelicals use “ordain” in any similar way?

  18. Ariel on January 6, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Re: #11, that was also my initial impression.

    Re: #17, I have heard the word used that way in evangelical churches.

    As a side note, my mom insists that it has already been canonized. I wonder how many members share that belief?

  19. Kent G. Budge on January 6, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Since the Saints have never believed in a closed canon, and since “open canon” is an oxymoron, I’m not sure what it means to say the Proclamation on the Family is or is not canonized.

    Oh, I’m not stupid. I think I know what you think you mean when you say that it is not now canonized but might be someday. But, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  20. Adam Greenwood on January 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Why is an open canon an oxymoron?

  21. Kent G. Budge on January 8, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Because the whole notion of a scriptural canon, as understood by everyone but Mormons, is that it is the final, unalterable, infallible word of God. Which precludes any additions or corrections.

    Back on the original topic, which I believe was the pedestrian language of the Proclamation: There was a discussion like this back around 1831. See D&C 67: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/67

  22. Adam Greenwood on January 8, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Because the whole notion of a scriptural canon, as understood by everyone but Mormons, is that it is the final, unalterable, infallible word of God. Which precludes any additions or corrections

    Why do you think that when Mormons talk about canonization they are using the non-Mormon definition? There’s nothing incoherent about designating a group of texts as scripture and altering that designation from time to time.

    Just because Calvinists think the number of elect has been fixed forever doesn’t mean we can’t go on baptizing and excommunicating. I’m not accusing you of Calvinism; this is an analogy.

  23. Rob Perkins on January 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Nothing in my dictionary’s definition of “canon” suggests “final, unalterable, infallible”. Applying those ideas to the word is technical Calvinism. Thus, “open canon”, as used these days, but especially from the perspective of Peter’s vision in the New Testament, is not an oxymoron.

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