“Come, Follow Me” and The Family: A Proclamation to the World

The “Come, Follow Me” manuals for 2021’s course of study are available online now.  Looking ahead to the next year, I have been curious to see if they were going to stick strictly to the scriptures related to the history of our modern dispensation (Doctrine and Covenants and parts of the Pearl of Great Price), or if they were going to focus on our Church’s history via the Saints volumes and have relevant sections of the scriptures discussed along the way.  The authors the manuals chose to go with the former, focusing on the scriptures—with a major exception.  On the week of December 13-19, 2021, rather than studying canonized sections of the Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price, we’re studying “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”  The implications of the proclamation being the one of only two documents that is not part of the Standard Works being studied as the central text for a week sends a signal—the manual’s authors seems to feel that the proclamation is on par with the canonized scriptures in importance.  Yet, the proclamation is not officially accepted as part of our canon at this time.  To me, this indicates that either someone in Salt Lake City has possibly set a goal for the document to join the Standard Works by the end of next year or this is a move in a process of essentially canonizing the proclamation without actually putting it to a vote of common consent in the Church.

The standard procedure that has crystalized around canonization in the Church is to have the general membership vote during General Conference to accept a document into the Standard Works.  An early revelation to Joseph Smith declares that: “For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church by the prayer of faith” (D&C 28:13).  Similarly, later leaders of the Church have affirmed that Church membership needs to accept something as binding and authoritative for it to be authoritative.  For example, President Joseph F. Smith stated that: “No revelation given through the head of the church ever becomes binding and authoritative upon members of the church until it has been presented to the church and accepted by them.”[1]  We see this being followed in the procedures used to canonize the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835,[2] the Pearl of Great Price and additional sections of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1880,[3] the addition of two accounts of visions to the scriptures in 1976,[4] and both Official Declarations.[5]  In all of these cases, they were accepted as binding and canonical through a vote during a General Conference of the Church. By this reasoning and precedent, in order for “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to become binding and authoritative upon Latter-day Saints in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we would need to vote on it.

Of course, we’re not entirely systematic in our beliefs as Latter-day Saints, so there is some disagreement about the approach described above for canonization or acceptance of something as authoritative and binding.  For example, President George Q. Cannon stated that: “It seems nonsensical that the Prophet of God should submit to such a test as [common consent], and not deem the revelations he received authentic until they had the approval of the different quorums of the Church.”[6]  Elder Bruce R. McConkie likewise wrote that:

Members of the Church may vote to publish a particular revelation along with the other scriptures, or the people may bind themselves by covenant to follow the instructions found in the revealed word. But there is no provision in the Lord’s plan for the members of the Church to pass upon the validity of revelations themselves by a vote of the Church; there is nothing permitting the Church to choose which of the revelations will be binding upon it, either by a vote of people or by other means.[7]

These statements indicate that the authority of a revelation does not originate with the general membership of the Church, but in its nature as a revelation.  The logic can also be extended to other documents produced by Church leaders.

We see that the authority of documents issued by Church leaders comes before they are voted upon by the Church on a number of occasions.  For example, the policy announced in Official Declaration #2 came into effect when it was announced by Church leaders rather than after it was voted on during a general conference—the first ordinations of black men after the press release on 9 June 1978 took place on 11 June, while the official acceptance of the declaration by the Church took place months later, on 30 September 1978.[8]  Likewise, many of the revelations accepted as authoritative when the Doctrine and Covenants was voted upon in 1835 were put into action and practice long before that vote was taken (sending people on missions, organizing the Church’s structure and systems, etc.).  What this indicates is that the authority of a document within the Church and whether it is printed as a part of the Standard Works (canonized) are two separate, though interrelated questions.

This creates something of a hierarchy of authority when it comes to texts used within the Church, with the official Standard Works at the pinnacle as our primary canon.  In other words, canonization and printing in the Standard Works is important for establishing which texts are considered to be most authoritative and widely-studied in the Church, but not the only authoritative documents in the Church.  There does seem to be a secondary canon of publications and texts that are regarded as authoritative in the Church, but subject to change over time (such as the study helps published with the Standard Works, the current hymnal, the current handbooks of the Church, the current official history of the Church, etc.).  You can go further down that rabbit hole and create a whole tiered system of authority for Church texts, but the relevant point is that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is one of these documents that is being treated as authoritative but not part of the Standard Works.  It seems less likely to be subject to change than the examples given above, though, which makes its position different.  It isn’t really a revelation either—more a summary statement of doctrine.  Over a decade ago, Nate Oman suggested on this blog that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” might be seen as being similar to “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve”—”not a revelation but an authoritative interpretation” that is highly influential in the Church because it “serve[s] to orient us collectively toward interpretation” of our sacred texts.[9]  To a certain degree, however, the level of dedication to referencing and bolstering the authority of the proclamation displayed by Church leaders over the years since Oman wrote that OP may have pushed the document further towards becoming a sacred text in and of itself rather than merely an authoritative interpretation of our sacred texts.

From the start, the proclamation was intended to be an authoritative statement of belief by the Church.  As early as 1984, Dallin H. Oaks wrote a document based on the idea that “it may be desirable for the Church to make a public statement on proposed legislation affecting the rights of homosexuals,” making suggestions about what to include in a public statement of this sort that foreshadowed the proclamation.[10]  Following this, during the 1990s, the Church attempted to intervene in Hawaii’s first same-sex marriage case, Baehr v. Lewin, but was thwarted in their first attempt on the grounds that the church couldn’t demonstrate that it had any “property or transaction” in the case at hand.[11]  Around the same time, President Boyd K. Packer recalled that: “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.”  The leaders of the Church felt that the council was actually anti-family in its orientation, “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.’”[12]  The two moments in history came together—the need for something authoritative for the Church to use in legal battles over LGTBQ rights and the opportunity to take a stand for traditional families on an international stage—and seem to have served as a catalyst for the proclamation to be crafted as an official statement of belief.

The statement was written by the Quorum of the Twelve with input from the First Presidency.[13]  President Hinckley announced the document at a general Relief Society meeting in 1995, prefacing it with the remark that the proclamation was meant to be “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.”[14]  Since then, many voices have pushed for it to be treated as quasi-scriptural, without the formal vote of Church members accepting it as binding upon them.  Today, foremost among the advocates of viewing the proclamation as nearly canonical in authority is President Dallin H. Oaks.  For example, just one year ago, he stated that:

The wise cautions of Elders D. Todd Christofferson and Neil L. Andersen in earlier general conference messages are important to remember. Elder Christofferson taught: “It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.”

In the following conference, Elder Andersen taught this principle: “The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.” The family proclamation, signed by all 15 prophets, seers, and revelators, is a wonderful illustration of that principle.[15]

While tangential to his main topic, the passing reference to the authority of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was an intentional effort to bolster the document, reminding Church members of the unified front that the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency took in crafting the document at its outset and the weight and authority that approach gives to the document.

Elsewhere, President Oaks has been even more strident in his efforts to convince members to treat the proclamation as authoritative.  In another general conference talk, he proclaimed that:

Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world consider this family proclamation as just a statement of policy that should be changed. In contrast, Latter-day Saints affirm that the family proclamation defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur. …

Converted Latter-day Saints believe that the family proclamation … is the Lord’s reemphasis of the gospel truths we need to sustain us through current challenges to the family. …

… The proclamation on the family is a statement of eternal truth, the will of the Lord for His children who seek eternal life. It has been the basis of Church teaching and practice for the last 22 years and will continue so for the future. Consider it as such, teach it, live by it, and you will be blessed as you press forward toward eternal life.

Beyond his somewhat harsh efforts to cast those who view the document as “a statement of policy that should be changed” as standing outside the ranks of converted Latter-day Saints who are seeking eternal life, he went on to make embracing the proclamation a litmus test for faithfulness in the Church, expressing that he “believe[s] our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is one of [the] tests for this generation.”[16]  (And yes, that last litmus test quote is included in the “Come, Follow Me” manual for the week studying the proclamation.)  This approach to addressing the subject of the proclamation is a strong-armed tactic aimed at making members view the document as the authoritative statement on family values in the Church.

It may be that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is more analogous to two declarations added as appendices in the original edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.  These two declarations—one on government and law and the second on marriage—were added, almost as an afterthought, during the canonization of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835.  Both were statements of belief, or summaries of the Church’s position on the issues their titles indicate.  The former is still around as Section 134, and the latter was dropped from the Doctrine and Covenants at a later date (marriage practices in the Church changed a bit after 1835).  They served as responses to legal needs and public accusations against the Church.  They also weren’t technically revelations, but included nonetheless as authoritative declarations of where the Church stood on the issues discussed in each.  Whether or not “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is ever added to the Doctrine and Covenants is subject to debate (there was an excellent opportunity to do so when the 2013 edition of the scriptures was being prepared that was not taken, for example), but it does serve as similar function to these older declarations.

In any case, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is an interesting document in its standing in the Church.  The proclamation has served as the standard of traditional family values in the Church for a quarter of a century now.  Powerful church leaders—President Oaks foremost among them—have worked to practically canonized the document in how it is treated through the means of rhetoric about its authority without actually calling for a general vote, leaving it in a position of standing outside of the Standard Works while often being treated as on par with the Standard Works in authority (as indicated by its treatment in the new manual).  It seems possible that a vote for canonization will be taken at some point within the next few years, but it will be interesting to see how voting would actually take place in the worldwide Church if that course is pursued, where only a fraction of membership is represented at the Conference Center (particularly at the pandemic-limited general conferences this year), but I am grateful to not be in the position of having to work out the logistics of that type of momentous occasion. Regardless, with this fall being the 25th anniversary of the proclamation’s announcement, I think we can expect it to be a major subject at General Conference next month.

 

Some potential questions for discussion:

  • How authoritative do you view the proclamation as being?
  • Do you think the proclamation should be added to our Standard Works? Why or why not?

Now, in reviewing Nate Oman’s post I mentioned above, I appreciated his closing caution and repeat it here:  “If past is a predictor of future, I suspect that at some point any discussion on this thread will dissolve into a slug-fest about gender essentialism. If you can, however, I plead with you to control your gender-war urges and try talking about authority, canon, and interpretation.”

 

Footnotes:

[1] Joseph F. Smith in the Reed Smoot Trial, 1904, cited in Richard S. Van Wagoner, Steven C. Walker, and Allen D. Roberts: “The ‘Lectures on Faith’: A Case Study in Decanonization,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, v. 20, No. 3, p. 74, https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V20N03_73.pdf

[2] The initial canonization of the Doctrine and Covenants occurred in 1835.  A group of Church leaders gathered to examine the Doctrine and Covenants and concluded that it was “necessary to call the general assembly of the Church to see whether the book be approved or not by the authoroties of the church, that it may, if approved, become a law unto the church, and a rule of faith and a practice unto the same.”  At a conference on 17 August, the book was presented by Oliver Cowdery to the general assembly, then voting proceeded by quorums and groups, followed by the entire Church membership present. See “Minute Book 1,” p. 98, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 6, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/102

[3] President George Q. Cannon stood with both books in General Conference, noting the precedent set by the 1835 conference and stating that: “As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the Conference, to see whether the Conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and a Church.”  President Joseph F. Smith motioned that the conference vote, the motion was seconded and it was “sustained by unanimous vote of the whole Conference.” (Deseret Evening News, 11 Oct. 1880, p. 2, col. 4, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=23172309.)

[4] The Church voted on a motion to “adopt these revelations as part of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” during General Conference.  See N. Eldon Tanner, “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” CR April 1976, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1976/04/the-sustaining-of-church-officers?lang=eng

[5] See https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/od/1?lang=eng, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/od/2?lang=eng.

[6] Juvenile Instructor 26 [1 Jan. 1891]: 13-14.

[7] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 206.

[8] See Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” BYU 47:2, https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/spencer-w-kimball-and-revelation-priesthood.

[9] Nate Oman, “Scripture and Interpretation: Some Thoughts Inspired by ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’”, Times and Seasons, 13 February 2007, https://www.timesandseasons.org/harchive/2007/02/scripture-and-interpretation-some-thoughts-inspired-by-the-family-a-proclamation-to-the-world/.

[10] See https://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/9/1/3/913d6fed4525a85a/Principles-To-Govern-Possible-Public-Statement-On-Legislation-Affecting-Rights-Of-Homosexuals-August-7-1984-Dallin-H.-Oaks.pdf?c_id=8270928&cs_id=8270928&expiration=1599430949&hwt=66bd933a9e5e6f069ce4f4f1a9993213.

[11] See Laura Compton, “From Amici to ‘Ohana: The Hawaiian Roots of the Family Proclamation,” Rational Faiths, 15 May 2015, https://rationalfaiths.com/from-amici-to-ohana/.

[12] Boyd K. Packer, “The Proclamation on the Family,” http://broadcast.lds.org/WWLT/2008/WWLT_2008_02_00_RighteousPosterity_Complete_00383_eng_.pdf

[13] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Plan and the Proclamation,” CR October 2017, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/10/the-plan-and-the-proclamation?lang=eng. Chieko Okazaki—a member of the Relief Society presidency at the time—recalled that the Relief Society women were not invited to be involved in the process, stating later that “What I wanted to know was, ‘How come we weren’t consulted?’, and recalling that: “As I read it I thought that we could have made a few changes in it.” (“’There Is Always a Struggle’: An Interview with Cheiko N. Okazaki,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 2012, 136, https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V45N01_CO.pdf.)

[14] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” CR October 1995, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1995/10/stand-strong-against-the-wiles-of-the-world?lang=eng.

[15] Dallin H. Oaks, “Trust in the Lord,” CR October 2019, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/10/17oaks?lang=eng

[16] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Plan and the Proclamation,” CR October 2017, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/10/the-plan-and-the-proclamation?lang=eng

31 comments for ““Come, Follow Me” and The Family: A Proclamation to the World

  1. ji
    September 11, 2020 at 10:08 am

    “…the manual’s authors seems to feel that the proclamation is on par with the canonized scriptures in importance…”

    Maybe not. Maybe they simply couldn’t find support in the scriptures, and looked elsewhere instead.

    I support the Proclamation as a unified statement of the First Presidency and the Twelve at the time of its issuance, but I do not want it added to our canon of scripture. First, It isn’t scripture. Second, We have never canonized any other proclamations (including the proclamation on the Living Christ or the very recent proclamation on the Restoration). Third, There is nothing in it that demands action or compliance on the part of church members.

    It really is only a proclamation, and I can accept it as such — and that is how it was presented. Canonizing it will allow its most ardent supporters to uncharitably use it as a club, so to speak, against less ardent supporters. That would be sad. In my opinion, no good will come from canonizing it.

  2. ushallbcot
    September 11, 2020 at 11:47 am

    a. How authoritative do you view the proclamation as being?

    My dictionary that’s handy defines authoritative as follows:

    authoritative (e-thôr´î-tâ´tîv, e-thòr´-, ô-thôr´-, ô-thòr´-) adjective
    1. Having or arising from authority; official: an authoritative decree; authoritative sources.
    2. Of acknowledged accuracy or excellence; highly reliable: an authoritative account of the revolution.
    3. Wielding authority; commanding: the captain’s authoritative manner.

    *The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language*, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Since the Church bears the name of its captain, and its members receive directions from said captain through his minions, which directions are to be affirmed personally by each member through the spirit, for me as a member parts of the proclamation are not authoritative. I have received no direction from the captain through the spirit that it all comes from the captain. In fact, to the contrary relative to certain portions.

    b. Do you think the proclamation should be added to our Standard Works? Why or why not?

    No, I don’t think it should be added to canon. Parts of it are problematic.

  3. Wondering
    September 11, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    While there are already parts of canonized scripture that the Church officially ignores (mostly but not entirely in the Bible) and many more parts that various members ignore, I don’t think any good would come from canonizing the rather divisive Proclamation on the family.
    One part of its potentially relevant history is the October 2010 general conference speech of Boyd Packer and the subsequent editing of that speech for publication. In his talk, President Packer stated that The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “qualifies according to definition, as a revelation…” The printed version states that the proclamation “is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.” Scott Trotter, an LDS church spokesman, stated that “the Monday following every general conference, each speaker has the opportunity to make any edits necessary to clarify differences between what was written and what was delivered or to clarify the speaker’s intent. President Packer has simply clarified his intent.” There are at least two different speculative interpretations of the meaning of the change from the speech to the printed “transcript.” There are many who do not believe that the change was simply Packer’s or that it reflected his intent or that he initiated it. An attempt at canonization would seem likely to re-ignite the speculation and amplify the discord, as the “revelation” claim was clearly in conjunction with his comments in the same talk on gay issues (also significantly edited/changed for publication).
    In addition, it appears to some that Packer’s definition of “revelation” amounted to “agreement of the Q15” and that President Nelson’s January 2016 speech both adopted that definition and tried to force the November 2015 policy into it without any public assent of the rest of the Q15. Some suspect that speech from the president of the Q12 that was a significant contributing factor to the length of time it took to modify that 2015 policy into something that more sensibly addresses the concerns that allegedly motivated the 2015 policy. I believe some were ready in early January 2016 to propose the same changes to the policy adopted in 2019, but that January 2016 speech from Nelson made it pointless to do so.
    Unless the purpose were to increase discord over gay issues and the nature of “revelation” and “scripture” and/or to motivate additional member resignations (the only even partially effective “no” vote on canonization), I wonder why anyone would propose canonization of the Proclamation. Those who want to treat it as authoritative already have plenty of support for that as noted in Chad’s post.

  4. Ryan Mullen
    September 11, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks Chad for this detailed write up on canonization. I am disappointed that CFM 2021 follows the D&C and not Saints. The D&C are a series of disjointed revelations that take significant work to contextualize and make relevant. That work has largely been done with the publication of Saints, but without a manual to make the link, I suspect most Gospel Doctrine teachers won’t draw upon Saints regularly in their teaching.

    It seems to me that the the 1978 change in priesthood ordination & temple admittance is more similar to the 2015 change in LGBT participation than to The Family proclamation. The latter is a text that expounds the underlying support for maintaining church positions on heterosexual marriage and family, while the former two both involved changes in administration. Interestingly, both the 1978 and 2015 changes were defended and /or heralded as revelations by members of the Quorum of the Twelve. However, the 1978 change was publicly announced and widely celebrated in the church, while the 2015 change was quietly disseminated and, when leaked, received significant pushback from church members. Ultimately, the 2015 change was reversed. While we aren’t privy to all the discussions around that reversal, I think it unlikely that the 2015 change would have been reversed if church members had celebrated it to the same degree that the 1978 change was celebrated. The differences suggest that “by common consent” still has a role to play in church administration outside of formal voting, perhaps to the chagrin of Elder McConkie and President Cannon.

    When it comes to interpreting The Family proclamation, I think I follow the principle of strict construction. I take the The Family as authoritative regarding heterosexual marriage and family, but since it doesn’t mention homosexuality (or gay marriage) at all, I don’t see it as binding on persons who identify as such.

  5. Wondering
    September 11, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Ryan, Have you found any member of the Q12 calling the 2015 policy “revelation” other than RMN? I have not, but would be glad to learn of any such statement.

  6. Ryan Mullen
    September 11, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Wondering, no, I have not. Perhaps my intent would have been clearer if I had flipped the statement to be: “heralded as revelation and/or defended”. Regarding the 2015 policy, I was thinking of (1) Pres. Nelson characterizing it as a revelation, (2) Elder Christofferson defending the policy in an extensive, and (3) the First Presidency letter defending the policy.

  7. Chad Nielsen
    September 11, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    ji, I would tend to agree with your assessment that canonization would be problematic (same with your assessment, Wondering). As far as your statement that, “maybe they simply couldn’t find support in the scriptures, and looked elsewhere instead,” I want make sure I understand ji–are you saying that the manual’s authors may have simply wanted to cover certain topics rather than basing their topics on the scriptures the manual is based on?

    Ryan, I would have loved to see more of a history-oriented manual as well. After thinking about it, though, part of why they did not is likely that they are following a precedent of scripture-based study set by the previous two volumes. The other part of it may be that the manual was prepared years in advanced. I think Elder Stevenson indicated the Book of Mormon one was finished about two years before it was released. If that’s the case with this one, then the Doctrine and Covenants manual would have been finished around the same time as the first volume of Saints was being published in September 2018. They still do incorporate a lot of links to sections of Saints (and the Revelations in Context book) as additional reading and context, though.

  8. ji
    September 11, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    “…are you saying that the manual’s authors may have simply wanted to cover certain topics rather than basing their topics on the scriptures the manual is based on?…

    I was reacting to your thought that the manual’s authors seem to feel a certain way. They could have done what they did for a reason other than seeing the proclamation as on par with scripture. They could have done it because they felt the topic was important, but they couldn’t make it fit in the pattern for all the previous chapters, so they used the proclamation for convenience. So I offered another possibility, using “maybe” to help explain.

    But yes, they are covering a topic without following the pattern of the previous chapters, which is to base the topics on the scriptures in that year’s rotation.

    And yes, some church members do want the proclamation to be canonized, maybe even including the manual’s authors. I fear the primary motivation for this feeling is the one I already shared, and that is troublesome to me. I support the proclamation and sustain the brethren, but I would rather not add it to our canon of scripture.

  9. Bryan in VA
    September 11, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    @ji
    “First, It isn’t scripture.” Based in what?

    D&C 68:4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture,

  10. your food allergy is fake
    September 11, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    A vote of the general membership would be meaningless. Is someone going to count all the hands raised? Does it need to be unanimous? And it probably wouldn’t come before the membership unless the brethren were unanimous, at which point any dissent is just not following the prophets.

  11. ji
    September 11, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Right — It isn’t scripture, and was not presented as scripture.

    But even if I err on that one point, my other two points are still valid. If so, two out of three isn’t bad.

    Remember, I support the proclamation.

  12. sute
    September 11, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Those who don’t think the Proclamation should be added to canon because parts of it are problematic, would do well to actually study their canon sometime. Every single book of scripture we read, revere, teach from, liken to ourselves, etc. has far more problematic sections than the proclamation.

    I believe the proc. is authoritative. I believe it’s correct. I believe more can be, has been and will be added to it’s content over time. I also believe it does not need to be added as a section of scripture per se. I wouldn’t mind if it was included the way the Articles of Faith are. But it stands on its own as a proclamation. Adding it as a “book” or section of scripture seems nonsensical.

    It is scripture according to the revealed definition of scripture as Elder Packer said extemporaneously. We are accountable, as members of the church not to “obey” it, but rather to study it and receive our own confirming revelation on the matter. If we have no such revelation, the extent a loyal member should go is simply to say, I have studied it and I am waiting on the Lord to reveal his will to me; or something like that.

    If you aren’t a loyal member of the church, you’re welcome to say you’ve studied it and find it in error, but of course that invites condemnation on yourself. Much wiser to simply say, you’re still waiting for a personal confirmation. But that can’t be a lie — it should be a reality. You shouldn’t close your mind to it and write it off as false ideas by biased leaders and pretend to be faithfully searching for an answer at the same time.

  13. Wondering
    September 11, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    I’m not sure I understand Sute’s comment, but I am curious as to how President J. Reuben Clark’s teaching about the role of the body of the members fits into Sute’s scheme of what a loyal member should or shouldn’t do.

    “There have been rare occasions when even the President of the Church in his preaching and teaching has not been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ You will recall the Prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet…. [E]ven the President of the Church, himself, may not always be ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost. ‘How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.” J. Reuben Clark, Church News, 1954

  14. Taiwan Missionary
    September 11, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    I appreciate Ryan Mullen‘s “strict construction” approach to the Proclamation. It has helped me form my own opinions about the Proclamation, and Ryan has provided a subtle but helpful distinction between the Proclamation affirming heterosexual marriage, while not specifically mentioning homosexual marriage.

    I hope my assessment of Sute’s comments Is wrong, but to me, it contains a willingness to judge who is and who is not a loyal member of the Church, and to rely on standards that measure loyalty. I have found such loyalty tests to be harmful, whether in Church or the larger secular world. (I first began to realize how flawed loyalty standards were when I learned that one of my Church leaders, a counselor in our District Presidency, a man I considered a friend, was sexually abusing his step-daughter. A down-the-line Mormon who prided himself on his orthodoxy.) I recall (hopefully accurately) Joseph Smith’s comment about not liking to rebuke the old man about questions of doctrine, the way Methodists did. We all fall short in our attempts to follow Christ and His Gospel, and the road to improvement is made harder when we confess each other’s sins and question each other’s loyalty.

    In the meantime, I will support the Proclamation, and wait with hope for the day when the Church can become
    more open to non-heterosexual unions.

    FWIW, I think that the main reason the Church has not canonized the Proclamation is that it does not want to deal with the political storm that would inevitably follow.

  15. p
    September 11, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    All I can say, sute, is that John D Lee had 19 wives and would have laughed at your silly proclamation.

  16. whizzbang
    September 11, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    Something I find odd is Pres. Oaks’ statement that the Proclamation should be authoritative, but isn’t. Who is preventing it from being canonized? Did God say don’t canonize it, but why would Pres. Oaks say that then? is it a Q12 member? I wonder what they thought about his statement? is it another GA? again, I wonder what they thought about his statement? Someone is stopping it ,at least for now anyways, I wonder who it is and what they think of Pres. Oaks

  17. Chad Nielsen
    September 11, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    ji, I realize looking back that my question for clarification was a lot more pointed in reality than it sounded like in my head. My apologies for that. Thank you for bearing with me and explaining, and your thought makes sense.

    And Taiwan, you are remembering correctly: “I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled. It dont prove that a man is not a good man, because he errs in doctrine.” (“Discourse, 8 April 1843, as Reported by William Clayton–B,” p. 2, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 11, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-8-april-1843-as-reported-by-william-clayton-b/3).

  18. Nope
    September 11, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    I will admit I haven’t carefully followed all of the rules and procedures about “canonization” but have always been uncomfortable with attorney roles in its drafting and a lot of evidence that it was drafted so the church would have a legal basis to oppose gay marriage. Also, that no women had any input. So no thanks for me.

  19. Sute
    September 11, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    Taiwan,
    And knowing what you know about that abuser, do you believe he was a faithful, loyal member or not?

    If you can’t judge that, I don’t know what to say.

    Obviously, we can’t know all the unknowns. But once a person says the entire senior leadership of the church is wrong, publicly teaching their incorrect or bigoted bias for a couple decades, that person isn’t being a faithful member.

    If you don’t have a testimony of something that’s fine. If you’ve decided they are wrong and you are right that’s a real problem. If you’re actually saying so to others from time to time, your not being loyal.

    As I said, I don’t even think it needs or ought to be canonized. But it’s a willing suspension of disbelief to actually presume to be faithful while well all the leaders are wrong on this issue. The Proc. isn’t speculative. It’s written very authoritatively.

  20. Ryan Mullen
    September 12, 2020 at 1:32 am

    Sute, “If you’re actually saying so to others from time to time, your not being loyal.” Do you consider loyalty to the Brethren the highest Christian virtue? Is there any context in which loyalty to the Brethren would not be the correct response?

  21. Taiwan Missionary
    September 12, 2020 at 1:35 am

    Sute: The Church now accepts that the priesthood ban against African-Americans was NOT based on inspired doctrine, and the Church essays we now have on the topic explicitly acknowledge that the practice originated in the common racial prejudices of the 1890s—even though it was vigorously defended by our top Church leadership in the 1950s and 1960s, many of whom tried to present various justifications under the cloak of “doctrine.” I am reluctant to ascribe disloyalty to Church members who opposed the ban, before SWK revoked it in 1978–just as I am reluctant to ascribe disloyalty to Church members who disapprove of the Church’s position on same-sex marriage.

    When I was a missionary in Taiwan between 1977-1979, my MP was a man named Frederick Crook. He shared with us a remarkable story. He was interviewed by Marion G Romney for his calling. During the course of the interview, he mentioned to MGR that he was deeply opposed to the Priesthood Ban. MGR did not question his loyalty. He informed Frederick Crook that “we Brethren” were also very concerned about the Ban, but could Bro.Crook still support the Church’s leaders, despite his personal unhappiness? Bro. Crook said yes, and was called to be MP, and served with distinction.

    I think that story has valuable lessons about balancing personal disapproval of a Church position, while still being loyal to the Church and its leaders.

  22. GEOFF -AUS
    September 12, 2020 at 7:28 am

    It is my understanding that there are declarations (which are revelation ) as in 1978, and there are proclamations, which are not revelation, but a statement.

    Can you claim that something that was not revelation for 25 years has all of a sudden become revelation? No.

    Apart from the above, there is so much invested in the family proc, that is not actually said, that it is better not to have any more authority. It will be easier to ignore it when gay marriage is normalised.

  23. Jon Miranda
    September 15, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    Geoff Geoff Geoff

    It will be easier to ignore it when gay marriage is normalised.

    I just wonder what makes you stick to something like this.

  24. Moss
    September 16, 2020 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for this, Chad.

    I want to point out that the Come Follow Me lesson for Christmas week 2021 uses another non-scriptural text, The Living Christ, as its course of study.

  25. sute
    September 16, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Ryan – so are you saying you like to eat hamsters? It has about as much relevance. Someone can be a good Christian in the civil sense without being loyal to the brethren and church. Can’t really be a good Latter-day Saint though if you say the Procl. is wrong and the brethren have been biased for 20+ years on it.

    TW – yes, if he said that the brethren were wrong and biased on the “ban” he would not be a loyal member of the church. Ryan, the not-yet-unconfirmed hamster eater, that does not mean they couldn’t have been a good Christian. If you believe that MP, maybe you can also believe the brethren when they said they were also looking for an end to the restriction and awaiting revelation on the matter. The priesthood restriction and opposition to gay marriage are two different things. The plan of salvation revolves around mother-father-children-repeat. That’s our highest potential. That’s the pattern of exaltation.

    You’re not ahead of the times on this matter, assuming you support gay marriage and that holds you back from the procl. You’re just wrong and grasping at justifications. Ryan, lay off the hamsters, but you’re absolutely right if you suggest a person can still render Christlike service and compassion to others while being wrong in their doctrine and placing their loyalties in the wrong source. The world would be a terrible place if that wasn’t true. Red herring hamster eating and highest Christlike virtue questions aside.

  26. Troy Cline
    September 16, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    Sunday school discussions around the proclamation, in my experience, often get off track and focus on mildly homophobic interpretations of the document. This was one of the major drivers of my decision to remove myself and my family from the church. I am dismayed to see that discussions of the proclamation are being formalized.

  27. toasty
    September 16, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Sute : “The plan of salvation revolves around mother-father-children-repeat.”

    This is one interpretation of the plan of salvation. Viewed this way, it does seem like opposition to gay marriage is rather central to the gospel.

    I would say the plan of salvation revolves around Jesus Christ. Viewed this way, love and understanding for all of God’s children is quite important, and insofar as opposition to gay marriage interferes with that, it might actually be antithetical to the gospel.

    Families are important in our doctrine, this is true. But gay people have families too. Many gay people have children. Many of them are excellent, dedicated parents. The basic principles of the plan of salvation – even the basic principles of exaltation – could conceivably apply to families outside the cisgender, heterosexual norm. I’m not saying they necessarily do (I’m no prophet), but I don’t think heterosexuality is quite as central to the doctrine as you seem to be suggesting.

  28. GEOFF -AUS
    September 16, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Sute, You keep saying that children are required in this life for exaltation. Do you have a scripture for that? And as toasty says.

  29. GEOFF -AUS
    September 16, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Jon Miranda, I see no reason why gay marriage won’t be normalised in the church. I see nothing in the gospel that opposes it. As we say about the priesthood ban it was the culture of the leaders at the time. We will say the same about the opposition to gay marriage.
    Sute seems to think there is a requirement to have children that will exclude gay people. Not aware of such a requirement for exaltation, and gay couples have children anyway.
    Why do you think it won’t happen?

  30. Taiwan Missionary
    September 16, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    Why was the Savior so forceful in denouncing the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes in the NT? I am currently ploughing my way once again through the NT, and it has become clearer to me this go-round that these elites had created a club with rules, and that they felt that they were qualified to be, and that it was necessary for them to be, rule-enforcers. The problem was, they were so focused on rules of Sabbath observance and dietary observation, that they were blinded to the higher necessity of loving God, and loving our neighbor as ourself, and the principles of faith, hope, and charity— which Christ and Paul taught us were the highest laws. I am struck that Christ preferred the company of sinners, tax collectors, and outcasts—their hearts were most open to Him.

    God wants us to follow all his commandments, but, knowing that we will fall short (hence the need for the Atonement), I believe He prefers that we concentrate on the first ones. It has been my experience in 40-plus years in the Church, that the more one is comfortable in asserting who and who is not a “good,” “loyal” member of the Church, that there is less room in his or her heart for loving God and his other children

    I try first and foremost to be a follower of Christ. I have found that worshipping in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives me the best way for following Him. But my Church membership, while very important, will always be secondary.

  31. Chad Nielsen
    September 16, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    Moss, thank you for pointing that out. For some reason I missed that The Living Christ was also used (I guess I didn’t look too closely at the Christmas lesson), which is embarrassing. I’ll probably make some corrections in the OP above accordingly.

    The Living Christ is also an interesting document in its standing–it’s called a testimony rather than a proclamation, but is probably the most similar document to The Family: A Proclamation to the World in the Church today (other than the restoration proclamation issued earlier this year, which is in an appendix to the manual). It’s an authoritative and short summary of doctrine and belief on a certain subject–almost a creed in form. It pushes less hot-topic buttons and is less controversial (and less frequently discussed) than The Family is, but is still treated as important by Church leaders.

    Also, we should probably avoid eating hamsters or red herrings, Sute. Not a lot of meat in either.

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