Origins of the Family Proclamation

Was the proclamation on the family written by attorneys to support the fight against gay marriage in Hawaii?

Sort of, but sort of not. As far back as 1831, the Church had articulated key principles found in the proclamation,[1] before gay marriage became a legal question. However, the legal issue may have prompted the need to articulate these principles in one place.[2]

In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court began hearing a case on gay marriage, known as Baehr v. Lewin (later Miike).[3] In 1994 the brethren begin writing the proclamation in a "revelatory process" with members of the Quorum of the Twelve.[4]

But wasn't the proclamation on the family written by a BYU law professor?

No, probably not. Initial drafts of the family proclamation were reportedly written by members of the Twelve[5] after the initial suggestion of Boyd K. Packer.[BIO] Lynn Wardle,[BIO] a BYU law professor known for his opposition to gay marriage, consulted[6] on the Church filing in Hawaii's Baehr v. Miike case.[7] Wardle may have also consulted with drafting the family proclamation, but there is no known evidence to support this.

Did any women general authorities participate in writing the proclamation?

No. In an 2005 interview, Sister Chieko Okazaki said it was written without any input from the women in Church leadership and asked "How come we weren't consulted?"[8]

President Gordon B Hinckley reading the Family Proclamation for the first time on September 23, 1995 at the General Relief Society Meeting.

Was it used directly in the Hawaii gay marriage case?

Yes. The family proclamation was included as an appendix to the amicus curiae brief filed in Baehr v. Miike in 1997.[9]

Was the proclamation on the family really inspired if it was written up to fight gay marriage in court?

Yes, probably. Revelation is often catalyzed by pressing questions or issues.[10] Elder Dallin H. Oaks[BIO] specifically described the process of developing the family proclamation as revelatory and inspired.[11] Boyd K. Packer[BIO] once referred to the proclamation as "a revelation," though the written version of that same talk refers to it as "a guide."[12]

Does the proclamation have any new ideas or doctrines in it?

Not really. It's more of a compilation of teachings that have been taught for many years within the Church.[13]

Is the proclamation on the family official doctrine?

Yes, probably. Since its publication, it has been widely cited, widely taught, and consistently emphasized.[14] It's also a formal statement signed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.[15] However, the proclamation on the family has not been submitted for the sustaining vote of the Church as canon.

Is the proclamation on the family sexist?

Arguably. It defines men's and women's roles within the family, with men "presiding, providing, and protecting" while women are "primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."[16]

However, Church leaders have consistently maintained that men and women are "equal partners" in raising families.[17] Additionally, the family proclamation allows for "individual adaptations" as circumstances require.[18]

Is the proclamation on the family only about same-sex marriage and gender roles?

No, it is intended to address a broad range of issues related to the family. When introducing the proclamation, President Hinckley also addressed various social issues related to families, including out-of-wedlock births, welfare dependency, violence in the media, adherence to civil laws, and marital fidelity.[19]

Have any of the "calamities" that are mentioned in the proclamation happened?

Maybe?[20] Ancient and modern prophets have foretold all sorts of calamities,[21] and they are often vague or symbolic in nature.[22] On an individual basis, Church leaders have occasionally drawn links between the family proclamation and calamities.[23] Institutionally, the Church generally avoids assigning causes to specific disasters.

The Facts

  • The principles of the proclamation have been taught since the beginning of the Church.

  • The Quorum of the Twelve began working on the proclamation about a year after the 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court hearing on gay marriage.

  • Lynn Wardle, a BYU law professor, consulted with the brethren on their filing on Hawaii's Baehr v. Miike case.

  • Lynn Wardle may have consulted on the proclamation, but there is no evidence to support this.

  • The proclamation is widely cited, taught, and referenced by the Church.

  • The Church has not canonized the proclamation.

Our Take

The Family: A Proclamation to the World can be a difficult topic for many—especially for those who identify as LGBTQ+. And there are perfectly reasonable questions to be asked about this document, including how it was written.

Was the proclamation simply a legal brief that "became" a revelation? Is this a valid process for receiving modern revelation?

The proclamation came at a time when it was legally relevant, and it's entirely possible that attorneys were involved in the process. Many modern revelations, including many in the Doctrine & Covenants, were simply letters that were canonized or were revelations prompted by inquiries about specific issues. There isn't a set method or format for receiving revelations in the Church.

It's okay to wrestle with concerns or doubts about the proclamation or about the principles that it addresses. It's important to have patience and trust that Heavenly Father reveals truth through his prophets and apostles. It’s also important to remember our heavenly parents love all their children, and we need to love them too.

What's Your Take?

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These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Lucius
    I don't understand why some people are upset that the General Relief Society wasn't "consulted" during this process. They are important in the church, but aren't Apostles of Jesus Christ who receive revelation for the Church. These concerns are misguided.
  • Dallin
    The thing that's always tripped me up about the proclamation is the use of the word "Gender." Why use that word if the Church is going to double back and say they meant biological sex? I feel like there has to be something to the word if they were inspired to use it.
  • Kathleen N.
    As a member who believes in gender equality, your last paragraph is disappointing in that Heavenly Father reveals truth and Heavenly Parents (HM) provide love. This is right down the proclamation gender lines. Fathers lead, mothers nurture. You can do better than that.
  • Kathryn
    The proclamation outlines what a family "should" look like. So many families don't look like that, or operate in accordance with the roles listed. It's exclusionary, harmful, and outdated. No women were consulted in its making or even knew it was being drafted.
  • woo
    “Was the proclamation on the family written by attorneys to support the fight against gay marriage in Hawaii?“ Really this is two questions… but on the first it may be worth noting that two of the signatories were indeed lawyers, President Faust and Elder Oaks.