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 the process of 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. Lynn Wardle,[BIO] a BYU law professor known for his opposition to gay marriage, consulted[5] on the Church filing in Hawaii's Baehr v. Miike case.[6] He may have also consulted with drafting the family proclamation, but there is no known evidence to support this.

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.[7]

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.[8] Elder Dallin H. Oaks[BIO] specifically described the process of developing the family proclamation as revelatory and inspired.[9]

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.[10]

Is the proclamation on the family official doctrine?

Yes, probably. Since its publication, it has been widely cited, widely taught, and consistently emphasized.[11] It's also a formal statement signed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency.[12] 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."[13]

However, Church leaders have consistently maintained that men and women are "equal partners" in raising families.[14] Additionally, the family proclamation allows for "individual adaptations" as circumstances require.[15]

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.[16]

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

Maybe?[17] Ancient and modern prophets have foretold all sorts of calamities,[18] and they are often vague or symbolic in nature.[19] On an individual basis, Church leaders have occasionally drawn links between the family proclamation and calamities.[20] Institutionally, the Church generally avoids assigning causes to specific disasters.

Some People Say . . .

"The Family: A Proclamation to the World is inspired scripture and has nothing to do with lawyers."

— overheard in Sunday School

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?

280 characters remaining
These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • 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.
  • Mitch N.
    I think many times as mortals we limit how the Lord can reveal truth. If God wants us to engage in His work in all that we do, don't you think he would inspire us in our daily work? Whether a teacher, farmer, lawyer, or parent, you can receive revelation for your personal life.
  • Thomas S.
    No one in the General Relief Society presidency was consulted during the creation of the Proclamation. This was stated during an interview with Greg Prince and Cheiko Okazaki. https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2012/08/on-the-one-year-anniversary-of-chieko-okazakis-passing/
  • Shane W.
    I don't think the proclamation is sexist at all. It teaches that we have complementary temperaments and roles, but it also teaches that we're meant to be equal partners, share in the other's roles, and take over the other's roles if necessitated.
Footnotes