September marks the 20th anniversary of the LDS Church’s issuing of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The Proclamation remains influential in the lives of church members despite the world’s shifting views on the family unit.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, the prophet at the time, first read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” during the General Relief Society Meeting on Sept. 23, 1995.
President Hinckley said the church issued the Proclamation to help combat concerns about families. “We have wonderful people, but we have too many whose families are falling apart … I think (this) is my most serious concern,” he told a Church News publication in 1995.
While the Family Proclamation didn’t declar new doctrine, it did reiterate the church’s position on gender, the roles of parents and same-sex marriage. The proclamation even briefly addressed the topic of Heavenly Mother.
In the 20 years since the release of the Proclamation, much has changed in society. Same-sex marriage is now legal, 40 percent of children are born to unmarried parents and an increasing number of people choose to cohabitate before marriage.
Shayne Anderson, an associate professor in BYU’s School of Family Life who specializes in marriage and family therapy, said the Proclamation holds value because of its emphasis on the family unit. “We’re going to be happier when we live in happy family units,” Anderson said. “Being with someone else who loves you and cares about you is a fundamental human need.”
BYU recently created a new class as part of the new religion core curriculum, “Religion 200: The Eternal Family,” which focuses on the Proclamation.
Religion professor Casey Griffiths teaches this new class. Griffiths said he wants members of the LDS Church to focus on being proactive in their efforts to help families.
“We as Latter-day Saints can kind of sit there and say the whole place is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Griffiths said. “Let’s just wait for the Second Coming when the Savior will come and fix the problem. But, I just don’t think that’s what the Lord meant for us. I think he wants us to be out there doing something about it. Let’s save as many families as we can. Let’s try and repair marriages before we break them up. Let’s try and raise a generation that knows more about good family practices and how the gospel plays in families than any other generation.”
Today, the Proclamation is a regular part of Latter-day Saints’ lives, and many are celebrating its anniversary. Over 7,000 people confirmed attendance to a Facebook event, “Flood the Earth with the Family Proclamation,” which encouraged all to share the Proclamation on social media on its anniversary on Sept. 23.
Abby Sagers, a junior from Bakersfield, California majoring in psychology, said that the Proclamation helps strengthen her family.
“I think the Family Proclamation is a simple and yet clear example of the Lord’s stance on the family,” Sagers said. “For me, it’s a guide to understand the importance of the family. It helps me appreciate the family I have, and with it I can set goals in order to become better in preparing to have my own eternal family.”