Lesson 45 – “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102)
Our hymn, “Families Can Be Together Forever”, contains the line, “I always want to be with my own family, / And the Lord has shown me how I can”—which reminds us of the great blessing of having the opportunity of forming an eternal family. Today, we will discuss the Lord’s teachings, as revealed through the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, regarding the family. Giving heed to these teachings strengthens and unifies families in this life and prepares us to live as eternal families.
At a meeting of the Relief Society in September 1995, President Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. In the six years since then, it has been widely distributed throughout the world in numerous languages. Government leaders in many countries have also been presented with the Proclamation.
(See the title, subtitle, and first two paragraphs of the Proclamation.) President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Why do we have this proclamation on the family now? Because the family is under attack. All across the world families are falling apart. The place to begin to improve society is in the home. Children do, for the most part, what they are taught. We are trying to make the world better by making the family stronger” (Ensign, Aug. 1997, 5).
The proclamation states that marriage and family are “ordained of God” and “central to [His] plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” D&C 131:1-4 teaches that an eternal family is required for exaltation in the celestial glory.
Genesis 1:26-27 says that we were created in the image of God and the Proclamation states that we are all spirit children of God. This knowledge reveals the potential that each of us has as a member of Heavenly Father’s family.
See paragraph 3 of the Proclamation… “In the premortal realm…”. This paragraph reminds us of the purpose of mortality and indicates that we are to obtain a body, gain experience and knowledge, progress to perfection, merit eternal life, establish eternal family relationships, and enter into and faithfully observe the covenants which enable us to return to Father with our family.
We know that to be an eternal family, we must receive the sealing ordinance in the temple and keep the covenants associated with that sealing ordinance. We should pay strict attention to those covenants and strengthen our commitment to keeping them. Because we make covenants to be bound together forever, our behavior toward family members should be influenced by our covenants.
See paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Proclamation. Elder Henry B. Eyring taught: “Children are the inheritance of the Lord to us in this life and also in eternity. Eternal life is not only to have forever our descendants from this life. It is also to have eternal increase… We can understand why our Heavenly Father commands us to reverence life and to cherish the powers that produce it as sacred. If we do not have those reverential feelings in this life, how could our Father give them to us in the eternities?” (Ensign, Feb. 1998, 15).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “The body is an essential part of the soul…We declare that one who uses the God-given body of another without divine sanction abuses the very soul of that individual, abuses the central purpose and processes of life… In sexual transgression the soul is a stake—the body and the spirit” (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76). In teaching our children about this sacred power, review For the Strength of Youth  or A Parent’s Guide .
See paragraph 6 of the Proclamation. Married couples should strengthen their love for each other. As President Hinckley taught: “When you are married, be fiercely loyal to one another. Selfishness is the great destroyer of happy family life. If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on throughout eternity” (Ensign, Dec. 1995, 67). Children are blessed when they have parents who love and care for each other.
D&C 68:25-28; 93:40 remind us of principles which parents are required to teach their children. Teaching of families can be accomplished in varied settings such as family home evenings, family prayers, mealtimes, bedtime, traveling together, and working together at home or in the community.
The role of the Church in teaching children was stated by President Spencer W. Kimball: “It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children. The Sunday School, the Primary, [the Mutual], and other organizations of the Church play a secondary role” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 332).
Observance of Righteous principles is the foundation of successful marriages and families
See paragraph 7 of the Proclamation. Another teaching of the Proclamation is that “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It further states that “successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
The Proclamation points out specific responsibilities of fathers—to preside over the home, provide the necessities of life, and provide protection. D&C 121:41-46 gives direction on how this is to be accomplished in righteousness.
Primary responsibilities for mothers are also given—and mothers should be teaching their daughters how to nurture through their daily example. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “If there is to be a return to old and sacred values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, that integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled, and that love is nurtured… Sisters, guard your children… Nothing is more precious to you as mothers, absolutely nothing. Your children are the most valuable thing you will have in time or all eternity. You will be fortunate indeed is, as you grow old and look at those you brought into the world, you find in them uprightness of life, virtue in living, and integrity in their behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 99).
While prime responsibilities are assigned to each parent, fathers should help nurture and the best parents work together as equal partners.
See the final two paragraphs of the Proclamation. Its conclusion warns of serious consequences when families are allowed to disintegrate. It then calls upon everyone to strengthen the family. Speaking to a gathering of mayors and other public officials, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “To you men and women of great influence, you who preside in the cities of the nation, to you I say that it will cost far less to reform our schools, to teach the virtues of good citizenship, than it will to go on building and maintaining costly jails and prisons… But there is another institution of even greater importance than the schools. It is the home. I believe that no nation can rise higher than the strength of its families” (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 109).
It is incumbent upon us as parents or future parents to think about how we would answer these questions: Do all my family members sense my love for them? Are we striving to live as an eternal family? What can I do to strengthen my family?
The Proclamation on the Family is filled with truth. We need to study and apply its teachings.
Recognize and avoid abuse: We have been warned that those “who abuse spouse or offspring…will one day stand accountable before God.” Our prophets have spoken out strongly in opposition to abuse of any kind. President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled brethren: “Never abuse your wives. Never abuse your children. But gather them in your arms and make them feel of your love and your appreciation and your respect. Be good husbands. Be good fathers” (Ensign, June 1999, 2).