Because “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is not canonized, some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel they are free to either reject its teachings or interpret it at will. For example, the family proclamation teaches that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Some who disregard the proclamation as doctrine support and even advocate for same-sex marriage. Some go so far as to believe the doctrine of marriage will change. They feel that although the teachings in the proclamation pertain to members of The Church, the world at large should not be held to the same standard.
However, the proclamation teaches eternal, unchanging doctrines canonized in the standard works of the Church and affirmed by the consistent teachings of modern prophets and apostles.
What is Doctrine?
In the first place, the proclamation is strongly supported by the established criteria for “what is doctrine” as explained by the Church. Since the proclamation is firmly rooted in established doctrine, it is not necessary that it be canonized for members to uphold its teachings with confidence. Church leaders, for over 20 years, have used the family proclamation as the gold standard by which they teach and establish the official position of the Church on the doctrines of marriage, family relationships, and gender identity. Prophets of God speak on His behalf; therefore, members sustain them as they uphold the doctrines declared in the proclamation. As members sustain and defend the proclamation, families are strengthened. The family proclamation meets all authoritative criteria for what constitutes Church doctrine.
Some members refuse the family proclamation as doctrine because it is not canonized. However, the proclamation is built upon doctrines canonized in the standard works of the Church. In the Books of Genesis and Moses, we learn about the purpose of life, the eternal marriage relationship, and God’s plan for His children centered in the family. What is taught in the proclamation is strongly supported by the established criteria for what is doctrine. In an important commentary published on the Mormon Newsroom titled: “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” it explains that “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith.” (Italics added for emphasis) Since prophets of God speak on His behalf, members sustain them when they uphold the proclamation as doctrine.
Elder David A. Bednar teaches that, “In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles proclaim, that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” This keynote sentence of the proclamation teaches us much about the doctrinal significance of marriage and emphasizes the primacy of marriage and family in the Father’s plan. Righteous marriage is a commandment and an essential step in the process of creating a loving family relationship that can be perpetuated beyond the grave.” Because the family proclamation is firmly rooted in instituted doctrine it is not necessary that it be canonized.
The family proclamation meets all reliable benchmarks for what comprises Church doctrine. Consequently, regardless of whether Latter-day Saints hold any personal viewpoints contrary to its teachings and counsel they are, nevertheless, bound by covenant to uphold it. In doing so, they sustain God’s chosen servants and strengthen families everywhere.
Indeed, because the family proclamation is not canonized, some members feel they are at liberty to either ignore its content or unravel it as they wish. Nevertheless, it is beyond reproach that the proclamation meets the standards of what constitutes Church doctrine. Its teachings and counsel are firmly proven in the standard works. Therefore, covenant members of the Church are called to stand with God’s prophets and apostles, in support of this inspired document, as they continually declare these eternal truths to strengthen the family as God has ordained. Because the family proclamation is firmly established in immovable Church doctrine, it is not obligatory that it be canonized. With this understanding, it is well-defined that the proclamation clearly teaches eternal, unchanging doctrines canonized in the standard works of the Church and affirmed by the consistent teachings of modern prophets and apostles.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1991.
“Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” Mormon Newsroom, May 4, 2007. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine
“Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Elder David A. Bednar, Ensign, Jun 2006, 82-87