Zelophehad’s Daughters

Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family?

Posted by Ziff

While the Proclamation on the Family was nominally written by all 15 men serving in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve at the time it was issued, it seems likely that some of them were more central to the project than others. For some reason, I’ve always thought it was Elder Nelson’s baby, although I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s just because divine gender roles seems to be his favorite topic.

In any case, the writers aren’t likely to tell us who was most and least involved, but I wonder if they might have revealed this information to us indirectly. It seems reasonable to assume that those who were most enamored of the project would quote from and refer to the document most often. So I went back and checked who has referred to the Proclamation the most.

I searched lds.org for documents that (1) were written by one of the Quorum of 15 as of September 23, 1995, when the Proclamation was issued, and (2) referred to the Proclamation. The second part proved to be a little more difficult than it might at first appear, because GAs don’t always refer to the Proclamation by its official name (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”). I ended up searching for all documents containing both the words “family” and “proclamation,” and then manually checking the results so I could discard any spurious matches. (Sadly, although they did refer to it in different ways, I didn’t find any instances where they called it the “FamProc.”)

Here are the results.

refs to proclamation on the family by q15An asterisk indicates a man who has since died, and whose reference count I have therefore adjusted to account for the fact that he did not have as much opportunity as the others to refer to the Proclamation. For example, President Hinckley made 12 references to the Proclamation, but he only lived 12.34 years after it was issued. If he had continued to refer to it at the same rate and had lived all the way until now (17.40 years), he would have made a total of (12 references/12.34 years)*17.40 years = 16.92 references.

President Hinckley, President Packer, Elder Nelson, and Elder Ballard look like the clear leaders in referring to the Proclamation. That being said, there is another adjustment for President Hinckley that I did not make, which is that as President of the Church, he gave far more Conference talks (at least three times as many) and wrote more Ensign articles (home teaching messages, for example, always come from the First Presidency) than an ordinary member of the Quorum of the Twelve like Elder Nelson. Given this fact, it appears that President Hinckley was not quite as enthusiastic about the Family Proclamation as President Packer, Elder Nelson, and Elder Ballard have been, and I think it’s not unreasonable to guess that they were likely its primary authors.

This method of trying to answer the question is, I admit, extremely crude, but I am somewhat comforted by the result aligning at least somewhat with my intuition. That Elder Nelson and President Packer rank high is no surprise: both seem very traditional in their view of family structures. Elder Ballard is somewhat of a surprise to me, though.

Also, it looks like President Monson might not have been that involved, which is interesting. I wonder if we’ll hear an uptick in the already high levels of family-focused rhetoric when the Presidency passes to someone else. It’s not surprising that Elder Maxwell doesn’t appear high on the list; if he had, the Proclamation might have more lines like “presiding priorities prevent equality eventualities.”

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on who wrote the Proclamation, particularly if they’re based on whispered rumors from the Church Office Building. :)

45 Responses to “Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family?”

  1. 1.

    I have no guesses about authorship, but I’d be so interested to see the first draft. The words “preside” and “nurture” being in the same paragraph as “equal partners” feels like a compromise to me. I wonder if the first draft had equal partners there at all.

  2. 2.

    Very interesting, as always. The only whispers I’ve heard are that (a) it was drafted by a committee, which would seem to align with your data, and (b) as I understand it the modus operandi of the committee was to document every proposition in the document extensivley with citations to the scriptures and modern prophets. My understanding is that there is an entire file cabinet chock full of hard copies of the material used as support for the various propositions in the Proc., and that this same approach was used to the preparation of the testimony of the 12 Apostles about Jesus Christ.

  3. 3.

    I have not heard who wrote it but I did hear that although it was originally presented at a general relief society meeting, the general relief society presidency was kept completely in the dark about it until just before the meeting and given no opportunity to provide any input. Perhaps someone with more direct knowledge about that could comment?

  4. 4.

    Very interesting, Ziff. I’m not sure I accept the idea that there is a filing cabinet full of scriptural support for the assertions made in the Proclamation. If the scriptures were really full of support for the ideas in the Proclamation, we wouldn’t have needed the Proclamation, would we?

    Carrie Miles published an article arguing just this point, that the scriptures provide little or no support for the main themes of the Proclamation (family, gender roles) and that the Proclamation serves to fill that gap (between what the scriptures say and what conservative LDS want the scriptures to say). It gives general and local authorities a scripture-like document to cite as support for the desired doctrines. Quotations from the article are provided in my T&S post “Rethinking the Proclamation”:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2011/05/rethinking-the-proclamation/

  5. 5.

    But how did they line up on Lenin’s Tomb during the May Day Parade?

  6. 6.

    I believe that the basis for the Proclamation came from President Packer’s talk in October 1993 conference. http://www.lds.org/ensign/1993/11/for-time-and-all-eternity?lang=eng The talk addresses, a little more at length and from a more conservative standpoint, many things found two years later in the Proclamation, in roughly the same order, such as pre-mortal existence of gender, man’s role as protector and provider, and woman as nurturer. President Packer also states that by divine decree, priesthood is entrusted to men outside the home (this did not make it into the Proclamation). He also condemns mothers’ working outside the home and strongly encourages having lots of children. I can imagine the Brethren working on the Proclamation, perhaps starting with this talk, and reaching balance on what they could agree on based on careful consideration and seeking God’s will. He does not use the term “equal partner” in describing husband and wife, although he states that both are of equal value. The parable of the Treasure at the end of the talk is still often referenced in LDS materials.

  7. 7.

    April, in the Spring 2012 issue, Dialogue published an extensive interview from 2005 with Sr. Chieko Okazaki called “There Is Always a Struggle” in which she states that:

    “In 1995 when ‘The Family: a Proclamation to the World’ was written, the Relief Society presidency was asked to come to a meeting. We did, and they read this proclamation. It was all finished. The only question was whether they should present it at the priesthood meeting or at the Relief Society meeting. It didn’t matter to me where it was presented. What I wanted to know was, ‘How come we weren’t consulted?’

    “Greg Prince: You didn’t even know it was in the works?”

    “Chieko Okazaki: No. They just asked us which meeting to present it in, and we said, ‘Whatever President Hinckley decides is fine with us.’ He decided to do it at the Relief Society meeting. The apostle who was our liaison said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that he made the choice to present it at the Relief Society meeting?’ Well, that was fine, but as I read it I thought that we could have made a few changes in it.” (page 136)

  8. 8.

    In the same conference as Elder Packer’s 1993 talk, Elder Ballard also gave a talk called “Equality Through Diversity” (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1993/11/equality-through-diversity?lang=eng) that contains recognizable portions of what would become the Family Proclamation.

  9. 9.

    I’m not surprised by Elder Ballard’s numbers – he spearheaded the campaign for online grassroots prop 8 organizing. He gave a number of addresses on this topic, especially to YSA audiences, so it would make sense that he’d refer to the Proclamation frequently.

  10. 10.

    I’ve long assumed that this document was written to provide clear doctrinal justification for the church’s political machinations regarding same-sex marriage. It came out the same year they began to give money/time to the Hawaii marriage fight . . .

  11. 11.

    someone needs to do a wordprint analysis! should be pretty easy with all of their conference talks to statistically compare.
    on a related note, there are some identifying lines in The Living Christ: the Maxwellian or Holland alliteration in “his life neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary” and President Hinckley’s signature conclusion: “God be thanked…”

  12. 12.

    No. 10 Deborah is right. The Proc was drafted specifically to put the Church’s views as to gender and marriage (contra same sex marriage) “on the record” as a sort of Mormon analog to canon law. They needed to be able to have a document like this to point to for that purpose. And that is why there is backup documentation of the propositions in the Proc. It’s a semilegal document.

  13. 13.

    You should probably check non-general conference sources. Many brethren have given whole 45 minute devotionals on the subject, which contain multiple references. For example, Elder Eyring gave several BYU devotionals focused on it, including one called the family. Elder Oaks just gave a devotional to CES employees (featured on LDS.com) which repeatedly quotes and refers to the proclaimation. Both these brethren rate low on your scale, but might not be as low if the non-general conference talks are factored in.

    Also, does your analysis take account of the difference between a single reference to the Proclamation and an entire address devoted to it?

  14. 14.

    # 12 – I agree that the Proclamation is a “semilegal” document. So is the new Handbook 2, which contains many doctrinal statements that amplify on those found in the Proclamation. Elder Oaks’ recent address shows how the Brethren are using both the Proclamation and Handbook 2 to give a clear picture of Church doctrine.

  15. 15.

    Great job as always Ziff.

  16. 16.

    I have written and spoken about the Proclamation at Sunstone. In my opinion, one of the reasons it was written and released at the time it was promulgated was to make a semi-doctrinal statement that would support its political activities against same-sex marriage. At that time, the Hawaii courts had legalized same-sex marriage, and the church was heavily (though secretly) involved in fighting it.

    In the closing paragraphs the Proclamation urges people to lobby for government policies that support the version of the family set forth in the Proclamation. To the best of my knowledge, however, the only times it has been trotted out in a political setting it to fight gay marriage. While homosexuality is never explicitly mentioned in the Proclamation, it is an unstated undercurrent. IMO, the church’s obsession with gender roles is related to its fear that if women do men’s roles they won’t want to be women any more, and that equates to being gay. That is an overstatement and oversimplification, but this is a short note.

    Also, I have it on good authority, which authority shall remain nameless, that (as noted above) the RS Presidency was indeed blindsided by the Proclamation.

  17. 17.

    […] Here is an interesting look at who might be behind the proclamation. […]

  18. 18.

    It’s kind of appallingly sad that a document which circumscribes the unit Family, which is Mormon women’s primary sphere of responsibility, was created without the input or knowledge of the female leaders of the church.

    What would that Proclamation look like had Elaine Jack, Aileen Clyde, and Chieko Okazaki been part of the drafting committee?

    Of all the issues in the church, Family is The Women’s Issue, so much so that Pres. Hinckley introduced it in an RS meeting, prefacing it with all the ways women can make a difference in their families in a declining world. And yet, the voices of our female leaders were not heard as the proclamation was being created. There is something wrong with this picture.

  19. 19.

    Thanks, everyone, for pointing out the talks that might have served as a basis for the Proclamation, and for filling in more on the rationale for it and the unfortunate way it was presented in an RS meeting but with no RS input.

    Unknown, certainly a bigger sample is typically better, but I did search all documents at lds.org. I realize that this doesn’t include everything it possibly could, but unless there’s a reason to expect that the differences between how often members of the Q of 15 write or talk about the Proclamation in sources at lds.org versus in sources not available there, the results wouldn’t likely differ from what we already have.

  20. 20.

    I think it is likely that the original draft was not written by any of the 15. They are all busy men who have an extensive bureaucracy at their disposal to do first drafts and the like. I suspect they gave directions about what they wanted, someone else put pen to paper, then it was distributed to the 15 for comment, then it went through several amended drafts before assuming a form everyone could agree with.

    I agree with Kevin and Nadine that it likely arose out of the battle in Hawaii over same-sex marriage. For that reason I’ve always wondered if the folks at JRCLS (Lynn Wardle) or Kirton & McConkie might have had a hand in it.

  21. 21.

    #16 Yes. Thank you, Nadine. And pure conjecture on my part: Of all the RS presidencies I’ve known in my life, this group was uniquely suited to provide rational, fair and inspired ideas about possible content for the proclamation from a woman’s perspective . . . perhaps part of the reason why they were not consulted.

  22. 22.

    The proclamation is actually Exhibit I in the Church’s petition to be named as a co-defendant in the first Hawaii gay marriage case–it’s impossible to know whether that is why it was drafted, but the temporal correlation is suggestive.

  23. 23.

    Aileen Clyde confirmed Chieko Okasaki’s account in the question and answer part of her presentation at the Claremont “Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices: Agency in the Lives of Mormon Women” conference in February of 2011. Years before, I attended the funeral of a woman in my stake named Clair Johnson where Packer spoke. This was long before copies of the Proclamation were hung in every Mormon home. Indeed, Packer seemed disturbed that it pretty much had been ignored up to that point–except, of course, by those of us who were upset by its rigid gender roles. Packer used the funeral as an occasion to emphasize the importance of the Proclamation. He mentioned that Beverly Campbell, Lucielle Tate and Claire Johnson were the women consulted during its preparation. At the time, I thought it odd–and disheartening–that the General Relief Society presidency was not.

  24. 24.

    Lucile Tate was Packer’s biographer, and the work she did compiling a history of the Relief Society back in 1996 was acknowledged in the new Daughters in My Kingdom book.

    Interestingly, the unofficial 1996 version of the RS history was part of what Pres. Packer had in his own offices (as I recall from listening to Julie Beck’s introduction of the book during a conference talk – haven’t double-checked my memory).

    It was rumored that Packer didn’t like the exhaustive work of Jill Mulvay Derr, et al in their 1992 RS history Women of Covenant. *That* history was published while Jack, Clyde and Okazaki were the RS presidency (they were released in 1997, about a year after Tate’s unofficial history went together).

  25. 25.

    drafted by howard w hunter…..

  26. 26.

    Ziff needs a medal (preferably made from his namesake metal) for the Maxwell phrasing.

    Also, the combination of “equal partner” and “men preside” in the same paragraph to me is a pretty strong indicator of committee process. Any bets on who wanted which phrase?

  27. 27.

    Thanks, Clark!

  28. 28.

    […] Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family? […]

  29. 29.

    Forgive me if this has already been mentioned, I could t be bothered reading all the comments ;) I always thought that the ‘gender is enteral’ bit was pretty daring rather than conservative, as to me it immediately said that a bunch of transgendered people are RIGHT, they are trapped in the wrong body :)

  30. 30.

    I’d love to see a wordprint analysis, though I fear it will always come back to the usual suspect–Solomon Spalding.

  31. 31.

    The condensed version, formed by taking just the first and last sentences, is:

    “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly 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. […] We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

    This is a call to arms. LDS efforts to defend marriage with Prop 8 shouldn’t have been surprising.

    For me, the most stunning part of this Proclamation is its penultimate sentence, “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” No qualifiers of unless we repent, etc — just that that the disintegration of the family WILL bring the foretold calamities.

  32. 32.

    I’m a latecomer to the discussion, but I’ll throw in my two cents all the same. I tend to think (and have good reason to believe) that the original document was written by an outside source (i.e. lawyer) and then the 15 Brethren revised it to their standards. I also tend to think that the impetus behind the document did indeed stem from the political machinations being carried out under the table in Hawaii. But then, these thoughts are nothing new, as both have already been stated in other comments. If this theory is correct (a Word Print would likely show it to be so) then what needs to be done is identify the “outside source.”

    Perhaps one should look to contemporary faculty members of the J. Reuben Clark School. There are a few who, when you look at their resumes, jump out as strong candidates. I’ll abstain from naming names, as I cannot independently confirm, but from what I can tell (and what I’ve heard through certain channels) that is the likely origin of the primary author(s).

    I’ll take responses off the air.

  33. 33.

    I agree with John Wayne.
    Conversations I have had with some individuals connected to project (who I cannot name) suggest (and I cannot confirm this) that LDS legal team was involved in the process for a significant time leading up to the final version going to press (and being used in an Amicus brief in the Hawaii case).

    In terms Ziff’s initial analysis of church leaders who mention it, I’m not sure the premise can be accepted carte blanche. It does not necessarily indicate particular individuals were the writers of the document jus because they more frequently refer to it on subsequent occasions. there are just too many intervening variables to assume any correlation in this matter is indicative of original intent.

    It is likely, however, that those who drafted the POF used talks by LDS leaders in prior conferences in an effot to write something that is consistent with LDS teachings…

  34. 34.

    oh, and please forgive typos. I accidentally submitted before correcting them.

  35. 35.

    I have mixed emotions.

  36. 36.

    Late addition to the conversation, but you have to add Howard W. Hunter to the mix. Here are a few comparisons from two of his talks as president of church, just 1 year before the presentation of the Family Proclamation:

    “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” (FP, paragraph 1)

    “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”)

    “THE FAMILY is ordained of God” (FP, paragraph 7)

    “A man who holds the priesthood regards the family as ordained of God” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”)

    “We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” (FP, paragraph 4)

    “We are under divine commandment to multiply and replenish the earth” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”)

    “ ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3).” (FP, paragraph 6)

    “Parenthood is a sacred obligation and privilege, with children welcomed as a ‘heritage of the Lord’ (Ps. 127:3).” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises)

    Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (FP, paragraph 8)

    “A worried society now begins to see that the disintegration of the family brings upon the world the calamities foretold by the prophets.” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises)

    “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness…” (FP, paragraph 7)

    “By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”)

    “…fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” (FP, paragraph 7)

    “The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.” (Hunter, Oct 1994, “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”)

  37. 37.

    Thanks for weighing in, Adam. Great connections! I was clearly overly narrow in including only then-current members of the Quorum.

  38. 38.

    WWTPD? What Would The Prophet Do? Turn the problem around and put yourself in the First Presidency’s shoes and ask yourself what would you do in 1995 in light of the looming gay marriage storm? As #36 points out, a prior Prophet had stated that the calamities were coming and the 15 Apostles must have determined that A) There needed to be a definitive statement about the Church’s position on the family, which by its nature makes a strong case against gay marriage; B) They should cleanse themselves from the blood of this generation had they not preached against sin; and C) They were obliged to proactively & politically combat the apparent attack on the traditional family that gay marriage represented to them.

    Yet an anti-gay marriage statement would seem too narrow in focus and negative to boot. Instead, a proclamation about the structure of the family as gay marriage wasn’t the only challenge facing LDS families.

    Regardless of who penned the drafts, it’s a brilliant document as it accomplished what the Brethren likely desired. That it hangs on the wall in many LDS homes and is regarded with near-scriptural weight has undoubtedly strengthened many LDS families. It is sufficiently broad as to allow for individual circumstances…up to a point where sin is encountered.

    And as far as the Relief Society not being consulted? In the full Prince-Okazaki interview we read about how Sister Okazaki felt that there should be more input from a female viewpoint where temple design was concerned, or even at the ward leadership level. Her honesty in replying that there were things in the proclamation that she might have wanted changed does not imply to me that she felt the Brethren were wrong.

    Maybe I’m just old-fashioned or maybe I’m just an ignorant male, but I feel that too often we get offended too easily. If one believes that the LDS Church is Christ’s church, led by Prophet and Apostles, and not run by committee or majority vote outside that group of men, then does it matter who wrote the proclamation or whether or not the Relief Society leadership were blindsided?

    Contentions and disputations frequently plague the saints when they are not under attack by outside forces. Pride enters in, people are puffed up in their own intelligence/worldly attainments and humility flees as the need to be right becomes the motivator.

    Hey, but what do I know?

  39. 39.

    “If one believes that the LDS Church is Christ’s church, led by Prophet and Apostles, and not run by committee or majority vote outside that group of men, then does it matter who wrote the proclamation or whether or not the Relief Society leadership were blindsided?”

    Yes, yes it does. Unless you believe that prophets and apostles are infallible communicators of God’s will.

  40. 40.

    The New Proclamation on the Family

    The family is ordained of God. Marriage between loving partners is essential to His eternal plan. All children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by loving parents who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, parents are to jointly preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Together, they are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, parents are obligated to help one another as equal partners. All worthy couples who are legally and lawfully married are entitled to the blessings of sealing that marriage for all time and eternity

  41. 41.

    […] A post that makes some guesses about who authored the Proclamation […]

  42. 42.

    […] Ziff, Zelophehad’s Daughters:  ”Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family?” […]

  43. 43.

    […] Ziff, Zelophehad’s Daughters:  ”Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family?” […]

  44. 44.

    […] Ziff, Zelophehad’s Daughters:  ”Who Wrote the Proclamation on the Family?” […]

  45. 45.

    […] by then Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. We really have no idea who wrote this document (see here for an interesting attempt to determination authorship), however, the parallels between the rise in […]

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