Who Will Canonize the Family Proclamation?

I admit I breathed a small sigh of relief when this last General Conference ended without the Proclamation on the Family being presented to be added to the D&C. It seemed like it might have been an opportune time: the first annual (April) Conference following all the twentieth anniversary celebrations last year. So I was glad that it didn’t happen, but it occurs to me now that the question of the Family Proclamation getting canonized might be less about when it happens and more about who makes it happen.

When or if the Family Proclamation gets officially added to our scriptures probably depends strongly on who is President of the Church. President Hinckley, of course, was running the Church when it was released, but he was never as big a proponent of it as other members of the Q15 have been. President Monson hasn’t been either. But the next three men in line–President Nelson, Elder Oaks, and Elder Ballard–are all big fans. They are particularly prone to use it to make anti-gay and pro-rigid gender roles arguments. In any case, President Monson doesn’t look well at all, and it looks likely that at least Nelson and Oaks will become Church President, possibly pretty soon. When they do, I wonder if either one of them will move to canonize the Proclamation to better cement its long-term influence.

What could stand in their way? Certainly the members won’t. I think most members like the Family Proclamation just fine. Even if we didn’t, there’s not really a way such a sentiment could be expressed in the Church, as Elder Oaks reminded us this last Conference. Church leaders want to hear us saying “amen” to them or to hear us shutting up. Possibly other members of the Q15 could put up a roadblock, though. Rumor has it that Elder Holland is sympathetic to LGBT people, so he or other similarly-minded members might push against it happening. Elder Holland is getting more senior in the quorum too, so he might actually be able to stymie such an attempt if the famous rule that nothing is done without unanimity is actually honored. Another possible obstacle is precedent. We’ve had it for twenty years without canonizing it, so that’s precedent-setting for not doing so. There’s also the precedent of not adding much to the D&C in the last century plus.

A related question is whether it matters if the Proclamation gets canonized or not. As someone (I think at BCC, but I don’t recall who) pointed out in a discussion I read, it’s already treated in most ways as though it’s part of the canon. It hangs in many members’ homes. It gets quoted every Conference, probably more than any book that’s actually in the canon. Primary children learn snippets of it as their “scripture” of the month. BYUI students are required to take an entire course on it. If you look it up on lds.org, it comes with a pop-up to remind you of just how very important it is, something that I’ve found nowhere else on the site. So for right now, I think the person at BCC is probably right that it makes little difference whether the Proclamation gets canonized or not. Taking a longer-run view, though, I suspect it does matter. When GAs eventually come around to making changes like ordaining women and allowing people married to a partner of the same sex to stay in the Church, a canonized Proclamation would stand in the way and slow down both their process of changing their minds and their ability to make changes to Church policy. Even if it doesn’t make a difference in the present, then, I’m really hoping against canonization for the Proclamation.

What do you think? Will the Proclamation be canonized, and if so, who will get it done? Will it matter either in the present or in the future?

17 thoughts on “Who Will Canonize the Family Proclamation?

  1. 1

    I think the canonization train left the station in 2013 when the new edition of the scriptures was released. If they were going to canonize the Proclamation, they would have done it before that so that the new edition would not immediately become obsolete.

  2. 2

    I don’t think it will be canonized. Unlike Official declarations 1 and 2, Family Proclamation didn’t bring any major changes to policies. It doesn’t contain any doctrines that aren’t already in the Scriptures (one can argue that even the eternal nature of gender can be found in D&C 76:24). Instead, I think that the quasiofficial status of the Proclamation will be reinforced so that it will be included to the Triple Combination somewhere in the connection of Topical Guide. That way it could be in the Scriptures without being scripture.

  3. 3

    Niklas, that’s an interesting though, that they might include it as an appendix rather than canonize it in the D&C. That might happen. I think there will not be more additions to the D&C, unless there is a major doctrinal change.

  4. 4

    Interestng write-up, Ziff.

    I agree that it really does matter whether it gets canonized or not. I see it falling by the wayside much faster if it never gets the official imprimatur. (Maybe someday, without canonization, the Proclamation will become like the typewriter is to today’s PC’s.) Still, I do believe, even without canonization, it will continue to influence Mormon thought for a long, long time, kinda like “Saturday’s Warrior” has done.

  5. 5

    OD1 and OD2 are based on clear revelation that changed how the church operated in big ways. Statements and declarations are more clarification and emphasis on existing doctrine (like The Living Christ one from 2000 or so). I would be surprised to ever see the Family Proc canonized as scripture. To me it’s equivalent to the First Presidency statement on the origin of man at the beginning of the 20th century.

  6. 6

    Who will canonize the family proclamation? Perhaps the apostles will all look at each other and then turn and ask, “Is it me, Lord?”

  7. 7

    “When GAs eventually come around to making changes like ordaining women and allowing people married to a partner of the same sex to stay in the Church,”

    I may be wrong, but I do not see the latter happening, ever. There is some possibility of the former happening, via revelation.


  8. 8

    I agree with Glenn. The different ways that OW and gay marriage were treated in church policies argues that same sex married couples will never be recognized as legit in the church. For female ordination, the leaders were reluctant to clearly state that it will never happen. I believe that this is because they want to leave room for revelation on the subject in the future. In particular, President Monson has never spoken directly on this subject. Plenty of wiggle room for a future president to change the policy.

  9. 9

    Like Ziff I hope it is not cannonised, and I also expect we will stop discriminating against anyone for who they are.Women or gays.

    Imagine if we were still defending racism, that is how isolated we will be in most of the world in a few years. As there is nothing said by Christ, nothing in the BOM, and no modern revelation, to support our opposition to gay marriage, It fairly clearly comes into the culture of the leaders, being taught as Gospel, as have so many other things, that are now gone.

    For me it is a question of how long it remains acceptable in America, and that could be affected by who wins the election.

  10. 10

    Personally, I see some doctrinal problems with certain statements in the Proclamation regarding the premortal existence, of which we really know just about nothing. Most of what we have is speculation, particularly the whole notion of a Mother in Heaven. The late-developing doctrine of spirit birth has some logistical holes in it wide enough to drive a truck through.

  11. 11

    Since much of the current LDS canon is ignored, canonizing the Proclamation will put it in the realm of ‘obsolete’ revelation that has lost its revelance.

  12. 12

    “Another possible obstacle is precedent. We’ve had it for twenty years without canonizing it, so that’s precedent-setting for not doing so.”

    I hate to bring this up, but we practiced polygamy for well over 20 years before 132 was added to the D&C.

  13. 13

    I think they have successfully slipped it in as canon because no one except nerdy bloggernacle people recognize the ever-so-subtle difference between a proc, dec, and a rev-elation. They all sound the same and since it was read in gen conf, it is scripture.

    I think they may be waiting for the original author (from Kirton and McConkie) to croak so he can’t come forward at some point and claim revelatory power above the Q15. This is the first proc-dec-rev-elation we’ve had in almost a century, and the first iteration if it was an amicus brief against Hawaii’s gay-marriage legislation (prior to prop 8). It was not penned by the Prophet in the Holy of Holies, or his office in the SL Temple.

  14. 14

    The proclamation is already used to justify provably wrong assertions about gender and homosexuality and the nuclear family. Mormons don’t need to canonize it in order to support their rampant prejudices. They already use it for that.

  15. 15

    The proclamation is beyond sctipture, its an official proclamation of our beliefs to the world standing as an everlasting banner to all that is wicked, to all that seeks to destroy Gods kingdom. This isnt some small or light thing that some hope will be dropped and dismissed.

  16. 16
  17. 17

    For what it’s worth, I attended a leadership meeting in Utah in 1999 where Elder Holland was the main speaker. He stated then that we should all be watching for the Proclamation to be canonized soon. He talked like it was a done deal. Seventeen years ago.

    Clearly, there was division at the top back then that kept this “sure thing” from happening. I assume that division still exists, and may have even increased since then. I don’t expect canonization.

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