Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why I Can Support "The Family: A Proclamation to the World"; Part 1

I remember when the LDS Church published "The Family: A Proclamation to the World". It was inspiring. It was beautiful. It affirmed some of the grandest ideas in Mormonism. It was also the first time in my life I could remember the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles publishing such an official, doctrinal statement (I was three when the revelation on the priesthood was given). I wondered when it would be voted on by the church as canonized scripture. Since then, life experiences have changed me, and I've met people hurt by others who accept and enforce the surface meanings of this proclamation. I feel glad that it has not been accepted as binding, and hope that it won't be until our understanding as a church has changed and we can see it in new light. Still, I hesitated to reject outright the feelings of inspiration to do good and be better that I remembered. Further, I think I could vote yes if I were asked, today, to canonize this proclamation as part of LDS scripture.

I decided to study "The Family" again and see if I could still feel as I did that it is an inspired document. Over the course of a number of blog posts, I will share my current thoughts and feelings about "The Family." If you will be offended by reading of my continued belief in God and in modern prophets and continuing scripture, I'll take no offense at your skipping these posts. If you will be offended by my twisting conventional readings and accusing them of being nonsensical, unexamined, and unreasoned, I'll take no offense at your skipping these posts. If you want to hear my story of eternal families, God speaking to men, and all the ambiguities of unanswered questions that I live with and find beauty in, then read on. Argue with me. Agree with me. Tell me you think my thoughts are important or a waste of time. Explore what truth I may have found, and help me see more that I have missed.

Having set the stage, I'll jump in--quoting from the proclamation and sharing thoughts, rhetorical questions, and a few real questions.

"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."

I have many reasons to believe this statement. The God I worship values marriage. He has taught it to men and women through prophets through all history. Everyone I know who has lived in a supportive, committed family has found great personal benefits from it. Societies benefit from strong families. I aspire to maintaining the ideal of family to the blessing of all humanity. It makes sense to me that family is part of an eternal plan and that we are literally a part of God's family--He wants us to grow up to be parents like He is. It's wonderful to me. 

My next question is, how do I fulfill this destiny?  This leads to more detailed questions about what eternal family means. What do we really know of eternal families and how they are organized?
1. We have a father and a mother, brothers and sisters.
2. We know that all eternal families in the eternities of Gods are like this. Really? What's our evidence?
3. All eternal families are defined in the way of the modern family unit. Are we sure?
4. Sex and gestation in a mother is how spirit children are created. Wow! Where did that idea come from?

I guess we don't really know as much as we assume, so let's look at some specific relationships that we can identify more clearly:

5. Think about your relationship in your eternal family to your earthly wife or husband. . .
6. Think about the family relationship that resulted in the birth of our Savior. . . (really a bit disturbing if you reject the immaculate conception as Mormonism does)
7. Think about how you are related to your earthly parents and children. . .

It appears to me that the rules of family organization are pretty complex and not very clear when it comes to our eternal families. So exactly how does the earthly family unit play a role in our eternal destiny? It's difficult for me to maintain that it is through modeling how eternal families are organized in any strict sense.

Superficial readings unsurprisingly support current LDS cultural biases, but examination leaves many more questions than are answered. How do our earthly families improve our eternal destiny? What evidence do we really have that the most common earthly family structure is the ONLY family structure approved by God in heaven OR on earth? I believe marriage as we most often think of it is ordained of God, but the reason I could accept this paragraph as scripture is that it is not limited in possible understandings. Its authors affirmed a positive ideal. They did not condemn other family organizations, however they may have felt personally about "alternative lifestyles". That feels like scripture to me. God speaks to us within our culture and language, but leaves us with hints that much more is still to come when we are ready for it. What that more is, I don't honestly know (even if I make statements as if I do), but the God I love appears to once again have left the door open to ever more knowledge. He has affirmed truth without limiting it.

I've gotten ahead of myself with some of the questions and speculations, but we are following a thought process. We've learned a very little, and begun to ask questions and make hypotheses about more. We may have to revise them with more data as you follow me through this process, but spelling them out shows my preconceptions--an important step in true learning. We have to identify our prior "knowledge" in order to be able to unlearn any misconceptions we may have brought to the classroom. In my experience this is at least as hard a part of learning as acquiring the new knowledge. We'll have to see if future parts allow me to continue rationalizing my personal pre-judgements. . .

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan, I take a similar approach to interpreting this document. Some read more into it than is stated. I contend the unstated is intentionally unstated.