In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan.
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations. The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother 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, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. 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 short document, although it has not been presented or accepted as Scripture, is treated as having near-scriptural authority. Here we see basic assumptions of contemporary LDS life, some of which echo the Scriptures and some of which go beyond them.
1. The God-ordained unit of society is the family. 2. The family begins with the marriage of a man and a woman. 3. Males and females are created in the image of God. 4. Humans are the literal and beloved children of God. 5. Gender is eternal. 6. Humans chose to come to earth to obtain bodies. 7. Families constituted on earth can be preserved eternally. 8. Husbands and wives should have children. 9. Only husbands and wives should have children. 10. The creation of life is divine and should not be interfered with. 11. Parents are responsible to see their children raised in love and righteousness. 12. Children are entitled to be born to married parents and raised by them. 13. Fathers preside, provide, protect; mothers nurture children. 14. Though fulfilling different functions, parents cooperate as equal partners. 15. Failure in these matters will bring about calamities.
The Proclamation can be read in conflicting ways. It is a strong affirmation of family values when they are under pressure, but it also underscores Mormon belief in the family, not the individual, as "the basic unit of society." The downside of that principle is that it disregards adults outside of nuclear families. Feminists criticize the stress on paternal leadership, but patriarchy is muted. Males and females are mostly linked as equals-in marriage, as creations and children of God, as possessing eternal gender, as parents, and as faithful marital partners. The two are separated by divergent roles, not unequal status. Men have the outside leadership role; women raise the children. But again, they are "obligated" to help each other as "equal partners" in their mutually complementary roles. The only hint of hierarchy is the presence of the word "preside."
When asked why the Proclamation was issued, President Gordon B. Hinckley answered, because the family was under attack and the home was the place to address society's problems. Children learn what their parents teach them. Strengthening individual families improves the world. General authorities frequently warn against the dissolution of the family because it is the basis of civilization and national virtue. The authorities regret the working mother and the absent father. They urge that families, and particularly mothers, raise their own children rather than trusting the state, businesses, or schools to do the job. They also worry when women act like men. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in a General Conference talk of October 1993, deplored the political, legal, and social pressures that confuse gender and homogenize the differences between men and women. "Our eternal perspective sets us against changes that alter those separate duties and privileges of men and women that are essential to accomplish the great plan of happiness." He condemned marital infidelity. "The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God, but He has commanded that this be confined within the relationship of marriage." Extramarital sex is sinful. The Proclamation, then, projects a vision of a nation of loyal, happy, cooperative families.