Saturday, September 24, 2016

Proclamation Families

In 1995, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created the document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” In it they outlined their hopes for the ideal family, one based on divinely revealed principles, and gave it the full weight of their prophetic approbation. While I am fully aware of the Proclamation’s historical context, namely as a response to a judicial ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in Hawaii the previous year, I cannot help but believe that any document penned through revelation contains more than the authors intended.

I recently heard someone make the distinction between Proclamation families and Non-Proclamation families, meaning heterosexual couples versus homosexual couples. Such a reading focuses on the Proclamation’s exclusionary potential. Of course, it is somewhat limiting to think that the document can only exclude homosexual couples: those who are single, divorced, widowed, and infertile are excluded too, not to mention those who meet the criteria of a man, a woman, and children, but are unmarried, too poor to keep a parent at home, atheist, non-Christian, or abusive. In fact, if we seek to perfectly emulate the “Proclamation to the World,” the vast majority of the world falls short.

Alternately, we can read the Proclamation as inclusive, meaning that it applies to all families. Just as the U.S. Constitution has the Necessary and Proper Clause, which allows Congress to expand its powers as needed to meet the nation’s needs, the Proclamation states: “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” This gives each individual wide-ranging interpretive powers, using the gift of personal revelation to tailor the principles inherent in the Proclamation to their own family situation.

What might a queer Proclamation family look like? Let’s take a look.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.” Indeed, I doubt anyone could argue with such a statement. I need look no further than the imperfect yet clearly celestial marriage of my own mother and father to know that heterosexual marriage is a beautiful and beneficent institution. And the divinity of heterosexual marriage in no way threatens the divinity of queer marriages. Thus marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman or a man and a non-binary person, or a polygamous situation can also be ordained of God.

“Family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children,” another self-evident statement. It is through wonderful heterosexual families that many of God’s queer children come into this world. It is how queer couples grow in love and sacrifice and selflessness together, and have children of their own. Family is the mechanism by which we prepare for eternity.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” Need we say more? All human beings are divine, loved by God, and created in the divine image. We all have a divine destiny, straight and queer.

“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” As a cisgender male, I can feel an essential masculinity in myself, even as I pass rather freely through societal constructions of gender norms. This statement has given me great confidence to know that no matter what I may do, my masculinity remains intact. The Mormon transgender community has also found great comfort in this statement, knowing that their gender identity is eternal, that it existed before they were put into imperfect mortal bodies, and that it will continue after this life in the resurrection of perfect bodies.

“The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.” What a blessing that we can remain with those we love even after death. But of course, I would find it odd if an omniscient and omnipotent god had not made plans to allow families to continue throughout eternity. Even those who died without sealing ordinances in this life are receiving them vicariously in our temples. No doubt the Lord has also prepared a way for current queer families to be blessed with eternal perpetuation.

“We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” Kids are important! Thanks to the miracles of modern science, clearly a blessing from God, queer families can also fulfill this commandment. Not only are surrogacies and artificial inseminations available, but it seems likely that we will soon be able to combine the DNA of two men or two women to form healthy children for queer families. Many children also need a new home, and queer families can nurture them through adoption.

“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.” This is a slight rephrasing of the temple covenant we make when we agree to obey the law of chastity, which applies to everyone, straight and queer. However, I like the temple phrasing better. The next time you are in an endowment session, listen carefully to the words and note that the word “respectfully” is never used. And honestly, could not the queer community, particularly the gay male community, stand a little more monogamy? Men, it’s time to grow up and settle down with a good husband and start having kids! Stable, life-long, committed relationships are so much better than a string of one-night stands! Listen to the prophets; they know what they’re talking about. And if you’re looking and haven’t found the right guy yet, don’t be discouraged. The Lord wants to bless you with a good marriage. Keep looking.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.” Absolutely. So do husband and husband, and wife and wife. How wonderful if all families, straight and queer, loved and cared for each other? This is surely a true doctrine from the Lord.

“Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and 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.” This part speaks for itself.

“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.” As of 2015, no queer couples in the U.S. have an excuse. Your children deserve to be born within the bonds of matrimony, and those bonds are sacred. Can you imagine stable, committed queer marriages, where there is no cheating? How much happier children would be in such a marriage! And while we may even acknowledge that a mother and father would be ideal, I think we can make do just fine with two fathers and an aunt, or two mothers and a grandfather. As we said above, “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”

“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.” This is perhaps the key sentence in all the Proclamation. Families can be happy when they follow the Lord, queer or straight. The Savior taught us to love one another, and that makes for happy families.

Parents should “provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” and “nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” As long as there is food for hungry mouths and kisses for bruised knees, a child can grow up happy and loved. But only when both parents work together as equals will they best accomplish this, however labor is divided.

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 are accountable for making sure our budding queer families are the kind that will be acceptable to God. They must be filled with love, with laughter, with joy. Our families will contribute to the bulwark that upholds communities and nations.

Marriage is still a ways off for me, an uncertainty amidst a sea of possibilities. But were I to marry another man, we will have a copy of the Proclamation hanging on our wall, and we will be a Proclamation family. Because it is my testimony that happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.