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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “09 – Proclamation on the Family”

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09 – Proclamation on the Family


“A homosexual relationship is viewed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as sin in the same degree as adultery and fornication.… 

Eternal life means returning to the Lord’s exalted presence and enjoying the privilege of eternal increase.  According to his revealed word, the only acceptable sexual relationship occurs within the family between a husband and a wife.

Homosexuality in men and women runs counter to these divine objectives and, therefore, is to be avoided and forsaken.” (The Priesthood Bulletin, February 1973, p. 2)


“With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history. I now take the opportunity of reading to you this proclamation:

“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.

“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. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

“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.”

(Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” address in Relief Society General Conference, September 23, 1995; in Ensign, November 1995, pp. 98-101)


“… to enter into the Congressional Record a message from President Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons).  

On November 13, 1995 President Hinckley visited top leaders from the Federal Government and the community. During his visit, President Hinckley met with President Clinton.  His message to President Clinton was to share with the world the importance of promoting measures that maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

As members of the Mormon Church we extend this proclamation from the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to all people.

The Family – A Proclamation to the World…”

(Rep. James V. Hansen (R-Utah), Congressional Record, November 17, 1995, p. E2214)


“A worldwide movement to foster and safeguard the traditional family as the fundamental unit of society gained impetus Nov. 21, 1998, with a dinner and program in Salt Lake City involving four Church leaders.…

President [Boyd] Packer referred to ‘The Family – a Proclamation to the world’ issued by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in September 1995.  He said the Church has issued only five proclamations in its 168-year history, and this one was prompted by the announcement that there would be a United Nations conference on the family in Salt Lake City.

‘In council, we thought we must declare ourselves,’ he said. ‘And so the members of the Twelve wrote that proclamation.  It was considered word by word by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.” (“LDS Church leaders speak about Congress of Families,” Deseret News, November 28, 1998)


“Let me become a little personal and depart from my text for a minute at this point to bear you my testimony about the importance of the Church’s Proclamation on the Family. I was a bishop in Orem when that document was issued at Women’s Conference in September 1995, as I recall. I remember attending that meeting and hearing it read by President Hinckley. My reaction as the time may have been the same reaction that many of you might have had. It was a nice document. It stated things that I believed in, truths that I understood and felt to be true, but I thought it was just a nice statement. I didn’t expect that it would do much, and frankly, at the time, I was rather convinced that the world was on a tack where the world wouldn’t listen.…” (Richard G. Wilkins, “Defending the Family,” BYU devotional address, July 6, 1999)


“As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I participated in the process of drafting “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.… We could see the people of the world wanting to define the family in ways contrary to God’s eternal plan for the happiness of His children.…

We worked together, through the divinely inspired council system that operates even at the highest levels of the Church, to craft a proclamation that would make the Lord’s position on the family so clear that it could not be misunderstood.…

Sadly, the family continues to be assaulted relentlessly throughout the world. You need only to read a newspaper or turn on the television to see how openly and viciously the war against the family is being waged. Gender is being confused, and gender roles are being repudiated. Same-gender marriage is being promoted in direct opposition to one of God’s primary purposes—for His children to experience mortality.

The family is not just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity.… [THE AFTERLIFE THEOLOGICAL CONUNDRUM]

We must stand firm, brothers and sisters, at this time when the adversary is using differing lifestyles in an attempt to replace the marriage of one man to one woman.… [REPLACE IT?]

Almost every trend indicates that we are on a slippery slope downward from God’s plan for His children. The family, once universally hailed as the cornerstone of society, is losing its essential role.…

When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and he attacks God’s plan for His children. He works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical. That’s all it takes, because Satan knows that the surest and most effective way to disrupt the Lord’s work is to diminish the effectiveness of the family and the sanctity of the home.…” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” BYU Devotional Address, August 19, 2003)


“The following comment was written by Allen Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming…

‘The real threats to family values are divorce, out-of-wedlock births and infidelity.’” (Reunion: The Family Fellowship Newsletter, Autumn 2003, p. 4)


“Proclamation of the roles in the family, and its importance to Mormons.

There have only been five proclamations issued in the history of the Church, and an issue of a proclamation is a major thing. There have been United Nation’s meetings on the family around the world. I remember the one in Cairo. I read the proceedings of it and it was on the family, and in all the proceedings I couldn’t find the word marriage, and as though those two didn’t go together.  And so we could see what was happening.  You know, the spirit of prophecy, you can see it in the inevitability and there was the thought that they were going to have such a meeting in Salt Lake City. And we thought if they are coming here for that kind of a convention we better issue, we better state our case and so made a Proclamation on the Family. And it’s strong and direct and states our case, and that’s one of the things that says who we are. That we won’t change. The home and the family. And you, of course, know all the experts, psychological education police talk about our problems now – the family’s falling apart. Were trying to keep them together.” (Boyd K. Packer, interviewed by Helen G. Whitney for her PBS documentary, “The Mormons,” broadcast in 2007.  Interview conducted February 25, 2006, Salt Lake City.  Transcript from Helen Whitney, “Boyd Packer Part 3 – Tape #3220)


“Abroad, however, things are different, and women’s rights activists, especially in developing countries, have appealed to the global system when seeking redress on discriminatory inheritance laws, draconian abortion bans, and protection from domestic violence, among other things. This, in turn, has led to a conservative counter-movement, with Mormons playing a leading role in a world-spanning alliance of right-wing Christians and Muslims who have banded together to defeat threats to patriarchal tradition.

One of the first American conservatives to pay close attention to the way global politics was reshaping gender norms was a Brigham Young law professor named Richard Wilkins. In 1996, Wilkins, who had long fought against abortion rights domestically, attended the UN Conference on Habitats in Istanbul. As Jennifer S. Butler reports in her book, Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized, Wilkins gave a speech based on LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement, The Family: A Proclamation to the World. ‘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,’ Hinckley’s proclamation said, warning that ‘the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.’

Evidently, wrote Butler, Wilkins’ speech made an impact, ‘because two days later, Arab delegates at the conference issued a statement saying they would not sign the Habitat Agenda if it failed to recognize religion and family as the basic unit of society.’ Immediately grasping their common interests, Wilkins set about organizing an international coalition of religious conservatives. He founded the World Family Policy Center at Brigham Young University, which for several years put together conferences bringing together ‘pro-family’ delegates from throughout the world.

‘Richard Wilkins feels very strongly that when the Equal Rights Amendment failed in the United States, a lot of its advocates didn’t go away, they just went to the United Nations,’ said Scott Loveless, Executive Director of the World Family Policy Center. ‘It appeared to be a pretty concerted effort to shape customary international law into, essentially, the Equal Rights Amendment.’

Soon, Wilkins began working with conservative activist Allan Carlson to stage a series of large global gatherings under the banner of ‘The World Congress of Families,’ and as producers of the recently released documentary Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family. Held in cities throughout the world, they brought together hundreds of social traditionalists who agreed to put aside religious disagreements in the name of co-belligerency. Delegates represented the Vatican and Iran, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, Latin America—and, of course, the American religious right. Mormons were far more visible at these gatherings than they typically are at Christian conservative conferences in the United States.…” (Michelle Goldberg, “Proposition 8, The Mormon Coming Out Party,” Religion Dispatches, June 15, 2009)


“In the early to mid-1990s my brother-in-law worked at Kirton McConkie, the LDS Church’s law firm that helped the General Authorities draft the Proclamation on the Family. I can vouch that I have known for 20 years that the Proclamation was specifically created as part of an amicus brief that Kirton McConkie drafted in the Church’s fight against marriage equality in Hawaii in the mid-1990s, and releasing it to the broader membership as a ‘proclamation’ was needed to officially codify the document and give one-man one-woman marriage credence as an ‘official’ doctrine of the church.

The way my brother-in-law describes it, Dallin Harris Oaks and Lyndon Whitney Clayton III (an über-gay-hating Seventy and Apostle wannabe) were behind the push, and they realized, in consultation with Kirton McConkie, that the church needed an official written document stating the doctrine of one-man one-woman marriage. Prior to that, there were essentially no official writings in the church that made that claim. This was, of course, to fight the battle against marriage equality in Hawaii, at first, and everywhere since–not only in the courts, but in the hearts and minds of members as well, causing untold personal and emotional damage to many thousands of LGBT Mormons, including many tragic teen suicides.

Man, if people only knew the truth.

It’s sickening today to think that the Proclamation was created exclusively to fight same-sex marriage and to be used as a cudgel against LGBT people everywhere. My brother-in-law has since left both Kirton McConkie and the church. He saw so much duplicity and deception from the leaders of the church he just had to get out.” (Scott Olsen, https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/2efzet/family_proclamation_eugh/ August 24, 2014)


“I saw a Facebook post that went something like this.  The person stated that the Proclamation on the Family was specifically created as part of an amicus brief that Kirton McConkie (Church’s law firm) drafted in the Church’s fight against marriage equality in Hawaii in the mid-1990s.  The Church decided to release it to the broader membership as a ‘proclamation’ because it was needed to officially codify the document and give one-man one-woman marriage credence as an ‘official’ doctrine of the church, since prior to that, there were essentially no official writings in the Church that made that claim.  Another person chimed in that a Seventy had told them that the Proclamation was an attempt to set the Church’s opinion legally before they entered the full court battle.  A third person wrote that the Baptists came out with a copycat proclamation for the same reason that was even worse, titled that wives should submit to their husbands.

How much truth do you think there is to this?  Was it lawyers, or apostles who wrote the proclamation?…

Joseph on October 30, 2014 at 4:28 AM:

I have heard this before. The wording of the proclamation was supposedly attached as an exhibit to a request the Church made to be included as a defendant in the legal challenge to Hawaii’s court case regarding same sex marriage. Since the church had very little to reference in the standard works or in previous pronouncements from the Brethren during our history, they needed something official to justify their request to be named as a co-dependent. Therefore, they wrote the wording which later was issued as the Proclamation on the Family. That would also explain why they never involved the Relief Society Presidency in drafting the language. It was not meant to be anything other than a legal document.

However, I have not seen any proof of this story.…

rah on October 30, 2014 at 4:53 AM:

My understanding is that McConkie et. al. didn’t have a hand in writing it but the initial draft was largely written by one of the law professors at the Y (whose name I am spacing and whose fingerprints are apparently easy to see all over it), but expressly for the Hawaii court cases so the church could file as an interested party (probably on the counsel of lawyers at McConkie.)…

Nate W. on October 30, 2014 at 12:42 PM:

Do you mean Lynn Wardle?…

rah on October 30, 2014 at 4:32 PM:

Yes Lynn Wardle. He was a major player for the church during the Hawaii court battles and the Proclamation contains a lot of language arguments that has parallels in his prior legal writings. I admit I am dredging from my memory here and not sources. So take it with a large grain of salt until sources appear.…

Steven B on October 30, 2014 at 5:07 PM:

Although Lynn Wardle has certainly been involved in a major way with the church’s efforts against same-sex marriage going way back, I believe the person said to be the primary author of the Proclamation was Richard Wilkins.

Steven B. on October 31, 2014 at 12:22 AM:

I think it is very telling that no one, among the general authorities, has offered to tell the story of how we got the PoF. After all the times it has be paraded before the saints, no one has mentioned how so-and-so sparked a conversation or received the inspiration, or felt that a codified statement about marriage and the family was needed.…

Rather, what we have heard are accounts, albeit often second and third-hand accounts, of those who worked at the law firm when the document was being prepared, or who were friends with Richard Wilkins and confirmed him to be the principle author.…” (Guy Templeton, “Proclamation Written by Lawyers?” WheatAndTares.org, October 30, 2014)


“I was at the same World Congress on Families in Geneva representing BYU Broadcasting which led to a two-year assignment to cover ‘family issues’ for the church and BYUB. This meant I was working with Richard Wilkins throughout that time period as well as Lynn Wardle, also of the BYU Law School who specializes in same-sex marriage opposition.

My understanding from Richard concurs with your research, that the Proclamation came [from] the church’s interest in the Hawaii case. The specific language having been derived from Rex Lee’s memorandum for the church regarding its objection to the ERA.  That verbiage and rationales evolved through another internal memorandum penned by Dallin Oaks prescribing the church’s response to potential LGBT rights legislation and litigation.…” (Kendall Wilcox to GAP, December 24, 2014)


“For some time I intended to signal that I have a video recording of a fireside Richard Wilkins gave for friends and neighbors (‘anyone welcome’) in 2007, which may contain some items of interest to you. For some ten years, Richard was our neighbor in Provo. We went to the same ward — the vocal people there were all extreme conservatives. Carine and I kept our mouth shut to survive 🙂 That’s probably why they considered us as having the same ideas and did not held back interesting info.

Anyway, I remember your interest in the history of the Proclamation. Richard says the following in the video:

39:43:  You all know that in September of 1995, the very first General Conference after he was sustained as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley read from the pulpit during the Women’s session, the Relief Society session, the Proclamation. The Proclamation to the world on the family had been prompted by the 1994 U.N. Year of the Family. They had held a session in Salt Lake. Elder Boyd K. Packer went to it with some others and he was deeply disturbed at some of the things that he saw. And Elder Packer wrote the first draft of the Proclamation, and it was discussed by the Quorum and various drafts went around. And that began in 94 when President Kimball [slip: either Benson or Hunter] was still President of the church. When President Hinckley became president of the church, he held further discussions on it and they came up with a draft that he then put in his drawer, according to Elder Packer who told me this story. Elder Packer said that President Hinckley then put it in his …(?) and prayed about it from the time that he was sustained as president of the church, until several weeks before the Relief Society meeting. When he brought out the draft with some changes that he had made and asked the Quorum to sustain it. They did, and then President Hinckley read it from the pulpit as his very first official act as president of the church after having been sustained the previous April.”

(Wilfried Decoo to GAP, July 5, 2015)


“The document doesn’t mention never-married, divorced, childless or gay Mormons, saying only, ‘Disability, death or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.’

Those omissions have an increasing number of Latter-day Saints wondering how they fit into the model.…

LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard called the proclamation ‘a prophetic document,’ not only ‘because it was issued by prophets but because it was ahead of its time.’

In 2010, the late Boyd K. Packer, then senior apostle, said the 1995 statement ‘qualifies according to scriptural definition as a revelation.’

That descriptive phrase was later removed, leaving the proclamation described as ‘a guide that members of the church would do well to read and to follow.’

The notion of writing a single document to detail LDS teachings about the family arose from reaction to U.N. conferences on women, especially meetings in China and Egypt.

‘Some of our people were there. I read the proceedings of that,’ Packer told Mormon educators at a Church Educational System gathering in 2003. ‘It was at a conference on the family, but marriage was not even mentioned.’

Those were the same U.N. confabs that propelled the late Brigham Young University law professor Richard Wilkins to join forces with the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in creating the World Congress of Families.

The LDS Church’s Relief Society became one of the group’s sponsors and several high Mormon officials spoke at its international conferences. When the group meets in Salt Lake City later this month, apostle Ballard is on the program.

The congress was seeking to counter U.N. positions that it viewed as ‘anti-family,’ the Howard Center’s Allan Carlson said at the time. ‘In recent years, the human family has been ignored and abused, particularly in certain international assemblies. We are trying to make a positive case.’

Meanwhile, the fight to legalize same-sex marriage was heating up. Activists in Hawaii and other states were launching a push.

Ultimately, it is unclear whether the proclamation was prompted by legal, social or religious concerns. What is evident is that the faith’s female leaders, who would be speaking at the 1995 general Relief Society meeting, were not involved.

‘The Relief Society [general] presidency was asked to come to a meeting. We did, and they read this proclamation. It was all finished,’ the late Chieko Okazaki told Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. ‘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?’

Okazaki, then first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, wished the male leaders had sought her input.

‘As I read it,’ she said, ‘I thought that we could have made a few changes in it.’

Since then, affirming the family proclamation ‘has become a proof of loyalty, one that General Conference speakers have seized upon,’ said Christian Andersen, an LDS researcher in Carlsbad, Calif., ‘citing [it] nearly three times more than any verse of scripture since it was first read.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “After 20 years, Mormonism’s family proclamation is quoted, praised, parsed and politicked,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 2, 2015)


Prince: Go back to the 90s.  Talk to me about Lynn Wardle, and talk to me about Richard Wilkins.

Gedicks: OK.  It is widely rumored that Richard wrote the Proclamation on the Family.  Literally wrote it.

Prince: He told my wife that directly.

Gedicks: I have heard that.

Prince: That happened at the World Congress on Families in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999.  He just spilled his guts to her, and she was blown away.

Gedicks: That’s Richard.  Richard was always spilling his guts to everybody.  He and I were classmates at BYU.  We were not especially close, but we knew each other.  He was an enthusiastic supporter of me when I was applying to BYU in late 1989 and early 1990.  Richard and Cole Durham and I collaborated on an amicus brief for the Church in late 1994 or early 1995.  This was the City of Boerne case on the Religious Freedom Act.  Richard told me at that time that he was working for the Church, pursuing these issues for the Church at great personal sacrifice, and that President Packer had told him personally that the Brethren knew that and appreciated it, and that he needed to continue to do it.

Prince: Did he give any indication as to what catalyzed his involvement in writing the Proclamation?

Gedicks: No.  I can’t help you on that; I don’t know.

(Fred Gedicks, September 11, 2014)

Hansen: Let’s go back to my Sunstone talks about the Proclamation on the Family.  The Proclamation on the Family came out, I believe, in September of 1995.  It was sprung on the Relief Society presidency.

Prince: Yes, I know, because I talked to Chieko and I talked to Aileen about that.

Hansen: OK.  Women who were involved in inputting information for it were Beverly Campbell, Clare Johnson—

Prince: We knew Beverly back in Virginia, and Clare’s husband was my father’s counselor in the Westwood Ward bishopric.  They lived next door to us.

Hansen: How many degrees-of-separation here!  The third was Lucille Tate, Boyd Packer’s biographer.  Those three women were consulted, at least by Packer, on the Proclamation on the Family.  The way we know that is that he spoke at Clare Johnson’s funeral, and he said it.  So they took these three anti-feminist women and got their input on the Proclamation on the Family, totally bypassing the Relief Society presidency.  You would think they would be the first source they would go to if they were going to write something about women and the family.…

So I was introducing that question of how do we view this Proclamation on the Family.  What is its place going to be over the long period of time?  I said this was issued at the time when there was litigation going on in Hawaii, and the Church had made an effort to become party to that litigation.  They tried to intervene.

Prince: Covertly?

Hansen: No, they tried to become interveners, which means that the lawsuit was already going on with other parties, and they came in and said, “Our interests are so inextricably bound to the interests being litigated here that we should be made a party, and we should be able to come in and litigate—not just as a friend of the court, but in our own right as litigants in this lawsuit.”  They were denied that.

But my point was that they needed to have a doctrinal statement, an official statement about their position that would give them an interest in this lawsuit.  Back in the late 1880s, when the Church was going to litigate the Reynolds Case, they canonized the 132nd Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  Until then, they were practicing polygamy without any canonized statement.  But when they went to challenge the anti-bigamy laws, they put it into their scripture so that they had a doctrinal statement to show that this was an integral, religious practice of theirs so that they could litigate and say, “This is part of our freedom of religious expression.”  So that’s when the 132nd Section was canonized.

So I said, “I think what is going on here with the Proclamation on the Family is the same thing.  They are making an official statement about their beliefs about the family so that they can then go in and say, ‘We have a right to be a party to this lawsuit.’”

Prince: I have heard that there was a second issue there.

Hansen: OK.

Prince: And I was told that it dealt with BYU.

Hansen: BYU-Hawaii?

Prince: No, BYU-Provo, or maybe BYU in general, because of a federal court ruling that allowed churches leeway in discrimination on the basis of gender identity if it was based on an official church policy.

Hansen: I vaguely remember that.

Prince: So it may have served two purposes simultaneously.

Hansen: It may have.

Prince: Once it was out there, it was their rationale for saying, “We deserve to be excluded from this federal court decision.”

Hansen: That is a really interesting observation.  I do remember when that case came down.  I don’t remember what it was, and it didn’t make a big impression on me at the time.  But now I’m going to go back and take another look.…

But really, my point in talking about the Proclamation on the Family is that I said right at the outset that they never mentioned homosexuality in the document.  There is nothing in there about it, but it is the subtext throughout.  I think they did it so that they would have this document to help them intervene in that case in Hawaii, although they were denied intervention.

Prince: And maybe the BYU thing too.

Hansen: Maybe the BYU thing too, but that wasn’t on my radar.  I’m going to look into that now.

And then at the end of the Proclamation on the Family it has a statement about, “We urge you to join with like-minded citizens to enact those measures that will strengthen the family.”  To the best of my knowledge, the Proclamation on the Family has never once been trotted out on a political issue except to fight gay rights.

Prince: If we are really concerned about the family, why don’t we address the causes of divorce?

Hansen: Exactly!  Divorce, financial problems, marriage counseling.  How about even supporting universal healthcare so that people don’t go bankrupt if somebody in their family gets sick.  There is all kinds of stuff that you could support about the family which would be really, really helpful.  I gave that talk later at Sunstone.

Prince: Or disabilities, which cause an astronomically high rate of divorce.

Hansen: Absolutely.

(Nadine Hansen, October 22, 2013)

Ord: But he [Richard Wilkins] essentially inserted himself, in the late 90s—and I don’t know if it was because Richard was really good at seeing a trend and getting out in front of it, and he saw that was the direction the Church was moving in the 90s, or whether it was because of the university.  Maybe it was a combination of factors, but he got out ahead of it in the 90s, and he really started doing research in that area.  And the Church gave him a budget.  They began attending U.N. conferences, they developed a World Family Policy Center, he and Lynn Wardle.  They started having conferences at BYU on the shape of family law.

The Church really decided to insert itself into two areas: definition of marriage, and adoption.  You can go back and look at some of the talks from the Brethren in the mid-90s, and they really started to ramp up their talks about family.  They started talking about adoption.  They started talking about family definition.  He was involved in all those things.…

I think the Proclamation on the Family was a way for the Church to solidify its policy that had been milling around the hallways for years.

Prince: My wife was involved with American Mothers and went to the World Congress on the Family in Geneva in 1999.  I think it was the second congress.  She had no idea what it really was until she got there, and then she saw how it was stacked with Mormons.

She said she was backstage during one session, and Richard Wilkins came up and started opening up to her, talking about how as a teenager he had been hit on when he was working on a production, and it had spooked him.  He was giving himself credit for having drafted the Proclamation on the Family.  I don’t know how much of that was hubris on his part, but he was in the right time and place to have had hands on what was going on.  As I am reading it, the first iteration of the Proclamation was an attempt to gain standing before the Hawaii Supreme Court, because the Church had been turned down the first time it petitioned to be a co-defendant in the case.  This was their attempt to establish a written policy that would gain them standing before that judicial body.  Does that hold any water?

Ord: Yes.  Richard was absolutely conditioned to be able to come up with draft language.  The Brethren come up with an idea, they establish a working group that studies the idea and comes up with multiple options, and then the Brethren pick one of the options.  If they are going to draft a policy, they send that to another working group to hammer out the language.  Once the language is hammered out, the Brethren sit down and ponder the language and decide whether or not they need to change it.  Once they put the final polish on it, they have a prayer for a vote on it, wherein they come to a unanimous decision.  Then it’s pushed that way.  That is the traditional way in which a policy is developed.…

By the time Richard had the opportunity to be on the working group, the idea of it was already well in play, and parties were really trying to move forward in that direction.

Prince: Was it a response to the Hawaii lawsuit?

Ord: I believe it was.  I believe what we saw was that the Church had been talking about family-this and family-that, and these were ideas that were coalescing into the Proclamation.  They were really kind of church doctrines.  But when Hawaii came about, the Church really saw itself in a special relationship with Hawaii, particularly because of all of their developing projects there.  In some respects it’s still a colonial relationship.  The Church really has a colonial mentality towards Hawaii, and it sees itself as almost a noblesse oblige protector of Hawaii, which is really offensive to a Pacific Islander.  But the white Church doesn’t really understand how its approach to Hawaii is so offensive to Hawaiians.  The Brethren think Hawaiians should be ever grateful to them for civilizing them.  It’s still a narrative today.

So when Hawaii started talking internally about gay marriage and gay civil unions, all of a sudden the Church felt like it had to protect Hawaii from itself.

Prince: That’s clear in the language that they used in the court documents: “We don’t have confidence that the Attorney General of Hawaii has the competence to defend traditional marriage, and that’s why we want to be there as a co-defendant.”

Ord: Oh, absolutely.  The court documents reflect that 100%.  So when the Hawaii Supreme Court said, “Who the hell are you?  You’re some random church, no different than the Presbyterian Church down the street, and we’re not giving them any kind of standing,” that was an offensive position for the Church, because the Church sees itself as a special protector of Hawaii.  And they have some reason to think that.  The Church irrigated half the island of Oahu.  Oahu was dry on one side and wet on the other, and the Church irrigated half of Oahu, and now it is green throughout the whole island.  That’s a big deal.  But being big irrigators doesn’t give them the right to play lord of the manor, if you will; but the Church still sees itself in that position.

So the Hawaiians were really kind of offended at the Church’s position, and the Church was offended by their reaction: “Wait a minute!  We civilized you, and you should be grateful to us.”  It’s a British kind of mentality.  So you can absolutely see that reflected in the court documents, and you can also understand how the Church decided, “We are stewards.”  And they took that same position in Prop 22 and Prop 8 in California, and in Massachusetts and Arizona.

Prince: So the basic narrative is that the Proclamation initially was an attempt to gain standing before the Hawaii Supreme Court; Wilkins comes in not on the ground floor, but has a hand in drafting it; and then when it fails to get the Church standing before the court, it takes on new life and becomes what Boyd Packer wanted to be revelation.  Does that hold together?

Ord: Absolutely.  And it put Richard Wilkins uniquely positioned.  Here is a guy who was trying to get out of DC at the time.  His wife didn’t want to be there; she wanted to be back in Zion.  He needed a way to get out of there, and Richard really preferred to be in academia.  So the Church offered him this great opportunity, and as the Assistant Solicitor General of the United States, of course they were going to listen to him.  Rex Lee was already back at BYU at that time.

Prince: Did Rex recruit him for the law school?

Ord: Yes, Rex recruited him.  Richard’s youngest son is named after Rex.  When Rex got cancer, Richard said, “If we ever have another son, we are going to name him after you.”

I was close to Richard’s family.  Two of his kids were in my law school class, and I still have relationships with both of them.  Richard was a great mentor to me.  He took me under his wing.  I ate dinners at his house.  I spent time with his family.  I was his research assistant.  He considered me to be bright.  I had the opportunity to hear him bragging about me on the phone to other people when he didn’t think I was listening.  He was a good man, and like all Mormons he wanted to please those above him in rank and standing.  He lived to serve, and so coming up with this policy scheme that would give the Church standing, that was Richard using his legal mind to outsmart the system, although it didn’t work.

Prince: Was he the one who stepped forward and said, “I think we need to formulate this,” or was he hands-on later on in the process?

Ord: Kirton, McConkie always has a group of people over there that works less with policy and more with execution.  Then, the people at BYU tend to handle ethereal policy issues, as opposed to execution.  Those lines got blurred over the last couple of years as the door has been somewhat revolving.  Richard was in a unique position because he had been Assistant Solicitor General, and he was friends with the Brethren.  He was one of the Church’s legal stars, and yet he wasn’t working at Kirton.  He was at BYU.  I don’t think he singlehandedly formulated it.  I think what happened was that Dallin Oaks came up with an idea, then steered and directed the quorum.  The quorum got what they wanted to get, and then they went to Richard and said, “OK, what’s your take on this?”  He said, “I think we can do this if we do X, Y and Z.”  They mulled it over a while, and then pushed forward with it.  But it was never a one-person thing; it was a collaborative effort.

Prince: Right.  But the initial goal was to gain standing with the Hawaii Supreme Court, and not to have a statement that all church members could hang on their wall.  Is that correct?

Ord: Absolutely.  What we are looking at is that they initially started by saying, “We have to have a document that proves to the world that we should have standing, and that will allow us to inject ourselves into litigation.”

Prince: Maybe to prove to the world later, but initially to Hawaii?

Ord: Absolutely.  It was really just to provide standing.  But that being said, the legal need in Hawaii was happening at the same time that these ideas were coalescing amongst the Church’s hierarchy.  To say that one begat the other is probably a bad characterization.  I would say they probably coalesced at the same time, and they were convenient to each other.

Prince: And then it took on a second life when it’s first life fizzled.

Ord: That’s right.  They tried to resurrect the first life this year.  Currently the legal strategy is that if we make sure that our fundamental doctrine is anti-homosexual, then we should be able to get an exemption for our schools and our businesses that allows us to remain anti-homosexual, and will not have to apply Title IX, Title VII or any of the EEOC laws to homosexuals within our business structures or our educational structures.  That is the current position.  That is the current legal strategy, and that is being tested right now.  The Ninth Circuit, on the 23rd of December of last year, came out with the Pepperdine Decision awarding two lesbians standing under Title IX and Title VII, and said that Pepperdine’s exemption from Title IX and Title VII is a violation of the 14th Amendment.  It was a really shitty Christmas gift for BYU, and I can promise you that there were a lot of people working overtime over the Christmas holidays over at Kirton.  It was an interlocutory order on standing, by the way, so it wasn’t a final decision on whether or not the lesbians would win their case.

(James Ord, February 2, 2016)