Welcome to our third annual Family Proclamation Celebration! The next two weeks will be full of wonderful posts from guest bloggers sharing their thoughts and experiences with the doctrines taught in the Proclamation. We encourage you to join in on the conversation through the comments.
Today’s guest blogger is Mormon Guy. He grew up outside of Utah, attended BYU, and served an LDS mission. His childhood dream was to study genetics. Instead, he grew up to be… well… he hasn’t really grown up yet. On his blog, Mormon Guy writes about dating, dealing with abuse, living as a young single adult, depression, same-sex attraction, and whatever else is on his mind. You can read his personal blog at (Gay) Mormon Guy.
Here in life, we’re always looking towards something better. Greener grass, faster cars, taller buildings, fatter checkbooks… the quest for perfection permeates every facet of mortality.
The Greek philosopher Plato explained this quest as an innate drive to achieve the “form” or “idea” of things. The word “ideal” draws back to this concept; when building a chair, tasting a recipe, or painting a picture, we want whatever we are creating to accurately represent perfection – as we see it – inside our minds or in our view of the world.
But our interpretation of the world, while personally authentic, is flawed. What does the perfect meal look like? The perfect painting? The perfect chair?
We know some things… or at least we think we do. Perfect food would have something to do with nutrition – and so we put nutritional facts on everything we eat. Perfect chairs would have structural integrity – so we reinforce them such that they don’t crush underneath our weight.
But even supported by food science and thousands of taste tests, the best chefs and food critics wouldn’t be able to agree on how to create or identify true culinary perfection. What happens when “truth” from different sources conflicts? Who has the right to say that one form of truth is better than another? The best artists would follow on the same line. And the best chair-makers hold to personal, internal visions of the form of a “chair”… which is a product of imperfect culture, miscommunication, and development of personal thoughts and desires.
In most facets of life, we can’t imagine perfection.
And so, unable to understand true perfection, we unconsciously settle for the next best thing – utility. Food becomes acceptable when it meets the prescribed needs of the consumer. Art becomes beautiful in the eye of the beholder. And chairs are rated based on user-defined ergonomics, whether they lean back or not, and if they have little rollers on the bottom.
Modern society has been shaped by these two competing standards. Objective truth on the one hand, and utilitarian interpretations of perfection on the other, where perception shifts based on societal norms and personal preference.
And the same is happening with the family.
What is a family? What does family perfection look like? Where does that truth need to come from? And why does it matter?
On shaping the central unit of society, voices come from all directions. Activist groups use the family as a springboard for racial equality. Schools push for better nutrition and parental involvement in education. Government prescribes what parents can and cannot do to take care of their children… and social psychology tries to use surveys and interviews to determine how to respond to questions of even the format of a family.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World highlights this distinction between utility and truth. As an official statement of revealed doctrine supported in entirety by the presiding councils of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Proclamation addresses the question of reality from the perspective of divine revelation. It sets forth truth as revealed from God – the eternal nature of the family, principles that lead to family happiness, and the roles of parents and children in God’s eternal plan.
Taken together, the revealed truth of the Proclamation and the perceived utility of social psychology, societal norms, and personal preference give guidance on day-to-day family life. Where they align, each source gives a broader understanding on creating the perfect family. In places of conflict or controversy, divine revelation cuts through the confusion and clearly outlines truth.
In my own life, the Proclamation has been an answer to deeply held questions of my soul. I’m attracted to other men. And, on that topic, and how it affects the reality of the family, social psychology and societal norms are battling in the pages of peer-reviewed journals, in the comment trails of news blogs, and in the closed doors of religious conventions. Everyone has reasons, support, and evidence that they deeply believe. But on a topic so personal to my own life, I can’t simply hand the search for truth, and happiness, to someone else. I can’t confide in utility, which is useful, but limited in its use to the knowledge of those who apply it. I have to know the truth for myself.
And I do know. Not from a survey or a telephone interview or posthumous brain dissection. I know from truth revealed from God, confirmed by personal revelation. “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God… and is essential to His eternal plan.”
God is aware that even with revealed truth as a guideline to follow, our best efforts may fall short. I may never fall in love or get married. What does the Proclamation mean for me? It is here – in the world of imperfection – that truth truly makes a difference… because the Proclamation outlines not just how to create the ideal family, but how to help an imperfect one, even an imperfect one composed of just me, come closer to perfection. “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 why God, and the Church, teaches perfect truth, and not utility… even though no marriage or mortal family is perfect. Truth spans the circumstances of everyone who has ever lived. It applies to me, you… to everyone… and gives us the tools to find happiness and salvation whatever we face. Even though we may never reach it in this life, understanding the ideal of families enables us to hold it in our minds, like Plato’s “form,” and apply it to our individual lives. Each day we can change, grow, and come closer to that ideal – the perfect form of a family.
I may never have the perfect family, or even one that looks perfect from the outside. But I’m grateful for the direction that God has given through the Proclamation… direction that applies just as equally to me as it does to a guy with a wife and children. I am a beloved son of heavenly parents, and, as such, I have a divine nature and destiny. “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now it’s up to me to pattern my life after that ideal.
Thank you, Mormon Guy! I’ll just add this thought from Elder Marlin K. Jensen “Prophets and apostles have always had the duty to teach and encourage us to strive for the ideal. It was what the Savior did. His injunction was “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48), not just “Have a good day.” It is also helpful to remember that in teaching the ideal, the Savior recognized that the ideal isn’t always immediately attainable. Seeking to keep all the commandments—even if we sometimes fall short of the ideal—is something within the power of each of us and is acceptable to our Heavenly Father.”
The giveaway this week is a Dream Big Family Rules Subway Art sign from Landee on Etsy. “One of the reasons we love to create things for our homes is because our favorite people live there! We love our families and want them to be in a happy & healthy environment. We always try to create products that are positive, motivating and uplifting. Stop by our shop and find that special detail for your home that you’ve been looking for!“
All those who comment on the posts this week will be entered into the giveaway.