Friday, October 08, 2010

The Proclamation on the Family is demoted from "revelation" to "guide"

The Mormons for Marriage site has a produced a version of Boyd K. Packer's talk which shows the changes made from the original he gave on Sunday and the official version now available on the Church's website.

As some have pointed out, one significant change is the rhetorical switch of Packer referring to the ability of overcoming "inborn tendencies" to "inborn temptations." This is significant because it moves the sinfulness of homosexuality from attraction and feelings (tendencies) to action (giving into temptation. While this is perhaps only a minor blip in light of the larger problems of homophobic thought in Mormonism, it is nevertheless indicative of the move from Packer's homophobic notion that same-sex attraction is sinful disease which can be overcome, to a recognition that this attraction is possibly inborn and most likely permanent.

More interesting to me however, is the demotion of the Proclamation of the Family in Packer's talk from a "revelation" to a "guide."

The original talk stated:

Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation and would do well that members of the church to read and follow it.
The published version now says:

Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.
 I'm not exactly sure what to make of this. Either it means that the Church does not except the Proclamation as a revelation (which it was never originally presented as), or that Packer's notion of some sort of recognized definition of a definition of revelation is mere nonsenses (which I would argue it is). My guess is that it is a combination of the two.


  1. I was also pleased to see the word "guide" being substituted (as well as the other changes). The "revelation" comment was just one of several statements that made me uncomfortable and vocally question the remarks while originally listening to the talk.

  2. Don't know whether to be happy or sad about this. If it's just a "guide," then it obviously has less weight and people are more free to act according to their conscience rather than blindly obey what they are told is God's word.

    On the other hand, this means accepting that revisionist history is morally acceptable so they can pretend they didn't say hateful things right after they're said. Because then what really counts in the member's lives, the actual conference talk that they watched, is what they remember. How many people go back and read the transcript? What people will remember and what will be ingrained in their minds is the talk they physically watched and heard, not the edited, sanitized transcript.

  3. So I am surprised you both listen to and read the conference addresses so throughly and yet still miss the major message, which was repentance of immoral behaviors. So do you think pornography is okay since he changed "tendencies" to "temptations"? Also, I'm sure you noticed, since you watched so meticulously, that President Packer is having a VERY difficult time reading the screen. Could it be that he misread the word on the screen, like he misread "rescinded" and "revoked"? Actually the Proclamation fits the definition of revelation, which is: " Revelation is communication from God to His children. This guidance comes through various channels according to the needs and circumstances of individuals, families, and the Church as a whole. When the Lord reveals His will to the Church, He speaks through His prophet. Prophets are the only people who can receive revelation for the Church, but they are not the only people who can receive revelation. According to our faithfulness, we can receive revelation to help us with our specific personal needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help us strengthen our testimony." As the Proclamation was issued as scripture (ie during General Conference)to the entire world, then it qualifies as scripture per D/C 68:2-3. Do you believe in living prophets -- I'm confused as to why you would be reading it so thoroughly unless you are a believer who wants to apply what they are learning.

  4. Shelly,

    thanks for your comment. Packer's comments do not come in a vacuum, but arise from (and must be read from) the context of his strong and far-right rhetoric against homosexuality. In order to understand his claims in his original (and the changes made to the printed) version of his talk, you need to understand Packer's history with the topic of homosexuality.

    Second, to say that "the Proclamation fits the definition of revelation" is to be ignorant of the complexities of revelation and the origin of the Proclamation. The Proclamation was written by a committee of Seventies, headed by an Apostle. It was never received as a revelation, nor was it originally presented as a revelation. It is only recently that rhetoric of it being a revelation has appeared--rhetoric that has been quite officially snuffed, as was done in Packer's talk.

    The qualification of authoritative doctrine and the nature of revelation is a complex and difficult issue that I don't have time to go into right now. I published an article on the former, which you can read <a href=">here:</a>.

    As with much of our theology and history, if we maintain willful ignorance, everything is simple and clear. However, as soon as we actually start to look at it in its entirety, it utterly loses that simplicity.

  5. I heard from a friend that there is an earlier document about the family, much more strident, authored by Packer that much of the text of the proclamation is taken from. Do you know if this is true, and if the original document is available somewhere?


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