Today’s guest post comes from Jim Bennett:

“The Family Proclamation isn’t some part of the gospel or some minor doctrine. IT IS THE GOSPEL.”

I burst out laughing when I read that on Twitter a few days back. “Cool beans,” I snarked in reply. “Really puts the Atonement in its place.”

But the thing was, he wasn’t kidding. And he wasn’t the only one to jump into the thread to bear witness against me. To a growing contingent of radicalized anti-woke warriors in the Church, all that silly Jesus stuff doesn’t matter nearly as much as making sure that we treat LGBTQ people like dirt.

Except the Family Proclamation doesn’t say anything about treating LGBTQ people like dirt. In fact, it doesn’t say anything about LGBTQ people at all. I find it stunning that this document, a 608-word replacement for the entirety of the Bible and the Book of Mormon in the minds of the D-zNat faithful, is so frequently weaponized for things it doesn’t actually say.

Case in point: in that same Twitter thread, this guy accused me of heresy for refusing to concede that gender is “immutable” like the Family Proclamation says it is. Except the Family Proclamation doesn’t come close to saying any such thing. The FP’s entire commentary on gender comes in a single-sentence summation that defines it as “an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” So he’s dead wrong, at least until some rogue thesaurus decides to christen “essential” and “immutable” as synonyms.

I can do this all day with the Family Proclamation, and when I’m feeling frisky, sometimes that’s exactly what I do. What, you say the Family Proclamation condemns same-sex marriage? No, it doesn’t. It talks about how God loves marriage between a man and a woman, and how procreation shouldn’t take place out of wedlock, and many other commendable things with which I can wholeheartedly agree, all the while leaving the negative stuff – “oh, and same-sex marriage is NOT ordained of God! So there!” – to the reader’s imagination.

“Oh, come on,” they tell me as I take the language of the Proclamation at face value. “You know what they really meant.”

Indeed I do. That’s why all this is prelude to my main point, which is that those who are eager to see the Family Proclamation canonized as revelation on par with scripture don’t seem to have thought that position all the way through.

The Family Proclamation is in a weird theological limbo. It is one of several official Church proclamations, but all the others have completely faded into oblivion, including the most recent one approved just three years ago with a weird COVID hosanna shout, never to be mentioned again. Nobody would consider those to be scripture, so why is the Family Proclamation a sort of super-scripture framed and displayed prominently in chapels and homes more frequently than anything written in the Standard Works? Surely it qualifies according to the definition as a revelation?

Boyd K. Packer certainly thought so. “It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation,” he said in his controversial 2010 Conference address “Cleansing the Inner Vessel.” He went on to say “And, uh, would do well that the members of the Church to read and follow.” If you’re reading that sentence, know that the garbled syntax is Elder Packer’s, not mine. It’s almost as if the words weren’t on the teleprompter, and he was making them up on the fly. Also, if you’re reading that sentence, I know that you’re not reading it in any Church publication, because that sentence, at least the part about the FP being a revelation, was removed from the official transcript.

Now why would that be? Elder Packer was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time. Publicly and embarrassingly correcting the senior apostle is not something the First Presidency would do lightly. Such a correction is compelling evidence of significant disagreement behind the scenes as to the Family Proclamation’s revelatory nature.

But just for fun, let’s imagine a future where Elder Packer’s position carries the day. The proclamation is officially presented to the Church, canonized by common consent, and added to the end of the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 3.

I don’t think people realize that suddenly, “what they really meant” when they wrote the Family Proclamation would then cease to matter.

When we read any statement in the Church handbook, we correctly consider the intent of the people who wrote it. But when we read the revelations, we only consider God’s intent, not the intent of the messenger who relayed the revelation to us. Do believers ask, for instance, what Joseph Smith’s intent was for any passage in the Book of Mormon? When Jesus speaks in the Doctrine and Covenants in the First Person, surely it would be faithless to ask what Joseph meant by anything He said?

Revelations remove the responsibility for their words from mere mortals and place it in God’s hands. Were that to happen with the Family Proclamation, the document would instantly become open to far more inclusive interpretations than are currently applied to it.

That’s how it works with personal and private revelation, too. Patriarchal blessings are often fulfilled in ways that defy the expectations of the patriarchs who give them. That creates a connection to the Divine that we celebrate rather than criticize – a feature, not a bug.

Similarly, further light and knowledge that brings greater inclusion for LGBTQ people would cause a reevaluation of the Family Proclamation that would surprise and delight us with unexpected divine meanings in words that only seemed to reflect human intent before. It would also infuriate the very people currently clamoring to elevate the Proclamation to revelatory status.

Be careful what you wish for.