The Proclamation’s Establishment of an Entitlement to a Family

Yes, we’re talking about the Proclamation again. Please set aside, for a moment, gender issues. Please set aside as well the interesting interpretational questions (what is a Proclamation, anyway? what kind of normative force does it carry?) except as necessary to focus on what is, to me, the single most startling and loaded phrase in the entire document. I’m talking about this sentence:

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.

That’s an incredibly broad statement, and it appears to tie in to specific legalistic language. In particular, and doubly startling, this sentence uses the powerful language of entitlement.

The immediate question, of course, is this: Against whom does that entitlement lie? And the related issue — who, exactly, is the enforcer of the entitlement?

It seems possible that there is no enforcer, that the language is just an empty phrase, an unfunded rhetorical mandate. This seems wrong, in part because so much of the rest of the Proclamation seems designed to carry at least some normative weight. But it’s certainly a possibility, since the other options are themselves pretty jarring.

One option is that the church is intended to be the enforcing agent who will make sure that this entitlement is fulfilled. This is limited, since the church can only enforce church discipline. But it’s still a powerful potential position. For example, if a child was not “born within the bounds of matrimony, and reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows,” that child could have a claim in church court to enforce that entitlement.

That’s an incredible position. That could mean, for instance, that a church disciplinary body might revoke a single parent’s church privileges until that parent remarried. Or perhaps that a church disciplinary body could state that a couple’s divorce would result in loss of church privileges. This could mean that an unmarried, pregnant woman could be required to marry, since the child is entitled to be born to married parents. In addition, this means that an unmarried man might be pressed into service and required to marry a pregnant woman, again in order to enforce the child’s entitlement. These are pretty drastic remedies. But then, the language the Proclamation uses is itself drastic — this is not just something beneficial, but is an actual entitlement.

Another possible enforcing body is the state. Here, the potential remedy is even more eye-opening. Perhaps the state would intervene in instances where a single parent was raising a child, requiring marriage. Take any of the scenarios above — pressing unmarried men into marriage in order to preserve the entitlement to a birth to married parents, for instance — and add the coercive power of the state. The state is not limited ot church discipline, but could actually put people in jail for violation of these entitlements.

Both of those possibilities seem drastic. And yet, what are we to do with this language of entitlement? We’re back where we started, and the reason is the adoption of such loaded, rights-oriented language, in such a broad, sweeping way.

I don’t think I’m willing to put the entitlement on either the state or the church, as institutions. The potential remedies are just too crazy. Who, then, is the party against whom the entitlement lies?

Perhaps the entitlement lies against the individual members of the church. This is sort of an intellectual cop-out, however — after all, many children don’t have any connection to church members; many church members are unable to do anything about any entitlement. If a little boy came up to me and said “my parents aren’t married and it’s your responsibility as a church member to resolve this, because you believe that I’m entitled to a home with a married mother and father” I wouldn’t know how to respond.

So how should we read this phrase? I’m really not sure, at the moment. But it is a huge step in some direction — I can’t say which. It’s a strong repudiation of anti-government rhetoric often adopted by church members, that there are no entitlements and that FDR made the whole entitlement thing up one day. It’s a strong suggestion that we ought to be doing something as members, if not to actively enforce entitlements, then at least to combat oppressive laws that work directly against them. But what kind of normative weight does that statement itself carry? I just don’t know.

Hopefully some of our readers will have ideas as to how that line might be read. Meanwhile, in a follow up post, I’ll add some additional thoughts of my own as to how we might give credence to the idea of a child’s entitlement to a family.

53 comments for “The Proclamation’s Establishment of an Entitlement to a Family

  1. Teri Haux
    February 28, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Neither my husband or myself were raised in such perfect households as the proclamation says we were entitled to. Personally this applies to us in that we need the atonement of the Savior to heal our hearts from the wounds of childhood. An ideal family is something that we should’ve had and were entitled to, but we did not. Through the Atonement and subsequent healing our of hearts, the difference is made up and we can continue progressing forward. Perhaps the wording here imply’s that it is our human birthright, and a condition that requires compliance. Non compliance can be compensated for through the Savior’s infinite Atonement.

  2. Christian Y. Cardall
    February 28, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    View it in an eternal perspective. God is the enforcer of the entitlement. He doesn’t do any enforcing in this life, however, where our little families are mere play-acting in comparison with the unbounded spiritual fecundity of the exalted. The enforcement comes in God’s denial of procreative power in the hereafter to those who demonstrate a willingness to disrupt the entitlement here in the dry-run microcosm that is mortalilty.

  3. Frank McIntyre
    February 28, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    Teri and Christian both point to God and Christ as the enforcers or compensaters for loss of our entitlement. I agree.

    The language of the proclamation simply reaffrims that incomplete families are a loss and one to which the affected agents deserve compensation. As always, Christ provides that compensation. That doesn’t mean there isn’t suffering now. Just that there is eventual and full compensation available through the ressurection and the atonement.

  4. kneight
    February 28, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    As an adoptive parent, I love that phrase of the Proclamation.

  5. john fowles
    February 28, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    I can’t see a way to get from the use of the word “entitlement” in the Proclamation to “a strong suggestion” by the Church “that we ought to be doing something as members, if not to actively enforce entitlements, then at least to combat oppressive laws that work directly against them.” This seems like wishful thinking.

    It is also very reasonable to see God as the enforcer. It is strong language meant to convey the high level of importance that the Church puts on intact and caring families. Saying that every child is “entitled” to this is a broad assertion much like saying abstractly that “all men” have an inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is a statement with a lot of power that, in the case of the latter, is actually being implemented by governments (or at least some governments are doing their best to fulfil the assurance of these rights as the legitimate role of government). As a broad assertion, even the latter was only merely rhetorical. It took the Revolutionary War and the Constitution to implement the idea into a structure of government. Similarly, maybe this broad entitlement can indeed be implemented one day–at a time when there can be a structure capable of doing so justly, i.e. in the Millenium when Christ reigns. Maybe at that time, this will be viewed as an entitlement that actually does accrue to each child.

  6. February 28, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    It seems to me that this is a pretty self explainitory statement. The question of who the enforcer is seems like it is best answered by self government. To paraphrase Joseph Smith, I teach correct principles and they govern themselves.

    Children may be entitled to such things in the statement, but it is we, their parents who must govern ourselves and enforce that entitlement. We will be held accountable to the Lord for our actions. In this instant the church is a tool, available to parents, to accomodate that goal. The statement also provides guidelines for how the parents can do so.

    All we need to do is review the marital vows and honor them. That doesn’t seem like a very big stretch. I know that not everyone can do so. I know that no one is perfect but the statement doesn’t say that children are entiteled to perfect parents. They are entitled, or they have the right, to be born in the covenant. Well if you only have relations with your spouse, that sounds pretty easy to manage. They are entitled to be reared by a mother and father. If we do our best to honor our vows it will be much more likely that we will remain married and provide both of these criteria to our children.

    Not all families are so lucky, notwithstanding choice, there are a myriad of events that can impact the family. We really only have control over those things we have a choice in the matter of.

    Doesn’t seem so complicated to me.

  7. February 28, 2005 at 4:14 pm

    Kaimi, I don’t read “entitlement” with quite the same force you do. I think it just means “deserves to be” or even “wouldn’t it be nice if.” So every child deserves to be born to a married and faithful couple. Wouldn’t it be nice if every child were born to a faithful, married couple?

    One could make a similar statement about physical and mental fitness: “Children are entitled to birth in a physically and mentally healthy body.” Again, I think “deserves” and “wouldn’t it be nice if” capture the sense of what is said. Against whom would this “mental and physical health” entitlement operate?

  8. Shawn Bailey
    February 28, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    Is this language from the proclamation discussing more than just children having married and faithful parents? Consider the first five words alone: “children are entitled to birth.” Is this a statement about abortion?

    Of course, the remainder of the language goes on to qualify the first five words, but the meaning added by the rest of the sentence is not inconsistent with the entitlement to life reading.

    And of course, the church’s position on abortion as I understand it is not as absolute as the entitlement to life reading might suggest. But the nuances in the church’s position may be taken as exceptions to this general “entitlement.”

    Just something that occurred to me as I reflected on why the entitlement language seems awkward here.

    Anyway, the proclamation was a group-drafting effort right? Under such circumstances, should we be wary of too much scrutinizing individual words?

  9. Marc D.
    February 28, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Who decides where children are born? Is it not the Lord? So how come he doesn’t place all of them in nice families if they are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony?

  10. A. Greenwood
    February 28, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    No, Marc D. I think its pretty clear that deciding where children are born is a delegated power.

  11. February 28, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    Amen to what Dave said.

  12. David Rodger
    February 28, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Ah, the delights of picking a nit!

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness-”

    Well, of course they aren’t all created equal. And not everyone gets life, or liberty, or even the pursuit of happiness. But as an ideal, as a shining star which has inspired mankind all over the world since those words were written, they are almost without parallel.

    What children may be entitled to, and what they actually get, may be very different. But that is no reason not to hold out hope of the ideal.

  13. JKS
    February 28, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    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.

    This entitlement, this claim, that children have is on the parents who created them. The entitlement is all on the parents to provide. No one else. And this entitlement goes against what is now so easily accepted in our society. Women have the right to have illegitimate children and raise them if they want. Married people have the right to no fault divorce. Consenting adults and teenagers have the right to casual sex.
    What are the children’s rights? If you have created a child, the Proclamation says this child has a claim on you not just to provide food and shelter (or child support) but also to give it a mom and dad who are married and committed.

    Why doesn’t every child have an ideal family? It is because of choices made by the parents. (Assuming that death does not end a marriage and widowhood is considered differently).

    THe proclamation expects parents to make more of their choices based on the children’s entitlement, rather than their own desires.

  14. HL Rogers
    February 28, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    JKS: “the Proclamation says this child has a claim on you not just to provide food and shelter (or child support) but also to give it a mom and dad who are married and committed.”

    If this is the case who does the child make the claim to? Where does this child’s claim have force? Many of the posts here have shied away or repudiated the possibility that the entitlement language has some interpretation that bears upon government and legal systems. I don’t know if “entitlement” is used in such a manner but it does not seem such a stretch–after all the proclamation was and continues to be presented to government and judicial leaders and entitlement has a fairly clear meaning in both government and legal thinking.

    I find the idea that God is the only enforcer to be rather troubling. It seems that the proclamation claims that children have some basic rights here in mortatlity. Usually when the Church talks about rights that are exclusive to mortality they intend government to take action (abortion being one example). Whereas, we talk about God being the final arbiter to disputes that don’t naturally exist only in this sphere–such as justice generally (obviously an eternal concept).

  15. Kaimi
    February 28, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    A general note to all who have argued the position that this is just God’s responsibility —

    What do you make of the calls for action in the Proclamation?

    When you combine “children are entitled” with “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” — what do you get then?

  16. A. Greenwood
    February 28, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    I take it that we (and by we I mean we as a society) are supposed to discourage people having children out of wedlock and encourage them having children in it.

  17. David Rodger
    February 28, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    What you get then is lawyers seeing a new source of income….lol!

  18. HL Rogers
    February 28, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    If that is the case doesn’t that argue that we expect government to have some sort of role in discouraging people? What would you imagine that role to be?

  19. Kaimi
    February 28, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    The basic definition of the word “entitle” is, in the legal sense, the granting of an enforceable right. Perhaps it’s just my legal training impairing coherent thought — wouldn’t be the first time — but the idea of an entitlement without an enforcing body is a nonsensical combination in law.

    You’re entitled to equal protection under the laws, and the courts enforce that. You’re entitled to Social Security, and the government must pay that to you. And so forth.

    The idea that “you are entitled to” means roughly “it would be nice if” is foreign. The fact that you’re entitled to equal protection under the laws doesn’t mean “it would sure be nice if people received equal protection” or “we should all remember that it’s important to have equal protection and bear that in mind.” It means that if you’re denied equal protection, you can march into court and demand that your entitlement to equal protection be enforced.

    So, to where can the children “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” go for enforcement? And if the answer is really “nowhere, really” then why is the Proclamation using that language?

  20. February 28, 2005 at 6:52 pm

    In looking at the Times and Season Comment Policies, I came across the following:

    1. Comments are expected to reflect different points of view.

    I think it’s a real shame that we have people posting comments that reflect the same point of view, contrary to the wording of the Comment Policies. Just think of how many pixels we could save if people only posted comments that reflected different points of view. I call on Kaimi and the rest of the T&S bloggers to begin enforcing their Comment Policies by removing any comments that reflect the same point of view as a previous comment.

    Or am I maybe reading too much meaning into that sentence?


  21. Kaimi
    February 28, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Cute, Eric. Am I reading too much into it? I don’t know, and that’s entirely possible.

    On the other hand, I would note as a counter-argument that one hopes that the Proclamation on the Family is more inspired than the T & S comment policy. On its own terms, the Proclamation purports to be (something, we’re not quite sure what, either revelation or quasi-revelation) from God’s mouthpiece on the Earth.

    Meanwhile, the T & S comment policy is something that Kaimi and Nate drew up on the back of a napkin over the course of lunch one day.

    Thus, I would argue, the Proclamation _is_ amenable to a close reading (and the related questions) in a way that the T & S policy arguably is not.

    (And believe me, we get a lot of Talmudic, hairsplitting interpretations of our comment policy thrown at us!)

  22. Kaimi
    February 28, 2005 at 7:03 pm

    (I should note that Kaimi and Nate did receive invaluable kibbitzing, hectoring, naysaying, nitpicking, henpecking, quibbling, and so forth, from their able co-bloggers, throughout the process of trying to come up with a comment policy while keeping it all on a single napkin. And it’s pretty hard to erase on a napkin, it turns out, and scribble-outs take up valuable space.)

  23. JKS
    February 28, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    “If this is the case who does the child make the claim to? Where does this child’s claim have force? ‘

    The child makes the claim to its parents. Each child has a ticket reading “this entitles the bearer to have 2 married parents.”
    No government enforcement of this.
    There is no higher authority on earth than that of a mother and father. No one can enforce it.
    We ask government to help strengthen families. Ideas of that could include encouraging:
    1. Marriage classes
    2. Counseling before divorce
    3. Adoption to married people

    Maybe even putting Dr. Phil on the air more often. That guy has a lot more common sense than most Americans.

  24. February 28, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    > Thus, I would argue, the Proclamation _is_ amenable to a close reading (and the related questions) in a way
    > that the T & S policy arguably is not.

    I’ll agree with that. But I think that it is a stretch to interpret that one sentence of the proclamation in conjunction with the final paragraph as advocating the creation of a legal entitlement.

  25. David Rodger
    February 28, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    “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.”

    Well, let’s do a little wordsmithing here.

    Children are encouraged to be born…ooops, that won’t work.
    Children have a legal right…no, we get the lawyers involved in that one.
    Children should be born within the bonds…Is there a requirement for abortion inherent in this?
    Children ought to be born…quite good, actually…we can spread the blame.
    It is our pious hope that children would be born within…quite nice…doesn’t offend anyone, other than perhaps, Deity.

    Barbossa: “And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate’s Code to apply, and you’re not. And thirdly, the Code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.”

  26. HL Rogers
    February 28, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    JKS (23) are you suggesting the government should mandate counseling and marriage classes? Why not just allow children to sue parents? It would be less costly for society in general as the cost would be born primarily by wayward parents. This would give parents incentives to take marriage and child-rearing more seriously.

    Rodger (25) are you saying that the 1st presidency used entitled, not becuase they meant it but b/c they couldn’t think of a better word? That seems a bit propblematic. Perhaps they did not intend etitlement to have a purely legalistic meaning but it does seem fair to infer that they used words carefully.

  27. David Rodger
    February 28, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    No, I was speaking tongue in cheek. I think they chose their words VERY carefully. But that doesn’t mean that there will be those who will try to imbue those wordas with meanings that they diid not intend.

  28. David Rodger
    February 28, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Sorry, I meant this:

    No, I was speaking tongue in cheek. I think they chose their words VERY carefully. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be those who will try to imbue those wordas with meanings that they diid not intend.

  29. MDS
    February 28, 2005 at 7:59 pm

    My take is that this language is designed to encourage single mothers to put the babies they are expecting up for adoption (at least, that is how LDS Family Services tends to use the language).

  30. Johnna Cornett
    February 28, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    James Faust listed parenthood as one of the covenants people make in life during the October 2004 Priesthood Session. Which is interesting, as it doesn’t look as voluntary as other covenants.
    “A righteous person is one who makes and keeps gospel covenants. These are holy contracts, usually between individuals and the Lord. Sometimes they include other persons, such as spouses. They involve most sacred promises and commitments, such as baptism, the conferral of the priesthood, temple blessings, marriage, and parenthood.”

  31. February 28, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    Personally this applies to us in that we need the atonement of the Savior to heal our hearts from the wounds of childhood

    Very, very well said.

  32. Marc D.
    March 1, 2005 at 2:19 am

    No, Marc D. I think its pretty clear that deciding where children are born is a delegated power.

    Comment by A. Greenwood — 2/28/2005 @ 5:03 pm

    So the fact that you are born in the tribe of Levi, Judah or Ephraïm is just coincidence? The fact that Joseph Smith was born in America is coincidence?
    The fact that you have abusive parents is just bad luck?
    When you talk about delegated power do you mean the parents?
    But they only decide to give a spirit a body. They can not choose which spiritchild they get.

  33. Marc D.
    March 1, 2005 at 2:21 am

    My take is that this language is designed to encourage single mothers to put the babies they are expecting up for adoption (at least, that is how LDS Family Services tends to use the language).

    Comment by MDS — 2/28/2005 @ 7:59 pm

    Do you realize how devastating this can be for a mother or a child?

  34. lyle
    March 1, 2005 at 2:30 am

    re: incredible position if proclamation taken at face value

    Kaimi: “That’s an incredible position. ”

    Exactly. When the living Prophet & the 12 sign something, it probably has meaning.

    Kaimi: Or perhaps that a church disciplinary body could state that a couple’s divorce would result in loss of church privileges. This could mean that an unmarried, pregnant woman could be required to marry, since the child is entitled to be born to married parents. In addition, this means that an unmarried man might be pressed into service and required to marry a pregnant woman, again in order to enforce the child’s entitlement. These are pretty drastic remedies.

    What is drastic about this? If parents, having made a covenant to consecrate their “all,” can’t set aside their own selfishness/pride, whether to remain married or marry the person they are having sex with, then what type of membership privileges does one “really have?” Seriously, how can two people make sacred covenants & then break them via divorcing & expect their to be no repurcussions? Regardless of fomal church discipline, do you think the Spirit is hanging around? Granted, this example works best with already temple married couples contemplating divorce, as the privileges of membership are long past gone for the parties engaged in adultery/fornication.

    Again, what is drastic about asking that folks take responsibility for their actions? If you create a child with another; you had both better provide a home for the baby. Also, I imagine that loss of membership, formally done, might create some ex ante incentives for obedience.

  35. lyle
    March 1, 2005 at 2:50 am

    re: enforcement

    Actually, the more interesting question is: What is the remedy for the violation of the right?

    As has been noted above, the Proclamation states that each Child has these rights. Who does the complaining child make this claim to? How about at the Judgment seat of God? I’m not sure why this option troubles anyone. The Proclamation’s call to action should serve as a pointed reminder of this “ultimate” liability issue that attaches to each parent.

    St. Peter, Bailiff: “All kneel. The honorable court of God is now in Session…Next, the case of John Jr. vs. John Sr. & Jane Mom.”

    Judge: I’ll present the charge & ask that the Defendants enter a plea at this time. John Sr. & Jane, did you both break your Temple covenants & seek a divorce, leaving John Jr. without the right to be reared by parents who honor their covenants in complete fidelity?

    John Jr.: I plead innocent due to mistake of law. I didn’t know this was for real. Seriously, come on. The Proclamation was never canonized. You know that. If it had been, then I would have taken it seriously. Honest. How was I supposed to know that I would be expected to stay in a difficult relationship & plead for the Savior’s help to get rid of my pride & selfishness? I mean I tried, but…it was too hard. It was much easier to go for the divorce.

    Jane Mom: Ditto.

    Judge: I’ll now take the victim’s statement.

    John Jr.: Well Sir, I forgave my parents along time ago. However, because of the environment I was raised in…I was hoping that I could get some leniency on my judgement due to my parent’s negligence???

  36. Ann
    March 1, 2005 at 4:14 am

    I’ve always had a problem with church encouraging single pregnant women to eventually give their new-borns up for adoption. I wholly agree that being raised in a home with a committed and loving father and mother is the ideal, but life isn’t like that. I’ve often pondered what I would do if any of my unmarried daughters ever got into that position. It would be unthinkable to me to lose a grandchild, the hurt would be with me forever.

    My thoughts led me down another scenario, I’d be interested in any views about. What if a faithful and loving, married-in-the temple couple found themselves expecting a baby, and the dad-to-be was killed in an accident – would the authorities expect that eternally-married, though now single mother to put her baby up for adoption? What if that baby was second or third in the family? Taking it to the extreme, should we take all the children away to be raised by adoptive parents now she’s single? Where do we draw the line?

  37. lyle
    March 1, 2005 at 7:23 am

    Marc wrote: “They can not choose which spiritchild they get.”

    So, does this make them more, or less, accountable for their decision to exercise their delegated power to give & create mortal life?

  38. Marc D.
    March 1, 2005 at 8:39 am


    You are always accountable when you decide to have children. If you look at my first comment (9)I was talking about who is responsible where children are born.

  39. kneight
    March 1, 2005 at 9:43 am

    I believe the whole purpose of the church encouraging single mothers to place their children for adoption is so that the child will have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of the sealing covenant. I understand your feelings about not wanting to let go of a grandchild, but what is best for the child? To have 2 committed, sealed, parents, or to be raised by a single mother, without the blessings and protection of the sealing covenant? Our children are our Heavenly Father’s children first. We are stewards.

  40. JKS
    March 2, 2005 at 1:27 am

    Actually, the church prefers that a pregnant single mother marry the child’s father. THAT is the #1 choice. If that is not possible, then the mother should put the child up for adoption.

  41. Elaine
    March 3, 2005 at 12:13 am

    It follows naturally that “any entitlement must involve corresponding obligation or duty.” However, there are two types of entitlement (or rather, duty), as the ideas on this issue already indicate. The first lets us enjoy our entitlement so long as we refrain from violating the equal rights of others. The second type further “entails the performance of a positive response, or duty.” (i.e.: declaration’s personal pursuit of life, liberty, & justice vs. Hoover’s call for “a chicken in every pot.”)

    Viewing from the point of things like government and organized plans: “entitlement programs are commonly characterized as forming a ‘safety net.’ Among people who are striving to reach their potential, some may fall due to no fault of their own. If they do, the safety net breaks their falls and sends them on their ways again… To be sure, a safety net is not created through individual effort alone.” -Rich Wagner, GMU economics prof. (& member of Board of Scholars for VA Inst. for Public Policy).

    Obviously, with children, our actions should be “servility” and not “liberty” based. The proclamation was a perfect place to address this issue. In terms of effectiveness the biggest benefit would be to the people who are in the immediate position of endangering it directly. Despite the “safety nets” Kaimi hypothetically suggested, the question lies less with collective, standardized responsibility than personal and immediate. (And advocating legal implications simply due to either being an “entitlement” or even in the context of residing in the proclamation itself is not very convincing-nor would many other sweeping contexts I could think of).

    This is the greater purpose of the statement- a simple reminder that we should be careful to remember the needfulness of matrimony and honor, rather than as a springboard for governing reform or authoritative policy. It is a strengthening reminder, for everyone (and is hardly directed solely toward the unwed teen or straying father). Indeed, the last half of the sentence-about parents honoring- is equally important as the first, though it tragically seems to be more neglected. We need to accept the whole phrase, and accept it with the spirit of entitlement in our intentions yet leave the judging, nit-picking, and demanding of impossible standards in an imperfect world, to someone more qualified and knowing. (In this way, it is a combination of enforcers-God and individual people.)

  42. Sheri Lynn
    March 3, 2005 at 12:34 am

    Ann, loss of a parent by accident is not comparable to deliberate deprivation due to irresponsibility or selfishness. Even a posthumous baby can be born in the covenant, correct? That’s what he or she is entitled to have. If one parent must carry the burden alone, well, the scriptures are pretty clear on how orphans and widows are to be treated. We’re supposed to chip in to fill in the breach then until and unless the widowed parent remarries. That’s abundantly clear. I don’t think there’s any room for confusion, and it might do us all good to remember those people in our prayers even if we know none to serve in real life.

    I am meeting an awful lot of extremely young single mothers recently, and it seems that when one of them gets pregnant, all her friends do too.

  43. Kaimi
    March 3, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    Interesting comment, Elaine, that the enforcer is a combination of God and man.

    An obvious follow up question if that formulation is correct, is “what is our duty, as men and womem, within this joint enforcement scheme”?

  44. greenfrog
    March 3, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    I will note for the sake of precision that the passage Kaimi has quoted does not, technically, require the biological parents of the child to remain married to each other. Conceptually, a child could be born to a legally wedded couple, which couple then proceeds to divorce. Following that, each partner could (but need not) marry another.

    The child would have been born within the bonds of matrimony, and could still be reared by a father and a mother (who are no longer married) who keep their respective vows of fidelity (either through chastity or through monogamy with the subsequent spouses).

    If the quoted language is used to coerce single mothers into turning their children over for adoption, then those doing so are imposing a gloss on the language that is not required — once birth is completed, the matrimonial birth stage of the language has already been breached. Subsequent marriage or adoption by a married couple would not alter that fact. And the second part of the declaration — regarding rearing — speaks only to parentage, and not to a continuing married status of those parents.

    Is this paying too much attention to the actual words used?

  45. annegb
    March 3, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    My father was a brutal alcoholic, he beat my mother in my presence. But, still, perversely, I idolized him. I so wanted a “normal” family. When my mother divorced my father and married another man when I was 10, I was devastated. I wanted my parents.

    I love that the church stands up loud and proud and says that kids need both parents. They do. My husband and I provide a large measure of security to our kids, despite our weaknesses and problems.

    I don’t blame my mother, I understand now, but I will never forget standing in the post office in that little Nevada town, sobbing because my parents were divorced.

  46. Elaine
    March 4, 2005 at 7:03 pm

    The question (#43) makes me feel as if my response was intellectually soft or lazy, since I specifically failed to address that obvious question. (I guess saying these are personal issues still doesn’t illuminate, eh? ha) You stated originally that: “…entitlement lies against the individual members of the church. This is sort of an intellectual cop-out, however – after all, many children don’t have any connection to church members; many church members are unable to do anything about any entitlement.” Ok, well, I think a better question than “what is our duty” is “where does our duty end, and God’s begin?” I say this for the same reason I didn’t elaborate on our duties in the first place-by and large they should be pretty self-evident. We should be honoring our spouses and families, not lying, cheating, emotionally or otherwise abusing them, practicing good communication and listening skills-all the necessary components that lead to stable homes. We should be taking personal responsibility in our relationships with others to ensure that (no matter how righteous or unrighteous our actions actually are) there are no consequences that directly affect another life. These are pretty self-evident, but I do think the proclamation is addressing these very issues in this statement.

    “Then what?” is the question on everyone’s minds at that point. So, what about those kids who don’t have a chance? What about babes being born to unwed mothers, to split homes, what about the cheating spouse? As long as we are personally doing our best in these things, we can’t help it. Our responsibility at this point is just to continue to do our best. We CAN be the support to a broken family, the Priesthood holder to a woman or children who have none, the home teaching companion to a young man who has an absent father through divorce. In a world as imperfect and unjust as ours, in what way have we actively failed to help such entitlement if we do these things? Does our responsibility extend past this, or merely our hunger for perfection and control? This is where God takes over. We shouldn’t have to force compulsory marriages, or institute preposterous protective safety nets over the myriad and unique possibilities. We should simply do our best with each new situation we face, and gently encourage others to do the same (esp. those in the precarious situation of immediately facing such responsibilities). Instituting blanket demands that can be met through policy is not the answer, and I certainly don’t think it’s in tune with the spiritual intentions of this entitlement.

    As Americans, we are all entitled to the pursuit of happiness. Will we all be happy? What if I am a miserable person born to a persecuted life, yet still under the “protection” of this entitlement – do I have the right to demand compensation from every person I meet? How will this fulfill my entitlement? We have the right to be or do certain things, but this doesn’t come with any guarantee, and there is no way (excluding infringing upon other’s rights) that can possibly smooth this out. (How much nicer in the church that we have the knowledge of God’s responsibility and plan of salvation in our lives-everything we worry about and have no simple solutions for in this life will be judged and fixed by someone more powerful and understanding than us!) So if that’s the cop-out answer, I’m gonna have to go with it anyway; I do think it is actually the higher road. It’s easy to judge, to take control, to chip away the corners of our blocks so they all fit into the same circular slots, but it is not necessarily what’s best or what’s right (or what ultimately promotes righteousness).

    Interesting comment about the little boy at the end, and how you would not know how to respond. I think you could resolve this peacefully without magically (or legally) gifting this boy with a new life. Simply try to provide similar opportunities for him. It takes a little more work, but that’s part of what our church institution here on the earth, at this time, does. We already do have all kinds of “safety nets” that we practice with. Taking this boy by the hand and simply saying “I know, and I’m sorry,” and trying to be a good example to him in his own life would be sufficient for you, and the efforts of a whole church doing this would probably be sufficient for him in the end. Harder perhaps, but adequate. You would then be fulfilling his entitlement to the best of your earthly, and limited ability. Next, God would be responsible for whatever was without your circle of power. Trying to increase this circle of power – through either the church or state – just can’t be the right solution to this “dilemma.” There has to be an understanding of the nature and extent of what is righteously within our control. Sure, we could theoretically seize control of total enforcement, but what we would actually be enforcing at that point? It would only be a perverted version of a smaller whole. The effort of exercising this control itself would pervert, I think, and the fact that our understanding of the nature and ultimate purpose behind it is so limited (despite what we might often think!) would add to this inadequacy. If we so lack control that we need to “enforce” something like this in the first place, we should probably reflect on why we feel the need to have power over something that is beyond our natural scope. Hm, that last argument is highly flawed, but the intended thought is almost worth considering.

    An interesting tangent that I’m surprised not to have seen discussion of, would be the possible statute of limitations that would needs be imposed if the church or state ever did intervene in such affairs. While children facing these issues are entitled to either the intended security or compensation (depending on the lawyer!), it is an inescapable fact that no one exists without first being a child. Thus, would grown adults be able to retroactively make demands based on their unmet childhood entitlement? It seems ridiculous, but not very much more so than the other ideas presented here…

  47. Elaine
    March 4, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    (Uhm… can I get some sort of punishment for obscenely long blogs? Other than losing friends?…)

  48. MDS
    March 4, 2005 at 7:26 pm


    As has been noted, the language is indeed used by Family Services to encourage adoption. I have literature from them where they use it for that very purpose. In that same literature, they emphasize that this is because of the availability of the sealing blessings provided by the adoptive couple. If that adoptive couple were, however, to divorce, the sealing blessings would not necessarily be dissolved, absent a cancellation of sealings. At any rate, you’ve missed the second half of the entitlement: “. . . and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

    Frankly, I have been quite amazed at how “in your face” LDS Family Services is with respect to this issue. They also quote the Malachi language about the earth being “smitten with a curse” if Elijah doesn’t restore the sealing keys, and extrapolate from that that out of wedlock mothers are smiting their children with a curse. While perhaps doctrinally correct on some level, I believe it to be unnecessarily negative and confrontational. I suspect that certain LDS Family Services personnel would answer Kaimi’s initial question by stating that they are the enforcers of the entitlement.

    While enforcement of the first part of the entitlement is necessarily problematic, we have much more control over the second half. In fact, I read this as a call for LDS families to be more anxiously engaged in the adoption process, thereby providing at least a few more of God’s children with the homes to which they are entitled.

  49. Matt Jacobsen
    March 4, 2005 at 8:18 pm

    It has always seemed to me that Family Services encourages young, single, pregnant women to give up their babies for adoption — in particular those young women who are still living as dependents. An argument can be made that both the woman and her baby would have brighter futures by considering adoption. Do they give the same message with equal emphasis to single, pregnant women who have a track record of supporting themselves?

  50. annegb
    March 4, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    I still like you, Elaine. :)

  51. Miquayla
    March 4, 2005 at 9:47 pm

    I agree with post 49. Which would the Church prefer: an older, professional single woman who slips up once, gets pregnant and raises her own child or a young girl barely out of high school who marries the first RM who asks her out after two weeks of dating, has four kids they can hardly support and then divorces? Both women end up single mothers. Yet it’s the first one who gets the finger-wagging and tongue-clucking.

  52. Daniel Ure
    March 9, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    #45 is brutally poignant. It seems to me that the glory of the Atonement is that it covers and heals those gaps in our childhood that are not our fault — those weaknesses that are the result of the traditions of our fathers. Those are the things that we are doing wrong simply because we know no other way.

    This is, perhaps, what I personally find to be the most glorious part of the Savior’s sacrifice, since it is obviously impossible for us to ever have a childhood again. Even God cannot control the effects of people’s choices, yet He can change their effects in our hearts individually if we will allow him. D&C 93:39 seems to make specific reference to the damage that is occasioned by the adversary: 1) disobedience (read sin) and 2) the traditions of their fathers. We always think of the first, but forget the second. But the Atonement covers them both. This is incredible doctrine to me.

  53. Miquayla
    March 14, 2005 at 11:25 pm

    Well, according to April’s Ensign, children out of wedlock are more succeptible to debilitating, even fatal, diseases.

Comments are closed.