On September 23, 1995, while presiding at the first general Relief Society meeting held since he was sustained as prophet, seer, revelator, and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The Proclamation was prefaced by these remarks:
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.1
President Hinckley thereafter read nine paragraphs that summarize the Church’s “standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family.”2
The Proclamation reaffirmed long-standing values regarding marriage, the roles of husbands and wives, and the duties and obligations of family members. However, the Proclamation is not a static, regressive document. As its plain terms emphasize, there is a pressing need for husbands and wives to protect, promote, and improve the lives of family members—particularly those of women and children. The Proclamation unequivocally affirms that there are social norms, traditions, and beliefs associated with family life that require modification, alteration, and correction. These include practices and traditions that condone (or worse, promote) spousal and child abuse, a disregard of basic family responsibilities (including the provision of emotional or economic support), a denial of basic human respect, and the failure of husbands and wives to assist one another as equal partners. The Proclamation emphasizes the selfless love, compassion, and mutual respect that should permeate family life.3
Nevertheless, some of the basic principles reaffirmed by the Proclamation are the subject of criticism crafted to restructure the relationships that have defined the family for thousands of years.4 For at least three decades prior to 1995, academicians, political action groups, sociologists, lawyers, law professors, litigants, and judges have labored to deconstruct—and then redefine—such fundamental notions as marriage, gender, parenthood, childbearing, and the sanctity of human life. Sophistry, as President Hinckley explained in September 1995, was often accepted as truth.5
At the time the Proclamation was first read, growing numbers of academicians no longer believed that marriage was a union between “a man and a woman” that encouraged the equal partnership of men and women while protecting a child’s entitlement “to be reared by a father and a mother.”6 Rather, marriage was a utilitarian concept that should be reconstructed to satisfy the longings of autonomous individuals, who were entitled to define their intimate relationships without the fetters of established sexual and social norms, including those related to human reproduction.7 Gender, in turn, was not an “essential characteristic of individual . . . identity and purpose.”8 Rather, “gender was a social construct” that was “mutable,” “changeable,” and not “‘essential’” to an individual’s identity.9 “Fatherhood,” when and if acknowledged, was all too often described in classrooms as a relic of patriarchal oppression,10 while international human rights organizations criticized “motherhood” as a “harmful traditional stereotype.”11 Any reference to the bearing of children to “multiply, and replenish the earth”(Gen. 1:28) prompted the same international human rights bodies to expound upon the dangers of religious faith.12 Similar skepticism13 became a common response to scholars (and others) who worked to develop sound legal and sociological evidence supporting such concepts as the “sanctity of life” and the “divinely appointed” means “by which mortal life is created.”14
This skepticism regarding the traditional family, along with other ideas (such as “autonomy rights” for children15) was gaining unprecedented academic and political popularity when the Proclamation’s call to fortify positive family relationships was issued—so much so that, while I was profoundly grateful that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve had carefully and compassionately called for improving and strengthening the family unit, I frankly wondered whether the plain language of the principles set out in the Proclamation could possibly be heard—let alone understood—by a generation already so besmirched by “the slow stain of the world.”16
President Hinckley was less skeptical about strengthening the family unit. At the end of his address, he said:
May the Lord bless you, my beloved sisters. You are the guardians of the hearth. You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God. May you be strengthened for the challenges of the day. May you be endowed with wisdom beyond your own in dealing with the problems you constantly face. May your prayers and your pleadings be answered with blessings upon your heads and upon the heads of your loved ones. We leave with you our love and our blessing, that your lives may be filled with peace and gladness. It can be so.17
Ten years later, some of the principles set out by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in the Proclamation have been embraced in surprising ways—and not just by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On December 6, 2004, during the concluding special session of the United Nations General Assembly celebrating the tenth anniversary of the 1994 International Year of the Family, a formal resolution was adopted which noted the outcomes of the Doha International Conference for the Family.18 One of these outcomes was the Doha Declaration (see appendix), an international legal document—first discussed at meetings sponsored by Brigham Young University—that reaffirms long-ignored international norms related to the family and recognizes the centrality of many principles stated in the Proclamation. Should the international community once again turn its attention to strengthening the family, as called for in the Doha Declaration, “peace and gladness”19 may yet increase for families around the world.
This article describes how I discovered the need for legal and other academic arguments to support the principles set out in the Proclamation and details the increasingly important connection between international law and family policy. International law now governs a wide range of topics, including many aspects of family life. But, despite the challenges to the family posed by a few modern international legal norms, there is reason for hope. As evidenced by the Doha Declaration, academicians, citizens, and government leaders around the world understand the lasting value of many of the concepts explained by President Hinckley to the Relief Society in September 1995. There is much yet to be done; the global debate regarding the family continues.
“Habitat II” and the Formation of the World Family Policy Center
In June 1996, about nine months after the Proclamation was issued, contrary to personal plans and what seemed to be simple common sense, I attended my first UN negotiation, the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (or “Habitat II”) in Istanbul, Turkey. I had been urged to attend by several scholars from Catholic universities I had met over the years, as well as members of various nongovernmental organizations. I did not want to go. I was not an expert in international law and I honestly did not believe my participation could make any difference. Furthermore, I was having too much fun to run off to Istanbul: I was playing Tevye (complete with a full beard) opposite my wife, Melany, who was playing Golde, in Fiddler on the Roof at the Hale Center Theater in Orem, Utah. I like teaching law. I enjoy legal scholarship. But I love acting with my family. Going to Istanbul was not high on my “to do” list.
Nevertheless, soon after Fiddler opened, I kept waking up in the middle of the night, fretting about Istanbul. Finally, about two weeks before the conference, Melany told me that I should apply for an expedited passport and try to register as a nongovernmental delegate. As a result, I left Utah before the closing night of Fiddler—without shaving my “Tevye” beard—carrying a passport photo that did not comply with BYU’s dress and grooming standards. Melany, shortly before I left, slipped a copy of the Proclamation into my suitcase with a simple explanation: “You may find it helpful,” she said.
My experience in Istanbul in June 1996 was extraordinary.20 I was one of ten people selected from among twenty-five thousand nongovernmental delegates to address the plenary session of the conference. I discussed “International Law and the Family.” With words and concepts taken from the copy of the Proclamation that Melany put in my suitcase, I urged international lawmakers to remember the importance of marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, childbearing, family, and faith.
The reaction to these short remarks was completely unexpected. Within thirty-six hours an international coalition had formed around concepts I had taken from the principles of the Proclamation. The conference concluded by acknowledging many of these principles and affirming that “the family is the basic unit of society and as such should be strengthened.”21
I returned to Utah convinced that BYU had a unique role to play in taking the Proclamation to the world, although I was not precisely sure how that role should be played out. Nevertheless, a few months later, with the support of the dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School and the director of student programs at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, a fledgling new center called NGO Family Voice (the initials “NGO” standing for “nongovernmental organization”) began limited operations.22 About eighteen months later, the name was changed to the World Family Policy Center. Since late 1996, the World Family Policy Center has worked to continue delivering the message conveyed in Istanbul.
Beginning in late 1996 and early 1997, I attended additional academic conferences and negotiations23 that reaffirmed a powerful insight first gained in Istanbul: however diverse our doctrinal beliefs, most of the world’s great faiths share common understandings related to marriage and the centrality and importance of stable and healthy family life. Furthermore, despite proposals that continue to be made at international negotiations to redefine marriage and family life, more and more scholars in the late 1990s were finding that the long-established and well-understood institutions of marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, and stable family life were essential to individual (and social) welfare.24
By 1998, the Center had hired a legally trained executive director and an administrative director (and thereafter added additional talented employees and volunteers).25 With this additional help, the World Family Policy Center was able to convene its first World Family Policy Forum in early 1999, inviting scholars, diplomats, and religious leaders from around the world to Provo to hear and discuss research supporting marriage, parenthood, the value of stable family life, and the need to reconsider international family policy. From this gathering in 1999, an unusual international coalition of scholars, world leaders, and religious communities began to form around concepts and ideas contained not only in the principles of the Proclamation, but in Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that the “family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.”26 This coalition emerged none too soon. As the new millennium dawned, it was becoming increasingly clear that international law could exert a powerful force on national laws relating to home and family life.
The Growing Influence of International Law
Lawmakers in America (as in countries around the world) now face what for some is an unexpected reality: international social norms—not merely national laws—influence the ultimate legality of their official actions. A complete analysis of how international law shapes the contours of domestic policies (including the meaning of the United States Constitution) would require a fairly hefty treatise.27 For present purposes, three developments demonstrate the growing prominence of international law.
First, international treaties now deal not only with the obligations of nations but also with the rights of individuals. Second, in addition to treaties, the UN system is generating a vast body of pliable norms, called “soft law,” that are quickly ripening into “hard law.”28 Third, a growing number of national actors (including judges in the United States) are increasingly willing to consider (and sometimes enforce) international norms in ways that would have been hard to anticipate twenty years ago.
Treaty law, beginning with the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, began as the primary fount of international law.29 For centuries, treaties have dealt primarily with issues of war, peace, boundary disputes, navigation, and commerce; questions that were fundamental to the relationship of one nation with another.30 Indeed, the phrase “international law” reflected this reality: international law governed conduct between, or “inter,” nations.31 The importance of treaties in establishing the form and content of international law continues unabated.
However, modern treaties do more than settle wars, boundary questions, and resource disputes. They now govern such important issues as gender equality,32 children’s rights,33 and racial discrimination.34 Until quite recently, these issues were the sole concern and prerogative of national governments.
In addition to promoting a burgeoning number of international treaties and conventions, the modern UN system formulates soft law norms at an ever increasing rate. Hundreds of UN negotiations each year examine questions related to virtually every conceivable social issue.35 As a result of these negotiations—the most prominent of which are the periodic five- and ten-year reviews of major UN conferences on the environment, population, women’s rights, and human settlements36—various reports, platforms, agendas, and declarations are issued, updated, and expanded. Not long ago, these soft law documents were considered little more than helpful (or, perhaps even irrelevant) “suggestions.”37 Now they are more than mere words.
In the new millennium, soft law norms generated at UN meetings can rather rapidly attain a status approximating hard law. As a result of constant negotiation, reexamination, and reformulation, various actors in the international legal system—including national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and legal scholars—develop expectations that these norms will be respected.38 If expectations related to enforcement are low, a norm is considered soft. But expectations grow and norms harden. Eventually, what began as soft law transmutes into hard law. This occurs if and when soft law norms come to be seen as evidence of customary international law.39
It once required centuries to form hard, or customary, international law because such law was developed through the uniform, consistent practice of nations over time.40 More recently, and largely because of the exploding number of international meetings, some legal scholars argue that binding international norms develop (at least in significant part) through the mere repetition of agreed language at UN conferences. As a leading international scholar has asserted, negotiated language “repeated by and acquiesced in by sufficient numbers with sufficient frequency, eventually attain[s] the status of law.”41
The third factor driving the expansion of international law is the willingness of an increasing number of national actors to consult, consider, and sometimes enforce soft international laws. For several decades, various influential nongovernmental organizations argued that international norms should influence, if not govern, domestic legal policies.42 Scholars made similar arguments,43 as did litigants.44 These submissions, once considered controversial,45 are now bearing fruit in surprising ways—including at the United States Supreme Court.
Until recently, it was rather unlikely that any state or federal court would enforce the terms of a treaty that had not been ratified by the United States Senate. This is no longer true. On March 1, 2005, in Roper v. Simmons, Justice Kennedy cited the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child—a treaty never ratified by the Senate—to support the conclusion of five justices that the execution of minors is unconstitutional.46
As a personal matter, I oppose the execution of minors. As a constitutional scholar, however, I would have been hard pressed (prior to Roper) to assert that the execution of minors was unconstitutional.47 Whatever the ultimate wisdom of executing minors, as of March 2005, there was no clear consensus that such punishment violated constitutional values that were deeply held and widely shared by the American people: indeed, at the time Roper was decided, slightly more than half of the states that permitted capital punishment included minors within its reach.48 The Supreme Court’s decision, therefore, that there was a “constitutional consensus” invalidating the juvenile death penalty was unusual. The Supreme Court’s citation of an unratified, non-binding treaty to support this conclusion was astonishing. Roper demonstrates beyond doubt that the meaning of the United States Constitution can be altered by international norms that have been rejected by political processes at the state level (the majority of death penalty states applied it to minors) and at the federal level (the U.S. Senate had not ratified the international treaty the Supreme Court cited to prohibit the execution of minors).
Soft international law has also been found determinative in redefining the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Lawrence v. Texas,49 a majority of the Supreme Court reversed its determination—announced sixteen years earlier—that the United States Constitution did not afford special protection for consensual acts of homosexual sodomy.50 The Lawrence Court could not convincingly argue that either the words of the Constitution or the history and traditions of the American people had changed dramatically in those sixteen years. Accordingly, the justices simply announced that sixteen years ago the Court got it wrong.51 As evidence that the current majority now “had it right,” the Justices cited decisions from international tribunals and a brief filed by the former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.52 Prior to their citation by the nation’s highest court, these materials would have been considered by most scholars as among the softest of all possible soft law relevant to the meaning of the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. Not any longer. Soft international law now has significant constitutional clout.
Because of the foregoing factors—the expanding reach of international treaties, the explosive growth of international soft law norms, and the willingness of judges to enforce international pronouncements without prior state or federal approval—individuals and groups interested in understanding and protecting the meaning of “marriage” and “family” must pay attention not only to national laws, but also to international treaties, UN conference declarations, and the opinions of jurists from legal systems all over the world. Developing nations must give particular care to international legal rules: if the content of the United States Constitution can be changed by international norms that have been rejected by state governments and the United States Congress, the impact of these rules on less-developed nations could be profound indeed.
International Law and the Family
International law is not only increasingly important, it now plays an unprecedented role in shaping national laws related to the family. UN negotiations during the past fifteen years have consistently evaluated, reevaluated and (sometimes) significantly redefined basic definitions related to marriage, gender, fatherhood, motherhood, childbearing, and childhood.53
Equality for women, protection of children, and elimination of unjust discrimination are vitally important and laudable goals. But gender equality does not require that a woman’s value be measured solely in economic terms,54 the protection of children is not necessarily furthered by granting them the same legal rights as adults,55 and the elimination of unjust discrimination does not mandate social acceptance of all forms of consensual sexual practice.56 American society has furthered the rights of women, children, and minorities without embracing these sorts of extreme measures.
How did family law become the subject of such unrelenting international lawmaking efforts? I believe it occurred (at least in large measure) because efforts to fundamentally alter long-standing family structures encountered substantial opposition in national political forums. The refusal of American society to adopt extreme proposals may have prompted the dramatic growth of international norms that embody such measures. Disappointed by efforts to alter domestic legal rules, many scholars and social activists concluded that international law could be harnessed to achieve results that had eluded their nationally based efforts. They had good reason, furthermore, to support this strategy. Controversial proposals are more likely to succeed in international fora rather than in national fora because of a little-understood but long-established reality: professors and universities (particularly law professors and law schools) play an exceptionally prominent role in the creation of international law. If sufficient numbers of “international experts” support a proposal, even one that has been repeatedly rejected at national levels, the proposal has a surprisingly good chance of acceptance within an international arena somewhere. Furthermore, lawyers and law professors not only have significant influence in the creation of international law, they also tend to be somewhat “out in front” of current social views related to the family, children, and human sexuality.57
There are three major sources of international law: (1) norms established by the common practice of states, (2) norms set out in treaties and international agreements, and (3) norms derived “from general principles common to the major legal systems of the world.”58 Academic opinion is exceptionally influential in the last two categories. Modern-day academicians regularly plan strategies for, participate in, and influence the outcome of global negotiations59 leading to treaties and international agreements. In addition, “the teachings of the most highly qualified [scholars] of the various nations” establish (in significant measure) the general principles of law that form the third source of international law.60
Accordingly, faculties of law schools and universities around the world hold a privileged status in the formation and adoption of international norms: that of quasi-lawmakers. The scholars and academicians who operate women’s, children’s, and gender rights centers at universities and law schools around the world have taken advantage of this status to engage in organized and effective efforts to redefine such vital concepts as equality, children’s rights, and marriage.61
To the extent that extreme concepts of gender equality, children’s rights, and the meaning of marriage are widely adopted, there is good reason to believe that human suffering around the world will increase. Whether the measure used is physical and mental health, educational achievement, economic success, alcoholism, substance abuse, or average life expectancy, substantial sociological data suggest that stable, natural marital unions promote the health, safety, and social progress of women, men, and children.62 Furthermore, there is no reliable evidence that alternative family forms reliably produce the same benefits—either for individuals or society as a whole.63 On the contrary, the available sociological evidence (considered as a whole) demonstrates that each deviation in family structure away from lifelong marriage between a man and a woman increases the likelihood of a broad array of negative outcomes for men, women and—in particular—children.64
Not every family (especially through the generations) will be fortunate enough to be founded upon stable, natural marital unions, and in some circumstances, such as marriages involving serious forms of abuse, marital dissolution may be wise. But, despite deviations and human failures, the model itself (as shown by the course of history and mountains of current research) is the surest recipe for personal and social progress. Moreover, the negative consequences of departing from the model are particularly acute for women and children.
Accordingly, to decrease human suffering, particularly for women and children, we must halt further redefinition and revision of norms related to marriage and family life.
The Doha Conference and Hope for the Future
The family has been subjected to redefinition in significant part because academicians and advocates of that approach have been vigorously engaged in the international lawmaking process. This ongoing process can be slowed, and perhaps reversed, by similar action on the part of those who believe in—and understand—the meaning of Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Doha International Conference for the Family is an example of how such efforts can succeed.
Through the efforts made at various international conferences, the World Family Policy Center has established close relationships with many national delegations. At important negotiations, including the 1998 negotiation of the Rome Statute for the Creation of an International Criminal Court, the Center’s academic and legal expertise has played a significant role in preventing further erosion of values stated in the Proclamation.65 In early 2003, the Center was approached by the ambassador of the State of Qatar, His Excellency Nassir Al-Nasser, regarding the possibility of convening a major family conference during the United Nation’s celebration of the tenth anniversary of the First International Year of the Family, to be held during 2004. Ambassador Al-Nasser visited the campus of Brigham Young University, held discussions with various university officials, and met with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. The ambassador expressed his interest in sponsoring a major event during 2004 because, during that important commemorative year, Qatar would be chair of the “Group of 77,” the largest single bloc of nations within the United Nations.66
Following the visit of the ambassador, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar and President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in the State of Qatar, invited H. Reese Hansen, Dean of the Law School, and me to visit Doha, Qatar, in May 2003 to discuss the matter. During that meeting, Her Highness expressed her desire to hold a significant international event that would reaffirm the importance of long-established family values shared by Islamic and Christian principles, while still supporting sound social progress and development, and justice for women. She expressed her confidence and desire to work with Brigham Young University and the World Family Policy Center in achieving these goals.
Following these meetings, planning for the Doha International Conference for the Family began in earnest. The World Family Policy Center, working with a distinguished group of partners from around the world,67 served as the chair of a coordinating committee that assisted the State of Qatar in organizing and convening this conference. The World Family Policy Forum in July 2003 focused upon the preparations for and possible outcomes of the 2004 celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. Possible language for an important declaration regarding the family was discussed at the forum.68 In December 2003, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution welcoming the Doha International Conference for the Family as a major event of the 2004 celebration.69
The conference was formally organized under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Moza. A worldwide call for papers was issued in early 2004. Thereafter, the conference consisted of a year-long series of academic and intergovernmental meetings in major capitals around the world. Conferences organized and assisted by the World Family Policy Center, together with its nongovernmental and governmental partners, were held in Geneva, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Center also assisted with events in Mexico City, Mexico; Cotonou, Benin; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Riga, Latvia. Declarations, papers, essays, personal statements, findings, and proposals for action that were developed at these events were collected by the Center, and two significant reports were prepared.
The first report, entitled “The World Unites to Protect the Family,” details the results of over two hundred community meetings in thirty-four nations.70 The second report, entitled “The Family in the Third Millennium,” provides an initial look at the more than 2,500 pages of global scholarship and academic findings developed during the preparatory proceedings. Final publication of “The Family in the Third Millennium” is now pending; a major international press has expressed interest in publishing the collected scholarship and distributing it worldwide.
The Doha Conference culminated in an intergovernmental meeting in Doha, Qatar, on November 29–30, 2004. At that meeting, governmental representatives negotiated and adopted the Doha Declaration, which reaffirms long-standing legal norms related to family life. On December 6, 2004, the UN General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution, supported by the 149 nations who cosponsored the resolution, formally noting the Declaration.71 As a result, the Doha Declaration takes its place in the growing canon of declarations, platforms, and agendas from which international legal norms are derived by political leaders, judges, and lawyers.
The language of the Doha Declaration was drawn from established (but long-ignored) principles of international law. Astonishingly, however, the Declaration reaffirms many of the principles related to family life stated in the Proclamation. Among other things, the Declaration recommits the world to
• strengthen “the family’s supporting, educating and nurturing roles”
• recognize the “inherent dignity of the human person”
• note that, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care before as well as after birth”
• acknowledge that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance”
• provide that, within marriage, “husband and wife should be equal partners”
• recognize “that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children from infancy to adolescence”
• acknowledge that “the full and harmonious development” of children is best achieved when they “grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
The Declaration (set out in full in the appendix) reaffirms that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and calls upon all nations to take effective action to provide the family with “the widest possible protection and assistance.”
These are widely shared and fundamental values—values that, for too long, have not been given their deserved attention and respect. Their reaffirmation in 2004 by the UN General Assembly is significant. Legal scholars have called the Doha Declaration “nothing short of miraculous, one of the best things to come from the UN since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”72 The Declaration gives reason to hope that the world can turn its attention from deconstructing the family to strengthening the family. Perhaps most importantly, the negotiation and adoption of the Doha Declaration has demonstrated that men and women, fathers and mothers, from all cultures and from all political and religious backgrounds can come together to preserve society’s most fundamental unit.
At the concluding session of the Doha International Conference in 2004, Her Highness Sheika Moza announced that she would establish the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development in Doha, Qatar. In late September 2005, legal documents establishing the institute as an academic center, situated within the City of Learning in Doha, were finalized by Her Highness and the Qatar Foundation.73 The Doha Institute will research, examine, and proffer policy proposals to implement the norms set out in the Doha Declaration. There is a great amount of work yet to do, but on the tenth anniversary of the issuance of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” there is clear hope that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can link arms with cultures around the world to strengthen the family.
Stand Up to the Fire
An international reaffirmation of many of the principles stated in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” grew, in significant measure, from a simple question I was asked in Istanbul. After delivering my plenary session remarks in 1996, I was approached by an ambassador from a Middle Eastern country. The ambassador noted that he had attended scores of international conferences. At those conferences, numerous scholars from around the world had urged significant (in his words, “radical”) changes to national and international laws related to the family. But, he said, he had never heard any academician support protecting and strengthening the natural family. Then, with some emotion, he asked me a question that changed my life: “Where have you been?”
On the tenth anniversary of the Proclamation, this question should be considered by every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and particularly by academicians, scholars, and researchers. In 1995, the Proclamation was issued to warn and forewarn the Church and the world of a pressing need to return to the “standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.”74 In 2005, Latter-day Saints everywhere should assess whether they have heeded the call to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”75
The Proclamation ends with a warning and a call for action. The warning is disquieting. Failure to reverse current trends “will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”76 But a way out is marked as well: citizens and government leaders are called upon to take action “to strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”77
Nearly ten years after the Proclamation was first read to members of the Relief Society from the pulpit of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, it has been framed, hung on the wall, even memorized. These laudable actions, however, are not enough. Despite the constant request of President Hinckley to stand for something, many members of the Church are fearful to stand up for marriage, life, and the family. A decade after the Proclamation was first issued, we must overcome our fear.
The defense of the family must be grounded in reason. We must use carefully chosen words and act pursuant to well-thought-out plans motivated by love and compassion. We must not be angry, dogmatic, or insensitive to the deeply felt concerns of those with opposing views. Without compromising principle, we should seek common ground. As President Hinckley has counseled, we must avoid contention and dispute whenever possible.
But, however reasoned, careful, compassionate, planned, and moderate our efforts, we must be prepared for the sparks that will surely fly. We must never create needless controversy for ourselves, our families, our nation, or the Church. But we must also not retreat from the defense of truth. Let us not withdraw, but stand up to the fire of our times.
Appendix: The Doha Declaration
Representatives of Governments and members of civil society met in Doha, Qatar, on 29 and 30 November 2004, for the Doha International Conference for the Family, in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
The Conference was convened under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar and President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, State of Qatar.
The preparatory proceedings of the Doha Conference for the Family gathered the views of government officials, academicians, faith-based groups, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society.
The Conference recalls regional meetings held in Cotonou, Benin; Mexico City, Mexico; Stockholm, Sweden; Geneva, Switzerland; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and other venues; and notes the proposals and views expressed during the Conference by all participants.
Reaffirming that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, as declared in article 16 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Noting that 2004 marks the tenth anniversary of the United Nations 1994 International Year of the Family and that the Doha International Conference for the Family was welcomed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 58/15 of 3 December 2003;
Acknowledging that the objectives of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family include efforts to (a) strengthen the capacity of national institutions to formulate, implement and monitor policies in respect of families; (b) stimulate efforts to respond to problems affecting, and affected by, the situation of families; (c) undertake analytical reviews at all levels and assessments of the situation and needs of families; (d) strengthen the effectiveness of efforts at all levels to execute specific programmes concerning families; and (e) improve collaboration among national and international non-governmental organizations in support of families;
Taking into consideration the academic, scientific and social findings collected for the Doha International Conference, which collectively demonstrate that the family is not only the fundamental group unit of society, but is also the fundamental agent for sustainable social, economic and cultural development;
Recognizing the need to address the challenges facing the family in the context of globalization;
Realizing that strengthening the family presents a unique opportunity to address societal problems in a holistic manner;
Reiterating that strong, stable families contribute to the maintenance of a culture of peace and promote dialogue among civilizations and diverse ethnic groups;
Welcoming the announcement by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar and President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, State of Qatar, about the creation of an international Institute for Study of the Family.
In this regard, we reaffirm international commitments to the family and call upon all Governments, international organizations and members of civil society at all levels to take action to protect the family.
Reaffirmation of commitments to the family
We reaffirm international commitments to strengthen the family, in particular:
1. We commit ourselves to recognizing and strengthening the family’s supporting, educating and nurturing roles, with full respect for the world’s diverse cultural, religious, ethical and social values;
2. We recognize the inherent dignity of the human person and note that the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care before as well as after birth. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person;
3. We reaffirm that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to the widest possible protection and assistance by society and the State;
4. We emphasize that marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses and that the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized and that husband and wife should be equal partners;
5. We further emphasize that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children from infancy to adolescence. For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. All institutions of society should respect and support the efforts of parents to nurture and care for children in a family environment. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and the liberty to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
Call for action
Taking into account the above commitments, we call upon all Governments, international organizations and members of civil society at all levels to:
Cultural, religious and social values
1. Develop programmes to stimulate and encourage dialogue among countries, religions, cultures and civilizations on questions related to family life, including measures to preserve and defend the institution of marriage;
2. Reaffirm the importance of faith and religious and ethical beliefs in maintaining family stability and social progress;
3. Evaluate and reassess the extent to which international law and policies conform to the principles and provisions related to the family contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international commitments;
4. Reaffirm commitments to provide a quality education for all, including equal access to educational opportunities;
5. Evaluate and reassess government policies to ensure that the inherent dignity of human beings is recognized and protected throughout all stages of life;
6. Develop indicators to evaluate the impact of all programmes on family stability;
7. Strengthen policies and programmes that will enable families to break the cycle of poverty;
8. Evaluate and reassess government population policies, particularly in countries with below replacement birth rates;
9. Encourage and support the family to provide care for older persons and persons with disabilities;
10. Support the family in addressing the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, including malaria and tuberculosis;
11. Take effective measures to support the family in times of peace and war;
12. Uphold, preserve and defend the institution of marriage;
13. Take effective measures to strengthen the stability of marriage by, among other things, encouraging the full and equal partnership of husband and wife within a committed and enduring marital relationship;
14. Establish effective policies and practices to condemn and remedy abusive relationships within marriage and the family, including the establishment of public agencies to assist men, women, children and families in crisis;
Parents and children
15. Strengthen efforts to promote equal political, economic, social and educational opportunities for women and evaluate and assess economic, social and other policies to support mothers and fathers in performing their essential roles;
16. Strengthen the functioning of the family by involving mothers and fathers in the education of their children;
17. Reaffirm that parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children;
18. Reaffirm and respect the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
We request the host country of the Conference, the State of Qatar, to inform the United Nations General Assembly of the proceedings of the Conference, including the Doha Declaration, in particular during the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family to be held on 6 December 2004.
To see the official UN document visit https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N04/634/18/PDF/N0463418.pdf