Question: Is The Family: A Proclamation to the World against feminism?

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Question: Is The Family: A Proclamation to the World against feminism?

Introduction to Question

In 1995, top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced a nine-paragraph proclamation regarding the family called The Family: A Proclamation to the World. In it, the divine institution of the family is described and defended–– including primary gender roles for a man and wife in that marriage.

This document has invited a lot of criticism from some of the more progressive critics of the Church. It has also been the source of confusion for many regular members of the Church that have feminist leanings since the document prescribes roles based upon one’s gender. The question has been: Is the Proclamation against feminism?

This article explores the question.

Response to Question

Two Lines that Affirm Male and Female Equality

The document contains two lines that affirm male/female equality––thus demonstrating that the Proclamation is not against feminism.

The first is this:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

The second is this:

Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.

Notice the assumptions behind the lines: that males and females are capable of performing the same tasks and are encouraged to share each other’s loads.

Now, it is true that the Proclamation prescribes ideal gender roles (that is, roles that change not on preference but out of necessity) based upon what we are naturally ordered to biologically. This shouldn’t be offensive. Gender complementarianism is scientifically defensible and is a philosophy that affirms the moral equality of the two genders.[1] We should seek to fill our roles as prescribed by the Proclamation. But the Proclamation doesn’t exclude feminism. Notice that the second line assumes that wives will be able to take over their husbands’ responsibilities. Women should therefore have potential for lucrative careers to support their families––including those careers traditionally held by men.

Conclusion

It’s unfortunate that this has become such a common misunderstanding about the Proclamation; but hopefully this article will allow both “progressive” members and “conservative” members to find some common ground as we both seek to understand how both men and women can reach their fullest potential as children of God.


Notes

  1. Bruce Goldman, "Two minds: the cognitive differences between men and women," Stanford Medicine, Stanford University, May 7, 2021, https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html. John Stossel, "The Science: Male Brain vs Female Brain," YouTube, October 15, 2019, video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTEi2-FAEZE.