Some have speculated as to the timing of the release of The Family: A Proclamation to the World (in 1995) and judge its prophetic merit based on the premise that it contains a warning of the ills of same-sex marriage and thus the disintegration of the traditional family unit. While the public release of the proclamation preceded the now noted Supreme Court decision (Obergefell vs. Hodges) that essentially legalized gay marriage nation wide by 20 years, this viewpoint reduces the document to what could easily be viewed as an anti-gay tract or the bigot manifesto. Some of the documents critics impose just such a judgement upon its character.

While there is certainly some merit to the gay marriage aspect of the document’s application to the society of the United States of America, one should not forget that this is a proclamation to the entire world. In what ways does this document offer up a warning to the world, and what other aspects of the document’s teachings have application outside of gay marriage?

Much of what has changed in the world since 1995 is arguably due to the proliferation and constancy of information being communicated through the Internet. Back in 1995, the few people who were privileged enough to own a personal computer may have had a dial up modem that allowed the computer to connect via a telephone line to other computers at a speed of 28.8 kpbs Or Kilobits per second. Today (as of the writing of this article) speeds of home computers, or even a mobile phone, can connect wirelessly to the Internet at speeds up to 1.3 gbps or gigabit per second. The difference in speed by which the internet can transmit data from 1995 to 2015 is approximately 34,000 times faster, in just twenty years time. To further put that in perspective, take a 4 (MB) Megabyte song file, which is about a 3 minute song. Using a 28.8 kbps dial up modem, this song would take over 18 minutes to download. Using today’s internet speeds, it can be fully downloaded in about one second.

The power and ability of the Internet platform to communicate messages of the gospel, to accomplish temple and family history work, as well as other applications to minister and administer to the world is no small technological accomplishment. In 1995 the Internet was not in its infancy, but it was on the crest of a tidal wave that would soon flood the Earth with smart phones, and computers connecting the world with information of all types at lightening fast speeds. If this proclamation was to be made to the world, one of the most powerful ways for that to take place is through the power and reach of the Internet. Surely such a powerful tool for good could not be left alone by those in opposition to its goals.

I have come to the conclusion that The Family: A Proclamation to the World is probably the most significant single reveled document to come forth since the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The depth of its teachings on everything from individual behavior and covenant promises to the wide reaching effects of the family unit on society, to temple-like instruction on the plan of salvation, can lead a person to a lifetime of study. The application of its teachings as a warning to the world on the impact that gay marriage would have on society is appropriate, just incomplete.

Elder L. Tom Perry offered this warning in his final General Conference address in April 2015 about the importance about speaking out against all forms of counterfeit families, “We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established.” This statement became somewhat of a lightening rod as it is categorizes people in a way few would wish to be considered, that is living a counterfeit life; a life that is a forgery, a valueless imitation, void of real value and lacking the recognition of authenticity. The latin origin of the word counterfeit comes from the two words ‘contra’ (meaning: in opposition) and ‘facere’ (meaning: make). In other words, or in application to this context, to live a lifestyle that is a counterfeit, is to live a life that is in opposition to the one declared in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It is to create, or participate in, a “family” that is in opposition to the one which God has designed.

Taking on this definition does not soften the words of L. Tom Perry. In fact, it broadens it message beyond simply same-sex marriage, but to any and all relationships that are established in opposition to the divinely appointed organization of the family.

Through social media sites such as Facebook, in online community chat rooms or forums, or even communities that spring up through online gaming in its many forms, the Internet has become the counterfeit “family” breeding ground. Elder Bednar in a fireside given at Brigham Young University – Idaho in 2009 gave this correlating warning, “I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls.” In this same talk Elder Bednar spoke of The Family: A Proclamation to the World in this context:

“In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles declare that as spirit sons and daughters of God, we “accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize [our] divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”

Please note the primary importance of obtaining a physical body in the process of progressing toward our divine destiny. Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has taught, “Our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character.” Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies.

The adversary attempts to influence us both to misuse our physical bodies and to minimize the importance of our bodies. Satan also strives to entice the sons and daughters of God to minimize the importance of their physical bodies. This particular type of attack is most subtle and diabolical. Sadly, some young men and young women in the Church today ignore “things as they really are” and neglect eternal relationships for digital distractions, diversions, and detours that have no lasting value. My heart aches when a young couple—sealed together in the house of the Lord for time and for all eternity by the power of the holy priesthood—experiences marital difficulties because of the addicting effect of excessive video gaming or online socializing.

A young man or woman may waste countless hours, postpone or forfeit vocational or academic achievement, and ultimately sacrifice cherished human relationships because of mind- and spirit-numbing video and online games. You may now be asking yourself, “But, Brother Bednar, you began today by talking about the importance of a physical body in our eternal progression. Are you suggesting that video gaming and various types of computer-mediated communication can play a role in minimizing the importance of our physical bodies?” That is precisely what I am declaring. Let me explain.

We live at a time when technology can be used to replicate reality, to augment reality, and to create virtual reality. I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense. I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes.

If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.”

I find no small coincidence that The Family: A Proclamation to the World came out at a time when Prophet’s and Seers knew that gay marriage would be just one of the counterfeit families on the horizon. In the Proclamation are powerful declarations about the importance of gender, our pre-mortal life and eternal genealogy, as well as the importance of maintaining a vision of the purposes of the family in the exalting of all of God’s children. All of the counsel in this document speak to the ideal of individual characteristics and goals, as well as the unified goals of a zion or celestial society. If it does not match or promote these teachings (with a few adaptations as enumerated in the document itself), we can know that it is a counterfeit, and should be avoided.

According to a study from the Pew Research center back in 2013, 91% of adults have cell phones. Almost all the pockets of the Earth’s population have a cellphone, and with that device comes the ability to access information and communication the likes of which the world has never before seen. However, since the proliferation of the Internet on a world-wide level, people living every counterfeit lifestyle have begun connecting with others who either identify with that lifestyle or wish to promote that lifestyle. The collective voice of every perversion that can be imagined, is now being shared on the same stage as The Family: Proclamation to the World at an alarming rate.

The tactic of the adversary cannot be to match the value and merit of the divinely appointed family. The Adversary is not capable of producing anything of similar value. However, if enough noise, enough distraction can be placed on that same worldwide stage as the The Family: A Proclamation to the World, then that counter-effort can find success. In this context, one should consider another application of the question asked in the temple recommend interview: “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” One could (in effect-I’m not suggesting this) be handed a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World and then be asked to reconcile their affiliations, or extra circulars in their real or online life to see how they “marry” with the teachings found in its 9 profound paragraphs. Affiliating with a counterfeit family, often found in most (not all) online communities and groups, does little to nothing to support the mission of Jesus Christ or his gospel teachings.

Aside from the myriad of doctrines and principles that are taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World that bring peace and stability to the families and individuals who live according to its precepts, this same document can be viewed as a warning against all the various counterfeit societies and family perversions that give identity and place to things that are in opposition to the designs of God. The document also indirectly invites us to pay particular attention to those counterfeit families that have come forth since and due to the power of the proliferation of the Internet.

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