In September (2014) the Rexburg Standard Journal enjoyed an exclusive interview with Mormon apostle Jeffry Holland. Journalist Emmilie Whitlock reported on Elder Holland’s remarks. One topic the Mormon apostle discussed was the “challenging times” in which we live, especially in regards to the family.
“ ‘One thing that is truly unique in our time is the assault on the family, and it may be a true characteristic and indicator of what we would say is the “last days,” the “last dispensation,” that the adversary would seem to be attacking the family in a way that probably hasn’t been known down through the ages of time and the dispensations of the gospel and the chapters of human history,’ Holland said.
“Holland said it is interesting that 20 years ago, the men and women in leadership positions in the church talked about the importance and role of family even though no one was questioning the nuclear family unit.
“ ‘It was common practice and accepted by everyone,’ Holland said. ‘Well now, it isn’t common practice. It isn’t accepted. And that’s just evidence of revelation, prophesy if you will, of the Lord speaking well before the problem.’
“And prophesy has always been the Lord’s way, he said.
“ ‘It’s a little bit like Noah building a boat when it’s a perfectly gorgeous day out,’ he said. ‘I’m glad those things are in place. We would be scrambling trying to get that kind of message out 20 years too late.’”
Elder Holland is mistaken in his timeline. For example, Christian author and psychologist James Dobson began his ministry, Focus on the Family, nearly 20 years before the “men and women in leadership positions in the Church” were talking about the topic. Well before the mid-1990s (Elder Holland’s date) Focus on the Family radio broadcasts and publications were reaching around the world, alerting people to the importance of the role of the family and warning of the consequences of the “breakdown of the traditional family and its negative effects on the culture at large.”
Also, it’s interesting that in the mid-1990s the LDS Church published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” This is touted within the Mormon Church as “a prophetic document,” “that came from God,” written in “prophetic language,” “inspired, revealed direction from the Lord,” that “fits the Lord’s promise when he said, ‘Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same’ (D&C 1:38).” Yet it has recently been pointed out at the exmormon reddit forum that the Proclamation was drafted with the assistance of the Church’s attorneys at the law firm of Kirton McConkie. It was produced for use in an amicus brief that the Church filed in response to a 1994 challenge to traditional marriage in Hawaii. Contradicting Elder Holland’s claim, 20 years ago people were actively “questioning the nuclear family unit.”
In Mormonism, this kind of get-on-the-band-wagon prophecy is nothing new. Before the 1833 Mormon revelation on health was proclaimed, the Temperance Movement was sweeping across America. People everywhere were talking about the detrimental health effects of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. Joseph Smith added his voice to the others in the form of his revelation now called the Word of Wisdom.
Likewise, Joseph Smith’s 1832 Civil War Prophecy was proclaimed in the midst of public discussion regarding the tensions between the northern and southern states, and followed closely on the heels of a nearby newspaper’s reprint of a New York Courier article that spoke specifically about South Carolina’s discontent and the “probabilities of dismemberment” as a result. Again, Joseph Smith’s revelation was but another voice weighing in on a topic that had already captured the public’s interest.
Similarly, the 1978 revelation now known as “Official Declaration 2” (which removed the long-standing Mormon Church restrictions against people of African descent) came in the midst of strong and vocal public opinion that rejected discrimination against African Americans. Beginning in the 1950s, the American Civil Rights Movement had put racism at the forefront of American society; great strides were made toward ending racial segregation in the United States. While the Mormon Church was a hold-out, it finally got on the bandwagon with Spencer W. Kimball’s 1978 revelation/announcement granting equal Church rights to “worthy” people of African descent.
The Mormon Church has a funny way of defining prophecy and revelation. But I’m glad that on some issues it eventually decided to choose the right.