FAMILY PROCLAMATION

August 7, 2015

My work as a mother is something I take very seriously. Being the mother of my three sons has been a singular joy. While I do not claim to be a perfect mother, I am certain that my approach to mothering demonstrates my adherence to the responsibilities of a mother set forth in the Proclamation on the Family.

Additionally, I am an LGBTQIA-affirming, LDS mom. I support and celebrate all of my sons, including my non-straight one. I frequently get asked how I support my queer son and the Family Proclamation. I don’t mind answering the question, especially when it is asked in curiosity (sometimes it is asked in judgment, and that is irksome).

Let me begin by making it clear that I read the Family Proclamation like any other sacred text—prayerfully and with the expectation that I will be inspired to do good. Primarily the Family Proclamation reminds me of my responsibility as a mother. However, I do not look to it to provide me instruction on how to be a “mother.” The Family Proclamation reminds me that I should rear my children in “love and righteousness,” but it does not describe what that looks like. The Family Proclamation makes it clear that I am to “provide for [my sons’] physical and spiritual needs,” but it doesn’t explain how to do that. Indeed, the Family Proclamation makes it clear that I am to “nurture” my sons, but the details of how to go about that must be worked out in the moments where my sons and I meet together.

Therefore, as is pointed out in the Family Proclamation, I have turned to “the teachings of Jesus Christ,” as well as my personal revelation to find ideas of how to mother. So, here is how I use the Family Proclamation to guide my mothering of my sons.

Rearing my children in love and righteousness

My son came out to me after returning with honor from a full time mission. He graduated from seminary and Brigham Young University. He faithfully attended church throughout his youth and young adulthood. He has read the scriptures many times. When he came out to me, he did not need further explanation of the gospel or the commandments or the plan of salvation. He needed a mother who loved him, all of him, no matter what.

As I reflect on my mothering of all of my sons, but my queer son in particularly, I am reminded of the story in 1Kings 3:23-28. King Solomon sat in judgment to decide the fate of an infant. Two women claimed that the son of the other woman died, and that the living infant was her son. Solomon’s solution was to slay the boy, divide him in two, and to give half to each woman. One of the women agreed to this solution. The other woman, whose bowels yearned upon her son, rejected Solomon’s solution. Instead she begged, “O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.” 

I know this feeling. I know how it feels to yearn upon my son and seek for him to be whole. I have looked into his eyes and have seen how he has been divided into two based on who he knows himself to be and who the people around him think he should be. I am not interested in “dividing [my] living child in two” (1 Kings 3:25), but rather having him live his whole life. One woman wanted only for her son to remain whole and to live–Solomon, in his wisdom, judged that woman as the mother.

In the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Wonka asked, “If you had to choose one half of your son, which half would it be?” To which Ms. Teave replied, “What kind of question is that?” Exactly! Who wants half of a son? It is preposterous to imagine only wanting half of any of my boys. Instead, My love and my righteousness demand that I love my sons in their entirety. Indeed, I take the Family Proclamation to mean that I must continue work on my own faith and righteousness in order to be prepared to mother my boys. Moreover, I understand that my boys are in the best position to decide what their whole lives look like.

Providing for my children’s physical and spiritual needs

My son’s turmoil surrounding his sexuality and his future as a queer man has challenged him spiritually. But it has also challenged him physically. He experienced debilitating anxiety and the physical pain of depression. He considered suicide as a reasonable way to relieve his pain. Thankfully, with the help of good mental health professionals and medication, my boy worked through his pain and has found wellness. I am grateful that he reached out to me on the really hard days. While I haven’t always known how to meet his needs, I did strive to listen to him while I listened to the Spirit.

Christ explained that, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a [mother], will [she] give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will [she] for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will [she] offer him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12).

I have three sons. Each of them have particular needs that I have worked to fill. When my sons ask for shelter, I do not turn them to the street. When my sons asked for understanding and empathy, I do not give them sermons. When my sons ask for congratulations, I do not give them disappointment. My approach to mothering my queer son is not altogether different. He has asked for hugs (especially on hard days), he has needed a listening ear when discussing his possible futures, and he has desired a space to celebrate his achievements—and that is exactly what I have given him.

Nurturing my children

When it comes to mothering, I have looked to my Heavenly Father to guide how I should nurture my boys. My Heavenly Father has met me where I am. He has focused on my needs. He has never rejected me. He has only surrounded me with the full embrace of His love. I seek to emulate the way He nurtures me in my work as a mother.

Therefore, once my son decided to live his life according to the dictates of his heart, which included dating men, I supported him. I also made sure that he had the most current and accurate information about dating men. I wanted him to approach his life in ways that were emotionally and physically safe. I diligently reviewed safer sex practices with my son. I happily advised him on how to ask his classmate out on a date. I gladly approved his first-date outfit. And I waited with anticipation to hear how that first date went. Has he had bumps? Sure, who hasn’t? But he has also made so many excellent choices—choices that have made me so proud as a mother. I consider it a rare privilege to be his mother and to be in a place to observe and share in his joy.

Ultimately, I think I have a pretty good sense of my job as a mother. I believe that the words found in the 81st section of Doctrine and Covenants (verses 4-6) apply to me as I work to mother well:

“And in doing these things thou wilt do the greatest good unto thy fellow beings, and wilt promote the glory of him who is your Lord. Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.”

I know that when I stand firm in my office as a mother, when I do good unto my children, when I succor them, I am doing the work of God. I know I can’t take full responsibility for all of their goodness. However, my boys are living whole, happy, and productive lives. And I like to think I’ve at least played a helpful part in this.

This is my proclamation on the family.

Roni Jo Draper

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11 comments on “FAMILY PROCLAMATION

  1. Very moving. Thank you for this beautiful treatise. Your insights are fresh and loving and right on point. I was touched by the way you live the principles outlined in the proclamation.

  2. Anita Aug 10, 2015

    Thank you for your beautiful explanation of what so many of us mothers feel and live. I am proud to call you friend.

  3. Carla Brown Aug 11, 2015

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…I could not possibly say this enough. Your words felt as if they had been ripped from my mother’s soul and expressed in your writing. I am proudly working in the office that my Heavenly Father has appointed to me as the mother of these 3 very special souls and love each one in their wholeness. and for the perfect creations that they are. Thank you, Roni. Be blessed.

    • Contributor: Roni Jo Aug 11, 2015

      Carla, I am happy that what I’ve express speaks to your experience and I thank you for letting me know that.

  4. Glendabulous Aug 11, 2015

    Roni Jo this is Wonderful! I took the Proclamation down off my wall because it was not a statement I could support anymore. Your blog has given me insight into another way to look at those words with more Love and an ability to see that I can support it on my terms! Love You & Thanks for writing this!

  5. Vicki Fackrell Aug 11, 2015

    Beautifully written Roni! I’ve spent so much time feeling beaten over the head by the proclamation that this perspective gives me hope and joy in my best mothering efforts. Thank you friend!

    • Contributor: Roni Jo Aug 11, 2015

      Vicki, I hope LDS mothers of all kids (including LGBTQ kids) can use the Proclamation to guide their mothering. I simply do not thing our sacred texts should wielded as weapons against others.