Browsing around this evening brought me to this reading of the Proclamation on the Family. On its surface it brings some thoughtful questions to light. Deeper down, I wonder where the mystery is.
The phrase in question is, "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."
First, my caveats. I am no lawyer. I have no patience for legal documents in any form. I break out in hives when I sign for guest parking passes here in my mobile home park. That probably makes me pathetic, and I can live with that. Also, I am no theologian. Oh, I served a mission, and I've taught just about every kind of class a guy can be called to, but I'm no Nibley. Hence the need to take the following opinion with the obligatory grain (or year's supply) of salt.
Then to it. Given the state of society today, that phrase as framed by the First Presidency makes perfect sense. In order to understand that, we need to elevate it to a level not attained by earthly, human laws. Any law we create in mortal society is by definition flawed. At best, it can only mirror eternal law and, at its worst, often mocks that law. As man continues to evolve away from those laws ordained by God, society falls farther away from its highest form. If we use Zion as the standard for a perfect society, then we currently live in Sodom, suburb of Gomorrah.
Scripture is replete with utterances by prophets which speak of an obedient people who live in a God-centered society. In other words, they often describe to us the vision of a Zion people. Zion carries with it a level of perfection that we realize we may never attain in this life. But we can try.
In fact, the Lord continually admonishes us to do better; to be that light that dispels the darker elements of life; to strive for Zion wherever we may live. That said, we also know that today, as never before in the history of the modern Church, families are under heavy assault. In the last twenty years, every Bishop I have served under has decried the increase in abuse found in families in any given ward. One Bishop went so far as to say that when he has Primary aged children sit in his office and tell how afraid they are of their fathers, his heart breaks, almost literally.
The Proclamation, then, teaches us the Lord's standard for families in Zion. Children, by virtue of their innocence, are born with certain rights. Chief among them are the rights of life, safety, and love within the family. Many children are denied even these basic rights, and it makes the heavens weep. Those who seek to nullify those rights will suffer, I am convinced, severe consequences in the hereafter.
As for "entitlement," there is nothing in the spiritual language of the Proclamation that implies "forcing" people to live in a family dynamic. The Church cannot now, nor has it ever denied rights to anyone merely for getting a divorce, for example. If one or the other spouse was guilty of some transgression which led to the divorce, then rights may certainly be curtailed for a time. If a young girl becomes pregnant out of wedlock, we may counsel her to consider marrying the father, but more and more often this may be an undesirable solution. Times have changed, and such decisions must be made even more carefully today than, say, thirty years ago. Were the Church to begin "forcing" people to live in family dynamics, they would be guilty of the very thing that necessitated the War in Heaven.
Do children have a claim on the Church? Certainly. If the Church is collectively doing its job, children will always be cared for. In homes where only one parent belongs to the Church, that parent receives assistance from many sources. Needs of a family, even a broken family, must always be addressed by the Lord's church, or that church has no claim to blessings from the Lord. Should the "ideal" family continue to be defined as a man and woman living in fidelity and creating a loving environment? Of course. The Lord expects nothing less. But the Lord also understands better than do we that today's families are under the heaviest attacks they have suffered since the days of Noah. Today's children are bombarded with propaganda that teaches them to question and mock authority, to pander to their own pleasures, and to win at all costs.
If you were among the General Authorities of the Church, wouldn't you issue a proclamation to set people straight?