A History of the Family Proclamation Volume and Course

Alan J. Hawkins

Associate Director, School of Family Life



In August 2000, two significant and related events took place in the School of Family Life: the publication of Strengthening Our Families: An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family, and the introduction of a new course, "Strengthening Marriage and Family: Proclamation Principles and Scholarship." Over time, I think we will look back on these events as perhaps the most important accomplishments of the School of Family Life and the most important service we have been able to give our students, Brigham Young University, and the Church. I am confident that the Holy Spirit has guided this work. Accordingly, I want to document the process that produced the class and the book so that others may gain a deeper appreciation of these accomplishments. As past director of the Family Studies Center and now as associate director for curriculum development in the School of Family Life, I was privileged to watch this process closely over the past four years.

Actually, the beginning of this process should be traced back to September 23, 1995. At the general Relief Society meeting of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley first announced and read "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," by the First Presidency and Council of The Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It briefly summarizes the doctrine of the Church in relation to the importance of families, sets forth principles for happy and successful marriages and families, and encourages active involvement in efforts to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. When the faculty in the department of Family Sciences (which later was incorporated into the School of Family Life) read the Proclamation, we sensed a greater responsibility and need to do more than we were doing to bless the lives of families. Apparently, so did the BYU administration. The administration at this time was just ending a university-wide self-study and strategic planning period. One recommendation from that process was that family teaching and scholarship should receive further attention and greater resources. In fall 1996, BYU President Bateman and Academic Vice-President Alan Wilkins organized a university-wide committee with a charge to recommend ways for the university to respond effectively to the Proclamation. James M. Harper, then the chair of Family Sciences and later the first director of the School of Family Life, led that committee of about a dozen faculty and administrators from across the campus.

There were many things discussed and explored in the committee. But one of the more significant discussions was whether the university should offer a required course focused on the principles articulated in the Proclamation. The class would combine LDS theology, the best family research, and practical information to help our students prepare for marriage and family life. The students also would be trained to be effective advocates of Proclamation principles in their communities and professions. Although committee members understood the challenge of implementing this recommendation, they enthusiastically encouraged the university to take on this challenge. This recommendation was not new to the administration. Jim Harper, as chair of the Family Sciences department, had been engaging the administration in a similar discussion for several years. And at least one other committee had met to discuss issues about a required family class, including the possibility of offering religion credit. But the challenges of implementing a required family class were substantial. The enormous resources it would consume were probably the biggest challenge. Moreover, requiring a course often automatically downgrades it in many students’ eyes. Nevertheless, faculty in Family Sciences decided at least to develop a Family Proclamation course for their majors and make it available, as resources allowed, to students from across campus. With time, perhaps some of the barriers would be overcome and the class could be offered to more students.

Accordingly, the Family Sciences department took the responsibility for developing the course. But at first it was a slow process. Informal discussions among faculty wrestled with course content issues and how it would fit into the current curriculum. Looming in the background was the problem of where we would get the resources and instructors to offer enough sections of the course if it were popular with non-majors. In addition, we began to see the need to examine our entire undergraduate curriculum, eliminating some classes and adding a few others to keep up with substantial advancements and changes in the field. Actually, this helped our department chair, who believed that a major updating of our undergraduate curriculum had been an important priority for several years, but he struggled to get the faculty to make much progress. Developing the Proclamation class was the stimulus that finally got us going. We reduced significantly the number of required courses for Family Sciences majors in order to free more faculty time to devote to the Family Proclamation course. Overhauling and updating an entire undergraduate curriculum and major is no simple task. It took a large group of faculty working for more than a year to accomplish this task under the leadership of several faculty members, most notably Shirley Klein and Clyde Robinson.

Another important project also advanced the Proclamation course: the production of an edited volume on the Family Proclamation. But the decision to produce this book actually preceded intensive, formal efforts to develop the class. While informal discussions were going on about the class, the Family Studies Center Executive Committee (Clayne Pope, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Steve Bahr, Jim Harper, and myself) was struggling with how to implement its mission to use the Proclamation as its charter and promote greater understanding and appreciation of its principles. In addition, we were exploring how to respond to the charge given to us by the BYU administration to reach out across campus and promote more family scholarship. As director of the Family Studies Center at that time, these concerns weighed on my mind. I sensed we needed a book of some kind on the Proclamation, but I didn’t yet have a clear vision of what it would be and how it would be done.

In one meeting of the Executive Committee, however, that changed. We had been talking about many possibilities for promoting the Proclamation, but I think Clayne Pope, the dean of the college of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, sensed the need to stop discussing and start doing. In response to his simple question in that meeting, "So, what are we going to do?" my mind was finally clear. "We are going to write a book that examines the themes and principles of the Proclamation," I said. "It will be written primarily for an LDS audience." (That point had been debated considerably.) "We will invite scholars from across campus to bring their best gospel and secular scholarship together in a volume of edited chapters that is faithful to the Proclamation. This book will serve as the primary text for the Proclamation course we are hoping to develop." (Strangely, I believe that was the first time I had connected the idea of a book to the course that was being discussed.) "That’s what we are going to do first." I knew at that moment that I had experienced more than a moment of intellectual clarity; the Holy Spirit had provided heavenly inspiration. I think the other members of the Executive Committee sensed it, too. They endorsed the project and encouraged me to make it a priority.

Inspiration is one thing. But then the Lord requires of us a lot of hard work. The first task was to find a good scholar to be the managing editor for the book. At first, I went to Wes Burr to discuss the matter. Wes was one of the most respected and prominent family scholars in the world. Looking back on several conversations I had with Wes during my first year as director of the Center, I knew he would be enthusiastic about this project. His skills were a good match, I thought, for this project. But I was surprised at his reaction to my invitation to lead the process. He was enthusiastic about the book, but he said he was not the one to be the managing editor. He would be retiring sooner than anticipated and didn’t have the intellectual energy to take on such a project. Besides, he argued, this was the kind of project that a younger faculty member needed to take on.

During this conversation, David Dollahite wandered by and sat down to listen. Wes suggested I consider inviting Dave to be the editor. I said that I would give that suggestion serious consideration. However, Dave and I had just finished work on an edited volume of papers on the importance of fathering by some of the leading fathering scholars in North America. I wasn’t sure we were up to the challenge of collaborating on another major book project. Nevertheless, I asked Dave to give the project some thought; I would do the same. And as I thought more about it, I sensed that Dave would bring a lot to the project. He is tenacious when he catches a vision and focuses his mind on something. The energy and creativity he would bring to the task would be almost inexhaustible. As a scholar, he had good breadth to understand the many issues the book would deal with and the ability to work well with authors from many different academic disciplines who would write the chapters. Just as important, he had a strong testimony of the Proclamation as an inspired document. He also had a strong testimony of the unique mission of BYU to integrate faith and reason. As Dave thought and prayed about this project, he felt inspired guidance to do it. The next time we talked, I felt confident in asking him to lead the project. He accepted the invitation. The Family Studies Center Executive Commitee approved the selection, and the university administration also expressed support. Dave would be the managing editor charged with the day-to-day decisions and enormous details of producing the book. I would be the executive editor, working with Dave to solidify the vision for the book, decide how we would accomplish the vision, and provide the resources to make it happen.

Both of us knew that we were taking on a major project with a long timeline (more than two-and-a-half years). But neither of us really could comprehend just how challenging and consuming the project would be. Our first task was to clarify the vision of the book and determine which topics would be included. We also put together an editorial advisory committee comprising talented family scholars from many different disciplines. Working with this group, we composed a memo to all BYU faculty (and some other LDS family scholars) inviting them to submit proposals for chapters. The response was encouraging. More than fifty faculty members from many different disciplines and departments sent in proposals.

While potential contributors worked on submitting proposals for the volume, I began searching for a publisher. Because we decided that this book would be targeted primarily to an LDS audience, I first contacted the leading LDS book publishers. Each was interested in the project, and said they would like to see the finished manuscript, but they did not offer a contract up front. Only BYU Studies was willing to commit to the project up front. John W. Welch, the editor of BYU Studies, was enthusiastic about our plans and would bring great expertise to our task. Of course, we realized he could not bring quite the marketing resources to the table that Deseret Book or Bookcraft could offer. Jack generously offered to let us try other publishers when the manuscript was finished, but committed to be our "default" publisher.

By the time potential contributors had submitted proposals for chapters, however, we had a contract from Deseret Book. This happened in an interesting way. At a BYU devotional with Sister Virginia U. Jensen, first counselor in the LDS Church Relief Society presidency, I was invited to say a prayer. Sister Sheri L. Dew, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency was also in attendance. Sister Dew is an editor at Deseret Book and the author of a wonderful biography of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. I had recently finished that book and enjoyed it immensely. I took advantage of the opportunity to introduce myself to Sister Dew after the devotional and tell her how much I enjoyed the biography. In addition, I mentioned the Proclamation volume project to her. She politely invited me to send her a proposal, which I promptly did. But I didn’t hear back from her for several months. For some reason, Sister Dew never received or lost that proposal. However, apparently Deseret Book had been discussing for some time the need to publish something worthy of the Family Proclamation. They had reviewed several proposals and manuscripts but were not yet satisfied they had the right project. Sister Dew got wind of our project from some BYU faculty member, probably Wendy Watson. Out of the blue one day I got a phone call from Sister Dew asking me about the project. As we talked, it was apparent that she had not read the proposal I had sent her several months before. But as I described the project to her, there was clear enthusiasm in her voice. She contacted me a few days later and asked to come down to BYU and meet with me and our editorial committee to discuss the project. During that meeting with Sister Dew she revealed that Deseret Book had been looking for a project like this and offered us a contract for the book. The editorial committee wondered whether the fact that this book would be like a college textbook in many ways would be a problem for Deseret Book, which generally published less ponderous books at a more average reading level. But Sister Dew said she was excited by that challenge. That the book would be used for a popular course at BYU (and possibly at other Church schools) would provide an additional market for the book. She also suggested we consider a second, follow-up book targeted to a non-LDS audience. (By the time the book was in press, Bookcraft, which had earlier expressed interest in seeing the finished manuscript, merged with Deseret Book. The book was actually published under the Bookcraft imprint.) Obviously, we were all delighted with Sister Dew’s enthusiasm, support, and the contract that followed. It all felt like tremendous validation for our vision.

But an even more validating experience was just over the horizon. For more than a year, BYU and FHSS College administrators had been wrestling with how to better organize our family efforts at BYU. Eventually, they created a new structure called the School of Family Life. President Bateman invited President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to speak at the inauguration of the School of Family Life on September 10, 1998. Elder Bateman related to School of Family Life administrators that before he began his tenure as president of BYU, he had an important conversation with President Packer. Apparently, one concern on President Packer’s mind was what had been happening to family programs at BYU. President Bateman thus gave considerable attention to strengthening family programs early in his tenure as president.

As President Packer spoke at the inauguration, he gave the School a charge to use the Family Proclamation as its charter. With emotion in his voice, he said we must succeed in our endeavors to bless the lives of families, and he gave us an apostolic blessing. He said, "I know of no greater service that this, the Lord's University, can give to His Church than through this School of Family [Life] to "turn the heart" of the young fathers–and the mothers–to their children and the "heart of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:6). Moreover, he urged us to produce textbooks that were worthy of the wisdom generated by secular scholarship but faithful to the moral and spiritual values revealed in the holy scriptures and to latter-day prophets–without apology. Furthermore, these texts should not only impart facts, but also should be very practical, capable of preparing our students to be good spouses and parents. Of note, President Packer acknowledged that writing a text like this would be extremely difficult. It was a humbling moment for us when we heard this charge because we knew the Holy Spirit was already moving upon us and directing us in such a task. His charge and blessing was a powerful source of strength in the difficult task that was before us.

This wonderful and spiritual experience came just as authors were beginning to write chapters for the Family Proclamation volume. Over the summer, our editorial advisory committee had read numerous proposals for chapters. There was considerable overlap, however, in the proposals. We eventually selected a smaller set of proposals for the book. However, during this process, we came to sense that the volume could be stronger by encouraging the authors whose proposals were accepted to collaborate with scholars whose proposals on similar topics we could not accept. Collaborative writing is not easy. But we saw how this project had the potential to meet an important objective of the School of Family Life: to reach out across campus and involve and support family scholars from many disciplines. Most of our lead authors responded to our encouragement and built strong teams of co-authors. All but five of the 28 chapters were a collaborative effort among talented scholars. Some chapters had 10 or more co-authors. As challenging as such a process can be, I believe it produced a better product in the end. It should be noted that authors and editors participated in this project without any financial compensation. Early on we decided to consecrate our labors to the students and Church members. Royalties are going to establish scholarships for students studying in family programs at BYU and to fund research focused on understanding the principles articulated in the Proclamation. Parenthetically, the Family Studies Center spent less than $30,000 to produce the book.

Because we were able to recruit such talented scholars to contribute to the book, we had to give them adequate time to write their chapters. Talented scholars usually have several on-going research and writing projects, and we needed to give them sufficient time to clear their queues. We gave them about nine months to do this work, with first drafts due April 1, 1999. Meanwhile, faculty in the Marriage, Family, and Human Development program were working hard on revising the curriculum for their undergraduate students. Front and center in this project, of course, was the development of the Family Proclamation course. The faculty decided to make the course the introductory class in the major, and also offer the course to non-majors as resources permitted. The content of the course would reflect closely the content of the book being produced. Hence, in addition to his duties as managing editor of the book, Dave Dollahite naturally became a leader in the process of developing the class, along with Shirley Klein, Mark Butler, and Lloyd Newell from Religious Education. In his usual creative spirit (not to mention a desire to survive the burdens placed upon him), Dave found a way to bring these two endeavors together. He initiated a series of pilot classes in which students would help develop the Proclamation class and provide invaluable feedback to authors of the Proclamation book. One semester, students read extensive outlines of chapters and gave helpful feedback to authors on approaches to topics and missing issues. The next semester students read first drafts of chapters and commented on strengths and weaknesses. Authors also got detailed feedback from two editorial advisory committee members and from Dave Dollahite. Virtually every chapter underwent significant revisions from the first drafts.

In addition, from these interactions with students, Dave sensed the need to supplement the chapters with a number of personal essays showing individuals striving to follow Proclamation principles and to promote these principles in their professional and civic responsibilities. In addition, students identified a few more "holes," or topics related to Proclamation principles, which they felt needed more coverage in the book. Dave quickly commissioned more authors to write brief essays for the book on short timelines. This brought the total number of authors to 101.

Final drafts were submitted by December 1, 1999. These chapter manuscripts received further editing by Dave Dollahite and our professional editors, Linda Hunter Adams (and her students) and Lisa Hawkins, editor of School of Family Life Publications. One concern was the length of many chapters. Despite clear and constant guidelines and reminders to authors, most chapters came in over-length. This was particularly problematic because of the essays added at the end of the writing process. So Dave and the editors went through a laborious and difficult process of cutting less essential parts of the manuscripts and saying things more succinctly.

Also, during Winter 2000, faculty working on developing the Proclamation course team-taught two pilot courses using the "final" manuscript of the Proclamation book. This provided further feedback on the book, and Dave tirelessly continued to make small changes to the manuscript to improve it. Students also helped faculty develop course activities. By the end of the semester, we had the beginnings of a teaching resource book for the new course. Laura Gilpin, an MFHD student and a Certified Family Life Educator, had been working with Dave Dollahite and the course development faculty. We hired her to continue working on the teaching resource book during Summer 2000. Work will continue on this resource book during Fall 2000 and Winter 2001, when the first sections of the course will be taught.

During Spring and Summer 2000, Deseret Book employees worked hard to bring the book to press. But first, a review board had to read and approve the manuscript. The feedback we received from that review was that the reviewers "loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it." Thus, with this ringing endorsement, the manuscript went into production. By the time Dave Dollahite went over the final galleys, he had probably read each chapter and essay more than a dozen times. The finished product appeared on the bookshelves just in time for classes to begin Fall 2000. And we realized our hope to keep the original cost under $40 so the book would place less of a financial burden on its readers, especially the students.

It was a privilege for me to be involved in this process. It was humbling for me to watch the tremendous dedication and talent required to do it. Special appreciation and respect must go to Dave Dollahite, who sacrificed more than two years of his professional life to this work, putting other planned endeavors on hold. Perhaps I am the only one who has a good idea of how much time, effort, and sacrifice the project required of him. Dave would be the first to tell you it was worth it. He related to me numerous experiences along the way when he and those who labored on the book and the class were guided by the hand of the Lord. In my judgment, the book achieved the objectives set for it. It was to reflect faithfully the light of the Family Proclamation while integrating solid family research and scholarship. It sheds light on almost all the major themes and principles of the Proclamation in a way that we believe our students, as well as the general LDS public, will appreciate. It can be an excellent resource for Latter-day Saints to better understand the Proclamation and gain a stronger testimony of it. And it provided an essential foundation for a new course at BYU focused on the Family Proclamation. I look forward to seeing the fruits of our labors in the hearts and hands of our students and other Latter-day Saints. I hope these efforts prove worthy of the document that inspired it, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."

Prologue 2001

In the first year that we have been teaching FAMLF 100, we have taught just over 1,000 students in about 20 sections. The course and text evaluations have been strong. BYU-Idaho has adopted the course and will begin teaching it Fall 2001. We received approval from General Education for this course to receive "Social and Behavioral Science" GE credit. BYU-TV has proposed to produce about 25 30-minute programs based on the issues discussed in the course and text. The text has sold about 25,000 copies and generated royalties so far of about $70,000. Informal, anecdotal feedback on the book from members of the Church all over has been positive. We have recruited an excellent faculty to teach the course, including several talented teacher-scholars from outside the School of Family Life. And it looks like more than half of the students in FAMLF 100 for Fall semester will be non MFHD-majors. While we still have much to do, our first year has been a strong success.