shot of bride and groom feet

Marriage: Then and Now

By using “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” as our standard, we can see how far off-center the world’s idea of marriage has become, how it got there, and how we need to define marriage today. 

"The gospel's eternal perspective can help us transcend the modern marital chaos until our marriages are the most satisfying, sanctifying--even if also the most demanding--experiences of our lives." Bruce C. Hafen

A judicial system has to balance social and individual interests—the good of the society versus the good of the individual. Many of the current marriage debates in the United States had their origins in the 1960s and 1970s, back when the balance shifted from favoring society as a whole to favoring the individual—no matter the consequences to society.

As Elder Bruce C. Hafen explains in his article “The Proclamation on the Family: Transcending the Cultural Confusion,” published in the Ensign and the Liahona, people generally used to view marriage as an institution that protects the good of society, especially the good of children.

However, in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, family law started to favor the individual. To give just one example, no-fault divorce (divorce without a proven cause such as infidelity or abuse) was first adopted in 1968. Judges then allowed divorces based simply on the couple’s preference. Elder Hafen explains that this legal change accelerated cultural change to the point where many people today view marriage “as a ‘nonbinding commitment,’ whatever that contradiction means.”

This legal shift and others came at a cost to society. Research shows that a child’s best chances for stability and well-being are with his or her married, biological parents, but that ideal scenario has been happening less frequently. Now a child’s situation is more likely to be worse in almost every measurable category, and broken families are, in turn, breaking society apart.

In addition to social and legal research on the societal importance of the family, we have “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” We can use this prophetic document, the guidance of our current Church leaders, and inspiration of the Holy Ghost to help establish and protect sacred families that can stand as beacons of hope to the rest of the world.

Read Elder Hafen’s complete article in the Ensign or Liahona. Elder Hafen discusses additional aspects of the currently clouded view of marriage, including abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sources: Ensign and Liahona
—Leah Welker, Mormon Insights

Find more insights

Read the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which is 20 years old this year.

Visit the Home and Family section of for more resources about the family and how to strengthen it.

Read Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s BYU Devotional address, “Religious Freedom and Fairness for All” to find out how you can faithfully and respectfully defend the family in public discourse.

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  1. Interesting perspective! I’ve never thought about the law favoring the individual, but it’s true. Families need to be thought of as units. It could help the divorce rate for families to realize they are one cohesive group rather than a group of individuals.

  2. I bet our generation is an interesting one to grow up in. I wonder what social life would’ve been like in the mid-1900s… But despite these societal upheavals, I can still do all I can to forge and nurture a loving, lasting marriage (one day!).

  3. The world tries to frame some of these positions as compassionate, tolerant, and selfless when in reality, many of them are based in selfishness. While individual needs are very important, our ultimate happiness comes not from pursuing our own happiness, but from obeying the commandments to love God and one another. It is a divine paradox that gives us a lot more power over our lives than we often think it does.

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