Courage, revelation and unrighteous dominion

Unrighteous dominion is a topic frequently invoked when Priesthood leaders are accused of doing things that we might not like [1]. However, because of the severity of that judgment (i.e. ‘Amen to the Priesthood of that man’) I wonder whether it is used too liberally; yet the text itself calls for that broad interpretation. In a recent conversation someone pointed out that this potential loss of Priesthood authority, which could result from accepting a position of authority/responsibility, is surely something which should concern those so called; for ‘almost all men’ will begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. The attempt here is to provide some fresh thoughts on an already (potentially) saturated issue as it relates to the lived experience of these principles.

D&C 121 warns against attempting to exercise control, dominion or compulsion upon the souls of men, in any degree of unrighteousness (see v. 37). Rather JS letter calls leaders to use persuasion and long-suffering in order to have an everlasting dominion which avoids compulsion (see v. 41-44, 46) [2]. Of particular interest here is the dynamics of dominion. The distinction between unrighteous and righteous dominion which these verses establish is one of method. That there must be a leader is assumed in Joseph’s ecclesiology and from within this framework the relationship between leader and led constitutes the forms of dominion that empower the priesthood that a person holds [3].

One potential form of unrighteous dominion is associated with the channels of revelation and the cultural expectations concerning the limits of Priesthood authority. Unrighteous dominion can persist, in part, because of inaccurate and/or unhealthy expectations that are placed upon certain groups of leaders to which they (the leaders) might feel obligated to respond (or live up to). It can be difficult trying to serve someone who has a very different revelatory paradigm from you.  In addition, in our current ecclesiastical structure there is potential for leaders to inappropriately extend the province of their appointed revelatory sphere. Evidently the lack of clear boundaries for that sphere is problematic. For example, a member of the Stake Presidency who tells a suspicious spouse that God has revealed to them their partner is faithful is exercising unrighteous dominion. Few leaders(?) go to such extremes and yet if it is the nature and disposition of almost all people to exercise unrighteous dominion then there must be other ways in which this is manifest.

I suspect that this problem of receiving revelation on behalf of others is a major area in which unrighteous dominion occurs but it is actualised in a variety of other (perhaps more subtle) practices. Is it possible that fallaciously representing an expressed viewpoint or decision as the will of God is a form of unrighteous dominion? What if this mis-representation was unintended? Extending callings is a difficult business in light of these questions. In addition, if a Relief Society president has revelation that a particular person should be called I think that the Bishop should be very careful in contradicting her; especially because he can, in effect, veto any suggestion. Moreover if he does believe that the calling should not go ahead and he asserts his revelation over hers is this a form of unrighteous dominion. In addition, what if the Bishop makes a decision regarding a calling that he ‘feels good’ about but cannot claim that it is a ‘revelation’ nor can he claim that it is ‘the right thing for that person at this time’. Is it unrighteous dominion to suggest that it is more than a ‘good feeling’ based on his best understanding? What if the person is less-likely to accept the position if it is not framed within the usual ‘God wants you to serve as…’ discursive repertoire, would it be unrighteous dominion to use that discourse inaccurately?

These questions are intended to sensitise us to the revelatory process in order that we might approach these issues with greater care. I am not sure I have good answers one way or the other, though my biases are probably evident. Thus it seems that being a leader who exercises righteous dominion takes a degree of courage (cf. Douglas Davies); a courage that can accept revelation which contradicts his own sense of what is right, a courage that can tolerate the rejection of her own best advice, a courage to consistently refuse to offer judgement to those who should be more carefully judging themselves and a courage to refuse to promise blessings to those who should be turning to the Lord [4].

To return to D&C 121, in my mind, one of the key words in this passage is ‘begin’. ‘Almost all men… will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion’ and yet there is no specification upon how many will continue to do so. Therefore becoming a leader of any kind is like leaving the Garden, an inevitable fall into sin, from which we must repent and turn again to righteous forms of dominion which multiply, replenish and cause to be fruitful [5]. I believe we are therefore called to accept the challenge to courageously exercise righteous dominion.

Notes:

  1. Lavinia Fielding Andersen, The Ambiguous Gift of Obedience in The Wilderness of Faith.
  2. I follow Kathleen Flake’s reading of this text, which applies it to men and women.  Although, of necessity, it applies more readily to men because they are more often in positions which would have the result being discussed.
  3. Of course it is possible to challenge Joseph’s ecclesiology but this is not the question I want to raise here.  In addition it is noteworthy that this text works in line with Latour’s critique of power.
  4. In raising this question of courage I wonder whether those who accept such responsibilities are fully cognisant of this challenge to be courageous; my experience suggests that I have been all too ignorant prior to my service and have subsequently made mistakes which have needed my rectification.
  5. I have wondered whether the KJV’s vision of Adam’s dominion was in Joseph’s mind as he considered and articulated these ideas.

Comments

  1. My wife has been helpful in articulating a model of “leader as servant” which I find very useful. I am intrigued by your additional idea of “leader as sinner” — I like it.

  2. “Is it possible that fallaciously representing an expressed viewpoint or decision as the will of God is a form of unrighteous dominion”

    I have learned from my own experience and interactions with impressions of the spirit that often the revelation I receive when thinking about an experience or situation with another is not what “they should do”, but rather, what I should do, or what I should continue to keep doing, or what I should do were I in that person’s situation. It’s a stretch to somehow hold them accountable to a revelation I have received for myself, which they haven’t received. And I’d go a step further, that if I don’t have a stewardship involving that person, then it’s really not my business unless asked.

    When in a position of authority, the best I can do is patiently persuade that person to receive their own revelation from God, and hope that it might be similar in principle to what I have received. It may or may not be similar in the details.

    Simply put, I am absolutely certain that when we live appropriately and have our heart in the right place the windows of heaven are open to us and we can receive all kinds of inspiration. And 9 times out of 10 that inspiration is for us to act on. And sadly, all of us need to learn and keep ourselves in check because in my experience, 9 times out of 10 we view the revelation we are receiving for us to be for someone else. And then attempt to hold them accountable for it.

    I’ve always viewed “Amen to the priesthood…” to simply mean the power of God (priesthood power) is withdrawn from that person. Of course, this statement I think also varies in degrees. But I’ve found for myself, It comes back immediately if you humble yourself and focus on serving someone else in a meaningful way.

  3. Is it possible that fallaciously representing an expressed viewpoint or decision as the will of God is a form of unrighteous dominion

    This is something I have frequently wondered. In particular, do we, when we are in leadership positions, and do our leaders, reflect very deeply on the serious trust they command when they either speculate on doctrine or “God wants you to serve as . . . .”? We and they should because, for example, if we lay down our political preference as God’s law based on our own ingrained perceptions (developed from nature and nurture), then are we not responsible for what follows as those within our stewardship take us seriously and incorporate our statements into their faith? This is a serious responsibility and misusing it should be considered a very grave infraction. We should be as circumspect as possible when we speak in the context of our leadership positions and always give all benefit of the doubt.

  4. Is it possible that fallaciously representing an expressed viewpoint or decision as the will of God is a form of unrighteous dominion?

    I think there are two kinds of leaders in the church. Those that have “keys” and those that do not. My answer would depend on which group we are talking about.

  5. chris, leaders are often asked (hence my reference to the expectations that some people place upon their leaders) and this can, I suspect, be a difficult thing for them to respond to.

    john f., thanks for you thoughts. One difficulty I have seen in some leaders is that when they have been more careful with how they present their thoughts (esp. in regard to callings) that people are less willing to respond because they perceive it as lacking the revelatory authority they are used to. I can therefore see why some leaders decide to frame their discourse in this way because it can get things done (like the classic SWK story). Hence my worry is that if we do this it might be more closely associated with gratifying our pride or our vain ambition.

    Aaron, it would be great if you could elaborate on your different answers.

  6. From the Wikipedia entry on “Amen”

    he word Amen (pronounced /ˌɑːˈmɛn/ or /ˌeɪˈmɛn/; Hebrew: אָמֵן, Modern Amen Tiberian ʼĀmēn; Greek: ἀμήν ; Arabic: آمين‎, ʼĀmīn ; “So be it; truly”) is a declaration of affirmation found in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Its use in Judaism dates back to its earliest texts. It has been generally adopted in Christian worship as a concluding word for prayers and hymns….Common English translations of the word amen include: “Verily,” “Truly,” and “So be it.” It can also be used colloquially to express strong agreement, as in, for instance, amen to that.

    So I guess when you exercise unrighteous dominion, your priesthood gets even stronger!

  7. Re: #4

    My comment about keys is mostly a response to the example given in the original article about callings. While I agree that it might be unwise for a Bishop to go against the R.S. presidents “revelation” about someone who should be called he is the one with the keys to that ward and ultimately the one responsible for its operation.

    I think the OP nails it when he says “The distinction between unrighteous and righteous dominion which these verses establish is one of method.”

    I don’t think the Bishop is exercising unrighteous dominion by the use of his veto power but the way he communicates that veto is very important.

  8. The concept of unrighteous dominion is one that should be on the minds of all priesthood holders and particularly priesthood leaders, I agree; for the consequences for exercising unrighteous dominion are plain and quite undesireable.

    I would caution though, against making the assertion that a bishop, or any other leader with “keys”, must receive unquestioning revelation on a matter before deciding or they are exercising unrighteous dominion. D&C 121 does not state that decisions must made by irrefutable revelation. Rather it says, “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven”. It is unrighteousness in a variety of possible forms including unrighteous dominion that causes the loss of “priesthood or authority of [a] man”–not being out of tune so to speak.

    Being “inseparably connected” implies a two way relationship or connection. Certain things may be bound on earth that are later bound in heaven just as the Lord’s Word’s will “all be fulfilled” here on earth. D&C 1:38 reminds us that “my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

    A bishop, stake president, or teacher’s quorum president who have “keys”, have been called to act. They have been given authority to act and their decisions may become the will of the Lord so long as they are made in righteousness. A bishop who fails to act because they are waiting for a vision in HD will soon discover they are sitting by suffering from spiritual paralysis. I do not believe this is what the Lord intends. Certainly a wise priesthood leader will seek the mind and will of the Lord, but above all they have been called to act. Of course they must endeavor to do this on the principles of righteousness.

    A person who goes about casting doubt upon a decision, made by a priesthood leader who has “keys”, may very well find they are the now exercising “unrighteous dominion” and not the other way around.

    And while it is true that a relief society president is entitled to “revelation” about an individual being called to a position in her organization, she doesn’t have the “keys” to extend the call. She has inherent limitations on her revelatory ability. She should make her feelings known to the bishop, and this may indeed become an important factor in the decision. But again, the decision rests solely with the bishop after counseling with the relief society president, the bishopric, and the Lord.

    Finally, I would say that the Lord doesn’t create leadership positions in order to trap or condemn his faithful followers. The Lord is our helper. His work and his glory is the immortality and eternal life of man. Just as a person is cautioned against seeking any particular priesthood office, they should not hesitate to accept one when the call does come. The Lord call’s those who are willing and then he makes them able.

  9. Aaron, thank you for the clarification. Referring to keys obviously makes the discussion more complex but I think ‘keys’ do not and should not serve as a catch-all term for what a Bishop does. His keys are specifically directed to a few areas, which, I suspect, would still be problematically linked with the process of revelation. Moreover, I am not saying he definitely does exercise unrighteous dominion by vetoing but I think unless he is concerned that he might be he will not recognise when he is.

    Barry, my position is slightly different from the one you re-stated. For example, I do not think people with keys need an unquestionable revelation before making a decision rather I think they should not represent a decision as revelation if it is not, even if they have keys.

    In addition we interpret ‘unrighteous dominion’ different you see it as a subset of the sins listed while I think all of the sins listed are forms of unrighteous dominion.

    In addition, if Bishops make the final decision then why would you ever ask those revelation-inhibited women to pray about callings at all? I think we need to be very careful about such comments. Again, I am not sure that I agree with your interpretation of how keys function in a ward.

    Lastly, I did not say that leadership is a trap but rather JS is warning us that we will almost inevitably act in a way that is contrary to his will, just like in the garden where there is an inevitability to their fall.

  10. In the OP you write, “In addition, if a Relief Society president has revelation that a particular person should be called I think that the Bishop should be very careful in contradicting her; especially because he can, in effect, veto any suggestion. Moreover if he does believe that the calling should not go ahead and he asserts his revelation over hers is this a form of unrighteous dominion.”

    I don’t agree. In fact, one of the things a bishop is to do is to approve callings recommended by auxiliary leaders in the ward. I agree, however, that HOW he does this is key. He should not contradict that RS president without a clear understanding that the Lord directs him to do so. (It is an unwise bishop who would dismiss his RS president’s inspiration out of hand.)

    My own experience as a bishop was to recommend to the stake president a number of people for callings whom he then vetoed. It was a painful lesson for me, but I knew his process, and I knew he would not have vetoed those callings had he not felt inspired to do so (or, NOT inspired to extend the callings). Once I asked him why, and his response: “The spirit tells me yes or no; it does not tell me why.”

    In another case, the veto was particularly painful for me and for the sister I’d recommended (the nature of the assignment was one that required our prior conversation before submitting the name to the stake president). Nevertheless, the sister accepted his decision. Months later her father was diagnosed with cancer, and there was no way (by her own admission) that she could have cared for her father in his illness and magnified that calling. The stake president’s veto was a remarkable blessing. She later expressed to me how grateful she was to have a stake president who listened so carefully to the Lord’s counsel.

  11. Aaron R, I apologize if I misstated your view above that was never my intention.

    We may have to agree to disagree though, that all the listed “sins” in Section 121 are forms of unrighteous dominion. Section 121 separates the list of sins, “cover our sins, …gratify our pride”…, et al., from unrighteous “dominion or compulsion” with the word “or”.

    Moving on to another point… According to M. Russell Ballard in “Counseling with our Counsels.” p. 106. He states that all the members of the ward council are, “entitled to divine direction within their areas of responsibility.” But what then is the responsibility of the Relief Society president when it comes to callings within her organization? Answer; her responsibility is limited to recommendation of candidates and does not include determining who is called. There is a subtle but critical distinction at play. The church is a church of order and any other way would serve to undermine the bishop (or other key holding leaders) and the organization of the church almost continually.

    In your hypothetical example of a, “Relief Society president [that] has revelation that a particular person should be called”, you in fact put that president in a position to which she is not entitled.

    This distinction can be found in the church handbook of instructions (book 1) in the section about ward callings. For Relief Society (and other auxiliary presidents) it specifically states that auxiliary presidents recommend candidates for callings but candidates are called by the bishop.

    Very often bishops and Relief Society presidents eventually come to the same conclusions because the workings of the spirit are the same.

    I am not trying to nit pic, but I feel this distinction, although subtle, is very important. The reason bishop’s ask Relief Society presidents who they would like considered for callings is because RS presidents are entitled to “recommend” candidates and they may properly receive revelation along those lines.

    The women aren’t revelation-inhibited as you suggest I meant, but the area and scope of their responsibility is quite limited. Wouldn’t you agree?

  12. This thread is painful to read.

  13. “The women aren’t revelation-inhibited as you suggest I meant, but the area and scope of their responsibility is quite limited.”

    So, they may be good at receiving revelation, but it just isn’t that important? Either they’re entitled to receive revelation which the bishop pays attention to, or they’re not–your phrasing above looks like you’re trying to have it both ways, or find a nicer way of saying that revelation given to women doesn’t count for much organizationally.

  14. Oy. At least Barry isn’t afraid to admit it. How refreshing for someone to admit what is usually so unconvincingly denied. Barry, do you mean that women can only receive certain categories of revelation, and if it doesn’t relate to their assigned topics it doesn’t count? Why might that be?

    I don’t even buy into this way of thinking about unrighteous dominion. It’s not like the priesthood of the offender instantly goes up in a puff of smoke, visible to all and incontrovertible. Unrighteous dominion can and does persist for years, and it’s often difficult to determine whether it has in fact occurred. The “amen” theory is an easy answer that makes people feel like unrighteous dominion isn’t something they need to actually deal with. It’s just a convenient way of dismissing the issue.

    Barry, are women allowed to receive revelation about unrighteous dominion?

  15. I like the original post a lot, by the way. Very insightful!

  16. Sorry Kristine, my last sentence was in response to a comment from Aaron R to my first post and not a statement of how I feel about the significance of revelation received by women or others on the ward council. I fear that my point may inadvertantly be taken out of context a little.

    To refer again to Elder Ballard’s statement in “Counseling with our Counsels.” p. 106. He states that all the members of the ward council are, “entitled to divine direction within their areas of responsibility.” Emphasis on the last five words.

    I did not mean to state (I don’t think I did) that revelation received by women or men in other callings is any less important, it absolutely isn’t. This is about stewardship and who has the “keys” to make the decision. I will briefly make my point again using a different example.

    A member of the quorum of the twelve apostles is entitled to revelation within their area of assignment, but he can not dictate to the president of the church what decision to make regarding the church as a whole. The president of the church has the “keys” to make those decisions. Members of the quorum of the twelve don’t.

    Does the order of the priesthood lessen the significance or importance of the revelation received by the twelve? Definately not. The president of the church usually seeks out their inspired opinions before making a decision. It is all part of the process of learning the will of the Lord. This is the same pattern at the ward or quorum level.

    A bishop that goes it alone is less likely to discover the will of the Lord completely. I don’t think very many (if any) bishops are “in-tune” well enough to know the will of the Lord without their councils. This is why the Lord has established councils in the church.

    I once heard Elder Ballard express in a seminar that the discussions within the quorum of the twelve can be vigorous at times, but whenever the prophet makes the statement “It came to me last night what we should do.” The discussion stops and the sustaining hands all go up. He further stated that he had only heard the prophet make a statement to that effect only a couple of times.

    I have been happily married for nearly 25 years to my dear wife and if anything in matters related to our home, where we share stewardship, she is often in better tune with the spirit than I; and I doubt if this is unusual.

    I am sorry if I was misunderstood. Did that clarify my position?

  17. Barry, maybe it would help if you could spell out exactly what you think women’s areas of responsibility are. Surely it’s not limited to half stewardship of the home?

  18. The point, Barry, is that if revelation is limited to areas of formal responsibility, women haven’t got much, nowhere near as much as men have, especially since you’re not even giving women primacy in the home. (But how grandly magnanimous you are re: your wife….) Allowing the possibility of revelation more broadly would draw a fig leaf over the perception that the church is utterly male-dominated and that women’s religious experiences and insights outside the narrow female sphere are given almost no weight.

    But if that’s what you really think, it’s quite refreshing that you’re willing to state it.

  19. z your comments are so flippant they aren’t even worth responding to.

  20. I believe I’ve made valid substantive points; it’s your choice whether to attempt a persuasive response.

  21. I actually think z’s comments are pretty good. You made this point, Barry:

    The women aren’t revelation-inhibited as you suggest I meant, but the area and scope of their responsibility is quite limited.

    and you’ve supported it well. I just wish it wasn’t so true.

  22. Aw thanks!

  23. Stephanie–within the church, limits are placed on ALL of us, not on women alone. This really is not about the role of men vs women as some seem to get hung up on so easily.

    One may substitute the Young Men’s president (and basically everyone else in a ward) in place of the Relief Society President in my comments above and it holds true for them as well. They have the very same limitations; in their areas of responsibility they may be able to recommend candidates for positions in their organizations, but the bishop still has the responsibility for making and extending the calls.

    Men and women alike are entitled to personal revelation within their areas of responsibility. It has always been this way and always will. A wise bishop will always carefully consider the counsel provided by ward members and particularly the ward leadership before making a decision because revelation can come to all of us. And everyone can play a role in helping the bishop come to an understanding of the Lord’s will. However, the bishop still makes the decisions when it comes to ward matters.

    Really–understanding on this matter may very well boil down to whether or not one accepts the organization of the church as it has been revealed to us through latter-day prophets and whether one has enough faith to sustain their bishop, stake president, RS president etc.

    In an auxiliary in a ward, such as the Relief Society, the president sits in council with her presidency and makes decisions for the benefit of all the women in the ward. For example, she will determine, after counseling with her counselors, which sisters she will place together as a visiting teaching companionship and whom they will visit. These, and other, inspired decisions may be amongst the most critical decisions made in blessing the lives of women in the church. Does this diminish the role and value of women (or the men who don’t play a role here) in the church? I don’t believe it does. I think it empowers them.

    Just as the RS president doesn’t recommend to the bishop who might be called to serve in a position in the Young Men’s organization the Young Men’s president doesn’t make recommendations for the Relief Society. It is not in his area of responsibility.

  24. I disagree strongly with this in the OP:

    “Of particular interest here is the dynamics of dominion. The distinction between unrighteous and righteous dominion which these verses establish is one of method. That there must be a leader is assumed in Joseph’s ecclesiology and from within this framework the relationship between leader and led constitutes the forms of dominion that empower the priesthood that a person holds [3].”

    I think those verses in D&C 121 are widely misread. Let’s look at the sentence here:

    ” 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—”

    No power or influence can be maintained by virtue of the priesthood. The priesthood does not give anyone special abilities to influence others. It does not give the holder power over other people. You can only influence people with the same way all of us priesthood-less weaklings do – with persuasion and love and yada yada.

    Priesthood does not give someone dominion over another person. It does not give them any undue power or influence over that person. If such was the case, the agency of that person would be grossly violated.

    I’ve said it so many times, but it bears repeating: The term “righteous dominion” is fundamentally non-sensical. You cannot righteously dominate other person.

  25. Really–understanding on this matter may very well boil down to whether or not one accepts the organization of the church as it has been revealed to us through latter-day prophets and whether one has enough faith to sustain their bishop, stake president, RS president etc.

    Is my testimony in question here? I understand the matter perfectly (been YW Pres twice). I’m just painfully aware of the “limitations” you are talking about. The difference between the YM Pres and me is that the YM Pres might someday be the Bishop and get to actually make decisions. As a woman, in any position I hold in the church, I will always be under the authority of a priesthood leader who will make the ultimate decision (it has happened). So, I’m not arguing with you. Everything you have repeatedly explained is perfectly clear. It just hurts a little to acknowledge it.

  26. “You cannot righteously dominate [an]other person”

    I have to agree wholeheartedly. I think this hits the nail on the head. I remember a quote from Hugh Nibley about the limits of priesthood power. I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but it was something to the effect of the priesthood only having power over the elements and un-embodied spirits. That it has no power over mortals, hence the “when we undertake… or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the SOULS of the children of men (The soul consisting of the spirit and body per D+C 88:15), in any degree of unrighteousness”,

    ( I read this as control, dominion, and compulsion are unrighteousness)

  27. “The difference between the YM Pres and me is that the YM Pres might someday be the Bishop and get to actually make decisions. As a woman, in any position I hold in the church, I will always be under the authority of a priesthood leader who will make the ultimate decision (it has happened).” “It just hurts a little to acknowledge it.”

    I haven’t questioned anyone’s testimony, it is my place to first be mostly just concerned with my own. However, rhetorically speaking, should it hurt to accept the organization of the church as the Lord established it, if indeed the Lord established it?

    Along the same lines, as a man, should I claim the right to feel sad or unfulfilled or even shafted if I am never called as a bishop or a stake president? I should expect to be chastised by the Lord If I did.

    My best advice (not directed at anyone in particular) is this: If the church is true, then go with it–all of it. When one does, they find peace and joy in doing so. It is in the witholding of full commitment, of full faith, of full support that sows the seeds of apostasy.

  28. You know, someone brought up the idea that you can only receive revelation “within your area of responsibility” and every time I hear that my thoughts turn to Samuel the Lamanite. Surely he prophesied outside of his “area of responsibility.” I mean, Nephi was still with the Nephites, why didn’t he receive the revelation to call the Nephites to repentance (I know he’d done it before) or predict the events and signs in the Americas surrounding Christ’s birth and death? I think the “area of responsibility” notion is of man. I don’t know this or know the history that accompanies this. That story just always strikes me as directly in contrast with our modern system.

    Additionally, is not unrighteous dominion any dominion in which someone tries to seize authority, rather than allowing it to flow to you? Any attempt to take away free agency is unrighteous dominion, is it not? People in all positions should probably remember that they are “servants” and call themselves such, rather than leaders. Power comes not by virtue of some calling but by persuasion, long-suffering, love unfeigned, etc. Power is given by those who want to be influenced to whom they choose.

    In the bishop/relief society president scenario, shouldn’t the rs pres vote in opposition since she received a contradictory revelation? As far as women being “limited” in power in the church, women outnumber men in the church, and therefore if they voted as a block, they could stop any effort in the church that is put forth in a vote (which I understand should be everything per the scripture at the top of this blog), regardless of what the “presiding authority” wants.

    I don’t know. Just thoughts.

  29. Hemi – thanks for correcting my typo. I hate it when heat-of-the-moment typos ruin the climax of your comment. Bugger.

    Barry – I do not believe that blind obedience and an absence of critical thinking yield greater peace and joy (though perhaps they yield a quieter mind since all the questions would stop). I see no difference between that and what you’re describing as “full commitment”. I certainly don’t accept “all of it”. There are parts that I distinctly believe do NOT come from God. But I suppose you can stop listening to me now because I’m an apostate?

    I think it is ridiculous that we should ever be expected to be fully committed to the church. We should be fully committed to God and to humanity. I really don’t see the eternal significance of the mortal institution in light of those greater obligations, though it can be a useful vehicle for carrying out life on this earth.

  30. One of the protections against unrighteous dominion in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the wisdom that there is safety in a multitude of counselors. Stake councils, ward councils, and other settings provide persons to advise and counsel with those who hold and must exercise priesthood keys. How beautiful is our plan of Church government.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Nat, your interpretation of D&C 121 is erroneous. Specifically, of the phrase “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned…” The initial clause is not meant to be read alone; the “only” here means that the only way power or influence is to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood is via persuasion, etc. It doesn’t mean that the priesthood cannot maintain any power or influence; you’ve simply misread the verse. If I remember correctly, we’ve had this discussion before. I agree that this verse is widely misread, but your alternate exposition is likewise wrong.

  32. Let me rephrase: I believe your interpretation to be erroneous. Others may no doubt differ. They’re wrong of course and will someday regret their path, but they may differ.

  33. 1) “You can’t have X by virtue of Y, only by A, B, and C.”

    2) “You can’t have X by virtue of Y. You can only have it by A, B, and C.”

    3) “You can have X by virtue of Y, but you also need A, B, and C.”

    For my money, 3 is a far, far more stretched reading of 1 than 2 is.

  34. Except 1 isn’t the phrase we’re examining here. Suffice it to say that we can disagree on this. As a practical matter it doesn’t matter much, except that you’re saying the priesthood has no power or influence.

  35. “X cannot take place by virtue of Y, only by A, B, and C.”

    “X cannot take place by virtue of Y. X can only take place by A, B, and C.”

    “X can take place by virtue of Y, but you also need A, B, and C.”

    The logic’s the same. I’m not saying that the priesthood does not have power or influence. I’m saying that holders of the priesthood are constrained (by virtue of holding the priesthood) in such a way that their power and influence must be maintained by virtue of the things listed in the verse in question.

  36. …which is what I’m saying.

  37. Pretty much. My sense, though, is that I’m saying that the power and influence of a priesthood holder does not come from priesthood. Instead, priesthood obligates the individual to secure power and influence by other (highly circumscribed) means. Whereas you are attempting to read the verse in a way that makes power and influence still derivative of priesthood itself. I might be misreading you, though. I might be misreading the verse too, since it might be a coded prophecy about the evils of creeping socialism…

  38. Hemi said:

    “when we undertake… or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the SOULS of the children of men (The soul consisting of the spirit and body per D+C 88:15), in any degree of unrighteousness”,

    ( I read this as control, dominion, and compulsion are unrighteousness)

    If that’s the case, isn’t the phrase “in any degree of unrighteousness” redundant?

  39. In other words, if control, dominion, and compulsion are so obviously unrighteous (and I accept that they appear to me to be so) why did JSJ seek to clarify with the “any degree of unrighteousness” line?

  40. Thomas Parkin says:

    gomez – I think that is clarified in vs 46, where it says that the end of the practice described is that: “thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” Does God have dominion? Yes, He does. And what characterizes that _righteous_ dominion? That it flows to Him, and will to us, without ‘compulsory means.’ Unrighteous dominion is any dominion established by compulsion – by circumnavigating another person’s freedom.

    (I note that attempting to get around another person’s freedom usually doesn’t have to do with overt control as much as subtle manipulation, by appeals to their pride or other “unrighteous” motivation, by withholding relevant information, etc., usually done for the supposed good of the one dominion is being established over – so that the ‘pure knowledge which shall greatly expand the soul without hypocrisy and without guile’, the opposite of covering one’s sins, is also as much the opposite of unrighteous dominion as the persuasion and gentleness.)

    Even more than most bits of scripture, these versus can’t be broken down into aphorisms. The whole thing, from “many are called but few are chosen and why are they not chosen …” on to the end of the Section represents a single unified thought.

  41. … and Thomas Parkin beats me to my point about v. 46.

  42. There has a been quite a bit of discussion over the night and so I will try to respond as best I can to the comments.

    Barry, don’t worry about mis-understanding me. It happens, I was just wanted to clarify. Also, I think the problems I have with your reading of the of the revelation problem, which I admit is difficult, are accurately described by Kristine #13 and z#18. The problem I have is that leaders are counseled to encourage people to pray about their counselors. Why do that if they can’t receive revelation for them? Now you rightly point out that to ‘veto’ decisions made by others may not always be unrighteous dominion but it might be and that is the question I think is worth considering.

    nat, you can certainly take that position. My attempt was to read this within the context of D&C 121. Your reading of these passages seems to end to quickly. Read to the end of the passage, where we are promised ‘an everlasting dominion without compulsory means’ (v. 46). Again, as I already noted, we have to deal with JS’s ecclesiology and he sees dominion in these two different ways. You can, of course, disagree, but that is not what the text says.

    Brad and Steve I think your discussion of that verse is illuminating.

  43. Yes, v46 is critical. But it does throw up a couple of questions. In v37 control, compulsion and dominion are grouped together. But in v46 dominion and compulsory means are set against each other. Accepting that righteous dominion is possible, is it ever possible to exercise control or compulsion in any degree of righteousness? If not, why the “any degree of unrighteousness” clarifier?

  44. Thomas Parkin says:

    Yeah, gomez, I think there is possibly no way to answer that solely by referring to the text. It may be a moment of sloppiness; Joseph possibly should have ended on the word ‘degree'; it may be significant. My personal response is this: based on vs 46, I think that ultimately righteousness is without compulsion and we need to be altering our character, individually and collectively, in that direction. It reminds me a lot of injunctions in the Sermon on the Mount, however – we are presented with ideals that we must live up to, but the reality of life on a fallen world sometimes precludes it. There may be times of extremity in which obedience can be compelled. War, maybe, and like catastrophes. In our interpersonal relations, however, including but hardly limited to relations with church authority, I think we are pretty much left without excuse. The Spirit is grieved, and withdraws, when we try to establish a dominion over another person. All attempts to do so ultimately count as unrighteous. ~

  45. btw, I apologise for my rushed attempt to respond in #42. It is riddled with grammatical errors.

    Gomez, can we be compelling without compulsion? I wonder whether, like Nibley’s discussion of ‘dominion’ in his essay Man’s dominion, there is a range of meanings attached to a root meaning. Is it possible that being compelling without compulsion is modelled in v. 43-4. I admit that this is moving into the realms of a creative reading but I think your question is worth responding to.

    Perhaps it is worth elaborating on something I did not explore in the OP because it is only tentatively formed in my own mind. Latour offers a critique of power as something possessed by an individual (i.e. Thomas S. Monson has power) rather he suggests that power is diffused among the people who chose to follow (i.e. we give Pres. Monson power by following him). I think that part of the motivation of this text is similar to Latour’s critique. JS wants us to see that power is not possessed but it flows toward us from others. Thus perhaps this text will not stand up to a close reading because it might be that JS is offering a more general critique of a model of power rather than a specific set of practices which revolve around notions of control, dominion or compulsion.

    Sorry rambling…

  46. Thanks Thomas and Aaron.

    “JS wants us to see that power is not possessed but it flows toward us from others.”

    Fwiw, this is how I view power/dominion. I think it is supported by the line “it shall flow unto thee”. We have no real power accept that which is granted unto us. Anything else is temporal. I think this may also be true of God.

  47. I haven’t really thought about how these verses play into Joseph’s Nauvoo cosmology, or if they do. But an eternal priesthood dominion is pretty much the whole deal (priesthood being the governing kinship network of eternity).

  48. J., interesting suggestion. My focus in this regard might be directed toward the phrase in v.44 ‘that [they] may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death’. This passage might serve as a connection between the earlier covenantal fellowship ritualised via Kirtland and the School of the Prophets and the later Nauvoo vision of these relationships, which involve forms of death-conquest. In one sense it seems that JS is setting out a proto-praxis for that ‘kinship network’. But I have probably extended this reading beyond what is reasonable.

  49. In Nauvoo Joseph exercised his kingship/dominion by making himself superfluous and unnecessary to his followers—i.e. by giving them the keys that enabled them to directly call upon God for knowledge and to approach Him without any intermediary besides Christ. The counter-intuitive logic of priesthood (as an empowering force that demands that power and influence be sought and exercised by virtue of things outside of priesthood and independent of any compulsory means) is an extension of the logic of the whole Plan. A God whose power and glory and dominion are defined solely in terms of His success at elevating lesser beings to His level is like a King who spends all his time making all his friends into Kings. Power and Dominion become terms laden with deep, almost satirical irony, like a homeless peasant King of Kings who makes His grand entrance into the holy city on an ass and assumes His throne by being captured. tortured, and executed unceremoniously like a common political criminal.

  50. Barry 27, wish I had a quarter for every man who said that to me . . .

  51. If say, a Rel. Soc. Pres. feels that her Bishop is not listening to or respecting her revelation & inspiration in her calling & instead he is using unrighteous dominion & pride, then she need not continue in the calling & work with him anymore.

    Heavenly Father does not require or want women to subject themselves to any unrighteous dominion, whether it comes from a church leader or a spouse or someone else.

    In fact, the 1st responsibility of all church leaders is to protect women from the unrighteous dominion from themselves or the woman’s husband, especially since it is so rampant in the Church today in every ward.

    A woman can just asked to be released from the calling & not speak with or work with that Bishop anymore as much as possible, so she is protected from his pride & unrighteous dominion. It is very simple for a woman to protect herself from unrighteous church leaders.

    Heavenly Father has warned us all the most men & leaders (since the are usually men) will use unrighteous dominion at times & so we must be ever mindful of protecting ourselves & making sure we have the Spirit to be able to tell when something wrong is going on or if a leader gives wrong counsel or callings, etc.

    There is no need for women to ever fear being abused in the Church, for it’s easy for her to just protect herself & stay clear of that leader.

  52. AV, so, as a woman, my only two options are to put up with unrighteous dominion or walk away? How about confronting it? Taking it to someone higher than the Bishop? Why should he be allowed to continue unrighteously just because he’s the Bishop?

    I actually was in the exact same position you are describing. We were at a head. The priesthood leader over me would not budge or listen to my counsel and was absolutely appalled I even had a different opinion. Instead of he and I coming to an agreement over something, he emailed the entire stake leadership saying, “This is what we are doing” and cc’d me on it. He was trying to exert his authority to override me. So I emailed the entire stake back and said, “This is not what we are doing”. I was not about to let him bully me into what he wanted. It was a horrible case of unrighteous dominion. A ward split ended it. I am not sure how it would have ended otherwise, but are you saying that my only option would have been to walk away from my calling? What about the good I was doing for the people I served?

  53. Barry: “My best advice (not directed at anyone in particular) is this: If the church is true, then go with it–all of it. When one does, they find peace and joy in doing so. It is in the witholding of full commitment, of full faith, of full support that sows the seeds of apostasy.”

    I think that many people are lucky enough to have great experiences at church and do just that. However, the church isn’t perfect and even the best folks sometimes, despite their commitment, faith and support, find themselves in a position of pain or sadness. There are many reasons, but your response reminds me of people that tell others that scripture reading and church attendance will fix all their problems. Alas.

    AV, while there very well may be times when removing oneself from a position is the best course of action (for both men and women – your gendered discourse is sort of creepy), it is simply ridiculous to tell people that they have the binary options you describe. This is the body of Christ, for heaven’s sake. We are all human beings, covenant bound to each other to make it work. We need to communicate; we need to struggle; we need to strive to meet the needs of our fellow Saints.

  54. Brad, your comments are fine; however I think your syllogism in 37 simply ignores the historical context and development of “priesthood” during this period. And while I find your comment in 49 wonderfully moving (it is good stuff), I also think that it focuses on only a part of what was going on. There are ideas in tension within Smith and his cosmology.

  55. AV, if “in fact, the 1st responsibility of all church leaders is to protect women from the unrighteous dominion from themselves or the woman’s husband” then how does your description of that protection relate to your comment? In your view, though it is their first responsibility those men do not need to have any concern for the women they serve with (continuing your example) because they only need to ‘magnanimously’ release them when they can no longer take the abuse. In other words, your method of protecting women merely invites other women into that same abusive space.

    Moreover, it appears that you are inadvertantly asking those women who are able to observe unrighteous dominion to separate themselves from those few positions where they may be able to affect change. Surely it would be better to work with, even against, such leaders in the hopes that their unrighteous dominion will become apparent either to themselves or to other leaders. In my view, an integral part of sustaining is in resisting unrighteous leadership (cf. Abigail and David or Samuel and Eli).

  56. Stephanie,
    I would always say to try to go to higher authority for help, IF they will in fact be sympathetic & understanding & help you. But it seems rare to find higher authority who will believe you & not your Bishop & you not branded with further negative reputation & not be treated with even further disrespect. But hopefully you can find a wise higher authority! Yes, always try.

    If you can’t get higher help, then yes, your only options are to pray for Heavenly Father to intervene or to put up with the unrighteous dominion, if you feel strong enough to handle it, so you can continue to help others, & just know that someday Heavenly Father will discipline that Bishop for his abuse & disrespect.

    Or you can ask to be released & into another calling that doesn’t require you to work with the Bishop or who ever the unrighteous leader was.

    Heavenly Father will support you either way. It is possible for him to make you strong enough to not be bothered so much with the unrighteous leader & just stay in your calling & do your thing as best you can.

    Heavenly Father puts the protection & respect of women above all else & expects men to honor women & their wisdom & voice above themselves, because of the huge sacrifice we give as mothers & wives.

  57. Steve Evans says:

    AV: “If you can’t get higher help, then yes, your only options are to pray for Heavenly Father to intervene or to put up with the unrighteous dominion, if you feel strong enough to handle it, so you can continue to help others, & just know that someday Heavenly Father will discipline that Bishop for his abuse & disrespect. ”

    Freaking hell, this has got to be a joke. Stop paying attention to the trolls, people.

  58. Aaron,
    I agree, a woman should do all she can to lovingly help a leader understand how he might be wrong & ask for his respect of her inspiration & ideas. But often men who use unrighteous dominion are unwilling to take counsel from someone lower. If that is the case & nothing will change, then the woman does only have limited options.

    I also agree with resisting unrighteous dominion IF it won’t make matters worse for you or others. There are leaders who are humble but just don’t realize they are using unrighteous dominion & will listen to the gentle requests & teaching of a person under them.

    I think some of what I said to Stephanie in the post above may answer your other concerns.

  59. Freaking hell, this has got to be a joke. Stop paying attention to the trolls, people.

    I sustain Steve, whatever the righteousness of his dominion.

  60. I think AV should step away from the keyboard & restudy & rethink his/her positions & views.

  61. As awful as it looks written out in black and white, what AV is saying is true, unfortunately.

    If a woman is at odds with her Bishop she can push back, she can complain higher up, she can remove herself from the situation, and she can pray for God to fix the situation. As far as I know there is nothing else a faithful person who wants to stay in the church can do. Unless there some super secret was to subvert unrighteous dominion that I haven’t heard about?

    The question is whether or not AV thinks that we should be doing better, or thinks that this is The Way Things Should Be. The answer to that question determines if AV is worth listening to or not.

  62. Nicely put, Starfoxy. I think AV’s description of the situation on the ground is pretty apt. I also think it’s funny, in a very sad way, that it strikes people as so appalling.

  63. Of course this isn’t the way things should be. No leader can use unrighteous dominion without becoming unworthy of his calling & losing his Priesthood & being accountable to God.

    But reality it what it is & we have to help everyone, including leaders to learn the right way.

  64. well said starfoxy. Kristine, go ye forth and be not appalled?

  65. Tis a challenge. There are absolutely things a man might not understand or would see differently. A woman is stuck with a man as her leader. The priesthood (as far as church organization) is stuck with men as it’s conduit. I prefer the example of Hannah helping Eli along in his stewardship as she guides his complete misunderstanding and leap of logic towards empathy and the blessing she sought. And she show incredible self restraint for not killing him.

    Both my sister and I have had situations surrounding our mission calls ands MTC experiences which involved severe misunderstandings. She was really sick and desparately needed an advocate. At one point she was told she must not be feeling the spirit because her leg was twitching…you KNOW that’s what was meant by “be still and know that I am God”…I can’t possibly think of a reason she would be twitching…..

    I was blessedly well and negotiated my way into getting my papers turned in-they were at a stopping point–but I had to make an idiotic promise (I promised I would never loose more than 5 pounds my whole mission-his way of making sure I wasn’t suffering from an eating disorder—–I. know. )

  66. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my sense of AV’s comments are that s/he is pretty accurately describing a reality that women face rather than saying that the reality is optimal.

  67. Am I the only woman who has ever served as a teacher under a president (Relief Society or Primary) whose policies she thought were inefficient or wrong or contrary to gospel principles? The only one who’s ever had a visiting teacher who was a gossip and a meddler? Or had a mission president’s wife who was more of a jerk, if possible, than her husband? Outside of church settings, my female bosses have without exception been harder to deal with than my male bosses (I always assumed that was because women executives will do just about anything to avoid being confused with secretaries.)

    Do men never have problems with their male leaders in the church?

  68. #23 — a technical point: the YM president makes no calling recommendations wrt to counselors or advisers; those are the sole responsibility of the bishopric (since the bishop is the president of the Aaronic PH) per the GHI, so the YM president has less authority in that regard than the RS pres or the YW pres.

    #24 Nat, from a practical perspective I agree with your reading, especially in the home. A righteous PH holder should not say, “Listen to me” (or worse, “Obey me”) “because I have the priesthood.” (#31 Steve, I don’t see from your comment the clarity you describe, but I acknowledge that in the verse there is some ambiguity.)

    #61, I would suggest that women are not the only ones who struggle with this issue from time to time. When I served years ago as an EQP, I went toe to toe with our bishop regularly (and justified myself with the thought that I “reported” to the stake president, not the bishop). The bishop was released within a year because of an employment change. I make no judgement about who was right or wrong, but freely admit my relief at the change.

    As it relates to RS presidents and callings, a bishop is ceertainly within his responsibilities to receive and approve or veto recommendations from the RS president. A wise bishop will do this in a way that includes the RS president in the process. An unwise bishop will extend RS callings without first consulting the RS president.

  69. I am going to offer some limited support for Barry’s point of view.

    I think we are reading something nefarious into his comments which just isn’t there. I see no a priori reason why the RS president should be given carte blanche on counselor selection, for example. (Disagree with me if you want, but give credit (or demerits, if you are so inclined) for including Latin, English and French in the same sentence.) Of course she should seek revelation and seek inspiration. But what if the RS president gets revelation that Sister X should be her counselor and the Primary president also gets revelation that Sister X should teach the Sunbeams? This kind of stuff happens all the time, and somebody has to decide. What if the RSP feels inspired to call Sister X, but last Thursday Sister X disclosed something to the bishop which rules out a calling, for the time being? Again, this happens all the time. It is also incorrect to see this only in terms of female disempowerment. It isn’t uncommon at all for the both the EQP and the YMP to be inspired to call Br. X, just to cite another very common occurrence.

    The church is many things, and one of those things is an organization. Any organization has to deal with the problem of not having enough people to do everything that needs to be done.

  70. “Do men never have problems with their male leaders in the church?”

    You know, this is a fascinating question. In my personal church experience, I’ve seen a lot more problems between women and between women and men than I’ve seen between men. And I’ve heard a lot more women complaining about the unrighteous dominion of Primary Presidents and RS Presidents than I’ve heard men complaining about unrighteous dominion of bishops or EQ presidents. Even on my mission, there seemed to be just as many problem companionships among the sisters as their were among the elders, and the elders outnumbered them 4 or 5 to 1.

    I really don’t understand this. Part of me thinks it’s because women are more invested in things and guys don’t care as much, but I really don’t know. Maybe women just communicate more. Either way, it’s weird.

  71. Actually, after writing that, I’m beginning to think my anecdotal experience is just a reflection of my own sexism. Maybe I just listen to women more because I feel patriarchally obligated to help them out, whereas with the men I just think “eh, deal with it” and forget about it.

  72. Martin, could it be because women don’t feel they have the authority to solve the problems themselves? If there is a conflict between a Primary President and one of the teachers, does she feel she has the power to resolve it herself, or does she feel she needs to turn to her priesthood leader to resolve it? If an EQ President has a conflict with one of the EQ teachers, does he feel that his priesthood authority is enough to resolve it and doesn’t have the need to appeal to a higher authority? I don’t know. I am just wondering.

    I’ve never had problems with female leaders on either end. My husband had a Bishop from another ward repeatedly “ask” him to do things as the Bishop had some sort of authority in asking him. That bothered my husband.

  73. Oops. I meant as *if* the Bishop had some sort of authority

  74. Mark, I don’t think any of us quibble at stuff like that. Ok, maybe some do, but most don’t. It is harder when a bishop says no and gives no reason and none seems apparent after time.

    I wonder if the reason women “ask/complain” more is that they have little authority in other areas as well. Not only can the RS pres not call counselors, she can’t hold a meeting in the building without a priesthood holder present. Enrichment activities are all subject to the approval of the Bp. Are other quorums held to those same standard? Do the YM have to have a bishopric member around whenever they do something? That’s a sincere question–I’ve never been in YM. I wonder if that reinforces the pattern of constantly–well–asking for approval.

    Maybe that’s why the YW manual has a lesson on appreciating the Bp and the YM manual doesn’t. Maybe the YM never have this appreciation problem. . . . .

  75. I have had a rare disagreement with leaders of either gender…including the aforementioned nightmare. It’s just that women can not stand between me and an ordinance necessary for salvation. Women cannot stand between me and a mission. Women never have to decide my worthiness or act as my judge….I’m just guessing but maybe that’s why unless there is a difference I’m missing.

    I haven’t heard of a lot of men-men problems…but knowing the person across hte desk coudl very well trade places with you some day must make some sort of difference.

  76. Does a discussion about Unrighteous Dominion have to devolve into a discussion of gender roles, or is it possible to have this discussion in a gender-neutral manner?

    It seems like there is so much that could be discussed about leadership and unrighteous dominion, but most of that goes out the window because gender inequality jumps to center stage.

  77. “Does a discussion about Unrighteous Dominion have to devolve into a discussion of gender roles”

    Yes. How could you not know that?

  78. B Russ, I’m sure your comment will move us swiftly in another direction

  79. Sweet.

  80. Well, since the verses in 121 specifically state that unrighteous dominion will lead the the end of the priesthood of that man, and since we have a male-only priesthood, talking about it in a gender-neutral way would be like ignoring the elephant in the room.

  81. No more so than any other section of scripture that refers to all mankind as “man”.

    I realize that there are implications of the verses that are specific to men, but I think they can and should be read as to apply to all people, male or female, who serve in capacities as leaders in the church.

    The verses speak specifically to the “rights” of the priesthood. I may be wrong, but when women serve in the church as leaders, are they not doing so under the rights of the priesthood? Even though they do not possess the priesthood itself, are they not operating through its authority?

    And verse 37 says Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man. I think it applies to persons in authority regardless of gender.

    I’m not saying that gender roles aren’t a valid facet of the unrighteous dominion conversation, especially when discussing this verse in the context of the home, in the context of abuse, or any other number of conversations. I was just wondering if by virtue of being a discussion of dominion, if gender had to invariably become the central point.

  82. I must say I have seen some wonderful examples of righteous dominion (stewardship if you will). I will always remember the stories surournding our stake president during the open house of hte San Diego Temple. He understood servant leadership and was most likely to be found spelling those directing cars in the parking lot..especially if it was raining. Our current Bishop is a wonderful listener and discusses callings with you..asks you to pray about it and come back adn discuss your feelings and any extenuating circumstances that he may not know about…then come back and discuss. He really listens.

    I have seen wonderful examples as well. I’m sorry if my 75 was caustic…but it is true. It would be very difficult to be a judge in Israel. a real challenge to fulfill humbly. Bishops are called to judge.

  83. britt, my 76 wasn’t a reaction to your 75 at all; it was a reaction to the direction of the conversation and similar conversations. I guess I mostly wanted to point out my belief that the section pertains to women as well as men.

  84. #76, discussing gender is not “devolving.” Gender is an issue that is highly relevant to unrighteous dominion, especially when the alternative is letting remarks like Barry’s #11 go unchallenged.

    I think #75 is very apt. Anyone who doesn’t understand why gender tends to come up in this context would do well to reflect on that comment.

  85. this discussion had brought out a good question: what to do, or how to “cope”, with someone (not just a priesthood holder) who, you feel, is trying to assert dominion over you, be it conscious or not?

    my wife, as an rs counselor, is going through this with her president. it is to the point where the president doesn’t really communicate anything to her, save it be a trifle like what time a meeting is, but will get on her when she didn’t conduct a meeting the way she felt it should have been. calls my wife to demand that she retract her submitted enrichment reimbursement but refused, twice, to acknowledge her suggestion that an elderly woman who suffered a stroke has not had any contact from the relief society and they needed to organize a few visits/dinners. the lack of counseling with the counselors is astonishing

    what can be done? the wife has spoken to the bishop, who wants her to remain in the calling (of which she does a good job of reaching out/bonding with the sisters and leading enrichment otherwise), and she has slipped into a point where she wants to simply go with the flow, to not stir up any trouble, at the expense of her own happiness and confidence, all the while praying for comfort and change. continue to ask to be released? wait out and pray through the storm?

  86. So does anyone here think unrighteous dominion will no longer be a problem if/when the day comes that both men and women hold the priesthood equally in the church?

  87. No Geoff, I don’t imagine anyone does. But it is a problem whose consequences are unequally born by the respective sexes under an all-male priesthood.

  88. The problem is that it makes no sense to lump all members of a sex together when talking about these burdens Brad. A man not is a leadership position in the church bears the same non-leadership problems as a woman right?

  89. If the Church really wants to avoid this problem it should quit placing members in a situations where they either have to accept assignments or be considered apostates.

    In the Church it is almost impossible to be “less active”. You can be inactive, but “less active” is such a painful state that no one hangs around in it for long. The pressure on “less actives” is so high, that it actively drives people with doubts and disagreements into inactivity.

    The number one reason why this is the case, is that in pursuit of organizational efficiency, such rudimentary civilities as being allowed to pray about a calling before accepting, or being able to _resign_ from a calling for personal reasons are not allowed or heavily frowned upon.

    In the civilized world you can resign. In the Church you can only go AWOL. In the civilized world you can decline. In the Church you can only go apostate. That is bad. It is manipulative, and heavy handed in the extreme. No wonder why so many people go inactive as young adults. They positively can’t stand that sort of thing. I call it the military model of the Church, and I think it stinks.

  90. Make that “not in a leadership position”.

    To state it another way, unrighteous dominion in the church is not a gender problem. Women can unrighteously dominate others just like men can. The fact that men are the ones in the primary leadership positions in the church currently is certainly something that one could complain about but it is not causally related to the unrighteous dominion thing. The problem is more about how people in charge act toward people not in charge. Like women in the church, most men in the church aren’t in charge.

    So as a man I can say along with Starfoxy in #61: “If a man is at odds with his Bishop he can push back, he can complain higher up, he can remove himself from the situation, and he can pray for God to fix the situation. As far as I know there is nothing else a faithful person who wants to stay in the church can do.” In other words, I am just as powerless to make the men in charge do what I tell them as she is.

  91. A man not in a leadership position in the church bears the same non-leadership problems as a woman right?

    No. Because he hasn’t had to completely internalize the reality that he will never hold a leadership position in which his decisions aren’t permanently subject to the approval and veto power of a woman. He can imagine himself in the shoes of the leader in question, and he knows his concerns are more likely to be taken seriously up the (male) leadership chain than hers are. And he doesn’t have to worry that if he has concerns or if he voices them in slightly the wrong manner, that will be interpreted as an inappropriate form of “men’s liberation”.

  92. Yes, men can be victims of unrighteous dominion just like women. But can you imagine a situation in which a man could be subjected to unrighteous dominion at the hands of a female leader? The impact of unrighteous dominion, real and potential, is of a wholly different nature for women than for men. Get your head out of the sand, man.

  93. Brad,

    If one is subject to veto power of another person why does it matter who holds that veto power? This business about “imagining himself in the shoes of the leader” is pretty silly too. Imagining is not power. And your claim that men get preferential treatment by male leaders is completely baseless. I think it is more likely that men get treated more harshly by male leaders than women. In other words, I think you are talking out of your, um, hat here.

  94. Yes, men can be victims of unrighteous dominion just like women. But can you imagine a situation in which a man could be subjected to unrighteous dominion at the hands of a female leader?

    When I was first married, my wife and I were called to the primary. I was presided over by women. Later, my wife got called to the presidency, I was presided over by my wife. I have been in the primary a number of times. Guess what, every time the PRESIDEnt is a woman.

    Did I feel unrighteously dominated? No, these were amazing women and I think they presided with honor and virtue. But yes Brad, I can imagine a situation in which a man COULD be subjected to unrighteous dominion at the hands of a female leader.

    The only merit that your argument has is that I know that if I complain high enough, I will always eventually reach a man. But still, your position isn’t nearly as cut and dry as you’d like it to be.

  95. Again, I think it is fine if someone wants to complain about the power inequity between men and women in the church. I just think it makes no sense to infer a causal relationship between gender and unrighteous dominion.

  96. But can you imagine a situation in which a man could be subjected to unrighteous dominion at the hands of a female leader?

    Yes, it is easy to imagine that. (See #94). Are saying you can’t imagine it? Get your head out of the sand, man.

  97. B. Russ,
    You weren’t presided over by women because women don’t preside in this church. Even the leaders. They aren’t priesthood leaders, and when it comes to deferring to their counsel, we are deferring to the priesthood of the men who called them and oversee their decisions. Unrighteous dominion is, by definition, an abuse of priesthood. When it comes down to it, if a priesthood holder doesn’t feel like obeying a woman in a presidency that is situated higher in the organizational chart than he is, the only real pressure that can be brought to bear on his actions comes from another, higher positioned, priesthood holder. No woman can put her foot down, can expect to be deferred to by virtue of her priesthood.

    Geoff, the fact that a man must confront the possibility, in all his interactions with any other man in the church, that this person could conceivably be his priesthood leader at some point definitely shapes male/male relationships within the organizational structure of the church. No woman can so much as conceive of herself as ever possibly having any kind of authority that isn’t a derivation of the real authority of the man who called her. Men and women, in a hierarchical church with a male-only priesthood, comprise fundamentally different categories of personhood. Scoff at or minimize the differences all you want. The fact is, your obliviousness to the structural differences at play and the impact they have on the respective experiences of men and women in the Church—particularly as it pertains to the abuse of administrative authority—only proves my point.

  98. Are saying you can’t imagine it?

    That’s exactly what I’m saying.

    A visiting member of the Presiding Bishopric suggests, during informal conversation with a local RS president, that she should do some things differently. Does she feel free to ignore him?

    A visiting General RS President suggests to an EQ president that he should do some things differently. Is there any chance whatsoever that he’ll take her seriously?

  99. You erroneously equate priesthood and authority.

    Again, verse 37 refers to priesthood OR authority. You could argue that this is a normal scriptoral repetition, but I completely disagree. I think a distinction is conciously made.

    To preside does not mean to lord ones preisthood over. It means to direct. When a woman in a PRESIDEncy position over me asks me to say a prayer in a meeting, presiding is exactly what she’s doing.

    No, she doesn’t have any ability to punish me, but again, lets not erroneously equate ability to punish with authority.

  100. If you think that the pressure to obey is the same for a female SS teacher told to do something by her SS president as that for a male primary teacher told to do something by the Primary President, you are up in the night. Any degree of non-compliance in the former case is framed as an act of disobeying priesthood authority. In the second case, not remotely true. For you to try to equate the position of male primary teachers with the position of women in the church is mind boggling. The whole notion of unrighteous dominion is bound up with the priesthood, with the fact that abuse of administrative authority is more serious and more sinful when that authority is buttressed by priesthood. No act of disregarding the counsel of a women by a man in this church will ever be framed as a potential rejection of God’s will, except to the extent that the woman’s authority is equated with the priesthood of the man that presides over her.

  101. You erroneously equate priesthood and authority.

    For the record, you couldn’t be more wrong about this. Quite contrary, I believe that the equation of priesthood with authority is the single biggest contributor to systemic unrighteous dominion in the Church today.

  102. Brad: Unrighteous dominion is, by definition, an abuse of priesthood.

    Hmmm. I don’t agree with this definition of yours. While D&C 121 does talk about unrighteous dominion of priesthood holders, in verse 39 it also gives a more general analysis of unrighteous dominion that applies to anyone, whether they are priesthood holders or not:

    39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

    Brad: No woman can put her foot down, can expect to be deferred to by virtue of her priesthood.

    Nor can any man. Again see section 121.

    Now as for your last point to me, I don’t really disagree with it and I don’t know why you think I do. It is pretty obvious that we are speaking past each other a bit here. My point is very simple and I’ve repeated it several times now: Unrighteous dominion has virtually nothing to do with gender/sex. Rather, it is the nature and disposition of almost all _humans_, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Therefore, it doesn’t help to conflate the problems associated with the very real power inequities between the sexes in the church that you are talking about (and which I largely agree with you on) with the concept of unrighteous dominion.

    In essence, I am calling for more precision in diagnosing the problem.

  103. Get your head out of the sand, man.

    you are up in the night.

    To answer z in 84, no, discussing gender issues is not de facto devolution of conversation. But, it tends to conversations like this, which have very little to do with the OP.

    Just because someone’s perspective of authority differs from yours doesn’t mean they’re “up in the night” or have their “head in the sand”.

    While it may or may not be true that the authority of a Primary President is somehow less than that of a Elders Quorum President, in real life scenario lets pretend that I, a priesthood holder were to say to the Primary President “I will not be the Sunbeam Teacher, I will be the Valient teacher, and I have the Priesthood, so there.” I’d be the laughing stock of the ward, and if I were not to comply with this calling chances are I would be sitting in front of the Bishop. The exact same thing that would happen if I said the same thing to the EQP.

    Please don’t insult me again.

  104. Nor can any man. Again see section 121.

    Wrong. It’s not the same. Men aren’t supposed to, as per section 121. Women aren’t capable of it. That’s a meaningful difference. I’m not interested in getting bogged down in the precision of terminology here. I’m arguing that unrighteous dominion—whether conceived as abuse of administrative authority generally or as abuse of such authority by priesthood holders—is, in our church, fundamentally a priesthood issue. The existence and presence of priesthood makes totally new, and more intrinsically wicked, forms of abuse possible, precisely because of the general and socially enforced expectation that priesthood authority be deferred to as a divine imperative. No woman in the church has any real authority over any man which she can abuse in the manner that the authority of a priesthood holder can.

  105. B Russ,
    The similarity of both outcomes—being a laughingstock and ending up in front of the Bishop (!)—is not a function of the PP and EQP having similar authority but of the absurdity of both situations. The examples are outlandish, and yield similarly predictable results. The real question is if the primary president told you to wear a white shirt each week or not to bring treats for your kids, and you were disinclined to comply, would you feel less pressure to obey than your wife would if she were a SS teacher and received instruction she didn’t particularly care for from the SS president? If you make the situations believable, things come into focus. The only pressure a male primary feels to comply with undesired instructions of the PP is grounded in the “real” authority of the man he might be called to sit in front of.

  106. Brad,

    I’m not interested in getting bogged down either. I assume you can handle a little more precision in getting to the heart of the real problems though.

    There is no denying that people in power tend to exercise unrighteous dominion over those not in power. This is basically a universal truth that our scriptures preach. And there is no denying that all of the really power positions in the church today are occupied by men because in the church only men hold the priesthood. So we agree on those things.

    I asked my original question because it seems obvious to me that if only women held the priesthood and only women held the power positions in the church that men and women not in the power positions would still be dealing with unrighteous dominion by the female priesthood holders. That’s because abusing power is the nature and disposition of almost all humans.

    I don’t know what the best solution to this problem with human nature is other than preaching the good word. Perhaps God will one day give both men and women the priesthood equally. I hope so. I just am not convinced that will make a dent in the unrighteous dominion problem at all.

    The existence and presence of priesthood makes totally new, and more intrinsically wicked, forms of abuse possible

    Interesting point. I don’t really disagree. But do you have any thoughts on a solution to this problem? Certainly we aren’t going to do away with priesthood in the church. Perhaps people could make more of a habit of saying no to priesthood leaders as Mark D. suggested in #89. What do you have in mind?

  107. Given the fact that the PP was 40 (I was 25), boisterous, and opinionated, yeah, I would have felt quite of bit of pressure to comply by wearing a white shirt. Additionally since I view her calling as coming from God, and her having the responsibility for recieving direction for her flock, I believe that in the eyes of God my ignoring her instructions would be tantamount to ignoring the instructions of a priesthood holder. I don’t think I’m a rarity in this either, I think most men would feel foolish and disobedient in that scenario.

    Look, you asked for a scenario in which a man could be subjected to unrighteous dominion by a woman. I gave you one. I’ll concede, as I did in the first place, that its not an EQUAL ability to unrighteously dominate, but the ability exists. Like Geoff, and like I’ve said twice already in this thread, I recognize that the Priesthood is a valid facet of the unrighteous dominion conversation. But if we say that the conversation only applies to Priesthood holders, we do an injustice to the women in our church by pretending that they don’t/can’t preside and can’t learn from the powerful truths contained in Section 121.

  108. I asked my original question because it seems obvious to me that if only women held the priesthood and only women held the power positions in the church that men and women not in the power positions would still be dealing with unrighteous dominion by the female priesthood holders. That’s because abusing power is the nature and disposition of almost all humans.

    Yes. We’re in complete agreement here. I think women bear an unequal burden for unrighteous dominion exercised in the church only because there is currently an all male priesthood. I’m definitely not ascribing the difference to a difference between the sexes. As for solutions, that’s a complicated question, but I’d start by trying to uncouple administrative authority from ritual authority and having women participate equally in the administration of the Church.

  109. As for solutions, that’s a complicated question, but I’d start by trying to uncouple administrative authority from ritual authority and having women participate equally in the administration of the Church.

    Me, too. You’ve articulated your thoughts very well, Brad.

  110. Brad: but I’d start by trying to uncouple administrative authority from ritual authority and having women participate equally in the administration of the Church

    Interesting point. I like it.

  111. So bummed that I can’t fully partake in this discussion, but I wanted to respond to this bit before I hit the sack: ‘

    “So does anyone here think unrighteous dominion will no longer be a problem if/when the day comes that both men and women hold the priesthood equally in the church?”

    No. I think unrighteous dominion will no longer be a problem when we stop holding up dominion as this positive, desirable thing we should strive for, and start recognizing it as the violation of agency that it is.

    Now, this only applies to actual dominion, not the “flowing unto you” power mentioned above, which I would not classify as dominion at all.

    Of course we will still have people trying to assert their dominance, but if we highlight it as a problem within our culture and rhetoric, doing so will be seen as a violation of the community, rather than as someone fulfilling their job poorly but fulfilling it nonetheless.

  112. Nat Kelly,

    I don’t know what you mean by this:

    I think unrighteous dominion will no longer be a problem when we stop holding up dominion as this positive, desirable thing we should strive for.

    Every organization needs some form of government/administration or it falls apart into chaos. That’s why every corporation, country, church, club and even family has a management structure. Good management/leadership/government is a version of positive and desirable “dominion” isn’t it?

  113. I don’t think anyone doubts that power hungry idiot behavior has no gender boundry. We should all be more humble and can learn from Doctrine and Covenants 121. It’s just that having to teach Sunbeams instead of valiants is a far cry from not getting your temple recommend … Saving ordinance vs inconvenience. One you can walk away from and skirt around—the other affects your eternal salvation….admitting that, as it seems most on this thread do, is the first step in improving the situation.

    We haven’t the slightest clue why our current power structure is gender based. If priesthood leaders would not proceed without unanimous agreement that would help a great deal. Preside IMO is to see that we dont’ move on until there is agreement…it isn’t the tie breaking vote, it is the vote to hold the motion until we have more information, more time to pray or whatever. So in a case in which RS pres and Bishop disagree..nothing should be done until they do. -perhaps they need to seek a mediator or go back to fasting and prayer. I know that means good things may not happen..but it will prevent some bad ones as well. It is unlikely that a majority fo the council is evil-or stupid.

  114. Geoff,

    I’m actually not crazy about most hierarchical organizations in general. I’m a lot more comfortable with coordinators, leads, and moderators than I am with bosses, presidents, and managers.

    And I do not think that all groups and clubs, and certainly not every family, have a “management structure”. Ew. The thought of having a family manager is even more cold and off-putting than having a family presider.

    But the point is, there are positive ways of interacting with others that do not include dominion. Some of these are very effective, though not as slam bam efficient as a dominion where one person makes the calls. There is more respect for alternative voices, and more chance for equal representation.

    Why do we use a word as strong as dominion as this great reward we are seeking after? Does our sense of our value and worth come from our power over other people and things? Shouldn’t our goal be the general uplifting of humankind, not our own benevolent dictatorship over it?

  115. nat kelly,
    management structure ≠ family manager

    Why do we use a word as strong as dominion as this great reward we are seeking after? Does our sense of our value and worth come from our power over other people and things? Shouldn’t our goal be the general uplifting of humankind, not our own benevolent dictatorship over it?

    It’s a modern-day Bill McLellin! :)

  116. Nat, to be fair, God uses the word “dominion” in describing the rewards he has in store for his children, so it’s probably not entirely the fault of the guys posting here…

  117. Has the conversation devolved to the point that all we are discussing is how much we enjoy or dislike certain words? There have been some actually important things discussed here I think. Shifting gears to talk about which words sound yucky is a massive step in the wrong direction.

    Also, of course families have a management structure — particularly when young children are in the home. In my family it looks like this: Mom and dad are the bosses. Kids are not the bosses.

  118. “Has the conversation devolved to the point that all we are discussing is how much we enjoy or dislike certain words? ”

    Devolved? Geoff, that is what we do here.

  119. Ha! Nice.

  120. I’m thinking about the following scenarios: (1) a Bishop being a jerk to the ward RS president, (2) a stake RS president being a jerk to a ward RS president, (3) a boss, being a jerk to an employee, (4) a boss, who happens to also be a bishop, being a jerk?

    I like comparing (1) and (2) more than primary pres and SS pres, because in a sense, both are the “authority” here.

    I think we all agree none of us should be jerks. Maybe most agree that priesthood bearers especially ought not be jerks–that jerk 4 is worse than jerk 3?

    But I also think that the subordinate person in those 3scenarios has a different relationship with the authority figure–namely in the first case, she made a covenant to sustain him. Which presumes, I think, a different attitude towards him–more benefit of the doubt, at least. And I think that relationship presumes that he is held to a pretty high standard in his interactions with her–and that is where I think the whole concept of unrighteous dominion takes place.

    Its violating the trust implied in a covenant that worries me. And that’s why I think “unrighteous dominion” is more than just general jerkiness of a boss.

  121. If priesthood leaders would not proceed without unanimous agreement that would help a great deal. Preside IMO is to see that we dont’ move on until there is agreement…it isn’t the tie breaking vote, it is the vote to hold the motion until we have more information, more time to pray or whatever. So in a case in which RS pres and Bishop disagree..nothing should be done until they do. -perhaps they need to seek a mediator or go back to fasting and prayer. I know that means good things may not happen..but it will prevent some bad ones as well. It is unlikely that a majority fo the council is evil-or stupid.

    britt k, this is an excellent point. It would prevent a lot of unrightous dominion (gender-related or not) for that simple change of viewing presiding to mean seeking consensus rather than having the final say.

  122. Kristine, #116 –

    Good point. The fact that I don’t regard sacred texts as ultimate bearers of truth makes me forget that we can’t so easily abandon these types of words.

    But ultimately, Geoff, my issue isn’t with the semantics of the word “dominion”. My issue is with the concept. I guess I’m exceptionally non-hierarchical, but I do not think we need folks above the folks below to make things function smoothly or successfully. I think a more organic structure, where all voices are equally important, even if facilitated through a moderator, is far preferable.

    I guess I’ll take this one up with the Grand Dominator upstairs.

  123. “Preside IMO is to see that we dont’ move on until there is agreement…it isn’t the tie breaking vote, it is the vote to hold the motion until we have more information, more time to pray or whatever. So in a case in which RS pres and Bishop disagree..nothing should be done until they do.”

    There is of course scriptural basis for this. We refer to it as common consent.

  124. nat kelly: I think a more organic structure, where all voices are equally important, even if facilitated through a moderator, is far preferable.

    Interesting theory of government. Are there any successful large organizations you can point to that have employed this structure of management/government you are describing?

  125. And, Tim wins the thread. Now we just need gst to shut this thing down.

  126. I think there is a difference between receiving revelation as to what is to be done, versus receiving revelation as to what you should say. Very often a church leader is inspired to say something to a member during a discussion, and it may not be that what is said is what the member should do, but rather something they should at least consider.

    As a RS president, I got involved in situations where a sister said that the bishop had “told her” to do X, but when following up with the bishop, he was aghast and said that he mentioned it as an option to consider, but that of course the decision was up to her, and he had no inspiration as to what was best for that family.

    Makes it hard to counsel about options, when people take one’s thoughts so very seriously!

    Also, I was horrified when, as a bishop’s wife, I started getting revelation as to who my husband should visit or how a ward activity should be handled. I hated the idea of being one of “those” meddlesome bishop’s wife, so I fought against it, until I realized that this was merely revelation as to how I should counsel my husband and what I should say to him, not revelation about the ward per se. The decision to actually visit that person was up to him. So we did the visits together, and it turned out enough times that there was a clear reason for going at that time, that I became more comfortable with the Lord using me that way.

  127. By The Rules says:

    A couple of thougts.
    1. I exercise righteous compulsion in my home all the time. Ask my children.
    2. Auxiliary presidents are entitled to, and do receive revelation about who should fill callings. If an auxiliary president wants person A in a calling, but the Bishop calls person B, it is an erroneous conclusion to say that the original revelation is wrong. It is much more accurate to say that the Lord wanted A, but due to unrighteousness (diverse scenarios), B filled the calling. The Lord has to go with second choices frequently. Allowing a Bishop to veto a person for a calling due to his awareness of that individuals sins, or other mitigating factors, does not reverse the fact that person A would have been the best in the calling.
    Does this community consider people who decline callings to be usurping revelatory authority?
    I think that there is a certain amount of latitude the Lord gives in order to provide documentation in the Book of Life required for justice to be properly served.

  128. The one thing that’s certain is that “this community” does not “consider” ANYTHING monolithically! Maybe that was just a hypothetical question…

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