Truth for Our Times

Valerie Hudson’s article in the April Ensign, Equal Partnership in Marriage, is a contemporary approach to the workings and doctrine of Mormon marriage. While strikingly different in thesis, it is just as strikingly similar to Brent Barlow’s article published in the Ensign 40 years ago, Strengthening the Patriarchal Order in the Home.

While the theses of these articles are in opposition to one another, both use the same rhetorical techniques to support their ideas.  Hudson claims it is eternal doctrine that marriage partners are to be equals, while Barlow claims it is eternal doctrine for the father to rule in the home.

Arguably the ideas of both of these articles could be examined independently (Barlow’s has been examined here), or jointly (two versions of chicken patriarchy playing chicken); however the purpose of this post is to show how both views use truth claims and scripture to support opposing ideas in a shift from patriarchal marriage toward marital equality.

First, both Hudson and Barlow use the story of Adam and Eve as the first married couple and their marital order to support the proper pattern of marriage. Both cite Genesis 3:16.

Barlow:  The recent trend in family government is also a departure from biblical teachings. The apostle Paul admonished, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands. …” (Eph. 5:22; see also Col. 3:18.) He also taught that “the husband is the head of the wife. …” (Eph. 5:23.) In addition, the Lord instructed Eve in the Garden of Eden that “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen. 3:16.)

Hudson: As Elder Earl C. Tingey, formerly of the Presidency of the Seventy, has said: “You must not misunderstand what the Lord meant when Adam was told he was to have a helpmeet. A helpmeet is a companion suited to or equal to [the other]. [They] walk side by side … not one before or behind the other. A helpmeet results in an absolute equal partnership between a husband and a wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.”3Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to ‘rule over’ Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. … Over in ‘rule over’ uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling ‘with,’ not ruling ‘over.’ … The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s ‘help meet’ (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate.”

Both appeal to divine authority setting the pattern for marriage.

Barlow (quoting Joseph F Smith): The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity.

Hudson: The restored gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the doctrine of equal partnership between men and women, here and in the eternities.

Barlow:  In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount.

Hudson: Latter-day Saint theology teaches that gender difference does not superimpose a hierarchy between men and women.

Both claim the marriage pattern they describe is the best prescription for happiness within marriage.

Hudson:Equal Partnership Brings Joy One of the most precious wellsprings of joy is a sincerely equal partnership between husband and wife. In a very real and meaningful sense, couples who stand as equals before each other find greater joy.

Barlow: If the patriarchal order of marriage is practiced as outlined by Church leaders and the scriptures, there is little question that Latter-day Saint husbands and wives will experience happier, more stable and satisfactory marriages.

Both assert that their prescribed marriage structure is the best for bringing up children by appealing to social science.

Barlow (quoting Ryder 1): “Little scientific evidence is in at this time, but there is concern expressed in some quarters that the growing rebellion of youth is a logical extension of the shift toward equalitarianism. In a new way and in ever increasing numbers, the youth today are demanding a voice in education, marriage, sexual expression, and other significant areas of life. As woman challenges the authority of man, so youth challenges the authority of the family and all other related social institutions.” (Heaven forbid children want a say in their own education and marriage!)

Barlow: By strengthening the patriarchal order in Latter-day Saint homes, not only will the husband-wife relationship be enhanced, but the parent-child relationship will improve as well. When a wife challenges the right of her husband to officiate in the home, is it not a logical consequence that the children will challenge that right also? Furthermore, is it possible that a child will then not only challenge the right of the father, but also that of either parent to make decisions affecting his life? (No science here, but not any real science in the preceding quote either).

Hudson: Social science research supports the prophetic instruction that couples who have an equal partnership have happier relationships, more effective parenting practices, and better-functioning children. Scholars have consistently found that equal partners are more satisfied and have better overall marital quality than couples where one spouse dominates. Equal-partner relationships have less negative interaction and more positive interaction. Moreover, there is evidence that equal partners are more satisfied with the quality of the physical intimacy in their relationship.

Interpretations of scripture and ideas about family life and structure have shifted and continue to do so. The eternal truths of today might not be the eternal truths of tomorrow.

****************

1. Edward J. Rydman, in the foreword of Handbook of Marriage Counseling, Ben N. Ard, Jr., and Constance Ard, ed. (Science and Behavior Books, Inc., 1969), p. vii.

Comments

  1. This was a really interesting read.

  2. Thank you for this. This has been on my mind for months, and I’ve even thought of doing the exact historical exercise that you have so successfully shown here. The fact that the Barlow message still dominates (in spite of our often well-intentioned insistence to the contrary), and the Hudson message has not caught on (as indicated by some recent pulpit statements from my very, very conservative ward and stake) is exactly why I think we need a major change in how we talk about women, women’s/men’s roles in the home, the nature of patriarchy, etc. I don’t think we can continue to do mental gymnastics on the divide between the “preside” and “nurture” roles, while still insisting on absolute marital equality.

  3. I am glad Sister Hudson’s article was the one that appears currently in the Ensign.

    I’ve said for a few years that the top leadership in the Church is trying to change the traditional view of marriage roles and the concept of presiding (and there are numerous examples of this), and Sister Hudson’s article is one more example of that effort, imo.

  4. What I appreciate in the Hudson article is how thoroughly she outlines exactly what twisting mental gymnastics one must do to continue the line of “man and women are equal in marriage but the man presides.” It’s really quite helpful, but perhaps not in the way she wished.

    Also, in knowing of her other work, I chuckled how this article is pretty devoid of her own theological surmising meaning every idea is buttressed by a powerful patriarch in the highest of the church hierarchy. The one that got even close, imho, to being her own idea…”Women also assist their husbands, directly and indirectly, with the burdens of supporting a family. Finally, there must be room enough in a marriage for the dreams of both the husband and the wife and sweet encouragement from each to the other to follow those dreams…” sounds woefully edited down, like someone said “wait, wait, we don’t really want to go there, so just this much.

  5. VTer,

    It may have been edited by the Ensign. Who knows.

  6. This is a valuable comparison! Thanks for putting it together. It really is surprising how parallel the two arguments are in reaching nevertheless opposing conclusions.

    I would anticipate that many Latter-day Saints would argue that Hudson’s position in this article is not different from or opposed to Barlow’s from 40 years ago. There’s a lot of mental gymnastics required for that position as well.

  7. This was actually depressing for some reason. I guess the fact that the same scriptures can be used to justify both sides with the only difference being essentially a matter of interpretation is what did me in. What I never understood is that with so many Biblical scholars, and scholars of Hebrew claiming “no, this means this and that means that” why on Earth does no one ever change it to reflect the correct translation? Instead we are stuck with generations reading the same mistranslations and using them to justify subjugation of (pick one: women, other races, homosexuals, the unorthodox, etc…) Sometimes it just all seems like an elaborate joke.
    /rant over

  8. J. Stapley says:

    Fascinating stuff, MMiles. Thanks.

  9. This is super-interesting, mmiles.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Well done.

  11. Superb, M Miles.

  12. Fascinating comparison, mmiles.

  13. Well done, M Miles.

    What a fun RS lesson this would make.

  14. I’m glad you’re here to document the shifts, mmiles. Very important stuff.

  15. It is an eternal truth that scripture can support just about any action you may decide to take.

  16. There’s this thing about the philosophies of men mingled with scripture . . .

  17. How to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the same sect understood the same passages of scripture so differently at different times as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible or to collections of non-canonical statements of high ranking officials and/or official publications of the sect.

  18. hawkgrrrl says:

    Ray, FTW. Exactly.

    Excellent work, mmiles. I don’t tweet stuff like this often, but this one made the cut!

  19. Fascinating. I love reading comparisons like this (though it makes me die a little inside). While I was always aware of sexism in the church, I really never noticed the concept of a man presiding over his wife. My father wasn’t that kind of a man, plus he was inactive, so I never saw that in my home and I figured my feminist nature was, frankly, natural and that it was only the “weird” women in the ward who actually were SAHMs. It wasn’t until I went on a mission that I saw men selecting who would give the dinner prayer. I was honestly blown away by it. I think had we prayed over meals in the home I grew up in, my mother would have probably picked the person. Clearly she never read Barlow’s article, tisk tisk.

  20. hawkgrrrl says:

    When I think of male presiding having become “asking people to say prayers” over time, I am always reminded of the line from The Office: “Never has so little power gone to someone’s head before.”

  21. I am a bit troubled by this view that “scripture can support just about any action” — so, what, then, LDS is just a club choosing its own rules? I should hope not!

  22. I cannot believe this was allowed in- “Over in ‘rule over’ uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling ‘with,’ not ruling ‘over.’”

    It’s completely, utterly, spectacularly wrong, and it doesn’t take more than a year of Hebrew to figure that out. I have significantly more than that, but you don’t need a PhD to make the counter-argument, is my point.
    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2007/08/08/playing-fast-and-loose/

  23. Perfect “Office” comparison @hawkgrrrl. I’d add that the perfect response to the man presiding with prayers could also be, “Lord, beer me strength.”

  24. Paul2, ha!

    Mmiles, outstanding work.

  25. Jessica F. says:

    I think that ‘bet’ issue is not as clear as the link above. The hebrew scriptures we have now are not originals they are very recent in terms of human history. They have passed through so many hands and revisions.

    While ‘bet’ as used in this context is unlikely to mean with, it is still not clear I have seen jewish scriptorians translate it as ‘in’ Original intent of the passage in the story is impossible to know, also living ones lives on an ancient document is also suspect. I just don’t see why we have to go back and argue about prepositions at all. Really it should be this is wrong (full stop).

    And if we want to talk about fast and loose we should talk about D&C 132- oh boy. Messy messy.

  26. Jessica, you’re essentially making an argument from silence, “it might have read differently.”
    But that’s not at all what your source is doing. They’re making a very strong claim based on the *current* Hebrew that is fundamentally flawed.

    Bet typically means “in” but also often mediates objects, necessitating a different translational equivalent, per my post. If you’d like to argue against it, please present your Hebrew arguments.

  27. Peter LLC says:

    Hudson is clearly wresting scripture to fit her liberal secular agenda and in doing so undermining the bulwark protecting the church. Once more unto the breach, John Adams Center!

  28. Excellent, MMiles.

  29. Great comparison mmiles. While some find this sad it is also somewhat heartening to see the stark changes in discourse propogated by the Ensign. It seems this is the linguistic and rhetorical battle that must be won to move Zion toward equality. My experience in my east coast student ward is that most young married couples just assume the Hudson version to be the normal one. Many of our even most orthodox married couples would shift uncomfortably in their chairs and reject the Barlow quotes read at lenght. It appears the next ongoing battle is over the word “preside” and whether we can reinterpret and mangle it so that it is no longer recognizable in its OED form. Fun times.

  30. Ditto to #7

  31. The Other Clark says:

    “The eternal truths of today might not be the eternal truths of tomorrow.” <> This is excellent, thought provoking material. I suspect that “presiding in the home” is similar to the position of the King of England. Once a respected powerful position, reduced by modern society to a figurehead at a few ceremonial functions…

  32. And yet the Barlow model is alive and well in some institutions of our church. We can do all the mental gymnastics about the Adam and Eve story that we want, but until equality is addressed in our most sacred spaces it is all sound and fury.

  33. Super interesting analysis. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    This paragraph in the article caught my eye: “In the plan of happiness, man and woman play equally powerful and equally important roles. For the plan to work, each must hearken to the other. Before God, they stand as equals.”

    I’m sure “hearken” was a word selected with great caution. You just don’t go throwing the H word around lightly. So I’m choosing to read it as a subtle, semi-official acknowledgement of the pain felt by many of us in the temple.

  34. Perhaps a moratorium on declaring our opinions divine will now and through the eternities is in order.

  35. I wanted to show this post to my ex-mormon spouse (See! Things are changing for the better!). But I already know what they’ll say: “So the authorities of the ‘one true church’ were wrong? Why should I believe what they say today?”
    The trend that brings relief and happiness to me (equal partnership) can equally bolster a non-believer’s resolve to not follow someone who may or may not know what they’re talking about. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  36. Sharee Hughes says:

    (‘m glad I’m not Brent Barlow’s wife.

  37. Sharee Hughes,
    Or his client. He is or was a marriage counselor.

  38. The Other Clark says:

    Barlow is also the author of the books. “What husbands expect of wives” and “what wives expect of husbands.” They were still recommended reading for new couples in the late 1990’s

  39. Reading this reminded me of an article I read yesterday about the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement denouncing the UN Women Declaration that seeks to end violence against women, because if adopted it would “destroy the family, the basic building block of society.” I found the use of that phrase striking as I usually only hear it at church from the pulpit.

    I’m not comparing the church to the Muslim Brotherhood by any stretch, nor am I attempting to make an anti-islamic statement. I just found it interesting that both Barlow’s position and those of the MB converge on many points on the issue of a woman’s place in the home and in society and proclaim patriarchy as the best model of family governance to protect ones family from “the world”.

    “The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity”. Maybe, but there are others who have been practicing it longer and are better at it than we are, and taken to its extremes it doesn’t look very appealing based on the MB’s ten point list.

    http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=30731

  40. Talon,

    I noticed the same parallel immediately reading his article. Great minds.

  41. If our allies are the Muslim Brotherhood on some issues, that should rightly cause us much needed introspection. Their view of and abuse of women is appalling.

  42. Hudson “There is a crucial relationship between equality and love in LDS doctrine. Spouses are to enter their marriage relationship convinced of each other’s equality. The first utterance Adam made after God created him and Eve in the Garden of Eden was to declare Eve’s equality with him—that they would be “one flesh””.. isn’t the one flesh generally interpreted as unity…which is quite different from equality?

    It’s hard to get rid of preside because it’s all over everything. It’s in the scriptures, it’s in the words of the prophets and I really really don’t like it. It’s hard to quote the equal partner portion of the proclamation and avoid the men preside portion. I’ve tried to repurpose preside, but it’s a bit like leftover tuna It’s true that there is a plethora of quotes about equality in marriage, it’s just that there are also a gaggle of preside quotes.

    the bet thing was annoying, but that has been dealt with by far better minds than mine.

    I really liked the “women assists directly or indirectly with the burdens of supporting the family”. …it’s such a first world thing to tease out one small portion of providing for a family and call it providing.

    I refuse to even be bated into reading the other one. I’ve already listened to glenn beck from links from this site. I have limits.

  43. hawkgrrrl says:

    “The first utterance Adam made after God created him and Eve in the Garden of Eden was to declare Eve’s equality with him—that they would be “one flesh”” Actually, I think that’s also the first utterance of a lot of guys when they spy a special lady in a crowded bar.

  44. FTW.

  45. ideasnstuff says:

    I have known the Barlows as good friends and neighbors since 1987, and I have always seen them as full equals and I perceive that they see themselves that way, too. Brent is a thoughtful and humble person who leads with gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned. It would be interesting to revisit the 73 article with him now from the perspective of 40 more years of life experience. A question for thought: do the readers here think the patriarchal model and the equality model can be synthesized, or at least reconciled? Can they perhaps be seen as two views into the same gem (marriage), highlighting different facets but both supported scripturally and by modern prophets?

  46. Ideasnstuff,

    Firstly, no one is questioning the character of Barlow so there is no reason to defend it.

    It has been my observation that at least in western culture,despite patriarchal rhetoric which continues today most marriages within the church simply don’t work that way. We may talk about presiding but it doesn’t lead to significant action in the family.

    Synthesis of the two ideas would require some interesting mental gymnastics. As an example, you stated: “I have always seen them as full equals and I perceive that they see themselves that way….Brent is a thoughtful and humble person who leads..” If one is leading, they are not equal. One is over the other. You can’t have it both ways.

  47. I never married hoping that I had gained a “husband-father”. I really appreciate this article! Thanks so much for taking the time to evaluate this topic the way you did. It is so important to women and men to have gender equality.

  48. Thank you for this. Nicely done and good food for thought. I have no problem re-interpretting scripture with new awareness and insights based on our individual and collective evolution toward greater light and truth. I believe the scriptures are in part intended to be used in this way.

    I think VTer #4 makes an apropos observation. I’ve met Valerie. I like her and she’s is obviously brilliant. When I’ve listened to her present her views on gender equality and the Garden Myth, however, I found myself wondering how far a person might have to twist and turn her inner feminist compass to try to make it point toward currently accepted/preached/practiced-by-many ideals of “equality” within the LDS church. It was painful for me to watch.

    Barlow should make a formal apology for what he wrote. Talk about painful.

    Also, what Paul said #17

  49. I am with MMiles, preside and equal are opposite notions. A leader is not a leader without a follower, and two people are not equal if one is by definition a follower. Therefore, I reject Barlow’s thoughts in their entirety. There is only one man I will follow, and it isn’t a husband.

  50. #50 – EOR, your first sentence is why I like the references to co-presiding that I have heard recently from leaders – on more than one occasion, and why I like the references to a single mother presiding in the home, even when she has teenage sons who hold the Aaronic Priesthood.

  51. the references to a single mother presiding in the home, even when she has teenage sons who hold the Aaronic Priesthood

    This is so important that I can’t stress it enough. You would be surprised at the people in your circles who actually believe that a 12 year old deacon “presides” in a home where he is the only priesthood holder around. This is an example of where the Mormon culture that we have developed on the Wasatch Front since approx. the middle of the twentieth century has really failed us. It is damaging to a single mother to be made to understand that a 12 year old deacon neighbor would “preside” in her home during the minutes he is there to collect fast offerings.

  52. EOR sitings on the webs make me happy. Possibly because i usually agree.

  53. Yay!

  54. ideasnstuff says:

    Re: 47 “If one is leading they are not equal. One is over the other, you can’t have it both ways.

    But what if the other one is also leading? We must break the one-leader paradigm. I envision a family where the father leads through the priesthood, which again is useless without gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned. Mother leads with a confidence and natural grace that does not require the trappings of formal authority. Their leadership is TRULY equal. Am I an apologist for unrestrained patriarchy?

  55. “But what if the other one is also leading?”
    Amen ideasnstuff! This is certainly the truth.

  56. Doug Hudson says:

    Or just change it so Adam and Lilith were the parents of humanity. Adam tried “presiding” over Lilith, and look how that worked out! Heh.

    I assume that Lilith does not play a role in Mormon creation stories?

  57. Ideasnstuff,

    Sure, you can read it however you want. But any sane English teacher would tell you are misreading if that is what your drew from Barlow’s article. He describes the proper order as the man being authoritarian and democratic marriages as wrong. He claims children will not obey their father if their mother doesn’t. Men and women can lead together, but that is most definitely not in line with any of what Barlow is saying. What you are claiming is what Hudson is claiming.

  58. to the idea of a woman obeying her husband so their children do. Imo it says unspeakable things about any man who could muster up sexual desires for someone they deem to essentially be an infant.

  59. I don’t see a necessary conflict between preside and equal. Look at the First Presidency of the Church: A president and two numbered counselors — an order for presiding. But look further: they are equal in holding the keys of the kingdom (see D&C 90:6). And all this so that “they may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion.” Yes, it is possible for a humble man to preside over his family and also to have his wife as an equal partner. It’s a beautiful thought!

  60. There is something to the idea that zero-sum games are a function of the fallen world, so maybe the line of enquiry broached by ideasnstuff could be fruitful but the way it’s presented in comment #55 feels like the same kind of mental or apologetic gymnastics that flaws the Hudson theory.

  61. ji, if Church councils are your model for marriage relationships then you have gotten things precisely backwards.

  62. ji–The example you use is counter to the one Hudson uses quoting Elder Packer, ““In the Church there is a distinct line of authority…In the home it is a partnership with husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together.”

  63. And as to being “equal leaders”, we have a lot of cultural inertia functioning as a counter-weight to that view — it doesn’t seem to fit in a culture where girls are still known to receive a decorative doormat as a nifty takehome item in an object lesson about their ostensibly immutable “role” of not letting their husband approach God with muddy feet.

  64. The first presidency are not equal in position or responsibility. The president might enjoy full unanimity from his counselors in the decisions of the presidency, but he is still *the* president and First Apostle, and they are still his counselors. All are sustained as prophets, but he is *the* prophet.

    Regarding parents, I think the terms “leaders” or “co-leaders” are viable in describing them as leaders to their children. But more more often than not (he said without any real documented evidence to back up his claim) the father is described as *the* leader in the home, in which case the asymmetry is unavoidable.

  65. My point was that there is not a necessary dissonance between preside and equal partners — both can exist in harmony.

    I agree with “husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together.” I also agree with the principle that a righteous man has a duty to preside in his home. However, my definition of “preside” does not reach to unrighteous dominion, and I may differ from others in this definition. The Proclamation on the Family includes both principles, a righteous father presiding and husband and wife as equal partners — I believe both of these can occur at the same time. We can sustain both principles, without mocking the one and exalting the other.

  66. “there is not a necessary dissonance between preside and equal partners”

    Ah, but there is, as a definitional matter, unless you gut one of the two definitions, which you have done.

  67. Steve, we must differ then. I choose to believe the two can be read in harmony, and you don’t. With your definitions of the terms, I suppose there must be dissonance, but that is only with your definitions. A definition can be re-visited and re-imagined without necessarily being gutted.

    I acknowledge some “cultural inertia” as John F. mentioned, and I acknowledge that correct principles have been abused in the past. Our challenge is to somehow honor both principles, and to give truth to both principles. It might cause us to change — but that’s what the Gospel is all about, isn’t it? Making bad men good and good men better? Maybe bad men might focus more on practicing the equal partners principle, while good men might learn more about righteously presiding? And all the while, husbands and wives love and respect each other?

  68. ji, these aren’t my definitions. They are the generally accepted definitions of the words. If you want to say that Mormonism is trying to take those words and use completely opposing definitions that’s fine but then why not just use different words? You’re basically endorsing chicken patriarchy whole-heartedly which is fine and dandy but leaves you sounding ridiculous to any outsider.

  69. MDearest says:

    In order to not see dissonance between preside and equal one is required to some some interesting rhetorical gymnastics. Interesting to watch but not fun to do, imho. Knock yerself out, ji. The really interesting thing is, for many of us, and especially women in the church, it won’t be our first gymnastics meet.

  70. Antonio Parr says:

    Ji – Not sure that I agree with your position, but don’t believe that your writings “leave you sounding ridiculous to any outsider.” Don’t let the name-calling discourage you from writing what you believe to be true.

    “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

  71. Antonio, it’s not name-calling, nor am I really arguing against ji’s goals of doing things the way the Lord has instructed. But the word choices we use matter, and using the term “preside” the way ji suggests really is weird and won’t make sense to anyone familiar with the word.

  72. “Preside” means what it means in English. This did not used to be a problem in the Barlow era. But if we Mormons now want to mean something else when we say the word “preside” then maybe we ought to forge a new word that would encapsulate what we now mean when we say “preside” (assuming we ourselves know what that meaning would be). Otherwise, Steve is exactly right — from the outside, our discourse on the topic will be virtually unintelligible and the only rational conclusion that can be drawn from hearing it would be that Mormons feel themselves compelled to engage in mental gymnastics of the sort on display by Hudson to understand our own concepts of immutable gender roles that seem to correspond roughly to 1950s American middle class norms.

  73. Thanks, Antonio — all I know is that the Lord my God has commanded me in the scriptures and in the teachings of modern prophets to preside righteously in my home, and for me and my wife to be equal partners — I want to understand those terms as God intends for me to, and I believe I can honor both principles, and my wife prayerfully wants me to do both — and with the Holy Spirit as our helper, we will be successful or do our best trying.

    I admit it cannot be done in every home at any instant in time — it takes the right man and the right woman, both being consistently in the right frame of mind — and even in those homes, it probably won’t always be perfect all the time — but it is a wonderful ideal, and one worth reaching for. God will bless his children as they try to reach those ideals.

    Well, it’s time for me to go to work…

  74. “a righteous man has a duty to preside in his home. However, my definition of “preside” does not reach to unrighteous dominion”

    ji, this is an endorsement of benevolent monarchy, not equality. The addition of “benevolent” to the preside does not take away the fact that preside is an unequal relationship.

  75. Antonio Parr says:

    Ji: It seems to me that “presiding righteously” is part oxymoron, part paradox, as one is not “presiding righteously” in a marital relationship unless and until that relationship has achieved a balance where husband and wife are equal partners, i.e., where neither is ‘presiding” in any kind of autocratic way. The best marriages that I have seen seem to have a healthy balance of both partners presiding at different times/under different circumstances in accordance with the individual strengths of the respective partners.

  76. #74 begins with a perfect exposition of the real issue here, which is reflected in many controversial issues in the church. “All I know is” A, which was received by revelation, and B, which was also received from revelation. The only problem is that, on their face, A and B are inconsistent. Typically, they originate at different time periods in church history. Since neither can be rejected due to their origin, enter the gymnasts. In practice, one tends to hold sway over the other. In this case, most (?) accept equal partnership, and are left with no practical sense of what exactly it is supposed to mean for one to “preside in the home” (beyond perhaps the burden of remembering who it was that said the prayer last time). So even many who ascribe to A in real life feel obligated to incorporate B into theory.

    Or maybe that’s not the case in this instance. In that case, can ji or others please explain in what specific ways they act as *the* presiding official, but in a co-equal manner? And I mean this as a sincere, non-rhetorical question.

  77. Antonio, can you justify using the term “presiding” to apply to two partners “at different times/under different circumstances”? Why isn’t that just “parenting”?

  78. Antonio Parr says:

    Aaron: I am not a fan of the word “presiding”, and don’t use it in my daily discourse. I used it in my prior post because it appears to be the word du jour, and I felt that I wouldn’t be able to make my point effectively if I avoided the word.

    You ask “why isn’t that just ‘parenting’?”, and my answer is that the dynamic is not limited to active partents, but can apply to childless couples and/or couples whose children are grown and gone, as well. Strong couples seem to engage in a kind of informal hierarchy when it comes to finances or landscaping or a host of other day-to-day tasks that, inevitably, one partner has a more natural aptitude for carrying out than the other. Admittedly, sometimes couples are able to achieve equality by having an “equal” say in every major decision. However, more often than not, couples achieve that equality by being perfectly content with the more gifted of the two with respect to a particular challenge carrying the load with respect to that challenge. Under this latter scenario, the one in charge of fixing a certain problem could be said to be “presiding” over that issue, although I agree that the word comes across as archaic and ineffective. But, as a people, we have a history with the word “preside”, hence my attempt to make a point using that word.

  79. Antonio Parr,
    Presiding implies one person has the final say. One person being good at a task and therefore taking it on does not equal having a final say. In an equal marriage either person could jump in and disagree with how something is being done at any time and it would be discussed. Much of what you write is about normal compromise in marriage and has nothing to do with presiding.

  80. I would not say that a division of household chores constitutes a hierarchy, since the latter implies an ordering with regards to power or authority. But it could be reflective of a hierarchy if one person is doing the dividing. That said, I have to admit that I’m considering all the new business cards i might have printed up. “President of Cross-Driveway Refuse Transportation”. “President of Garage Top-shelf Bin Retrieval”. So many others…

  81. Antonio Parr says:

    Aaron. The possibilities are endless, aren’t they?

  82. Antonio Parr says:

    (Reminds me when I was in law school. One of the professors asked us all to stand and introduce ourselves, and let him know how we wished be called, i.e. by first name or by “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Ms.” The person next to me rose and said that he wished to be called “‘Lord’ Atkinson.” Hence, your use of the word “President” may be too limiting.)

  83. Yeah, the difference is that the modern prophets agree with and support Valerie Hudson’s view, not Brent Barlow’s. So who cares what some guy thought 40 years ago? thank God for modern revelation!

  84. mmiles, With your permission, I’m going to reference this post in the secret book I’m writing called: “The Arc of History In The LDS Church Plus 10-15 Years Is Congruent to the Arc of American Society.” Another title I’m kicking around is: “From Mist of Darkness to Eternal Truth: A Hero’s Journey”.

  85. Antonio Parr says:

    Abigayle: While I share in your appreciation for modern revelation, there is nothing wrong with caring about what some guy thought about 40 years ago, and it is not surprising that someone like Ji would want to find a way to make the Church teachings presented to him 40 years ago fit on the same page as the Church teachings presented to him today. No one wants to think that today’s revelations might be tomorrow’s heresies, and Ji seems to be engaged in a laudable process of trying to embrace the teachings of today in a manner that honors his guiding light of yesterday. I wish him well.

  86. Antonio Parr says:

    (And Steve Evans — so good to see you writing again. You have a brilliant mind and a quick wit, and I always am interested in what you have to say.)

  87. Abigail, while these two articles are evidence of a shift underway in interpreting roles of mothers and fathers, it’s not quite all in the past. We are still left to wrestle with more modern usage of phrases like “fathers are to preside” in the Proclamation, etc.

    I think that continued usage is in large part a matter of inheritance. Barlow’s article reflects a belief that was much more prevalent then that is now, both in and out of the church. It’s more difficult in the church though, since that view was captured in pronouncements of those we uphold as the mouthpiece of God. When our collective view evolves, it’s not so easy to divorce ourselves from what was said over the pulpit. So we drop the meaning but feel compelled to keep the language. This requires either a new definition or some logical contortion. Or we have to say that we now reject a view held and taught by former church leaders, without a formal declaration of doctrinal or policy change.

  88. Changing the definition of preside instead of changing the language we use completely is about as effective and clarifying as telling kindergartners that “blue” now means “yellow”, but we’re still going to say “blue” when we wish to imply “yellow”. If you mean yellow say yellow.

  89. The Other Clark says:

    This preside/equal partner dichotomy is having a real, detrimental effect on family life. In General Conference (Apr.2012) Elder Bednar reported that: “The sisters… often responded as follows: “Please help my husband understand his responsibility as a priesthood leader in our home. I am happy to take the lead in scripture study, family prayer, and family home evening, and I will continue to do so. But I wish my husband would… provide the strong priesthood leadership only he can give. Please help my husband learn how to become a patriarch and a priesthood leader in our home who presides and protects.”

    Perhaps the men of the Church are failing to lead in their families because the wife won’t let them. If the Church wants men to lead, fine. If they want the equal partners model, that’s fine too. But it’s patently unfair to preach the equal partners model, and then tell the men they’re failing because they don’t lead.

  90. …And if you wish to combine the two (as Hudson and others hope to do), remember that yellow and blue make green, not yellow.

  91. Raymond Takashi Swenson says:

    Wow, one would think that people would be happy about the Hudson article being in the Ensign issue that people will be reading between General Conference sessions, but some people can never be satisfied with being “equal”, they have to be “more equal than others”. Apparently some folks will not be satisfied until every vestige of the concept of partiarchal leadership in the Church, mediated by the requirement that leadership be exercised with gentleness and meekness and love unfeigned, is replaced by rampant matriarchy.

    What Brother Barlow does in his own family and marriage is relevant to how HE understands what he wrote back then. Anyone who is 60 or older and grew up as a Utah Mormon has experienced the men of the priesthood being taught and exhorted to wean themselves away from a larger American culture in which men controlled the lives of women with great arbitrariness and no sense of accountability to God. The response of the Church to the militant feminist model, of women rejecting any long term need for men in their lives, has been to teach, using the vocabulary that is available, that no ambition of a man should take priority over the needs and aspirations of his wife and children, and that the most important aspect of a patriarchal role is to seek revelation and inspiration on behalf of one’s family, always remembering that we are accountable to our Father for how we treat HIs children who are in our care. My Baby Boomer generation has come a long way toward nurturing our daughters, to the point that they can attend college and qualify for careers as easily as their brothers, and make the important decisions in their lives by and for themselves.

  92. is replaced by rampant matriarchy

    C’mon RTS, that’s a blatantly false mischaracterization of anything implied by the OP (which doesn’t make any strong arguments but rather just presents a very telling comparison) or stated in any of the comments. I can’t vouch for whether any of the commenters quietly hold such a wish but they haven’t expressed it on this thread.

  93. the militant feminist model, of women rejecting any long term need for men in their lives

    Sure, there’s that line about fish and bicycles but are feminists of any stripe really expressing such a wish? Do calls for equality of treatment (just fairness, really) in our society really provoke such anger that such mischaracterizations are the preferred discursive recourse?

  94. It’s not a question of whether the husband should be gentle and righteous when presiding over his subordinate wife, but rather whether the wife should be subordinate to the husband at all, and if not, then whether the language of leadership and presidency can be used without implying subordination.

  95. using the vocabulary that is available

    Raymond, the words of Prof. Higgins comes to mind:

    Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible. Don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.

    The words patriarchy has always been used deliberately! There is and was a vast number available.

  96. “But it’s patently unfair to preach the equal partners model, and then tell the men they’re failing because they don’t lead.”

    True. But I don’t see how that has anything to do with the wife not ‘letting them lead.” What does that even mean? She calls the kids for family prayer and thus has usurped his patriarchal authority? Frankly, I’ve always been baffled when women are upset because she called the kids to FHE, prayer, scripture study, etc–reportedly because her husband failed to so first. That is a crazy dynamic. And when we talk about men protecting, does that mean take martial arts? carry a gun?

  97. …get out of bed and go downstairs to make sure all the doors are locked?

  98. mmiles, only if the man has skillz like bowhunting and the like.

  99. Aaron,
    And that the alarm is turned on.

  100. “some people can never be satisfied with being “equal”, they have to be “more equal than others”. Apparently some folks will not be satisfied until every vestige of the concept of partiarchal leadership in the Church”

    RTS, it sounds like you are the one who won’t be satisfied anymore if you are no longer declared “more equal than others” by the power structure, when sexism is finally eradicated. Right? Isn’t that exactly what you are saying here?

  101. “In that case, can ji or others please explain in what specific ways they act as *the* presiding official, but in a co-equal manner? And I mean this as a sincere, non-rhetorical question.”

    I view it like being the VT reporting companion. The VT supervisor expects me to report back. I have the additional responsibility to report back. But no VT companionship has ever felt not equal based on who is the reporting companion. And no VT feels like they don’t have the responsibility not to be a VT just because they aren’t the official reporting companion.

  102. Quickly back to the “unrighteous dominion” strawman, if partners are equal one does not have dominion with which to be unrighteous. Just sayin’…

  103. Aaron (no. 77) — You wrote, #74 begins with a perfect exposition of the real issue here, which is reflected in many controversial issues in the church. “All I know is” A, which was received by revelation, and B, which was also received from revelation. The only problem is that, on their face, A and B are inconsistent. Typically, they originate at different time periods in church history.

    Here, both A and B are drawn from the same document, the Proclamation on the Family.

    There is almost always competing tensions between correct principles. For example, we’re commanded to obey (follow the prophet), and we’re also commanded to get our own truth (from the Holy Spirit). A person errs who exalts the one but mocks the other — the best answer is for an individual to somehow resolve the tension or the dissonance in the two principles by somehow honoring both — how one resolves the tension may differ from how someone else resolves it — some persons will have a hard time honoring both, some will find it easier.

    Some men will find it difficult (maybe even impossible) both to preside in their homes and to be an equal partner with their wives, in part perhaps because of their own backgrounds and their understanding of these terms. Some women, in part perhaps because of their own backgrounds and their understanding of these terms, will make it impossible for some other men. But still other men might be able to do it, and successfully, with their wives as equal partners.

    Difficult? Yes. Impossible always and everywhere? No. And yes, both A and B in real life, not just as a theory — an achievable and honorable ideal.

    You asked, what does it mean to act like “the” presiding official in the home? I don’t know — I’ve never tried to act like “the” presiding official — I’m too scared to try. But I have tried (sometimes imperfectly) to live by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; and by kindness — other men have, too. I learned from D&C 121 that this is the only way a man can maintain his priesthood influence. Any man who wants to magnify his duty to God by honorably presiding in his home will have to do it this way. We have to put off the natural man (and the natural man’s definitions of these terms) and become Saints.

    You styled your question as a sincere question. I offer this as a sincere answer.

  104. jks–Report back on what? I don’t follow where you’re going with your comment.

  105. ji (104) I get that you are sincerely trying to be the best you can, but you come from a place of privilege in this argument. The worst case scenario for you is equality; the worst case for women is doormat (or perhaps child if we are lucky). I think that privilege makes the errant conflation of preside and equal not a mountain to be conquered by you but rather a mole hill.

  106. The Other Clark says:

    Sorry to kick the hornet’s nest and then disappear. @mmlies #97 What I meant is that if women want the men to lead, they need to let them lead and encourage them to lead. If Women are equal partners, they have an equal responsibility to be a spiritual leader in the home. If women want their husbands to demonstrate “strong priesthood leadership,” I don’t see the equal partner dynamic working.

    I’m not advocating a particular position. I am saying that the equal partnership model is exclusive of the “strong priesthood leadership” model.

  107. Agreed.

  108. ji #77: A and B are both stated in the Proclamation, but neither originates there.

    You say you have tried to “live by” persuasion, etc, and I get that, and I appreciate that it is good. I also think I understand what it means to “lead by” the same traits, and appreciate how, for example, a bishop or RS president should exercise those traits in leading their organization. But what I’m trying to understand is what is the collection of tasks or responsibilities that comprise a father’s role as leader or president in the family. Not in what manner those responsibilities should be conducted, but what are they? Is it as trite as calling the family to scripture study? Or being the one to conduct a family counsel? What does it mean?

  109. jks #102
    If the husband is the VT reporting companion and the wife is the non-reporting companion, then is the VT supervisor the Lord? Do you mean by your analogy that the role of the father is to speak to God on behalf of the family?

  110. Aaron (110) I just got a cold chill down my spine at the thought of such a notion.

  111. Aaron,
    I’ve never been in ward where one companion is officially the reporting companion and one isn’t.

  112. Thank you for this post. Fascinating side-by-side analysis!

  113. Naismith says:

    Thoughtful analysis.

    As far as definitions, there are well-established models of leadership in the business management literature in which equal partners and presiding are not mutually exclusive. When I learned about servant leadership in grad school
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership
    it opened my eyes that the two can be combined effectively. Most of what I see being taught in the church fits well into the servant leadership model.

    An authoritarian model is not the only form of leadership or presiding.

  114. Naismith,
    Again as has been stated repeatedly in this thread, just because a leader is a servant and benevolent does not mean he isn’t above the other person. While Barlow laid out an authoritarian model, no one is saying that is the only way to lead; but rather having someone be the leader with a subordinate (in this case the wife) under him by its structural nature negates equality. The article you linked states that the benevolent leader uses moral authority and an “ethical use of power.” It’s still power over another person.

  115. Aaron (no. 109) — But what I’m trying to understand is what is the collection of tasks or responsibilities that comprise a father’s role as leader or president in the family.

    That’s something you need to figure out for yourself, between you and your wife — you can do it, if you and her both want you to. The particulars of how you magnify your calling may differ from how someone else magnifies his, and the particulars may even change over time. It isn’t good for us to be commanded in all things, or at least in all the particulars. But even though I won’t go into particulars (this isn’t a very hospitable environment for this discussion, is it?), I still believe it can be done.

    EOR (no. 106) — My wife is neither doormat or child; rather, she is an equal partner in our marriage. I think the sentiment of Matthew 23:13 applies to those who will not allow that others can do both A and B. That you reject the pattern or find it unpalatable doesn’t mean others cannot successfully achieve it — there are some that honorably try to do so. Yes, some will find it difficult, but we cannot reject the pattern or correct principles because of the failures of some or even many — well, I can’t.

  116. Co-preside works for me, since marriages aren’t like presidencies – at least not in the way marriages are being described by today’s church leaders. I’m fine with servant leadership and presiding within presidencies and councils, but I like the recent change to focus on truly equal partnerships comprised of co-presiders – and allowing single parents or single adults without children to preside in their homes, male or female.

  117. Ok ji, quick summary to make sure I get it:

    The OP argued that Barlow and Hudson represent two opposing views: Parents as coequal partners and husband as presiding authority in the home. You and others counter that, despite the apparent inconsistency resulting from the standard English usage of these words, they are in fact compatible within the Gospel. That has never made much sense to me because I cannot imagine any meaningful implementation under which the two sets of language would reasonably apply. So it’s natural to ask what is encompassed within the father’s role as president or leader. Or could be in principle, since as you reasonably indicate that same pattern need to apply in every case. Then I can assess whether it meets the standard of both “coequal partners” and “father presides”. Your answer is that you will provide no answer (ie “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself”). Also that I’m a hypocrite for asking. Is that really all we get to go on? I understand that we should act individually by the Spirit and not expect that everything be spelled out in detail. But if a newly-called bishop were to ask, “What are my responsibilities as bishop?”, would the only answer be “Lead by compassion and love.” And if his follow-up was “Yeah I know that, but isn’t there like some book or something that gives me a basic outline of what I’m actually supposed to do?”, would the answer be “Handbook-shmandbook, go figure it out yourself”?

  118. Aaron, of course ji can’t tell you what constitutes presiding, because he’s smart enough to know that as soon as he lists something presidesque, you can point to that thing as an area where the husband and wife are unequal. His claim that presiding is not in conflict with equality only works when we never say what presiding means.

  119. MMiles – After reviewing your post here, I left this comment to your Washington Post piece:

    Identifying rhetorical diversity in a religion’s literature across time is interesting but by itself does not demonstrate doctrinal inconsistency. Religious doctrine can be more fundamental and stable than the language used by its advocates. This may be particularly true of Mormon doctrine, which embraces the notion of continuing revelation by which truth unfolds in Hegelian fashion over time – in the heart and mind of the believer as well as in the church as a whole. Mormon marriage doctrine may be an excellent example – beyond “odd rhetorical mish-mash,” the combination of patriarchal and egalitarian language in church literature may actually reflect a deep and abiding doctrinal synthesis – but one which only presents itself to the believing mind after some considerable effort.

  120. HughC–

    Continuing revelation?Yes. One that changes ideas and policies? Sure? But perhaps if you read this thread rather than leave a drive-by-comment, you will see how a synthesis of the ideas has been discussed–and then discussed some more and it doesn’t work-even to a believing mind after some considerable effort.

  121. MMiles (no. 121) — Yes, it can work for a believing mind (and yes, it may take considerable effort) — after all, with God, all things are possible — maybe it doesn’t work for you or some others right now, and maybe for some it can never work, but that cannot mean it cannot ever work for anyone else.

    Everytime someone here has tried to suggest that maybe it is possible, someone else has come back to say it absolutely isn’t possible — I suppose that will happen again, and I don’t want to continue the argument anymore so this will be my last posting. Best wishes! And remember, with God, all things are possible!

  122. ji–Again. It is hard to take your point of view seriously when you refuse to offer any concrete examples of how it works both ways. It’s even harder when you claim to have concrete examples but for some esoteric reason refuse to give them.

  123. ji,
    It is possible that you don’t know how human communication operates on the internet, so I’ve decided to help you out. Nobody in this forum knows who you are. It is possible that you are the best amongst us (I freely admit that you are probably better than me). But we don’t have any way of knowing that. So, when you imply that you have special knowledge or revelation and that we should trust you that it is super awesome and explains everything, but then refuse to share it (even for sacred reasons), well…there is no particular reason for us to believe you. For all we know, you are the internet mouthpiece for some angel of the devil disguised as an angel of light? You probably aren’t (I don’t think you are), but we just don’t know. You might be able to get away with implying secret, for-covenant-keepers’-eyes-only knowledge in a Sunday School class or something, but that is because those people might actually know you and can judge for themselves whether or not they think you are being inspired of the Lord. But here, your words are all we’ve got and, aside from calling us to repentance (which we all ought to do), your words here don’t amount to much. Certainly there is nothing there to make me think that you’ve got some secret knowledge that explains away basic linguistic problems in English. Because I don’t know you (probably never will), so I don’t have any reason at all to trust anything that you say.

  124. Ok, for the sake of exercise, you can have mutual power over one another. Think of the five bases of social power, and particularly referential power. In this scenario my wife has power over me due to the fact that I love and respect her, and I have power over her for the same reasons, love and respect. I do not need to love and respect her for the same reasons that she loves and respects me for us to have the same type of power over one another, but the love and respect I have for her does need to be equally as strong as her love and respect for me.

    I only say this to defend Naismith’s position re:Servent Leadership. It seems false to me to say that someone having power and or influence over someone else implies that power and influence can not be had in the opposite direction as well.

    That said, I dropped the p of preside some time ago and am just grateful my family allows me to reside with them.

  125. Power over a person is not the definition of preside though. The person in payroll who crunches the numbers that ultimately become your paycheck has power over you but they certainly don’t preside over you. The Wendy’s employee who does not wash his hands before preparing my sandwich has a certain amount of power over me but he doesn’t preside over me either. Servant Leadership is not a model for equality, it is a model for Benevolent Patriarchy. No matter how wonderful, kind, gracious, charitable, long-suffering, and love-unfeigning a human being is it still marks them as the leader and I (due to my biological parts alone) the follower. I reject that at every turn.

  126. Naismith says:

    “Servant Leadership is not a model for equality, it is a model for Benevolent Patriarchy. No matter how wonderful, kind, gracious, charitable, long-suffering, and love-unfeigning a human being is it still marks them as the leader and I (due to my biological parts alone) the follower. I reject that at every turn.”

    I reject that at every turn, too. I am not a mere follower in my marriage. I joined the church because of the emphasis on equal partnership in marriage. According to LDS teachings (e.g., Elder Oaks’ talk on priesthood authority), family leadership is NOT hierarchical. One is NOT over the other.

    Having a different role does not automatically mean inequality. It means different.

    The first thing one learns in CPR training is to make eye contact with someone, point to them, and say, “You! Call 911!” Because the reality is that few people survive with CPR alone, it is CPR followed by prompt professional medical care that is the lifesaver. Both the person calling 911 and the person performing CPR contribute. And it turned out that when they just said, “Someone call 911!” it didn’t always get done.

    I see the family proclamation as being like that, giving different but equally important assignments in order to ensure that all gets done. And of course members of the marriage dyad have power over one another in a mutually dependent relationship.

  127. I keep reading lots of words but struggling to understand what they mean. Matt W, you speak marriage as a state where the two spouses in a sense exercise mutual power over one another. Naismith describes an equal partnership that is not hierarchical. Are either of you defending a model in which it is the father’s role to preside in the home? If so, then for the love of (insert here anything you find motivating), can you please tell me what that means, other than that it is a different but equally important role to that of the mother?

  128. Naismith (127) if you are presided over, your marriage is not equal. No amount of talks from Elder Oaks can change that definition. If The Church insists on using a “father presides…” model (to say nothing for married men without children) that means that “mother” is presided over. They cannot have it both ways, and neither can the regular membership. A marriage is either one presides over the other, or it is egalitarian. It cannot be both.

  129. Yes, I do think the father presides. Every definition that I’ve seen of “preside” involves authority. A father presides by using his priesthood (his “authority and power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of man”-1) to benefit and protect the family. So a father presides by performing baptisms, giving father’s blessings, giving blessings of healing & comfort, witnessing weddings, and so on.

    Because of the way priesthood functions, a father can only use that authority to act for the benefit of others. And his priesthood authority only extends to matters that involve “salvation” (which I think of as meaning spiritual matters.) So in reality for most couples on the ground, MOST of their lives and decisions are worked through together, and thus there is mutual power and mutual support. Decisions are made by consensus and/or considering who is most affected by something, who has greater expertise in that area, who cares more, etc.

    (1) definition from Guide to the Scriptures

  130. Naismith, perhaps you could help us understand why this presiding by the father by using his priesthood doesn’t mean that the father is in charge. What are women in charge of?

  131. Thank you, Naismith, for being concrete.
    Steve, if her understanding of “presiding in the home” consists entirely of acting in priesthood ordinances and blessings, then I’m not sure it constitutes “being in charge” of the family in the way this is often imagined. That’s not to say that it’s equal in any sense or non-hierarchical within the realm of priesthood ordinances and blessings. Or that the word is not an exceedingly poor choice given its standard usage. But it’s limited. It’s not, for example, “the father has the final say in important family decisions.”

  132. Capozaino says:

    I think Naismith provides the best reconciliation between spousal equality and father presiding that can be offered. Of course, it requires you to remember that preside, when used in connection with a father presiding in the home, means only that the father is responsible for performing service in the form of administering priesthood ordinances. For me, it strains credulity to say preside in this context, but I understand the strong desire to reconcile the otherwise contradictory positions.

  133. Then we’re back to chicken patriarchy, which again may be just fine but let’s call a spade a spade.

  134. “I think Naismith provides the best reconciliation between spousal equality and father presiding that can be offered.”

    Only by diluting the term of virtually all its meaning. Including what “preside” means in other Church contexts. Deacons and priests don’t “preside” when they bless/pass the sacrament. The bishop presides because he is the highest _authority_ in the room. He’s in charge. He presides without performing any ordinances. He presides _over_ the performance of ordinances.

  135. And we never, never, ever use the word “preside” to describe what primary presidents do during opening exercises or sharing time.

  136. “Then we’re back to chicken patriarchy”
    “Only by diluting the term of virtually all its meaning.”
    Yep, but I feel much better having a sense of where we are on the map. Now whenever this comes up, someone can say: “Preside in the home? You mean that thing, where the father baptizes the kids and gives priesthood blessings, and that’s all it means?” Then check for alternative interpretations. If none, then feel free to opine “That’s a horrible word for that thing. It doesn’t make any sense, and it causes so much confusion. Let’s call it something else.” Or express hope or belief that women should share in that role as well.

  137. Naismith’s answer is certainly the _most_ concrete, however I agree with Brad and Steve Evans that this is not at all the correct usage of Preside. Also, as a woman, I feel no better about being Presided over “only in spiritual matters”. It begs the question then of whether we are only unequal in the sight of God then. Spiritual matters? Husband Presides! Whether or not to buy a new car or a used one? Equal decision! That actually makes me feel a thousand times worse. I would rather be told I am simply unequal because I lack certain parts rather than be told I am only unequal spiritually because I lack such parts.

  138. The Other Clark says:

    Wait. The church has never said preside=priesthood. All church statements using the preside word make it clear that fathers preside in the home even if they DON’T hold the priesthood. So while priesthood leadership may be one component of presiding, it cannot be the only component.

    Naismith’s train of thought (in #130) is the same variety of erroneous thinking that leads to 12-year-old deacons believing they preside over their mother when Dad’s away.

    Somebody give me an example of “preside in the home” that single moms do, that fathers should do in “ideal families”

    Earn an income? Is that what preside means?

  139. EOR, presiding in spiritual matters also seems potentially much broader than Naismith’s answer, even though she included those words – but she will have to clarify that. Again, I agree that it’s the wrong word. I’m also not convinced that Naismith’s interpretation is universal. And I wouldn’t expect you or others to feel equal are equally valued even within the narrow interpretation of blessings and ordinances. But it feels like you are talking about something bigger than she.

  140. I know that calling on prayers is almost a punchline in these conversations, but the fact that 98% of the LDS families I know, young and old, progressive and conservative, etc, have fathers do this and fathers only. That means that even on this vestigial form, the idea that husbands preside _over_ (ie are in charge of) spiritual matters in their families in a way that wives are not is still alive (indeed being residually clung to).

  141. Brad, that is my experience as well. I guess I see three aspects of what this concept means within different families:
    1. The father is actually in charge of the family, or is the authority figure. The wife may contribute and make many decisions, but ultimately the father’s words carry more weight. I would argue that this view is in clear violation of church principles as they are taught, but proponents could find encouragement in the words of Barlow et al. Everyone here will say this interpretation is wholly unacceptable – even defenders of the patriarchy will decry it as a gross Oath and Covenant violation, but I’m afraid it’s still out there in some families (and maybe casts a shadow over many?).
    2. A priesthood-ordinance-centered view as represented by Naismith’s comments. I believe this is a common component of the view held by much of the church membership, but its being the end-all is fundamentally flawed, as explained by The Other Clark in #139
    3. I agree that deciding who says the prayer is the best summation of how “presiding” is most generally practiced in member families. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous that this responsibility should be reserved for one parent over the other. On the other, it seems inconceivable that something so trite would warrant so much attention and admonition over the pulpit. So they must have something more in mind, but it’s not spelled out, and whatever it is is not generally understood or practiced. But it smells like something closer to #1, since that’s the only clear direction away from #3, and so the main effect is disenfranchisement, dissatisfaction, and probably some other words that start with “dis-“.

  142. The Other Clark says:

    Nice summary Aaron. I would modify #1 to be “Husband has the final say, after consulting with his wife in a loving, respectful way.” Still patriarchy, but not so much of an O&C violation

  143. Speaking of calling on others to say the prayer, I was very happy to get the idea to rotate this responsibility among all family members from Brad (in his awesome “Male and Feminist” interview on the FMH podcast episode 16). I thought “dang, why didn’t I think of that?!”. So this week it is my 1st grade daughters turn to call on someone to say the prayers. And I feel very content about that. (Thanks Brad!)

  144. Cheers, CC!

  145. Anyone who really understands ‘spouse abuse’ knows that it is the classic ‘abusive mentality’ and severe abuse and control for a man to even ‘think’, let alone preach or act like he has the ‘last say’ or that he can make unilateral decisions or expect his wife to just follow or go along with his thinking.

    Righteous men would never believe such things, let alone try to teach or implement them. Righteous men not only are strong enough to share equal power & authority with their wife but they actually always listen to and follow her counsel and feelings 1st, before his own feelings, desires or thinking, unless she asks for something downright evil, then he wouldn’t go along.

    Even the Church’s pamphlet on Spouse Abuse clearly teaches that each spouse’s feeling and thinking should be given equal respect.

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