Would “preside” by any other name smell as…um…

Today’s post begins with a summary of roughly 1/3 of the digital ink spilled in the bloggernacle[fn1]. “Preside” doesn’t mean preside, except when it does, but it usually doesn’t. So your marriage should be egalitarian, but someone should lead and it should be the husband/priesthood bearer, but you should be equal partners in leading, except the husband/priesthood bearer should get the deciding vote (mostly regarding who should bless the food, but not only that), except that decisions should be made mutually. Marriage isn’t like the church, nor is it like a board meeting, but all the analogies that we can provide make it seem like the church or a corporate board meeting, except ones where everything is done in unity, by which we mean nothing is done until everyone agrees with the guy (always a guy) in charge, but it’s important to get everyone’s opinion, even though only one opinion is decisive, except that it shouldn’t be and usually isn’t until it is.

I recently heard of a stake president, somewhere in the western US, who stated to the members of his stake that “Men do not preside. In our stake, husbands and wives are equal.” This seems to be where the Brethren want the church to go, and yet they still seem to like that word, “preside.” For example, as recently as the 2014 conference, Elder Oaks explained:

As stated in the family proclamation, the father presides in the family and he and the mother have separate responsibilities, but they are “obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Some years before the family proclamation, President Spencer W. Kimball gave this inspired explanation: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.”

In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.

I have friends who are a husband and wife who run a business together. When I asked them what an equal partnership in their business was like, they responded:

“There is no one in charge over the other. We make decisions jointly: hiring, firing, marketing, purchases, how to respond to problems. We value each other’s input, we respect each other’s opinions and expertise. It would be a disaster for one of us to preside. The other one would instantly have the ability to divest, to disown decisions with which we disagreed, to criticize the other person’s actions. Inequality would infiltrate our decision-making process like a poison.”

Admittedly, business is a poor analogy to family life, but is “presiding” really any less poisonous to family relationships?

It is as if the Brethren realize that the supposed gender dynamics of the 50s were actually bad for women, but, at the same time, they think it is a matter of occasional bad apples. If all men everywhere were cool dudes, who only put their foot down on the really important stuff (like which child teaches the lesson in FHE), then women would have no trouble with men presiding. So, the goal of the church should be the transformation of men from Neanderthals[fn2] into cool dudes. Which, when you think about it, is probably about 90% of what the church does.[fn3] A great deal of what women are taught in the official manuals of the church is how to support their husband, their priesthood leaders, and so forth. We’re all taught to bear one another’s burdens and to serve the destitute, but an awful lot of what women are taught regards how they should comport themselves and alter their environment so that the men in the household and church have an easier time of it.

Which isn’t to say that men get off lightly in this understanding of “preside.” If it doesn’t mean “be in charge,” which it apparently doesn’t (usually), then the next most frequently attached arbitrary definition of it that you find floating around is “be responsible for.” Perhaps the Brethren feel like men need to “preside” because otherwise men won’t feel like they have a stake in their own families. Making everyone in the family unit dependent on the senior priesthood holder might cause some men to be more attached to their families out of feelings of honor, loyalty, or shame. If the whole family is entirely dependent on the decisions (or the priesthood?) of one member, then that member has the responsibility and the culpability for everything that goes wrong (and that goes right). I admit that the male ego is a powerful thing, but is it really the most appropriate thing upon which to hang the strength of a family (or church)?

To sum up, the general vibe coming from Salt Lake seems to be that they don’t like the hierarchical connotation of “preside,” but they love the term “preside” for some other obscure reason (either that or they are in a whole heap of denial). It strikes me that this is a lot of the problem. All the Sturm and Drang regarding “preside” comes from various attempts to redefine it into something not terrible for women (or children), but all of that is only necessary because of a desire to keep the damn word. Why not just do as that wise stake president suggests and jettison the word? And if we can’t jettison it, could we get an explanation of why we have to keep it around, especially as we don’t want it to mean what it means?

I want to emphasize something at the end of this post. There is nothing original here. I’m not saying anything that other people haven’t said, many of whom are more qualified to say something on this topic than I am.[fn4] But my cup of irritation ran over this past week and now I’m pouring it out all over the internet. It was my decision, ya know?

————————-
[fn1] The other two thirds are a combination of crafts for primary activities, race, and homosexuality.
[fn2] Probably an undeserved insult to Neanderthals.
[fn3] Other 10%: Vacuuming up bits of goldfish in the nursery room.
[fn4] See, for instance, this, this, or this.

Comments

  1. Aaron Brown says:

    This topic can’t be talked about enough, so thanks for bringing it up.

    Is there any real world example in the history of the English language where the verb “to preside” has referred to a (mostly) non-hierarchical action OTHER THAN late 20th/early 21st Century LDS discourse on gender relations within marriage?

    Serious question.

  2. In my many years of living in and observing LDS culture, I have seen too many marriages where the husbands assume that presiding giving them the right to control, manipulate, micromanage and/or verbally or physically abuse their wives. I have also seen wives abuse husbands but the physicians I talk to in SLC tell me that see a disproportionate numbers of women being abused by the active LDS husbands. The word “preside” by its very nature suggests a disproportionate amount of power being given to the husband.

  3. I think we’re trying to preserve traditional language while redefining it… which raises the question, how far back does preside go? I’m familiar with Pres. Kimball’s suggested use of it to replace “rule over” in Genesis 3:16 (which I don’t think we need to do.)

  4. Ben,
    That’s obviously the case (an attempt to preserve and redefine a traditionally used word). I’m just saying that we’d be better off just dumping the word entirely.

  5. I wondered if it had some scriptural mandate that someone felt uncomfortable ditching, but no, unless I’ve missed something — and I read carefully — every instance of “preside” in the scriptures (it’s only in the D&C) is in reference to a quorum, council, conference, or the Church as a whole. It seems administrative in an organizational sense, an administrative rather than pastoral sense, at least in the scriptures. So … I got nuthin’.

    My bishop or his counselors, whoever is conducting, is always very careful to announce who is presiding in our sacrament services, and it’s almost never a member of the bishopric. It always feels a little weird to me to hear them make that announcement, as if we couldn’t already see the usually long row(s) of general authorities, stake presidency, bishopric, and high councilmen on the stand. When it’s such a formality, such an administrative role, with no acknowledged duties to accompany the position, it seems especially out of place to insist on that position within a family.

  6. I think “presiding” could be a substitute for “alpha dog”. He is always a male and he gets to eat (or take the sacrament) first.

  7. Aaron Brown says:

    Thanks, Ardis. I was wondering about that very question, (But too lazy to pull out my D&C).

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    The linguistics of the word don’t lend themselves well to attempts at redefinition. The word preside comes from Latin praesidere, literally “to sit before, in front of or at the head of” (from the verb sedere “to sit” and the preposition prae “before”). So when an authority sits on the stand, he is “presiding”in a very literal sense. Our English word president comes from the participial form of that same compound verb.

    Consequently, the verb means “to occupy the place of authority,” “to act as presdent or chairman” or “to occupy a position similar to that of president or chairman,” “to exercise guidance, direction, control.”

    Kind of tough to try to squeeze “to be an equal partner with” out of that.

  9. MargaretOH says:

    I would very much like to see a List of Words That the Church Defines Completely Differently from the Dictionary, Ranked.

  10. Would someone please respond to this question. I read many arguments for adopting a more egalitarian model of marriage and doing away with hierarchy (male >female) that revolve around the potential for abuse in the “husband presides over wife” arrangement. But I think that is beside the point, suppose for instance a couple has a functioning, satisfying, non-abusive, hierarchical marriage; how does this affect the personal growth, self esteem, wellbeing, and ultimately potential for progression for each individual? Abuse is a strawman argument in this instance.

    I want to know what does an egalitarian marriage make out of a man and a woman; what is the end game? And conversely, what is the final product of individuals who engage in a more traditional, conservative, hierarchical model of marriage look like?

    Thoughts?

  11. The Church likes old timey King James english. I think it would be beneficial to ditch it. And not just for uncomfortable words like ‘preside’ but also because, in my experience, people from non LDS backgrounds seem to often be perplexed by King James english when reading our scriptures which can inhibit their understanding of them. Especially for second language english speakers or those without much formal education.

    Unfortunately the Church has such a strong love affair with KJE, that there’s even an overt idea of ‘you have to talk to God in KJE’ and maybe even ‘God only talks in KJE’. Supposedly people do find some sort of spiritual significance by it, but with an increasingly international and multi-lingual/cultural membership, it’d be nice to ditch all of thee’s, thou’s -th’s, preside’s, etc. In favor of something not quite as exclusive to white people of protestant backgrounds.

  12. In my experience, you can’t understand presiding in the priesthood until you understand the priesthood. Occupying a place of authority requires that you understand that authority: how it is granted, how and when it must be wielded, and what happens for it to be taken away.

    That’s why I love the wording of the Family Proclamation. It forces people to look at how “preside” and “equal” can coexist.

  13. Rob Osborn says:

    My 2 cents- The word “preside” as it pertains to the father in the home in our church means “to lead and guide and to take responsibility for the family’s welfare.” Not sure why this is an issue. That’s the law, let’s follow the prophet and obey the law.

    As it pertains to the church, Jesus Christ “presides” over his church. That is why it is called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”

    Heres something novel- let’s stop second guessing God and his holy prophets.

  14. Alpineglow says:

    What Marleerocker said! Yes, abuse is terrible and probably facilitated by hierarchy. But give each model–hierarchy and egalitarianism–their best case scenario and figure out what the end result is. I’m still guessing egalitarianism mostly comes out better for everyone, if what you care about is developing Christlike qualities.

  15. what if you were married to rob osborn? o_O

  16. “some scriptural mandate that someone felt uncomfortable ditching.” Perhaps the Proclamation? It’s not a scriptural mandate, but it’s sort of psuedoscriptural or quasiscriptural, and lot’s of people view it as though it were scriptural.

  17. Rob Osborn says:

    Marleerocker,
    I think we are seeing the effects of this in society, father’s stepping down from resposibility, caving in to sin, marriages dissolving and a generation of children without law and respect.

  18. Ardis, there is one way in examining the concept of presiding in the context of a quorum, council, or conference. How often do we talk about the fundamental unit of the Church being the family? How often do we speak of family councils as part of the context for how a properly functioning family operates? I think this is where the administrative aspect of the priesthood is getting wrapped up into the authoritative responsibilities within a family, Who presides in a council? The priesthood holder with stewardship for that council. By default then I’m fairly certain this is what the General leadership of the Church struggle with because there’s still the concept that a priesthood holder has responsibility for that council. Consider the discussion by a number of Apostles, including President Packer about how they seek to ensure respect for the father in the home by encouraging young men to ask the father to give them blessings because he is the presiding priesthood authority in the home. I don’t think you’ll ever completely eliminate preside unless priesthood is defined differently.

  19. My wife and my solution is to read the PotF literally, with the understanding that whatever is NOT said is something that the brethren did not agree on and so we are free to adapt. Elder Perry’s subsequent “co-president” remarks in conference are also helpful.

    With that in mind, in my marriage, I preside, provide, and protect, just as the Proclamation direct. My wife’s primary responsibility is to nurture the children. At the same time, by wife also presides, provides and protects – something the Proclamation does not prohibit. And I view my primary responsibility as nurturing the children. By “primary” I mean that this role serves the longest-lasting good and hence is the more important.

    As one example, when our child is naked, he is provided with clothing. One/both of us may earn money for the clothing, one/both of us may do the shopping, one/both of us may do the laundry – but regardless of the split, we both are equally responsible and active in providing. The same principles hold true for presiding, protecting, nurturing, and all other good roles.

    So, following the Proclamation literally, my wife and I have exactly the same roles. How things work on a day-to-day basis requires perpetual conversation, patience, and love.

  20. In responding to marleerocker last question, I have a traditional marriage. I respect my husband as the head of the home…if someone threatens me or my kids or breaks into our house – he’s going to be out there in front protecting the rest of us. I need the money he provides with his practice and though he tells me what to save, I have the most control the finances and the bank accounts. When it comes to raising our kids, we do some things well and some things not so well, and then we consult with each other and make child-raising changes for the better. When buying a new vehicle, my husband does a month’s of research (finding the safest vehicle with the extras I might need or want), but asks my opinion when he’s narrowed it down. He works many hours at his office, I work many hours at home. We both have veto power over the other…so if one of us really disagrees with the other, then we don’t do whatever it is. We have a friendship and mutual respect. We talk to each other about the strengths each of us brings to the marriage. He makes me want to be a better person and I do the same for him. If a man abuses his wife, it’s because he’s stronger and can get away with it. I would dare say that that LDS man does not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    This answer might end up getting too long, but I was looking at your previous question also about what an egalitarian marriage makes out of a man or a woman. I have a friend that I would consider has this (non-LDS, but a Christian). Both she and her husband are attorneys. They focused on their individual careers for many years, then adopted a few children. They would get into some conflicts about who was smarter than the other. The wife certainly doesn’t thinks she is any less than her husband. Yet, they have a great marriage. She now works part-time, suffers the consequence of being a part-time attorney, so she can spend more time at home with their children. She also has a strong marriage because she and her husband like each other, they get along.
    Men are stronger than women, so I guess they can abuse that and call it authority. We need to love and respect each other, then we will grow.

  21. Ardis, as someone who works with the YM, I can say that it is very helpful for the conductor in sacrament meeting to announce if someone other than the bishop is presiding so that the deacons know who to pass the sacrament to first. On their own, they usually lack experience to know who is presiding.

    Apart from that, it’s also a way for the bishopric to “pass the buck” in the sense they, at least for this meeting, they are not responsible for correcting false doctrine. :)

  22. A partial answer to MarleeRocker’s question. A good question to ask is, does God want us to develop independence in this life? Of course, achieving unity is one goal of marriage. But should it come at the cost of each individual losing their personal God-given power to choose? For example, if wives are always turning to husbands to make decisions, are they becoming God-like? I really don’t know, just a thought.

  23. It may be wishful thinking, but it seems to me that over the past several years we (as a Church) have been trying to move away from applying “preside” to the family. I recall a good talk in conference a number of years ago where it was instructed that the family is not organized the same as the Church (but unfortunately went with Hierarchical for Church and Patriarchal for Family). Has anyone else felt the same, that we’re improving, albeit very slowly?

  24. I’ve long suspected it has something to do with our insistence that doctrines do not change. So if we can shoehorn decades old language into today’s world, it helps “prove” that the doctrines have remained the same. This same thing has happened with terms like “celestial marriage” and “Word of Wisdom”.

  25. eponymous says:

    Dave, I think you would agree that after having sat on the stand for many years and participating in those dynamics what usually happens if something goes awry is that the presider (Stake Presidency or GA) turns to the Bishop and whispers how he thinks it should be handled but the Bishop still gets up and resolves the matter. Generally they also delegate back to the Bishop the responsibility for making the head nod to ensure the sacrament is administered correctly. The poor Bishop is never really off the hook other than deciding what needs to be acted upon. And I imagine that was your point. It’s easier to act when someone else is deciding.

  26. When did the word first appear in our theology?

  27. Frank, I’ve seen the same thing. In my experience, whenever presiding comes up in church classes there will be a quick comment about how presiding is done “with love and righteousness” and then the topic moves elsewhere. It’s a shame because presiding is a good thing, but we’re avoiding it because of fear of contention. And too often the youth grow up not knowing what preside actually means – i.e., give direction, lead, etc. This could all be solved by acknowledging that (i) women preside in many spheres at church (e.g., primary president) and (ii) many families have co-presiding parents. FWIW, I think the silence is due to a lack of unanimity among the FP/Q12 on the issue of how presiding should work in the family.

  28. ^^^In the context of marriage?

  29. Josh Smith says:

    Here’s my rudimentary understanding of LDS teachings on gender roles: Jesus taught that men should work outside the home and women should tend the children, and when the man is in the home, he should “preside” … and “protect.” If there’s a home intruder, the man should be the one to defend home and hearth. With a gun.

    Women “nurture.” Nurturing includes caring for children, which includes keeping the home clean. But not to worry, because modern appliances make that very easy. Much easier than it used to be.

    One other thing I’ve gleaned when I used to attend three hours of church: It completely sucks if you’re a single mom because then you work your ass off doing stuff that’s outside of your job description (like working outside the home and EVERYTHING ELSE!). I also gathered that I’m unfit to nurture because … well, because that’s why Jesus made women and I’m not a woman. But I get the priesthood, which makes me more spiritual, but not as spiritual as my wife. She has a uterus and I don’t have a uterus, which is why I have the priesthood. Or maybe I have the priesthood because I have a ___________ and she has a ___________.

    I’ve gotten off course. I’m in favor of doing what Jesus says about gender roles. Especially the part where I get a gun because right now I only have a can of expired bear spray stuffed in my nightstand.

    Presiding is important. I think we should leave the word just the way it is.

  30. Rob Osborn,

    That’s the law, let’s follow the prophet and obey the law.

    Could you please specify what law you’re referring to?

  31. Great post! Next can we do “hearken”?

  32. I gotta say, there are some kooky ideas in these comments. (I mean, more power to ya if your particular arrangement works for your family, but it just goes to show that if “preside means too many different things, it ultimately might as well not mean anything.)

  33. eponymous says:

    I agree with you Dave, I think there is silence on the matter of what it means to preside in a family specifically because there is disagreement. But it seems to me that Elder Oaks’ talk from October 2005, during the Saturday morning session to boot, the one Frank referenced, pretty plainly made the case for those who believe that presiding is not a shared responsibility. Honestly, reading it, I can only see it as a fully benevolent dictatorship where the presider would always put the needs and interests of the spouse and other members of the household before their own. A very strange concept that essentially forces you to question why presiding needs to happen if not for an accountability purpose that isn’t well defined other than it has something to do with Priesthood stewardship.

    The relevant quotes:

    One important difference between its function in the Church and in the family is the fact that all priesthood authority in the Church functions under the direction of the one who holds the appropriate priesthood keys. In contrast, the authority that presides in the family—whether father or single-parent mother—functions in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys. This family authority includes directing the activities of the family, family meetings like family home evenings, family prayer, teaching the gospel, and counseling and disciplining family members. It also includes ordained fathers giving priesthood blessings.

    And then there was this discussion of “full partnership” within a presiding relationship:

    If men desire the Lord’s blessings in their family leadership, they must exercise their priesthood authority according to the Lord’s principles for its use:

    “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; By kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41–42).

    When priesthood authority is exercised in that way in the patriarchal family, we achieve the “full partnership” President Kimball taught….

    …The principles I have identified for the exercise of priesthood authority are more understandable and more comfortable for a married woman than for a single woman, especially a single woman who has never been married. She does not now experience priesthood authority in the partnership relationship of marriage. Her experiences with priesthood authority are in the hierarchical relationships of the Church, and some single women feel they have no voice in those relationships. It is, therefore, imperative to have an effective ward council, where male and female ward officers sit down together regularly to counsel under the presiding authority of the bishop.

  34. I like to think of it this way: If anything goes wrong, it’s the “presider’s” fault. :)

  35. fuddyduddy says:

    I suspect that reluctance to ditch “preside” stems from Ephesians 5:21-33, which seems to have been incorporated into the endowment ceremony, making it hard to ignore.

    We want to speak of equal partnership, but we also have this temple mandate for men to follow Christ, so that their wives/families can follow them (rather than follow Christ directly).

    As long as that remains the underlying ideal, this “chicken patriarchy” isn’t going away.

  36. ” so that the deacons know who to pass the sacrament to first.”
    Yeah, I’d like to get rid of that unwritten order of things. I don’t see the purpose.

  37. When I was in graduate school in the mid-1980s, I did a few classes in Organizational Behavior, and “servant leadership” was a thing. The idea was that leaders are servants first, and lead by empowering others and making sure they have what they need to do their jobs.

    At the time, there were corporations at least experimenting with that model. Don’t know if any of it stuck in the corporate world, but it certainly describes the church model.

  38. I’m with Ardis on this.

    I would add that the ascendancy of preside *within the family* as we know it is truly cultural rather than doctrinal. This whole problem arises because of the totalizing impetus of past Church leaders, primarily in the second half of the twentieth century as several tried to “systematize” various disparate teachings into cohesive “doctrines,” as they viewed them. That is, they thought everything has to be correlated into one and the same thing. So, because as a matter of corporate organization it has been revealed in the D&C that there is a president who presides with the help of counselors, then the idea was that the home had to be organized the same way. So the man was obviously the presider there in their minds because that was their present cultural context at the time — mid-twentieth century, when in many jurisdictions coverture was still the law and women were not legal and moral agents in their own right. It would seem that those particular Church leaders at the time did not make the effort to separate out that cultural chaff from Gospel truths, instead weaving them in as part of the bigger picture.

    But if Church leaders truly feel that the home has to be organized the same way as the corporate church, we know that husband and wife, united as one, could be seen as presiding as a single unified entity over the household of minor children under their care, rather than the man having precedence over the woman as to decisionmaking, which is, in effect, the system they went with following the D&C model of corporate organization for the Church as an entity.

    Even better, however, would be if Church leaders did not think that the home has to be described using the same organizational terminology that governs the corporate church. Instead, they could try to focus on the oneness of the Father and Son and teach that the husband and wife should become so unified and act as one unit. That would give effect to D&C 121:41 as well.

  39. “Instead, they could try to focus on the oneness of the Father and Son and teach that the husband and wife should become so unified and act as one unit.”

    Just curious where Heavenly Mother would fit in this schema.

  40. I’m getting the impression that guidance from church leaders regarding “presiding in the family” became a thing around the same time that correlation was streamlining the church organization into the hierarchical structure we know today. As part of this effort, home teaching became the vehicle whereby families were “correlated” into the church organization, at least for instructional purposes. So it seems that having a church-defined “presider” in the family results more from the church needing a point person for home teachers to communicate to, than from a need for families to be better organized. Naturally, the church picked fathers to be their point person.

    If I’m correct, then having a church-designated presider is more about the church asserting influence within the family than the father doing so. If father’s really were the final say, then the church should have no problem with a father who decrees “as my first act, I hereby and forever decree that [wife] will co-preside with me.”

    Father’s “presiding” isn’t really about magnifying father’s authority, it’s about magnifying the church’s authority to extend into families.

  41. This may be one of my favorite all time bloggernacle posts. And I’m in complete agreement!

  42. Not sure, EmJen. What are your thoughts? My comment about the Oneness of the Father and Son refers to John 17 and other scriptural bases that provide current Church leaders with alternative models for envisioning unity than the “preside” model borrowed from organizational terminology in the D&C referring to the corporate Church.

  43. Right, but we’ve just released an essay dealing with our Mother in Heaven and so it’s on my mind If we’re going to have a model of oneness in a marriage/family, let’s go with one that has Mormon theological uniqueness and models a divine husband/wife versus a divine father/son.

  44. Yes, very true. That just depends, I think, on having Church leaders who are willing to seek out new revelation on the matter by petitioning the Lord for knowledge about Mother in Heaven rather than trying to create an argument from what already exists. The latter would only result in new folklore, don’t you think?

  45. “That would give effect to D&C 121:41 as well.”

    Our stake president spoke to our RS yesterday and focused his remarks on strengthening our marriages and used this scripture as his base and told us that as sisters, we should really study that section. He also said multiple times that the men in our stake need our voices a la Elder Nelson’s recent GC talk. And that we need to be working with our husbands to achieve unanimity in all our big decisions. We should not go forward until there was perfect unanimity.

    The RS Stake president spoke to the EQ and HP at this same time and from reports, explained that the women in the stake wish their husbands would take the spiritual lead in their home more and then proceeded to provide practical examples of this such as to compliment their wives in prayer.

  46. Absent any new knowledge, however, I agree that in light of the new essay, strong inferences can easily be drawn that would support an argument that our marriages should be modeled on the husband/wife model and not the father/son model.

  47. Yep, but if we’re dreaming big about jettisoning preside, we might as well dream big about more getting information on heavenly models.

  48. EmJen, I think your stake president should have possibly aimed the remarks on D&C 121:41 more to the men. My impression is that far too many Mormon men still think that the Church’s rhetoric on “preside,” in the end analysis, actually means that the man, as the priesthood holder, ultimately has the final say in decisionmaking. So, for example, if an opportunity arises for the couple to move to Austin — the husband has gotten a magnificent job offer — but the wife absolutely does not want to go, the man gets the final say and, if he says “we’re going,” the wife, according to the Church’s teachings about “preside,” just has to follow. In essence, the thought is that, in the end, the man says “I have the priesthood so I have final say because it means that I ‘preside,’ and I say we’re moving to Austin.”

    But my thought is that a husband who does and thinks that violates D&C 121:41:

    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

    Obviously, that is a horrible outcome and situation. But in my observation all too common in the past and even now, as based on the current teachings about “preside.”

    Similarly, with Elder Nelson’s talk, I think it would have been more effective if he would have been addressing the men of the Church, telling them to listen to the women in equality, rather than telling the women to speak up. Women can speak up all they want but if men think they are “presiding” over them then the input really isn’t going to be valued as having equal merit.

  49. Clark Goble says:

    Fully agree with the original post.

    Ben S, I think part of the issue is that these terms natural evolve. Sometimes we have terms we oppose while other times we have terms that embraced and extend.

    Part of the problem is figuring out what’s behind the terms. Yet most terms when used never mean exactly what their cultural connotation entails.

  50. Josh Smith's Wife says:

    Josh,

    Your comment at 1:21 is ridiculous. We both know that “preside” means that you get to choose who says the prayer at dinner. That’s it!

    And you don’t get a gun. You can protect our family just fine with a bat and a can of bear spray.

  51. If preside means – choosing who says the prayer at dinner, then my 3 year old presides in our home. :)

  52. Actually my 3 year old might be considered the presider even if it means the person who leads and guides. She insists that no matter where we are going, she walks first and we have to follow her. I’m definitely claiming unrighteous dominion.

  53. The fact that every single church meeting seems to begin with a statement of who is presiding seems to confirm the institution’s particular obsession with the concept of presiding. Does the handbook require this? Has it always been this way? Why are we supposed to care who is presiding? Nowadays, the statements sound to me like “we’d like to begin the meeting by reminding everyone of their place in the hierarchy by announcing who in that hierarchy is responsible for this meeting”.

  54. Clark Goble says:

    Q, I think presiding in that context deals with who has the responsibility and authority to make corrections when things are done wrong. Think the Bishop telling the Priest to redo the sacrament talk for instance.

  55. And women will never, ever be the presider in a meeting. And will never have the responsibility or authority to make corrections when things are done wrong.

  56. Frank P at 1:11 mentioned that he thought the Church was trying to move away from using preside in terms of family. I disagree. In Primary one of the newer songs being taught to the children has a verse that begins, “A father’s place is to preside, provide” so we’re training up the next generation with preside. The song was written in 2012 and was a Sacrament meeting program song in 2014.

  57. If only someone were in charge of final determinations over the meaning of this word!!

  58. EmJen, women do preside in church meetings, just not meetings with men. The recent essay begins by saying: “Latter-day Saint women … lead organizations that minister to families, other women, young women, and children.” See :)

  59. Funny, I’ve never been in a women’s/children’s meeting where a woman leader was noted as presiding. Anyone?

  60. I want to start raising my hand at the beginning of every Relief Society meeting to state that the RSP is presiding. Unless of course there’s a man in the room.

  61. “Would “preside” by any other name smell as…um…”

    Sweet? Depends on who’s doing the presiding. If it’s God then I’m sure it would.

  62. Dave K,
    Keep in mind that when we say that women lead organizations, we really mean that the Bishopric leads. ;)

    See Handbook.

    The bishop and his counselors provide priesthood leadership for the Relief Society.

    So, in addition to preside, I guess we have to figure out the definition of ‘lead’. This is starting to feel like a Clinton impeachment. Endless circumlocution……

  63. Amy,
    Does God want us to develop independence in life? I’m not sure there is any evidence that he does, quite to the contrary. Are women becoming more God-like by turning to their husbands? No one knows since we don’t know what female-God is like.

    Rob Osborne,
    Men now are more involved with their children and families than they have been in past generations, at least in the US, and probably in the western world.

    John C.,
    I’m not sure you can really remove preside in the home and have it remain the same within the church. If men presiding isn’t the natural (or at least desired) order of things, if it’s not in the home, then why in the church? If the auxiliary roles are so gender segregated in obligations and duties (an natural abilities of their members), why can’t ‘women’s auxiliaries’ run without a male presider?
    The two seem inextricably linked. If you see a way one can be justified, and the other cannot, please explain. Plus, we have the New Testament to back up man-as-the-presider.

  64. If the auxiliary roles are so gender segregated in obligations and duties (an natural abilities of their members), why can’t ‘women’s auxiliaries’ run without a male presider?

    I certainly believe they can and the preference to the contrary is cultural accretion and not Gospel doctrine.

  65. Clark Goble says:

    EmJen, in a meeting of the Relief Society Presidency doesn’t the RS President preside?

  66. wreddyornot says:

    It’s all about the alliteration. Patriarchy presides. Unless there’s a fix amongst our Parents on high, communicated to the presiders we accept here below, I’m afraid HM will continue on submissively in our story. Incidentally, I don’t think the notion of presiding and submitting is anything at all new; it’s existed since the beginning. At least, according to the narratives we believe and accept, it has.

    The more I think about it all, the more depressing it gets, because I find it so unfair and unholy.

  67. no Clark, she doesn’t, unfortunately. That’s why there’s direction not to call her “President Smith” but instead “Sister Smith” — because, so the thinking goes, she doesn’t actually “preside” over anything. I am not saying this is how it should be, just describing how it is perceived to be at the moment by those formulating the policies.

  68. Men now are more involved with their children and families than they have been in past generations, at least in the US, and probably in the western world.

    MMiles, probably in the history of the world, wouldn’t you think? At least recorded history?

  69. John F,
    Are you suggesting the word has no place in the church? And a serious question, could the church function better if women and men were more gender divided? By that I mean, would it work better if women functioned independently, their own parallel hierarchical structure that had something like it’s own council of 12 who planned and carried out their own activities for women (and it seems children) and met and coordinated with the male councils on an egalitarian basis? What if women blessed women and men blessed men, had their own monies, and women confessed to women and men to men? Isn’t that a bit how the temple works? Women would have equal representation and power when meeting with male councils–or would that increase that odds of that happening?

  70. Not sure that would be better, to be honest. But the RS certainly has seen much greater independence in the past as to its own leadership and internal “presiding” than at the present time. Correlation, it would seem, has rendered many functions of Church life quite anemic compared to past vitality, even though it was certainly necessary in its general contours for purposes of global organizational management. But some of the Correlation “creep” that occurred after the principle’s introduction arguably weren’t necessary and went too far, weakening some of the previous strengths of the Mormon life.

  71. John F,
    Per male involvement with offspring, not sure. An increase in migration by males from their families make them less involved with their children. So I think male parental involvement, at least on that front, is decreasing among some segments of the world population, and increasing mostly for the relatively privileged.

  72. The Other Clark says:

    Someone once mentioned that men preside in the family like the king presides over England. That is, in past generations, it meant real authority, but has been watered down over time to a largely ceremonial post. For the Church to fully resolve this issue it would require, among other things, a new temple liturgy. Elder Ballard’s landmark book “Counseling Within Our Councils” states that husbands preside in families like bishops preside in the ward, which suggests that he has final say.

    Also, for Margaret OH @12:27 ” List of Words That the Church Defines Completely Differently from the Dictionary, Ranked”

    Virtue
    Modesty
    Quorum
    Ward
    Preside
    Hearken
    Cleave

  73. I tend to think the RS was stronger before because of more independence from male presiders. They gave blessings, planned budgets, collected money, spent money, ran a magazine, all without priesthood micro-management.

  74. For the most part, ‘preside’ is the real deal- ‘equal’ is a smoke screen. That being said, there are “equal” and “preside” camps. Elder Renlund, Kimball, and President Hinckley- were/are in the “equal” camp, Elder Packer, President Monson, and well . . . most every one else is in the “preside” camp.

  75. Of course, in a marriage, I don’t think that independence would be a good thing.

  76. Other Clark, don’t overreach your Ranking authority.

  77. Also, I think women and men who support the preside model do have somewhat indpeendent functions in the home, ie Michelle explains this is in this thread. They are functioning independently to some degree–Michelle expecting her husband to do the care research, her husband deciding what money to save–etc. However this isn’t how preside currently seems to work in the church, ie bishops must approve RS activities and reading materials for book groups etc.

  78. The Other Clark says:

    Scripturally, all references indicate that men preside and women submit, from Gen 2:18 (woman to be a help to man) through Gen 3:16 (“thy husband…shall rule over thee”) into the New Testament Eph 5:22 (“Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands”) the Book of Mormon, the D&C and P of GP and into the temple.

    So while the “equal partners” bit sounds appealing to us in today’s world, it is difficult to justify scripturally. I’m all for egalitarianism, and that’s how my marriage works, but it’s a tough position to back scripturally, and perhaps this is why we get the convoluted “preside-means-equal-partners” rhetoric.

    There’s an additional difficulty in that the Church is growing most quickly in patriarchal cultures (Phillipines, Latin America, Africa) and is desperate for male converts (for presiderers in church meetings, etc). So teaching a marriage model appropriate for the U.S. and Europe, while remaining appealing to these other areas creates difficulties.

  79. The Other Clark,

    I presume you mean, “while remaining appealing the male populations, of these areas…”

  80. to the

  81. Preside over my wife? That’s ridiculous. We love each other and we’re friends.

  82. John F, way back up there, that women are not supposed to be referred to as “President” is going to be news to my Bishop and Stake President, who always refer to the female auxiliary leaders by their titles in meetings. Also, EmJen, whenever a member of the Stake RS Presidency visits my ward, I mention that she is presiding and have instructed my counselors to do the same. I didn’t realize I was in violation of some norm by doing so. None of us sits at the front of the room, though. Well, one or more of us usually ends up on the front row because we are also either conducting, playing piano, or leading the singing, but we don’t go up in front and sit there facing the other women.

  83. That is truly wonderful, Villate. Thanks for providing that data point. It’s so encouraging to see that some are rising above ingrained cultural understandings and expectations in favor of the greater good.

  84. Kyle, such a great, succinct, and true way to encapsulate the issue.

  85. You should just close the thread and be done with it. Hurry.

  86. No, because I want John C to answer my question. Is there anyway to logically justify leaving preside (meaning men over women) in the church while removing it from the family structure?

  87. “Gen 2:18 (woman to be a help to man)” Yeah, that does not mean what you think it means.

  88. I feel fortunate to have a very compassionate and thoughtful Bishop. He is an excellent example of a priesthood leader and a leader in general. The Stake President is pretty good too. :)

  89. Josh Smith says:

    Is there anyway to logically justify leaving preside (meaning men over women) in the church while removing it from the family structure?

    Yes. It depends on the definition of “preside.”

  90. The Other Clark says:

    I’m just saying that the scriptures are devoid of reciprocal passages (women to “rule over” men; husbands to be subject to wives): It can be argued, but the argument isn’t buttressed Biblically. Which is why the clarity of modern revelation would be greatly appreciated. FWIW, the PotF uses both (“preside” and “equal partners”) so not much clarity there.

  91. John F.,

    Referring to the question of whether the RSP presides when the RS presidency meet, you wrote: “no Clark, she doesn’t, unfortunately. …”

    I refer you to Handbook 2, chapter 9, section 9.3.2 Ward Relief Society Presidency Meeting: “The president (by which they clearly mean the RSP) presides at the meeting and conducts it.”

    FWIW,
    Zil

  92. Good Zil! That’s great news! A great change!

  93. Hi guys,
    I had a last minute dental appointment. So, I’ve been following the thread, but am only now getting around to commenting. As a result, we’ll deal with your comments in groups:

    Folks who like speculating regarding which of the Quorum of the Twelve believe what about equality in marriage:
    I’ve yet to encounter a member of the Twelve since the era of McKay who believed that men should unequivocally run households or insist upon the final word. I stand by my assessment above. They believe that the problem with ’50s era gender dynamics is bad apples who take advantage of the system, rather than the system. It’s like leadership roulette, but with husbands. So, the solution to them is the improve men, not to retool the system.

    Folks who like trying to derive gender roles from the Bible:
    Go nuts, I suppose, but remember that when the Bible remembers women at all, it is as likely to condemn them as anything else. The Bible treats women as property mostly, mothers occasionally, actual people rarely. It is a product of a long dead culture and good riddance to that aspect of it. There’s a lot of good there, but it is rare to find it in anything it has to say about women.

    Folks who feel like critiquing “presiding” in ecclesiastical settings:
    It’s not really relevant to this thread. Sorting out whatever they want “presiding” to mean in family is a sufficient problem for one blog thread. I know that Paul says the husband is to the wife like Christ is to the church, but that’s a ridiculous hyperbole from someone who very likely was never married. In any case, the Brethren disavow comparisons between church governance and family dynamics and so does D&C 121, so that horse don’t run. That said, I’m an actual, passive, not-terribly vocal member of Ordain Women, so I’d be happy for reform in how the church deals with gender roles, gender dynamics, and how church hierarchy interacts with both. But I still think it falls outside the scope of this. M Miles, you may be right that reform in one is impossible without reform in the other. It seems like that type of reform is what the Brethren are trying right now. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

    I’m going to bed now. Ya’ll behave yourselves overnight.

  94. Remember Men: your presider duties include planning family vacations (via Elder Perry GC 10/14). I literally laughed out loud at that one. My husband sucks at presiding, then. Oh and to the lady whose husband does the finances: I’m the accountant, financial analyst, researcher, etc. Pffft.

    All you need to do is reshare chicken patriarchy and the exponent piece indefinitely to expose the insanity (which I do). Equal partners with a presider: It’s bollocks.

  95. I have a sense that (some) people think the opposite of “man presides” is equal or unanimous or agreed in all things. That’s not how real world partnerships work. There’s always a division of duties and responsibilities. On the flip side, there’s always an imbalance of power that would make ‘unanimity’ not an absolute but a negotiation. In my view the opposite of “man presides” is “we decide”, i.e., husband and wife enter the relationship without predetermined or externally dictated roles (including the external role that the man decides the roles), and make their own choices about how to work their partnership, including (for example) how static or fluid those choices will be.
    A natural consequence is that there will almost always be areas where the wife makes the decision. Where she tells him what to do. Where she ‘presides’ over him. That’s a good thing, in my opinion. Also unavoidable.
    But if “she tells him” horrifies you, I suggest that the only way to avoid that horror is to enshrine the man as presider.

  96. Left Field says:

    I’ve said this somewhere before, but I don’t really go along with the idea that outside the church, “preside” means something about being the dude who decides everything.

    In a deliberative body, the presiding officer by rule or custom, often doesn’t even vote or participate in debate. Even if the president does vote or speak on an issue, it is on an equal basis with other members of the assembly.

    What the presiding officer does is keep the meeting running smoothly. The president calls on speakers, makes sure the votes are properly counted, and bangs the gavel when needed. (Okay, the gavel thing is pretty cool.) But the president doesn’t have authority to unilaterally decide the substantive issues before the assembly. The presiding officer does make decisions on such weighty matters as whether to recess for lunch before or after Senator Jones has her ten minutes to speak.

    If presiding in the family just means banging the gavel and ensuring a smoothly-running family meeting in which decisions are made as equal partners, then that’s about as benign as it comes. And if that’s what it means to preside in the family, then I don’t think we have a definition any different than what everyone else uses.

    On the other hand, we still have to wonder what’s so important about assigning the adult with the Y chromosome to conduct the meeting. Couldn’t Mom do it, say on even-numbered days? Or every day? What if Mom and Dad conduct business jointly? Or whatever? Why does a family have to have formally-run meetings anyway? Can’t Mom and Dad and the kids just get together and talk about things without invoking Robert’s Rules of Order?

  97. Clark Goble says:

    Christian, I suspect most contemporary marriage simply discuss things, let people do what they are best at and reach consensus. Those that don’t that have to appeal to some sort of trump of authority are (IMO) unhappy relationships. I’ve no idea if that was so decades ago. My sense is that men in the past simply didn’t listen sufficiently to their partners and were more likely to buy into spheres of influence. (Men do yard work and house repairs, women clean house, make meals, and take care of kids) This to me is simply not a good idea. Certainly on just common things like alternating getting up with sick kids in the middle of the night, changing diapers, giving baths and more. It seems like today (at least from discussions – I’ve no idea of aggregate statistics) men are simply more apt to shift off on duties with women and make sure their wives needs are being met better. (Which isn’t the same as doing all we could of course) To me the past just sounds dismal.

    Regardless of what we call it contemporary relationships just sound considerably better than what I hear about in the past regardless of the language used to describe it.

    I think Kristine is right that there are cultural expectations of what men and women are supposed to do. Especially by older generations. These sound silly to us because we recognize they don’t line up with peoples weaknesses. That said everyone should worry about things like family prayer, family vacations and so forth. It just seems better discussed clearly rather than just falling into some “one size fits all” cultural expectation.

    Other Clark I think Gen 3:16 and related scriptures are hard to make sense of. I don’t know what to make of it. Certainly the treatment of women through history is horrific. Even those who try and be charitable seem caught in cultural traditions that exclude and repress women. That just doesn’t seem Christlike. Yet the Church is always part and parcel of the culture the members find themselves in.

    Even if one buys a literalist reading of Gen 3:16 I can’t help but think that’s at best the fallen state and thereby describing the fallen society Adam and Eve were cast out into. (This makes a lot of sense if you buy the idea of pre-Adamites and being cast among these people from the garden) My best solution is that as we enter into the atonement through baptism and the baptism of the Holy Ghost that we move out of this worldly society back into Eden where this simply wasn’t true. (There’s actually a way to read the temple in this way too although I wouldn’t be comfortable going into the details here) In this case as we become Terrestrial (the world of the garden) or better yet Celestial (Adam and Eve before being put in the garden) our relationships improve and move away from the violence of this fallen world.

    I’d add that our goal ought to be to establish a celestial community here and now. (Like the City of Enoch) If this reading is correct, justifying certain acts by appealing to Gen 3:16 is trying to establish a telestial city rather than a celestial one like Enoch.

  98. “Women can speak up all they want but if men think they are “presiding” over them then the input really isn’t going to be valued as having equal merit.” John F, FTW.

    MargaretOH, I will draw your lexicographical attention to this: https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/07/24/mormon-jargon-2/

  99. Clark Goble says:

    John F, I fully agree. The way I reconcile all this (although this is pretty tentative and I am pretty confused) is that presiding is just about stewardship. So ultimately the husband has to give a stewardship account to whomever they have to relate it to. This isn’t really satisfying since you’d think a wife would have to too. It’d make zero sense (IMO) for her to give stewardship to her husband. But as a practical matter (and maybe this is tied to culture and will change as culture changes) it seems the point for concerns about the family is the father, not the mother. That’s why I think presiding matters to the church.

    While one could, as others in the thread did, put a negative spin on this. It does seem somewhat appropriate. (Think about if the relationship was inverted and the Bishop came to the wife as point on everything) It’s also possible that all this is tied to the fact men seem quite more willing to abandon their familial responsibilities. Perhaps this is a way culturally to try and get them to do what they ought already be doing on their own. I recognize why many don’t like that whole “men suck, let’s try and make them be responsible” scenario. I have troubles with it too. Yet looking around at even our wealthy supposedly educated and egalitarian country it seems like men aren’t being good fathers or husbands. Maybe just getting them to be good on a celestial level is a step to getting them to then make the leap to a more celestial relationship. I don’t know. I hope that’s not the case.

  100. Hearkening back to earlier comments debating the merits of egalitarian vs patriarchal family structures: I am a nurse and when we studied family dynamics in nursing school, I learned that egalitarian families had less dysfunction than authoritarian families. This is evidence based; backed by research. Kids from egalitarian families in general turn out better, too.

  101. “it seems like men aren’t being good fathers or husbands” Ya think it might have something to do with the expectation that they alone have to provide in a down economy?

  102. During a Q&A last week, Elder Cook was asked what it meant to preside in a relationship of equals. His response was that in his marriage sometimes one of them presides and sometimes the other does, depending on the task. He also provided the example of church leadership meetings where the president of the church, as presiding authority, has the task of ensuring that all decisions are made unanimously or not at all. He said multiple times that previous generations did a poor job of handling marriage dynamics but the younger generation can do better.

    Honestly the way it came across to me was that his message was to ignore the word “preside” completely and focus on “equals,” but he couldn’t bring himself to say that because it was outside his prerogative. But maybe that’s just because that’s what I wanted to hear.

  103. If you have never read “Strengthening the Patriarchal Order in the Home” from the Ensign, please do. It was written in the 70s, and it’s horrid, but it clearly lays out the idealogy of presiding.

  104. Gah! I believe I have seen that before. Couldn’t bring myself to read beyond the first few paragraphs this time around. The 1970s were horrible, horrible, horrible so far as attitudes to women went, in the wider western world too.
    In the back of my mind I remember a discussion/debate I once had with my sister, probably in the late 80s. I don’t recall the details. But I do recall her somewhat concerned response – “but what about the patriarchal order?” My current response to that question is unprintable, and otherwise hard to articulate.

  105. Hedgie, the 90s were pretty bad, too.

  106. Any review of the 1973 ensign article would be incomplete without also looking at the 2013 article by Val Hudson. I don’t agree with her on everything, but our discourse has clearly improved over 40 years.

    https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/04/equal-partnership-in-marriage?lang=eng

  107. Can’t speak for north America, but I think the 90s were better here; nothing like the 70s for out and out sexism. Sexist humour was rampant on TV. Some time during the mid to late 90s I was required to search through the back issues of the trade magazine “Garage Forecourt” as part of a patent validity search. The 70s magazines were horrible. Scantily clad women draped over cars, engines and equipment every other page it seemed like. Women were objects for the gratification of men. By the mid 80s and into the 90s the women were pictured wearing lab coats and glasses, holding clip boards. The difference was stark.

  108. I feel I recall hearing talks in general conference referring to husband and wife as co-presidents. Seems like a tacit admission that husband and wife both preside.

    As a side note, to my thinking even if a man were given the initial stewardship of preside, provide, and protect as a starting point, and the women the initial stewardship of nurturing, it would seem the injunction to become one and to even be as one flesh insinuates the development and appropriation of each respective stewardship that the two become one body in attribute, capability, and government. If we’re looking for scriptural reconciliation, that’s how I’d personally go about it, and wouldn’t it seem the quicker to oneness, the quicker to the higher law, the better? That’s how I feel.

  109. *appropriation is probably the wrong word, more like adoption/assimilation/incorportation

  110. Dog Pface says:

    Don’t forget to include ‘Translate’ in the re-defined list.

  111. Hedgehog, I was thinking more for Mormon Feminists in the early 90s. Didn’t work out well.

  112. Related to Q’s comment way back there: “The fact that every single church meeting seems to begin with a statement of who is presiding seems to confirm the institution’s particular obsession with the concept of presiding.”

    I am curious and would like to take a poll on this… Three or four years ago the bishopric started making this statement at the beginning of sacrament meeting, often adding, “and he has asked me to conduct”–a la general conference. A new bishop was called a couple of months ago and they also always say this.

    I am interested in whether this unnecessary pomp is coming from SLC/handbook, or just a desire on their part to sound more officious?

    Also to Vilate regarding what she said about the Stake RS President always presiding when she visits a ward RS meeting. Wrong. The stake auxiliary presidents have no authority over the ward auxiliaries. If they want something changed locally they must do it informally via counsel, or up through the SP and back down through the bishop. End of pedantry.

  113. I wish we could adopt the Baha’i view referred to by Blair Van Dyke on Patheos.com.

    Baha’i embrace the view that the relationship between a man and woman is like the wings of a bird. One wing represents the woman and the other represents the man. In order for the bird to fly effectively there must be equality in strength and unity in motion between the two wings—men and women. In my mind, this precept and core value of the Baha’i evokes holy envy in my mind. Perhaps it evokes the same for you.

  114. Hmmmn. Then what would be a word to describe that if men have the priesthood, they are the conduit through which priesthood power flows into the home? I think it is great that men can use their priesthood to serve other family members, following in the footsteps of Christ who used his power always to serve others, never for his own benefit. What is a word to say that?

    To me, presiding has nothing to do with trump cards or making decisions. As Left Field pointed out, there are various definitions for “preside,” even out in the world.

    The PotF makes it clear that mom, not dad, is primarily responsible for the nurturing of the children, so it would seem that she should have the “final say” if the couple ever disagrees about those aspects. But that doesn’t mean she presides.

  115. Go ahead, Pete. Nothing’s stopping you from adopting that.

    I suspect that the “X presides and has asked me to conduct” is just mimicry. Sort of like in the bad old days when the whole church had to sing the last verse of “Come, Come Ye Saints” pianissimo until we got to our lives being spared again. We were all just following Brother Richard Condie’s example, without thinking.

    I’m with fbisti in not favoring “unnecessary pomp.” Which is why I think calling auxiliary presidents “President X” instead of “Brother” or “Sister” is a bad move. One we kill that awful idea, the next step would be to start calling bishops and branch presidents and stake presidents “brother” instead of hanging some title on them.

    Finally, I’m amazed at the breadth of experience that many commenters have, with their extraordinary understanding of the dynamics of husband-wife interaction in the days before they were born. Or did you read Paul’s letters (or Brent Barlow’s Ensign article) and just assume that they must have explained how things really were in the bad old days before those bad old people’s children or grandchildren came along and figured everything out and made the world a better place, etc., etc.?

  116. eponymous says:

    fbisti I wouldn’t draw any significant conclusions about how Ward and Stake meetings proceed with regards to the usage of that language.

    As one who has had to stand at the podium for many years I’ll state that I found myself watching how others conducted a meeting and looking to find the “proper” way of doing so. There is a great deal of “Follow the Prophet” going on where language is modeled based on what is seen at General Conference and by other experienced leaders.

    The only reason I ever called it out was because, as someone else said, it makes things easier for the Deacons in Sacrament meeting. There’s a respect aspect of recognizing who has oversight for the meeting but more than anything it’s a cultural effort.

  117. Josh Smith says:

    “Preside” is a stupid-ass way to think about married life in 2015. We should look to other faith traditions to think about marriage decision making and gender roles.

    –Pete @ 9:07

    Couldn’t agree more, Pete. +1

  118. Thanks Left field.

    Just last week the attorney in my office emailed me to ask who presided in a public hearing for proposed regulation changes held via telephone. He needed to include the information in the hearing records. I had to go ask around because the person presiding was not identified at the hearing itself. I knew it wasn’t me but there were two other women that it could have been.

  119. Well done post that briefly and bluntly restates the presiding problem, and this is a stellar comment thread (I read every one, and it took a while) that adds much to the discussion, with few (hardly any) goofball tangents. There’s one thing that is always in the back of my mind during a discussion of the inequality of men presiding in a family setting, that I haven’t seen mentioned. The influence of our past practice of polygamy and our ongoing belief in polygamy adds quite a bit of weight to the choice (by who? by God? or us?) of which of the sexes is elevated to the role of presider. Because our polygamy became an unspoken thing during the 20th century, yet still exists as a reality in our doctrine, it’s never discussed thoroughly enough to be examined, it’s a slippery task to determine what it does to the issues in this discussion. But it’s there as a heavy weight, quietly lurking and influencing.

  120. I noticed that there is another Q posting so I changed to Q2. Anyway, I think MDearest is on to something about polygamy and men presiding. I don’t think there can be equal partners or co-presidents in a polygamous relationship. Men have to preside to keep them all in line. Quietly lurking and influencing indeed.

  121. Yes, I agree that our current cultural interpretation of “preside” stems pretty directly from polygamy. The Church leaders who wrote the playbook on what “preside” means for us in the mid to late twentieth century knew this but understandably kept it an invisible premise in their arguments.

  122. I think polygamy has had less of an effect since they started allowing all women to be sealed to all men. Granted all have to be dead (let God sort it out), but it’s a move away from a strictly patriarchal afterlife that has grown to include more lenience in allowing women to be unsealed and will likely move to allowing women to be sealed to more than one man when not all are dead in the near future.

  123. Frank,
    I think that allowing women to be sealed to more than one man after they die isn’t necessarily a move away from a strictly patriarchal afterlife. The assumption for multiple sealings for women is that we seal everyone and let God sort out who the woman should actually be sealed to. The assumption for multiple sealings for men is that there is no need to sort it out later. They will just all be sealed to him.

  124. EBK, it probably is the rationale of some, but there’s no other reason for a shift in policy, since they could have stayed with just one sealing, still letting God sort it out. If the patriarchy was strict, she’s be sealed to the first, with no second husband ever. It opens up the idea that not all sealings will be honored, even if all are righteous, which is consistent with the policy of easy divorce in the 19th century church.

  125. Until D&C 132 is de-canonized and the mistake of polygamy is addressed and acknowledged, women will never be equal in this church. Never.

  126. Women will never be equal in the church or in their Mormon marriage.

  127. I did not wade thru all the comments but imho ‘presiding’ is another symptom of systemic inequality in the LDS church — and at home. A Cool Dude = a wielder of benevolent sexism, wherein a man can, and even possibly should, listen to a woman: and as long as he does, even though he then acts in whatever way he chooses, she has perceived power and equality. But if he should choose not to listen to her, then she will realize that, as it has been all along, she has no actual power or equality.

    Because the church is made up, mostly, of Cool Dudes, women think they are equal and have power. But most LDS women don’t want to, or won’t, see that they have no systemic power or equality, and as long as benevolent presiding is taught, they never will.

  128. The church can put as many women as they want on various church councils, but until husbands have to hearken to their wives via temple covenant, nothing will change. If men think they are excluded BY GOD from listening to their own wives, why in the world would they feel obligated to listen to any other woman even if she is a member of a council. Men have the luxur of feigning interest and consideration, then they can do whatever they want. Like it has always been.

  129. SisterZ,I don’t interpret the temple covenant as _excluding_ husbands from listening to their wives, but I agree that having each side hearken to the other would be wonderful and what we need.

  130. Frank, the multiple sealing policy is also essential if you want children sealed to their biological parents. In some of my family’s temple work done early last century, there was a policy where only the first spouse could be sealed to someone. Subsequent spouses were not to be sealed. Given how often people died and remarried, it meant children of later marriages were left out in the cold. At one point they tried to solve it by sealing all children of later marriages to the initial couple, but luckily they’ve eliminated that headache.

    I grew up thinking the presiding officer referred to the person with the highest ranking priesthood office, so yes, a deacon technically outranked any of the women in the room. Prayers and FHE are church-related, so it made sense to me that church offices mattered in those capacities. Given the reputation of having educated and outspoken women in my family (going back multiple generations), it is a little curious how that knee-jerk deference to the patriarchal order has been maintained. I’ve witnessed it in my husband’s side as well. The women are very strong, very opinionated capable women who don’t take gruff from anyone (including their husbands), yet they’ll still give a nod to the patriarchal order when it comes to formalities.