A Quick Query About the Proclamation on the Family

Today, at an early morning priesthood training meeting, our stake president made reference to the Proclamation on the Family, particularly the following brief section:

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

He referenced this while telling a story–which I’m pretty certain, on the basis of a couple of details he mentioned, wasn’t entirely apocryphal–about a family where the husband, insisting to his wife that they need to be “equal partners,” pushed and pushed her to apply for a better-paying job that she didn’t really want. Our SP described this as a complete misreading of the Proclamation. Which got me thinking about how he understood the “individual adaptation” part of this passage as well.

Shameless person that I am, I went up and asked when I saw him at another meeting earlier today. Very simply, I wanted to know: what if you’re not talking about someone exercising unrighteous dominion over their partner, much less death or disability? What if, instead, you’re talking about a family where the wife’s education and life experiences have led her to have such skills and earning potential that it makes perfect sense for her to take on the “responsibility to provide the necessities of life” for the family, and the husband quite willingly accepts “primary responsibility for the nurture of their children”? Could such a situation be compatible with the Proclamation?

The SP and I are friends (mostly formed from years at Girls Camp), so I felt comfortable insisting that he not give me his pastoral response, just what he intellectually thinks the text allows and what it doesn’t. He mulled it for a moment, then said–as I kind of expected he would–that he’s pretty certain, however much adaptation you allow, you still probably can’t get around the idea that by “necessities of life” the Proclamation means material necessities: in other words, resources and income. So he admitted that, on his reading of the Proclamation, he thinks families where the mother is the primary or sole breadwinner and the father the primary or sole caregiver–even if equally decided upon by the couple–are also in violation of what the document calls for. But, he hurriedly added, “If such a family came to me for a temple recommend, I’d still give it to them.”

As a matter of doctrine, I don’t take the Proclamation at all seriously, for a lot of different reasons. But simply as a influential text nearly 25 years old, I wonder about how it is read in our faith community. So, a question for anyone out there who cares to respond: do you think the situation I described above can actually be accommodated within the language of the Proclamation? Or do you agree with my stake president’s reading of the text? PLEASE NOTE: this is NOT asking whether you agree with those choices themselves, or whether you agree with any other implications association with the Proclamation, or whether you agree with its existence. I just want to get a feel for the By Common Consent room: is the language of the Proclamation, in your opinion, capacious enough to include faithful families that freely choose to invert the document’s obvious implication when it comes to the gender basis of acting as a family’s breadwinner and/or caregiver, or not? Have at it, everyone.


  1. Well, “other circumstances” *could* include “wife has significantly more earning potential” but I don’t think think the powers that be meant it to.

  2. “…or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation” is the key here. I think a lot of things could fall under the heading of “other circumstances,” and the situation you bring up could definitely fall under that. A father who insists on being the breadwinner when his wife would clearly be a better one (and would like to work) is in my opinion in violation of the Proclamation, not doing what’s needed to provide the best for his family.

  3. “If such a family came to me for a temple recommend, I’d still give it to them.”

    Gee, thanks. Glad he’s not withholding a recommend for something totally outside the purview of the temple recommend interview.

    The text says “other circumstances” may necessitate individual adaptation. That’s pretty darn vague and therefore pretty darn flexible.

  4. It certainly was not in the intentions of the original authors.

  5. I personally think the Proclamation is garbage, precisely for this reason–it is overly prescriptive about gender roles and fits not allow for the broad application of personal agency. Putting aside the damage this has done to LDS woman limited in the exploration of their full potential, I wonder how many men have felt trapped, anxious, and unfulfilled by these cultural expectations.

  6. Why can’t the responsibility to provide the necessities of life include the ability to jointly agree to delegate that responsibility to the wife? “Responsible for” doesn’t necessarily mean you are the one who had to physically do it, it only implies stewardship. The individual adaptation clause is entirely unnecessary.

  7. Agree that the language is squishy enough to allow for that scenario.

    But I’ve never seen it happen. What I -have- seen is Mom doing most (or all) of both.

  8. (Wearing my lawyer hat). The Stake President is correct. The key phrase is “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” The Proclamation does not say that couples are ‘equal partners’ – period. Equality is qualified within the ‘sacred responsibilities’ that give men and women separate focuses, if not outright roles. So even if the couple agrees on redefining its roles, it is a violation of the Proclamation for them to do so outside of unusual and temporary circumstances such as disability or death. And even in those circumstances they may only be able to rearrange roles if extended family cannot help, and the rearrangement may only happen until the circumstances can be rectified.

    (Wearing my culture hat). Times are changing. Just look at how the relationship between husbands and wives have changed in the temple ceremony. Based on my experience living throughout the US, I believe that the situation you describe – wife is primary bread winner / husband is primary nurturer – would be frowned up on by a small (and usually silent) minority in most wards, but would be embraced by the ward leadership and most of the membership, at least so long as the family is otherwise functioning within the church’s expectations.

  9. On a related note, I’d be curious to know your SP’s view on the situation where a wife “pushed and pushed her [husband] to apply for a better-paying job that [he] didn’t really want.” For me, the 800-lb gorilla in the Proclamation room is whether the husband is seen to preside over his wife because he presides over the family. I suspect that your SP (and those of older generations) would not feel offended by a wife pushing her husband, simply because the wife is not seen to have the same level of influence. Without the priesthood, she’s not really capable of committing unrighteous dominion. I don’t agree with that approach, of course, but it’s the sense I get from older generations. And of course, the Proclamation was written by older generations (of men).

    FWIW, I used to believe it was only a matter of time before the Proclamation was canonized. But after the temple ceremony changes, I do not believe it likely now.

  10. Remember in school when teachers would say “don’t overthink it”? Unfortunately, I do *not* think that a plain reading the of the language is meant to be interpreted to encompass your scenario. That is the question you asked.

    Because I can’t resist, I absolutely *do* think that a family knows what is best for their family in the here and now and the eternal scheme of things and should not be bound by the Proclamation to any extent whatsoever.

  11. My next question to the SP would have been “so what?” What happens if a church member chooses something that is “in violation” of or “incompatible” with the Proclamation? I think that is another question that has never been answered by the leadership of the church. What is the role of the Proclamation? Advice? Doctrine? Procedures? I’m glad that this SP is not withholding temple recommends from anyone over this, but that just shows that no is really sure what to do with the guidance in the proclamation.

  12. Ryan Mullen says:

    Yes, “other circumstances” absolutely covers cases of un(der)employment of one spouse or locations where the cost of living exceeds one person’s income. Strictly speaking, “other” covers any circumstances besides death and disability.The authors may not have intended such, but I doubt we use most of our scripture (or quasi-scripture) as the authors intended. Given that we believe in on-going revelation, the current FP/Q12 can amend the document if they really feel it needs it. Until they do, I will continue to utilize the “other circumstances” clause to exercise maximum compassion for families in different circumstances than my own.

    Rebecca J, “Gee, thanks. Glad he’s not withholding a recommend for something totally outside the purview of the temple recommend interview.” Spot. On.

  13. Responsibility can be delegated.

    I think most people would agree that a bishop is responsible for the members of his ward especially spiritually. But that doesn’t mean he needs to literally do all the teaching himself and others things that go along with that for all the members of the ward. He delegates that to others including Sunday School teachers.

    It is the same here. While a father may be responsible for providing the necessities of life, but that doesn’t mean that he has to be the one earning every dollar.

    We are also counseled to stay out of debt and to live providently.

  14. Michinita says:

    I personally would like to pash back on this definition of “nurture.” As a woman I feel much less trapped in my gender role when I discard the idea that “nurture” means “provide childcare” and define it as “help something to grow.” I can help my children to grow by cooking and cleaning and bathing, or I can help my children to grow by providing an example of a woman who develops and uses her gifts, and providing opportunities for them to do likewise. If we are to agree that this is an inspired document, I choose to believe that the words were chosen with care. Thankfully the words are not “mothers are primarily responsible for childcare.”

    So I guess, to answer this question, yes. I think that family arrangement is supported by the proclamation. In more than one way. Besides, how better to protect than to actually be there?

  15. Wondering says:

    Some I know wish Wendy Nelson would do more nurturing of her step children and grandchildren (great grandchildren?) and less talking to Church members and the world as if she shared her husband’s calling. (Most of those I’ve heard that from would be very glad to hear much more from those women who have been called to general positions in the Relief Society, YW or Primary.) I wonder how the Nelsons fit her activity into the Proclamation?

  16. If you are straight married with children member of the church who reads the Proclamation, you will proclaim (ha) that it teaches equality between the sexes with enough wiggle room to fit however you want it to fit your particular situation.

    And I’d argue that even since it was first read over the pulpit, that’s how it’s been seen by most members as close readings aren’t really what we do in this church when it comes to our scripture.

  17. Growing up, I always figured that “other circumstances” would have to be something equally as serious as death or disability. I think you can make the argument for a more relaxed view, but, like others have commented, I really don’t think that’s the intent.

    One thing that did jump out at me just now is how “fathers are responsible” but “mothers are PRIMARILY responsible.” Does that mean that fathers MUST be providers (they have no secondary responsibilities)? Is it saying mothers are more responsible for nurturing than fathers, or is it saying that their primary responsibility is in the home, but hey, it’s okay to have a secondary job? Or…?

  18. Deborah Christensen says:

    “is the language of the Proclamation, in your opinion, capacious enough to include faithful families that freely choose to invert the document’s obvious implication when it comes to the gender basis of acting as a family’s breadwinner and/or caregiver, or not?”

    No. The Proclamation does say that there are “individual circumstances that necessitation…adaptation” However the message I’ve heard from General Conference and the various wards i’ve been in say that those situations don’t really exist. Just like a woman becoming pregnant from rape is so unlikely that there is no need for abortion.

    (Keep in mind that I think that part of the Proclamation is culture, not doctrine, and I’m pro-choice, I’ve participated in 3 abortions as a nurse. I think there is some doctrine and a lot of culture in the proclamation)

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m on Team Ryan/Rebecca. There are tremendous ambiguities in the document, and if the scriveners (IE the Brethren) didn’t want those ambiguities to be present they should have fixed the language. This document was drafted very carefully (somewhere in the COB there is a big file cabinet of documentation purporting to support every proposition in the document). DHO was heavily involved in this, certainly one of the most prestigious attorneys in the history of the Church, so I don’t think one can argue that the ambiguities weren’t intentional but just sloppy drafting. Take the infamous chicken patriarchy problem: do fathers preside over their families or are fathers and mothers equal partners? Apparently the intended answer is simply “yes,” which then cedes to such fathers and mothers the ability to decide for themselves how that will be applied in their family. Or take “disability, death, or other circumstances.” One could apply eiusdem generis and claim the other circumstances have to be “of the same type” as disability or death. Well, does a father being underemployed count or doesn’t it? The church left it intentionally ambiguous, so they don’t get to come back later and make claims about what they “really” meant. If they wanted to preserve that flexibility they should have put this stuff in the Handbook, which can be changed at will, and not enshrined it in a quasi-canonical document that will probably be formally canonized one day.

  20. Emily, for what it is worth I read that in the kind of the opposite way. I think the ideal family, per the proclamation, has mother and father both nurturing the children but only dad working outside of the home. So mom is primarily, but not solely, responsible for nurture. The same cannot be said for dad and bringing in material goods.

    As a side note, I’m in nursery right now with three other women. Every one of us is a working mom. I think the proclamation is becoming less and less relevant as times change.

  21. Kristine says:

    This is an exercise that mostly tells us about how adept people are at interpreting texts and imputing authorial intent to align with their prior convictions.

    Those paragraphs are a poststructuralist’s dream text. They can mean anything you want them to. All the guesses here about the intent of whoever drafted the document are exactly that–guesses–unless and until someone comes clean about the origins of the Proclamation, which I don’t think will ever happen.

  22. Mark Brown says:

    I personally know two stake presidents who are/were stay-at-home fathers during their terms of service.

  23. If you’re going to have some wives expecting their husbands to cook, clean and help more with the kids, I guess you’re going to all have some husbands asking wives to earn more and maybe mow the lawn half the time, too.

  24. Thanks everyone; the comments have been wonderful. There seems to a pretty clear divide between those who read the Proclamation as a carefully designed set of intentionally ambiguous statements, allowing for all sorts of interpretation within the bounds of the text, and those who read the Proclamation as a plain and uncomplicated set of obvious presumptions, greatly limiting what someone could assume the document’s “authority” for doing. I suppose the fact that there is a divide itself becomes evidence in support of the second group…but maybe not. Anyway, fascinating.

  25. My reading of the Proclamation is that fathers (so I guess this doesn’t apply until children are in the mix) are the ones to provide temporal necessities, and mothers are to provide spiritual/emotional nourishment. The spheres aren’t mutually exclusive, and each spouse is to help out the other (because they’re equal partners). So by having the husband force the wife to take on additional workload – even under the guise of the equal partners clause – is unrighteous dominion, and is abusing the language of the Proclamation. It says that the couple are equal partners, not necessarily that they’re equally responsible for all things in the relationship, perfectly symmetrical. The only way I could see it not being abusive of the equal clause, is if the husband was also primarily providing for the spiritual nurturing of the children, and felt that an increase of income would even things out. But I suspect that that wasn’t case here. In part because the providing aspect isn’t limited to the income side of things, but also the budgeting and priorities. You can have lots of income, but if you waste it, you’re still not providing for the necessities of life for your children.
    The Proclamation didn’t start out listing out all things that parents are responsible for and then said “Divide equally among both partners”; it does lay out some specific for each gender before emphasizing equality among the partners.
    While I’ve never thought that not following the Proclamation would endanger a temple recommend, it does make me think about the question about your relationship with members of your family. I’ve always found that question to be vague. Compared to every other question, I can’t think of a lesson that went over “These are actions you could take in your relationship with family members which are against church policy.” But abusing the language of the Proclamation might fall into that category.

  26. Loursat says:

    My two cents’ worth of speculation about the drafters’ intent. (Probably not even worth two cents. But, as Kristine points out, we don’t have a detailed historical record of how the proclamation was developed.)

    Church leaders created the proclamation in order to express a substantive theological basis for opposing same-sex marriage. As they pondered this problem, they gravitated toward a statement about gender roles, since they saw gender as the key element distinguishing same-sex marriage. From there, it made sense to try for a more general statement about families; we conceive of our teachings about families as religiously distinctive, and it must have seemed like a natural fit.

    The crucial thing about this sequence of events is that the proclamation was formed out of a narrow legal/political concern about same-sex marriage, rather than an attempt to express coherently a much larger set of ideas about families, spousal relationships, parent-child relationships, and what may or may not be eternal about all of these things. The proclamation is therefore primarily a legal and political document. That’s not to say that its drafters deliberately slighted the theological elements of the document. It’s just that their attention and energy was not primarily on the religious and theological implications of what they were creating.

    What they produced expresses a vague ideal of the mid-20th-century white American middle-class nuclear family, slightly updated. It’s the “Leave It to Beaver” family, with a modest overlay of equality rhetoric that was minimally required by the time the 1990’s arrived. This concept of the ideal family turned out to be the best argument that any opponents of same-sex marriage ever formed. It always was a hopelessly weak argument as a political matter. Theologically, we’ve spent the last twenty years or so identifying the proclamation’s considerable weaknesses.

    Finally, then, to the question that Russell poses. I think the drafters of the proclamation understood at some level that their work would not hold up as a lasting statement of religious doctrine, and I certainly don’t think they intended it as a basis for hard rules about which job offers to accept. That’s why it contains a loophole like the bit about “other circumstances.” We must read the proclamation as aspirational to the degree that it is almost like a fairy tale. People who read the proclamation as a practical guide to life decisions are asking for trouble.

  27. In defense of the poor SP – I took his temple recommend comment more along the lines of – it’s not a sin, and certainly not actionable.

  28. I personally do believe that the Family Proclamation is divinely inspired, and as such, I don’t think it necessary to try to read the minds of those who wrote it, but will instead look at what it says. And to my best reading, what it says is that we should assume that fathers act as providers and mothers act as caretakers unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise, death and disability being two common reasons. I think any reason that is consistent with other gospel principles and with prayerful consideration is not only not in conflict with the Proclamation, but in perfect harmony with it. This harmony is especially true if having the mother work full time is creates a situation where both parents can fulfill their “sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”

  29. Loursat,

    I have seen no good evidence that the Proclamation was written primarily as a legal document. I know that’s a popular theory that gets batted about as though it is truth, but as I’ve dug into that question, I just don’t see the evidence that that’s the case.

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    A useful 2 cents’, Loursat, thanks.

  31. Max, I think your reading of my SP’s comment is accurate.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    Loursat, I had to chuckle at your Leave it to Beaver reference because, hand over heart, when I read this to comment on it I thought specifically of Ozzie and Harriet!

  33. Heather Harris Bergevin says:

    I personally feel that the coded language used is specific to how the stake president thinks of them.

    I also firmly believe that you can nurture your family by making sure it’s possible for them to have a home and education by working outside of the home, and that providing emotional and spiritual well being elements are just as critical to healthy brains and bodies as providing money. There are far more nuances in nurture and provide than the ones installed in our minds in 1952.

  34. Loursat says:

    Kevin, me too! Leave It to Beaver came to mind first as I wrote, but Ozzie and Harriet were close behind.

  35. I resist the idea of reading drafter’s intent into the document. (Contra Loursat, for one.) I find that there a lot of strong priors brought into that discussion—people see what they want to see.

    As for parsing the text, I think there is clear room to support the couple choosing for the wife—the higher potential earner—working for compensation. I would find it two ways:
    (A) In the prior paragraph, “PARENTS have a sacred duty . . . to provide for [their children’s] physical and spiritual needs.” Emphasis on parents plural.
    (B) Parsing the word responsible in “fathers are responsible to provide” as “see that it happens” rather than “do it themselves.” In a see that it happens mode, a couple cooperatively deciding so send the higher earner out to work makes good sense.

    Finally, there is a common reading of the Proclamation as a dogmatic absolute answers every question document. That so clearly doesn’t work with any number of happy successful families we all know that I believe the whole document should be read with an “in general” or “most of the time” overlay, even in places where it is not explicit.

  36. Two forthcoming bios of President Ezra Taft Benson may shed some light on the origins of the Proclamation—that’s all I’ll say about that but I’m pretty certain that it’s not an unfair reading to think that gay marriage played some role in thinking about such a document. As far as the deep ecology of the Proclamation, I say something about that in my forthcoming book on the King Follett sermon (that’s a ways off so I don’t feel bad about the self-reference).

  37. A Davies says:

    Since when is emotional labor and caregiving not part of the necessities of life? Seems like another example of degradation of the feminine, or what’s usually considered feminine labor.

  38. Elder Anderson taught in the last conference, “In my lifetime, we have seen a dramatic change in the world’s beliefs about many of the principles taught in the proclamation.” The role reversal is one being attacked in our day.
    After the most recent changes, the role of the husband and wife are now more clearly stated during the sealing ceremony than in the endowment.
    Although there will always be a few exceptions, too many people want the exception to become the rule. One solution is for the men to stay in school and receive a better education and profession; or marketable skill. Too many are not prepared to provide.
    I stick with the brethren and do not see the doctrine concerning the family changing. I, along with Leona, see too many wives worn out trying to provide and care for home and family.

  39. I really like the proclamation, and think those who decry it as outdated or sexist are seeing in through a very narrow lens (when they are learned they think they are wise.. and all that). I do think the proclamation provides the general rules and provides plenty of room for individual exceptions, and so I think your scenario if the husband and wife feel right about it in their individual circumstances would most definitely be justified within the purview of the document itself.

  40. I wish I could remember where I can across this idea, but it basically stated that for women in some parts of the world (like India), the Proclamation is well-loved by the women there bc it causes their husbands to be far more involved in home and family (both providing and nurturing) than they normally would be with normal cultural mores. Since I read that, I’ve tried to keep in mind that so much of the church’s standards/doctrines/statements/proclamations/whatever are for the whole world. What might seem demeaning to women in my culture (looking through my particular social lense), might actually be liberating and a blessing for a woman elsewhere.

  41. jaxjensen says:

    I read the Proc much like the SP.

  42. Faculty spouse says:

    Why a stake president would ever touch this can of worms is beyond me.

  43. For those who complained about the SP’s remark re not withholding a temple recommend, I think you’re being too critical. I think his comment was made with an understanding that there are those out there who are “out there” and would withhold a recommend. I also think he was sort of saying what someone above said: “So what?” What would he do about it? Nothing.

    This discussion brings to mind a remark made by, I believe, then Elder Oaks: (paraphrasing) “As leaders we teach general principles. The exceptions are between you and the Lord.”

  44. rcb1820 says:

    My reading is fathers should take responsibility for the well-being of the family, including recognizing when the it spouses are better equipped to provide materially for the family. The wife is primarily responsible for nurturing, including ensuring her husband is an active nurturer, especially if she is the primary breadwinner. The whole point is for parents to work together in a uniquely complementary fashion that provides for the material and nurturing needs of the family.

  45. Pokerface says:

    I would like to know more about the two Stake Presidents who were stay-at-home dads. I have lived on the East Coast and West Coast where members can be a little more liberal, but in all my years, I have never known a SP to make a conscious choice to stay home while his wife worked. I have known several wives of Stake Presidents to be the primary providers when their husbands have lost jobs, but their spouses were always looking to enter the workforce as soon as possible. I also know a Stake President who retired before his wife, but I have never encountered a SP who stayed home as a career choice and took care of the home, cooked the dinners and cared for the children. Maybe health was an issue, but caring for the home and children is difficult work. I would be interested in knowing more about the two Stake Presidents and where they lived.

  46. Women can’t take over as the provider in case of necessity unless they are educated and prepared ahead to do so. I see the Proc. as telling females they need to be skilled.

  47. This is sort of a religious application of the difference between textualism and originalism. The language is undoubtedly broad enough to allow this kind of individual adaptation. Those arguing for a more narrow reading are arguing that the language needs to be limited by the original purpose and intent of the document.

    I think there’s good reason to dispute that the purpose and intent actually require that reading, because I think the drafters of the document and the brethren knew that it would be unwise and could lead to all kinds of unintended consequences to speak authoritatively on something that was really tangential to the point of the document, which was really just to provide a convenient doctrinal basis for the church’s legal opposition to same sex marriage (that doctrinal basis already existed, but the proclamation put it into a convenient, recent document that was easy to refer to). Any decent lawyer knows that when you’re drafting a legal opinion it’s dangerous to make absolute statements, especially on tangential issues, and that it’s a good practice to leave any opinion open for known and unforeseen limitations and exceptions. The drafters and the brethren were doing that, IMO. I think their intent with the “equal partners” language was to recognize that no matter what ideals you hold to about gender roles, no good marriage can survive with a strict separation of duties by gender, a known limitation on strict gender roles. And their intent with the “death or disability” language was to recognize that there are known exceptions to the aspirational gender roles they were setting out. And I think their intent with the “other circumstances” language was to leave the door open to unforeseen limitations and exceptions so that exceptions/limitations would not be restricted just to “death, disability” or things like it. Otherwise, they would have said “other *similar* circumstances.”

    But in any case, it’s pretty clear, I think, that the text on the page allows for the kind of situation that the SP was criticizing, and that to support his argument you really need to go beyond the text on the page and make a purposivist argument about the “spirit” or “purpose” or “intent” of the drafters.

  48. The proclamation means what a plain reading of it would suggest—that men should earn the income and women should nurture the children.

    I’ve no doubt that many readers will be capable of such sophistry as to twist the simple meaning of the document to suit whatever they want it to, but the plain reading is in support of traditional families and gender roles.

  49. If one takes an “originalist” view of the Proclamation, that clause is directed to fathers and their duty as primary earners, except in extreme circumstances and I doubt that for the current leadership that would change enough to accommodate your scenario. Maybe in another generation or two.

  50. In my mind, those that “nurture” are those that shape the future. That’s a heavy duty. One that is much more important than careers or even (gasp) pursuing your heart’s desire.
    And it sucks a lot of the time.

  51. Unrelated…sort of…
    At stake conferences it’s a package deal with GA and his wife. Or Elder Apostle and his wife at a high profile ecumenical event, etc. Or he throws out the first pitch in L.A. and his wife is wearing the jersey also. It’s a good thing.

    One of the Q15 was my mission president but we were more afraid of his wife.

  52. Wondering says:

    Chet. Not at any stake conference I’ve attended in the last 6 decades. But, regardless, why is what you report a good thing?

  53. Angela C says:

    Yes it’s capacious enough to handle such a family arrangement. I’ve lived that arrangement, and the church didn’t refuse my tithing checks once.

    The fact that any SP thinks it’s any of his business how couples choose to support their families takes a lot of nerve. If he or any other leader thinks they can do it better, pick up a dish and a diaper and get to it. Inserting people from outside of the marriage into the marital decision making process can’t have been anyone’s intention.

    As for strict gender roles that prevent couples from making the right decision for their family, the church can view something as “ideal” (not a view I share), but it cannot control the fact that we live in a dual earner economy. Gone are the days (and good riddance) when it was perfectly legal to promote a man or pay him more because he had a family to support. When sex discrimination became illegal (even though it’s still tough to enforce), a future in which there was a sole male breadwinner was given an expiration date. We are nearing that date.

  54. But the scenario outlined isn’t one of a couple making a decision. It’s one where the husband pushed and pushed the wife into a decision that she did not want.

  55. Angela C says:

    Jader3rd: my comment was about the SP claiming he wouldn’t withhold their TR. On what basis is their choice of career and childcare his business to discuss (and therefore consider in a TR interview)??

  56. What’s interesting about the various proclamations is why they aren’t included in scripture.

    It is scriptural for them to be written. And they are inspired of God and true. But for whatever reason, they seem limited to the generation or two in the day the were issued.

    Take Joseph’s failure to even issue the proclamation he was called to prepare “immediately”:
    “you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel …This proclamation shall be made to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof”

    To my knowledge that never happened and we certainly didn’t canonize it. So even Joseph let himself get too busy to send his ministering brother work…

    That doesn’t make the proclamations uninspired though:

    Let it be written in the spirit of meekness and by the power of the Holy Ghost, which shall be in you at the time of the writing of the same. For it shall be given you by the Holy Ghost to know my will…

    They are very much revelation. However, if we consider the D&C, there are hundreds of temporary commands given which no longer are you be carried out, but are included in scriptural canon to illustrate a principle. Conversely, the family proclamation is written as a general principle for all time, but not included in scripture. Go figure…

  57. Angela C: I don’t think the SP said he would discuss this issue in their TR interview. He was having a candid discussion with a friend about the issue. I still think we’re being too critical of his comment. Just because it may not be proper to discuss during a TR interview doesn’t mean it’s taboo for two friends to discuss in private. Look at what we’re doing here? And how do you know that no person participating in this discussion here is not a member of a stake presidency? Just because a person is a stake president shouldn’t mean he can’t have private discussions about, frankly, any issue. And if I read the OP correctly, this specific discussion occurred because the author approached the SP and initiated it.

  58. Mike, your comment is correct in all particulars.

  59. Angela C: I don’t think that it’s the career or childcare that’s to be considered in the Temple Recommend interview so much as it’s the “their choice” aspect of it. Since it seems to be the husband putting unwanted pressure on the wife is it really “their” choice? There is a Temple Recommend question about having our familial relationships in line with church teachings (forgive me for not remembering the exact wording). I believe that the Stake President was pointing out a situation where he felt that someone was being authoritarian in their marriage relationship, and was misusing subphrase of a church document to justify their position. Should that not be of concern to a Stake President?
    Now you could argue that it’s impossible for anyone to misuse scriptures or other church documents, especially in familial relationships, but I doubt that you feel that way. So since it is possible to take subphrases of church documents out of context, and then misuse them in familial relationships; it doesn’t seem wholly unjustified for a Stake President to be see a yellow flag when it comes to a familial relationship. Which is what I believe is the purpose of this blog post. Is this situation a flag? Is it a yellow flag? Or is the Stake President being too lenient, and he needs to drag that husband before the High Council to be tried for spousal abuse?

  60. Brava, Angela.

    To the idea that “This was just a conversation between friends”–well yeah. Except that’s a little disingenuous, isn’t it? Because there are some potential real-world consequences here for families, families who are entirely beholden to the SP’s interpretation. I’m sure he’s a lovely person. I’m sure I would like him, and I do read his TR comment as “of course I think there is nothing actionably wrong in their doing it differently to what the Proclamation says.”

    It does not escape my notice, though, that as a woman, my interpretation of the Proclamation (or any other of the Church’s texts) must always count for exactly 0 in the ecclesiastical context. What I think doesn’t and will never matter, ecclesiastically speaking. That coupled with the documented evidence that women also had 0 input in creating the document, and the whole question of who gets to interpret the document and how their interpretation matters (or doesn’t) provokes, um, strong feelings for me.

    Also, the scenario the OP posited to his SP was not the “unrighteous dominion” scenario:

    “Very simply, I wanted to know: what if you’re not talking about someone exercising unrighteous dominion over their partner, much less death or disability? What if, instead, you’re talking about a family where the wife’s education and life experiences have led her to have such skills and earning potential that it makes perfect sense for her to take on the “responsibility to provide the necessities of life” for the family, and the husband quite willingly accepts ‘primary responsibility for the nurture of their children’?”

    At work I have hypothetical conversations with colleague-friends all the time. If I said those conversations don’t influence my future decisions regarding the hundreds of college students I work with every year, I’d be kidding myself but probably nobody else. It’s not wrong to have these conversations. What’s wrong is that at church, the ecclesiastically meaningful ones are happening entirely between men.

  61. mirijane says:

    My millennial peers like to dive into the words: can’t “nurture” mean putting food on the table in the breadwinning sense? Aren’t the “necessities of life” household tasks, too? But I think about the way Elder Oaks talks about gender roles and I can’t shake the authorial intent. I agree with your SP…and I also couldn’t care less about complying.

  62. Angela C says:

    I agree with Leona that from an ecclesiastical standpoint, it’s troubling that these are conversations exclusively between men about things that have disproportionate adverse effects for women.

    As to unrighteous dominion, it feel far-fetched to me that a wife who has the higher earning potential is the same person who needs to be hectored into becoming the primary breadwinner. A lot of earning potential is strongly linked to ambition and temperament, and highly capable women still have an earning disadvantage. If he’s the driven one, he’s probably mistaken in her earning potential if she is so reluctant to engage in her career.

    But I agree that from a church perspective, there’s no such thing as a woman exercising unrighteous dominion. That would be like the house cat exercising unrighteous dominion. It would be adorable. They’d make a joke about it in General Conference and everyone would politely laugh at how silly women are and how much they should be cherished and patronized.

  63. “from a church perspective, there’s no such thing as a woman exercising unrighteous dominion. That would be like the house cat exercising unrighteous dominion. It would be adorable. They’d make a joke about it in General Conference and everyone would politely laugh at how silly women are and how much they should be cherished and patronized.”

    BOOM! LOL!


  64. Since over 50% of the women in the Church are single, the paragraph is basically irrelevant to most of the women in the Church.

  65. Rockwell says:

    As a believer, I interpreted the family proc to allow for families to choose the mother to be the primary bread winner.

    As a person who does not claim belief anymore, I think the family proc doesn’t require a binary choice of good family or bad family. On its own, I think it’s clear the family proc says that the mother-bread winner scenario is not the ideal scenario. I honestly believe the writers of the family proc believed that families where the mother stayed home were better, or preferred, for some reason. Kind of similar to “every worthy young man should serve a mission”, but if you don’t, you can still receive all eternal blessings.

    In both cases I’m sure that my interpretation is affected by my biases.

  66. Deerhunter says:

    To progress, one must eventually learn how to fulfill their “Divinely appointed roles” as husband and father; wife, and mother. Whatever that means, I believe that is how we continue to progress. The Proclamation helps us know how we can fulfill those roles.

  67. Another Roy says:

    I know an LDS family where the husband stays at home and homeschools his child with special needs. The wife and I share the same employer and she is adamant that she would feel trapped and suffocated at home all the time. They both agree that the husband is better suited to that task. This family shared with me how the husband was repeatedly asked about his job search (mostly from the more elderly members) so that his wife could quit her job (that often required working Sundays) and stay at home. Sometimes he would even get approached with job offers from well meaning LDS individuals. When he explained that his wife prefers to work and that he makes for the better caregiver of the family it would always become awkward.
    This family has not attended church in several years. The mom still works and the dad still is the primary caregiver. I understand that the constant undermining and questioning of their family situation simply became more trouble than it was worth.

  68. Another Roy says:

    I have long celebrated the “individual adaptation” clause in the Family Proclamation. When we had a SS lesson on this subject I was exuberant to point out these words. The teacher was our former SP that had been released to serve as a mission president and then served as our SS teacher for about a year until he was recently called as our temple president. He cautioned anyone that would excuse themselves from following the prophet. There are some legitimate exceptions, and those should be weighed with fear and trembling before the Lord. However many believe that they are exceptions when they are not. Tread very carefully when disregarding inspired counsel. It was a very deflating for me.
    To answer the question specifically – Yes, I personally feel that the wording allows for personal revelation and individual adaptation but does it really matter if your friends, neighbors, and church community feel that you are openly flouting the words of the Prophet?

  69. Anon for this one says:

    Another Roy: Why would you care what your friends/neighbors/community think? I thought the whole point was to do what was best for you after you had come to the best decision for your family after careful thought and deliberation through prayer with the Lord?
    And why are we going around judging others for their life choices?
    I personally give 2 figs what anyone in Happy Valley thinks about my life choices. They have NO idea the personal hell that I went through when my first daughter was born and the subsequent choices that my husband and I have made to keep our family healthy, sane, and happy.

    I really hope that you wouldn’t change what was the best thing for your family or for yourself based on what other people *may* think. Honestly I think most of the millennial generation is way less focused on judgement and way more focused on love and inclusion, which I personally think is what God wants us to focus on.

    Anyways, sorry to hijack, I just had to address that point!

  70. Use gender theory to uncouple the constructed roles of “Father” and “Mother” from biological sex. That way a woman can take on the “Father” role and a man can take on the “Mother” role. Done.

  71. Another Roy says:

    Anon for this one: My consideration of what friends/neighbors/community think is very practical. Much of my participation in church is based on the delicate balance of being an individual with individual wants and needs and priorities AND also being a church member that is expected to make a variety of sacrifices for the good of the group. I maintain this balance mostly be setting boundaries.
    Specifically to the situation in question. Does the proclamation give people the flexibility to use personal revelation is determining family structure and roles? I believe that it does. But how much does that matter if you are isolated from your community as a result of your unorthodox choices? You can have freedom of choice but also get punished every time you make a choice that is not in line with the community. Therefore, it can matter less what the words actually say (for the sake of fitting in and being included in the ward) and more how they are interpreted by others.

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