Quote—Preside—Unquote

July 13, 2006 | 129 comments
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In the comments to Julie’s dialogue with Randy B. on the meaning of “preside” in Mormon discourse, she issued (and re-issued!) a challenge to any interested reader: find a statement from a 20th-century Church leader showing that our concept of presiding has teeth. Never one to pass up a challenge—particularly one that will allow me to both avoid unpacking my suitcases and escape the frustrations of potty-training my son, at least for a few minutes—I spent some time with my LDS Library 2006 CD-ROM this morning.

Here are a few of the results that materialized—er, pixelized?— in my search window. The first, from Joseph F. Smith, emphasizes the right to preside as the highest authority in family government.

There is no higher authority in matters relating to the family organization, and especially when that organization is presided over by one holding the higher Priesthood, than that of the father. The authority is time honored, and among the people of God in all dispensations it has been highly respected and often emphasized by the teachings of the prophets who were inspired of God. The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity. There is, then, a particular reason why men, women and children should understand this order and this authority in the households of the people of God, and seek to make it what God intended it to be, a qualification and preparation for the highest exaltation of his children. In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1939, pp. 286-87.)

The second, from Camilla Eyring Kimball, shows that presiding entails the right and responsibility of directing family affairs, as well as initiating them.

In the home is the opportunity for the mother to teach her children to honor and respect their father, who holds the priesthood of God. It is he who will properly preside and direct the activities of the family. (Camilla Eyring Kimball, The Writings of Camilla Eyring Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p.59)

The final, from Bruce R. McConkie, unambiguously assigns the presiding priesthood holder the right to the last word.

Marriage is a partnership, but there is a senior partner. God set man to lead, to preside, to be the last word. Woman is obligated to conform, to obey, to be in subjection to the will of the husband, as long as his rulership is exercised in righteousness. (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., 2:, p.519)

So there you go! Do with these what you will. I hope I’ll have time later today to write up some thoughts that I wasn’t able to post on the original thread. But only after I’ve unpacked my suitcases and convinced my son—somehow, someway—to pee on the potty.

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129 Responses to Quote—Preside—Unquote

  1. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    Asking for any 20th Century leader may have been hubris, but certainly the closer to the present you get in time, the more right Julie S. is. The real question is whether the changes in what our prophets are saying is a shift in doctrine or a shift in emphasis.

  2. bbell on July 13, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Let the fun begin………

  3. Michael McBride on July 13, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    I second Adam’s (#1) comment.

    Also, check out the Family pamphlet printed by the Church. I don’t have it in front of me so I’m going on memory, but if I remember correctly it spends pages on the father and paragraphs on the mother. And the closest thing it does to describing how the father presides is talking about choosing who says prayers and having PPIs.

    Please someone out there with the pamphlet handy correct or confirm my memory.

  4. J. Stapley on July 13, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    The digital collection only go to 1972. If you do a search on LDS.org you will flind pleanty more. However, Adam, the flaming progressive that he is, makes a good point. Times are changing. Though, I am quite certain that there is no difference between a change in doctrine and a change in emphasis.

  5. anon on July 13, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    I know that these discussions have been largely driven by definition and procedure, and that anecdotal evidence is typically eschewed in these parts, but here’s to anecdotes:

    A few months ago my wife and I were contemplating a life-changing move. It seemed right–good money, closer to home, good timing, etc. etc. After accepting the position, I became progressively uneasy about the position for a variety of reasons while my wife became more sure that we should go for equally, if not more, persuasive reasons. After a few late nights of discussion we found ourselves in the Salt Lake Temple for a wedding. After doing a session my wife, who is not one to blindly defer, or whatever, to her clumsy husband’s antics, noted that she felt inspired to follow my uneasiness even though she didn’t know why, and she said that this inspiration came in the context of the hearken covenant. She was not, mind you, given inspiration on why we should not move, but rather expressly to follow my feelings. And in the context of the temple covenant. We both felt incredible calm with our decision to not move from that point on. But we were both puzzled by the inspiration and I personally would have felt much more comfortable if, as if often the case, my wife and I just had the same thoughts, or if one of us had better thoughts. We weren’t so lucky.

    Our uneasiness has been calmed by several blessings that we would not (or so we think) have received had we moved. And the process of seeking God’s will (at which I am typically not great at) has become one of the more beautiful subchapters of our marriage.

    This is one time where, despite our lack of understanding, God mercifully granted us His will (and probably a subtle injunction to actually seek that will more often). Though it does not resolve the “preside” debate (what will?), I think it may show that God’s answers to these questions often arise in deeply personal moments that may take years to interpret. And that the definition of a truly celestial marriage can be obtained only by subtle spirit-filled moments not subject to written interpretation.

  6. Kaimi Wenger on July 13, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    (Should have been a comment in the last thread on this topic, but better late than never –

    “This thread incorporates by reference last year’s discussion from FMH”: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=90 )

  7. Frank McIntyre on July 13, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Mike,

    I remember that pamphlet too. I remember numerous mentions like what you mention– “the family should do X. The father should pick/lead/make sure X happens”

  8. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    “Though, I am quite certain that there is no difference between a change in doctrine and a change in emphasis.”

    I am equally certain that there is an enormous difference.

    Suppose the prophet says X today, and the new prophet says Y tomorrow. If Y is a ‘change in doctrine,’ then we can disregard X. If Y is just a ‘change in emphasis’, then X is still true.

    Whether or not X is true matters.

  9. bbell on July 13, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    I wanted to post this yesterday but alas Julie closed the thread.

    I think that Julie is on to something. “Apparently the Brethren think that in addition to the equal partner language, the preside language provides some benefit to the Saints. I don’t know what their reasoning is, but as for me, I think it has something to do with the fact that in modern societies, fathers and husbands are not strictly necessary (I could do this whole family thing by myself from sperm bank on) and we need to be clear that in ideal LDS homes, they are necessary.”

    She is right that the church is trying to make fathers relevant. Only about 34% of children today in the US will grow up for all 18 years in an intact family. This is the current cultural norm. Either out of wedlock birth or a divorce sometime in the Childs life. The preside doctrine runs directly opposite to this cultural norm.

    I feel that to preside in this context in LDS terms means to be responsible for the family and this doctrine reminds LDS men how important their families are in a way that is distinct and runs counter to the prevailing family disintegration around us and among us as well.

    Tension with the existing cultural norms is a part of LDS practice from the beginning and the “preside doctrine” is no exception. I think it serves us well.

  10. Wes on July 13, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Men make certain convenants and women make certain covenants during the endowment ceremony that would shed light on this issue. If times are changing, should we expect changes in the temple covenants as well? If so, does that mean those covenants are not really important to begin with? I would be slow to embrace the idea that temple covenants would change. At least from my understanding, they have been mostly unchanged since the beginning of temple worship. Is that true?

  11. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    The Doctrine and Covenants tells us to

    contend against the church of the devil“;

    to “contend morning by morning, and day after day“;

    and to “contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church“;

    to “thrash the nations” and “fight manfully.”

    Before all these in time, 3 Nephi tells us that contention is of the devil. After all these in time, the Doctrine and Covenants tells us to “cease to contend with one another.”

    Doctrine can change. But seeing every facial contradiction as a change in doctrine–much less treating every change in emphasis as a change in doctrine–makes us the Yo-Yo Church of the Whiplash.

  12. Bryce I on July 13, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    Rosalynde, the key is to get him to pee in the potty.

  13. Kevin Barney on July 13, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    In my entire married life of a quarter century, I can’t think of any time when I made a final decision by virtue of “presiding” in the home. Whenever we have disagreed, which is rare, we work it out by discussion and negotiation. Always. Never by fiat.

    So for me personally, presiding in the home is a meaningless concept.

  14. rd on July 13, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Kevin,

    I think most in the Church absolutely agree. “Presiding in the home” is a concept that likely makes most members of the church, myself included, a bit nervous. So, in practice, my guess is that most marriages in the church work exactly as yours does, with discussion, prayer, and negotiation. And that it works out quite well. And I am sure that our Church Leaders would approve of your description.

  15. Rosalynde Welch on July 13, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    To anon #5: I’m always grateful for anecdotes that are shared in a spirit of generous offering and mutual seeking—especially ones as beautifully articulated as yours.

    And to all: Yes, indeed, there has absolutely been a shift of one kind or another in recent years, and I have no doubt at all that the Brethren are seeking to make presiding as unobjectionable to all Saints as they are able. And I’m exceedingly pleased that that’s the case. The historicist in me just can’t abide mischaracterizations of the past according to the preferences of the present, unless they are transparent about the misreading and open about their objectives.

  16. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Ditto on Anon #5.

  17. Kristine Haglund Harris on July 13, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    “Only about 34% of children today in the US will grow up for all 18 years in an intact family. This is the current cultural norm. Either out of wedlock birth or a divorce sometime in the Childs life. The preside doctrine runs directly opposite to this cultural norm.”

    I’m not sure it does–in fact, marriages which conform in demographic detail to an earlier model of marriage, more consonant with the “preside doctrine,” (i.e. wife younger than husband, wife less educated than husband, wife financially dependent on husband, wife home with children) are significantly more likely to end in divorce than more egalitarian marriages. There may be lots of benefits to men presiding in the home, but less divorce cannot be demonstrated to be one of them.

  18. Christian Y. Cardall on July 13, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    But only after I’ve unpacked my suitcases and convinced my son—somehow, someway—to pee on the potty.

    He’s probably waiting for direct instructions from the presiding authority.

  19. bbell on July 13, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    I actually think that #12 is right on and how my wife and I operate as well. We each have received inspiration in different areas of life at different times for different reasons

    What Kevin is missing is that the fact that he has been married for 25 years been responsible and raised some kids means that he has in fact presided whether he likes it or not :)

    My view is that a responsible married father is presiding just by the fact that he is there in the home. Unlike statistically speaking 66% of fathers in the US who are in fact not there from ages 0-18 years

  20. Last Lemming on July 13, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    I would be slow to embrace the idea that temple covenants would change. At least from my understanding, they have been mostly unchanged since the beginning of temple worship. Is that true?

    Not exactly. The specific covenant you reference was changed in 1990. The earlier version made the apparent inequality between men and women even more glaring.

  21. Adam Greenwood on July 13, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    KHH,

    BBell was not making an empirical claim. Your response is empirically dubious (e.g., the wife being younger than the husband is evidence that the family tries to follow a traditional LDS conception of gender roles) but even if it weren’t it would have little relevance to his claim.

  22. John Mansfield on July 13, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    Sister Harris, can you point us to any sources for the observation in comment #16? I would find such data interesting.

  23. Frank McIntyre on July 13, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks for digging these up Rosalynde.

    “The final, from Bruce R. McConkie, unambiguously assigns…”

    If there is one thing we can say for Elder McConkie, he was rarely ambiguous. :)

    Although, I see that even that quote has an escape clause “as long as his rulership is exercised in righteousness”.

    [sigh]

  24. Kristine Haglund Harris on July 13, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    John, there’s lots of information out there–a quick google search will get you 10 or 15 articles talking about education and income parity as factors that tend to decrease the odds of divorce. But here’s one short article that quotes Tim Heaton from BYU:

    http://www.careerjournal.com/columnists/workfamily/20040423-workfamily.html

  25. Kristine Haglund Harris on July 13, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    “My view is that a responsible married father is presiding just by the fact that he is there in the home.”

    huh???

  26. John Mansfield on July 13, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    From the article Career Journal article in comment 24:

    “But a study by Penn State’s Stacy Rogers paints a different picture, suggesting divorce is less likely when one partner depends on the other financially — regardless of whether it’s the man or the woman. The odds of divorce are highest when husbands and wives contribute about equally to family income, suggesting that spouses feel less obligated to each other in such cases, says the study, published in February in the Journal of Marriage and the Family.”

  27. bbell on July 13, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    KHH,

    The responsible engaged father is presiding that is my view.

  28. Frank McIntyre on July 13, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    I dug up the article abstract for the parity-view. The WSJ does not quite tell the whole story.

    “The association between wives’ percentage of income and divorce formed an inverted U-shaped curve, with the odds of divorce being highest when wives contributed between approximately 40% and 50% of the total family income. When wives’ resources were measured in dollars, wives’ income showed a positive, linear association with the odds of divorce.”

    So higher female income does predict more divorce, but higher income share is first bad then good for predicting continued marriage. I guess I can believe that but I am not sure what the takeaway message is. The empirical assumptions required to make this prediction into a prescription are pretty unpalatable.

  29. Gina on July 13, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Re 28
    One explanation that is more palatable than that which you decline to even state :) is that in many cases where both spouses are contributing about equally, my guess is that both spouses are working in relatively low-paying, undesirable jobs. They’re both working because they need the money to just scrape by, not to fulfill an ideal of shared labor and personal fulfullment. Such a situation (just scraping by) has lots of additional stresses that might contribute to divorce.

  30. Frank McIntyre on July 13, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Gina,

    Right, and that would make the prediction to be driven by other factors (actual income levels) rather than the parity itself. But I don’t have access to the full paper so I don’t know if they controlled for family income in their results (which would deal with that particular concern).

  31. Kevin Barney on July 13, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Christian #18, that was a good one!

  32. A Nonny Mouse on July 13, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Kevin Barney:
    In my entire married life of a quarter century, I can’t think of any time when I made a final decision by virtue of “presiding� in the home. Whenever we have disagreed, which is rare, we work it out by discussion and negotiation. Always. Never by fiat.

    Kevin, that sounds a lot like the definition of leadership given in the Doctrine and Convenants 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;
    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile

    So… The thing is that presumably men “preside” because of the priesthood (see Sister Kimball’s comment) but clearly priesthood leadership involves (exclusively according to D&C) a lot of negotioation, discussion, long-suffering, persuasion, gentleness meekness, etc. That doesn’t sound like domineering, or will-imposing to me…

  33. bbell on July 13, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Get the data I want to see it but only in relating to temple divorces. That is what would be really interesting. Hack the churches data base.

    My anecdotal experience is that there is a link between 2 income LDS families and temple divorce.

    I have seen 8 temple divorces in my 10 years of marriage in my two wards. 6 involved 2 income families and 2 involved quite wealthy men discarding older wives for a new model. (disgusting)

  34. greenfrog on July 13, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    “The association between wives’ percentage of income and divorce formed an inverted U-shaped curve, with the odds of divorce being highest when wives contributed between approximately 40% and 50% of the total family income. When wives’ resources were measured in dollars, wives’ income showed a positive, linear association with the odds of divorce.�

    I’m less than a novice at statistical interpretation, so please correct me as appropriate (or even as may be glaringly obvious to people besides me…).

    Is this data set (assuming it’s valid) consistent with these hypotheses?:

    1. In marriages where one spouse is financially dependent upon the other, the dependent spouse is likely to accommodate the financially dominant one, and the marriage is likely to continue.

    2. In marriages where the spouses are approximately equal in financial contribution, the lack of financial dependence eliminates one of the give/take mechanisms that decrease incentives for divorce.

    3. For a variety of reasons, historically women have tended to be the financially dependent spouse in marriage, so as women’s income increases, their financial dependency decreases, and divorce becomes more frequent.

    4. But, if ##1 and 2 are correct, to the extent that the historical disparate financial dependent status of women diminishes or is eliminated, the positive correlation between women’s income and the probability of divorce will diminish, as well.

  35. Ed Johnson on July 13, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    The full paper is here:

    http://www.soc.iastate.edu/Sapp/rogers.pdf

    They did controll for family income, as well as for other things like years married and number of children. (I haven’t read the paper, though, so I can’t say if it’s any good.)

  36. Frank McIntyre on July 13, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    greenfrog,

    That would be the perfectly logical economic theory to back up the result. The trouble comes because ceterus is not paribus– the people in one situation often differ from those in another situation for other reasons, and those other reasons may be what really drives the divorce. Or maybe not, it’s hard to say.

    For example, it may be that couples get divorced because they don’t trust each other enough (I’m just making this up) and (because of this lack of trust) they also prefer to make and control their own incomes. They show up with equal incomes in the data, but the real problem is trust. You see the problem. If we could control for trust levels in the statistics, this would go away but because it is unobserved we don’t know what effect it is having and so we have to be a little cagey about drawing conclusions.

  37. greenfrog on July 13, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    Frank,

    Ah — I get it — it’s a which is the cause/which the effect kind of problem.

    Thanks for helping me out.

  38. bbell on July 13, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I was about to make a comment like Frank. Divorce usually has a list of causes long as my arm. There is never one single item that causes a marriage to fracture. Usually its a combination of factors.

  39. DKL on July 13, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Women are always going on and on about how men can preside and women can’t. You don’t ever hear them talking about how men can be castrated and women can’t. They seem fine with that. What exactly is it that makes them think that presiding any more desirable than being castrated?

  40. Miranda Park-Jones on July 13, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    David, its just like you to always run the conversation off into irrelevant tangents when there is something important at hand, something worthy of discussion.

  41. Mark Butler on July 13, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Adam (#11),

    I don’t think that is a doctrinal change at all. I think believe that there are signficantly different senses of the word ‘contend’ used in the scriptures. And rather than make that a bald assertion, as I have lately criticized others of, I shall make an argument.

    The first is, when faced with so clear an apparent contradiction, on such a fundamental principle of the gospel, should we automatically accept, as our first hypothesis the idea that the doctrine of Jesus Christ actually changed, or that the prophets were pathetically incapable of representing his will on the matter?

    From the Wordnet 2.0, Princeton University:

    contend. v
    1: maintain or assert; “He contended that Communism had no future” [syn: postulate]

    2: have an argument about something [syn: argue, debate, fence]

    3: to make the subject of dispute, contention, or litigation; “They contested the outcome of the race” [syn: contest, repugn]

    4: compete for something; engage in a contest; measure oneself against others [syn: compete, vie]

    5: come to terms or deal successfully with; “We got by on just a gallon of gas”; “They made do on half a loaf of bread every day” [syn: cope, get by, make out, make do, grapple, deal, manage]

    Etymology from the American Heritage Dictionary:

    [Middle English contenden, from Latin contendere : com-, com- + tendere, to stretch, strive; see ten- in Indo-European Roots.]

    Now it should be obvious what the common thread is that runs through these various senses, and how some are good, and some are bad, depending on context. Contend in senses one and three is clearly a good thing – there is something that we maintain, that we are trying to convince the world of.

    Also, the legitimacy of the gospel, the Restoration, and Priesthood authority is most definitely something that there is a contest about. In fact it is indeed very much like a legal dispute where we are witnesses, confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost:

    Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
    And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
    Of sin, because they believe not on me;
    Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
    Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
    (John 16:7-11)

    Also:

    They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.
    (Prov 28:4)

    And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.
    (2 Ne 28:4)

    For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
    (3 Ne 11:29)

    Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

    Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
    (Jude 1:3-9)

    Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil.
    (D&C 18:20)

    But verily I say unto you, that I, the Lord, will contend with Zion, and plead with her strong ones, and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me.
    (D&C 90:36)

    Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning; and day after day let thy warning voice go forth; and when the night cometh let not the inhabitants of the earth slumber, because of thy speech.
    (D&C 112:5)

    Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord; and when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord.
    (D&C 117:13)

    Cease to contend one with another; cease to speak evil one of another.
    (D&C 136:23)

    We do not use the nominative form of word as such (because the scriptures do not), but these scriptures and others literally outline a doctrine of righteous contention, i.e. at what times and places, conditions, and manners is it legitimate to maintain, strive for and defend the truth.

    In sense one, I can say, that yes I contend that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that Joseph Smith is his prophet. Of course usually I would use the word maintain, to avoid unnecessary offense.

    Now the scriptures clearly teach that we are to warn and testify more than attempt to establish the gospel by force of argument. WE also are not to tear down any other church except the church of the devil, which is not a church as we know it today, but rather more like a set of not just man-made but devilish doctrines that have great hold over the world. Babylon writ large is the church of the devil.

    It is quite clear that Joseph Smith used the term contend in both positive and negative senses throughout the D&C, so what we really need to do is not conclude that he was hopelessly confused, but rather to determine when disputation, even pure testimony, is righteous. Because even testimony is a form of contention in the original sense – striving, and not any old striving, but striving that is likely to give offense to the unbelievers.

    And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

    And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.
    (1 Ne 16:2-3)

    This sort of offense is pretty much unavoidable. We cannot water down the gospel without destroying it. No one needs to listen if they do not want to. But certainly their false doctrines should be responded to, whether they have any malice or not.

    This is not a contest of rationality, this is a contest of truth – the way things *really* are. The truth of God cannot be established by rational argument – rationality (in the contemporary sense) is most useful for disproving things, and only rarely for proving things, given common sense, which critics often deny, and ridiculously so. Without common sense or inspiration, how can one prove anything, particularly of a moral nature?

  42. DKL on July 13, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    For the record, that was an impostor Miranda; i.e., that it was not me. Discerning readers should be able to tell: Miranda was always more clever than that.

  43. DKL on July 13, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    Other clues that the Miranda who commented above was an impostor: I never hyphenated Miranda’s name, and I wasn’t in the habit of messing up the URL to the Banner of Heaven.

  44. Mark Butler on July 13, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Greenfrog, I understand the data to readily support conclusions (1) – (3), but to lend no support to your (4), which appears to be a pure hypothesis that will take years to empirically establish one way or the other.

    The data to me are not surprising in the least, but if eliminating divorce is the primary goal here, it is clear that we should either emphasize the traditional division of labor, without diminishing education, or discover a third factor (e.g. the doctrine of lasting fidelity, the idea that marriage is intended to be permanent, even when it is easy to get out of) that is adequate enough to flatten the curve when sufficiently inculcated.

    With some key qualifications, I tend to be a traditionalist about division of labor and responsibility in marriage, though definitely in favor of a D&C 121ish doctrine of enlightened presidency that gives no brief to the doctrine of despotism, and radically so.

  45. Mark Butler on July 13, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Actually, maintain is too soft a word, for such a fundamental – assert, witness, testify, believe would all be better. “maintain” is just a way to be nice about secondary propositions – to indicate that you believe something, usually based on some argument that you are not prepared to give in full.

  46. Téa on July 13, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Questions about the terms:

    Does presiding in love and righteousness automatically exclude a presiding husband having the last word?

    Is having the last word always abusing the privilege of presiding?

  47. greenfrog on July 13, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Mark Butler wrote: …if eliminating divorce is the primary goal here, it is clear that we should either emphasize the traditional division of labor, without diminishing education…

    If your conclusions are based on the data that Frank McIntyre provided, I’ve misunderstood your reasoning or I think your statement is too limited. The data suggest that any disparity in earnings is correllated with lower divorce rates — not the “male-bread-winner-only” income disparity. To reach your conclusion we would have to have some reason extrinsic to the data set for preferring the economic subjugation of wives over the economic subjugation of husbands.

  48. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 13, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    Does presiding in love and righteousness automatically exclude a presiding husband having the last word?

    Is having the last word always abusing the privilege of presiding?

    No and no, IMO.

    I think once in a while a situation may come up with a lack of consensus and a decision needs to be made because of a time constraint or something.

    However, I am thinking that perhaps “having the last word” can only really happen in righteousness if the wife is OK with that concept. I’m thinking of a time when we were in disagreement on something. My husband felt very strongly that we should go in one direction, and I felt differently. (Very differently.) He finally let me “have my way” — but, wouldn’t you know it, in the end, I just didn’t feel right about that. So, I approached him again (about a month later…after a lot of thought and a prayerful heart) and told him that, if he still felt strongly about “his” choice and, if he prayed about it and STILL felt strongly about it, I would support him. In the end, we went with what he felt should be (and it still took me about a month to adjust to that after the final final decision was made). But he knew better than to PUSH his decision on me. (For all my testimony about the order of things being good, I’m still anything but a pushover wife — for good or for ill!) :)

    As I reflect on this experience (which I’ve never really done in this light before), I think that true presiding is a reflection of and is only possible with a true partnership. Unless both people are OK with the roles as such, then it will be difficult for a husband to preside effectively and without compulsion. (“Because I said so!” just doesn’t seem to sit well with D&C 121 principles!) But marriage is also a process, and, I think as couples mature in their relationships, they are able to make decisions together more effectively. We have found that to be the case with us, anyway.

    So, in some way that I can’t quite get my mind around yet, I think presiding is as much about a partnership as it is about a “man’s job.” Even though it may not appear equal, I think it really is…because there is discussion, prayer, working together, and, if need be (which is rare), a decision voluntarily made to allow a husband to have “final say.” But — and I think this is a big but — sometimes, that final say may be to choose the way his wife is feeling (either because she is indeed right, or because he can’t (and shouldn’t) compel his wife to do something). (Both have happened in our marriage — hubby will feel strongly about something, but, after consulting with his vocal and opionated wife (grin) he will see things differently — yes, even feel things differently. And, as above, there are times he realizes I’m not where he is and backs off to keep the peace, even if I’m not right. Isn’t that a possible example of presiding in love, even if the decision isn’t ideal? I’m sure someone could come up with a situation where this model might fail, but I have a hard time thinking of righteous presiding including anything that violates a wife’s agency.)

    So, presiding, in my mind at this point, doesn’t always have to mean a husband/father is right and “gets his way.” It means he takes the lead in gathering information, encouraging discussion, seeking prayerfully for guidance (and, I would say, seeking for consensus and asking heaven for such, if it’s possible). And through that process, he may find out that he was not “right.” But he sure as anything has to be righteous to know which final decision to make (again, in those rare situations where there is a stalemate).

    It’s so hard not to mortalize and socialize this concept, but I think there ARE gold flakes there that are different from what our mortal minds might first understand. :) I think, more than anything in the world, God wants us to be equal partners, one in mind and heart. A husband’s main goal should be toward that end. THAT, to me, is what presiding means in a marriage relationship. And, of course, there’s that spiritual leadership, thing, too, but that, too, can be so partnership-based and so agreed-upon by both spouses that, again, it’s rooted in partnership. A unified unit.

  49. Kristine Haglund Harris on July 13, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    “KHH,

    The responsible engaged father is presiding that is my view. ”

    And in my view, the responsible engaged father is being an equal partner.

    Which, I guess, is kind of the point–the rhetoric has become so ambiguous that it is subject to whimsical interpretation.

  50. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 13, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    the rhetoric has become so ambiguous that it is subject to whimsical interpretation.

    Either that, or we all really see things pretty much the same and call it different things. Sometimes I wonder why such a big deal is made about all of this.

  51. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 13, 2006 at 8:49 pm

    50…that probably came out wrong. Doesn’t it seem, though, that we spend more time on the rhetoric and wanting terminology changed, etc., but fundamentally, everyone pretty much agrees about the importance of spouses working together?

  52. Jim Cobabe on July 13, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    #28:

    The empirical assumptions required to make this prediction into a prescription are pretty unpalatable.

    Nothing new about the inescapable prescription or the unpalatability thereof, at least to certain parties.

    President Benson was right.

  53. Mark Butler on July 13, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    Greenfrog, You are right about the data of course, but I doubt the Church is going to start to promote stay at home husbandhood, and mothers as the primary out of the home worker / provider.

  54. Julie M. Smith on July 13, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Forgive me for commenting without having read the other comments, but I am in a hotel in the middle of Kansas having to fight my husband for Internet access. First, RW, thanks for doing this–I’m glad someone took me up on the challenge! As for the quotes, my thoughts:

    Joseph F. Smith
    (1) You’ll understand if I find 1939 less than thrilling.
    (2) This statement is ambiguous because it depends on how you define ‘preside’ and ‘authority.’ I would have no trouble claiming this quote for my position.

    Sister Kimball
    (1) You’re kidding. She has no authority to make a doctrinal statement.
    (2) She says that he “presides” and “directs activities.” Again, how do you define these terms? Both could fit easily into my paradigm.

    Elder McConkie
    (1) I can’t look it up right now, but if you want to talk Elder McConkie, his reading of the Rebecca story is fascinating–he talks specifically about how she chooses NOT to go through Isaac for a revelation but asks the Lord herself and he makes the point that women don’t need to go through men to commune with the Lord.
    (2)I don’t want to be rude here, but . . . it is Elder McConkie. Enough said.

    So let me see your quotes and raise you one. Elder Oaks, Oct 95 Conference:

    “President Kimball also declared, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.’ ” He decisively rejected that abuse of priesthood authority in a marriage, declaring that such a man “should not be honored in his priesthood” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 316).”

    In other words, he doesn’t get the last word because he holds the priesthood. And that will have to be my last word, because I’m getting a death glare from over my shoulder and far be it from me to contradict the will of my husband. :)

  55. Brenda on July 13, 2006 at 10:48 pm

    In a recent Relief Society lesson on the priesthood, one of the prominent women in our ward interrupted the instructor to ask for a raise of hands: “How many of you sisters wouldn’t be having family prayer in your homes if you didn’t take the initiative to make it happen?� Most in the room raised their hands.

    There’s been lots of discussion on the technicalities of what presiding means and who said what and when they said it. I doubt that many couples agonize about their roles to this extent, if at all.

  56. Mark Butler on July 14, 2006 at 12:38 am

    Their husbands have advocated even the most basic of spiritual responsibilities then and should be ashamed of themselves.

  57. Mark Butler on July 14, 2006 at 12:38 am

    Their husbands have abdicated even the most basic of spiritual responsibilities then, and should be ashamed of themselves.

  58. Téa on July 14, 2006 at 1:18 am

    Does presiding in love and righteousness automatically exclude a presiding husband having the last word? Is having the last word always abusing the privilege of presiding?

    No and no, IMO

    m&m, thanks for answering! I thought most would answer ‘yes’ given the tone of the threads here, because the concept of presiding (a la D&C 121) including having the last word has been emphatically denounced from all sides. The only options appeared to be that presiding doesn’t include last word status, or presiding does include having the last word but it shouldn’t be that way (whether one advocates jettisoning the term or the role or both).

    It seemed to me that there should be some sort of middle ground to give both presiding and equal partnership a place in the family structure. Teeth, as Rosalynde said. If there’s no real substance to presiding, it falls flat. Fathers are more than figureheads, aren’t they?

    I have seen the universal affirmation of the importance of spouses working together in these discussions as well, m&m. As the song goes “we’ve got lots in common where it really counts”

  59. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 1:58 am

    It seemed to me that there should be some sort of middle ground to give both presiding and equal partnership a place in the family structure.

    Yes. I think this is why our leaders won’t get rid of the concept of “preside.”

    I can think of another possible situation where having a presiding authority is helpful…when there needs to be some sort of contact with a family from the Church. When the First Presidency needs to get in touch with a stake, they go through the Stk. Pres. When contact needs to happen to a ward, it goes through a bishop. When something needs to be checked or communicated with a family, it goes through the father. It just makes sense to have that order figured out when the need arises.

    Again, I think that is useful in the cases where stalemate or a critical situation won’t allow for “everyone agrees and is happy” kinds of things.

    I think the highest councils of the Church work this way. Almost everything they do is through unity and discussion — counseling as a council. But once in a while, something will come from “the top” that will just BE, and discussion is over at that point. I suspect if that ever does happen, it would come with something that is just that important. We don’t see behind the scenes, but I imagine there are times that happens…when Pres. Hinckley says, “Brethren, this is what the Lord would have us do.” I would hope that my husband and I are unified enough, and he is in tune enough, and I trust him enough, that if there was ever a mission-critical thing that he just felt came from God, that I would be willing to stand behind that. Again, I doubt that kind of thing happens very often (I can’t think of any time when we haven’t had a chance to discuss and counsel together in our marriage), but perhaps the very nature of the order allows for that possibility — defined channel through a presiding authority when something of great import needs to be communicated and executed quickly. Just s’more musings….

  60. Brenda on July 14, 2006 at 2:07 am

    #56 & 57

    Shame? Your comment is targeted to couples who don’t match your definition of Mormon gender roles and it also undermines the contributions that the fathers of these families do make, which are many. My point is that couples generally work things out well together, regardless of who is reminding who to do what or which technical definition of presiding is in favor. Assigning shame is surely not necessary.

  61. Silver on July 14, 2006 at 2:29 am

    #55
    I so dislike this sort of questioning in a church classroom setting. I understand it was someone interrupting the instructor to ask it, even a prominent (?) member. It’s simply prying. Most of the time you don’t get a true count with those sort of questions because some are too taken aback to answer and others are too embarrassed. A quick-thinking instructor or a plain-speaking sister in the class could have halted that.

  62. Mark Butler on July 14, 2006 at 2:39 am

    The implication was that family prayers wouldn’t happen at all. That is shame enough for any faithful father or mother.

    And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

    For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized. And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands.

    And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.

    And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor, in all faithfulness; for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord.

    Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.
    These things ought not to be, and must be done away from among them;

    (D&C 68:25-32)

    I am not the one doing the assigning here.

  63. Mark IV on July 14, 2006 at 8:35 am

    Julie, # 54,

    What the heck are you doing in the middle of Kansas? It aint exactly Vacationland, USA.

    In regards to Camilla Kimball, I think you are being too dismissive of her statement. It is obvious that she has no authority to make a doctrinal pronouncement. It is also just as obvious that she is speaking from her lived experience with someone who was.

  64. Rosalynde Welch on July 14, 2006 at 9:27 am

    Julie, I know you’re traveling and won’t see this for a while, but…. LOL! Somehow I had a feeling you’d be able to explain away anything I dug up… (smiley). Listen, I have no idea how to figure out whether a royal flush beats a full house or whatever—nor do I have anything at stake in promoting these quotes as binding in 2006 (indeed I am very grateful that they probably are not). (Although I think you go too far when you strip “preside” of any meaningful authority, even in today’s radically minimized version.) But it rankles a bit when it’s implied that a strong form of presiding was never current in the Church, when it very clearly was. That’s all I was after here.

  65. Brenda on July 14, 2006 at 9:30 am

    #55 “I so dislike this sort of questioning in a church classroom setting.�

    Actually, I appreciated the honesty and the reality that many sisters did not go home discouraged because their home environments didn’t match the tidy definition of presiding. There’s lots of ways for things to get done. Most of these families are rather high functioning with strong parents that both make big contributions. Again, there’s no need to judge harshly. These families were participating in their Sunday meetings after all. Wow, I’m surprised by how upsetting this small survey is to some on the forum.

  66. bbell on July 14, 2006 at 10:37 am

    I live in the bible belt. To give you an idea of how some of our evangelical friends operate in regards to this issue check out this true conversation:

    My wife: Hi can your kids come over and play?

    Evangelical Mom: Let me ask the head of the household my Husband. He is the president of the house.

    My wife: Huh?

    She then calls me at work to say that some people are strange.

    I think its this weird attitude present to some degree or another in the world that makes us react so negatively to the word “Preside”.

  67. Jim Cobabe on July 14, 2006 at 11:24 am

    More quotes from President Kimball on this topic:

    Our beloved prophet Spencer W. Kimball had much to say about the role of mothers in the home and their callings and responsibilities. I am impressed tonight to share with you some of his inspired pronouncements. I fear that much of his counsel has gone unheeded, and families have suffered because of it. But I stand this evening as a second witness to the truthfulness of what President Spencer W. Kimball said. He spoke as a true prophet of God.

    President Kimball declared: “Women are to take care of the family–the Lord has so stated–to be an assistant to the husband, to work with him, but not to earn the living, except in unusual circumstances. Men ought to be men indeed and earn the living under normal circumstances” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 318 ).

    “The husband is expected to support his family and only in an emergency should a wife secure outside employment. Her place is in the home, to build the home into a haven of delight.

    “Numerous divorces can be traced directly to the day when the wife left the home and went out into the world into employment. Two incomes raise the standard of living beyond its norm. Two spouses working prevent the complete and proper home life, break into the family prayers, create an independence which is not cooperative, causes distortion, limits the family, and frustrates the children already born” (Spencer W. Kimball, San Antonio Fireside, Dec. 3, 1977, pp. 9-10 ).

    http://www.byu.edu/fc/ee/w_etb87.htm

  68. awv on July 14, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Re: #13 & #14

    This is a bit late, but my Aunt’s wedding present to us was a small wall hanging that said, “Love, Honor, and Negotiate!” I has worked well for us over the last 11 years.

  69. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    bbell (#66), I agree that the marriage relationship you describe isn’t one I would want to be in. If I called my husband at work to ask him such a question, he would be flabbergasted, to say the least.

    But how exactly is this a “weird attitude”? Isn’t it straight out of the Bible? Aren’t these people just trying to follow their scriptures, just as we try to follow ours?

    On the other hand, I think you make an excellent point about the conservative Christian views of gender and marriage that are the inevitable context in which our doctrine exists in the U.S. (I don’t know to what extent that’s true in other parts of the world).

  70. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    “But how exactly is this a “weird attitudeâ€?? Isn’t it straight out of the Bible? Aren’t these people just trying to follow their scriptures, just as we try to follow ours?”

    You read St. Paul as requiring a complete lack of independent decision-making entirely? Huh.

    I believe that everyone–man, woman, and child–must completely submit to God, but I don’t imagine that if someone wanted to come by with their kids it would be necessary for me to pray about it.

    Things like this aren’t the conservative context we operate in, but the conservative (over)reaction to the liberal/feminist context we operate in.

  71. bbell on July 14, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    Hey guys,

    I think that she and her husband are taking their NT to far. To me Preside in an LDS context is this really mild form of Yeah I am ultimatley responsible.

    What throws people off when we have these conversations about presiding is the history of domestic abuse and mistreatment of women thru the ages. So they have a negative reaction to the word Preside because they have been watching COPS and seen to many domestic abuse calls. Throw in a healthy dose of PC idealogy on top of the history and many of the bloggers run screaming from the room when the word Preside come up.

  72. s on July 14, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    Things like this aren’t the conservative context we operate in, but the conservative (over)reaction to the liberal/feminist context we operate in.

    I think we’re in agreement that this is an overreaction, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame conservative Christian practices on the liberals or the feminists.

  73. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    Where’s the blame, ma’am? But-for causation is not primary causation and primary causation is not blame.

  74. greenfrog on July 14, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    …I doubt the Church is going to start to promote stay at home husbandhood, and mothers as the primary out of the home worker / provider.

    Frank has helpfully reminded us that the data may not show causation. Recognizing that, if in fact income disparity does inhibit divorce, I wouldn’t leap to the conclusion that income disparity is something to be promoted (by, for instance, promoting economic subjugation of one or the other spouse) as a net good. It may be that the divorces that occur in conditions of economic independence represent good things — one can imagine a battered spouse might stay in a marriage solely because it seems better than poverty. If such a person were to achieve economic independence and divorce, I would conclude that the world was a better place as a result.

    Should we prefer a world where fewer marriages result in divorce, but not because the marriages are good, but only because the alternatives are worse?

  75. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    s., I agree.

    Adam, I think the church clearly operates–for better or for worse–in a conservative Christian context, if only because we tend to share certain doctrines, practices, and political tendencies. That is undeniably the part of the cultural landscape we inhabit (in U.S., anyway) and so other conservative Christians are going to loom rather larger on our consciousness than, say, the doings of Katha Pollitt.

    I don’t know entirely how to read St. Paul (another topic for another post) and we don’t know that the couple in question read it as “requiring a complete lack of independent decision-making entirely.” All we know about them was that on one seemingly trivial household decision the wife sought the husband’s approval. We don’t know to what extent he may have delegated to her on other matters. My only point was that they’re not getting this out of thin air: they’re getting his ultimate authority in decision-making straight out of the Bible. Our doctrine on gender and marriage has more than a passing resemblance to theirs, not surprisingly because we share the same scriptures, so I don’t think it’s fair to so quickly call them “weird” simply because they seem to have hierarchical marriages when do as well. They’re our cousins in Christ, so to speak, and if we don’t like their doctrine, perhaps we ought to take a harder look at our own.

    bbell, let me go on record as a woman who has never seen a single episode of COPS and who was raised in Utah in a context in which PC was always a bad word who, nontheless, does not care to be “presided” over.

  76. greenfrog on July 14, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Things like this aren’t the conservative context we operate in, but the conservative (over)reaction to the liberal/feminist context we operate in.

    I’m willing to go out on a limb here and assert that Paul’s archaic and repressive ideas about male/female interaction didn’t result from his (over)reaction to a liberal/feminist context.

    I’ll walk the same limb to reject the assertion of causation in our day. Fundamentalism, in all its forms, can arise out of the perverse human desires to exercise and to submit to unrighteous dominion. They don’t need boogey-monsters to spawn them.

    However, they often create stories about boogey-monsters to rationalize their existence.

  77. s on July 14, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Okay, maybe there’s no blame, but there’s still an implied liability. And I don’t think liberals and feminists are the proximate (or primary) causes of Christian conservative practices. (Heh, look at me pretend to do lawyer-speak.) :)

  78. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Neither do I. I claimed but-for causation with respect to a narrow range of practices. That’s all.

  79. Starfoxy on July 14, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Can I say that this language of “preside”= “being ultimately responsible” is worrisome to me, especially in the context of not having any real authority. To me, this would end up meaning that a presiding father is going to be held responsible for things that they have no real authority to change. I also see it as incompatible with our doctrine of men being punished for their own sins (a husband should not be punished for his wife’s sins).

    I see the two as being connected, either you have authority to have the final word and with that authority comes ultimate responsibility, or you don’t have authority to have the final word and therefore cannot justly be held responsible. If my husband is going to be held responsible for things I might do, I’d rather he have some teeth to protect himself.

  80. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    “My only point was that they’re not getting this out of thin air: they’re getting his ultimate authority in decision-making straight out of the Bible.”

    So what? Our point is that while their action may be based on biblical precepts, their interpretation of those precepts isn’t reasonable.

    ” Our doctrine on gender and marriage has more than a passing resemblance to theirs, not surprisingly because we share the same scriptures, so I don’t think it’s fair to so quickly call them “weirdâ€? simply because they seem to have hierarchical marriages when do as well.”

    Do you think that BBell was saying ‘wierd’ just because they had a hierarchical marriage? I think otherwise. Anyway, I don’t understand why the ‘more than passing resemblance’ matters. I believe in faith-healing and signs following believers but still reject snake-handling. If pressed, I’d probably admit that I found it wierd.

  81. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Starfoxy,

    While I don’t believe that fathers have responsiblity without authority, I don’t think its per se incompatible with our doctrine. We do believe that men will not be punished for Adam’s transgression, but we also believe that sins are visited unto the third and fourth generation. Putting scripture aside, its pretty clear that in lots of arenas in life people suffer because of the choices that others make that aren’t their own fault. This is eternal, not just terrestrial; God weeps. And its clear that family is probably the foremost arena where people suffer because of other’s sins.

    I also note that your solution doesn’t actually help any. A father having responsibility to see that his family prays nightly, but lacking ‘authority’ to require them to do it, is not categorically different from a father having authority to require his family to pray nightly but lacking the ability to compel them to submit to his authority.

  82. bbell on July 14, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    I personally think that they are interpreting Paul wrong. It was weird to ask “the president of the house” for permission to have the kids over to play

    Do you remember when the Southern Baptists had there resolution that Wives should submit to the servent leadership of their Husbands? Can you imagine an LDS talk like this?

    LDS doctrines should not be placed in the same category on this issue. Our form of Marriage is much much milder and is in a category by itself.

  83. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Adam, this is likely where we disagree, but I think their interpretation of the Bible is a pretty reasonable practical implementation of what the text says. The more-than-passing resemblance matters because we, like them, consider the Bible scripture. (Now snake-handling–that arises from an interpretation that’s a little further out there. That, I will agree with you, might legitimately be called “weird” :>).

  84. bbell on July 14, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Starfoxy,

    See D&C Section 93 vs 42-43. I would say that Frederick G Williams was not presiding correctly and was called on the carpet for it by the Lord. He bears ultimate responsibility.

  85. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    bbell, I agree that in 2006 we’d never hear something like the Southern Baptist resolution in General Conference, for which I’m immensely grateful. But our form of marriage is, like theirs, hierarchical–patriarchal, specifically–and we appeal to the same texts they do as a basis for our doctrine and practice. So I don’t see how it’s a category by itself.

  86. Mark Butler on July 14, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Not a different category, of course. But a radically extremist interpretation that is contrary with scriptural ideals of righteous priesthood leadership, notably D&C 121, a scripture that many outside our Church would do well to adopt.

  87. Mark Butler on July 14, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Not to mention D&C 58.

  88. Rosalynde Welch on July 14, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Adam, what’s “but-for” causation?

  89. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    ‘But for X, Y would not have happened.’ JFK’s election was a but-for cause of his assasination, feminism was a but-for cause of the Church’s stance on the ERA, my parents decision to get married is a but-for cause of my sins, and so on.

  90. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    If my husband is going to be held responsible for things I might do, I’d rather he have some teeth to protect himself.

    I don’t think ultimate responsibility, if it exists, would include being responsible for a wife’s choices, but he might be responsible to do all he could do for the good of the family…without violating agency. I tend to think that men do have an extra bit of responsibility on their heads, both because of the priesthood covenant and because of their “head of the family” position. If that is the case, I’m not sure how it would all play out, but I don’t think a man could be held responsible for someone else’s choices unless they were a direct result of his unrighteous behavior. In my mind, the responsibility would simply be to be righteous — to do “all he could do.”

    Parents have a similar kind of responsibilty on their shoulders…to be righteous and to teach their children. That is not to say that every choice a child makes can be blamed on the parents, but parents do have a greater responsibility than their children. I do wonder if something similar exists at some level for men.

  91. Frank McIntyre on July 14, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    MM: “I don’t think ultimate responsibility, if it exists, would include being responsible for a wife’s choices, but he might be responsible to do all he could do for the good of the family…without violating agency.”

    I was going to say this, but I see it has been said.

  92. Johnny Eames on July 14, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    The old filmstrip/pamphlet “Father Consider Your Ways” used to say that fathers “preside at the meal table”. I’ve always wondered, first, why the meal table needs presiding at, and second, how it would be done. Perhaps like this? MURGATROYD: Hortense, please pass the salt. FATHER: Excuse me, Murgatroyd, but I’m presiding here. Please direct all requests to me. MURGATROYD: Sorry, Father. May I please have the salt? FATHER: Certainly. Hortense, would you please pass the salt to your brother? HORTENSE: With pleasure, Father. Murgatroyd, here’s the salt. MURGATROYD: Thank you, Hortense. And thank you, Father, for your incomparable presiding skills. FATHER: It’s all part of the calling.

  93. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    M&M, I confess I’m more than a little uncomfortable with parent-is-to-child-as-man-is-to-woman analogies.

  94. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    Or rather, the other way ’round: man is to woman as parent is to child.

    Clearly, it’s time for me to quit blogging for today.

  95. Lynnette on July 14, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Do you remember when the Southern Baptists had there resolution that Wives should submit to the servent leadership of their Husbands? Can you imagine an LDS talk like this?

    Truth to tell, I don’t think the quote Rosalynde cited from Elder McConkie actually sounds all that dissimilar to this approach. I’ll grant that it would be difficult to find a current LDS leader voicing such sentiments. But I don’t think we’re in much of a position to express astonishment at the way that many evangelical Christians interpret Paul on gender, given some of the views expressed by past LDS leaders on the subject.

    Parents have a similar kind of responsibilty on their shoulders…to be righteous and to teach their children. That is not to say that every choice a child makes can be blamed on the parents, but parents do have a greater responsibility than their children. I do wonder if something similar exists at some level for men.

    I think this parallel is actually one reason why I’m uneasy with the idea of men being ultimately responsible for the family in a way that women aren’t; in such a scenario, women end up in a category comparable to that of children.

  96. Another Imposter Miranda on July 14, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    DKL: “Women are always going on and on about how men can preside and women can’t. You don’t ever hear them talking about how men can be castrated and women can’t. They seem fine with that. What exactly is it that makes them think that presiding [is] any more desirable than being castrated?”

    You don’t ever hear men complaining that the range of procedures subsumbed under the term “female circumcision” are so much more harmful than male circumcision. What makes you think subordination in marriage is any more desirable than having your genitals entirely removed?

  97. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    M&M, I confess I’m more than a little uncomfortable with parent-is-to-child-as-man-is-to-woman analogies.

    Oh, dear, I can see my mistake in what I was trying to communicate. You should be uncomfortable, and that was not what I was trying to say. Sorry, Eve!

  98. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    I think this parallel is actually one reason why I’m uneasy with the idea of men being ultimately responsible for the family in a way that women aren’t; in such a scenario, women end up in a category comparable to that of children.

    It isn’t a parallel…women are responsible in and of themselves, so right there the parallel breaks down. I’m afraid my trying to explain what I’m thinking will do nothing but ruffle feathers (too sensitive a topic) so just forget I said anything. But I will say again, I do not place women in the same category as children. Even D&C 68 indicates the responsibilty parents have together, as a unified whole. Sorry for pushing buttons. This topic can be difficult to address sometimes. :)

  99. Lynnette on July 14, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, m&m. For what it’s worth, I didn’t actually think you were making the case that women could be directly equated with children. But I do find it difficult to get my head around how men could be held ultimately responsible for their families (including their wives) without the wives thereby being placed in a role where they’re not quite as fully adult–that’s what I was trying to get at.

  100. Starfoxy on July 14, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Adam: A father having responsibility to see that his family prays nightly, but lacking ‘authority’ to require them to do it, is not categorically different from a father having authority to require his family to pray nightly but lacking the ability to compel them to submit to his authority.

    I think those are categorically different, not on the husband’s side, but on the wife and family’s side, when he has authority they have the responsibility to obey. Let’s say that the wife in this situation refuses to pray with her family. If her husband has authority to say “you must pray with us” then when she doesn’t pray she is not meeting her responsibility to obey him. When he has no authority they have no special responsibility to obey.

    If presiding means that the man takes the hit when the family fails then the family should have the responsibility to obey him, which ultimately means that he has authority over them. Since I don’t like the idea of having to obey my husband I also don’t like the idea of him having a special culbability for the family’s spiritual standing because it is not fair to him.

    M&M: I don’t think ultimate responsibility, if it exists, would include being responsible for a wife’s choices, but he might be responsible to do all he could do for the good of the family…

    This is well said, but I disagree that men have a *extra* responsibility to do all they can. I’m fine with them having extra emphasis put on that responsibility in order to counteract biology or social conditioning but the idea that my husband is being held to eternally inequitable standards of responsibilty are troubling to me.

  101. Adam Greenwood on July 14, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Starfoxy,

    Are you saying that if the husband doesn’t have authority, the wife would not have a duty to cooperate with his attempts to make sure family prayer happened? I think she would, which means that the two circumstances are still not categorically different.

    And even going along with the idea that the wife has no responsibility, its still the case either way that the husband is responsible for something he cannot control. The difference you’ve come up with is one that doesn’t matter when it comes to your concern about people being held to account for things that were not in their control.

  102. Rosalynde Welch on July 14, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    All: As you’ve noticed, some of my cobloggers have been experimenting with closing threads after 100 comments to prevent deteriorations in tone. I prefer that threads not end artificially, and since it seems as though there are a few conversations still ongoing and civility has prevailed thus far, I’m going to leave comments open. But I’m also going out to do some errands (need some Pull-Ups for overnight with my potty trainer—although things have been going very well today!), which means that I can’t babysit the thread. So please don’t prove me wrong by letting things go sour while I’m out!

  103. Kaimi Wenger on July 14, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    Rosalynde,

    The concepts of causation are tricky and not always well defined, but generally speaking, but-for cause is cause that is _necessary_ to cause an event, but not always _sufficient_ to cause that event.

    This is weird to explain conceptually, but relatively easy to show by hypothetical:

    Say the event in question is me shooting Nate with my gun. There are a lot of prior causal events and conditions. There must be a bullet in the gun. I must point the gun at Nate. I must pull the trigger. Each of those steps is a but-for cause of my shooting Nate. So we can say, “pointing the gun at Nate is a but-for cause.” But-for my pointing the gun at Nate, I can’t shoot him. However, pointing the gun at him, alone, is not itself sufficient to bring about the event. I also have to load the gun and pull the trigger.

    Thus, pointing the gun at him is a _necessary_ , but not a _sufficient_ , condition. It is a but-for cause.

    (You can split the concept the other way, too. Say the event is “killing Nate.” In that case, shooting Nate with a gun is a sufficient, but not necessary condition. Putting cyanide in Nate’s coffee is also a sufficient, but not necessary condition.)

  104. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 6:47 pm

    This is well said, but I disagree that men have a *extra* responsibility to do all they can. I’m fine with them having extra emphasis put on that responsibility in order to counteract biology or social conditioning but the idea that my husband is being held to eternally inequitable standards of responsibilty are troubling to me.

    I understand the discomfort, and this is why I’m hesistant to explore this, but I think somehow we have to figure out what to do about the “extra” covenants they are under, at least through the covenant of the priesthood, into which women do not formally enter. How would you describe that “extra” covenant (a la D&C 84) except by some level of “extra” responsibility? I do’nt necessarily say that includes responsibility for someone else’s choices, but they might have more “law” to which to conform. More “law” equals more responsibility. I’m assuming that also goes for more “covenant.” Try to remove the emotionality out of this for a minute — I’m just trying to look at this objectively, by sheer nature of covenants entered into (sorry for the bad grammar there). Just as one who has entered the temple is under a level of responsibility greater than one who has not, why would that rationale not apply to men who have the oath and covenant of the priesthood as part of their equation? It’s not that D&C 84 and 121 can’t and don’t apply to women in the covenants they make, but still, it seems to me there is a difference in terms of actual covenants. Or am I off here?

  105. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    p.s. I still think this gets more to the man’s individual righteousness, not for how others in his family may choose to act. I dunno…I’m still significantly in brainstorming mode here…..

  106. Eve on July 14, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    Rosalynde, thanks for presiding over this thread in such longsuffering, gentleness, and meekness. May all your nighttime potty training be bright.

  107. Starfoxy on July 14, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    Adam,
    I’m not objecting to the idea that people will suffer for things they cannot control, (I do however, object to the idea that people will recieve divine punishment for things that are beyond their control, but that is largely beside the point). What I am objecting to is the notion that a man would recieve extra punishment for failing to preside, while a wife recieves no extra punishment for failing to obey him.

    To further clarify (hopefully) let’s say that there is a family with a prayerful spouse and a non-prayerful spouse who never actually had family prayer despite Prayerful Spouse’s best efforts. And let’s say that to preside means to have ultimate responsibility for failure to say the prayer, without having authority to expect the wife to obey (in other words, without having the last word).

    Case 1: If the prayerful spouse is the wife she will get no reprimand (because she tried to convince him to have family prayer) and he will get an extra oomph in his non-cooperative-spouse reprimand for failing in his duty to preside.

    Case 2: If the prayerful spouse is a man then he will _still_ get a reprimand for failing in his duty to preside (because he is ultimately responsible) , while his wife (the non-prayerful spouse) will recieve the run of the mill non-cooperative-spouse reprimand (because she had no special duty to obey him).

    To me a more just model of Case 2 would be that the wife gets an extra oomph in her non-cooperative-spouse reprimand for failing to respect her husband’s presiding, or in other words, failing to obey him.

    My preferred version is Case 3, where prayerful spouse gets no reprimand for trying their best, and non-prayerful spouse gets the non-cooperative-spouse reprimand, and is ultimately held accountable for preventing family prayer regardless of their gender.

  108. Starfoxy on July 14, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    M&M (104): I see most of what you are calling extra responsibilities as extra emphasis. I think we are all responsible for keeping the same commandments to the extents of our mortal abilities. If I ever exercise unrighteous dominion it is just as bad as if a man does it, but I think men are more likely to do it (for whatever reason) so they get an extra commandment to not do it, along everything else in D&C 84. If men and women are truly equal before God then I must be able to damn myself as fully as a man can, and so any commandment that men have which women don’t must have a counterpart that women have which men don’t.

    I think the extra culpability you mention us having after going through the Temple (or bapstism) is a result of extra knowledge. When we make those covenents the spirit has an opportunity to testify to us about those things-> ergo we have more knowledge than we did.

  109. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    My preferred version is Case 3, where prayerful spouse gets no reprimand for trying their best, and non-prayerful spouse gets the non-cooperative-spouse reprimand, and is ultimately held accountable for preventing family prayer regardless of their gender.

    I think this is a little of what I was getting at in #48…the only real presiding that I see possible is if the wife is in agreement with that role, and also means that a husband cannot force any behavior…but, in that case, he also can’t be responsible for it.

    M&M (104): I see most of what you are calling extra responsibilities as extra emphasis. I think we are all responsible for keeping the same commandments to the extents of our mortal abilities.
    No, I”m thinking beyond just emphasis, but still can’t really explain it all.

  110. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 14, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    When we make those covenents the spirit has an opportunity to testify to us about those things-> ergo we have more knowledge than we did.

    Knowledge is one element of the responsibility, but covenants have their own weight. If we make covenants with God, we have more responsibility on our shoulders.

    If men and women are truly equal before God then I must be able to damn myself as fully as a man can,

    As I thought about this, I don’t think this logic holds water…because God is not a respecter of persons, and all are equal before Him, but that doesn’t mean that all people have equal accountability/responsibility before Him. The scriptures are very clear on that.

    Like I said, I’m simply brainstorming…it’s not like I have anything figured out….

  111. Julie M. Smith on July 17, 2006 at 11:29 am

    Mark IV: We drove to Utah from Texas and spent the night in lovely Salina, Kansas. At least the hotel had high-speed internet access . . .

    Rosalynde:

    (1) To clarify: I realize that the church has, in the past, taught ‘the last word’ concept of presiding. (Although since at least Brigham Young’s time, there has been strands of the ‘only in righteousness’ doctrine. To me, the ‘only in righteousness’ idea COMPLETELY changes the playing field, and if any of you think that doesn’t matter, it is because you have never had a conversation with an evangelical woman who thinks that she must do ANYTHING her husband wants.) So I keep hearing it said that I’ve argued that the Church has never taught this, but that isn’t the case (a little more on this below). The point of my ‘challenge’ is to show the gross disconnect between how large this idea looms in the nightmares of feminists versus how rare this idea is in official church discourse (rare historically; nonexistent today).

    (2) Also to clarify: your Elder McConkie quote certainly meets the challenge that I set out (although, again, the ‘only in righteousness’ statement COMPLETELY negates the idea of ‘the last word’ even when he uses that language), but I think in a meta way it proves my point more than it discounts it: if all we can come up with (and maybe there are more statements out there, but the Pres. Smith and Sr. Kimball quotes aren’t it) is ONE statement from Elder MCCONKIE (of all people) who was NOT speaking in a formal situation (and what’s the pub date, on that? was he even in the Q12?), then I think it speaks volumes for how weak the evidence is for the idea that ‘the last word’ has ever been mainstream Church doctrine.

    (3) I’m a little dismayed by the number of commenters (including RW) who have used language that suggests that it isn’t “real presiding” if it doesn’t mean “having the last word.” Presiding can be a real and important and true idea even if it doesn’t include tie-breaking authority in marital disputes. It makes me a little sad to see it implied that I am suggesting something “watered down” when ‘the last word’ version has virtually no doctrinal support historically, and no support whatsoever today.

  112. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Starfoxy,

    Your ‘more just model of Case 2′ is, I think, the right one. If I understand you correctly, your complaint isn’t that its unfair to hold the father specially responsible for, e.g., the family having nightly prayers if he can’t *force* the family to do it. Your complaint is that its unfair to hold the family specially responsible for having family prayers if the family doesn’t have a special responsibility to heed the father in this regard. I think you are probably right. I can’t say for sure that its always true that “if X has a special responsibility to make sure Y happens, Y being unable to happen without the cooperation of person Z, then Z has a special duty to cooperate with X,” but it does sound appealing.

  113. Starfoxy on July 17, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Adam,
    You do understand me correctly. The next logical step is, if the family has a special duty to heed the father, in my book that means that the father effectively has the last word, not because he has the ability to force anyone to do anything, but because the family will be judged based on what he said. (keep in mind, this does not mean it is appropriate for him to say “you have to do what I say!” He is still responsible to lead with love and kindness, but it still means that they do have to do what he says.)
    I’d rather get rid of presiding altogether, but if we do have to keep it I don’t see how we can justifiably divorce it from a family’s responsibility to obey.

  114. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Agreed.

  115. Rosalynde Welch on July 17, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Julie, I’m glad you’re back! I’m a little disappointed to read your response, though, because it means we’ve reached the end of this conversation. I think your conclusions are unjustified and misleading; you think the same of mine; I’m not sure where else we can go. I could serve up more quotes, but I’m not sure they would bring much clarity to the discussion—not only because our respective hermeneutics appear to be entirely incompatible, but also because the authority of past prophetic counsel in the present is unclear.

    (Okay, so I can’t resist: here’s one more, plus two more citations: “When the final decision is to be made, when particularly it has reference to prayer and the need of special guidance, then you, as the wife, defer to your husband who holds the priesthood and place the responsibility upon his shoulders, and then you follow where he leads.” (Boyd K. Packer, That All May Be Edified , p.230)

    And see also, if you like: Elder Paul H. Dunn, Conference Report, April 1967, General Priesthood Meeting, p.89

    President Stephen L. Richards, Conference Report, April 1958, Third Day—Morning Meeting, p.95)

    My little survey has shown, I readily agree, that from the beginning LDS leaders have urged fathers to exercise their authority with loving kindness. I think the reason so many women find this comfort cold is that, in the “feminist nightmare,” benevolent despots loom as large as tyrants. Indeed, when the husband exercises his authority with benevolence, the wife is under a greater obligation to obey.

  116. bbell on July 17, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    I for one enjoy Julie and RW discussing this issue. Both y’all perspectives are appreciated. It helps me to understand your backgrounds and faithful perspective

    I do think that the feminist inclined women so opposed to the “preside doctrine” do conflate the LDS model of marriage and family governance with the history of domestic violence and mis-treatment of women thru the generations.

    This baggage of abuse and lack of power in the world at large makes it hard for them to seperate “Preside” from “mistreatment”

  117. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    “Julie, I’m glad you’re back! I’m a little disappointed to read your response, though, because it means we’ve reached the end of this conversation. I think your conclusions are unjustified and misleading; you think the same of mine”

    I’m disappointed too. What has become of our vaunted ideological diversity? Where are the voices for Julie S.’s views being justified and misleading, or Rosalynde W.’s being unjustified and leading?

  118. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    B. Bell,

    I think LDS church leaders have had a hard time separating them in the minds of their male listeners too, in practice (I could tell you some hair-raising stories about a former male relative of mine), which is why I think our leaders have stopped talking altogether about any authority that comes with presiding. It was used too much to justify evil. “It has been our sad experience” etc.

  119. bbell on July 17, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Adam,

    I agree with you having sat on Church courts for LDS males facing church discipline for Domestic abuse.
    You would really though have to be a jerk to take the LDS concept of preside and turn it into something abusive

  120. Téa on July 17, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    I asked these questions in #46.

    Does presiding in love and righteousness automatically exclude a presiding husband having the last word?

    Is having the last word always abusing the privilege of presiding?

    Julie says yes, Rosalynde says no.

    Is this the basic difference here?

  121. Mark Butler on July 17, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    I am a little dismayed that no one has taken up my suggestion that “preside” should mean the same thing in the council of husband and wife as it does in any legislative body – a formal, organizing, quasi-judical authority, subject to common consent, not a dictatorial power to override the will of the council ad libitum.

  122. Mark Butler on July 17, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    There is also lacking any analysis of under what conditions, if any a decision legitimately “must be made”, as opposed to remaining with the status quo, or in a state of indecision. The only ones I know of off the top of my head are threats to life, health, and safety – in short *exigency* – the only justification for military law to override civil law, or executive authority (either father or mother) to act without waiting for a decision on the part of the legislature (the council of husband and wife).

    What about the precedent of the Council of the Twelve? I have been told on multiple occasions that the Council of the Twelve waits until a consensus is formed before making any material policy changes. They most definitely do not just yield to President Hinckley’s opinion on the matter – not until they are inspired that he is inspired in that respect.

  123. Mark Butler on July 17, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Also, what about the merits of the priesthood order as a system to produce *loving* unity, and not just unilaterally impose some totalitarianism a la Satan’s plan?

  124. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 17, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    #122
    I think I addressed this a little in #48.

    #123
    I don’t think anyone was supporting anything that could come close to totalitarianism. I think presiding only really works when all involved are working in unity, love and with the Spirit. And I think that’s part of why we have it — so we can learn to work together in that divine way.

  125. Mark Butler on July 17, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    #124, I don’t think so either, m&m. But many imply that the concept of presidency entails it, as if there was no such thing as righteous authority of any mode or manner whatsoever.

  126. mullingandmusing (m&m) on July 17, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    125
    Yeah, I guess that gets back to conflating cultural problems with this divine concept. Never a good mix. :)

  127. Mark Butler on July 17, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    One of the reasons why this question is so serious is the principle taught here:

    And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

    That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.
    (D&C 88:34-35)

    Now someone who refuses to recognize the authority of the law, or the righteous administration thereof, cannot, according to this scripture, be sanctified by law, neither mercy, nor justice, nor judgment. They must remain filthy still at the last day.

    In other words, someone who insists on being a law unto themselves, cannot be saved. Not even in the telestial glory of the kingdom of God. Instead they must remain, to enjoy that which they were willing to receive, in the end to abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory. In short sanctification comes only by obedience to law – no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God – those who refuse to obey the law of God are per se, unclean.

    Now the father does not author the law, at best he administers the law. The council of father and mother together author new laws for the family, as a presiding council, but those decisions are only legitimate insofar as they are consistent with the higher law. The father has the formal duty of representing the higher law in council – not dictating the higher law, let alone his own will, but representing the higher law in righteousness.

    As far as preference is concerned I maintain it is a first class abuse of priesthood authority to grant ones own personal preference any higher weight than the preference of any other member of a council assembled. That is self-dealing, and is condemned by the Lord. As Jesus said, Of mine own self I can do nothing. I came not to do my will, but the will of my Father. Obedience per se is not the first law of heaven, but humility definitely is.

    Humility requires that we submit our will to the will of the council, whether the council we are a part of, or the council presiding in the heavens above. Anyone who lacks that humility cannot be saved, but rather must abide without salvation for all eternity.

  128. DKL on July 17, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    Rosalynde, When I first read this post, I thought it a little curios that you were inviting people to provide instances of general authorities talking about “presiding” in a way that made women uncomfortable. But I couldn’t put my finger on why.

    Then, two days ago, I read a formal exposition of a paper on multi-valued logic (sent to me by Mark Butler). It was written in 1975 (not everything from the 70s is lacking in merit, it seems). And in the commentary on the formal exposition, it used as example the sets of “beautiful,” and “well-dressed” which he defined as subsets of the class “woman.” Now I don’t think that this is the kind of thing that one could get away with in a scholarly journal anymore. (I can scarcely get away with it on the bloggernacle…) And this isn’t just a matter of political correctness. Most people just don’t tend to harbor reflexively condescending views about women any more (thanks to powerful women role models like Margaret Thatcher, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Elisabeth Dole, and Peggy Noonan, of course).

    So why are people surprised that if you go back 30 or 40 years, we find Mormon general authorities who harbor such reflexively condescending views? I venture to guess that reasonable Mormons aren’t. They just put it in the same category with Mark Peterson’s statement that he’d be happy if every black man owned a Cadillac. But there seems to be a certain class of Mormon that wants to seize on to these statements and say, “AHA! So presiding in the home is an altogether sexist notion, and now I can prove it!” As though there’s something sexist about the notion of presiding, per se, or as if the notion can’t change as our culture changes (e.g., surely it means something different now than it did in the days of polygamy.)

    The counter part to this is that there are always going to be a bunch of men who look at the sexist quotes from GAs say, “AHA! So presiding in the home does give me absolute authority over my wife.” Maybe instead of asking whether presiding can be sexist, we should “Why isn’t it more difficult for idiots like these to find wives?”

  129. Julie M. Smith on July 17, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I don’t have access to anything that will let me look up your citations, but as it stands now you have one statement from Elder McConkie (footnote about righteousness, which pretty much negates the power of the statement) and one from Elder Packer (although I’m not clear what the bit about prayer has to do with it and without seeing it in context, I’m not sure what he means–does he mean when the woman’s prayer has confirmed what her husband is suggesting?–so I’m bot sure what to do with it at all).

    Again, if the entire doctrine of “the last word” hangs on these two statements, then color me unimpressed. (It might be fun to have a contest to see how many ‘interesting’ ideas, (pseudo)doctrines, etc. we could find two GA statements to support). Compare these with the recent treatments of the topic that I have cited before, with the Family Handbook that I perused in the Distribution Center today, with what The LDS Woman and Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood say (and I mention these sources because they are designed for people who don’t have much/any LDS cultural background), and I think you would be hardpressed to find a fair jury who would uphold the idea that the Church (1) is teaching this idea today or (2) univocally taught it during most of the 20th century.

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