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.