Zelophehad’s Daughters

Presiding and Nurturing

Posted by Kiskilili

If we take the Proclamation on the Family as the key document on gender roles, then the most important aspects of our gender differences are women’s primary responsibility in nurturing children in contrast to men’s responsibility to preside.

These roles are incessantly subjected to assessment in a metaphorical balance, the conclusion being that, although they are different, they are nevertheless somehow equal in weight.

But setting aside the murky issue of equality for the moment, I have to wonder, is this really the best way to dole out parenting responsibilities? Is it really in children’s best interest for the parent who is most centrally involved in their day-to-day lives not to be the one granted chief authority in decision-making for the family? For those who are persuaded that one parent must preside, wouldn’t it make sense for it to be the nurturing parent?

38 Responses to “Presiding and Nurturing”

  1. 1.

    For those who are persuaded that one parent must preside, wouldn’t it make sense for it to be the nurturing parent?

    it would make sense if parenting were only about the children, but i think parenting is also about parental growth. the logic presented in this post would also suggest that only those with certain skills or capabilities would be called to ceratin callings, but that doesn’t always happen either.

  2. 2.

    the logic presented in this post would also suggest that only those with certain skills or capabilities would be called to ceratin callings, but that doesn’t always happen either.

    Not exactly. My interest in this post isn’t in inherent capabilities at all, but in prescribed roles specifically. The logic I’m employing is that some roles are best suited to those who are engaged in other related roles. To illustrate using an extreme example: it would hardly make sense to argue that the priest over a Catholic parish need not himself be Catholic.

    But your comment is interesting. I’ve observed a tendency on the bloggernacle over the last several months to discuss parenting in terms primarily of the needs and growth of parents, and I’m inclined to say we in the Church advocate a parent-centered style of parenting. (I’m personally very disturbed by this trend.)

  3. 3.

    Is it really in children’s best interest for the parent who is most centrally involved in their day-to-day lives not to be the one granted chief authority in decision-making for the family?

    I have no idea. I don’t think this is an answerable question. I don’t see why that would be so. Anyways, being primarily responsible for nurture does not preclude also being responsible for making decisions for the family. It’s not like women are supposed to wait for their husbands to approve every decision they make, nor do husbands have the final word in family decision-making.

    For those who are persuaded that one parent must preside, wouldn’t it make sense for it to be the nurturing parent?

    Again, I don’t see why it makes more sense for the parent who is primarily responsible for day-to-day nurturing to also be responsible for presiding.

    . . . I’m inclined to say we in the Church advocate a parent-centered style of parenting.

    I don’t see it.

  4. 4.

    My personal view,

    Father’s in Zion have the primary responsibility to see that the families temporal and spiritual needs are order. Therefore, I feel primarily responsible to be the breadwinner, and to make sure we are doing our family scripture study, prayer, church attendance, and family home evening. Through interviews and daddy dates, I try also make it a priority to assess how each member of the family is doing temporally and spiritually.

    Mother’s in Zion have the primary responsibility to see that the emotional (psycho-social) needs of the family are met. My wife schedules most of our recreational activities and is in tune with how each member of the family is doing on an emotional level. This kind of assessment is much more difficult than assessing temporal needs.

    My point here is that this has nothing to do with whose divinely appointed to do the dishes or make decisions for the family. House chores need to be shared and divided however is acceptable between the husband and wife.

    However, when it comes to family desision making, both husband and wife should be equal partners. Just think what would happens when one spouse makes a decision and says, “this is what I feel we should do” and the other is just told to accept it. When the road gets difficult than Satan can use that as a wedge. The other spouse can say, “This is all your fault, I never felt good about this decision in the first place.” Other the other hand, If both husband and wife make decisions together, than when the going gets tough, they can say to each other, “It’s tough, but we both felt good about it, that is decision is God’s will, and if we are patient, pray, and have faith; things will get better.”

  5. 5.

    Tom’s description of what fathers and mothers are each responsible for sounds a lot like what the church holds up as a model. I find it interesting, but wholly unsatisfactory for my family. That’s the thing. Families, and marriages, are made up of individuals, who all have different strengths and talents that can’t necessarily be so neatly split up along gender lines.

    Our society at large is not as much of a patriarchy as it used to be. I believe the church is going to find that the rigid roles they are defining for people are increasingly problematic. I don’t think they are based on anything scriptural, but on 1950s ideas about what a “nice family” means. Of course, as our current leaders die (hope that does not sound abrasive) and are replaced by leaders with different cultural references, we may see less emphasis on this.

    When you hold up one particular type of family and tout it as the ideal, you are asking for trouble, because there are all kinds of flavors of families that work wonderfully well, and result in happy well adjusted kids.

    And as for the original question, yes I think that having the parent who is with the children be the parent without the ultimate say (I can’t believe there would be such a thing, but in order to play along), would result in a bunch of little monsters.

  6. 6.

    “I’m inclined to say we in the Church advocate a parent-centered style of parenting.”

    I’m curious about where you see this, and what you see as parent-centered. There is a point where one can be too parent-centered, but there is also the opposite extreme of being too child-centered (neglecting the needs and growth of parents in favor of the children’s needs will eventually render the parents incapable of helping the children at all). All in all I see the whole world moving away from parent-centered family structure of the past, perhaps the church is just slower in adopting the child-centered mindset than the mainstream culture.

  7. 7.

    i didn’t mean to imply that it was all about the parents, just i think that is something to consider. i don’t think the church is parent centered at the exclusion of the children. i think roles take both into consideration.

  8. 8.

    Sue,
    I’m much less willing than some to ascribe directives from men I sustain as prophets to outdated cultural attitudes. I don’t understand the reasons for everything, but I’m not going to dismiss their model of the ideal family just because it goes against the cultural norm.

    I think that having the parent who is with the children be the parent without the ultimate say (I can’t believe there would be such a thing, but in order to play along), would result in a bunch of little monsters.

    The LDS ideal doesn’t give one spouse “the ultimate say.” Like I said, mothers are not without decision-making authority. I think that Kiskilili is portraying prescribed gender roles as much more rigid than they are intended to be. It’s not a case of mothers only nurturing and performing no other function and fathers having all the decision-making authority.

  9. 9.

    I’m much less willing than some to ascribe directives from men I sustain as prophets to outdated cultural attitudes

    So why do we then excuse previous prophets for their statements about, for example, african americans being our servants in heaven, native americans becoming more white as they grow more righteous, and other attitudes that we consider repugnant now? Are we only supposed to allow room for the cultural biases of prophets when it is convenient? I don’t see a lot of scriptural basis for the gender roles that women are encouraged to take right now, so I feel comfortable feeling that a lot of it is cultural, especially since the mother at home playing with the children while the father works model didn’t even really exist until the 20th century. Children were laborers. Parenting continues to evolve and change, and so does the church’s view of marriage. I’m sure if you compared marital advice given by the church in Brigham’s time to marital advice given now, you’d see a massive shift. In the short history of the church, the role women have played in the family, in the church and as parents has continually changed. I’m not sure why it would suddenly become static and unchanging, or why the church would suddenly stop modifying their advice to fit the time.

  10. 10.

    Sue,
    I probably shouldn’t have started the conversation down the road of what it means to sustain the leadership. I understand where you’re coming from but I personally think they deserve more benefit of the doubt than your approach seems to give them. I know that the leadership is not infallible but I don’t have all that much confidence that I can identify exactly where they are going wrong.

  11. 11.

    “I don’t see a lot of scriptural basis for the gender roles that women are encouraged to take right now, so I feel comfortable feeling that a lot of it is cultural”

    me too. When I think of “scriptural depiction of a good wife” I think Proverbs 31. And she works. She’s frugal, she makes and sells things, she’s wise.

  12. 12.

    I can only speak for my experience, but in my family neither me nor my wife have final say about anything of importance. It doesn’t make much difference to me what others say about how my family should work. My wife and I live in a way that seems to be of most benefit to all involved. I think the whole idea of one person presiding in a family is ridiculous and unnecessary.

  13. 13.

    BRoz,
    I completely agree with your picture on how the church thinks the family work should be divided (lately, anyway). I think the confusion comes in once again with the sticky word “preside.” In your model, the father presides over the spiritual needs, the mother presides over the emotional. However, the mother isn’t granted the word “preside,” which makes it seem that the men are ultimatly in charge. It might seem that women are getting hung up on one trivial little word, but I think when viewed with a lot of other trends related to women in the church, it becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  14. 14.

    oops – Ultimately, I mean

  15. 15.

    If “preside” means something along the lines of final decision-making, or final responsiblity for the well-being of the family, I have to agree that it would make more sense for the nurturing parent to play that role–because s/he would have more information with which to do the former, and more influence in terms of the latter. Though that seems like an awful lot of responsibility to put on one parent–which is why I like the idea of both parents sharing in the presiding and the nurturing.

    (And if “preside” means something mysterious which no one can quite define, I’m not sure it’s really a good parallel to nurturing, since I think most people have at least some idea of what’s involved in nurturing.)

  16. 16.

    And just to continue some of the threadjacking:

    1. On the issue of being parent-centered; I too have noticed how often we talk about raising children in terms of the benefits to the parent. I’ve been told again and again that I should have kids because it will allow me to gain admirable attributes like patience, that ultimately it will enable me to become more godlike. Though this may well be true, I’m not sure about choosing to have children solely to further one’s own spiritual development. As a non-parent I’m always a bit hesitant to say too much on this subject, since I may well have no idea what I’m talking about, but I would hope that the needs of the potential children would also merit at least some consideration in such a decision–and discourse about parenthood which makes it sound like it’s an endeavor solely for the benefit of the parents leaves me a bit uneasy. I think that culturally we already have too much of a tendency to view children as objects rather than as autonomous individuals. (Though I also think that Starfoxy makes a valid point about not going to the other extreme and not being at all concerned with the needs of parents.)

    2. On the ever-recurring question of culture–my view is that the gospel should probably always be counter-cultural, at least to some extent; it should allow us to critique what is problematic in our culture. So I’d hope I wouldn’t reject something simply because it violates current cultural norms. And I have to confess that my commitment to egalitarianism in gender relations is doubtless to some degree a product of the 21st century Western culture in which I live. However, I also see it as founded in some of my core beliefs as a Christian: that God is no respecter of persons, and that it’s morally wrong to treat any of God’s children as less than fully human or less worthy of respect and autonomy on the basis of gender, race, class, etc. It’s possible that I’m misunderstanding just what that means; I realize my conscience is inevitably fallible. But I also believe that I have an ethical responsibility to follow my best understanding of what is right, as limited as that understanding may be.

  17. 17.

    And if “preside” means something mysterious which no one can quite define, I’m not sure it’s really a good parallel to nurturing, since I think most people have at least some idea of what’s involved in nurturing.

    Lynnette, you raise an issue that has interested me for a while now, and I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I see the issue from a different angle. While we can all imagine what nurturing looks like, I find that the mothers I know nurture their children in such a wide variety of ways that it becomes difficult to draw conclusions about what the word means. Most mothers I know have a few good skills that appear to offset weaknesses in other areas. For example, a woman can have a messy house and feed her kids corndogs and microwave pizza day after day and still be a terrific mother. I know a woman who is about as cold and emotionally distant as anybody I have ever met, but her children are now leaving the home as well-adjusted, high achieving adults. I know women with full time jobs, women with widely varying approaches to discipline and rules, and women with very little emotional stability themselves. All of these women have succeeded as mothers. For me, nurturing and presiding are both activities that are highly subjective, and the Proclamation does little to help explain them.

    Kiskilili, thank you for this post, if only because it crowded other comments off the sidebar. It was quite disturbing to look at the sidebar and see only comments about Having One Spouse and Radical Heterosexuality. I feel like I need to make an appointment with the bishop for having read ZDs.

  18. 18.

    Three quick general comments:
    1) I don’t see any problem with talking about the benefits of parenting to parents. It’s not at the expense of talking and thinking about how our decisions as parents affect our children. Both aspects get plenty of air time. I just don’t see much reason to complain here.

    2) I’ll point out again that the Church’s ideal for gender roles in marriage and family are much less rigid and male-authoritarian than commenters seem to be talking about them. The Church’s ideal is certainly very much different from 1950′s cultural ideals as I understand them. Wives are not to be subservient and husbands are not to have last word authority and vice-versa.

    3) I don’t know why it matters that people don’t see delineation of LDS family ideals in the scriptures. Why should silence of dead prophets on a matter trump directives of living prophets? Fifteen prophets unanimously approved and transmitted to the Church a proclamation on family ideals. Individual prophets also frequently communicate family ideals relevant to us today in official fora. That we don’t have records of ancient dead prophets teaching about family ideals is irrelevant to the question of what we should be aiming for today.

  19. 19.

    Re: Tom’s 2) Tom, they may not feel rigid to you, because you are not constricted by them.

    The Church’s ideal is certainly very much different from 1950′s cultural ideals as I understand them

    In what respect do they differ at all?

    Individual prophets also frequently communicate family ideals relevant to us today in official fora.

    Again, I will say that Prophets in the past have put forward a lot of embarrassing social ideas that we are now instructed to disregard, because they were not doctrinal, although I would bet money that Brigham considered pretty much every word out of his mouth as doctrine. The fact that we explain those matters away by saying that they were talking as men, not as prophets, when they said those things, makes it hard for me to trust their word as it pertains to current social issues. I’m not sure how I can be expected to blindly have faith in every word they say when they have been so profoundly wrong in the past. So I go to the Lord when I have a question, and get my own answer. And I have to trust the answer I receive, or else what’s the point of it all?

  20. 20.

    Tom, they may not feel rigid to you, because you are not constricted by them.

    I’m afraid you’re venturing into territory where you have no place. What do you know about me? That I’m male? And that means that I benefit at the expense of my wife? That means that I don’t have to make sacrifices and subjugate my own desires for the sake of living up to an ideal that I feel will benefit my family? What if I would rather stay at home than have a career? What if I would rather not be responsible for ensuring that family home evening, scripture study, and prayer take place? What if I would rather go golfing alone than spend time at home strengthening family relationships? If I were a male that had any of those desires, I would certainly be constricted by the prescribed gender roles.

    In what respect do they differ at all?

    I thought I noted in my comment how I thought they differ: wives are not to be subservient to husbands and husbands are not to have last-word authority. Husbands and wives are to be equal partners. They make decisions together.

    I say the prescribed gender roles aren’t rigid because they aren’t. There is a great deal of flexibility. The leadership don’t spell out every duty of every husband and wife. They speak in broad, general terms and they make allowance for people adjusting to their own unique circumstances. There is no ecclesiastical enforcement of the roles. Nobody loses membership privileges for having a career.

    I’m not sure how I can be expected to blindly have faith in every word they say when they have been so profoundly wrong in the past.

    Nobody is expected to blindly have faith in the prophets. We are expected to seek to know from God if they are worthy of our sustaining vote, to know if they truly are called of God. We are also expected to seek the guidance of the Spirit in our own lives and seek confirmation that prophetic counsel and direction is what is best for each of us individually. If you think that your family would be best served by going another way, then go for it. But to me, broadly dismissing unanimous declarations of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as useless hot air is tantamount to not sustaining them. Which is fine. But I don’t think I’d see much point in being LDS if I didn’t trust that unanimous declarations of the prophets were at least something worth paying attention to.

  21. 21.

    You were the person who said they were not rigid, so I’m not sure that I took much of a leap there…

    Husbands and wives are to be equal partners. They make decisions together.

    And this conversation has been had a million times on the bloggernaccle, with no resolution, but – how does PRESIDING fit into an equal partnership? It doesn’t. If one of you is presiding, one of you is in a lesser role of authority. I know you know this, but the word preside means “to occupy the place of authority or control, as in an assembly or meeting; act as president or chairperson; to exercise management or control.” Presiding has no place in an equal partnership. The church talks about both equal partnerships but also promotes the idea of the husband presiding. The husband and wife should be equal partners with the husband occupying the place of authority. That – doesn’t make sense.

    “But to me, broadly dismissing unanimous declarations of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as useless hot air is tantamount to not sustaining them. Which is fine. But I don’t think I’d see much point in being LDS if I didn’t trust that unanimous declarations of the prophets were at least something worth paying attention to.”

    Well, thanks for trying to usher a whole bunch of folks right on out of the church, but listen – I can pay attention to what a prophet says, pray about it, and get a different answer. Prophets ARE men, men who have a calling to lead the church, but they aren’t infalliable. Are they usually wiser and more spiritual than me? Without a doubt. But I look back at the failed, and frankly, quite ugly social policies they’ve promoted in the past and it does give me pause about their ability to provide good sound guidance on social matters. Not spiritual matters – social and cultural matters. There’s always been a bit of a disconnect there. Most of the issues that seem to cause problems for the church have more to do with social issues (sexual, gender, and racial issues) than with spiritual issues. I think there IS a difference. You don’t. That’s o.k. That’s the beauty of it – we get to listen to our own conscience and don’t have to stuff personal revelation for our lives into a closet somewhere.

  22. 22.

    About preside and equal partnership, the conclusion I’ve come to is that the brethren are using preside in an idiosychratic manner that refers only to performing some specific tasks like calling on people to give the prayer, gathering the family for FHE, giving blessings, etc. and in a way that does not put one spouse over the other. There are a few reasons I think this: 1) they talk about presiding in the same breath as equal partnership, 2) the only thing they ever say or do that could in any way be construed as giving husbands authority over wives is using the word preside; when they expound and talk in more detail about how families should be it’s always quite clear that the ideal they’re holding up is indeed one of equal partnership, 3) they have clearly, explicitly condemned domineering spouses and have clearly, repeatedly stated that husbands are not to have final-word authority. If we focus only on the use of the word preside, we could conclude that the ideal is one of subjugation, but in the context of everything else that is taught it’s clear that the ideal is not one of subjugation but of equal partnership.

    I think there IS a difference. You don’t.

    Again, you’re being presumptuous. I do recognize the difference. There is also a difference between claiming that through seeking your own inspiration you come to a different conclusion for your own life and your own family and claiming that specific, current prophetic pronouncements are useless or misguided. You aren’t just talking about receiving specific personal guidance that differs from the general guidance of the leadership, you’re claiming to know better than the prophets what they should be teaching to the Church generally. I only take issue with the latter.

  23. 23.

    No, I’m not claiming to know better. I’m claiming to have an opinion. And that opinion is that the whole idea of men presiding is a faulty one, IN MY OPINION.

    If men presiding is a sound spiritual precept, or an important one, then the way it has become watered down over the last 50 years would be cause for concern. The prophets have gone from making comments like this:

    “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” (Joseph Smith – taken from LDS.org – there is a whole part where he goes over Ephesians 5, but I’ll leave it to anyone interested to look it up)

    and this: “This is but another way of saying that the wife is to obey the law of her husband only as he obeys the laws of God… The good wife commandeth her husband in any equal matter by constantly obeying him.” (Harold B. Lee – taken from LDS.org)

    …to this new watered down meaning that you are promoting. That’s a pretty big shift. And so yes, I feel personally that it is not a big stretch to say that their social policy will continue to evolve. They have not been consistent on this issue and as they are pushed, they continually water down the meaning of preside until they get to the current meaning, which is nothing at all like the original meaning – or even the ACTUAL meaning – of the word.

  24. 24.

    About preside and equal partnership, the conclusion I’ve come to is that the brethren are using preside in an idiosychratic manner that refers only to performing some specific tasks like calling on people to give the prayer, gathering the family for FHE, giving blessings, etc. and in a way that does not put one spouse over the other.

    I don’t think this is the only LDS sense in which “preside” is used this way.

    For example, a while back someone was teasing our bishop about not wearing a white shirt on youth activity nights. His response was that he only wears white shirts to meetings over which he presides. He does wear a white shirt if he happens to have interviews scheduled for that same night, but although he is present, the youth leaders preside over the youth activities that night, calling on people to give the prayer, arranging lessons, etc. as described above.

    As an aside, I don’t think the PotF is describing gender roles. I take it at face value, that it is defining our responsibilities by gender. Responsibilities are more about accountability, not who actually does the work.

    As a practical matter, I have to say that in 28+ years of marriage, we’ve never had an occasion when there *was* a “chief authority in decision-making for the family.” Everything we’ve done has been a partnership, or backing the other up if one wasn’t around to consult. And since we only have a few years left of children at home, we likely won’t run into such a situation, making the conversation kinda moot from our point of view.

  25. 25.

    About preside and equal partnership, the conclusion I’ve come to is that the brethren are using preside in an idiosychratic manner that refers only to performing some specific tasks like calling on people to give the prayer, gathering the family for FHE, giving blessings, etc. and in a way that does not put one spouse over the other.

    Amen. The only people I’ve found who think that the LDS use of “preside” means “one spouse over the other” are LDS feminists who are mad about it.

  26. 26.

    The only people I’ve found who think that the LDS use of “preside” means “one spouse over the other” are LDS feminists who are mad about it.

    Well, and there’s the dictionary, pesky old thing…

  27. 27.

    And this conversation has been had a million times on the bloggernaccle, with no resolution, but – how does PRESIDING fit into an equal partnership?

    i think it’s probably important to recognize that this is your perception or understanding of it that supposes these two concepts don’t fit. i know that’s reality to you, but it’s not for many people. it can work. really, it can.

  28. 28.

    Well, and there’s the dictionary, pesky old thing…

    If we were going to worry about the dictionary, we would change a lot of what we say….we’re going to skip right over the current usage of the word “gay,” and get to “working.” I dislike it when employed parents are referred to as working, and I absolutely hate it when a full-time parent is referred to as “not working.” After all, there is a perfectly good word, “employed,” to describe parents who work outsisde the home.

    Nevertheless, I understand that in current practice, that’s how the words are used. So 99.5% of the time, I accept that usage without question. I confess that I will never refer to myself as “not working” and occasionally I might nicely correct someone, but mostly I go with the flow. I don’t worry about the dictionary since nobody else does.

    Yes, church leaders use “partriarchy” and “preside” in a way that is different from current common usage. The dictionary was written by men and reflects current usage. I also think it entirely possible that the original meaning of the words was closer to the church usage, and has been corrupted by the world over time.

    And since church leaders use such words in a way that they make very clear, then I don’t see a problem.

  29. 29.

    #29. “Yes, church leaders use ‘patriarchy’ and ‘preside’ in a way that is different from current common usage.”

    With respect, Naismith, I don’t think we (Mormons) use the word “preside” differently. I don’t think anyone would balk at the idea that the bishop or stake president, after soliciting suggestions and input from their counselors, make a final decision. They may all be in agreement, but the presiding authority has to put his stamp of approval on it. It is the bishop and stake president, as the presiding voice, who direct the affairs of the ward and stake, respectively, and I don’t think we generally accept the counselors as being equal in authority to the bishop or stake president. I don’t think anyone fails to recognize that it is the prophet, as the president and presiding voice of the church, who is the only one who can receive revelation on behalf of the church. The QotT are a support and have important roles, but they do not have equal authority in being “mouthpieces of the Lord.”

    It doesn’t make sense to me that we would re-define the word “preside” when it comes to the family. If a husband does not have the final say as the presiding voice for the family, if husband and wife have equal authority and power within the family, then a word other than “preside” should be used. If a man’s role is truly prescribed by God as the presiding authority in the home and a wife should rightly defer to his decisions (as counselors defer to the bishop or stake president), then the “equal” clause ought to be discarded.

    And lastly, despite the powerful keys of authority and revelation that church leaders possess, I don’t believe that they have the keys to redefine the English language. There’s no “one true” definition for a word. Words are just for communication and it is current usage of a word that determines its meaning(s). And currently, best as I can tell, both in and out of the church, “preside” means having authority over others in some capacity, which negates equality in some capacity.

    And I could give similar arguments for the word “patriarchy”, but I won’t because then this post would be insufferably long.

  30. 30.

    It doesn’t make sense to me that we would re-define the word “preside” when it comes to the family.

    I can understand this sentiment. But it’s abundantly clear that the conception that the brethren have of presiding in the family doesn’t entail subjugation of wives or final-word authority for husbands. Presiding in the family is different from presiding in the Church.

  31. 31.

    Sue, it’s hard for me to understand why a LDS would rely on the dictionary when the meaning as explained by church leaders is so different. We have an entirely different usage for a whole slew of words (ordinance, priesthood, salvation, heaven, scripture, etc.).

    Tam: same thing. We can’t abandon words just because the world uses them differently.

  32. 32.

    Julie and Tom: I see your point. I agree that we (Mormons) have a different interpretation for a lot of words, including the ones that Julie mentioned. And I agree that church leaders today seem to be emphasizing the concept of equality somewhat more than the traditional concept of preside.

    But if “preside” doesn’t mean “to occupy the place of authority or control, as in an assembly or meeting; act as president or chairperson; to exercise management or control” as defined by dictionaries, then what is the Mormon definition of a husband being the head of the home and presiding over his family? And what is the point of designating him as the one who presides?

    As Rilkerunning said way back in #13: “I think the confusion comes in once again with the sticky word ‘preside.’ ” It is confusing to not only redefine a word from its current usage, but to also use it differently at church versus at home.

  33. 33.

    I’m not sure whether to comment here or the new thread but:

    No language is unproblematic. As Kaimi once so helpfully offered, if all of the preside language were denounced over the pulpit tomorrow and a mandate went out to fly the “equal partners” banner from the rooftops, we could still have people saying: “We _are_ equal partners: I make all the decisions and my wife takes care of the kids. We each do some stuff, so that’s equal.”

    So no matter what, we have to define and explain our word choice. This is done repeatedly in official settings, most notably and recently by Elder Oaks.

  34. 34.

    For me, nurturing and presiding are both activities that are highly subjective, and the Proclamation does little to help explain them.

    I also think the vagueness of the term “nurture” is problematic in its own ways, a topic I intend to take up in a future post. We seem quite confused. We’re convinced gender roles are eternal and gender is essential, but we seem utterly lost as to what specifically those all-important gender roles are.

    Kiskilili, thank you for this post, if only because it crowded other comments off the sidebar. It was quite disturbing to look at the sidebar and see only comments about Having One Spouse and Radical Heterosexuality. I feel like I need to make an appointment with the bishop for having read ZDs.

    Ah, but to confess what? Just wait till we write posts on Having Multiple Spouses and Radical Homosexuality, and then you’ll have something to confess! ;)

  35. 35.

    Okay, let’s look at the definition.

    “to occupy the place of authority or control, as in an assembly or meeting

    Authority, sure. That’s what priesthood is. Control, no. But since the definition says OR, not AND, that’s not a problem, neh? Also, let’s keep in mind the nature of this particular brand of “authority.” The priesthood is used to bless others, not amass power unto the holder.

    act as president or chairperson;

    Sure, no problem. We’ve already established that the father is in charge of conducting FHE, calling on people to pray, etc. But keep in mind that the power of presidents and chairpersons varies from organization to organization. In some cases, a president can commit resources and declare war. In other cases, a legislature or board of directors must be consulted before anything can be accomplished. In the case of LDS families,

    then what is the Mormon definition of a husband being the head of the home and presiding over his family? And what is the point of designating him as the one who presides?

    As Julie already noted, Elder Oaks discussed this at length in October 2005 general conference, in a talk entitled, “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church.”

    He said,

    There are many similarities and some differences in the way priesthood authority functions in the family and in the Church. If we fail to recognize and honor the differences, we encounter difficulties….

    Partnership. A most important difference in the functioning of priesthood authority in the family and in the Church results from the fact that the government of the family is patriarchal, whereas the government of the Church is hierarchical. The concept of partnership functions differently in the family than in the Church.

    The family proclamation gives this beautiful explanation of the relationship between a husband and a wife: While they have separate responsibilities, “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102; emphasis added).

    President Spencer W. Kimball said this: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 315).

    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).

    There are cultures or traditions in some parts of the world that allow men to oppress women, but those abuses must not be carried into the families of the Church of Jesus Christ.

  36. 36.

    That seems a long way to go to explain away the presence of presiding. My question is – what do we lose if we just stop saying that the husband presides? Why is it necessary for a husband to preside? Why not just leave it at: “in these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” What is gained by the presiding concept?

    Since presiding seems to be problematic, and they continually are having to explain what they REALLY mean by presiding, since they are not using the traditional definition, why does the church cling to it? What is the purpose of retaining that language – of retaining the image/model of the man in the leadership position? Of retaining that last vestige that yes, we are saying work together, yes, we are saying you are equal, but yes, the man presides?

  37. 37.

    The only people I’ve found who think that the LDS use of “preside” means “one spouse over the other” are LDS feminists who are mad about it.

    Interestingly, I came to this discussion right after reading this thread at FMH, in which someone by the name of “Guest” is making the case that men do and should have the final say as part of their divinely appointed role. I’m not, of course, suggesting that anything should be concluded on the basis of random Bloggernacle commenters. But I will say that my own experience is that while the majority of LDS men and women don’t believe that “preside” means being in charge, having the final say, etc., there still exists a minority who do see things that way.

  38. 38.

    Mark, that’s a good point about the subjectivity of the term “nurture”; I agree that it’s a rather vague one, with a lot of room for flexibility. However, I think that the situation with “preside” is fundamentally different in that no one (at least, no one that I’m aware of) is arguing that “nurture” in the home means something basically different than “nurture” in other contexts.

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