Zelophehad’s Daughters

The Trouble with Chicken Patriarchy

Posted by Kiskilili

When it comes to patriarchy, the Church is all over the map. Husbands preside, but husbands and wives are equal partners. “While the husband, the father, has responsibility to provide worthy and inspired leadership, his wife is neither behind him nor ahead of him but at his side” (Boyd K. Packer). The two are “equally yoked” side by side, but the husband “provides leadership,” implying that the wife supplies the “followership”–not from a position behind him, but rather at his side: perhaps they are meant to walk sidewise? (This all sounds more awkward than a three-legged race.)

Some rejoice in this doctrinal hodge-podge, reasoning that any of the Church’s various positions on what patriarchy involves can be selected and advocated for as the “official” stance with a reasonable stamp of approval from the magesterium. Statements can be pulled willy-nilly from a wide array of publications to form the cornerstones to individuals’ idiosyncratic conceptions of, and attempts to implement, what the Church teaches about gender and marriage. The trouble, though, is that the Church does not acknowledge its many faces of patriarchy, preaching as though its doctrine on the matter is uniform, unambiguous, immutable, and universally incumbent on its members. Even as it shifts wildly around, the Church behaves as though it has a single position on the patriarchy map that can be located and honed in on, whose scenery can be consistently described.

It’s no secret there’s been a doctrinal drift over the last few decades, away from reiterations of strict patriarchy and toward softer, more egalitarian language; statements such as the following, taken from the February 1973 Ensign, in which the author laments the regrettably deleterious effects on society of so-called “democratic” marriages, in which partners fail to uphold biblical patriarchal norms, are less common (though not unknown) today:

Let us begin by saying that a Latter-day Saint husband or father presides over his wife and family in much the same way a bishop, stake president, or elders quorum president presides over the specific group to which he is called. . . . Imagine, for example, the confusion that would result if two bishops were appointed over your particular ward . . . Similarly, should two people preside over each other in marriage, particularly when one holds the priesthood and has been divinely designated to preside? . . . The mystery may not be so much in the manner in which a wife submits herself to her husband as, in fact, the way a husband will preside over and interact with his wife and family.

Although it’s clear from such quotes that the presiding authority in the home, the husband, is required to counsel with his partner, it is also clear that he is the ultimate authority. Unity, it is supposed, cannot be achieved unless one party’s interests are consistently subordinated to the other.

In contrast, a good twenty years later President Hunter would assert that “a man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto.” Unfortunately, if this is the Church’s model, it’s anything but clear how husbands preside or how wives hearken to their counsel.

Today, a certain wanderlust regarding what patriarchy entails has infected most of the Church’s discourse on gender, which bops around between the two poles of patriarchy and egalitarianism without any clear destination. In the past, the waters were less muddied: husbands were granted divine authority over their wives, who were required to submit to their righteous leadership–an objectionable stance, perhaps, but not an inconsistent one. In the present, the Church has adopted a new stance but without giving up its old one: now wives not only submit, but they are also equal partners. (It’s unclear what this is supposed to look like on the ground–sort of like when dictators hold “democratic” elections they mysteriously win?)

This rather mind-boggling situation, in which the Church simultaneously embraces most of the spectrum on gender roles from traditionalist positions to egalitarianism, is not simply soft patriarchy, although a recent tendency to soften patriarchal language is one important ingredient in the mix. Neither is it traditional patriarchy; nor egalitarianism. Chicken Patriarchy never allows itself to be pinned down to a single perspective; chameleonlike, it alters its attitude from day to day and sometimes even from sentence to sentence, too chicken to stand up for what it believes. By refusing to settle down in any one place on the map, Chicken Patriarchs can embrace egalitarianism and still continue to uphold time-honored traditions of male authority.

Unfortunately, Chicken Patriarchy lacks the moral backbone to repudiate unequivocal occasions of patriarchy still observable in our scripture, ritual and organizational structure. It can never exorcise the more-or-less dead ghosts and occasional live demons of women’s subordination or expected subordination because it fails to take a consistent stand, emitting as it does a storm of mixed signals. In the spirit of Elijah, I wonder: How long halt ye between two opinions? If patriarchy be appropriate, follow it; but if egalitarianism, follow it.

If patriarchy is God’s will, why not stand up and take the flak for advocating values that have been taught from Adam to Paul, from Joseph Smith through most of his heirs, from the temple to the pulpit? If it’s not, why continue to cling to patriarchal language and women’s ritual submission to men?

222 Responses to “The Trouble with Chicken Patriarchy”

  1. 1.

    I could not agree more. I have also referred to it as passive-aggressive patriarchy. One can’t simply arbitrarily redefine words that are clear as can be — preside — and make it mean precisely the opposite. It’s doublespeak, and it’s throwing a bone to women whilst winking at the men, who are meant to still be in charge, sorta. And it’s not helping women OR men, it’s just unnecessarily confusing and frustrating and downright annoying.

  2. 2.

    Excellent point. While I may not call it chicken, it is at the very least confused patriarchy and completely frustrating.

  3. 3.

    Thanks for your comments–and it’s nice to see both of you here! Actually, credit for coining the phrase “chicken patriarchy” goes to Eve; maybe it’s too goofy, but I like its ring. :)

  4. 4.

    Just like a chick to make this kind of argument. :P

    I think you’re right, K., about the problems of maintaining ambiguity regarding family pecking order. It’s true that this avoids confrontation now, whereas a firm choice one side or the other might ruffle some feathers. But postponing the decision just delays the inevitable — because sooner or later the, err, chickens will come home to roost. And when that happens, there will definitely be egg on someone’s face.

  5. 5.

    “Chicken Patriarchy never allows itself to be pinned down to a single perspective; chameleonlike, it alters its attitude from day to day and sometimes even from sentence to sentence, too chicken to stand up for what it believes. “

    This description sounds more like “Wac-a-Mole” Patriarchy to me :)

    Awesome post, K. That Ensign quote is scary. Especially this part:

    Imagine, for example, the confusion that would result if two bishops were appointed over your particular ward . . . Similarly, should two people preside over each other in marriage, particularly when one holds the priesthood and has been divinely designated to preside? . . .

    This language illustrates just how incompatible the concept of “equal partners” is with men “presiding”. Imagine two bishops “presiding”, indeed….

  6. 6.

    Not fair. Having just listened to This American Life’s Poultry Slam, I was hoping to get a definitive take on chicken hierarchies. Because what the Bloggernacle needs, I now believe, is more poultry.

  7. 7.

    On a less dinner-oriented note, however (actually, strike that–I think I’m making fish tonight) your post runs into the problem that seems to bedevil both supporters and opposers of church practice: who is the Church? It’s hard to argue that the Church takes many stances (likely as many as there are members); if the problem is that different people in the Church take different takes toward patriarchy (or its lack), then yes, it’s true, its slippery (in the aggregate), but it’s not chicken.

    If the problem is that the Church’s official position (whatever that might be, and whoever gets to enunciate it) has shifted temporally, well, that also seems to be true. Whether that’s a result of shifting doctrine, revelation, or just practice, one of the strengths of the Church, IMHO, is that there’s not a whole lot of hard-and-fast doctrine to pin us down; we may have uninspired practices, but those can change instantly or slowly.

    If the problem is that CES manuals say different things than the prophet says (or than I believe:)), yes, that is a problem.

  8. 8.

    I think the ambiguity itself is disrespectful. It’s basically saying “You’re not entitled to a straight answer. You’re not important enough, and your concerns aren’t important enough, to be dealt with in an intellectually honest way.”

  9. 9.

    Why, who you callin’ a chicken? Don’t you know that “true” men still have their wive’s refer to them as lord, like brother Heber Kimball did, and believe that women should be veiled and silent in church?
    (…oh, no. Here comes my wife. Please don’t tell her I said any of this. I couldn’t stand being sent to my room without dinner another night.)

  10. 10.

    Just to defend the chickens (or put as nice a face on them as possible) –

    In a lot of ways, this is standard big-tent-ism, no? The church has a lot of members. Some are very invested in old-school patriarchy. Others are more egalitarian. Church leaders really don’t want to drive away masses of either group. And so you get the sort of deliberate ambiguity.

    The same applies to subjects like birth control. The True to the Faith manual is clear as mud: “Children are very important . . . you have a sacred responsibility . . . it’s really all your personal choice.”

    The alternative is a hard break from past practice, and sometimes that happens, such as with OD-2. But in general, any large organization with a somewhat diverse membership is probably going to act this way — moving slowly and in a way that’s intended, where possible, to avoid ruffling the feathers of any of its main constituencies.

  11. 11.

    I have little doubt that the church is (slowly) moving towards a fully egalitarian model. My question is, how clean of a break can we expect? Do we have to wait until everyone who lived in Egypt dies before we can enter the promised land, so to speak?

  12. 12.

    Maybe next we’ll provide recipes for “Chicken Cordon Patriarchy” and “Scrambled Patriarchy Eggs.” ;)

    Actually, Sam, I think individuals in the Church are taking multiple stances simultaneously–as in Packer’s quote above, or the Proclamation on the Family. There’s not a whole lot of hard-and-fast doctrine to pin us down, as you say, but the texts that are accorded the most weight in the Church–scripture and liturgy–have unequivocally patriarchal elements.

    And I think you’re right, Kaimi, that something would be sacrificed if the Church officially reversed its position–and that something would involve the Church’s self-concept, within which change has a very uneasy place and is never really processed. Maybe that is too great a sacrifice, in which case it makes sense to enforce the patriarchal norms we’ve never really given up. At least then we’d have a consistent position. And if we think patiarchy is a matter of personal preference rather than morals, there’s no reason to balk at the either ambiguity or the patriarchy; it’s none of my business if Brother Brown makes all of the decisions in his marriage and Sister Brown has given up control over her own life. For those who believe that women’s subordination is itself immoral, though, the Church’s position is troubling in that it cotinues to support subordination on certain fronts.

    On the other hand, I don’t think it would necessarily take a radical break with the past for the Church to embrace an egalitarian position: it would definitely require an update to the liturgy, but we’ve seen that happen plenty–and it might be best if the FamProc went the way of all flesh.

    (Though, obviously, it’s not my place to ask the Church to change, and even if it is headed toward a more egalitarian stance, that unfortunately doesn’t assuage my fears that God is, from our persective, misogynistic.)

  13. 13.

    This describes something I’ve been noticing more and more. For example, in Sunday School a few months ago, when coming upon the language of Paul that “God is to man what husband is to wife” (paraphase) the teacher said something like “I find it is easiest to imagine this like a triangle, with God on top and husband and wife equal.” I couldn’t help but think to myself, “It might be easier to imagine it that way, but that is not what the scripture is saying.” The teacher gave no explanation of why her model was different than that described by Paul, nor did anyone ask her about it (including me: guess I’m a chicken, too!), but it struck me that IF there is a difference between what we believe on this point and what Paul says, we should be able to articulate it. It is bizarre and frustrating for people to gloss over problematical language about hierarchy and whatnot by saying “we believe this other (but somehow not contradictory) egalitarian thing.” If we do, why do we have the hierarchal language? Why do we get to wave it away without explanation?

  14. 14.

    “God is to man what husband is to wife” (paraphase) the teacher said something like “I find it is easiest to imagine this like a triangle, with God on top and husband and wife equal.” I couldn’t help but think to myself, “It might be easier to imagine it that way, but that is not what the scripture is saying.”

    Thanks for making me laugh, Hannah–this is so true! Your comment sums up the problem nicely. (And I’m at least as much of a chicken as you!)

  15. 15.

    Kiskilili,
    I agree with you; my issue is the amount of weight to attribute to any given speaker. In spite of historic—and scriptural—examples of patriarchy, I’m not convinced that I am bound to follow or to defend such a hierachical structure, as opposed to the more egalitarian way I try to live my life.

    I realize that such an approach forces me to ignore some statements and misinterpret, disagree with, or metaphorize some others, but taking a hardline Patriarch view would require me to ignore or marginalize other statements and examples.

    I agree that it’s unfortunate that less-enlightened people than I (said with a wink, since tone of voice doesn’t carry well over my internet connection) can use past and present statements to justify their unequal treatment of men and women; I agree with Kaimi, though, that the sudden break method is uncommon.

  16. 16.

    I am with Sam B. on this. The fact that we can be ambiguous on matters of doctrine and practice is a strength, not a weakness. All you iron rod type people over here at Z’sDs might want a black and white, cut and dried answer, but you’ll just have to wait. /grin

    And since I am a glass half full kind of guy, I also think Starfoxy and Kaimi are right. Although we may not be happy with the pace, the direction is pretty clear. I think what we are seeing is simply the way change happens, and it isn’t confined to the church. Look at Hillary Clinton’s campaign – one day she projects the image of a strong woman, the next day she complains about those mean boys asking her hard questions. It’s not her fault, it’s just that she is caught in between.

    Sam B., I’m making fish tonight, too. Redfish court-bouillion, eat your heart out!

  17. 17.

    Statements can be pulled willy-nilly from a wide array of publications to form the cornerstones to individuals’ idiosyncratic conceptions of

    If it makes you feel any better, this is by no means limited to gender-related issues in the church. See Blake’s recent post on this broader issue here.

  18. 18.

    I like your approach, Sam, and I suspect it works relatively well in your position (it’s not as though you’ve ever solemnly sworn to perpetuate patriarchal attitudes, I’m assuming?).

    Sorry to play my broken record on this issue, but my problem is I don’t feel I can adopt that position and still, in good faith, commit to God that I will hearken to my husband’s counsel as he hearkens to God’s, which is why I felt I had to have those covenants annulled as a way of coming clean to God and refusing to lie about how I intend to behave. Very few other texts in the Church are participatory, which means I can read them, think about them, and finally, take them or leave them. This is why I find the liturgy especially problematic: it requires me to make specific, solemn commitments. I don’t know how I can make those commitments in good faith and still take an attitude toward that text that I can take or leave its demands on me.

  19. 19.

    Fair enough, except that I still think you’re interpreting too narrowly. But I understand where you’re coming from.

  20. 20.

    Oh, and Mark IV, that sounds great. My wife got skate at the farmer’s market this morning, but I haven’t figured out how I’ll prepare it yet.

  21. 21.

    If one who “presides” maintains no power or influence by virtue of that presiding, except by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned, how can we say otherwise than that the person “presided” over has an equal say in the arrangment? How can the presider “cause” the other to do anything without that other person’s consent, which is brought about only through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned?

    If this is ambiguity, then let it be so. Real growth for any of us occurs only in the ambiguities.

  22. 22.

    Oh come on, give me a break. If that’s all “preside” means, how come women aren’t allowed to do it? You know perfectly well that’s just a ridiculous evasion of the issue.

  23. 23.

    z,
    Um, no—language isn’t self-interpreting, and I find Mark’s as persuasive a definition of “preside” as any other I’ve heard. Why do you not find it so?

  24. 24.

    If this is ambiguity, then let it be so. Real growth for any of us occurs only in the ambiguities.

    In the broadest sense, of course, this is true. Religion and life in general are ambiguous, and many things we have to figure out for ourselves. But I don’t think we can ultimately take refuge from the problems of chicken patriarchy in the vague comforts of “ambiguity,” particularly not in as members of a church that prides itself on presenting the plain and precious truths of the gospel, truths that convert by making so much simple, intuitive, and obvious sense. (See this month’s Ensign for recent examples of this familiar genre of conversion narrative).

    I very much doubt Mormons would accept your argument from ambiguity in the mouth of an orthodox trinitarian: “God is three in one. That doesn’t make sense? Well, the ambiguity is for our growth.” We simply wouldn’t find that satisfactory.

  25. 25.

    I agree that the ambiguity is a benefit. In my mind, it’s in part to help us learn by the Spirit and not try to pin these concepts down to some dictionary definition and application that is defined in concrete. These are ‘becoming’ principles, not just ‘doing’ principles.

    I also don’t know that things have changed as much from the Ensign article as some want to suppose. Seems to me that people are missing the key to that quote and to the spirit of presiding and patriarchy.

    “The mystery may not be so much in the manner in which a wife submits herself to her husband as, in fact, the way a husband will preside over and interact with his wife and family.”

    In my mind, the key to presiding and patriarchy (and thus, to a woman being able to ‘submit’) puts a great responsibility on the man to be the kind of person who will create an environment where a wife can be an equal partner, where ‘he doeth nothing save it be for the benefit’ of his family and with an eye single to God.

    Our family and marriage works best when my husband is in the mode of spiritual leadership, because that means his focus is really on the family and that I can then trust him with my whole heart and soul. That doesn’t mean he tries to take charge, or dominate, or anything of the sort. It means he is in tune with the Spirit, he reaches out to me in partnership, his priorities are in place, and thus, the Spirit can flourish in our home and in our relationship. I can’t explain it all in language, but my experience is that the principles of patriarchy and presiding work to foster an equal partnership and a sacred space.

    I don’t deny that some of the language in the Church has softened a bit over time, but I don’t think the underlying principles really are changing. The patriarchal order is an eternal order, and its an order based on partnership. I still can’t get my brain around that fully. I think we still have yet to really grasp what that means, but in the end, part of the challenge is that it won’t be figured out through language alone, but through the Spirit and through trying to live the principles. Maybe patriarchy and egalitarian principles really aren’t ‘two opinions.’

    And maybe we just might be getting better at negotiating the ambiguities, and that is a process, even for the institution. My point is that maybe it’s not a game of chicken at all — it’s trying to explain eternal principles in limited language. I think swinging to the side of either ‘opinion’ will miss something of the eternal truth embedded in the teachings. I don’t believe patriarchy is being abandoned for egalitarianism. I think the truth involves some of both principles.

  26. 26.

    OK, Sam, I’ll take a stab at why I think the D&C 121 passage–oh, handy as it is to have in one’s back pocket as a woman in this church!–isn’t an adequate definition of our own presiding practices.

    The power described in this passage–the power of Christian virtue and of love–clearly isn’t the only power or influence by which the church and the family are run. As we often say, we’re a church of order, and we aspire to be families of order. The bishop has institutional authority conferred on him that allows him to do what’s necessary to run the ward, and similarly, the man is the head of the household (perhaps by virtue of his priesthood, although that gets complicated fast) and of his wife and children. The institutional power of a bishop or husband is not simply a matter of having longsuffering love unfeigned. (Test case: I can suffer long and exhibit love unfeigned until the cows come home, but even if I achieve such an advanced state of Christianity that I’m translated, that advanced state won’t be sufficient to make me preside.) According to our own fifth article of faith and our own historically continuous practices, a man has to be called and ordained to the priesthood and the office in order to preside. So presiding and the power that accompany it are clearly more than just a matter of being adequately Christianly virtuous.

    To put it another way: we don’t apply a differential diagnosis to all the members of the word to see who abounds in the most longsuffering and love unfeigned and then conclude that that person must therefore be the bishop. Some other kind of power, an institutional process and hierarchy, is clearly at work in such determinations (and I mean that with the greatest possible respect to bishops, who I think often have a horrible job).

  27. 27.

    Is it possible that the Lord has a model in mind, but there isn’t an adequate word in the English language to describe it?

  28. 28.

    queuno, that was some of what I was trying to get at in my comment, but you, of course, were so much more succinct. :)

    “I think we still have yet to really grasp what that means, but in the end, part of the challenge is that it won’t be figured [or explained] out through language alone, but through the Spirit and through trying to live the principles.”

  29. 29.

    (“If any man [woman] will do his will, he/she will know of the doctrine….”)

  30. 30.

    The reason the whole preside thing bugs me so much is because I think words matter (else I would not spend so much time writing them). The word preside has a meaning, which members and leaders seem to want to ignore/mold/distort/transform to suit their needs according to the situation. It’s not a word like “cleave,” which has two opposite meanings.

    In standard American English preside means only: govern, guide, direct, control, from a position of authority. Preside is an excellent word when talking about a bishop or a stake president or a committee chair. It doesn’t make sense at all in a relationship between equals. Just because Dallin Oaks said a word means something completely different from what it actually means doesn’t make it true.

    It goes right back to standard behavior of members in the Church of Jesus Christ of Speculative Making Stuff Up. Don’t like what preside means? Pretend it means something else. And thus, words become meaningless, and we should all just stop blogging because green is overdone and whimsy.

  31. 31.

    SamB, I think Eve sums it up very well. If “presiding” means “persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned,” anyone who could display those characteristics would be “presiding.” But instead, only certain men preside, and women are never allowed to preside no matter how much they exemplify the listed characteristics. Mark B.’s definition is inadequate because it offers no explanation for the gender disparity.

    I think the question is this: what is the very, very special thing that women allegedly can’t do, that constitutes “presiding”? Maybe someone will be able to put their finger on it, otherwise it would seem that the emperor has no clothes.

  32. 32.

    I wonder whether a woman’s consent factors into the Church’s concept of men presiding over them. It seems to me that a man presides over a woman simply because he is male and she is female – regardless of whether the man first obtains a woman’s consent to “preside” over her.

    So, what if a wife refuses to acknowledge or submit to her husband’s presiding authority in their marital relationship? Does the man still “preside” over the recalcitrant wife despite her wishes?

    I know we hear a lot about “unrighteous dominion”, but what about dominion that is “righteous”? According to LDS discourse, does a woman have a right to refuse be dominated, however righteously? If that’s so, why don’t we ever hear about the role of a woman’s consent in men “presiding” over them?

  33. 33.

    I agree that it is frustrating, but I disagree with the original post’s contention that there is no clear direction, or that our current position amounts to nothing more than a grab bag where people can just take their pick of whatever they like. Before 1970, nobody ever spoke of presiding and partnership in the same breath.

    If we accept the premise of an ongoing restoration, it seems clear to me that we can expect that our understanding, and the language we use to explain our understanding, will change over time. And since JS Jr. dove headfirst into the deep end of OT patriarchy at the very beginning, we have some unique challenges.

    I will also point out, gently I hope, that we ignore the plain meanings of all kinds of words, all the time. For insatnce, we are enjoined in the scriptures and elsewhere to refrain from loud laughter, but I violate that one every chance I get. And for that matter, as far as I can tell, we haven’t defined feminism any more precisely than we have presiding.

  34. 34.

    Mark – while “we” may ignore the plain meanings of the words all the time, Church leaders have an obligation to Church members to reveal to us the will of the Lord. Church leaders clearly revealed the will of the Lord in the Ensign article by plainly telling women that they must submit to their husbands’ presiding authority. In the past, the Church leaders had no difficulty speaking plainly about wives submitting to their husbands. One question K raises in her post is whether wives are still required to submit to their husbands’ presiding, if now wives and husbands are equal partners.

    Also, the Church certainly has no obligation to define “feminism”.

  35. 35.

    ECS, I disagree. I do NOT think that the Ensign article K. cited clearly revealed God’s will. I think the leaders then did the best they could to the limits of their understanding, and I think they are doing the same now. My point is that I see a clear direction, contra K. and m&m.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I think the church should define feminism for us. I do think it is a good idea to be aware of the weakness of one’s own position before criticizing another, don’t you?

    You are correct to point out that, as odd as it sounds, a woman’s consent has little to do with the rightness or wrongness of presiding, as M. M. Toscano also concluded. In India, suttee was supported by females. Incredible, no?

  36. 36.

    I’d hardly consider a 34-year-old Ensign article by a non-GA to be “the will of the Lord.” I wouldn’t even consider a one-year-old article in the Ensign by a GA to be the will of the Lord (just good advice by an experienced leader).

    I’m confused by those who recognize movement from consistent and traditional patriarchy to the present mix of commentary heavily weighted toward “equal partner” talk. Are LDS leaders supposed to identify, cite, and specifically repudiate every traditional partriarchal reference? Doesn’t the present predominance of “equal partner” talk convey the right message?

    If I was to summarize the present LDS position as put into practice in wards and stakes (the relevant focus of discussion), it is that (despite any rhetoric) any good marriage is a good marriage irrespective of how any couple defines their marriage or their gender roles. Unless you come up with a case where some wife was disfellowshipped for working outside the home or some husband was disciplined for not being “patriarchal” enough in “presiding” over his marriage or family, I’m not sure there is really any basis for criticizing the present LDS practice. Hypothetical harms don’t make for much of a case.

  37. 37.

    I just wish one of the defenders of “preside” on this thread could tell us what it is. If it means “participate in an equal partnership,” a lot of women are currently presiding, right? That’s why the “equal partner” language is unsatisfying. It doesn’t explain the gender disparity.

    I think it’s just so condescending to say to women “submit to this, but we won’t bother to tell you what it is.” It’s a matter of respect.

  38. 38.

    Ann, but preside in the gospel sense also means to govern, guide, direct, all with authority 9not so much control, but have stewardship over). The key is HOW to do those things, and with what authority. That’s why we also have the words of equal partnership, and the words of righteous dominion, and the concepts of the doctrine of the priesthood that distill from heaven, not from a dictionary. :)

    Of course words matter, but the Lord works with more than words, beyond words at least. It’s up to us to discern meaning with the Spirit as well and not cast something away just because the words are hard to get past.

    I think of Moroni in Ether 12, when he laments the limitations of language, of his words. He goes to the Lord in fear and concern, and the Lord makes it clear that it’s the listeners’ duty to treat his words (weak though they may be) with care and to be meek and to seek for grace to help them.

    I think much could apply to our current leaders. Words are limited, and yet that is all they have to work with. They can even speak words with the Spirit, but if we don’t receive with the Spirit, then they are still just weak words. I think they realize that the language may sometimes get in the way, but these are spiritual, eternal concepts that language can’t fully do justice to. At some point, we have to realize our responsibility to receive ideas with more than just dictionary in hand, or I think we risk putting ourselves in the ‘fools mock but they shall mourn’ category.

    I’m not excusing random members making things up. But prophets and apostles have the authority to teach and expand upon ideas. We don’t have the authority to dismiss those teachings just because they don’t match our dictionary understanding of things. This isn’t about pretending. It’s about learning and understanding with the language of the Spirit and being willing to suspend our limited mortal understanding and definitions in the process. In my experience, although I can’t put the insights into words, this works. It has worked for me with these concepts, and for others as well. Because of that, I’m not willing to let others just dismiss it as a game of chicken or making words meaningless, because I think if anything, the Spirit helps us discover what words and concepts really should mean. Maybe if the world understood patriarchy as it was designed to be, for example, we wouldn’t have such visceral responses to it. (Which came first, the dictionary, or God’s definitions of these concepts? :) )

  39. 39.

    More thoughts here.

  40. 40.

    But instead, only certain men preside, and women are never allowed to preside no matter how much they exemplify the listed characteristics.

    This is untrue. Women preside when they are presidents of auxilliaries (they don’t have keys, but they preside in lots of situations…rarely is a man in RS classes, for example, and at board and presidency meetings, etc. )

    And Elder Oaks used the example of his mother: “When my father died, my mother presided over our family. She had no priesthood office, but as the surviving parent in her marriage she had become the governing officer in her family.”

    It’s not the characteristics, though, that determine who presides.

  41. 41.

    Here’s a pre-1970 quote for ya, Mark IV. :)

    Now may I just say a word about a man of the priesthood as the head of his household. That too has been mentioned before. I believe that the Lord intended that every worthy member of the priesthood should have this recognition, and he can be accorded this recognition without impairment of the concept of partnership in marriage. Women of the Church have respect for the priesthood, especially those who go to the temple. They do not begrudge a man his position as head of the home. They know that all the greatest blessings the Lord has promised will be realized in their association with the priesthood, and every true Latter-day Saint woman wants her husband to magnify that holy calling which has come to him. The difficulties that arise usually stem from an attempt on the part of the head of the household to exercise inconsiderate or autocratic authority. There is no position in the Church in which the constitution and doctrine of the priesthood as revealed by the Lord has more direct application than to a husband and father in the home.

    Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, October 1954,

  42. 42.

    But that’s a different, limited kind of presiding.

    Do you really think it’s fair to ask women to submit to something, if you can’t even come up with an intellectually coherent definition? For the millionth time, for gosh darn sakes, what on earth is it that determines who presides? Male genitalia? A Y chromosome? Being vewwy vewwy special? Why can’t anyone just fill in the blank: “Presiding means _______, which men can do and women can’t.” M&m? Dave? How about it?

  43. 43.

    Sorry m&m, no cigar. There is no mention of equal partnership, and though the statement does emphasize that the man ought to be righteous, it also strongly emphasizes submission to the head of the house.

    Dave, when I said movement, I meant what you said. I do not think it can be seriously argued that we do no talk about presiding differently now that we did 40 years ago, and there is no point in holding our breath waiting for a formal repudiation of all previous statements.

  44. 44.

    Do you really think it’s fair to ask [people] to [subscribe] to something, if you can’t even come up with an intellectually coherent definition?

    z, please define feminism.

  45. 45.

    My point is that I see a clear direction, contra K. and m&m.

    I’m confused what you mean here, Mark.

    z, what do you see as the limits of a woman presiding in her home? Presiding in the home is not tied to priesthood, as men without priesthood can and should preside. So there may be limits in the church, but I don’t see those limitations in the home. Not being able to give blessings doesn’t count, because that is tied to priesthood, not presiding. (different topic) :)

    z, as to your 42, I’m not good at doing this from my own head, besides I’d just feel like I’m putting my head on the chopping block. I’ve already said I dont fully understand it all, but I know living it works. I feel it is completely fair to ask me to be folded into a relationship with my husband if and only as he leads our marriage and family in righteousness. I see nothing to fear in that.

    Now for definitions to mull over.

    From the manual on marriage:

    “the word preside means to lead and guide and to take responsibility for the family’s welfare.”

    from the FHE book, fwiw:

    “While parents are equal partners in the home, it is the father’s responsibility to be the patriarch, or head of the house (see Ephesians 5:23–25). If the father is not present, the mother presides no matter how old the sons are or what priesthood they may hold.” (presiding in the home is not tied to priesthood…Elder Oaks clarified this as well…really significant point, if you ask me.)

    from Elder Bruce Hafen:
    Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to “rule over” Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. A ruler can be a measuring tool that sets standards. Then Adam would live so that others may measure the rightness of their conduct by watching his. Being a ruler is not so much a privilege of power as an obligation to practice what a man preaches. Also, over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over. If a man does exercise “dominion … in any degree of unrighteousness” (D&C 121:37; emphasis added), God terminates that man’s authority.

    Perhaps because false teachings had twisted original scriptural meanings, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) preferred “preside” rather than “rule.” He said: “No woman has ever been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him [only] as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding [whether he is obeying Christ], she should always be sure she is fair.”5 In this way, President Kimball saw marriage “as a full partnership,” stating, “We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners” but rather “a contributing and full partner.”
    In an equal-partner marriage, “love is not possession but participation … part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”9 With true participation, husband and wife merge into the synergistic oneness of an “everlasting dominion” that “without compulsory means” will flow with spiritual life to them and their posterity “forever and ever” (D&C 121:46).
    In the little kingdom of a family, each spouse freely gives something the other does not have and without which neither can be complete and return to God’s presence. Spouses are not a soloist with an accompanist, nor are they two solos. They are the interdependent parts of a duet, singing together in harmony at a level where no solo can go. …Temple marriage covenants do not magically bring equality to a partnership. Those covenants commit us to a developmental process of learning and growing together—by practice.

    From the First Presidency in 1973, reprinted in 2002.

    A father is the presiding authority in his family. On this earth your initial experience of being a father of a family gives you opportunities to learn to govern with love and patience, and with your wife to teach each of your children correct principles, to prepare them to become proper fathers and mothers. When you do this according to the pattern given us by the Lord and you endure to the end, your family will be added upon eternally. ..

    And maybe the following questions cover some of what it means, and some of how that relates to equal partnership (because clearly not all of these responsibilities will lie with just the man):

    Father, you are accountable to the Lord for what you have and what you are. In the future you will surely stand before Him. What will be your report concerning your family? Will you be able to report that your home was a place of love, a bit of heaven? That daily family prayer and secret prayer were fostered? That it was a house of fasting? That in family home evenings and at other times you and your wife taught your children the basic principles of the gospel?

    Will you be able to report that you created an environment in your home to build faith in a living God, to encourage learning, to teach order, obedience, and sacrifice? That you often shared your testimony of the reality of your Father in Heaven, of the truthfulness of the restored gospel with your wife and children? Will you be able to report that you followed the living prophets? That your home was where your tender children could feel protected and safe, and where they felt the love and acceptance and warmth [from] you and their mother?

    And what will be your report concerning the temporal welfare of your family? It is God’s plan that you work for what you get. Your occupation should be honorable and should provide sufficiently to meet the needs of your family. Are your duties and labors undertaken with a joyful and thankful spirit? Do your wife and children feel secure because you feel good about your occupation? Do you practice frugality and thrift and avoid debt by living within your income, your tithed income? Do your wife and children feel a sense of tradition and stability because the family home is not relocated on a whim, for unsound reasons?
    Father, are you committed to the eternal welfare of each of your children? Do you labor and love and strive with them as long as they live?

    That’s probably enough for now, no? :)

  46. 46.

    Mark, I think the mention of partnership implies equal partnership. I don’t know how else you would read that, actually. What other concept would having a head appear to contradict with other than equal partnership?

  47. 47.

    Mark – asking me or anyone else to define “feminism” is a red herring. Feminism doesn’t confer a divinely-inspired special status of power upon women over men.

    Dave- one Ensign article does not Church doctrine make. There is no doubt, however, that Church leaders instructed women to submit to their husbands. The Ensign article is no outlier.

  48. 48.

    one more from that reprinted 1973 piece:

    “Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so. Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home. It is not a matter of whether you are most worthy or best qualified, but it is a matter of law and appointment. [There's what determines who presides -- divine law and appointment.]

    You preside at the meal table, at family prayer. You preside at family home evening; and as guided by the Spirit of the Lord, you see that your children are taught correct principles. It is your place to give direction relating to all of family life.

    You give father’s blessings. [Again, since a woman can preside in her husband's absence, I see this as separate from presiding per se.] You take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline. As a leader in your home you plan and sacrifice to achieve the blessing of a unified and happy family. To do all of this requires that you live a family-centered life.

  49. 49.

    Church leaders have an obligation to Church members to reveal to us the will of the Lord

    Really? They have an obligation? To borrow someone else’s world, it seems a bit condescending to determine what Church leaders do and do not owe us.

    Because, of course, it’s the Lord that does the revealing, last I checked. We believe in revelation being “line upon line, precept upon precept”. Maybe our understanding of the construct of leadership is incomplete.

  50. 50.

    word, not world.

  51. 51.

    I guess it doesn’t matter to me whether we call it presiding, ruling, leading, governing or whatever. If the man is the presiding figure (the “president”?), the ruler, the leader, or the governing figure (the “governor”?) or whatever, that implies a hierarchy, not an egalitarian system, not partnership, and not equality.

  52. 52.

    z, what do you see as the limits of a woman presiding in her home?

    It’s limited because the woman can only do it if a man isn’t there to supersede her, right? Whereas men can do it whether or not a woman is present. So the woman’s presiding is limited relative to the man’s. What’s so special about men that gives them that extra ability? Is it their physicality? Their DNA? Their lived experience as men? This is an important topic so I think it’s worth getting very specific about what exactly makes them special in this way.

    I feel it is completely fair to ask me to be folded into a relationship with my husband if and only as he leads our marriage and family in righteousness.

    But is it fair to ask it of other women, who don’t agree with you and have the experience, from living, that it doesn’t work? I just think your apologia is completely unconvincing without a clear definition of “preside.”

  53. 53.

    But Hannah, don’t you know that the structure of the home is not hierarchical, it’s patriarchal? (cue scream here)

    That’s from an address by Elder Oaks, and has got to be one of the most infuriating lines ever written. It still makes me want to scream and beat my head against a wall every time I hear it. A patriarchy is a hierarchy! And don’t accuse me of rampant feminism here, because I don’t think of patriarchy in feminist terms at all, but rather anthropological ones. Patriarchy is a clearly defined social structure. As is matriarchy, as are various other -archies. Saying patriarchy is not a hierarchy is like saying a “for loop” is not a computer programming statement or “she” is not a pronoun. Saying it doesn’t actually make it so (even if you are a GA).

  54. 54.

    What’s so special about men that gives them that extra ability? Is it their physicality? Their DNA? Their lived experience as men? This is an important topic so I think it’s worth getting very specific about what exactly makes them special in this way.

    One of those quotes up there said specifically that it’s not about special ability or experience or any of those things. It’s about an assignment given by God as part of their probationary responsibility.

    Patriarchy is a clearly defined social structure.

    It was a spiritual structure before it was a social structure. Patriarchy has existed since Adam and Eve. The social evolution of that structure isn’t what patriarchy is supposed to be. So we should seek to understand what God meant it to be, not what humans have defined it (and morphed it) to be.

  55. 55.

    queuno – yes, I believe it’s an obligation. If the Lord reveals that, say, black males should hold the priesthood to Pres. Kimball – he has an obligation to communicate this revelation to Church members. If the Lord has revealed that women must submit to men (which seems to be the case in scripture and temple liturgy), then our Church leaders have an obligation to communicate this to us.

    On the other hand, if submitting to men is not the will of the Lord, then we can evaluate this presiding language with more equanimity.

  56. 56.

    One more thing (not directed at queuno). The practice of sweeping unsavory LDS beliefs under the rug is particularly troublesome in this case because it forgets the women who sacrificed their personal happiness and security (both physical and emotional) to follow the very clearly delineated rule of “submit to your husband”.

    Even if God no longer requires this sacrifice from women, we should at least acknowledge these womens’ experiences as an important reminder that “equal partners” is a step forward from the language of domination and submission.

  57. 57.

    It’s about an assignment given by God as part of their probationary responsibility.

    I think you’re just assuming the conclusion here, and in any case, the thread is supposed to be about what the content of that assignment is.

    So m&m, when a man is in the act of “presiding,” what exactly is he doing? It has to be something women can’t do if a righteous man is present, so it can’t just be “showing leadership” or “caring” or “being spiritual.” We’re told it’s something very very important, but what is it?

  58. 58.

    Sheesh – this thread is getting a little testy.

    Z, the definition is really not very hard to figure out. Presiding means directing or decision-making — being in charge — in a way consistent with God’s will. There may be a little bit of variation in phrasing, but that’s pretty much the substance of about every definition you’re likely to see.

    And no, there’s no reason why women can’t do this — other than scriptural injunction. Women are perfectly able to give direction to other people in a righteous way. Women are perfectly capable of doing everything one is supposed to do to preside. However, for reasons not specified, women are apparently not _supposed_ to preside within the family.

    Being commanded not to do something that one is capable of doing is actually pretty normal with commandments. There’s no reason I _can’t_ go out and drink a vodka tonic — except that I’m told that I _shouldn’t_.

    And as I mentioned earlier, we aren’t really given a consistent reason _why_ the rule goes that way. But it’s pretty clear both that presiding means directing others in a righteous way, and that women are perfectly capable of doing those actions (but have been instructed not to in this context).

    Of course, there are all sorts of potential critiques of that model. But “I don’t know what you mean by preside” is really a pretty silly one.

  59. 59.

    No, I don’t think it’s silly, because a lot of people say it means “being equal partners,” and that would seem to directly conflict with your definition, because if one partner is “in charge” and the other isn’t, the partners arguably aren’t equal. I don’t think it’s well-established that your definition is the one we should be using– if it is, the talk about “equal partners” is disingenuous.

    Additionally, “being in charge consistent with God’s will” isn’t very specific. I think it’s totally legitimate to criticize that as too vague to be meaningful. I understand that it’s a heavily contextual concept and that it’s hard to make a list of specific activities, but at a certain point it it has to have some concrete meaning, doesn’t it?

    Do you really, truly think, informed by all your knowledge of feminism, that you’re supposed to be “in charge” just because you’re a man? I always enjoy your posts, and this one placed you more on the “patriarchy” side than I would have guessed. It’s a little disappointing, I guess.

  60. 60.

    Z,

    “Do you really, truly think, informed by all your knowledge of feminism, that you’re supposed to be “in charge” just because you’re a man?”

    Like I said, there are all sorts of potential critiques of that definition, and I’m not by any means suggesting that I don’t have problems with it. But as a definition, it seems pretty consistent.

    Your argument has been, “X is a bad idea because there’s no consistent definition of what X is.” I think that’s wrong; I do think that there’s a pretty consistent definition. That doesn’t mean that I think X is therefore a good idea.

    (My own critiques tend to fall more along the lines of disagreeing with the substance, rather than suggesting that we can’t tell what that substance is.)

    As for the equal partners language, I’d say that fits easily into the basic definition — it affects the analysis of whether the giving directions is done in a righteous way.

    E (56),

    That’s a really good point. I wonder how to manage that, though.

    It’s sad that past women have felt a need to make hard sacrifices under an older standard that is shifting — and that those kinds of sacrifices could easily not be required today, in more egalitarian marriages. The quiet nature of the shift in attitudes does potentially forget the sacrifices of women who followed a strong “submit to your husband” rule in the past.

    On the other hand, I think that existing efforts to validate those women’s choices often end up just perpetuating the problem. In a lot of ways, Julie Beck’s talk is the perfect validation for women who made painful past choices to submit to a patriarchal order. I’ve heard that for many women who made real sacrifices of their personal desires in order to fit into the patriarchal order, that Sister Beck’s talk was sweet and validating, telling them that their sacrifices really mattered.

    However, for women less willing to submit to the patriarchy, Sister Beck’s talk was problematic, stirring up ideas on family that the church had been moving away from, at least somewhat (via K’s chicken patriarchy).

    How can we recognize the real sacrifices of past women who followed a harsher standard, without perpetuating the same model? Is there a way to say, “Sister X, you were obedient to church leaders’ counsel in prior decades, and that’s a good thing, and we appreciate that. However, women today have other options.” Is there a way to navigate that? It seems like every attempt to validate womens choices and sacrifices involves setting those up as a superior route. In a way, LDS women who follow traditional paths are the most strident anti-feminists, and this isn’t a surprise. They have a real investment in validating their own past life choices, and this typically involves setting those choices up as a superior option.

    Is there a third-wave route — can we really (convincingly) say, “it’s great that you chose to sacrifice and have 10 kids, sister A, and it’s also great that you have a career and an egalitarian marriage, sister B”? (And to what extent did prior generations really have a choice — do we _want_ to validate their actions if those were forced? How can we validate their actions if freely chosen, but not endorse them if they were painfully forced?)

  61. 61.

    As for the equal partners language, I’d say that fits easily into the basic definition — it affects the analysis of whether the giving directions is done in a righteous way.

    Obviously, this is the core of the disagreement. Men have something: the right to be in charge, if righteous. Women don’t have that. I just don’t see how that state of affairs constitutes equality. Do you have an argument as to this point? Or are you saying that the “equal partners” language doesn’t really mean “equal partners?”

    (thanks for the quick response btw.)

  62. 62.

    m&m,

    Aren’t there lots of ways to think about partnership besides equal partnership? I’ve been both a junior partner and a senior partner in a business, and believe me, senior is better. I don’t think any arrangement where the verb “submit” is used can be thought of as an equal partnership.

    And do you really think God cares whether Mom or Dad designates who says the blessing? If he does, my wife has some repenting to do, since that means she has been usurping my presiding authority.

    ECS,

    Far be it from me to introduce red herrings. I don’t even like the regular kind.

    But I think we are talking past each other. I agree with you – feminism doesn’t confer a divinely-inspired special status of power upon women over men. But I think it is a little disingenuous, and more than a little unfair, to demand a clarity and consistency from others that we ourselves are not willing to provide.

    I will also point out (again) that fuzzy definitions are the order of the day in just about everything, and somehow we manage to live with it. We might think we have left “separate but equal” behind, but If I decide to sue Curves so I can get into the Thursday night Jazzercise class, will you be my attorney? What about all female colleges? And even our definition of equality also covers a range of meaning. We have managed to reconcile it to the principle of affirmative action, which, whatever else it does, implies some measure of unequal treatment. So my point is that since we live with these gray areas all the time without too much heartburn, including areas that do confer unequal status, I don’t see the urgent need for an immediate, once-and-for-all definition of presiding.

    Here’s the thing. We need to remember that less that 125 years ago, we were living Old Testament style polygamy. In a relatively short period of time we have moved from that kind of old school patriarchy to a system where a man I know who is a SAHD has now been called to be a stake president. In my lifetime our liturgy has changed, and I expect it will change again. The official rhetoric has moved from stressing submission to an emphasis on equal partnership. Every LDS couple I know has a marriage that is more egalitarian than their parents’ marriages, and I expect that the same will be true of the next generation. Those are all indicators of real progress.

    I think chicken partirachy is actually pretty funny, because it pokes us in the ribs where we need it. It reminds me of James Arrington’s show where Parley P. Farley introduces himself to the family reunion as “the present presidin’ pres’dent of the Farley family arganization association carparation”. Let’s just not lose sight of the gains that have been made.

  63. 63.

    Mark writes,

    “Every LDS couple I know has a marriage that is more egalitarian than their parents’ marriages, and I expect that the same will be true of the next generation. Those are all indicators of real progress.”

    I think that’s right, which is one reason why K’s original post, while funny and insightful, is also a bit disconnected from reality.

    Yes, there are statements from the 1970s, 80s, hell, from 6 months ago, that are relatively harsh about women’s roles, men as presiding, and so on. And yes, there are some members of every ward who take these statements as literally as possible.

    At the same time, what do you realistically think would happen if you asked the the members of your ward under age 30 what they thought of the awful quote K pulled from a 1970s Ensign? If you asked them, “is this your view of what’s required of church members?” — how many would agree? In wards I’ve been in, I’d say that well under half would agree with it.

    Leadership statements certainly carry weight. There are members who would probably say that that statement is binding because it comes in a church instruction context. But those members are not the majority, and arguing as if they were is really taking on a straw man.

    Leadership statements are important, and they affect the lived experience of members. But they don’t always translate perfectly into experience or action. And the experience of members is what matters.

    Disconnects between rhetoric and practice aren’t unusual. The Catholic church is officially opposed to birth control, and 97% of Catholics regularly use birth control. And the same has happened in the LDS church — look at Melissa Proctor’s article in Dialogue showing that, while LDS church leaders consistently harrangued against birth control for a century, LDS church members used birth control more and more frequently.

    The disconnect here isn’t quite as large as the Catholic (or probably even LDS) birth control divide. But I’d say it certainly exists. In my observation, the lived experience of most church members is much more egalitarian than the statements about presiding that tend to be discussed (especially when those statements are 30 years old).

  64. 64.

    I suspect that you are correct, Kaimi. Doesn’t our judicial system demand that precedent be respected? I think our leaders are attempting to describe the way the gospel is lived in a way that doesn’t break completely with our past, but so far they haven’t been completely successful.

    The liturgical issue is troublesome for me, and I imagine it would be even more troublesome if I were female. So even though a chicken patriarch is something of a straw man (or in this case straw patriarch) I don’t mind kneeing him in the groin a few times before we knock him down. But really, I think the major battles have already been fought and won.

  65. 65.

    Yes, there are statements from the 1970s, 80s, hell, from 6 months ago, that are relatively harsh about women’s roles, men as presiding, and so on. And yes, there are some members of every ward who take these statements as literally as possible.

    Isn’t this an admission that not everyone in leadership agrees with your definition of “preside”?

    This whole thing just makes me sad. I think it’s just a big apologia for unprincipled treatment of women. It’s nice that there’s been some progress, but it isn’t enough, and it’s a matter of equality in principle, not just in practice. I suppose it’s what people need to do to reconcile their membership, but that doesn’t make it principled.

  66. 66.

    I just don’t see how that state of affairs constitutes equality. Do you have an argument as to this point?

    I think the logic can carry over to callings. The Lord has given some people callings that require them to preside, lead, be in charge of, etc. And I think what Pres. Packer said in the most recent Conference might be applicable:

    There is a unique equality among members. No one of us is to consider himself of more value than the other (see D&C 38:24–25). “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35; see also Romans 2:11; D&C 1:35; 38:16)….It would be very disappointing to my wife and to me if we supposed any one of our children would think that we think we are of more worth to the family or to the Church than they are, or to think that one calling in the Church was esteemed over another or that any calling would be thought to be less important.

    I think a lot of this boils down to what we equality as. God doesn’t measure equality by our to-do lists, and I think that is where we start to talk past each other. If we are all equal before God, if even the prophet doesn’t have more value in God’s eyes than any of us, if our callings don’t determine our worth or ability or importance before God, then I don’t think we can assume anything different about a husband who presides and a wife who is his equal partner — equally important to God’s work and equally important before God.

  67. 67.

    Wait, wait, wait. This has never been about equal value. There are lots of unequal power relationships among persons of equal value.

    Equal means equal in every way, not just re: value to God. So it would have to mean equal power, equal influence, equal everything. The marriage is alleged to be “an equal partnership,” not “a union of equally valuable partners.” See the difference?

  68. 68.

    “what we equality as” should obviously be ‘what we see equality as.’

    “I suppose it’s what people need to do to reconcile their membership, but that doesn’t make it principled.”

    z, so you think that I’m duping myself to reconcile my membership? I can respect that you see things differently, but I would appreciate the same respect in return. What you see is what you feel, not necessarily what IS. Equality in principle DOES exist in my view, because I view equality as an eternal principle. I know that many, if not most, people in the Church feel that way as well. That doesn’t mean that others don’t struggle; I realize they do. I”d just appreciate the recognition that your view is simply that: your view, instead of assuming that it carries across the board and that people who don’t share it are simply unprincipled and are somehow in denial.

  69. 69.

    Equal means equal in every way, not just re: value to God.

    That’s what equal means to you.

    I do understand what you are saying about equal partners. I understand why it causes some people to stop and scratch their heads. If I thought about it only in terms of roles and responsibilites, I might, too, but I look at it all differently. I’m sure that drives y’all insane, but….

    I think in a sense we are all equal partners in the Church as well. No calling or assignment changes that. We are all necessary and important and we just have different responsibilities. I really think that equal is used in a different way in Church discourse.

  70. 70.

    I’m not suggesting that you’re duping yourself (or anything about you at all, I thought you’d wandered away from the thread). I’m suggesting that the willingness to wait decades for cultural change, for 100% of the membership to fully come around to the idea that women are equal, is a compromise of principle. To make excuses and apologia and tell women to wait and be content with slow progress, is a compromise of principle. But I don’t think that means everyone’s duped. I do think it means people are compromising the principle.

    Equality in principle DOES exist in my view, because I view equality as an eternal principle.

    I really don’t know what you mean by that. It seems like a tautology to me.

  71. 71.

    I also think power is defined differently in church discourse as well. That’s, in fact, I think what Sister Beck was trying to help us as women see — that we have great power and influence in our families. We dont need priesthood or to be called a presider to have power and influence. I’m not much concerned about measuring that power against my husband’s, and I think our leaders are trying to help us get away from measuring equality and power by comparing our roles and responsibilities. Different but equal is the way I see it, and what I hear them say repeatedly. It’s not your typical feminist discourse, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or possible. :)

  72. 72.

    I thought you’d wandered away from the thread

    Nope, was asleep. :)

  73. 73.

    I really think that equal is used in a different way in Church discourse.

    It is indeed different; it reminds me of 1984. All are equal, except that some have power and others don’t. Do you think that doesn’t matter? I can’t figure out how you manage to wave it away.

  74. 74.

    Huh?

    Z, you seem to be operating on the assumption that every statement by church leaders should be interpreted as obnoxiously as possible.

    Most members that I know apply their own set of reasonableness filters and adaptations, as they choose how to apply various statements and ideas into their own lives.

    Yes, it’s a problem that the potential exists for really obnoxious patriarchal application in daily life. I agree, it would be nice if changes were made at both official as well as lived doctrine. Unenforced laws can have important secondary and tertiary effects.

    However, the opposite approach — simply repeating “the official doctrine is bad,” without acknowledging that the lived doctrine is substantially less probematic — introduces its own concerns. It’s misleading and it overstates the problem. And by overstating things, you potentially undercuts support for change. If you’re going around making lots of fuss about 1970s statements that almost no one actually applies as stated, readers will dismiss you as over-reacting. And in the process, they may dismiss more pressing concerns. This is what gives feminism a bad name. It makes feminist concerns look shrill and irrelevant.

    An unnuanced approach — “they said bad things in the 70s, those are not officially revoked, the sky is falling,” or even, “they said preside,” without ackowledging that many members adapt this in their own lives in relatively egalitarian ways — can ultimately do more harm than good.

  75. 75.

    As a matter of tactics that’s not a bad argument (although I don’t think I’m actually doing what you describe), but I don’t think it succeeds in addressing the principle at stake. Lived experience is significant, but can it really change the content of the doctrine? And doesn’t the official doctrine matter? Focusing on lived experience to the exclusion of official doctrine lets the official doctrine off the hook, and allows for this convenient slippage between “patriarchy” and “equality” that is ultimately lacking in principle, and intellectually unsatisfying. That’s why I call it an unprincipled apologia when it’s used to address concerns about official doctrine.

  76. 76.

    Hmmm. Perhaps my expectations are a bit too high here. Look, it’s currently out of fashion in Western democracies to say that women should submit to their husbands. Submitting to one’s husband conjures up images of the Stepford Wives or – more darkly – women enshrouded in black sheets with mesh eyeholes.

    If we read the scriptures and listen to the words spoken to and about women in the temple, however, God very plainly tells us that men are in charge. Statements from Church leaders routinely refer to a man presiding over his wife as a divine decree.

    If men presiding over women is the natural order of things, then give it to us straight! We can handle it. Church leaders had no problem giving it to us straight when it came to polygamy or enforcing politically unpopular policies discriminating against blacks. What has changed about the doctrine of men presiding over women (which has ample scriptural support) that the Church is now importing egalitarian language into the concept of men presiding?

    I think it’s reasonable to expect our Church leaders to tell us when (if?) they are overturning thousands of years of settled doctrine which clearly states the man rules over the woman, and the woman must submit. The language of “equal partners” which the Church is now adopting eviscerates the patriarchal concept of “the man presides over the woman”. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I believe it’s important to clarify what remains of the doctrine of patriarchy – because we’re still speaking in its language – before we sweep everything under the rug and pretend it never existed.

    As commenters on this thread have pointed out, we’re probably in a transition stage and will move on to taming the scriptural demons of patriarchy and fully embracing equality between men and women – just as the Church did with its black members. But let’s not pretend that it’s perfectly logical to speak of a man “presiding” over a woman while the two remain equal partners. It just doesn’t work that way,

  77. 77.

    I’m suggesting that the willingness to wait decades for cultural change, for 100% of the membership to fully come around to the idea that women are equal, is a compromise of principle.

    Not sure I understand. Are you talking about past decades and the changes in rhetoric? I think someone talked about progress as part of continuing revelation. I don’t know that we can expect anything but progress (vs. “arrival) when it comes to humans. Even in the Church. I also think that we are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the tension between patriarchy and partnership because I don’t see that patriarchy as an order is going away.

    I totally realize that on paper it seems like I’m ‘waving away’ “obvious’ inequality. But when the Spirit teaches me that this is not the case, I’m not about to wave THAT away.

    I really don’t know what you mean by that.

    What I mean is that I don’t believe equality in the Church and the gospel is measured by position or responsibility alone. I believe God’s measure of power and equality is not simply about having the same specific responsibilities or job descriptions or titles. It’s not some balance sheet kind of thing, where we divvy out jobs so that they match exactly to prove that men and women are equal. In fact, I think God designed things so that we, in the Church and the family, would need each other and thus, be different. If we were each self-sufficient entities, we wouldn’t need to strive for interdependence, which is key to marriage and, in a sense, key to the church really functioning as it should. The body of Christ needs all its different elements to work. I think the marriage relationship, as defined in the Proclamation, allows for all ‘parts’ to be represented and to work together.

    The other element of eternal equality is that God has offered us all, male and female, all that He has. We have the opportunity for eternal life and exaltation. As Elder Maxwell used to say, “there isn’t any more”! What more do we really need to know than that God has promised all He has to those who are faithful? I believe part of the test is to take these ‘seeming’ inequalities and come together to be truly one — not two exactly-the-same beings given exactly the same responsibilities, but two separate/different-but-equal beings coming together as one.

    Don’t know if that helps explain how I see it. Words don’t really fully explain all that I FEEL about it, because like I said, I’m OK with this because of how I feel more than what I think. It makes more and more sense to my brain, but that doesn’t mean I can explain myself well. :)

  78. 78.

    Kaimi #60 – You answered your own question!
    I love this statement:

    Sister X, you were obedient to church leaders’ counsel in prior decades, and that’s a good thing, and we appreciate that. However, women today have other options.

    I think this statement perfectly describes the difficulties of living in a Church that believes in continuing revelation. We MUST value and respect the experiences of women and men who sacrificed to live the laws as they were understood at the time. There is no shame in doing what Church leaders very clearly told you to do.

    Too many times, however, we run as fast as we can from our antiquated understanding without looking back. Life is complicated. Understanding God’s Word is even more complicated. Let’s acknowledge the complexity and stop pretending that everything is the way it’s always been.

    (You raise other interesting points, but I have to sign off for now)

  79. 79.

    I agree with ECS in #76. I think that it is especially because there is a disconnect between the official doctrine (at least as far as the scriptures and temple go) and how most people live their lives. Usually, if there’s this sort of disconnect it’s a bad thing, right? If the official church line is to not be prideful, or to pay a full tithing, or to do your home/visiting teaching, the fact that a great percentage of the church membership doesn’t do it is problematic.

    Now, in my view, I think egalitarian marriages are far preferable to non-egalitarian ones, so I can understand why everybody is happy that there is a disconnect between what the scriptures/temple say and how we live our lives. But still, for me, I have to wonder *why* the scriptures/temple say what they do. Is it just old-fashioned, sexist stuff that needs to be changed? Maybe, but then why are the leaders trying to hold on to the language of it? Is it the true order of things? Maybe, but then why are people trying to use apologetics to wiggle out of it?

    I know that I prefer my marriage to be egalitarian and to not have a ruler, a leader, or whatever. I would like to know whether or not this is a righteous desire or not.

  80. 80.

    Re my #79 I meant to say “I think it is important to talk about the language especially because there is a disconnect…” Sorry!

  81. 81.

    But let’s not pretend that it’s perfectly logical to speak of a man “presiding” over a woman while the two remain equal partners. It just doesn’t work that way,

    I’m gonna be a stickler here and ask that you please say “I don’t think” it works that way. Just because you say it doesn’t work doesn’t mean that is actually true. And just because patriarchy is out of fashion doesn’t mean it should be rejected outright. The patriarchal order is taught to be the Lord’s plan for families. In my mind, we ought to understand what that means, in the Lord’s way, through the Spirit. Scriptures and the temple seem to indicate that this order existed from the time of Adam and Eve. So, what does it really mean? I don’t think relying primarily on feminism or culture or fashion will help us figure that out. Rejecting these concepts won’t help either, in my mind.

    ECS, thanks, btw, for your explanation of your concern. I personally don’t think that there is a rejection of patriarchy at all as we hear more egalitarian language mixed in. I think either we are getting more understanding about true womanhood and marriage, and/or we are hearing more because there is more concern in our day about the chargedness of the word patriarchy. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

  82. 82.

    Well, I understand that you feel equal, but the question remains: how do we know (other than by feelings) that the current system is equal? Maybe it’s different and unequal, and the unequal division of power would point in that direction. How do we know whether it’s equal? Do we even know what the current system is? To me it seems that the official doctrine is self-contradictory and the lived experience is diverse. How can we say all that contradiction and diversity is “equal” if the word has any meaning at all?

    I guess it seems to me that the church and culture want to simultaneously claim that men and women are equal in the secular sense, but treat them differently and say it’s good enough because it’s equal in the religious sense you describe. Those two things are not reconcilable, so it’s necessary for the church to make a choice and take the consequences.

  83. 83.

    Let’s acknowledge the complexity and stop pretending that everything is the way it’s always been.

    Whom do you think is pretending?

    Maybe, but then why are the leaders trying to hold on to the language of it? Is it the true order of things? Maybe, but then why are people trying to use apologetics to wiggle out of it?

    This is the kind of rhetoric that I think shuts down discussion, or at least shuts out other possibilities. Maybe it’s not wiggling out or apologetics. Maybe there is both patriarchy and equal partnership in what really is, and that is what we are to sort through. Maybe it’s not an either/or proposition as we think it is or “should be.” We ought to leave the possibility that our thoughts are not the Lord’s on this, and that there is more to this than meets the brain.

  84. 84.

    Z.,

    You’ve repeatedly asked how a marriage arrangement where one partner has decision-making authority can be an equal partnership, and you’ve asserted that those two don’t work together. I think you’re both right and wrong. You’re right to note that there’s an inherent tension there. Absolutely. On the other hand, it’s wrong to suggest that there is no way to resolve that tension; or that possible resolutions are necessarily unprincipled.

    In fact, I see a similar arrangement all the time, in the legal context, and there’s no question about it being unprincipled or problematic.

    It’s quite common for a law firm, or any other legal partnership, to be both an equal partnership — that is, for all partners to share equally in profits or losses, for all partners to be equal owners in the entity — and at the same time, for different partners to have different roles. This delineation of roles includes, quite often, the designation of one or more “managing partners” who make many day-to-day decisions for the entity. That is, it’s explicitly an equal partnership, and yet one partner has most decision-making authority under the agreement.

    And so I think that a lot of people I know would be surprised to hear that it’s impossible to have an equal partnership where one partner has pre-designated decision-making authority, under the scope of the partnership agreement. Hell, I’ve drafted agreements like that.

    Not that I’m suggesting that that’s the best way to resolve the two, or the only way, or my personal approach. But it seems clear that there are various ways to resolve the two ideas, including some very common ones in the outside world.

    I can appreciate your discomfort with the preside / equal partner combination; I’m not thrilled with it myself; it requires interpretation and application, and it can be read in obnoxious ways. Agreed on all.

    But it’s incorrect to suggest that such arrangements are anomalous. They’re regularly used in the business context, and business partners figure out how to operate the presiding and equal partnership prongs in tandem. (And usually do a pretty good job at it — though there is certainly some litigation on the topic.)

  85. 85.

    Kaimi, I appreciate the explication, but I think that’s distinguishable because the authority of managing partners or whomever is consensually delegated by the other partners, who started off on equal footing (at least in theory). And the power to re-negotiate remains– managing partners don’t have life tenure. By contrast, presiding isn’t consensual or revocable by the presided-over, and is imposed externally. So I don’t think the analogy holds. Additionally, I’d say calling it an “explicitly equal partnership” doesn’t make it so.

  86. 86.

    Sorry to butt in to the discussion (especially after I said I was leaving!), but I’m not so sure a business model of partnership is (or should be) applicable to a marital relationship. You’re absolutely right that a managing partner has decision making authority that run of the mill partners don’t have. This power retained by the managing partner over the partnership is analogous to a man “presiding” over his wife.

    But the question still remains, why _should_ a marriage of equals designate the man (and always the man – at least the managing partner is typically based on merit and can be a woman) as a manager of the marriage?

    m&m – yikes. can i just recycle our presiding conversation we had last year? :)

  87. 87.

    Okay, I’m going to bow out and let z take over. She/he is much more articulate and I’ve got brownies to make!

  88. 88.

    I didn’t mean to say something that would shut down dialogue, M&M. Sorry. I guess for me it is very hard to understand how something can be hierarchal and equal. I appreciate Kaimi’s attempt to explain this in #84, although it didn’t totally cut through the confusion that I have (maybe I’ll need to read it again).

    I don’t want to discount the possibility that there is a “third option.” I guess that my problem is that, in my mind, this third option could be better explained than simply using two (usually) contradictory terms and saying it is a paradox. Maybe there is no better way, but the way I hear things now confuses me and hurts me. I am really glad it doesn’t for everybody, I just wish I could come to the same place of peace.

  89. 89.

    Thanks, ECS. I’m sure your brownies are every bit as nice as that compliment.

  90. 90.

    z, 1984 could apply to totalitarianism and doublethink but Animal Farm is where we learn that all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

    And now back to the regular programming commenting…

  91. 91.

    oops, you’re so right. I was thinking of Newspeak.

    To extend the corporate analogy, it’s kind of like if the government arbitrarily designated a managing partner, without compensating the others for loss of the opportunity to be managing partner, and wrote that designation irrevocably into the charter.

  92. 92.

    ECS/Hannah,

    I would suggest that maybe you are oversimplifying, and that your expectations aren’t realistic. Eve’s comment # 24 notwithstanding, there is very little about gospel living that is plain and simple. Can anybody give us a succint and comprehensive definition that everybody agrees on of the following common terms: atonement, redemption, priesthood keys, Lord’s annointed, gathering of Israel, seer, grace, faith, pride, transgression, petionary prayer, ordinance, stewardship, consecration, spirit of Elijah, personal revelation, word of wisdom, salvation, chastity, Godhead, exaltation? It would not surprise me to hear every one of those words tomorrow in church, and yet I don’t think we know what we are talking about when we use them any more than we do when we use preside. On the surface, it looks like tithing would be an easy one, but there is still lots of room for individual interpretation that nobody questions, for instance, net or gross, every paycheck or at year end, should we tithe the value of company paid health insurance, should we tithe gifts that have already been tithed, should we tithe the company match on 401(k), and if so, now or later, etc. You get the picture. There just aren’t very many black and white answers to anything.

  93. 93.

    Hannah, I’m sorry for your pain and struggle. I really am. Thanks for your follow-up comment. Like Kaimi said, there is definitely tension there, I also just am not convinced it’s not reconcilable. But my experience has been that that reconciliation is not in my brain as much as it is in my spirit, and understanding things line upon line in ways that go beyond what words or philosophies can really get to. And in my mind, if we have already predecided that something can’t be, it will likely be harder for the Spirit to teach, ya know?

    I gotta go, too. ECS, we believe in recycling, right? (although to be honest, I don’t remember the particulars. Obviously you do. Must have been fun…. :) )

  94. 94.

    Well, that was a faster and more interested reply to legal arcane discussion than I usually get. :)

    Sure, there are real differences. I’m not saying that the two are identical. However, it’s one model of an equal partnership where one or more partners clearly preside over decisionmaking — and it’s very common. And it goes to undercut the idea that these two baselines are inherently incompatible.

    The issue of consent is an interesting one. One reasonable approach, I think, would be that LDS women have some sort of right of ratification of decisionmaking (because presiding is only valid if done righteously).

    E, your question — why _should_ the man automatically be designated the managing partner — is a good one, and it’s the real troubling issue. I don’t have a problem with the existence of managing partners; I do think the automatic gender-determined designation is problematic. As I said up in 58, I don’t see any good categorical reason why women couldn’t serve equally well as managing partners. The only reason is because that’s what the instruction says.

    And of course, I don’t personally agree with that. It doesn’t comport with my views on God and on family, and my own marriage isn’t structured along any lines of presiding. My wife and I have never used language of presiding or control in our marriage. (Um, except for one longstanding, slightly off-color, and absolutely non-serious inside joke.) And I’m perfectly happy with a non-presiding model in my own life. And I say this as someone who has been composing this comment in five-minute bursts, while watching the kids, while my wife is at school working on a project. :P (I hope it’s moderately coherent).

    At the same time, I do feel that some attacks on the presiding model — such as the idea that these two goals are inherently irreconcilable across the board — are overstated. I know good people who seem to make the model of presiding and equal partnership work pretty well in their own marriages.

  95. 95.

    Mark IV, I am not asking for something to be black/white, or even simple. I am just asking for an explanation that works for me, and that doesn’t cause pain/confusion. I’m not really asking for it from anyone here (though if anyone could somehow get me a direct spiritual epiphany, that would be great!). I do not know if my expectations are too high or not. I do have a history of high expectations, but then my patriarchal blessing blesses me “with great expectations and the fulfillment of those expectations.”

    It’s hard to know when you are reaching/asking for too much, especially in a case like this where, for me, I feel rather desperate for some peace and understanding. I can’t help how I feel on this. I can’t help that I haven’t gotten peace yet (it’s not from lack of trying, or lack of desire). I am just going off of what my experiences, spiritual and temporal, have been. And while I try not to become too emotionally invested about discussions on blogs, for heaven’s sake, I do feel very emotionally invested on this issue in my own, personal life.

  96. 96.

    Well, I guess I’m just saying the corporate analogy is too different. I don’t see how you get over the problem of not starting out on an equal footing. I think my description of government intervention is a much closer factual match, and couldn’t be described as “equal.”

    The only reason is because that’s what the instruction says.

    I think the big problem with that is the credibility gap. In light of gender in the history of human society, and in the church, and the sexism that occurs to this day, it’s understandable that not everyone feels comfortable with “because it says so.” It’s not even necessarily secret, deliberate sexism, but internalized bias and unquestioned essentialism skewing the outcome.

    One reasonable approach, I think, would be that LDS women have some sort of right of ratification of decisionmaking (because presiding is only valid if done righteously).

    Not to be a huge nerd here, but is the man still presiding if it’s all subject to wifely ratification? Kind of like the legislative veto, right? INS v. Chadha. Couldn’t one argue that the woman is then presiding? Sorry for boring everyone. I think a better argument (although I still am unpersuaded) is that continued marriage is the consent to being presided-over.

  97. 97.

    Hannah,

    I think I understand, and I leave open the very real possibility that if I were female I would be in the same boat with you.

    A large part of the value of online conversations for me comes from the perspective that I gain from the experience of others. I appreciate your participation here, and while there is apparently nothing I have been able to contribute that brings you peace, your candor has been helpful to me. Thanks.

  98. 98.

    And btw Hannah:

    While we often may not understand the burdens those around have, including those people we only encounter online, those burdens are still real and often very heavy and we have promised to help bear them. I wish there were some way I could help. I also hope I haven’t made it worse.

  99. 99.

    Hannah,

    I’ll echo Mark — I appreciate hearing your perspective, and I hope that you can find a place where you’re at peace (either by resolving this issue to your satisfaction, finding a way to fit it into your life, or finding a way to live without the concern).

    (I’m also a little nonplussed by the idea that my business-associations law analogy may have been helpful. If you think that’s helpful, you should check out some of the more detailed provisions of the Revised Uniform Partnership Act. :P )

  100. 100.

    Thanks for the support, Mark IV and Kaimi. As had been said before on the bloggernacle, having a place to discuss things can be helpful, even if the quest for peace is a personal one. We’re all fellow travelers. Having people try to explain their perspectives, trying to give alternative explanations, and whatnot is helpful (that is more what I meant when I said that your analogy was helpful–more because I had a concrete example than actually understanding it [btw, I am taking business associations next semester, so maybe I really *will* understand it]).

  101. 101.

    I’m amazed at the demand for linguistic specificity in this instance, when in so many other situations, various other terms are commonly thrown around by LDS with great abandon.

    People talk about “working mothers,” and we are all supposed to understand that it doesn’t mean there is such a thing as a non-working mother and of course mothers at home work, blah blah blah. And it could all be avoided by use of the word that already means “working for pay”: employed.

    And how often we hear, “When we were pregnant” when really only one body was carrying the child, or “when we were in graduate school” even though only one person was enrolled in school.

  102. 102.

    While we often may not understand the burdens those around have, including those people we only encounter online, those burdens are still real and often very heavy and we have promised to help bear them. I wish there were some way I could help. I also hope I haven’t made it worse.

    FWIW, I echo these feelings, Hannah and others.

  103. 103.

    I think that my desire for linguistic specificity when it comes to the issue of “presiding” is because it is a much more problematic term for me than words like “grace” or atonement” or “salvation” (or any of the other terms that Mark IV listed). While there are some ways of conceptualizing the word “atonement,” that make more sense to me than others, there aren’t really any definitions of the word that cause me pain or that I find troublesome.

    However, this is not the case with preside. The model of presiding where men have authority over women (which is a definition which we cannot completely escape because it’s part of the history of the word–as Kiskilili pointed out–no matter how many speeches we get on “equal partnership) is one that I cannot live with, and so I want linguistic specificity.

  104. 104.

    Great discussion on this thread, I have been following it closely, but z and ECS seem to be saying what I would like to for the most part, so I have just been reading.

    However, for me, I have lost the desire to find out whether or not God really wants us to “submit” to patriarchy. I find that idea incompatible with a God who loves all of his children equally, and I just don’t believe it is the right possibility anymore. I am trying hard to reconcile patriarchy and oppression of women in history and find a way that I can view God as someone who loves all of his children equally. I’m still working on that one, but I don’t believe that if God is God, and present in the church, that he would love less or want his daughters to be treated as any less (ie being presided over). Which is why the language, especially in the liturgical context, really bothers me as well.

  105. 105.

    I would add, Naismith, that I have seen you champion the cause of linguistic specificity for the terms you mention in other forums.

  106. 106.

    Interesting thread, it seems like we’ve gone through this topic a few times, and the ideas circulate like a revolving door.
    I was struck by ECS’s comment in 32

    So, what if a wife refuses to acknowledge or submit to her husband’s presiding authority in their marital relationship? Does the man still “preside” over the recalcitrant wife despite her wishes?

    Perhaps this was a rhetorical question, but I’d really like to know the answer. Does presiding require submitting?
    My former stake president used to talk at length about the gifts of the fathers and the doctrine of giving and receiving. I wonder if this is somehow tied in to presiding and submitting.
    Lastly, since I’ve been reading Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling, I see these debates in a different light. The scripture about persuasion and love unfeigned was given during a time where men were physically fighting to defend their perceived honor (and whipping their 15 year old daughters) and resolving these conflicts was a regular part of church business. Of course the same principles apply today, but our society is more diplomatic anyway, so perhaps it doesn’t have the same effect.

  107. 107.

    So, what if a wife refuses to acknowledge or submit to her husband’s presiding authority in their marital relationship? Does the man still “preside” over the recalcitrant wife despite her wishes?

    Jessawhy, the answer is no, never. I simply cannot imagine a situation where that would be true. She can say “No” and that is that.

    Except maybe in the case of a job-required move. Since we have stressed the need for the man to support the family, if he felt it was necessary to move someplace else to take a job but the wife didn’t want to move, I can see where the bishop would advise her to set her objections aside and call U-haul. But I’m not so sure that is waht we mean by preside.

    Y’all are scaring me. The place those questions come from is so far away from my lived experience that it is hard to me to understand. Men get chewed out all the time, in PH meeting and in the temple, about the need to submit to our spiritually superior wives. I don’t doubt that there are creepy bullies who demand submission, but there is simply no way the chain of command in the church would support him.

  108. 108.

    See, Mark IV, it’s not always as easy as just appealing to the chain of command. For some women, daring to do that could result in permanent damage to the marriage, or in violence.

    But also, for some people, it’s just degrading and humiliating to be told that being female means having to allow a man to preside over you (whatever that means). It’s like the difference between living in a democracy versus a benevolent dictatorship. Or being treated like a child or an incompetent, allowed the illusion of decisionmaking but not the actual power to decide. Does that make any sense to you?

  109. 109.

    Once, when I was playing little league, I was attempting to field a sharply hit ground ball when it took an unexpected bounce and hit me right in the Adam’s apple. it hurt like a @#$&, I couldn’t breathe, and I almost passed out from the pain. (Note to readers: If you are a woman who has given birth, kindly wipe that smirk off your face.) My coach prescribed the only treatment coaches know how to prescribe: shake it off and get back in the game. If it still hurts, rub some dirt on it. I mention this touching vignette from my misspent youth as a preface to the substance of my comment. I learned that when somebody says “it hurts”, it is best to take it seriously, and not to simply tell them to get over it. I’m afraid that maybe some of my previous comments here could be understood as an admonition to just get over it and quit complaining. That wasn’t my intention, and isn’t my intention now, so please keep that in mind if you read on. I’ll describe what has worked for me without intending to offer a prescriptive solution.

    I echo Seraphine’s and Chelle’s sentiments. I simply cannot live with the idea that God favors sons over daughters. If I encounter something that suggests that he does (or that he favors daughter over sons, for that matter, as much of the current rhetoric does), I have decided to just ignore it. I was camping once and lost my sense of direction (easy to do when you are away from the Wasatch Front) and the sun appeared to be setting in the East. Since I knew that is a metaphysical impossibility, I just shrugged off the disorientation. I place the idea that God intends for one sex to be subsevient to the other in the same category. It simply cannot be, and therefore, it isn’t. Anything that suggests otherwise is simply the result of disorientation or faulty communication, even when it comes from a position of authority.

    I also think that we are failing to take into account historical perspective. Our great-greats practiced Abraham-Isaac-and-Jacob style polygamy with a determination and tenacity that landed them into the penitentiary, and caused one our our prophets to die with a price on his head. That wasn’t all that long ago, and it shouldn’t surprise us if there are still some vestiges of that experience in our discourse. It is true that language changes over time, but it doesn’t change that fast.

    I take exception to the idea that this is all just a ruse to allow for mistreatment of females. I mean, that is certainly one explanation, but I think it is a really, really dumb explanation. It is almost always a bad practice to assume the absolute worst about something just because we don’t understand it. In the past when I have done that, it has invariably led to the consumption of a big crow sandwich.

    ECS, I understand completely if you think I’m bringing this up just to annoy you, but I promise I’m not. I think the words feminist and preside have many of the same problems. A hundred years ago, almost all feminists thought females were the superior sex, and that males were base and degraded. When Carrie Nation founded the Women’s Temperace Union and walked into saloons with a hatchet, she did it with the righteous wrath of God. Those same impulses are still with us. So, why doesn’t that discredit feminism? There is yet today a substantial number of women who will openly claim that most women are better than most men, and there are many others who think it but won’t say it. You can see it in the milion mom marches where it is assumed that women are less prone to fighting (although I don’t see how anyone who has been around a Relief Society for any length of time can hold that position), and you don’t need to look very far among Hillary supporters to find someone who will say that a woman’s nature is needed to overcome the mess that men have made. Modern feminism has managed to shed much of its previous explicit commitment to genderism, although it is still implicit in much that is closely connected with feminists. Why aren’t we offended by that? I’m not asking in order to score rhetorical points or to be tiresome. I’m honestly curious.

  110. 110.

    Just to clarify, my interest in ECS’s question was mostly academic, or definitional. I just wondered if men “presided” all the time, or only when there was someone to submit, kind of like a leader can only lead if there are followers.
    I do think there are lots of ways that men make decisions despite their wives objections. It may be linked more closely to expertise (like my husband is a finance guy, so he decides stuff on loans, bank accts, etc. even if I don’t agree with him.)
    Women do the same thing, but it’s not as big of a deal. My expertise is household items, and if DH comes home with the wrong brand of laundry detergent, he is going back to the store. (there are probably better examples)
    So, decisions aren’t always equitable in marriage, but they are probably based on expertise, and that may or may not be affected by the patriarchy/egalitarian quality of the marriage.

  111. 111.

    z, no, it doesn’t make much sense to me. I do not know a single woman who thinks she has to submit to her husband just because, so your hypothetical is so foreign to me that I don’t understand it. Although I’m certain that there are LDS marriages where the description of benevolent dictatorship would fit, I personally don’t know of any, and I know hundreds of couples.

  112. 112.

    Mark IV, what you are bothered by in some feminist rhetoric is actually rhetoric that women are bringing from patriarchal discourse into the feminist movement (and most feminists I know are doing their best to get rid of it).
    For example, in the Victorian era, the concept of women that became predominant was the idea of woman as the “angel in the house.” As such, women were represented as “superior” when it came to qualities such as love and virtue. However, both women and men used this discourse to argue that because women were the “superior” sex, they shouldn’t be sullied by the public sphere (i.e. they shouldn’t get the vote, they shouldn’t be allowed to work specific jobs, etc.). Women should be protected and allowed to be the lovely, nurturing, feminine “angel in the house.”
    Most of the feminists around the turn of the century arguing that women should have the vote who said anything about women’s superior virtue were trying to use the words of the patriarchal discourse and twist it. The feminists (suffragettes) argued that if women were so virtuous and superior (which is what the discourse around them was saying), wouldn’t the public sphere be a much better place if women were allowed to participate equally.
    I think the same holds true today. Most of the time these days when I hear discussions of women’s “superiority” it’s not coming from feminists (or at least not the feminists I know), it’s coming from people who believe in patriarchy and separate gender roles (and that as a part of that, women have a special femininity that makes them grand or superior or whatever). This kind of discourse offends all of my feminist sensibilities, and would offend the sensibilities of most of the other feminists I associate with (other feminists out there–how do you respond?).
    Actually, maybe sometime today I’ll put up a post addressing this topic so that we don’t end up with too much of a threadjack.

  113. 113.

    Well, maybe you’ll just never get it. Part of the problem of having no real definition of “preside” is that becomes very difficult to discuss. If you could define it, I’d be eager to hear your definition. As far as I can tell, it seems that the man is obligated to give the woman’s views equal weight, but the real power to decide still belongs with the man. It’s like living under a benevolent dictator who enjoys going on listening tours– women still don’t have the same amount of power, even though the day-to-day life is the same. The difference is abstract, a matter of principle rather than practicality. But principle matters to some people.

    Maybe you’ll just have to accept that the idea of being “presided over” can feel inherently degrading, no matter how kindly and thoughtfully the man exercises the presiding power. If the man is “in charge” as Kaimi says, for some people that’s always going to feel infantilizing. Adulthood means being “in charge” of ourselves, not handing the responsibility over to someone else.

  114. 114.

    The other difference vis a vis feminism is that there’s no unified feminist authority capable of promulgating a definition. There are just a lot of people and some organizations, but no single entity with acknowledged authority. Whereas the church can make official pronouncements, so it’s more reasonable to ask for one.

  115. 115.

    Well, maybe you’ll just never get it.

    Yeah, I guess you’re probably right. lol. But now I understand what you mean about being treated like a child or an incompetent.

  116. 116.

    Sorry, z. That was too hasty, and I didn’t mean it.

  117. 117.

    Sorry– I didn’t mean that to sound harsh. But can’t you imagine how someone might feel, even if you’ve never met such a person? Or can you imagine that some of the couples you know haven’t told you their deepest thoughts on the matter?

  118. 118.

    z.

    Let me try again. I don’t even attempt to define preside because I don’t expect that the word itself will have any meaning for me. While I can see that there may be some value for children in stressing nutrurer/provider gender roles, I think there is a great deal of folly that results from trying to extrapolate from them. I do not believe that a man has any inherent rights over his wife at all.

    The question then arises as to how to reconcile this approach with activity in a church that still uses the word and attempts to attach meaning to it. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I just ignore it, and I have found that to be surprisingly easy. We all do it, it think, just with different things. Loud laughter, anyone?

  119. 119.

    That’s a simple but elegant solution. But it’s not quite as easy for all of us, especially those whose husbands consistently assert that presiding has content. I’m sure you can understand the desire for clarity, and for official recognition of one’s equality.

  120. 120.

    Seraphine,

    Well, I think you have just repeated the points I made. It used to have one meaning, and it means something else now, and hardly anybody you know associates themselves with the old definition. Fair enough. Let’s allow perside to do the same thing.

  121. 121.

    Mark IV, no I did not repeat you. I said nothing about a previous/old definition, and I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you say that I did.

  122. 122.

    Hmm. I thought when you said this:

    what you are bothered by in some feminist rhetoric is actually rhetoric that women are bringing from patriarchal discourse into the feminist movement (and most feminists I know are doing their best to get rid of it).

    …you were saying that yes, feminists used to say that bu now they don’t anymore. I still think that is a fair interpretation of your words, but if you don’t, I’ll happily withdraw it.

  123. 123.

    Nope, that’s not what I said (though I probably could have phrased things more clearly). I was trying to convey that when feminists used language of moral superiority (which I think is and was not typical), they were doing so because it was a linguistic tool–i.e. they were talking to people and operating in a discursive environment where the people around them believed in the moral superiority of women.

  124. 124.

    Ok, that makes sense, and I understand better now. Thanks for the clarification.

    Although it is probably really stupid of me to disagree with you about this, I’m gonna do it anyway. I think there has been a HUGE change in feminist rhetoric over the past 150 years. Stanton’s speech at Seneca Falls is chock full of the kind of phrases that give us conniptions today when they are said by Julie Beck, for instance.

  125. 125.

    It’s not stupid of you to disagree with me about the changes in feminist rhetoric. I definitely think they exist–feminism has changed from the 19th century to the 21st century. While some feminist issues have remained the same, a lot of issues have changed, and the culture has changed, and feminism has tried to change so that it doesn’t become culturally passe. (I just think that very rarely has a belief in women’s superiority been a part of feminist discourse.)

  126. 126.

    Assume, for just a moment, that the reason many women’s desires turn towards their husbands (something you will observe all the time) is because of the fall — that it is one of the side effects of the world being in a fallen state.

    Assume, for just a moment, that men and women are intended to be equal and equally yoked together.

    Now, go back fifty or sixty years or more, starting with Brigham Young’s focus on how women should vote and that women make just as good of lawyers, doctors, accountants and shopkeepers and bankers as men, through JFS’s comments that women are not property and are the equal of men through to what the current prophet has been teaching and ask yourself why it is so hard for people to hear the message.

    As to presiding, consider a ward meeting. Various people may preside, but that doesn’t mean that they are conducting. Who has more control?

  127. 127.

    “Chicken Patriarchy never allows itself to be pinned down to a single perspective; chameleonlike, it alters its attitude from day to day and sometimes even from sentence to sentence…”

    ‘Sounds like today’s feminism — an ever moving target.

  128. 128.

    I just asked my wife what she thought “to preside” means. She said, “to watch over.” I think that’s an interesting answer, especially if it is viewed in a sort of “take care of” or “protect” kind of way. I like it, however laced with chivalry it may be…

  129. 129.

    Hannah-Thanks for your thoughts. I felt like someone was looking in my brain and writing was I thinking/feeling. Especially your comments in #95. I just want it to stop hurting…

  130. 130.

    Tanya Sue: you’re welcome. I have such a hard time talking about this in “real” life because I get too emotional, but I always wish I could have conversations with people who felt the same way (and who wouldn’t think it was weird for me to start bawling over “semantics”). It’s horrible to feel hurt and alone.
    I am still following this thread with interest, but my feelings about this feel too bruised and tender to really participate (and this is not the fault of anyone on the board–you’ve all been helpful).

  131. 131.

    (And please ignore the terrible grammar in my last comment–it’s hard for me to think clearly toward the end of my fast!)

  132. 132.

    Hannah-if you want to talk email me at tanyasue at tanyasue dot com. If it is too painful, I really do understand. I hope that the pain calms down because I understand that pain.

  133. 133.

    Mark VI – you’re much too jolly to argue with.

    I am still interested the role of a woman’s consent in “presiding”. If we truly respect the idea of agency, a woman must choose whether she submits to her husband’s presiding authority. This authority can’t be foisted upon her. We all recognize forcing someone to do something as a key component of Satan’s plan. But so why don’t we ever hear anything about a woman’s freedom to choose whether she submits to her husband? Is her choice to get married effectively giving her consent to be presided over? The terms of LDS temple marriage are that the man presides. I guess if you don’t like these terms, then don’t get married in the temple.

  134. 134.

    My former stake president used to talk at length about the gifts of the fathers and the doctrine of giving and receiving. I wonder if this is somehow tied in to presiding and submitting.

    I actually was surprised to see Mark’s response to this because I think this is a really, really interesting concept to mull over. I think submitting has a lot of baggage that people need to take a step back from because submission is a significant concept in the gospel.

    The Savior was no less a Being by submitting to His Father. He knew He could submit because God is perfect. Any and all of us have that kind of submission to strive for in our lives. We each have a personal and direct relationship with God in our personal lives. We seek for His will in prayer, and we can do that on our own.

    We also each have the opportunity to submit to leaders, if and as they are guided by the Spirit. It is our responsibility to have a relationship with God so that we know when we are being so led. We don’t submit to leaders because they are better than we are; we submit because if they are guiding with God, we can come closer to Him through heeding their counsel.

    So, I’m mulling over how this might play out in a marriage. A man is NOT in any way, shape, or form, given free reign or control over his wife or family. (ECS, we DO hear about this woman’s ability to choose to submit!) The ONLY way he can guide and lead in a way where a wife would choose to submit (because, again, this is a choice, it is a conditional thing) is if He is submitting to God in that personal realm. AND THEN, if a woman is also submitting to God in her personal life, she can have the Spirit with her to know, to discern if her husband is truly submitting and following God. If he is, then he will of course be treating her as an absolute equal, and seeking for guidance and answers WITH her, not to impose upon her.

    If she is in tune, and she sees that he is not in line with God (he is not submitting) then she has several choices. And God can help her know what to do. In most cases, gentle persuasion and love of her own can help him see where he is out of line. She might have to draw boundaries until and unless he changes. In extreme situations of repeated abuse, she might have to remove herself from the situation. The ideal, though, is that as each of them seek to submit to God in their personal lives, they will be more united as equal partners. I see it and experience it as an organic thing, a give and take, a striving by both partners to be in tune with and submissive to God so that they can be more unified, more in tune together as a unit.. They will know how to guide their family, and be able to receive that revelation together in most if not all situations. In short I see the whole preside/submit in God’s order of things (obviously this is different from how the world views and usually lives these concepts) as an interplay toward unity and power and perfection together, helping each other along the way.

    I think Stephen’s comment might fit into this whole mull.
    As to presiding, consider a ward meeting. Various people may preside, but that doesn’t mean that they are conducting. Who has more control?

    I think the word control throws it off a bit, because it’s when we remove our need for control or power that we tap into power the way the Lord intends it in His order of things, be it personally or in the church or in the family. When we allow HIM (the Lord) to be in control, then all of the structure all but melts away and people just are working together in unity, as one. In the ideal, the person presiding and the person conducting, using Stephen’s example, should not be caring about being in control, only about being in tune. And then, what one says or does would be what the other would say or do because it’s what the LORD would say or do.

    And for all that imperfection along the way, there is the Atonement. NO system will be without problems because we are human. But this can and does work when the individuals in the system are seeking first God’s will and glory. And then, in return, if we strive to do that, He promises us all all that He has.

  135. 135.

    Is it the true order of things?

    It is the reality of a fallen world. The problem we have is in believing that the keys we have been given in explaining a fallen world translate to the way the world should be. To imagine that telling women to listen to their husbands only to the extent that their husbands are following God is to tell them to submit rather than to balance.

    m&m is correct when m&m states that the word ‘control’ throws it off — since we think in terms of ‘control’ rather than duty to serve. Conduct enough meetings and you begin to see it as a burden (or at least a task) rather than anything else.

    Thinking in terms of control is probably the first mistake we make in framing the discussion. We should frame it in terms of duty and whose duty it is to take the lead in service. Think to when the early apostles were arguing about precedence in the kingdom of heaven. Christ washed their feet.

    We are not called to dominate, to exercise unrighteous dominion, we are called to serve.

  136. 136.

    We’re all at the table and waiters are presiding over the foodservice, is it? And if we don’t like the fare or the service are we to go to the next restaurant down the road then? Or can’t we just ask the chef or propietor for some waitresses?

  137. 137.

    Why not worry less about it all and just enjoy the delicious food? :)

  138. 138.

    Many wait on the Lord, for sustenance, for the bread of life, hungry and anxious, but the food isn’t delivered, and the servants faltered; they haven’t delivered nutrition, or were insensitive to the requests of those who were waiting to be served. Shall we have the hungry starve? Are they to move on down the road for their meat or to fix their own at home? No they will take their petitions to the Lord and to the Chief Servant. And hope and pray that the service improves and the food arrives.

  139. 139.

    That is a poignant point, because I know some people have been hurt and disappointed by their leaders.

    But the Lord can still nourish individuals in spite of bad service. It’s harder to enjoy and to really sense, I know. I believe sometimes that is what we must trust in when all those around us fail us. (All things must fail, except Christ’s love…even our family members, friends, and yes, sometimes Church leaders, will fail us.) Maybe in the Church, for some, it will just be better when they change the servers. Or sometimes one can find that the feast is still rich in spite of some bad servers once in a while. You can still enjoy the food even when your server stinks.

    My heart does ache for those who have experienced ‘bad service’ though. In fact, I have had some hard experiences with female service, so it’s not all about gender. Some (most) of the pain is just because people around us are human. And so are we in the way we respond to pain.

    I do hope you can find a feast in spite of the pain. Focus on what there is to feast on. There is a lot there.. I pray you won’t let a few bad servers ruin your experience and cause you to walk away from the table the Chief Servant has prepared. Ask Him not only for changes in what’s around you, but also that you can enjoy what is there in spite of those around you.

  140. 140.

    m&m, you are right, when people mistake the janitors for the wait staff, they can be let down at what is available to be served. Christ is the gatekeeper, he employs no servants in that role.

  141. 141.

    The ONLY way he can guide and lead in a way where a wife would choose to submit (because, again, this is a choice, it is a conditional thing) is if He is submitting to God in that personal realm. AND THEN, if a woman is also submitting to God in her personal life, she can have the Spirit with her to know, to discern if her husband is truly submitting and following God. If he is, then he will of course be treating her as an absolute equal, and seeking for guidance and answers WITH her, not to impose upon her.

    m&m – this doesn’t make sense to me. This scenario describes a woman _agreeing_ to do something. There’s no “submission” going on here.

    Why do we need to talk of a woman “submitting” to her husband then? If “submitting” means “agreeing”, then I guess I can see how “presiding” means “equal partners”.

  142. 142.

    Here’s an interesting example of confusing about what “presiding” means at a baby blessing.

    If the bishop’s role in presiding at a baby blessing is to correct any errors made in the ordinance, is a husband responsible for correcting his wife’s errors as he presides over their marriage?

  143. 143.

    I meant to say “here’s an interesting example of the confusion about what “presiding” means at a baby blessing”.

    (note: the T&S link was edited to erase a reference to the CHI that stated a bishop’s presiding role over baby blessings was to correct any errors made in the ordinance).

  144. 144.

    ECS, take a bishop’s role in a larger scale. Yes, if he is moved upon by the Spirit, he might correct here and there. But mostly he loves, serves, oversees, and has a stewardship to make sure things work as they should. If he’s a bishop worth his salt, he’ll counsel with the men and women around him, not just give counsel.

    A husband might feel inspired to counsel his wife, but if presiding is working as it should, 1) this is not something to be feared and 2) a wife will also feel she can voice concerns in the Spirit because a man will be seeking to counsel with her and will invite her to help him be a better man.

    In fact, I think the model of presiding the Lord encourages is to help men overcome the world’s tendency for men to dominate and control. I think the very thing(s) you fear is what the order of things is supposed to overcome.

    Submitting, to me, is not about losing “control” at all (There’s that word again that is really not what this is about). But it’s more than just agreeing. Like I said, to me this whole thing is a sort of give and take, organic, interactive, interdependent (Elder Hafen’s word) kind of thing. As a wife, I see my role as about respecting my husband and letting him lead and become the man I believe God wants him to become. It’s far too easy for me to want to step in and control, actually, and so the order of things reminds me to step back and let him ‘plug in’ as it were to the family and to all the needs that exist. There is something about letting him lead, as I stand by his side completely, that just works. I am still there, his equal, involved. The more he strives to preside in love, the more he is in tune with God and the more he involves me in every aspect of his life, the more of a partner I become. I can only be his equal partner if he makes that CHOICE. And to me, that is what presiding is largely about…about creating an environment where equal partnership can flourish, where a wife can know without question that she is safe in his arms and in his care and by his side…where she doesn’t have to fear being controlled or criticized or abused. A man who presides as he sh ould does none of this.

    Back to the counsel and correction thing: We should never fear counsel from anyone who is in tune with the Lord. If we are also in tune, we will see it for what it is and accept it with the Spirit. If we are also in tune, we would be able to recognize when it’s unrighteous dominion. A woman doesn’t have to depend on her husband for her connection to God, but she has to depend on him to be in line with God in order to really be able to go to God together with him. To me, presiding is in part about creating a relationship and family culture where the wife and children know that their husband/fahter is trustworthy.

    As I read over all of the responsibilities that fall on a man, though, I think correcting his wife is not really something that the Lord will be hoping he will have done, because I think the need for that would likely be so rare. The Lord respects agency, and a husband’s job is never to force, but rather to counsel, counsel with, serve, love, lead (again, this isn’t about control but about stewardship and responsibility to God), prioritize, focus, serve and serve and serve again…to give himself as Christ gave himself for the Church, as Paul says. Again, what is to be feared if a man is asked to be like Christ? A wife has the responsibility to ‘submit’ to (to support, to be one with) her husband when he is acting in that manner. What is to fear in that?

    I think the Lord will ask a man if he was dedicated to God, if he was the kind of presider who put family first and created a marriage and home where his dearest ones felt safe and cared for and honored, where his wife could trust him completely and felt an equal partner in all things, where his children could look to him to know what true Christlike living and service is all about.

    There is nothing to fear where Christlike living is the expectation. Of course it won’t always be perfect, but then again, which of us is perfect in following Him? The Atonement can help us when our leaders or husbands or whatever are trying but fail just as it helps us when we ourselves do.

  145. 145.

    Mark IV asked (on Seraphine’s thread, but I thought I’d answer it here to keep all the chickens together),

    So, do we get to call this chicken feminism? jk.

    LOL. I got called a chicken feminist just the other week (not in so many words) for my continued association with the Mormon Church. On the one hand, it was a little irritating. On the other, I think there’s probably a case to be made that Mormonism and feminism really are fundamentally incompatible. I obviously don’t believe that myself, but I would like to see someone make the case thoughtfully and without indulging in name-calling. (I’m subject to these bouts of fantasy. Indulge me, please.) Chicken feminism certainly is the danger that Mormon feminism runs, so to speak.

    But to get back to the problem of chickens: in a sense chicken patriarchy is chicken feminism. The problem with chickens is that they don’t repudiate their own radical elements–and thus they can simultaneously embrace all positions on the spectrum, and rooster patriarchy can keep right on flying along under the radar with full textual justification. However, I’ve been Mormon long enough to realize that such repudiations are not likely to be forthcoming. If we’re not offering them up even for drastic changes like the 1978 lifting of the priesthood ban, there’s no way we’re going to see them for our own incompletely renounced more sternly patriarchal past.

    But in the same way that (on the other thread again, sorry for the scuttling back and forth here in the spirit of poultry) Naismith wants us to admit that part of feminism is SCUM, that some feminists believe women are superior to men and that lesbians shouldn’t have to associate not only with men, but with women who associate with men (yeah, I’ve read this stuff too), I think we have to admit that part of Mormonism is patriarchy. Hard-core men-are-in-charge women-obey patriarchy.

    OK, I’ll accept the challenge. As a Mormon feminist, I’ll happily own that SCUM is one part of feminism (not my part, I hope I don’t have to add) if others Mormons will admit that male dominance and female subordination is one part of Mormonism. And, since we don’t practice repudiation for a lot of reasons that have been explored at length elsewhere, unlike SCUM, hard-core not-chicken patriarchy is not exactly a dead part.

  146. 146.

    I think the key difference is that Mormonism, or at least the Mormon church, is capable of making authoritative pronouncements. Feminism can’t do that, because it isn’t a hierarchial organization and there’s no acknowledged individual or institution capable of defining “feminism” or any other term. If some people want to call themselves feminists and say women are better, there’s nothing any other feminists can do about it. By contrast, the church could decide that the doctrine is equality, or patriarchy, and that would be that, because the church is an acknowledged authority in that area.

    So it’s inappropriate to analogize the unclear definition of “preside” or whatever to the unclear definition of “feminism” or its components, because the church has power to define the relevant terms, and feminism doesn’t.

  147. 147.

    (Quick sidenote–thanks for all of your enthusiastic participation! I’m a little preoccupied right now with my offline life, but I’ll come back to comment later this week.)

  148. 148.

    z., # 146,

    You raise a valid point about the church being an authoritative heirarchy and the lack of any discernible structure in modern feminism. Although there is not a perfect comparison, I nonetheless think there are some things about them both that are similar. Specifically, that even as you and I that we accept egalitarianism as an ideal, we also accept affirmative action, and favoritism by gender in many cases. AA doesn’t bother me, I support it fully, but don’t you think we ought to admit that our understanding of equality is also somewhat fuzzy? I have no problem acknowledging that chicken partiarchy leave some things to be desired. But I would hope that we could try to recognize that people could very well quibble with feminism about a few things as well. It cannot possibly be that hard to acknowledge that feminism and feminists aren’t perfect and that we humans often engage in petty hypocrisies.

    Eve, # 145,

    Bravo! You get an A-! To get full credit, you need to admit that there is still a lot of man-hating going on, as attested by this latest hot seller.

  149. 149.

    Yeah, I mean, it’s not perfect. I’m glad you agree about the hierarchy point.

  150. 150.

    z, thanks!

    I only regert that it took me 148 comments to speak in a manner that made my thoughts clear.

    Another thing I love about this thread is that up on the sidebar it says “The Trouble With. . .” and it keeps reminding me of the classic Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles”. Yes, I am easily amused.

  151. 151.

    Mark, no no noooooo….I admitted SCUM were feminists. Now it’s YOUR turn to admit that Mormons are patriarchal.

    Actually, if you were following the new kindler, gentler (some might say chickener) patriarchy, you should have taken the lead in concessions. It’s your job as the priesthood holder to set the example. ;)

    But really, I’m genuinely confused. Why does a discussion of patriarchy’s problems so often seem to end up with this push for feminists to (a) admit that feminists are sometimes nasty and want to cut men up and (b) admit that the world contains its fair share of manhaters?

    See, here’s the thing: I’ve never denied either of these realities; in fact, I wrote a thread over at FMH more than a year ago, now, about the problem of male-bashing. And I don’t think anyone around here has ever denied either reality–at least not to my knowledge or recollection. But that’s not really what the thread is about. We’re trying to analyze patriarchy here. So is it possible to just make a sweeping categorical generalization on behalf of us for all time:

    Whatever our other disagreements, which I’m sure are legion, I venture to say that at ZDs

    (1) We don’t endorse all forms of feminism. SCUM would among the forms we don’t endorse.

    (2) We don’t support male-bashing.

    You know, this line of inquiry is like being constantly asked to explain the behavior of Warren Jeffs just because one happens to be a Mormon. (If you want, I’ll happily repudiate him, too.) I’m not THAT kind of Mormon. Nor am I THAT kind of feminist (the SCUM kind, that is).

    Now, can we get back to the topic at hand, which I believe was chicken patriarchy or something like that?

  152. 152.

    I should hasten to add, Mark, that I didn’t mean the above to sound snotty, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I really like you–which is partly why I’m so befuddled at the way these conversations coming back to the same impasses. (I suppose there’s some underlying false assumption there about liking people and agreeing with them, and it’s salutary to realize the one doesn’t always entail the other.)

    And now I hope you’ll all excuse me. I’d far rather continue the conversation here, but it’s the end of the semester and I’m afraid I’m in deep doo-doo trying to get a lot of homework done that I no longer much care about.

    (Anyone got a spare 25-page seminar paper on stoicism, emotional excess, and gender in 1790s British fiction? I didn’t think so. I guess I’ll have no choice but to write one myself.)

  153. 153.

    Eve, as the presider, I thought I had delegated to you the responsibility to remind me. Please keep these little details straight for me so I can focus my manly attention on important things.

    Now it’s YOUR turn to admit that Mormons are patriarchal

    .

    Easy enough. Mormons are partriarchal. I wish we weren’t, and I think our lack of clarity on this is a greater danger to LDS marriages and family life than SSM, just for instance. I think that on this thread I’ve never denied that. I’ve attempted to make the case for patience, because I think it is changing, and to argue that there are reasons for the current situation besides a desire to subjugate females. I honestly think that 25 years from now, things will look completely different.

    You raise an interesting question about our apparent inability to discuss presiding without dragging feminism into the discussion. Here are my answers:

    1. People in general are disinclined to discuss a problem or accept criticism from someone when their interlocutor is perceived to have the same problem. Although I may have a bad case of B.O., I just don’t want to hear about it from somebody who hasn’t showered in a week.

    2. I blame the patriarchy is a popular feminist slogan, and even though it is said with tongue in cheek (I think), I get tired of being the universal cause of everybody’s problems, and the whining gets tiresome. Believe it or not, Eve, the latter part of your comment 151 is very rare, and therefore all the more welcome.

    3. Since feminism arose out out of a reaction to patriarchy, I’m not sure they can ever be entirely separated. Feminism is implicit in every discussion re: patriarchy, I think.

  154. 154.

    Eve, re: your 152,

    You, snotty? Heck no! There is certainly no offense taken on my part, and I hope also, none given.

  155. 155.

    Mormons are partriarchal.

    Indeed, it is why you hear so many sermons on the topic.

    My favorite was one I had on cassette tape that i bought at BYU where the guy pulls his wife into a general authorities office and demands that she be told that he has the priesthood and she has to obey him.

    “No you don’t” is the response, and then 121 is discussed where the man is told that the heavens have withdrawn themselves from him if he is telling his wife she has to do what he says.

    I’d say one of the problems is that many of the speakers in the older talks had been partners in old fashioned law firms or businesses and to them the image of a partner, a full partner not a limited partner, had a rich, technical meaning with a full compliment of connotations that the term seems to lack in ordinary discourse.

    I’m still looking for a good substitute, I’ve been searching for one for quite some time (a number of years) since it hit me that people did not understand what was meant.

  156. 156.

    I know this was a number of comments ago, but I’ve been thinking about the issue of religious language language often being ambiguous. And I think I see a difference between our current use of patriarchal language and many of the other religious terms which we struggle to make sense of. A word like “atonement,” for example, refers to a concept that Christians have spent centuries attempting to better articulate and conceptualize. “Preside,” by contrast, seems to have had a fairly clear, straightforward meaning up until recent decades: men were in charge, the final authority and decision-maker for their family. So I’m not persuaded that the challenge of understanding the term the way it’s currently used is really all that comparable to the challenge of articulating other difficult-to-express theological concepts. I don’t see the confusion arising so much from the fact that it’s attempting to get at something ineffable, but more arising from the cultural shifts which have caused some serious re-thinking of the term.

    Also, on the question of whether the meaning of “preside” as it’s used elsewhere is relevant to what it means in a gospel context–I’d have a hard time believing that Church leaders are unaware of the hierarchal connotations of terms like “preside,” even if they are choosing to define it (in recent years, at least) in a somewhat nontraditional and idiosyncratic way. The fact that they continue to use this language therefore suggests to me that they see something valid in how the term is used more generally, something which is at least analogous to how they’re understanding it—if not, why hold on to it?

  157. 157.

    m&m asked,

    Again, what is to be feared if a man is asked to be like Christ? A wife has the responsibility to ’submit’ to (to support, to be one with) her husband when he is acting in that manner. What is to fear in that?

    That’s a fair question, and I’ll see if I can explain some of my concerns.

    First of all, on a concrete level, I’m concerned that the set-up is easy to abuse. People do all kinds of things in the name of “being Christlike.” Maybe I’m overly cynical about this, but I’ve seen too many things like appeals to Jesus denouncing the Pharisees as justification for condemning people to have much faith that this injunction really serves as much of a check on abuse. In my experience, at least, men who interpret “preside” in a strongly authoritarian way don’t see themselves as going against Church teachings, but as doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure that the caveat that patriarchal authority is supposed to be exercised righteously necessarily makes much of a real-world difference. Which isn’t to say that most or even many LDS men interpret this in a tyrannical way; that’s certainly not my experience. Rather, my concern is that setting up hierarchical relationships and then simply instructing those placed in charge to not misuse their authority doesn’t actually serve as much of a check on those who are prone to misuse it.

    However, my concerns go beyond the potential for abuse. Even if we lived in some utopian situation in which patriarchal authority were always exercised in harmony with the principles laid out in D&C 121, I would still be uneasy with this set-up. My concern is that a husband-wife relationship in which he presides and she submits, no matter how benevolent and Christlike his behavior, strikes me as being more akin to a parent-child relationship than a relationship between two adults. The explicit parallel, in which he submits to God and she submits to him, only serves to reinforce this sense. That’s why even a kindler, gentler patriarchy (so to speak) still leaves me feeling queasy; I simply don’t see how it’s compatible with the possibility that women are adult human beings in the way that men are. It might not be overtly tyrannical, but it still sounds to me like women end up in a sort of Never-Never-Land in which they remain children forever: they’re led and guided and taken care of, and are asked to be supportive of and submissive to those doing the leading. So while I’m concerned about the potential for abuse, that isn’t my greatest fear. My greatest fear is that even if men in this system always act righteously, the very system precludes full personhood for women.

    One topic that’s come up on this thread is the question of whether women and men are equally valued by God (and/or the Church). I wonder exactly what it means to say that they are. Because it seems to me that women are indeed highly valued, but as often as not this value is expressed in terms of what they can provide for men. Women are valuable because without them, there would be no future men; or because men can’t get to the highest degree of heaven without them. So my concern isn’t so much with whether women are valued per se; it’s whether women are valued as people, or rather as accessories (even if extremely important and valuable ones) to males.

  158. 158.

    One more thought (and I’ll quit posting endless comments . . .) m&m, I appreciated your sharing your experience of how this has actually worked for you in your own marriage; obviously I still have concerns about the general model, but it’s helpful for me to hear how this might play out for people who see patriarchy in a more positive light than I do. I was also interested in Kaimi’s comment that he’s found preside language unhelpful in his marriage, so he simply doesn’t use it (and I can think of a number of others on the bloggernacle who’ve made similar comments). It seems pretty clear to me that there’s quite a bit of variation among LDS couples as to how they work out issues related to gender roles. This makes me curious about the purpose served by general statements about men presiding and women nurturing, since in practice the situation seems similar to something like birth control–something that couples prayerfully work out for themselves.

  159. 159.

    m&m, I appreciated your sharing your experience of how this has actually worked for you in your own marriage; obviously I still have concerns about the general model, but it’s helpful for me to hear how this might play out for people who see patriarchy in a more positive light than I do.

    Thanks, Lynnette. FWIW, I should say that it wasn’t always like this. It’s been a process for us. A painful one at times. And it was as much my weakness and insecurity that fed the problem as anything. Understanding my worth and value as a person has helped our marriage be what it is becoming, as much as my husband better understanding his role and responsibility. Ironically, my experience has been exactly opposite of what your concerns are — that it is because of my understanding of my worth as a person, not just as an appendage, that has helped this model work more fully. But just like everything else with this, it’s hard to put into words in a way that really communicates it all.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure that the caveat that patriarchal authority is supposed to be exercised righteously necessarily makes much of a real-world difference.

    But who’s responsibility is that to make it happen? I see it working well constantly around me, so I disagree with this wholeheartedly. And I think it’s as much a woman’s responsibility to understand and make this happen as it is a man’s.

    My greatest fear is that even if men in this system always act righteously, the very system precludes full personhood for women.

    But is full personhood supposed to be our ultimate goal? Or maybe I don’t understand what you mean and what full personhood would look like to you. How do we measure personhood? What is the purpose of personhood in your mind? Our ultimate goals supercede our individuality in every way, no?

    Because it seems to me that women are indeed highly valued, but as often as not this value is expressed in terms of what they can provide for men. Women are valuable because without them, there would be no future men; or because men can’t get to the highest degree of heaven without them. So my concern isn’t so much with whether women are valued per se; it’s whether women are valued as people, or rather as accessories (even if extremely important and valuable ones) to males.

    Again, I’m puzzled. Are men valued as people in ways women aren’t? How do you see this manifest? How do you measure this supposed value that men have as non-accessories vs. how women’s value is measured? Can you help me understand more of what you mean?

  160. 160.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure that the caveat that patriarchal authority is supposed to be exercised righteously necessarily makes much of a real-world difference.

    But who’s responsibility is that to make it happen? I see it working well constantly around me, so I disagree with this wholeheartedly. And I think it’s as much a woman’s responsibility to understand and make this happen as it is a man’s.

    I maybe should have phrased that better—I didn’t mean that it couldn’t make a difference; I’m sure in plenty of situations, it really does. What I meant is that I don’t think giving some people power over others and then simply telling them to use it righteously is sufficient to prevent abuse. In a fallen world, I don’t think that’s good enough. Our system seems to be predicated on the hope that people will use their authority righteously. But our own scriptures tell us that “almost all men” as soon as they get authority, will use it unrighteously. That’s rather sobering.

    But is full personhood supposed to be our ultimate goal? Or maybe I don’t understand what you mean and what full personhood would look like to you. How do we measure personhood? What is the purpose of personhood in your mind? Our ultimate goals supercede our individuality in every way, no?

    Hmm. Personhood is something I see as basic, as being at the very core of Christianity–because central to Christian teachings (at least as I understand them) is the notion that all human beings should be treated as full persons, that we can’t dismiss some groups of people as lesser. Christians also emphasize the personal nature of God, describe God as a person, even see God as the fullest example of what personhood means (and we Latter-day Saints take this quite literally). So as I understand the gospel, the point is to enable persons to become all that they can be, to develop their divine potential. In other words, I’m thinking of “full personhood” as becoming like God—so yes, I do think it’s our ultimate goal.

    And my concern is that patriarchy is aimed at encouraging men to grow and develop in this way, while casting women in a supporting role. I don’t see how those placed in relationships in which they are eternally subordinate could possibly have the same ability to develop their full potential—any more than children could ever grow into full adults if they were confined all their lives to a subordinate and submissive role.

    Again, I’m puzzled. Are men valued as people in ways women aren’t? How do you see this manifest? How do you measure this supposed value that men have as non-accessories vs. how women’s value is measured? Can you help me understand more of what you mean?

    Okay, I’m probably as baffled by the fact that you don’t see this as you are by the fact that I do! :) I think it’s an extremely pervasive idea, going back at least to the New Testament (I’m thinking of Paul’s comment in 1 Corinthians that “neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”) Men’s existence is described an end in itself, whereas women’s existence is explained in terms of what women can provide for men. I still see this in much of our contemporary rhetoric; women are reassured that they are valuable because men need them. Such statements assume that men already have value (or why would it be reassuring for women to know that men need them?)

    In other words, when I hear things like, “Sisters, you shouldn’t doubt your importance. You’ve been given a very special role to play in the plan of salvation. Just think—without you, men wouldn’t be able to achieve the highest degree of glory!”, I hear an assumption that the primary purpose of the plan of salvation is to get men exalted, and women’s value lies in what they can contribute to that primary purpose.

  161. 161.

    Kiskilili,

    I think you need to put your offline life on the back burner for a minute, step out of the kitchen, and preside over this thread.

  162. 162.

    I’ve been exploring a number of tangents (not that that’s anything wrong with that! ;) ), but I did want to say something in response to Kiskilili’s original post. I have mixed feelings about this topic. Because in practice, there’s no question that I’d opt for chicken patriarchy over hard-core patriarchy. I can’t really critique a greater emphasis on egalitarianism. And like several others in this thread, I tend to see the room for diversity when it comes to interpretation of LDS doctrine as a positive thing, as something that allows for a big-tent church without lots of orthodoxy tests.

    Yet at the same time, I find chicken patriarchy frustrating. Part of my concern is that patriarchy is far more engrained in our tradition than egalitarianism—as Kiskilili mentioned, it’s been taught by numerous prophets and can be found in our sacred texts and rituals. Egalitarianism doesn’t have nearly that kind of weight behind it. And that makes me wonder whether our contemporary moves in that direction might be nothing more than concessions to the culture in which we live. Maybe patriarchy (of the non-chicken, men-rule-and-women-obey-full-stop variety) really is the eternal order of things. Maybe God is allowing the Church to talk about women as equal partners in the same way he allowed the Israelites to have kings. Such thoughts worry me.

    Also, if I’m going to be asked to, in essence, to make covenants to support the patriarchal order, I’d like to at least know what that involves, what I’m agreeing to. And in the current situation, I really don’t. That’s another cause for concern. What if I think I’m just agreeing to an extremely watered-down version of patriarchy, but I later find that I’ve committed myself to something much more hard-core?

    As others have mentioned, it’s rare for the Church to explicitly repudiate past teachings; we tend to just drop them. But as long as we continue to use patriarchal language, we’re keeping at least the ghosts of old-school patriarchy alive. And honestly, I’m not sure what that means. Do we agree with Paul’s views of gender roles, for example? Do we disagree with them? I think we mostly just ignore them (Hannah’s comment above, way back in #13, is a great example of what we usually do with those texts). But they’re still in our canon, and I find that unsettling–because I don’t know what to do with them.

    One other possibly relevant thought–rejecting biblical teachings isn’t completely without precedent in the Church. In the November 1994 conference, President Hinckley outright contradicted the “spare the rod and spoil the child” idea originating in Proverbs. I realize that disagreeing with Proverbs isn’t a terribly earth-shattering thing to do, but it’s still interesting.

  163. 163.

    Lynnette,

    Yes, you make a good point that the inability to define someting like atonement is not the same as the inability to define preside. I didn’t use a good example of what I mean.

    Maybe a word like lineage, or house of Israel is more helpful. We have inverted the meanings of those terms so that they now almost mean the opposite of what they used to. They used to be used in an exclusionary way. Now we use can royal lineage to emphasize our common heritage as children of God. Our missionaries went out to find those whose genetic background would allow them to feel the spirit, to seek out the chosen people. The authorities used to say stuff in GC all the time about chosen lineages and savages and heathen, but fortunately we don’t hear that kind of talk anymore. The only place in the church today where you encounter it is in the hymnal. Come, Oh Thou King of Kings is gorgeous, but that one verse about the chosen race and heathen nations is cringe-inducing.

  164. 164.

    Lynnette, thanks for being willing to respond. FWIW, here are some of my thoughts.

    Our system seems to be predicated on the hope that people will use their authority righteously. But our own scriptures tell us that “almost all men” as soon as they get authority, will use it unrighteously. That’s rather sobering.

    It IS sobering, and yet the Lord didn’t change the system, He just pointed out our mortal tendency and taught what He expects of us. How we handle our roles and responsibilities is part of our test, IMO, and we all have opportunities to abuse authority, so we all will be held to those principles, imo.

    For example, there is a lot of room for abuse in parenthood, too (because parenthood brings with it authority, and it’s human nature to abuse that). But do we reject or question the construct of parenthood because abuse might happen? No, we all do our best and hope for the best and trust that the Lord can help those who turn to Him.

    I believe that wives also could abuse husbands by controlling and unrighteous dominion as well. There is plenty of sobering weakness to go around. The answer for it all is the same, though, imo — turn to Christ.

    women are reassured that they are valuable because men need them.

    I guess I just don’t feel this AT ALL. I feel we are all told that we are each and all valuable because GOD needs us to be part of His great work. And we need each other. Note Paul’s teaching on this:

    1 Corinthians 11:11
    11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

    o as I understand the gospel, the point is to enable persons to become all that they can be, to develop their divine potential. In other words, I’m thinking of “full personhood” as becoming like God—so yes, I do think it’s our ultimate goal.

    But how do we become like God? This pursuit is not an individual thing. No one can become like God alone.

    The way I understand it, the work of the Church and the doctrine of the family is all about family and community, not about individuality. We aren’t here to be valuable individually; we are here to live in such a way that we can be part of God’s family eternally, and have an eternal sociality, an eternal community, an eternal connectedness, and especially eternal family relationships. The earth was created not for individuals to become like God, but for generations to be linked and sealed. (Think of the scriptures that talk of how the whole earth would be cursed were it not for the sealing power that links individuals, binds couples, and brings families together through eternal covenants.)

    This doctrine lifts my vision way beyond anything that happens in this life. Even if I were to be the only living person in my family at the time, the “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4) surpass anything we can comprehend.

    So, when you say,

    “What if I think I’m just agreeing to an extremely watered-down version of patriarchy, but I later find that I’ve committed myself to something much more hard-core?”

    My question in response is, Isn’t this what faith and trust is all about? I have never felt that I could fully understand what the covenants I make mean, and what the next life will look like, but to me, faith is knowing that whatever it is, it will be more glorious than I could ever imagine, and more than we could ever dream of. Part of having a testimony of the basics of the gospel is about trusting that the covenants I make are good and right, even as it will probably take a lifetime and beyond to fully comprehend them. I don’t think our mortal minds can comprehend it all. For me, this is all about faith and grace and the Spirit more than anything else, and about being willing to put it all on the altar, even my questions and concerns that I might have, and just trusting God. For me, there isn’t any other way to find peace. When I let my questions and concerns hold my heart back, I feel my spirit shrivel. So you say,

    “But they’re still in our canon, and I find that unsettling–because I don’t know what to do with them.”

    I just let them go, and focus on the beauty of the doctrine surrounding v. 11 that is the focus of our teachings. :) So, you say,

    Do we agree with Paul’s views of gender roles, for example? Do we disagree with them?

    As I search it, the focus of our teachings are on vs. 11 that there is duality, complementarity, interdependence, etc. We need each other. No one of either gender can stand alone eternally, if the highest blessings are desired.

  165. 165.

    In my experience, at least, men who interpret “preside” in a strongly authoritarian way don’t see themselves as going against Church teachings, but as doing exactly what they’re supposed to do.

    It’s hard for me to understand how any male LDS who has been active and listening to general conference, etc., could possibly think that. There are numerous talks on this issue; none gives support to that approach.

    For example, in Elder Oaks’ talk in fall 2005, not only did he say, “About this same time, we had a neighbor who dominated and sometimes abused his wife. He roared like a lion, and she cowered like a lamb. When they walked to church, she always walked a few steps behind him. That made my mother mad. She was a strong woman who would not accept such domination, and she was angry to see another woman abused in that way,”

    And he also quoted Pres. Kimball to assert that men do not get to make family decisions: 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.”

    In the three decades I’ve been in the church, I have known only a few men under age 50 who were strongly authoritative. One was excommunicated, others are inactive.

    Sure there are more than that whose wives choose to give a lot more control than I personally would prefer (one sister wasn’t allowed to go to Enrichment meetings because her husband wanted her at home every night), but if that is an arrangement to which both partners agree, I don’t think it something anyone else should have a say about.

    Yes, my experience is different, but keep in mind that 2/3 of current church members are first-generation members like me.

    And I am not sure we can make much comparison with previous generations, which genuinely believed that Father Knows Best, inside and outside the church.

    Rather, my concern is that setting up hierarchical relationships and then simply instructing those placed in charge to not misuse their authority doesn’t actually serve as much of a check on those who are prone to misuse it.

    Except that in Elder Oaks’ talk, and in other places, it is clear that a marriage relationship should not be heirarchical. “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.”

    My concern is that a husband-wife relationship in which he presides and she submits, no matter how benevolent and Christlike his behavior, strikes me as being more akin to a parent-child relationship than a relationship between two adults.

    It strikes me that way, too. But in all my years in the church, I’ve never been told to “submit.” I have no interest in that kind of a relationship, either. (shudder.)

    I joined the church in 1976, when Pres. Kimball was the prophet and talking so much about partnership in marriage. It was so different from my upbringing in another religious tradition, and to me our church was the answer to all my concerns about women’s roles.

  166. 166.

    BTW, I realize after reading Naismith’s comment that I don’t ever recall being told to submit, either. I used that word more loosely than I meant to, in part because I’m trying to avoid using specific language from the temple. There is a big difference in my mind between what submit means and what the temple talks about, though, and I wanted to make my viewpoint clear on that.

    And I’m sure that wasn’t clear by what I said above. Sorry for being confusing.

  167. 167.

    Men’s existence is described an end in itself, whereas women’s existence is explained in terms of what women can provide for men.

    I hear an assumption that the primary purpose of the plan of salvation is to get men exalted, and women’s value lies in what they can contribute to that primary purpose.

    Lynnette- This is my last frontier, so to speak. I’ve come to a place of understanding or peace about nearly everything in regards to women in the gospel, and this is the one last thing I just can’t seem to get over. So much of what is taught says this, and I frequently find myself wondering in horror if it is in fact true.

  168. 168.

    Starfoxy,
    Yep, I agree. What’s most frustrating is that most men I’ve talked to completely balk at this idea. To them it’s the craziest thing they’ve ever heard, but to me it is a terrifying reality.

  169. 169.

    I confess that I do not understand choosing to hold onto a “terrifying” conception that creates feelings of “horror” and fear and and that insists that an unequal plan and an unequal God is the reality. This, indeed, would be terrifying were it true, but its not. To me, when I feel fear, I know that is a sure sign that what I am thinking is not correct. Fear and faith cannot coexist.

  170. 170.

    M&M I disagree with some of your assertions, and I don’t think that my position is that far-fetched, unreasonable, or inconsistent.

    I have a firm testimony that the church, the scriptures, the gospel, and what is taught in the Temple is all true. I can’t deny that testimony. So when I hear things taught from *multiple* sources of truth, I find myself hard pressed to dismiss that idea out of hand.

    I suppose the trouble arises when I remember that the discomfort I feel could be caused by more than one thing– either the falseness of the idea, or my own wickedness and pride. After all if I were wicked wouldn’t the truth hurt me in a similar way until I repent and give up my pride?

    I suppose you might also suggest that I’m obstinately taking the most backwards, anti-woman reading of various statements, and that it should be obvious- especially in light of other sources- that this is not what those statments are intented to mean. I will concede that it might very well be true- I may have conditioned myself to see persecution where it doesn’t really exist. On the other hand, those anti-woman readings are the most apparent, and straightforward meanings that I get out of the various statements I hear. I also think that reinterpreting (or selectively ignoring) statments to fit in with my existing worldview is a dangerous game to play, and I’m reluctant to do it at all. And I find myself reluctant to accept alternate interpretations that make me feel better because I could just be justifying my pride and/or sins.

    So I’m stuck.

    “Fear and faith cannot coexist.” Fear and Perfect Faith cannot coexist. I can act in faith and pay my tithing, yet still worry that I won’t have enough to pay my other bills. Is it Perfect faith? No, but it is still faith. And so I act with imperfect faith. I continue to attend church, keep my covenants and strive to live righteously despite my fears.

    I hope that was not too long winded, and M&M, I’m glad for your participation and thoughts. Please don’t think I’m attacking you, or that I felt attacked. (It’s so hard to tell how these things will come accross when dealing with things close to our hearts.)

  171. 171.

    I don’t get it. Let’s suppose that it’s true–that the only way a woman can pass through the gates of exaltation is on the arm of a man(and I’m not sure it really works that way). Is that such a large price to pay for inheriting the whole freaking universe?

  172. 172.

    My hubby and I were talking about this tonite, and he brought to mind three scriptures that I think are relevant to all of this, that illustrate that the plan of God is a plan of joy, for men AND women.

    1) Moses 5:11
    And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.

    2) Alma 19:29-30
    29 And it came to pass that she went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!
    30 And when she had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy….

    3) Job 38:4-7
    Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
    Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
    Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
    When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
    (And, of course, we have been told that we ALL shouted for joy. The plan is a plan of JOY! Whenever we have a fear or concern that causes us not to rejoice in the plan, we can know that is not of God! This is what keeps me anchored when doubts and concerns come, as they do for all of us. But I believe the Lord expects us to believe and have faith and be joyful and hopeful.)

  173. 173.

    I think you need to put your offline life on the back burner for a minute, step out of the kitchen, and preside over this thread.

    That’s it! I’m stepping out of my “kitchen” (ha ha, so to speak) and coming back to preside over this thread with an iron fist!

    Thanks for all of your comments and your efforts to maintain a civil and constructive tone while discussing these rather emotional issues. I’ll post my responses below to a few general issues that run through the thread.

  174. 174.

    I’m aware that words change meanings, and I do not object to the process on principle. For example,”girl” used to refer to any child regardless of sex, where a “harlot” was once a male vagabond. A “guy” was originally a pejorative term describing someone who dressed like an effigy of Guy Fawkes (i.e., wearing old mismatching clothes). And “dunce” comes from the name of a prominent (and evidently quite brilliant) medieval theologian John Duns Scotus.

    What I object to is not so much the change in meaning or even the lack of clarity per se as it is the adherence to contradictory positions, and the ways in which the exploitation of semantic manipulability abets the promotion of these ideological contradictions. The Church’s efforts to change the meaning of “preside” would concern me less if (a) the Church did not cling to the older definition in ecclesiastical contexts, thereby creating opportunity for semantic leakage, (b) the Church actually offered a replacement definition for the term–as z has pointed out repeatedly, it’s not at all clear what the term means except that it apparently does not mean what it seems to mean, surely a case for confusion–and (c), by far the most important to me, our liturgy did not support the traditional definition.

    Of course language is unstable and vague terms are thrown about all the time. In this case, though, I think the vagueness is rather self-inflicted as a way of obscuring instances of inconsistency.

  175. 175.

    As others on the thread have explained eloquently, even benevolent authority is still problematic. It’s not enough to insure that the men who preside over women are always righteous and always make decisions that benefit their wives, although this is definitely good. The structure itself denies women full adult status as individuals accorded the opportunity to make decisions judiciously and experience the consequences, purportedly the purpose of life in Mormon thought. Agency is in some respects the quintessential human characteristic and is said to be prized above all else by Mormon theology. Yet women’s agency is truncated. What does this indicate about women’s souls?

  176. 176.

    I feel no obligation to define “feminism” simply because I did not personally use the term in the post, and rarely do use it. It may genuinely be confusing to some on the infrequent occasions that I do employ the term, so in the future I’ll make a commitment to clarify what I mean, should I throw the term out there, lest some of you wonder as a result whether I’m a man-eating lesbian (in general, I mean attention to discrepancies in opportunity and treatment between the sexes with an eye toward rectifying the situation).

    But as z has pointed out, feminism is not a centrally organized hierarchical institution; nor is it officially propagating ideology in God’s name. I think its diffuseness can readily be explained by the diffuseness of people using the term, and the lack of any government regulation on who’s entitled to adopt it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, is the copyrighted name of a legal social institution which itself has some concern for boundary maintenance. The varied nature of its positions is therefore less responsible than the varied nature of positions advocated by those claiming the term “feminist.”

    (Furthermore, others’ inconsistencies and irresponsible uses of language do not excuse one’s own inconsistencies and irresponsible uses of language.)

  177. 177.

    Mark, I actually agree with you about loud laughter: if I were still under those obligations, I would absolutely feel duty-bound to foreswear anything approaching raucous chortling and to laugh quietly. I simply don’t think there’s any way around it, and our attempts at interpretive maneuvers are silly. It seems disingenuous to make promises to God if we intend to redefine God’s terms and find loopholes in fulfilling them.

  178. 178.

    Some have hinted at another possibility for reconciling apparently paradoxical positions: embrace The Principle! Accept ideological polygamy by wedding yourself to more than one stance simultaneously! ;)

  179. 179.

    In my view, God is the authority on many things, but not on the English language. The authority of the language resides in the way native speakers employ terms, and dictionary writers attempt to chronicle and describe this. English is a human construct devised for human convenience. Therefore, the dictionary definition of a word carries more weight in my opinion than what God’s dictionary may say.

  180. 180.

    In the Church we speak frequently in terms of spiritual benefits which are neither quantifiable nor tangible. One is said to be blessed for paying tithing even if that blessing is not monetary, for example. “Peace” is accepted as a genuine benefit to attending the temple. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is said to be one of the preeminent benefits of Church membership and righteous living.

    So it’s curious to me that we’re resistant to applying the same standard to spiritual detriments. Why is “a lack of peace” about the temple not equally noteworthy? If all the Church’s true benefits are spiritual and emotional and revolve around one’s relationship to God, we have to suppose this is the realm in which the Church is primarily capable of inflicting damage as well, since it’s how we give the Church power.

    But if one’s relationship to God is immaterial and insignificant and thus it is of no consequence, or outside the Church’s purview, when that relationship becomes aggrieved–if we insist on physical damage in the form of personal injury (as a result of abuse) or injury to one’s property as the only admissible potential deleterious effects of patriarchy, without which its damage is said to be “purely hypothetical”–then we shouldn’t suppose people are blessed for fasting, praying, attending the temple, and paying tithing until we witness a bag of money falling from heaven or the like.

    The Church is as capable of inflicting spiritual pain as it is of inspiring spiritual peace, and for the very same reasons. Doctrine has power outside the realm of its practical implementations and effects; if we don’t believe that there’s simply no reason to be religious.

  181. 181.

    I’m not convinced chicken patriarchy is a gain, although I absolutely believe the softening of patriarchal language is a gain. But the current situation, the disconnect between the liturgy and certain of the Church’s equivocal public statements, amounts to a form of deception, even if unintentional. I’ve come to accept the likelihood that God simply does not or cannot view me as a person worthy of direct interaction and the dignity to exercise my agency. My experience of myself as an individual may have no corollary in God’s ultimately authoritative experience of me as a tool for men’s salvation. But I wish I’d simply been taught this since childhood. I wish I’d never put my faith in God’s love because then I would never have been stripped of this belief. It’s too exhausting to keep on hoping in the face of demoralizing propositions.

  182. 182.

    M&M, thanks for all the time you’ve put into this thread. I appreciate your conciliatory tone and your sympathetic response. This is where I think I’m in disagreement with you:

    We don’t submit to leaders because they are better than we are; we submit because if they are guiding with God, we can come closer to Him through heeding their counsel.

    My question is, why do we come closer to God through heeding the counsel of his leaders (including a husband) than we would by heeding God ourselves? You’re absolutely right to point to unity as one potential benefit of wives submitting to husbands. But if God’s will is readily available and clear to both parties and both are committed to following it, why would it be necessary for one spouse to submit to the other? They could both submit to God together, which, to my nostrils, smells more like equality.

    When we allow HIM (the Lord) to be in control, then all of the structure all but melts away

    If, under ideal circumstances, the structure simply melts away, then why advocate it? What purpose does it serve? Implicit in the structure, to my mind, is the idea that God’s will is more readily available to some than to others (or they are more committed to following it), and that unity can only be achieved through hierarchy.

  183. 183.

    I blame the patriarchy is a popular feminist slogan, and even though it is said with tongue in cheek (I think), I get tired of being the universal cause of everybody’s problems, and the whining gets tiresome.

    Mark, you’re patriarchy?!?! If only I’d known all along!!

    Seriously, though, objecting to patriarchy is not the same as objecting to individual men. Thanks for your comment, though–it’s a welcome reminder that men often feel they’re personally being blamed/attacked for patriarchal structures, obviously unfairly. That’s not my intention at all. Which is exactly the reason why I don’t think feminism (as opposition to patriarchy) need result in man-bashing (opposition to men).

  184. 184.

    Kiskilili,

    It’s good to see you come up for air.

    Mark, I actually agree with you about loud laughter: if I were still under those obligations, I would absolutely feel duty-bound to foreswear anything approaching raucous chortling and to laugh quietly. I simply don’t think there’s any way around it, and our attempts at interpretive maneuvers are silly. It seems disingenuous to make promises to God if we intend to redefine God’s terms and find loopholes in fulfilling them.

    That sense of integrity says a lot about you. And I don’t know why I let myself off the hook so easily, at least in the areas we are discussing here. All I can say is that I’ve tried to think about it seriously and find answers, and what I’ve described here is the answer that seems to make the most sense to me. But your commitment to principle is nothing if not admirable.

  185. 185.

    But is full personhood supposed to be our ultimate goal? Or maybe I don’t understand what you mean and what full personhood would look like to you. How do we measure personhood? What is the purpose of personhood in your mind? Our ultimate goals supercede our individuality in every way, no?

    Speaking only for myself, full personhood is indeed my goal. Maybe it’s wicked of me, but I have no ultimate goals that supersede my desire to be respected as an individual. My understanding of Mormon theology is that God himself still has a self. To place ultimate value on agency is to place ultimate value on individual personhood and responsibility.

    But in all my years in the church, I’ve never been told to “submit.” I have no interest in that kind of a relationship, either. (shudder.)

    I joined the church in 1976,

    You may not have been told to “submit” to your husband, but might well have been told to “obey” him, which to my mind is not qualitatively different.

    I don’t get it. Let’s suppose that it’s true–that the only way a woman can pass through the gates of exaltation is on the arm of a man(and I’m not sure it really works that way). Is that such a large price to pay for inheriting the whole freaking universe?

    What’s the evidence that women inherit the whole freaking universe, though? Is there a way in which Heavenly Mother owns/presides over this universe, for example?

    Whenever we have a fear or concern that causes us not to rejoice in the plan, we can know that is not of God!

    Applying this rule, I would conclude that the temple is most definitely not of God. And yet the Church claims that it most assuredly is of God, and I believe in God’s involvement in the Church. This puts me in a bind.

  186. 186.

    Thanks, Mark, and I’ve really truly appreciated all of your comments on this thread! :) Unfortunately, I should probably go back to the “kitchen” and get my offline life off the back burner in a minute here, though, before it boils over . . .

  187. 187.

    Wow, Kiskilili! When you preside over a thread, you really preside. :)

  188. 188.

    Applying this rule, I would conclude that the temple is most definitely not of God.

    No, applying this rule, your fear and frustration with and understanding of the temple is not of God; it’s not the temple that causes you not to rejoice, it’s how you view/perceive/understand the temple. (That sounds more snippy than I want it to, but this is an important distinction in what I was saying. The ‘rule’ was about the power of agency in all of this, in our ability to learn and grow and change to discover the joy with what IS, vs. thinking that the problem is ‘out there’ and that joy and peace cannot come until something ‘out there’ changes. Does that make sense?

  189. 189.

    Oh, M&M, you don’t sound snippy at all. Thanks for offering your perspective; I think I see what you’re saying now. I think I’m just constitutionally incapable of deriving joy from certain policies (which is not to say I’m incapable of experiencing joy as long as such policies are in effect–simply that I cannot derive joy from them).

  190. 190.

    Chickens are fun, but on second thought, maybe we should call this Boomerang Patriarchy? Or Rasputin Patriarchy?

  191. 191.

    I have been reading the comments so far, but haven’t posted yet. Great discussion so far. I especially relate to Kiskilili’s comment.

    My question is, why do we come closer to God through heeding the counsel of his leaders (including a husband) than we would by heeding God ourselves? You’re absolutely right to point to unity as one potential benefit of wives submitting to husbands. But if God’s will is readily available and clear to both parties and both are committed to following it, why would it be necessary for one spouse to submit to the other? They could both submit to God together, which, to my nostrils, smells more like equality.

    I don’t have a problem with the church structure and hierarchy, but I do have a hard time understanding why a hierarchy needs to exist in a marriage. If someone is going to counsel the other person their must be a reason. The bishop is entitled to revelation for the ward that other people don’t receive so it makes sense that the bishop should lead the ward.

    In explaining why a husband should lead in a marriage I have heard a variety of explanations. 1-Husbands are similar to bishops in that they are the only ones who are entitled to receive revelation for the whole family. It seems like Elder Oaks’ talk contradicts this idea. 2-The greatest leader is also the greatest servant. I don’t necessarily disagree with this idea in general, but in a marriage I think that husband and wife have equal responsibility for each other and their families. 3-Husbands need to be given greater responsibilities in order to stay dedicated to families otherwise they would slack off. I don’t think we have good evidence for this and I think that it is underestimating men.

  192. 192.

    Thanks, Beatrice; you’ve summed up the problem with the various justifications nicely.

  193. 193.

    “What’s the evidence that women inherit the whole freaking universe, though? Is there a way in which Heavenly Mother owns/presides over this universe, for example?”

    Well, what if women truely have no ownership? What if that were the true state of things in the universe? What are you going to do, tell God that he’s got it all wrong?

    For my part, I believe women to have ownership. And I believe that ownership to be similar in nature to the co-inheritance that the faithful receive through Christ. Just as the Bride is unified with the Savior–they becoming one–and sit on the throne as one, so too do men and women join in like fashion and rule as one as inheritors of all things.

  194. 194.

    My question is, why do we come closer to God through heeding the counsel of his leaders (including a husband) than we would by heeding God ourselves?

    I think it’s worth considering that we come closer to God in lots of different ways. One of those ways is sustain our leaders and to fulfill our roles and responsibilities as they have been outlined. But this in no way precludes any of us (including women in the Church and wives/mothers in the family) from getting personal direction from God as well. Why think in either/or terms? Things don’t work this way. None of our doctrine suggests that a woman can’t get counsel directly from God even as she seeks to follow other inspired counsel through others as appropriate. We ALL are expected to do this as part of our journey. I suspect there are things we are all supposed to learn from sometimes having to receive counsel through someone else. But again, that doesn’t mean that personal revelation and personal relationships with God are not possible. It’s all tied together, imo.

  195. 195.

    Good point m&m. This all makes a lot of sense to me on the ward or stake level, but I still have a hard time understanding it in a marriage. On a ward or stake level the organization works well. The bishop is entitled to revelation for the ward and therefore entitled to make decisions for the ward. However, in a marriage it seems like husband and wife both receive personal inspiration and inspiration for the family. They then talk through things and come to an agreement about what they should do based on the revelation they received. Certainly husband and wife can have different thoughts or feelings about things, but they talk things through and each partner has to compromise sometimes.

  196. 196.

    However, in a marriage it seems like husband and wife both receive personal inspiration and inspiration for the family. They then talk through things and come to an agreement about what they should do based on the revelation they received. Certainly husband and wife can have different thoughts or feelings about things, but they talk things through and each partner has to compromise sometimes.

    I don’t think anyone, including our leaders, would disagree with this. FWIW.

  197. 197.

    I don’t think our leaders would disagree with this either, which is why it’s unfortunate they apparently don’t see fit to do away with injunctions to wives to the effect that they should hearken to their husbands as they hearken to God. That sounds decidedly different from coming to an agreement together.

    It’s true women are told to seek their own revelation, but it’s completely unclear what role that revelation is supposed to play in their hearkening to their husbands. If we could assume women’s spiritual impressions would always accord with what their husbands asked, then the commandment for women to hearken to their husbands would be entirely superfluous. This is equally true if women are only supposed to defer to their husbands when they have confirmed that their husbands are following God.

    Implicit in the commandment that women hearken to their husbands is the assumption that either women will not receive revelation for the marriage or family or that, if they do, they should subordinate God’s will to the will of their husbands.

  198. 198.

    Jack, I think it’s great you believe in celestial gender equality. For my part, I’m simply unwilling to submit to a model of inequality in this life, the pattern of interaction we’re taught is eternal, in the hopes that(surprise!), contrary to any clear indications in our scripture or liturgy, that rug will be pulled out from under us as we pass through the pearly gates. Maybe women are only able to “pass through the gates of exaltation on the arm of a man,” as you put it, but that secondary status to which women are required to relegate themselves is only temporary and applies only to the temporal world and their passing through those gates, after which women will become full citizens in heaven. But maybe is simply not enough for me to hang my hat on.

  199. 199.

    Implicit in the commandment that women hearken to their husbands is the assumption that either women will not receive revelation for the marriage or family or that, if they do, they should subordinate God’s will to the will of their husbands.

    Just remember that this is how you perceive it. That doesn’t mean that is really how it is. I know it’s frustrating and doesn’t make sense to you, and I’m sorry about that.

  200. 200.

    Implicit in the commandment that women hearken to their husbands is the assumption that either women will not receive revelation for the marriage or family or that, if they do, they should subordinate God’s will to the will of their husbands.

    Just remember that this is how you perceive it. That doesn’t mean that is really how it is.

    Hmm, m&m, I don’t think this one is a matter of perception; it’s a relatively straightforward matter of logic. The fact that wives are under covenant to hearken to their husbands really does seem to imply that any revelation they have for the marriage or family is subject to the husband’s review, so to speak, and that God either does not grant wives such revelation or wills that they surrender any revelation unique to them and unconfirmed or disputed by their husbands to the maintenance of the patriarchal order. (Weighing personal revelation in the balance of the relevant authority structure is not an altogether unfamiliar concept to us Mormons; after all, that’s how we understand revelation to operate in the church.)

    The drawback I see with pointing out that someone’s point of view is “just her perception” is that it’s true but relatively meaningless, since all of our points of view are “just our perceptions.” Kiskilili’s point of view is “just her perception,” and your point of view is “just your perception” (and as all who know me can attest, my point of view is certainly “just my perception.” ;) ). But in forum like this, if we hope to give the discussion any traction, it’s probably more useful to give at least somewhat publicly accessible reasons you think her perception is limited or problematic than just to point out the limitedness of all of our understandings. It’s like Emerson famously said of the fall–it’s very unhappy, but too late to be helped.

    On the other hand, I will happily grant that it’s salutary to reflect periodically on our human limitations….

  201. 201.

    As Kiskilili pointed out in the original post, I think that things are shifting in the church. When I was younger it seems like the husband was seen as having a similar position in a family as a bishop has in a ward. The husband councils with his wife just as a bishop councils with his councilors. Because of the husband’s unique position as the presiding authority he is entitled to revelation for the entire family and therefore should make the final decisions and the wife should respect those decisions. The Bishop and the husband don’t receive this revelation and make final decisions because they are better then the people they preside over. Rather, they receive these things because of the position that they hold. Sounds o.k., right?

    Many members of the church support these views and there are certainly examples of church doctrine and practice that uphold these views. However, it seems that in recent years there has been much more talk about equality in the decision making process. Some believe that ideas of equality are not contradictory to the views I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Maybe not. But I see two key differences between the views that I mentioned in this post and the views I mentioned in #195. First of all, is the husband as the presiding authority in the home entitled to revelation about the family that the wife doesn’t receive? Secondly, is the husband entitled to make the final decision about things? If the answer to both of these questions is “yes” then I see the purpose of the wife following the husband’s direction. If the answer to both of these questions is “no” I don’t see the purpose of one person following the other.

  202. 202.

    The problem is with our language, which is inherently hierarchical and sexist. And because our language continues to inform our values, and vice versa, the word ‘preside’ should not be used in the context of a marriage relationship. Agreed. Hm…I don’t know what it could be replaced with though.
    I also highly doubt the current structure of the church is God’s ideal. Maybe we have very little conception of how God meant his church, I mean the FINAL product, to be organized. As far as I can tell, God’s conception of true organization is the inverse of how we really think about and live it, isn’t it? It’s supposed to be upside down, right? In which case ‘preside’ means something completely different to God – we somehow lose that in translation…?

    Okay so what I’m saying is I have the solution: what we need is a total coup; modern languages have to be wiped out, government as we know it erased from collective memory, gender roles (as we know them) forgotten, throw in a few earthquakes- throw in a liturgy written in the Adamic ( or simply transmitted through thoughts – thoughts articulated in completely egalitarian language)

  203. 203.

    [...] up questions of power, control, and respect. Is the marriage egalitarian or does someone “preside“? The patriarch of old declared “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” [...]

  204. 204.

    [...] moonlit nights, particularly in the vicinity of the old churchyard, one might encounter the Headless Chicken Patriarch still, betaking himself about the village in a wraithlike and ghoulish manner, apparently [...]

  205. 205.

    [...] infrequently statements from Church leaders contain instances of full-fledged Chicken Patriarchy in all its muddled, labyrinthine, self-contradictory splendor. But in other cases, both patriarchy [...]

  206. 206.

    [...] order, “hearkening” to her husband, the “presiding” role of priesthood, and how that all squares with the church’s insistence that husband and wife are to counsel together “as equal [...]

  207. 207.

    I read most of this post after being directed here by the sideblog of Jack Meyers, “Oh, hello again, chicken patriarchy. Nice to know you still care.”

    She was commenting on Make Me A Sandwich, Woman! I Mean Please. This post makes much more sense to me. What importance is there who presides as long as they preside in the way the Lord wants them to. I do not pretend to understand why it is the way it is. The post of Rusty just makes more sense to me logically and through nearly 15 years of marriage practice.

    When we are both striving to live according to the Spirit, that is when we have unity. We yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit not to the ego of a human.

  208. 208.

    In other words, it makes no difference who presides–since presiding doesn’t entail any power anyway–as long as it’s men. But it would be sacrilegious to try to understand this nonsensical situation.

  209. 209.

    Like I said over at 9M, if we’re going to redefine “preside” so that it means things that LDS leaders never intended it to mean, I’m going with BrianJ’s definition of “preside”: “In my house, I take ‘preside’ to mean ‘make sure your daughters grow up with Led Zeppelin.’ Now, you can argue whether that’s really what ‘preside’ means, but seeing that I preside in my house, I get to choose the definitions.”

  210. 210.

    But Jack, don’t you see? That approach solves nothing. If the kids are going to grow up with Led Zeppelin, all it means is that they are gonna get a whole lotta love, which is what the new presiding means, right?

  211. 211.

    [...] same page” when voting. I am pretty sensitive to gendered relationships in marriages, who has the spoken (or unspoken) right to the last word and who is seen as having more authority and expertise in the [...]

  212. 212.

    This confusion drove me to launch my blog. You’re right–it’s very confusing. Just read the comments on Mormon.org about the roles of men and women in marriage–it’s a jumble of confusion.

    I’ve tried to explain the contradictions in my post: Preside vs. Equal Partners

    Essentially, the only way I can realistically explain the two is that preside means the person who is in charge but equal refers to importance, value in the sight of God, and not to authority.

    You can’t have one person presiding and still have two people equal in authority. They can however, be equal in lots of other ways.

  213. 213.

    Sorry to play my broken record on this issue, but my problem is I don’t feel I can adopt that position and still, in good faith, commit to God that I will hearken to my husband’s counsel as he hearkens to God’s, which is why I felt I had to have those covenants annulled as a way of coming clean to God and refusing to lie about how I intend to behave.

    Hearken means listen ;) I can listen ;) no-one said anything about obeying ;)
    Works for me ;)

    Ps I promise I’ll come back & read the rest of the comments later ;) & no doubt comment on the general issue more

  214. 214.

    Merriwyn, you might find this post of interest:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2011/04/29/what-does-hearken-mean/

  215. 215.

    [...] didn’t used to be so chicken-like.  As a 2007 post from Zelophehad’s Daughters explains, back in the 1970s, Church leaders were blatantly patriarchal.  Consider this excerpt [...]

  216. 216.

    [...] of the most powerful and frequently cited Mormon feminist blog posts, Kiskilili’s “The Trouble With Chicken Patriarchy” on Zelophehad’s Daughters discusses the strange brand of patriarchy Mormons contend [...]

  217. 217.

    [...] it’s been mostly in rhetoric and not much in practice. Borrowing Kiskilili and Eve’s term, it could be called “chicken [...]

  218. 218.

    [...] different groups of people happy appears to be a clear motivation for the rise of chicken patriarchy in the rhetoric of the Church. We have new discussion on the importance of husbands listening to [...]

  219. 219.

    [...] on priesthood brings into sharp relief some of the gender problems in the Church, problems that a blogger at Zelophehad’s daughters memorably called “chicken patriarchy” in 2007. “Chicken patriarchy” is what happens when unequal power structures that preclude [...]

  220. 220.

    [...] are not new ideas to me.  I’ve been hearing about men presiding and benevolent (i.e., chicken) patriarchy for my whole life.  And I’m usually one of the women who, disgusted by what they hear, engages [...]

  221. 221.

    As far as I’m aware “presiding” means falling asleep as soon as the meeting starts and having your counsellors poke you periodically…and if you do stay awake you think about sleep. [Smiley face]

  222. 222.

    […] believers in old-school/unapologetic patriarchy, and the softened definition for the believers in chicken […]

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