Zelophehad’s Daughters

Presiding and Providing

Posted by Kiskilili

In what may be the most oft-quoted sentence in the Proclamation on the Family, we are told that “by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” How do we parse this compound sentence? Are “presiding” and “providing” two separate activities–the two primary duties of fatherhood? Or is providing an obligation that comes with the increased responsibility of presiding, and from which it cannot fundamentally be separated? Do the two activities consitute a virtual collocation of sorts?

In the order stated here, one could reasonably conclude that “providing” is a logical extension of “presiding;” in practice, however, “providing” gives the provider enormous potential power in the relationship, as they have access to the capital upon which everyone’s substistence rests, and this might quite naturally result in their “presiding.” So the arrow of causation might well point in the opposite direction. If money and power are implicitly being linked by this statement, it is hardly an illogical connection.

Should these two activities be understood in terms of each other or entirely separately?

More specifically, in practical terms, can you embrace one element and reject the other? Can one person continue to preside if their spouse commands as much or more income as they? And what about the converse–is it possible to have a truly egalitarian relationship when only one person earns income? On what principles is such a relationship based, and what (if any) checks should be in place?

44 Responses to “Presiding and Providing”

  1. 1.

    I can imagine a relationship where one partner presides and another provides. I don’t believe they are necessarily linked.

    THREADJACK:
    Of course, I have no idea what the word “preside” means within the context of the POTF. How one views the relationship between “fathers are to preside” and “equal partnership” will likely impact how one views the relationship between “presiding” and “providing.”

  2. 2.

    I don’t think they’re necessarily linked either. I make only the few bucks I can convince people to pay me for writing, so my husband is the provider in our home, but we really do have a pretty egalitarian relationship, as you put it, and I’ve never ever felt relegated or belittled for my lack of monetary contribution.

    Presiding, in our home anyway, isn’t bossing, cajoling, or lording over in any way. I guess presiding in its most practical form is picking someone to say the prayer at dinner. No biggie for me. I married the most laid back guy in history, so…

    But his ‘presiding’ doesn’t feel linked or attributable to his providing. Our ‘equal partners’ work takes much more precedence than the largely academic discussions we could have about who’s presiding at home.

  3. 3.

    Thank you for fleshing this out. The connection between presiding and providing has flitted around in my mind once or twice but I was never able to pin it down.

    The servant-leader style of father is, to me, most in keeping with our views of how leadership should work, but it made little sense to me because I could never see a reason that, for instance, my husband should be under an extra non-reciprocal obligation to serve me and our children.

    It just now clicked for me because of two words “threat point.” The threat point is the point at which it is better to leave a relationship than to stay. Because I depend on my husband so fully, my threat point is much much higher. He could get away with a lot of crap before it would be worthwhile for me to leave, much much more than I could get away with.

    In practice my relationship with my husband is fabulous, we both feel loved valued and needed, but at the end of the day the paycheck has his name on it, so he is the one with options. Our relationship is as great as it is at his pleasure. Now obviously I trust him deeply, otherwise I wouldn’t have married him, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am incredibly vulnerable in my current state (unemployed mother of two small children). With that in mind it makes perfect sense to ask for an extra non-reciprocal service from fathers to compensate for the vulnerable position women and mothers are more or less forced into.

    Considering all of that, it is unsurprising to me that the increased focus on equality in marriage has been accompanied by an increased focus on ‘just in case’ education for women.

  4. 4.

    If you are asking about how the sentence would be treated by a grammarian (if there is such a thing anymore . . .) then I am not sure what the answer would be. But in terms of Church teachings, I believe it is fairly clear that whatever it is presiding is supposed to mean, controlling the money isn’t part of it. Maybe m & m will show up with the slew of quotes that I’m too lazy to fish out, but it seems to me that it is regularly taught that financial decisions are to be made jointly, regardless of who has earned the money.

  5. 5.

    Questions about providing and presiding are like crack cocaine to me, I just can’t stay away. And since we don’t have a good working definition of what it means to preside, It’s difficult to give any good answers.

    But what does it mean to provide? I know couples who live and are happy in circumstances most other couples couldn’t stand, so our judgment about what it means to be a provider is subjective, and we can assign just about any meaning we want to that term as well.

    Are “presiding” and “providing” two separate activities–the two primary duties of fatherhood?

    I know two active LDS families where the father stays home and the mother works. So the short answer to the question is yes, they can be separate.

    The recent thread at Exponent II where people shared how they handle money in their marriages was interesting. Most of the women handled the money for the family, and most of them felt a measure of anxiety, similar to what Starfoxy expressed in comment # 3. A woman with small children who does not have a job is certainly in a vulnerable position, so that may account for the strong need many women expressed to take a hands-on role in the family finances. But what was really interesting was how, in many (not all) cases, the husband’s paycheck was “our” money, and if the wife earned anything, that was “her”money. I read recently somewhere that, in marriages, women make 70-80% of the decisions about what to do with discretionary funds, after the basic needs are met. Based on the ExII thread, that seems about right.

    “providing” gives the provider enormous potential power in the relationship,

    There is a lot of potential for abuse, and it certainly does happen among LDS people. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more than it does. Although a definition of presiding that boils down to “be a nice guy and be considerate of your wife” seems unsatisfying, maybe there is some good in emphasizing it anyway.

  6. 6.

    Re: Mark IV #5 “I know two active LDS families where the father stays home and the mother works. So the short answer to the question is yes, they can be separate. ”

    …assuming that the husbands preside in these situations.

    The POTF says, fathers are to preside. It doesn’t say fathers always preside whether they want to or not. In my mind, this implies that fathers have the ability to choose whether they wish to preside.

  7. 7.

    “In my mind, this implies that fathers have the ability to choose whether they wish to preside.”

    Now that’s an interesting thought. Conversely, do mothers have the ability to choose whether they wish to nurture?

  8. 8.

    Great post! I have nothing really to say, other than I have given up trying to understand exactly what these concepts mean on a practical level. In the “provide” directive, I sort of interpret it to mean that the woman can choose not to work if she wants to and the husband is still obligated to support her, but the husband can’t choose not to work unless the two have mutually agreed that he stays at home while she works. Does everyone else have that same feeling?

  9. 9.

    Well, I’m surprised I haven’t seen Ziff around here to make a joke about another post on presiding, maybe he’s waiting for the right moment. . .
    I really liked Starfoxy’s comment about the “thread point” and how women have a much greater reason to stay. My mother’s marriage was terrible but she stayed (and still stays) for the same reasons, unemployed with small children. It does make sense that with women and children so vulnerable that God would want men to feel spiritual obligation to, as Mark IV says, “be a nice guy and be considerate of your wife.” But, is just hoping that they’ll do a good job the best system?
    I remember hearing a bit on NPR about women’s happiness in marriage being related to divorce rates and thus the decline in the institution of marriage. As women are less vulnerable, I imagine their threat point is lower and they are more able to leave unhappy marriages, thus making the institution (political/social) unstable. I think those of you who study feminism probably have a name for this trend.
    It almost seems like the church doesn’t want this happening, and I’m not sure why.
    Perhaps the church wants the ideal, men to provide for, preside over and protect their families. But, when the ideal isn’t available, say when Mark IV’s wife finds out he’s got a problem with crack cocaine? What then? Maybe his wife isn’t equipped to take over all the roles, if she hasn’t been sharing them to begin with.
    Sorry, I’m not sure if that directly addresses your post, Kiskilli.
    You asked,

    “Can one person continue to preside if their spouse commands as much or more income as they?”

    I haven’t been in a marriage like this since we were newlyweds and we did a lot of things backwards back then. But, I think there is a certain amount of clout that comes from earning the money, stated or unstated. Presiding without that clout would seem, to me, a little empty.

  10. 10.

    oops, the last part isn’t supposed to be in the quote box.

  11. 11.

    I think Starfoxy and Mark IV summed up my fears/ideas on the subject the best. I remember back when my hubby and I were newly married and having a particularly rough time, we were arguing about the heat in the house. I’m rather cold natured and so I kept turning the heat up. He got angry because the heating bills were getting expensive. He said “I’m not paying for that!” While we don’t operate under those circumstances anymore, that was the day I realized how vulnerable women really are when they have no means of income for themselves. I am finally to the point where I’ve worked up the nerve (and our situation makes it necessary) for me to get a job. After that, some job training to improve my salary potential, and then we’ll see if I ever come back home full time again.

    Oh, and also, I have a friend, Mark IV, who works along that “what he earns is ours, what I earn is mine” philosophy. I hate that. What ever money I earn will go first to my family and then wherever we think it needs to go–just like his is currently doing (although I reserve the right to maybe by a new pair of shoes or something occasionally–Gah! I’m totally sucked in to consumer culture).

  12. 12.

    Something about MarkIV’s comment made me want to clarify that emotionally, and in practice all the money that comes into the house is ‘ours.’ (I mentioned this in the ExII thread he mentioned) So while I’m aware of the threat, I’m not afraid of it.

    However, regardless of how we navigate our own marriage the law says that the money is strictly his, and if my husband one day decided to cut my access to his paycheck then I would have no recourse outside of filing for divorce and seeking alimony and/or child support.

  13. 13.

    Maybe m & m will show up with the slew of quotes that I’m too lazy to fish out,

    Is that a request? :) j/k Carry on….

  14. 14.

    However, regardless of how we navigate our own marriage the law says that the money is strictly his

    Really? Even in community property states?

  15. 15.

    I’m finding this discussion interesting but don’t have much to add, except to comment on this:

    It almost seems like the church doesn’t want this happening

    I don’t know if I’m taking this the wrong way, but I think it’s worth remembering (not just in response to this, but also other comments) that the church in recent times has made it a point to encourage women to get all the education they can, even if they intend to be stay-at-home moms. Although even with education, it would still be hard to find a job if you were out of the workforce for an extended period of time. Still, it seems the church isn’t totally ignorant of the “threat point” idea.

    Also the law does account for this in some ways. If I got a divorce I would not be able ot take everything with me just because I made the money, and if my wife got the kids I would have to pay child support, athough that is horribly under-enforced and probably not as substantial as it should be.

    Still, I don’t meen to argue against the “threat point” idea. I think there is truth to it.

  16. 16.

    Starfoxy – if a husband isn’t providing the necessaries suitable to a wife’s “rank and condition”, the wife can buy what she needs and force the husband to pay the bills.

    This Doctrine of Necessities used to be sex-specific, but now either spouse can use it to force the other to pony up and pay the mortgage and heating bills without dissolving the marriage altogether (one would argue, however, that if you require a court to settle your monthly budget disputes, divorce is right around the corner).

  17. 17.

    P.S. To answer K’s original question about checks and balances in LDS presiding/providing marriages, it’s informative to note the existence of checks on power in the structure of legal relationships and the absence of such checks in LDS presiding relationships. “Unrighteous dominion” as an effective check on the power of LDS men is worth the paper it’s printed on.

  18. 18.

    Fascinating question, K.

    I don’t know whether the two have to be linked, but it seems they often are. Look at the fallout from Eliot Spitzer — one op-ed writer said, basically, “this is what happens when women (i.e., Silda Wall Spitzer) stop working and let their husbands make the money.” That, by leaving her job and her independence, she set herself up to be walked on.

    To a large degree, I think that’s true. A classic housewife doesn’t have a wide degree of exit strategies, and so is particularly susceptible to whatever the whims of her money-earning husband are. If he wants to preside as a tyrant, she’s vulnerable to that desire because she doesn’t have much recourse. (Particularly if she has children to care for as well.)

    So, the two may not be inherently linked. But I think that single-income providing is more likely to result in a dynamic where there is a hard line between presiding and non-presiding. And it certainly has the effect of making it more difficult for women to exit those kinds of relationships.

  19. 19.

    That’s a good point Kaimi. It’s hard for homemakers. Even career women in certain careers (like doctors) find themselves in a world of hurt if they take 5 years off to have kids.

    It’s not just an issue of exist strategies but, in our current world, a question of what happens if the husband becomes deceased or (and in some ways worse) incapacitated.

  20. 20.

    I see providing and presiding as separate.
    My husband’s role as a provider has never, ever made me feel that he has more power.
    I would feel uncomfortable with a husband who used credit cards to buy things we couldn’t afford, who lied about money, who insisted that money be spent his way. But since we both have equal say in our money, the power is even.
    I view presiding similar to the “reporting” visiting teacher companion. A little more responsibility and the line of reporting, but no real power difference.
    I see NO CLOUT in being the provider.
    It is interesting to note as the years go on, what my “options” are. For instance, single motherhood with one child while I still had my job, then single motherhood with two small children in Seattle and no job, having a third child and realizing that daycare for 3 kids would be more than a paycheck if I became a working married mother….but then I was a bookkeeper and love to count and so I can’t help but add up numbers in different ways.
    Being in a healthy, happy marriage of 15 years and getting through some difficult times makes me aware of vulnerability but also have more confidence in what we have made our marriage into. Many decisions made early on have made the difference in our marriage that I don’t see in other people’s marriages. But I have never viewed the threat of possible divorce as financial, as much as it is not what I want out of life and realizing that divorce comes with its own set of problems, remarriage comes with even more. So I have always viewed I would rather fix what is broken in my marriage than jump ship.
    I would like to see people better prepared to handle marriage both in the beginning and throughout their marriage. But how? I don’t know. People don’t listen to me and take my advice. Maybe my advice just works for me anyway. Or maybe its just usually too late. You can make your own rules about fighting in the beginning. But after a few years of yelling obsenities at each other, or lying to each other, how to you start over and commit to treating each other with respect?

  21. 21.

    I think it behooves women to think through their education and career goals and consider a field that provides flexibility and options and space to take considerable time off from actual work if (when) she chooses to stay home. I’ve never quite understood those who choose a career path that is restrictive but then complain that they can’t have the flexibility to stay home. It’s something we can have at least some control over by what we choose to do. And such preparation can greatly reduce the sense of powerlessness and fear that can come when considering what would happen were a husband to leave. Life insurance can provide peace were a hubby to pass away.

    And I actually do see some connection between providing and presiding. I think the Lord expects the men to be good, loving leaders and providers, and I think part of good leadership in the home is good providing, making it possible for children to be fed, clothed, etc. and mom to be home. If a man practices unrighteous dominion and/or fails to care for his own, I am certain he will have to answer to God.

    Ah, can’t resist a quote from Pres. Hinckley:

    Said Paul to Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). Those are very strong words.

    The Lord has said in modern revelation:

    “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken. …

    “All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age” (D&C 83:2, 4).

    From the early days of this Church, husbands have been considered the breadwinners of the family. I believe that no man can be considered a member in good standing who refuses to work to support his family if he is physically able to do so.

    Sounds to me like he thought there was a connection between a man’s spiritual responsibilities (which to me tie into presiding) and his role as provider.

  22. 22.

    BTW, I don’t see providing and managing finances as anywhere near the same thing. The latter is definitely a team effort, just as parenting is, even as mothers are designated as the primary caregivers/nurturers.

  23. 23.

    As a technical editor, I often suggest ways of streamlining text that the author rejects as introducing inaccuracy. Thus I am intrigued at the fact that the PotF does not say that fathers are to preside and provide.

    What it actually says is, “Fathers are to preside…and are responsible to provide the necessities of life…”

    The last suggest to me that fathers will be held accountable for whether the family is provided for, but that they need not to the work themselves. Just as a bishop is responsible for the ward, but need not (should not!) do all the work himself.

    Regarding the quote from Pres. Hinckley, there is a huge difference between refusing to work to support your family and counseling with your partner that they will split money-earning tasks.

    So I don’t see the two as related, and I think they are very different in nature as reflected in the carefully crafted language. Fathers do preside, firmly, with no equivocation. But they are only “responsible” to provide and protect.

  24. 24.

    Naismith,

    It’s seems a bit difficult to misunderstand Pres. Hinckley’s quote:

    “From the early days of this Church, husbands have been considered the breadwinners of the family. ”

    I still think “responsible to provide” is different from “responsible to make sure the family is provided for, however that may happen.” Our leaders have been pretty direct about teaching this principle about a man’s responsibility to provide. When they make exceptions, it’s more about disability or other problems of the husband, not simple whim.

    That said, there is nothing that says that a woman can’t do anything, ever, to contribute to the income of the family. But I think that is best discussed outside of the realm of what a man’s duties really are, at least in terms of the general rule and ideals that the prophets teach.

  25. 25.

    Our leaders have been pretty direct about teaching this principle about a man’s responsibility to provide.

    I don’t disagree with you at all about that. We only disagree about what it means to have a responsibility.

    I think that if our church leaders wanted men to do the providing, they would have simply said so. It would have saved a long word, and been more parallel sentence structure. I cannot believe that in all the careful consideration and editing given to that document that it was not a very intentional decision to leave in the “are responsible for” rather than “to provide.”

    Also, let’s keep in mind the context of the quote: it was a priesthood session. The brethren were being counseled not to shirk their responsibilities.

    I DON’T consider it an exception when a couple prayerfully decides together to earn income in a way that does not have him earning 100% of the dollars. I consider that to be one way that faithful latter-day saint fathers might fulfill their responsibility to provide (especially if he is doing hands-on childcare when mom is away/busy with paid work).

  26. 26.

    “. . . are responsible to provide” is an active construction. According to the words of the Proclamation, providing is an action to be taken by fathers. If I tell you that you are responsible to jump, you have not fulfilled your responsibility if all you have done is made sure that someone else jumped. For that to be the case I would have to have told you that you were responsible to see to it that jumping take place.

  27. 27.

    Naismith.

    To me, there is jut too much else in the context of the counsel given to mothers and fathers in their respective roles for me to really agree with you. I don’t disagree that a couple could end up feeling inspired to have the wife do something, but in the end, I think that IS more of an exception. It’s not an unheard-of exception, but it IS the exception. With how explicit leaders have been about the fact that women should be home with the children, it’s not simply about making sure the family has money. There is more to it than that. There is something divine about these divisions of labor. I believe that strongly. It’s not just about getting the practical needs of life taken care of.

    There is also room for stages and seasons in life. No one ever said that a woman could never, ever work for pay. Still, there is general counsel that is actually pretty clear about the different roles. A couple getting a different answer than the general, ideal counsel does not change the fact that is is the general counsel.

    There is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution, though. And we have agency to make choices for ourselves.

    BTW, part of why I don’t necessarily (or at least not totally) agree with you is that I have seen the same rationale you are using to suggest that a woman being “primarily responsible” for nurturing means that she could send her kids off to day care and be fulfilling her divine responsibilities. While there can be exceptions to every rule, this isn’t consistent with the counsel in general.

    There is so much variation, though, in family circumstances that they have to leave a little wiggle room. But in the end, I think we need to be careful about generalizing exceptions too much. The bottom line is that God expects men to be the providers, presiders and protectors and women are to be the primary nurturers. Does that mean women never, ever can work for pay? Of course not. Does that mean men don’t ever nurture? We’ve been clearly told that isn’t the case. But with leaders specifically counseling couples to do all they can to get mom in the home, I just don’t know that there is as much wiggle room as sometimes we would like to think…generally speaking, of course.

  28. 28.

    As I remember it, the counsel is to have BOTH parents in the home as much as possible.

  29. 29.

    Right, Mark, but that is within the context of the different roles that we have. Mom should already be home (again, generally speaking), and dad should do all he can to be involved at home as much as possible even as he is responsible to provide. There is still that division of labor that has never been taken away.

  30. 30.

    I don’t think any faithful latter-day saint couple who petition on their knees for guidance in raising their family should be dismissed as “an exception” if the answer they happen to get involves something other than mom at home, dad providing.

    They are NOT an exception. They are doing exactly what they should be doing.

    But in the end, I think we need to be careful about generalizing exceptions too much.

    And I don’t think they are exceptions, if they have considered their responsibilities seriously and made their decisions through prayer. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. If you don’t like the way it looks from the outside, that is your problem.

    The bottom line is that God expects men to be the providers, presiders and protectors and women are to be the primary nurturers.

    Then why didn’t it just say that? It would have taken less words.

    I think it did not because God wants them to responsible in those areas, precisely as it says.

  31. 31.

    m&m,

    Tell me what you think, I’d like to know your opinion.

    A decade ago, just after the Proclamation to the World was issued, the emphasis seemed to be on the distinct and separate nature of male and female roles. Lately (I’m thinking especially of the last WW training broadcast), aren’t the leaders stressing the need to share roles, and the need for partners to pitch in and help one another? That has been my impression, at least. Does it seem that way to you?

  32. 32.

    To state my question more succinctly: Have you noticed a change in emphasis, or is it my imagination?

  33. 33.

    Naismith,
    Perhaps we think of exceptions in different ways, but I don’t think calling something an exception invalidates it. There are ideals that are taught and have always been taught. Something that isn’t that ideal is an exception, but that can be an inspired exception all the same.

    I think of Elder Holland who said: “We who are General Authorities and general officers are called to teach His general rules. You and we then lead specific lives and must seek the Lord’s guidance regarding specific circumstances.” There are rules and there are specifics, which sometimes end up being exceptions. But specific variations do not change the rule/ideal.

    If it really didn’t matter who brought home the bacon, then they could have changed the wording entirely to say that it was both the husband and wife’s responsibility to provide. They didn’t. That to me is significant…especially when talk after talk and lesson after lesson reinforce the gender role idea. The underlying patterns of counsel are the same there imo.

    Mark,
    I personally think the change in emphasis, if there is one, is about really hitting home that what matters most for mom and dad is what happens at home….this relative to work or callings or anything else. So yes, there is more discussion about that, e.g., about the importance of dads to be involved in nurturing and to be there for their families along with mom.

    But I don’t see the same kind of crossover in the providing arena. I see emphasis on education and preparation for women, but that in the case of needing to provide, not simply to contribute equally or even more to income generation for a non-exception (saying that a bit tongue in cheek there) home.

    And I think the Proclamation has ALWAYS left room for the pitch in and help each other thing. But if there really were no gender roles anymore, they wouldn’t have read the whole Proclamation over, word for word, nor would they have underscored the general rule idea. Also, we wouldn’t have talks and lessons that repeat and reinforce the gender roles as they do. That’s my take on it. I keep listening and watching to see if things dramatically have changed, and I don’t see it. I see more emphasis on the family all the way around, but not in a way that changes gender roles in any significant way.

  34. 34.

    Mark,
    Found this little quote that I got a kick out of, and that suggests that perhaps what we heard at the leadership broadcast was perhaps not so new — more clear, maybe? But maybe not so new. I know one quote doesn’t prove it all, but it’s all I have time for right now. But I have gotten the feeling that men have always been encouraged to be involved in their family life, that it’s the most important thing they can do, etc. Do you not get this sense?

    Anyway, from Elder Nelson:

    “You fathers can help with the dishes, care for a crying baby, and change a diaper. And perhaps some Sunday you could get the children ready for Church, and your wife could sit in the car and honk.”

  35. 35.

    Perhaps we think of exceptions in different ways, but I don’t think calling something an exception invalidates it. There are ideals that are taught and have always been taught.

    Well, I guess I am a stupid convert who has lived on two other continents and didn’t get the memo. I am not part of your exclusive little club of “we” who smugly dismiss others as “exceptions.”

    Yes, there are ideals that have been taught regarding the rearing of a righteous posterity. I totally embrace and support those ideals. Rarely do they ever mention where mom is physically located or whose name is on the paycheck. Sure you can find an occasional quote, but there have been maybe half a dozen references in the 30 years I’ve been a member. The ideals that I hear over and over and over are about making time for children, making family the priority, etc. The details of how one does that are left to the members.

    I think this is partly because church leaders think raising the kids is more important than any particular method of doing so, as well as that as the church spreads to other cultures, the issues are different.

    Where we lived in South America, children start school at age 3. So a lot of the dynamic of “being home with preschoolers” changes dramatically.

    Also, it was common for women there to take their babies with them to their place of employment. So the notion of “staying home” seems irrelevant, as long as the baby is being cared for. I mean, why is it okay to wear a baby in the backpack while you clean your own house, but not okay to carry the baby in a backpack while you clean a doctor’s office? Why is it okay to perch a little one on the counter while you can tomatoes, but not okay to perch a little one on the counter while you serve a customer?

    I think church leaders know this. That’s why the recent WW leadership didn’t mention those specifics much. Because it was for a truly worldwide audience.

    I just don’t think mom at home/dad provider is as sacred a model as you do. And it runs the risk of being used as a stick to beat others with, or at least dismiss them as an “exception.”

    If it was so darn important that mom not take a paid job, why would any woman get inspiration to do so? If we are all praying, and God thinks as you claim, why do we get different answers?

    I think the general principles are much more important and positive.

  36. 36.

    Naiasmith,

    Wow. I am not trying to do what you are painting me out to do. I don’t think you are a stupid convert. I’m not trying to beat anyone with a stick, nor be smug. And I’m not drawing a line nearly as hard as you think I am.

    I just don’t think mom at home/dad provider is as sacred a model as you do.

    That’s fine, but let’s agree to disagree agreeably, ok? I don’t disagree with you as much as you think I do, though. Seems to me this is a hot button for you, and I’m sorry I pushed it.

    If we are all praying, and God thinks as you claim, why do we get different answers?

    Because I see these as general principles to guide us, not absolute specifics to beat each other with (and again, that is not my intent). It’s like we can’t declare how many children a couple should have, even though the general principle is multiply and replenish and have as many as you can. (This is a tender one for me, because we have wanted more, but have felt inspired not to have more because of health problems. I don’t feel that talking about the general rule and principles, though, is wrong, even as my life necessitates something different, to a degree, than the ideal.)

    The specifics for responding to general principles like these will by definition often look a bit different. That’s the beauty and challenge of the gospel in my mind — we each take general principles and seek God’s guidance on the specifics. And that is part of why we can’t judge each other on things like this, because there is variation in our lives and God knows our situations, our hearts, and everything else. And we simply can’t know what kind of prayer and effort has gone into someone’s decision about something.

  37. 37.

    Well, I guess I am a stupid convert who has lived on two other continents and didn’t get the memo. I am not part of your exclusive little club of “we” who smugly dismiss others as “exceptions.”

    Naismith, while I think your perspective is a valuable one and we hope you continue to contribute to the discussions around here, on behalf of ZD admin I’d respectfully ask you to refrain from these kinds of comments. No one, here or anywhere else on the Bloggernacle I’m aware of, has ever called you a “stupid convert.” No one has referred to any clubs, exclusive or otherwise. Perhaps you’ve been poorly treated because you’re a convert, and if so, I’m genuinely sorry that’s the case. But it’s unfair to transfer blame for mistreatment you’ve suffered in other contexts to this one and to mischaracterize m&m’s genuine disagreement with you as the result of smugness or insider status. We believe reasonable people can disagree, and we oppose comments suggesting, intentionally or otherwise, that the only reason someone might disagree with a given position is some deficit in personal righteousness (in this case, the quite unfair suggestion that m&m is smug).

    In accordance with our comment policy, I’d respectfully request that you refrain from attacking other people and from putting sharp words in their mouths that they themselves have not voiced.

    Thank you. Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion of presiding and providing.

  38. 38.

    This discussion is an age old one, and has never fully been answered by any of the masses of women who have pondered it. I think the finality of this whole deal boils down to a very uncertain and murky answer.

    We’ve all got to reach our own decision with the Lord.

    He has established a general expectation, but if we focus on behavior alone, we miss intent. We could be going through the motions (or not) and have the right or wrong intent. Your place with the Lord is private and between you and He. That’s all I think on the matter…

  39. 39.

    If the “discussion” in question revolves around articulating the relationship between providing and presiding, either in theory or in practice, then it’s not a conversation I’ve ever seen take place in the context of Mormonism.

    If, on the other hand, the aforementioned “discussion” is in reference to whether women should work outside the home, my impression is exactly the opposite: far from being an age-old philosophical conundrum that has bedeviled generations of brilliant minds, it strikes me as incredibly recent, and historically contingent on two related legacies, that of second-wave feminism and that of unrepudiated authoritative statements to the effect that women should stay home except in truly exigent circumstances.

    The fact that it is asserted by many that it is “a private matter between a couple and the Lord” is in itself fascinating, and seems to follow a track parallel to the Church’s attitude toward birth control, once anathema, now a wholly personal matter on which the Church would not presume to interfere with people’s personal choices and lay down the law. This in spite of the fact that the Church has had no trouble answering both these questions in the past and presuming to lay down all sorts of laws. Just imangine if in 30 years the Church’s attitude toward alcohol is that there simply can be no general policy applicable to everyone, but that individuals should pray about how much alcohol to consume and negotiate this privately with the Lord.

    The conversation on this thread illustrates why I would love to see research on how Mormon women rationalize personal choices, given the tensions between different Church statements. When I was growing up I was taught unequivocally that women should stay home if at all possible, and I knew scores of women who stayed home specifically because they believed it was what the Church required of them. The Church has seemingly backed away from emphasizing this strain of thought, at least in some quarters, but I’m still absolutely intrigued that there are those who assert effectively that the Church has never crafted a specific policy for how women should behave when it comes to childcare and income. Do Mormon women who work outside the home consider themselves exceptions to a general policy? Do they consider themselves heterodox (or better, heteropractic)? Or do they simply deny any such policy has ever been preached over the pulpit?

    It’s true that one’s personal revelations might be at odds with Church teachings, but I don’t see any easy way to harmonize these (for example, by concluding that what the Church is teaching is not what it appears to be teaching).

    Back to the first issue, that of presiding and providing: like others of you, I can certainly imagine an egalitarian relationship in which only one person brings in income. And perhaps, as Julie implies (if I’m reading her right), the Church’s teachings on how couples should jointly make financial decisions are firm enough and people are obedient enough that the possibility of the income-earner ever exploiting that power is a negligible contingency not worthy of being addressed.

    In practice, though, as Starfoxy points out, women who don’t earn income are in an inherently vulnerable position that is only partially mitigated by the Church’s insistence on joint control of finances. Such women have a lot more to lose if they divorce than men do, so their threshold for divorce is necessarily much higher. No doubt in most situations this simply isn’t a problem. But in most situations men won’t sexually abuse children, and yet the Church sees fit to create a system of checks nevertheless. In the same way men are taught not to hog control of the finances and there’s ostensibly no problem, why not tell men not to abuse children and assume they’ll just be righteous and nothing more is required of us? It’s hard not to reach the cynical conclusion that what separates these situations is the very real specter of litigation in the case of the latter.

    Mark, maybe we should start a group for people addicted to these questions! The two of us and several others on this thread can be the ringleaders. :) One definition of addiction (Ziff tells me) is a point at which pleasure and pain are indistinguishable. I know I’ve long since passed that point when it comes to these conversations!

    It’s interesting (and obviously unfair) that women would think money they earn is “their own,” discretionary income, whereas the husband’s money belongs to the family. But this fits perfectly with a model of male providing, don’t you think? Women aren’t asked to provide for the family.

    I have to disagree with SingleSpeed (#6)–”are to provide” has the force of “should provide.” It’s hard for me to read the FamProc as vaguely saying “do whatever you think is best” (by the way, though, this is a universal policy proclamation to the world!).

    Kaimi sums up my views well in comment 18–I don’t think theoretically there need be a relationship between the two, but in practice the two frequently are linked, and historically they have been.

    I don’t see as much latitude as Naismith in the phrase “fathers are responsible to provide the necessities of life.” (I also don’t see evidence the language in the FamProc was hammered out with anything approaching the care applied to the Nicene Creed.) Certainly the clause could mean that fathers need not work necessarily–for example, they could steal those necessities, Jean Valjean-style. Or they could collect unemployment checks. But if the insertion of “responsible” is really meant to indicate that the father’s role might entail delegating the job of providing to the mother–the wife brings home the bacon but the husband is responsible for her to bring home the bacon–whoa! Far from comforting me, such an interpretation indicates a WHOLE lot more control of husband over wife than I’m happy with!

    In my opinion (which, rather than being humble, I should admit, is rather proud), the FamProc pretty clearly lays out a prescription for traditional gender roles: men are in charge and provide income, and women are responsible for childcare. Part of the problem is that that protrait doesn’t look as charming as it did even 15 years ago, so why not “creatively reinterpret” it to say: “A Proclamation to the World: do whatever you think is best.” Too bad that creates some incongruities in tone, among other problems, but then the document never entirely made sense to start with.

  40. 40.

    I think in many ways it is impossible to separate “traditional gender roles” discussion from the discussion of presiding and providing. They might be different in theory, but the practicality is that any conversation involving providing is going to involve a debate about gender roles for accomplishing such.

    And although a discussion of women’s role in the world is more recent than, say, discussions on animal husbandry, I have stories of generations of women who felt the issue keenly. I can think of many, many women in the last three centuries who were a part of that discussion. Women from my personal ancestry were part of that discussion. I just think the discussion has grown louder in the last 5 decades (and I’m not suggesting it has grown in ill).

    Part of the difficulty in making concrete assertions is the doctrine that we embrace as Mormons: the doctrine of change. We would have no need for modern prophets if change weren’t an important part of our make-up. I have to force myself to acknowledge that I am not the purveyor of all truth, and as such, must accept the Lord’s truth as it is given to me.

    Back to the original discussion, though, my husband just sauntered past and suggested that presiding is something done entirely outside of providing because either can certainly be done without the other. That’s probably been mentioned previously, but thought I’d throw it in anyway.

  41. 41.

    Yeah, that’s fair enough: if we frame the discussion generally as “women’s role in the world,” it makes sense to take in Mary Wollstonecraft and Christine de Pisan and all the rest, so one could make an argument these issues predate even the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution’s separation of the spheres of home and work.

    But within Mormonism specifically, my impression is that the doctrine that women should stay home was developed largely in response to second-wave feminism (and thus relatively recently), and so the brouhaha over this doctrine and the shift away from emphasizing it is even more recent. This isn’t something I’ve studied in any depth, though, so I’d welcome any evidence to the contrary, such as earlier authoritative pronouncements emphasizing the importance of women staying home. Certainly there’s a long cultural history of discussion of “the woman question” (what are women for?), since it was determined that men had evolved to fill specialized slots in the Market and women were apparently designed to create for men a nurturing anti-Market in the home, masochistically giving themselves to their husband and children and protecting their delicate uteruses and all that–but does anyone know of examples of this rhetoric being picked up in the Church? Did earlier Church leaders ever insist women stay home (indicating significant numbers had careers!)? Or was it taken for granted that they would stay home, and did? Motherhood has only become important to the Church in the last couple of decades, and my sneaking suspicion is that women staying home is but one facet of that development. (Obviously polygamy facilitated women’s careers so attitudes then were different.)

    An even more interesting question of mine centers on marital egalitarianism; this was certainly a prominent concern of first-wave feminists (Elizabeth Cady Stanton refused to covenant to obey her husband at her wedding in 1840, for example), but was it ever picked up in Mormonism specifically before recent times? Can the embracing by Mormon women of marital egalitarianism all be dated to after the 1990 temple changes, or are there examples of it earlier? (And if so, how on earth did earlier Mormon feminists reconcile their views, which is challenging enough today?)

    I actually think the Church generally claims it takes a stance of constancy amid change, and the vagueness of certain statements (in the FamProc and elsewhere) facilitates our efforts to mask change as it occurs. If we were more open about our doctrinal changes, why not repudiate now defunct doctrine? But we probably need a whole post to discuss the Church’s attitudes toward change and prophetic authority. :)

  42. 42.

    I think it is interesting that this blog has turned into a woman’s role issue.  I am really interested more in the question of what it means to “preside” – I didn’t see much comment on what that MEANS.  I still don’t have any handle on it.  Does this simply mean that the presider picks the one to pray?  Or does it mean he gets the tiebreaker vote?  In light of a recent GA comment about “not pulling Priesthood rank”, does “preside” have any relevance at all?  I would like to just think that “preside” means to bless or serve like Christ would, a worthy but difficult goal.  As far as provide and preside – well generally the partner who is making the most money generally does sometimes get a little more say in such things as where to live, and budgetary issues, as a matter of practicality, usually with the other partner’s at least tacit consent because it probably seems in both their best interests to live where the better compensated partner  can find work.

  43. 43.

    It certainly is an interesting thing to discuss the history of this just within the Mormon church, and I think you’re right. I don’t think early leaders probably even addressed it because there were so much more rigid gender roles established. It wasn’t even a question in most cases (except for the radicals like you mentioned and others like Annie Clark Tanner and such). I really don’t know if the changes in the very recent history suggest a subtle shift by the leadership of the church or just a shift in the general membership itself.

    The idea of women staying home as a doctrinal issue may have been a response to society moving away from a more agrarian lifestyle. 200 years ago, everyone worked from home for the most part. Douglas Thayer’s new book about growing up in the 30s in Provo would be appalling today because he was kicked out the door in the morning to play and stayed out roaming around Provo all day long until dinner time — every day. The requirements of parenting have changed in some ways as the world has become a more violent and dangerous place. Maybe the church is just reacting to that?

    As to the defining of presiding, I see it very tied to the Priesthood. My husband can only bless others through his Priesthood, not being able to administer to himself. I find that fascinating. It’s so interesting because of the position it puts him in. He holds this mantle that he must only use on behalf of others. And perhaps so it is with presiding. The church has worked really hard, I think, to get abusive and power-mongering men out of their wives faces, but the idea of presiding was never one of that ilk, I think. Maybe presiding is as simple as using the priesthood to bless and administer to your family. That does indeed require the proper authority, but it does not require authoritative behavior. I don’t know for sure, but that seems to make sense to me.

  44. 44.

    Hi, Chimera. Unfortunately we recently busted our blog and the post categories went haywire; we used to have a link where you could look up all the posts dealing with “gender issues,” a significant number of which deal at length (in both the posts and the comments) with the issue of what it means to “preside.” This is a decomposed horse that we still continue to beat around here. :)

    The short answer is, I think the GAs are doing their damndest to bleach “preside” of any meaning whatsoever, and I’m thrilled most members reconcile “preside” to “equal partnership,” rather than understanding “equal partnership” in terms of presiding. But I don’t find this solution entirely satisfactory, personally, for the following reasons:

    (a) The temple ceremony has multiple indications that women are subordinate to men.

    (b) If “preside” means “call on someone to say the prayer,” this hardly fits the gravitas in tone of the context in which it occurs: was it really God’s divine eternal design that it’s absolutely essential men must call on someone to pray? It’s a matter of eternal import that women not choose the person to pray? Women’s role is to nurture, and men’s parallel role is to decide who prays?

    (c) It’s now being asserted, confusingly, that “preside” means something different in every context in which it occurs. When men preside in the home, whatever they do, they are specifically NOT in charge. But if the husband is absent and the woman presides, this means (as I read Elder Oaks), that she IS in charge. Why the discrepancy? This in addition to the fact that men presiding in ecclesiastical contexts are certainly in charge.

    Justine, I think you’re absolutely right that the separation of home and work space as a result of the Industrial Revolution underlies the entire discussion of whether women should work outside the home, and presupposes a modern context.

Leave a Reply