Zelophehad’s Daughters

How Presiding Works in My Marriage

Posted by Vada

I decided to pull this draft out because it was voted for — twice! — as one people would like to see finished. It was the only one of mine voted for (not too surprising, since my drafts make up about 1% of the total drafts), and I haven’t posted anything in a while, so I figured I should not only blog something again, but listen to the opinions of our commenters. So here you go. (Also, it was started a long time ago, but what was already there still applies.)

I’ve been reading this thread over on FMH. It had me thinking about presiding in my own marriage, and since I didn’t want to threadjack (and since the blog has been a little dead lately), I decided to post my thoughts here.

Presiding is not a term I like, at least in church contexts. Nor is patriarchy. They get my hackles up every time I hear them. There is simply no way that a marriage can be both a patriarchy (a hierarchical social system in which the men are in charge) and an equal partnership. The two definitions are mutually exclusive. I hope that they get used together simply because we are moving towards the rhetoric being only about equal partnership, but we just haven’t managed to entirely get rid of the presiding term (yet). I don’t know that this is the case, but I hope.

That being said, there is, in fact, presiding in my marriage. Others have said that their marriages function like the Quorum of the 12, and no decision is made unless both (all) parties have thought about, prayed about it, and come to the same conclusion. My marriage does not work like this. I’m pretty sure my marriage never could work like this. As much as I love my husband, we agree on very little. We have different tastes in music, art, books, work, sports, food, names, and just about anything else you can think of. It sometimes amazes me how little we have in common. This means that there is a lot of compromise in my marriage. This is a good thing, and something both my husband and I have gotten better at the longer we’ve been married.

On the other hand, we never do come to an agreement on some things, and that’s where presiding comes in. Sometimes a decision has to be made even if we don’t agree on what the decision should be. So the arrangement in our marriage is that each of us presides over different things. Not that we’ve ever explicitly stated it that way. We have, however, divided many responsibilities in our marriage (explicitly and implicitly), and we both understand that whoever’s responsible for a certain thing therefore presides in that matter.

For instance, we’ve determined that (at least for now) my husband is responsible for earning money for us to live off of, and I’m responsible for taking care of the children while he’s at work. This leads to each of us having more say in certain decisions. When my husband was looking for jobs after business school he offers from two different companies that we were considering. Both were pretty good offers, and we both prayed about which one he should take (and also, as part of that, where we should move our family). We got different answers. We both felt fine about both offers, he just felt better about one and I felt better about the other. He took the job that he felt better about (with my okay), because, well, he was the one who was actually going to be doing the job.

On the other hand, there are many things he think we should do with the children that we don’t. He politely offers suggestions; sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t. One day he told me he thought it was important that our toddler sit up at the table for lunch. I said, “That’s nice. I don’t.” I encourage our toddler to sit at the table for lunch, but he still doesn’t have to. My husband doesn’t really agree with that decision, but I’m responsible for our children during the day, so it’s my decision to make, and he respects that.

This system works well for us, and for quite a few others, as well, I imagine. I know it’s a system my parents used. My dad once told me that they’d agreed early on in their marriage that he got to choose his job (and consequently where they lived), and my mom got to choose everything else. It’s mostly worked well for them, except for the occasions when my mom actually wants my dad to have an opinion on something and he just says, “Whatever you want, dear.” But he’s learning when he should actually express his opinions (and when he should continue to just agree), too. It works.

On a slightly different note, the most important way presiding, in its truest church/priesthood sense, works in my marriage is to not be talked about. My husband and I have a great and egalitarian marriage, and we’re both happy with how things are going. But if the subject of him presiding in our marriage comes up it’s bound to end with both of us upset. You see, I’m adamant that we are equal partners, and there is no presiding going on by him (other than both of us presiding over our children, at least at this point in their lives). He, on the other hand, sees presiding as one of his Priesthood duties (despite the fact that he, like most, doesn’t really know what it entails), so saying that he doesn’t preside means that he’s failing in his Priesthood duties. Obviously, to be a good Mormon, and a good man, and a good husband and father, he has to preside. But if we just avoid talking about it we have no disagreements on how it actually works.

So there you have, some (somewhat disjointed) thoughts on how presiding works in my marriage. How does it work in yours? Or how would you like it to?

99 Responses to “How Presiding Works in My Marriage”

  1. 1.

    So he thinks he presides but he doesn’t know what it means? How does he know whether he is doing it right? I’m glad you’ve found something that works, at least sort of, but it sounds awfully confusing to me. He needs to be able to say he is presiding, but doesn’t need to actually do anything presid-ey enough to bother you?

    How do you reconcile the religious emphasis on the importance of male presiding, with your choice to say no presiding happens in your marriage?

  2. 2.

    Have you ever considered that maybe he does have a view on what it entails, but doesn’t want to act upon that knowledge because it would be disruptive to the marriage? I just have a hard time imagining someone who thinks presiding is very important, yet not important enough for him to form an opinion as to what it means.

  3. 3.

    Sorry, I realize that was an awfully harsh question to ask. No pressure to answer it.

  4. 4.

    I wonder if priesthood presiding can be more of a public persona and less of a private practice. It still perplexes me that Mormon men need to preside to feel secure in their masculinity. I guess I can sit through (and even teach) the priesthood lessons about presiding, but I hate the idea of pulling rank in a marriage.

  5. 5.

    Would you feel like it was kind of a facade, then?

  6. 6.

    Z, the point is that he still feels it’s important to preside and to be equal partners, since there is so much church counsel on both. I, on the other hand, feel that the two are mutually exclusive, so I choose to follow the equal partners counsel rather than the presiding counsel. I’m not sure how he comes to term with the cognitive dissonance (probably he’s just never worried about it enough to have cognitive dissonance), but he feels like he needs to preside (and to be an equal partner) to be a good, dutiful, person. However he comes to terms with it in his own head, how it works out in our marriage it looks to me like an equal partnership, so I’m happy with it.

    Also, I think it’s very easy for someone in our church to feel that presiding is important without having any idea what it means. Consider this quote:

    Refer participants to the following statement in the proclamation on the family: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness.” Explain that the word preside means to lead and guide and to take responsibility for the family’s welfare.

    Emphasize that as a man fulfills his responsibility to preside in the home, he works in partnership with his wife. President Howard W. Hunter, the 14th President of the Church, counseled: “A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowl-edge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. … By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priest-hood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independently of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 68; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50–51). (source here)

    First, the father must preside, which means to lead. Then, he must work in partnership with his wife in the leadership of the family. Then it is divinely appointed that the father presides (leads). But in the next sentence he’s told his wife must be an equal companion in full partnership (even though she doesn’t preside, presumably, since that’s divinely appointed to fathers).

    There’s also this quote:

    1. The father is the head in his family.

    “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 [divine] appointment.” 7

    Your leadership in the home must include leading in family worship.

    “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. (…)

    Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. As President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught: “In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.” 10 Since the beginning, God has instructed mankind that marriage should unite husband and wife together in unity. 11 Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward. (source here)

    So in the first half we’re told that the father is the head of his family, and that this is because it is divinely appointed. Then we’re told that even though the father is the leader, the husband and wife walk side by side as coequals, and that there is no president or vice president, but only a couple on equal footing.

    I honestly don’t think you can get much more confusing, and finding these quotes took a total of about 30 seconds on lds.org. I’m sure I could find many more just as confusing if I looked longer. I certainly have no idea what presiding and leading means in this context, since it seems to be synonymous with being equals and being in a partnership, except not really, because it’s important to remember that the father leads, even though he doesn’t without his wife. Like I said, I choose to just ignore the presiding part and focus on the equal partners point. In practice, at least, my husband does as well.

  7. 7.

    Yeah, I would be the first to agree that there is an utter lack of comprehensible guidance. I certainly can’t fault anyone for not having a clear explanation. I just ask how they know whether they are presiding appropriately? How can anyone carry out an activity without knowing the meaning of the word?

    What are the things he does that make him think he’s presiding?

    I’m glad you’ve found something you’re happy with in practice, but does it not matter to you what’s going on in his head?

  8. 8.

    i love a quote i heard once where a guy said that he made all the major decisions, and his wife made all the minor decisions. and so far there hadn’t been any major decisions :-)

  9. 9.

    When a marriage is structured in a traditional LDS setup, with father earning an income and providing and mother at home and nurturing, presiding over the ceremonial tasks such as family prayer, prayers at meals and family home evening has the effect of engaging father in the life of the family in an integral and important way. Without that mandate, it could be very easy for father to become a cipher or a paycheck. Giving him these tasks, or the role of presider, puts him smack in the middle of family life and demonstrates that he has value and matters more than just what he earns.

    In a family that where the roles are more fluid, presiding by father isn’t necessary to engage him in family life. Even when father is primary wage earner and mother is primary caregiver, if father is more plugged in to the nurturing role (and maybe mother has a home-based business or something), father as presider becomes a more artificial construct that doesn’t serve the same purpose.

    In a family that is less role-based than the LDS ideal, where (for example) both parents are employed full-time and caring for the children is a fully-shared effort, father presiding is an anachronism.

    I could see the first scenario being especially useful in a family where father travels a lot or works long hours, such as a medical resident or a new associate attorney. Assigning tasks to the father in his role as presider pulls him into family life very directly, and shows the children “this person is an integral and important part of our eternal family.”

    But my family is more like the third model, and we don’t have a lot of presiding going on.

  10. 10.

    Count me completely unconvinced that the concept of “presiding” is necessary even with a gendered division of labor. Why not just have the father simply be engaged in family life, without the artificial construct? I don’t see how the negatives (alienation of women, abuse, bad publicity) outweigh the positives, which could easily be gained without using the concept.

    Do you think it’s possible for men in other religions to be engaged in family life, even though they don’t have the concept of “presiding”? If they can, what’s different about Mormon men that necessitates use of the “presiding” construct?

  11. 11.

    Unfortunately the roles of power between men and women are a zero-sum game. Women have always had more power in a relationship. That’s why God has ordained men to have authority. What women both in and out of the Church have done for the last 40 years is strip men of their authority without giving up any power in return. This is why we see so many single moms and dead-beat or effeminate dads. In order for a man to fulfill his real role as a father, he has to have the authority that comes from presiding over the family. Husbands and wives are equal when she has power and he has authority.

  12. 12.

    Vada,
    Thanks for writing this post. I think we’re in very similar marriages.

    I’m too tired to write more now (staring at a messy house and lots of dirty dishes) but thanks for writing up this post. It’s good to hear that even feminists sometimes have complicated relationships with patriarchy and presiding even in our own marriages.

  13. 13.

    It’s been my observation that most men in conservative religions have the concept of presiding embedded in their relationships (maybe even more so than the LDS), even if it’s not called such. One buzzword I’ve heard is “Servant Leadership.” The whole basis of the Promise Keepers movement is Christian men taking back the leadership role they’ve ceded to their wives.

    When father travels 20 days a month, or is regularly working 13 hour days, it would not be unusual for him to rarely see the children. Have a structured and god-given obligation to see to the spiritual life of the family (which is one way I see presiding functioning) is a way to pull faithful men in when they might not be so otherwise.

    I heard a story once about Russell Nelson’s first wife, who said she had a successful family because she never expected much from him. But his children loved and respected him, and I think it’s not because he was around (he wasn’t) but because he’d been put in the presider role.

    Obviously I’m speculating about that.

    It’s certainly not a family model I want for myself, but I think it’s what the proclamation is getting at and the supposedly God-given purpose behind men presiding.

  14. 14.

    I practice the equal partnership model. I used to think that there had to be some sort of mechanism for breaking deadlock in extremis, and that that was what “presiding” was. But my practical experience belies that assumption. We have always been able to come to an agreement. If we don’t initially agree, we come to agreement by a process of discussion and negotiation. For us that has worked every time.

    If the HTers come over and they expect us to call on someone to give a prayer, I do that. So I guess I preside in that extremely limited sense. But that is only because that is their cultural expectation; it would be fine with me if my wife called on someone to give the prayer, but she wouldn’t want to do that anyway.

  15. 15.

    Mormon Man, are you joking? “Women have always had more power in a relationship?” Even when men could legally beat their wives? Even when men could legally RAPE their wives?
    And how on earth does “men being stripped of power” translate into men who are able to escape any sort of responsibility for children (deadbeat dads) while women (the single mothers you bring up) are saddled with the expense and effort of child-raising? If women have always had all the power and have now stripped men of it, wouldn’t there be more women who are able to force, cajole, convince the fathers of their children to, you know, actually support them?

  16. 16.

    This makes me think of every lesson I’ve ever had dealing with similar things. The women bascially end up saying, “Let the men think they’re in charge. We know who really is.”

  17. 17.

    @ Givemeabreak – I’m not kidding you at all. And, if I were you, I would avoid using the logical fallacy of jumping to extremes when trying to articulate your point. If you can provide me with sufficient evidence that the majority of men both beat and raped their wives when it was legal to do so, then we can talk about abusive power.

    Which isn’t the type of power I was referencing to begin with. Women have a sexual power and authority that men don’t have. Since women (who marry good men -there’s your disclaimer) are the ones who decide how often and what caliber of intimacy exists in a relationship, it grants them a certain power over men. Women used to understand this and use it to their advantage.

    This sexual power is a neutral power that can be used either for good or for evil. Look at Herrod in the Bible. It was the sexual power that convinced him to have John the Baptist killed against his own beliefs and will. How about Potiphar’s wife? Joseph understood the sexual power a woman can exert; so rather than sticking around to try to reason with her, he simply removed himself from the situation as quickly as possible. A woman’s sexual power affects both good and evil men.

  18. 18.

    @Givemeabreak – and in regards to your second question about dead-beat dads, women are not offering men any incentive for being a good father. Men are constantly bashed in the media and our current society as either bumbling idiots ( Modern Family, The Simpsons, any TV commercial for a household cleaning product etc) man-boys who never grow up and become functioning adults (Almost any and all reality TV series, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, etc) or the beta male nice guy, who in TV-land always gets the good girl but in real life is always ignored for the jerk.

    There used to be a cultural expectation and sigma attached to sex. Thankfully this is something the Church still maintains. As men, we are biologically geared towards polygamy; just as women are biologically geared towards hypergamy. Up until recently both society and religion had maintained a structure that rewarded men and women for suppressing their polygamous and hypergamous instincts. That system is marriage. A real, proper marriage prevents men from sleeping with any woman they find attractive and prevents women from upgrading whenever they find a man who’s of higher value than their current mate. As a result, we had the nuclear family where children were raised by both a father and a mother. Women knew the power they had to keep their men in the family was sexual, but it also required that those men lead their families. If men don’t lead, women do, The problem with women leading the marriage is it takes the man back down to a position similar to where the children are and no longer curtails his ambitions to pursue is polygamous instincts.

    So if women want their men to stop being dead-beat dads or the “oldest child” in the family, they need to understand that the only way to do this is to allow the man to preside and have the authority in the home. The wife will always maintain her sexual power, but men need the authority to truly be “equal partners” in a relationship that functions properly and mutually benefits the parents and the children.

  19. 19.

    My husband and I are equal partners. The presiding (for us) seems to be that he feels an obligation to care about spiritual matters that otherwise he would be content to disregard or leave to me. I feel like he is the reporting partner in a VT companionship. He knows God expects him to report back about the status of our family. This knowledge that he is accountable in this way HELPS him and doesn’t hinder me at all.
    I appreciate the church doing their best to expect men to step up and be a good husband and father. That is what my husband thinks the church and God expects from him an so if he feels like he is not living up to that he feels like he should improve.
    So, no problems on the presiding and equal partners front here.

  20. 20.

    Your (and your parent’s) marriage is pretty much how we have settled differences over 27 years of marriage. I don’t give a fig about ‘presiding’ – I want (and have) an equal partnership.

  21. 21.

    MormonMan, It says a whole lot about where you are in life that you think that women having sexual autonomy gives them ALL the power in a marriage.

    Cute puppy you’ve got there.

  22. 22.

    @Ann – Do you try to patronize your husband when he says something you disagree with in the same way you just tried to patronize me? If so, that doesn’t sound like a very “equal” relationship to me.

  23. 23.

    No, because my husband is an adult.

  24. 24.

    Presiding in our marriage sounds a lot like in Kevin’s–my husband keeps track of whose turn it is to say the blessing on the food, or asks someone if we have company. After, of course, I give him the nod that it’s time for the prayer. :)

  25. 25.

    Mormon Man…your marriage obviously has some HUGE issues because your view on life is extremely distorted and borderline crazytown. Or you are just really, really, really naive and ignorant. Seriously, you need counseling if you truly believe those things. Not only are the “facts” you cite completely false, but your opinions are really negative and signify some deeply troubled attitudes about women, marriage, and life.

  26. 26.

    Actually, now that I think about it, that sounds like the bitter justification of a fresh off the boat disgruntled divorcee. In either case, the call for counseling still stands.

  27. 27.

    @Olive – I fail to see how my marriage “obviously has some HUGE issues” I’m very happily married. In fact, my marriage has improved as I’ve gained a better understanding of what my wife wants and how what really attracts her about the opposite sex. Learning about hypergamy saved my marriage from both unnecessary counseling and divorce.

    So rather than just accuse me of a distorted worldview, having a troubled attitude about women marriage and life, and trying to send me to a feminist counselor who’s going to feed me the same lies I’d been given my whole life – why don’t you or Ann actually give me some valid justification for why my worldview is wrong.

    I don’t know if you are inferring a bitter tone to my matter-of-fact approach, but I fail to see how believing that men and women are different, and that we are attracted to different things is bitter or naive.

  28. 28.

    Since women (who marry good men -there’s your disclaimer) are the ones who decide how often and what caliber of intimacy exists in a relationship, it grants them a certain power over men.

    I disagree with this because it denies the reality that women have sexual drives too. I would argue that the common dynamic of the male partner most frequently having a stronger sex drive is in large part a result of cultural factors that, among other things, severely discourage sexual appetites in women and girls while highly rewarding or even demanding voracious sexual appetites in men.

    I would also argue that:

    Women used to understand this and use it to their advantage.

    Is a polite way of saying that all women are prostitutes and all men are johns, but the smart women sell their sex for the higher price of committed relationships, and the smart men know that it is all about money. I hope you can see how this insults both men and women and cheapens both sex and marriage. That men have gain no benefit from and have no desire for the friendship of women is one of Satan’s most pernicious lies.

  29. 29.

    [...] Vada: “How Presiding Works in My Marriage” [...]

  30. 30.

    Very interesting post, Vada. I particularly like the way you address the practicalities of how presiding ends up playing out on the ground. I have to wonder if the traditional husband-works-outside-the-home wife-stays-home-with-kids model actually ends up undermining male authority in the home, simply because the male usually isn’t there to be authoritative. (Which is itself, of course, an argument for patriarchy I’ve sometimes seen–men’s absence makes some sort of compensatory authority necessary in order to involve him in family life.)

    I suspect that–unless a marriage is seriously dysfunctional and one partner is ruling the other with terror–it’s simply impossible for one person to preside over everything. I make most of the day-to-day decisions about my household, just because I’m the one there to make them (and because my husband simply doesn’t care, unless it involves decorating). But on the big issues–where to live, who makes the living and how, how to divide the labor, how many children to have and when to have them–I also think it’s vital that spouses work on some sort of consensus model, in which there’s genuine equality of input and no decision is made until both spouses find it acceptable. There are many variations and many kinds of compromises that can work, but at the end of the day there has to be a mutual agreement and genuine ownership of the decision, which isn’t possible if one spouse has pressured or manipulated the other into something the other just can’t accept.

    Personally, I’ve found struggling through areas of disagreement until we can reach a real consensus to be one of the most important ways my husband and I grow, individually and as a couple (frustrating as the process itself often is!). Any model in which one spouse more or less dictates to–or manipulates–the other forfeits some of the most important opportunities marriage offers for growth, and for genuine unity.

  31. 31.

    My husband and I have a similar dynamic as far as splitting up the “presiding.” He presides over his career, I preside over mine, and I also preside over the kids and home because I mother full-time and work part-time. My perspective on men presiding by virtue of the priesthood is that spirituality is just another block of our lives that needs presiding over and the church asks that husbands take responsibility for that particular block. And even though spirituality is important, it is still just a block, and not even the most significant.

    I support him in his career, he supports me in mine, he supports me in raising our children, and I support him in priesthood responsibilities. We are totally involved in those different areas and do our best to work out disagreements, but sometimes one of you just has to pull rank. So far, I’m the only one who has really pulled rank (in my role as the children presider) and I honestly can’t think of any scenario where my husband would ever need to pull rank as the spiritual presider. Maybe if we disagreed about some things like R-movies or modesty issues for our girls–but that sort of falls under the “kids and home” category, and we actually don’t disagree about those kinds of things. So that’s how I see “presiding” and “equal partners” as not necessarily being mutually exclusive.

  32. 32.

    Ann, I’ve often wished you would leave me your husband in your will.

  33. 33.

    Thanks for this post, Vada. Your model of how sorting out how decisions are made in the home is probably a very common one, but I think very few people outside Mormondom would use the word “preside” to describe it. We are using that term in an effort to appropriately apply the word preside to some aspect of our lives, in spite of the confusing, schizophrenic definition of the term the church is putting forward.

    My husband & I also don’t talk about spiritual providing, because neither of us understand what the Church really means with this word. It’s frustrating, because of course we’d rather understand what the word means in the sense that we understand what honesty is, for instance. Since, as z suggests, it’s impossible to carry out an activity without knowing the meaning of the word, we ignore presiding. It’s not our fault the church can’t/won’t articulate a comprehensible definition of what it means.

  34. 34.

    annegb, if I did that, you would have far too much incentive to kill me.

  35. 35.

    @Starfoxy – Sorry but you’re just building straw men here. I’ve never explicity stated nor implied that women have a lower sex drive than men. In fact, the notion was never even considered until the Victorian era. This is why most pagan deities of fertility are women and why Eve has been demonized in much of Christianity. You are also constructing a straw man in regards to my power statements. Sexual power is not simply manifested in sexual exchange or prostitution. I will give you credit for not resorting to shaming speech and ad hominem attacks like Ann. At least you’re trying to have a real discussion.

  36. 36.

    Sorry but you’re just building straw men here. I’ve never explicity stated nor implied that women have a lower sex drive than men.

    Then how do you explain your statement that it is women who decide how often sex happens without implying that women have a lower sex drive?

  37. 37.

    Mormon Man #17:

    If you can provide me with sufficient evidence that the majority of men both beat and raped their wives when it was legal to do so, then we can talk about abusive power.

    Seriously? You believe that as long as 50% or fewer of marriages included physical abuse and rape, then it wasn’t really an issue?

  38. 38.

    Mormon Man
    I do not believe hypergamy is a biological imperative. I view it rather as a culture practice in societies with gender inequality.

    Reminds me of that Eagles song- Lyin’ Eyes. Nothing like a man with hands as cold as ice.

  39. 39.

    um, have you folks followed MormonMan’s link to his own blog? He’s just a little crazy. His first post talks about how the Atonement can help men acheive alpha male status. The next one, which I only briefly skimmed, is as close to woman-hating as any modern Western source you’ll find. So it might not be worthwhile to waste an awful lot of typing energy on him.

    However, it is interesting to point out how our patriarchal system creates this necessity of verbally tearing down men so that they can justify hanging onto their actual power. Just another example of how sexism hurts us all.

    Vada, your analysis here is interesting. I envy that you have such a clear definition of roles, since we tend to struggle to figure out who is in charge of what.

    I tend to think that because the church’s definition of “preside” is so flimsy and borderline non-sensical, it’s better to just be tossed out altogether rather than stamped on and twisted and made to work. It’s too bad your husband feels an obligation to live up to it. DH and I are usually pretty good about coming to a consensus on decisions that are more than trivial, so presiding never really has to come into the picture.

  40. 40.

    k actually, I just went and read MormonMan’s second most recent post in detail. It’s horrifying. Like watching a car wreck in slow motion. I couldn’t achieve such brilliant parody if I tried. You might all want to go check it out if, like me, you have nothing better to do tonight. :)

  41. 41.

    nat kelly, I bet you are a great junior companion.

    :-)

  42. 42.

    Wow, so many more logical fallacies. Appeal to emotion, appeal to popularity, and arguably some red herrings too. It’s obviously pointless to try to have a logical, meaningful discussion with a group of men and women who try to shame those who don’t tow the line into agreement.

    And we would be wise to not tell the Church to abandon an idea simply because we don’t understand it. The Church’s doctrines are objective truths while our understanding is subjective. So rather than telling the Church to give up on patriarchy or waiting around for the prophet to spell it out in easy-to-swallow terms, we should develop the spiritual maturity and curiosity to abandon our own pretenses and discover how the Lord actually feels about the issue. Good luck.

  43. 43.

    Mormon Man, I’m very impressed with your ability to list logical fallacies.

    our understanding is subjective.

    Do you do realize, though, that this applies to you too? Perhaps your view that God wants men to preside over their wives is just borrowed from the culture around us and the equal partners position is the true one.

    I think your central error is the one Starfoxy pointed out. You assume women want less sex than men. Then you figure that men won’t ever coerce or force women to get sex. Then you elevate this supposed difference in sex drive into a power so central to relationships that it must be countered by having men preside over women. Bizarre! Really, any line of reasoning designed so obviously to lead to a justification that those already in power need their power should be suspect. But even among such bad arguments, yours seems to rest on particularly weak assumptions.

  44. 44.

    Vada, thanks for this post. I like the splitting up of the decisions by which spouse has more expertise or interest in the topic, and that’s pretty much how my wife and I do things. For example, she has zero interest in what type of computer we own, so when we decide to get a new one, I get to pick it. But of course, the decision to get one in the first place would result from discussion between us.

    And Eve, I really like your point about the value of discussing to reach a consensus on big decisions. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I’m sure you’re right that it would stunt the growth in some sense of both the spouses and their marriage if one dictated to the other how things were going to be run all the time. At the very least, it’s valuable to have your spouse to give you a reality check sometimes. Or perhaps I should be more clear and say that it’s valuable to have my wife give me a reality check. If my word were the final one in our marriage, we’d end up making a lot of bad decisions. Same thing if my wife ran the show, although she would probably make a whole different set of bad decisions (and to be fair, likely fewer).

  45. 45.

    This post got me thinking in a direction I hadn’t considered before. When was the term “presiding” first used in the church context? Is the term found in scripture? Where and how did Joseph Smith use it? When was it first used in the family context?

    Maybe another term would be better. To preside implies some sort of authority or control to one extent or another. Every relationship has some sort of power balance that evolves.

  46. 46.

    I’m impressed with y’all’s willingness to engage MormonMan’s arguments without resorting to ad hominem attacks. I figured “cute puppy” was about as in depth as I wanted to go. Did I click through to the wrong web site? Wasn’t it mostly poetry and songs, a picture of the new puppy, and home from the mission six months ago? When I saw that (not the puppy, but the home from the mission six months ago) I figured the idea that all sexual power in a relationship was held by the woman was a result of the distorted thinking of normal youthful hormones.

  47. 47.

    Sorry, Ann. Some of his comments link to this site, which is the one nat kelly was talking about. I’m not sure why others of his comments link to the poetry one.

  48. 48.

    Wow. I’m still not convinced that website is for real… (the Mormon Men blog).

    If it is I know what’ll happen after 30 years of that marriage. I’m watching my parent’s marriage implode because of attitudes like that.

  49. 49.

    [...] had a lot of naysayers involved in what I had hoped would be an engaging conversation over at this blog. It’s too bad they’ve all resorted to the normal feminist drivel of personal attacks, [...]

  50. 50.

    LDS women understand that she and her husband form a team. Nothing is more important than getting herself and her family safely through mortality and onto exaltation. The wonders of the eternities and eternal increase. Who knows what all that entails? A woman once said on FMH that she is forever consigned to be Vice President in the eternities. Wouldn’t being a Queen and a Vice President to your husband for eternity be better than living alone, separately and singly, forever and ever and ever? President Benson said to never take your eyes of the prize, exaltation. Are the glories of the world worth giving all this up?

  51. 51.

    Winifred,

    The problem with the word “queen” in current culture is that for centuries, our telestially-minded world has made a queen subservient to a king.

    I challenge that notion as an earthly misconstruction of what God has in mind.

    There has been one king-queen relationship in the past 500 years that involved two individuals who had equal claim to the throne and were reputed to have equal power; William and Mary of Orange who ruled England, Scotland and Ireland in the late 1600s. Their rule was the only period in British history in which “joint sovereigns” with equal powers were allowed to reign. I think that’s a bit closer to a celestial construct of king and queen. Definitely rare in our telestial world.

    Definitely not “vice president”. That’s not only telestial, but also only a construct of the last 250 years. Definitely not eternal.

    So, yes God expects us to work together. No, not in a presidential-vicepresidential construct.

  52. 52.

    Feminists are funny.
    One said that she absolutely would never take her husband’s name in marriage but if her husband wanted to do it that was okay.
    In Sweden women frequently boast that they drive the buses and men push the baby carts.
    One feminist was agonizing why engineering school wasn’t more equal, you know, more women. A guy spoke up and said that he agreed. We should make nursing school and dental hygiene school a strict 50/50 male female quota. The feminist had nothing more to say.
    Feminists don’t want equality, they want it all.

  53. 53.

    Feminists are funny.

    Aren’t we though?

  54. 54.

    I agree that a patriarchy cannot exist in an equal partnership. By definition, it just can’t, and I’m frustrated when people say it can. Dividing up principal stewardship over certain parts of your lives is useful, and my husband and I do that, but neither of us presides in the family. Or, if he does, we both do.

    This may sound very harsh, but because I feel that patriarchy cannot coexist with equal partnership, I feel that patriarchy is a very, very bad thing. Giving privilege to one partner to ‘use righteously’ when dealing with the other partner can not lead to anything good. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. This will sound cheesy, but I think of it like the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. It’s powerful and bad, and even though good men might think that they can use the power for good, it is a tool of power which therefore simply cannot be used for good. I feel that good men, thus, should recognize that they have that power and then do everything they can to destroy it.

  55. 55.

    Winifred, if that’s what you think, you’re talking to the wrong feminists. Giving dignity and agency to one group doesn’t take it away from another. It’s about giving all people the right to choose their own destiny without feeling vulnerable because of things that they can’t control such as gender and race.

    If, as you say, feminists “want it all”, it’s because men, the privileged ones, already have it all, and we want “having it all” to be availbale to everyone.

    Every person deserves to be the master of their own destiny.

  56. 56.

    AllieKay:
    Someone questioned one time why women in general are not given the priesthood or are in church leadership positions. If you look at history, women that are left to their own devices very often turn to goddess worship, witchcraft, or idolatry. Jezebel introduced some of the worst idolatry into Israel.
    Men, on the other hand, are responsible for the worst sexual and violent crimes in society. It’s said that men are the wolves and the guard dogs in society. It’s as though men are the very best and the very worst.
    Also, when you have matriarchy, it’s all about the women and females, females, females. So, AllieKay, if patriarchy cannot co-exist with equality, neither can matriarchy or a matriarchal society.

  57. 57.

    If you look at history, men who are left to their own devices often treat women as property and resort frequently to violence and rape, not to mention marrying young girls off while giving them no say in the matter, frequently to men who already have other wives.

    Also, when you have patriarchy, it’s all about men, men, men.

    Are you trying to argue that having women run things would somehow be worse? I don’t think we’ve actually seen it, so I don’t think we really know.

    But that’s really beside the point. You’re setting up a straw woman. You may think that feminists want women to run everything. There may be feminists who do want that, but I suspect they’re greatly outnumbered by those of us who simply want women to have an equal say to what men have. I think it’s quite revealing that you jump to the conclusion that women who want anything other than for men to hold all the power can want nothing other than to hold all power themselves.

  58. 58.

    Alliekay/Ziff:
    God pulls husband through the veil, husband pulls wife through. That seems to indicate that the patriarchal order is eternal in nature. The highest order in the celestial kingdom is only reserved for those faithful husbands and wives who keep their covenants. All others in the lower levels of the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial, and telestial will live separately and single forever and ever. You and I do not control this. It is God who does.

  59. 59.

    What is it with all of these misogynistic men who attack ZD with all the zeal of a perturbed patriarch?

    Winifred: We should be thanking Jezebel for her efforts to preserve the worship of Asherah, our heavenly mother, despite the sexist biblical authors who jealously rewrote history and tried to justify their own apostasy from the true Israelite religion practiced by Lehi and his northern ancestors. I really hope you look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are selectively retelling and reinterpreting history just as the male authors of the Bible did millennia ago.

  60. 60.

    The more I read the drivel that someone like Winifred/Mormon Man spews, and realize that it is, indeed, the company line, the more I realize that there is no place for me in Mormonism. I want nothing to do with such a God. And in the words of Huck Finn, if that’s what being exalted means, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

  61. 61.

    “. . . if patriarchy cannot co-exist with equality, than neither can matriarchy or a matriarchal society.”

    I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Feminism, at least the way most of us see it, is not the notion that matriarchy should replace the patriarchy. Both are bad because they put one party in control of another.

  62. 62.

    Ann:
    I really hope you find what you are looking for in life. How you see members interact is only a small part of what an organization is about. Are you married? If not, ae you the type of person that likes companionship versus being alone? Doctrine in the Church holds that the highest order after this life is reserved for husband and wife. Really, I don’t know what to say because I can feel how angry/hurt you are at Mormonisn. I really hope it works out for you whatever you are seeking in life.

  63. 63.

    God pulls husband through the veil, husband pulls wife through. That seems to indicate that the patriarchal order is eternal in nature.

    Haha. Oh good. Bring out that particular bit of the temple ceremony to convince a bunch of feminists that they should support the way the church portrays gender.

    That’ll work.

  64. 64.

    Starfoxy #28,

    I know this is a little nitpicky but I can’t sleep tonight so here I go… Did you really argue that human male libido is a product of nurture (culture) rather than nature? That seems like a massive stretch to me.

    As I understand it adult male human bodies produce on average ten times the amount of testosterone that adult female human bodies produce. Further I have read that libido is somewhat correlated with testosterone levels. I am wondering how one could persuasively argue that it is really just (or mostly) our culture that drives human adult male libido.

  65. 65.

    Geoff- For one, I don’t think I was arguing that men don’t have libidos, or even that men don’t have stronger ones than women. I was arguing that women do in fact have libidos, and that those libidos are strong enough to make them want and enjoy sex.

    I would argue that in without culture libido would be much like height. Sure, the average guy is taller (or more libidinous) than the average woman, and the tallest (most libidinous) person is most likely to be male. However the two curves overlap far more than we would think, and you can’t point to any two people and say that the man will necessarily have a higher libido than the woman.

    The other thing is that hormone production, and especially sexual response are responsive to environment- which includes culture. I don’t think one can decisively claim that everything connected to our hormone levels is strictly nature and no nurture, when our hormone levels are often a response to our environment.

    Also, yes we do know that testosterone levels are linked to libido in both men and women, but I highly doubt you could get any responsible doctor or scientist to say that more testosterone equals a higher sex drive and that’s all there is to it. If that were the true then people with androgen insensitivity would have zero libido- which is not the case and precursory research suggests that the opposite may be true.

    So no I am not arguing that it is just culture that drives the adult male libido. I am arguing that it is mostly culture that has created the huge disparity between adult male libido and adult female libido, and that this disparity causes problems for men and women.

  66. 66.

    Starfoxy: I was arguing that women do in fact have libidos, and that those libidos are strong enough to make them want and enjoy sex.

    Hmmm… That is not what I thought I read earlier but I doubt anyone would dispute the point “that those libidos are strong enough to make them want and enjoy sex”.

    I am arguing that it is mostly culture that has created the huge disparity between adult male libido and adult female libido

    There it is again. You are pinning the disparities adult male human libido and adult female human female libido largely on culture. Do you know of any evidence to support this claim? This is the part I am disputing. It seems to me that among humans everywhere the adult male libido is significantly stronger than the adult female libido and that is true across all cultures. If that is the case then culture has very little to do with libido at all. (Note I am not saying culture has zero influence on libido, just that it seems to have a negligible impact.)

  67. 67.

    It seems to me that among humans everywhere the adult male libido is significantly stronger than the adult female libido and that is true across all cultures.

    You know what else is true across all cultures? Male dominance. I would argue that there is an element to every culture on earth that seeks to place control of female sexuality in male hands.

    Look, you’ll agree that there is a sexual double standard out there, right? Men who do it are studs while women who do it are sluts. I would venture to guess that you would also agree that women are far more malleable sexually than men are. Is it really that far fetched to you to think that our culture, with it’s extensive slut shaming and puritanical fixation on virginity, could effectively erase the female sex drive?

  68. 68.

    I suppose the question is how much influence does culture have on libido. Sort of a classic nature vs. nurture question. I certainly agree that it is more than zero influence. I just don’t know how much more than zero.

    No doubt a sociologist somewhere could do a study on male and female libidos across lots of modern cultures all over the world. My hypothesis would be that the impact of culture is negligible (as in men and women in strictest Saudi Arabian cultures have similar libidos to men and women in the most liberal European cultures). But in the absence of data that is just my guess.

  69. 69.

    God pulls husband through the veil, husband pulls wife through.

    No. No. No. No. No.

    We’ve been through this before.

    God pulls everyone through the veil.

    The person who represents God may or may not be the person’s husband, but ritually, it’s always the Lord. The ceremony is very clear that both sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are introduced at the veil to the same person.

  70. 70.

    Left Field,

    very true, but the imagery of my husband (hypothetical husband) being able to stand in in as the Lord for me, is troubling…

  71. 71.

    Well, okay, that’s not the part that is particularly troubling, it’s more the reason of why the husband does this, and the fact that’s it’s not reciprocated. But maybe we are getting into too much detail.

  72. 72.

    Vada, I really enjoyed reading this post. We have a bit of this in my own marriage – trying to find the balance between “preside” and “equal partnership”. I would say that my husband and I view it similarly to the way you and your husband do.

    And Mormon Man’s site? SCARY!!!!

  73. 73.

    Mormon Man’s site is truly creepy and horrifying. He makes a number of assumptions that simply are counterfactual. People love to see their own cultural biases as somehow being a reflection of natural law. This is as old as humanity. But when they’re so badly mistaken as Mormon Man is, it shows up eventually in the fruits of their worldview. I wonder what will happen when his wife reads his blog?

    Mormon Man seems to feel the fruits of his worldview so far are good. He’s grasped more power in his relationship, and feels good about that. So far he hasn’t understood that his whole hierarchy of alpha, beta, gamma, delta, is completely wrongheaded. Eventually when things don’t work out in real life like he expects, will he blame his wife, or feminists, or someone else for the problems? I wonder how long it will take him, if ever, to realize the truth that we’re all children of our Heavenly Parents, that they make no distinctions among us, and they aren’t respecters of persons, be they alpha or otherwise?

    The real truth is that we’re all equal, all alphas, not keys and locks, but all equally initiators and followers, equally the movers and the moved-upon. Christ said the meek shall inherit the earth. My mother said once to my father, in their very unequal relationship, “You can bully people into doing a lot of things, but you can’t bully people into loving you.” When Mormon Man finally does learn to be dominant, to be the bully all the time, I hope he also learns why it’s not a good thing to be that way. I hope his wife reads his blog soon.

  74. 74.

    I have seriously loved comments from both Ann and Mormon Man on this thread so it surprised me when they started arguing. They both made interesting points to me.

    I have struggled with the issue of presiding and equality my whole life. That is because I had an abusive, domineering father who made derogatory remarks about women. He had issues with the abusive and manipulative women he grew up with (women who claimed all power) and those resulting attitudes permeated his adult life up until a few years ago. (We’ve had some discussions about the family dynamics.)

    When things are done righteously however there is harmony and security in a family. I really don’t like the idea of a patriarchy, but so what? That’s my problem. What I’m saying is that God won’t change it just because we don’t like it. We either trust him or we don’t. Look, there is no reason, in God’s true church, to doubt the value (or equality) of women – to doubt the value of ourselves!

    Some folks seem to think the church is living in the dark ages but in reality it has always been ahead of the times. The church liberates women – you see this in other countries in particular. Women are happy because men are taught to listen to their wives and to work with them as equals. In the early days of the church women had the right to vote. They gave up that right in order for Utah to become a part of the US and they had to wait for the rest of the world to catch up in regards to the idea of letting women vote. I could give more examples but will hold off for now. The point is the church – God – has always been ahead of the times and now that most of the rest of the world has caught up (and gone overboard in some ways) the church is the voice for the times regarding the issues. (OK, the church has always been the voice for the times but you get what I mean.)

    Mormon Man has a point in his blog though (no, I don’t agree with everything he says in his blog, but he does have some valid points) about the emasculation of men. Feminism has done some good things, but also bad. Look ladies, I don’t care how “feminist:” you are, no woman wants a wimp.(Do you?) Maybe it’s built in, but we want men who can provide and protect, someone you can respect and not be bullied by anyone (including us!). To me that is what makes an Alpha male. You may not like the Alpha Beta terms Mormon Man uses, but I’ve always loved the Alpha Male (think John Wayne, Ronald Reagan) and have used that term myself. By the way, the alpha male doesn’t have to be the domineering type of idiot my father was. The alpha male does not repress or degrade women. The true alpha males builds women up, respects and protects them. My husband is an alpha male in my opinion yet he is one of the sweetest, humblest, most non-confrontational men you’ll ever meet. But on those rare occasions when I’m really out of line he’ll let me know in his usual quiet way. He doesn’t raise his voice (in 6 years he’s never yelled at me), but he does let me know. And good for him! Oh, and do you know what impressed me about him when we first started hanging out? He pursued me! He didn’t wait for me to ask him out or wimp out or was content with hanging out in groups. He opened my doors (so what if I can do it myself) and was courteous and respectful in all the traditional ways.

    If Mormon Man goes overboard in his statements/blog rest assured he’s not the only one. Men have been emasculated to the point that they feel the need to fight back and reclaim their manhood! (I feel for guys sometimes, they get mixed messages from women and are frequently frustrated not knowing how to please them….then single women wonder why they aren’t asked out and married women wonder why their men don’t talk to them.) Men are constantly bombarded with feminism and the women in their lives who feel the need to assert themselves all the time. I can just hear them thinking or saying to the women to give it a rest already. If you have married a good man who loves you and treats you as you deserve then why not let it rest? Why keep pushing? Why are you still so insecure? I don’t see the need for extreme feminism in the church – if you are an extreme feminist then it seems you have issues with your worth just as I did (and sometimes I still struggle with it). Why are you letting the world influence you so strongly?

    It is disturbing to see remarks by some who say they ignore certain gospel principles such as presiding. Just like the Book of Mormon clarifies seeming contradictions in the Bible, there IS an answer to what some think are contradictions or mutually exclusive principles. God has his reasons for everything he does, says and implements. If the man is to preside then trust that it is for the benefit of all. Remember, God will never do anything that demeans his daughters!

    There’s a book you ladies should read that may help with worth issues called Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. Excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone! And for you married ladies also check out The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura.

  75. 75.

    PS. God was the first feminist (just as he is the greatest scientist – that is what I tell my science vs religion friends).

  76. 76.

    Sarah, I appreciate you’re taking the time to try to explain your perspective in spite of the fact that it’s probably not going to be popular on our blog.

    I really don’t like the idea of a patriarchy, but so what? That’s my problem. What I’m saying is that God won’t change it just because we don’t like it.

    It seems to me that for some people the horror is that the Church might be capable of being very wrong about something. For others, the horror is that women might really not be people. It sounds to me like you’re in the former category while many of us who blog here are in the latter.

    I’m not convinced that the Church has always been “ahead of its time,” but I don’t think history progresses unilaterally so I find the vocabulary of “ahead” and “behind” wholely inadequate. The situation’s more complicated than that. There are ways in which 19th century Mormon women had more opportunities than Mormon women today, and ways in which they were more strictly subordinated.

    I too think there is probably an answer to the welter of inconsistencies not just in the Bible, but in Restoration scripture and history (including the Book of Mormon). But sometimes that answer is surely that people have been mistaken.

    One of the things I love about God in the Old Testament is that he’ll actually listen to people’s arguments and change his mind. It’s quite possible in the eternities women have as little status as the Church accords them. But I intend to at least make the case to God that his Church’s policies are very, very problematic.

  77. 77.

    Sarah H, you seem to have some odd views of what feminists want from men and relationships. I also want someone who respects me, stands up to me, and who would protect me when necessary. But I also want to find a man who I can stand up to, and who wants me to care for and protect him.

    Feminism is not trying to make it so that women are in control of relationships. It’s trying to eliminate patriarchy on a societal level. And, sure, that can make relationships and gender roles more complicated (especially when you are in a church that teaches about presiding–a patriarchal idea–within relationships). However, I want to find someone who’s secure enough with himself that he can handle the ways that masculinity is changing, and I hope he sees in me someone who’s secure enough with her own womanhood that she’s figured out what it means to her (as well as the ways she doesn’t fit gendered norms).

    I’m not insecure about my worth as a person. I have no abuse issues (my father is a wonderful man). I’m a feminist because it is part of who I am and how I view the world. Sure, it makes things more complicated and messy, but I don’t see that as a bad thing.

  78. 78.

    There’s a book you ladies should read that may help with worth issues called Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. Excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone! And for you married ladies also check out The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura.

    P.S. I might also point out that neither of these books is scriptural (nor is your statement that “God will never do anything to demean his daughters!” based either in scripture or in empirical evidence).

    /Sigh./ One day I’m going to have to write a book-length refutation of Beverly Campbell’s feel-good pseudo-Hebrew fallacious hogwash claiming Eve has an exalted status in Mormonism. But not today.

    As for _The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands_, just the title makes me want to vomit. Sorry. My view is, if you want a potted plant, you buy a potted plant.

  79. 79.

    Kiskilili, you just made me day (with #78). And I for one would love to see your refutation of Cambell’s book.

  80. 80.

    :)

  81. 81.

    It seems to me that for some people the horror is that the Church might be capable of being very wrong about something. For others, the horror is that women might really not be people. It sounds to me like you’re in the former category while many of us who blog here are in the latter.

    I’m not afraid the church is wrong, I just don’t like the idea of patriarchy. When I was a kid and my mom told me to eat my veggies because they were good for me I didn’t doubt she was right…I just didn’t like having to eat them!

    Instead of trying to fight against what is doctrinal I’ve decided to look for the reasons why it is the way it is and try to understand what appears to be inconsistencies (much of that has to do with the cultures of the people God is dealing with – God has to work with people from where they are, not where they should be).

    I was a little surprised that you said some of you fear women might not really be people. This saddens me and if I may be bold I’ll say that that is a tool of Satan. I don’t mean that condescendingly because many years ago I had the same fear. But I’ve never felt the spirit while having these thoughts. The times I’ve felt the spirit were when I’ve read about the worth of women, the equality of women and during my own prayers about the subject. To me, this is God confirming that that fear is a lie. We are SO really people. Start to look for stories and doctrine to support that and you will find it. Look for stories and doctrine to disprove it and you will find that too. It’s important to try to be as objective and rational as possible because nothing is as cut and dry as it first appears.

    Sometimes the language of scripture (in the Bible and D&C in particular) are a little difficult to take or understand as it pertains to women. But it’s important to not jump to conclusions but to find out why things are being said and in that manner. The same can be said for other writings that seem odd.

    Also, it is important to remember that God’s servants (church leaders, both general authorities and locally) are imperfect and may not be as eloquent or tactful as we would like. If there is anything that is said that disturbs us it is OK to take it to the Lord in prayer for confirmation or clarification.

    As for _The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands_, just the title makes me want to vomit. Sorry. My view is, if you want a potted plant, you buy a potted plant.

    I don’t know what you mean about a potted plant, but perhaps you’ll prefer the title to her follow-up/companion book. It’s called Woman Power.

    One day I’m going to have to write a book-length refutation of Beverly Campbell’s feel-good pseudo-Hebrew fallacious hogwash claiming Eve has an exalted status in Mormonism. But not today.

    Really? I’ve been a member my whole life and have mostly encountered respect for Eve. Do you remember the vision of our first parents that Joseph Smith had? He saw Adam and Eve in the eternities sitting side by side on their thrones. How beautiful is that? They each had a throne and they sat next to each other as equals. Joseph didn’t just see Adam – he saw them both in this glorious manner. If that doesn’t show Eve’s exalted status I don’t know what else will!

    I’m not insecure about my worth as a person. I have no abuse issues (my father is a wonderful man). I’m a feminist because it is part of who I am and how I view the world. Sure, it makes things more complicated and messy, but I don’t see that as a bad thing.

    If you have no father issues then what drives you? There is always a driving force….even if it’s something as simple as being made fun of by boys in grade school or being discriminated against because of your gender. Did you take women’s studies in school? It is an unfortunate fact that women go to college, take these women’s studies and become brainwashed with the feminist agenda. Women’s studies by definition I am in favor of – taking them in schools that have been infiltrated by special interest groups I am not.

    When the feminist movement gained in power and prominence (70s & 80s) they told women to divorce their husbands (who after all are making wives subservient), pursue their career and be equal to men. Women did that and were surprised to learn that they were not happy. I don’t think any of you would agree with what they did. However, this is consistent with current feminist ideas (& in some places is taught in colleges). Typically when I refer to the feminist movement I am thinking of the broad spectrum of that – if a Mormon woman says she is feminist I do not have any other frame of reference other than what is typically considered feminism. How is an LDS feminist different than feminists in the world? Is there anything else to it other than wanting to remove a patriarchal system? Perhaps knowing the answers to these questions would help me communicate better with all of you – as well as understand you better too! :)

  82. 82.

    Sarah, I can’t tell if you’re being intentionally insulting or if you’re just genuinely clueless. If you continue to spout off about feminism being a result of “brainwashing” or make bizarre assertions about what feminism tells women to do, you’re not trying to understand us. You’re just being nasty.

    If you genuinely want to talk, you need to drop the condescension. If you can’t or won’t, your comments will be deleted.

  83. 83.

    Thanks, Ziff. That last paragraph of post 81 is way over the top.

  84. 84.

    If you have no father issues then what drives you? There is always a driving force

    Sarah, I have to admit that I find it somewhat difficult to have a conversation with someone who instead of listening to a feminist perspective, wants to pathologize it, as if feminism were a disease and we just need to seek out its roots.

    This is far from the first time I’ve encountered the sentiment that feminism is connected to lack of self-worth or insecurity. But I find it odd, because my experience has actually been the opposite. The more I’ve come to trust in my own experience and my own voice, the more grounded I’ve felt in my feminist views, and the more important it’s become to me to challenge things that undermine women’s autonomy and personhood. I’m not a feminist because I have nagging doubts about whether women are people—on the contrary, I’m a feminist because I believe that so deeply. That’s precisely why I object to church teachings and practices which indicate otherwise.

    Really? I’ve been a member my whole life and have mostly encountered respect for Eve.

    I’d agree that we Latter-day Saints do often express gratitude and respect for Eve, but I’d argue that her position in the tradition is nonetheless deeply ambiguous. We say she made the right decision, and yet we link that decision with a curse in which women are subjugated to men—we praise her for doing the right thing and also punish her (and her female descendents). Our doctrine on that topic is tangled; I think we’ve basically thrown various ideas (the Fall was necessary and a good thing, Eve was deceived, Eve’s husband is to rule over her) into the theological pot and produced an incoherent kind of mish-mash.

    Did you take women’s studies in school? It is an unfortunate fact that women go to college, take these women’s studies and become brainwashed with the feminist agenda.

    Yes, I took one course in women’s studies. It was actually not a very impressive class; I took it at BYU, and it included too much patriarchal, women-are-so-special nonsense for my taste. So I think I can safely say I was not brainwashed by my women’s studies class. (Fortunately!)

    When the feminist movement gained in power and prominence (70s & 80s) they told women to divorce their husbands (who after all are making wives subservient), pursue their career and be equal to men. Women did that and were surprised to learn that they were not happy.

    I’m not even sure where to start with this, except to say that before critiquing feminism (or more accurately here, a caricature of feminism), it would probably be helpful to display at least a cursory knowledge of the complexities and history of the feminist movement over the past half-century.

    How is an LDS feminist different than feminists in the world? Is there anything else to it other than wanting to remove a patriarchal system?

    It’s a good question. I can only answer for myself, but I would say that for me, being an LDS feminist means that my feminist views are grounded in my LDS belief that women and men are children of heavenly parents, agents unto themselves, with inherent worth and potential. Based on that, I would challenge any doctrine or system which limits the personhood and agency of women—and yes, that includes patriarchy. In that way, yes, this is parallel to secular feminism, but for me the philosophical premise that women are full human beings is grounded not only in my experience but also in my faith; in that, I don’t know that I can ultimately separate my Mormonism and my feminism.

  85. 85.

    And to echo Ziff’s point—when non-Mormons come to a Mormon context and talk about how they used to believe in such things until they became more enlightened, or throw around terms like “brainwashed,” or put forth caricatures of Mormonism that reflect very little knowledge of actual LDS teachings, or look for something that went wrong in people’s lives that drove them to Mormonism—it usually doesn’t come across very well. Ditto for visitors discussing feminism on feminist blogs.

  86. 86.

    I have a comment for Ann who after a bunch of her own comments & counter arguments by others, finally lost patience & in (60) decided she doesn’t fit into Mormonism after all.

    About 30 years ago I was called into an interview with my Bishop. After all the usual questions he asked me: ” Do you love the Saviour”? I replied “No, not really, Bishop”. He looked a bit puzzled about how to continue so I continued for him:
    “I read all about the Saviour in the books & I can recite most of the doctrines” I said, “but it’s hard to actually feel love for someone you haven’t had much personal dealings with”. Then I added “I do what I do in the Church out of a sense of duty just like for our country, our community or our family. You should understand ‘duty’ Bishop Schmidt because you are German”. That was pretty much the end of the interview.
    Ann, it is 30 years later. I have had a few experiences since then. I want to tell you that now I love the Saviour.
    For me the most important scripture is “God is love”. Everything else comes somewhere after that in importance.
    Cheers, Max

  87. 87.

    OK, OK folks I stand duly chastised for using the term brainwashed, especially without clarification. There is the fundamentals of feminism, where and how and why it all began and I wholeheartedly agree with that! Based on the original ideas of feminism I’d say everyone should be one!

    But things have evolved and changed and there are those who say, do and preach things in the name of feminism that are not in line with the gospel. I should add that these are not LDS women. I have seen self-proclaimed feminists insist that father’s aren’t necessary, that women don’t need men, that women should be sexually promiscuous, that a woman shouldn’t have the father’s consent to abort a child (father of the child that is, not her father), that women should pursue career over family (not that they could have a career, which I agree with, but that they should have one and to put it above family), and a host of other things that I consider to be harmful to family and children (and women!) It is these ideas that are being taught and pushed that lead me to think that many are brainwashed into thinking that this is what is best for women, families and children – when we know from a gospel perspective that it isn’t.

    being an LDS feminist means that my feminist views are grounded in my LDS belief that women and men are children of heavenly parents, agents unto themselves, with inherent worth and potential. Based on that, I would challenge any doctrine or system which limits the personhood and agency of women—and yes, that includes patriarchy. In that way, yes, this is parallel to secular feminism, but for me the philosophical premise that women are full human beings is grounded not only in my experience but also in my faith; in that, I don’t know that I can ultimately separate my Mormonism and my feminism.

    Beautifully said Lynnette! I agree with everything you said with the little addition that I think patriarchy doesn’t have to limit women – especially in this day and age. It goes back to the initial idea of the thread about presiding. Patriarchy in the church isn’t (or shouldn’t) be some kind of vehicle for the oppression or limitation of women. I did like how you said you can’t separate your feminism from your Mormonism. It reminds me of what I said on another blog (perhaps on another thread on this site/blog?) that God was the first feminist.

    Ziff, I’m not trying to be nasty…but there really are different forms of feminism (I’m discovering) and perhaps we aren’t thinking of the same ones. Feminism has done some great things, but I’ve also seen it (in other forms) do bad things (personal experiences of friends) and I think it just depends on your brand of feminism. Believe it or not, my dad used to always call me a feminist, but by all of your standards I’m probably not. I think if you asked a dozen random people what the definition or implications of feminism are you’d probably get a dozen different (or variations of the same) of answers.

  88. 88.

    re: 60 & 86
    Ann, don’t let a couple of guys on a blog determine whether you have a place in Mormonism.

  89. 89.

    I appreciate your explaining a little more where you’re coming from. Referring to “a gospel perspective” on what’s best for women, I have to admit, raises some alarm bells for me, both because I don’t see a single clear gospel perspective when it comes to issues of gender, but rather a number of competing ideas–and because a number of church teachings about what’s best for women upon closer examination turn out to be teachings about what’s most convenient for men. Nonetheless, it does sound like we agree on some basic ideals. But with regard to this–

    Patriarchy in the church isn’t (or shouldn’t) be some kind of vehicle for the oppression or limitation of women.

    I do think this is where we disagree–because I would say that patriarchy inherently limits women, even if it’s the most benevolent patriarchy imaginable. This is where things get complicated for me, because as I said, I deeply believe in the personhood and equality of women, and that’s inextricably tied up with my faith. But I also have to wrestle with the fact that LDS teachings don’t unambiguously describe women as people or as equals, that patriarchy is pervasive, that there are in fact aspects of our texts and ritual that I find more than a little horrifying. While I do find grounding for my beliefs in particular LDS teachings, as well as in my personal faith and experiences, I also recognize that these beliefs are in tension with other LDS teachings and practices, and I don’t see any easy reconciliations. In the end, in staking my faith in a universe in which women are full human beings and a God who is truly no respecter of persons, I have to admit that I’m picking and choosing, given that there is plenty of evidence which doesn’t support this perspective. So I’m thinking that maybe a better way to sum up my position would be to say that I’m a feminist both because of my Mormonism, and in spite of it.

  90. 90.

    Amen, Lynette. That’s beautifully said (#89). One of my frustrations is that most of my favorite LDS feminists (including those writing at ZD) are careful to acknowledge that there are aspects of LDS theology and doctrine that inspire and inform and shape their feminism, even if there are other aspects of LDS theology and/or culture which contradict that feminism; on the other hand, many, many LDS apologists seem incapable of making that same acknowledgement. Instead they make sweeping over-generalizations (i.e., “Patriarchy in the church isn’t (or shouldn’t) be some kind of vehicle for the oppression or limitation of women,” from Sarah’s comment #87) which attempt to laud the church as perfect while refusing to recognize and acknowledge real problems. This practice leaves me very hesitant to take those apologists’ ideas seriously. I just don’t understand the commitment to accepting the church all or nothing as a good rather than recognizing it as the (deeply) flawed institution it is.

  91. 91.

    Whenever I’ve seen problems in the church (ward, bishopric or individual family) it hasn’t been because of the institution, it’s because of the people. People are flawed. Church policy is sometimes flawed (they’re always trying to improve policy), but the doctrine of the Church as set up by Christ is not.

    That’s not to say there won’t be changes. Some say they think one day Patriarchy will be removed and that women will have the Priesthood. If that day comes I’ll embrace it enthusiastically. But currently patriarchy is in place as a doctrine precisely because that is the way it should be right now. God has his reasons for it and you can either trust it or call it deeply flawed. Your choice.

    Let’s use blacks and the Priesthood as an example. They couldn’t have it, then they could. Some have a hard time with this, how could that be? How could God deny a people, etc? One possible answer is to look at the times. When blacks finally could hold the priesthood the climate/status for blacks had changed. Prior to that in our country they were first slaves then 2nd class citizens. In my opinion it would be extremely dangerous for the blacks as well as for other members of our church to give them the priesthood. We already had crazy groups like the KKK running around, you think giving blacks the priesthood would stop their murders? Murders would probably increase and discrimination might have increased and who knows what else. There are other opinions, this one happens to be mine.

    My point is that God has a reason for what he does, even if we don’t understand it at the time. And I still assert that patriarchy shouldn’t be a vehicle to oppress women. That doesn’t make me an apologist, nor am I saying the church is perfect. Amelia, aren’t you yourself making sweeping over-generalizations about folks who think like me?

  92. 92.

    I have to disagree on blacks and the priesthood/temple. Virtue has a price; the Church didn’t pay it. I can’t help but wonder why Utah was a slave territory, or why miscegenation was illegal–it seems like in Utah the Saints would have been free to behave as they wanted? I also can’t help but wonder why the Church would compromise its values in this case but not (?) in others–would the Church give up temple sealings or the law of chastity or opposition to gay marriage in order to foster good will with the host culture and avoid discrimination? The Church teaches us to stand up for what’s right and accept the consequences, and I think we should hold the Church to the same standard. I also can’t help but wonder how Church leaders were aware of God’s will on the issue of blacks but (in this interpretation) completely mistaken about God’s reasons. It seems awfully arbitrary now to parse out which parts of what they said were inspired.

    God has his reasons for it [i.e., patriarchy] and you can either trust it or call it deeply flawed. Your choice.

    My choice is to call it deeply flawed. I draw the opposite conclusion from your analogy to the ban on blacks and the priesthood/temple: I refuse to cede my ability to reason morally to an institution with a somewhat dubious track record.

  93. 93.

    Amen and amen, Kiskilili. I couldn’t agree with you more (as usual) – how should we interpret the ways that the institutional Church has, to a certain extent, aligned itself with ideological trends in popular culture? The explanation that God (or his divinely-sanctioned and led institution) would somehow bow to societal prejudices seems highly suspect

  94. 94.

    Church policy is sometimes flawed (they’re always trying to improve policy), but the doctrine of the Church as set up by Christ is not.

    I think it’s not obvious that there’s a way to know what the Church says or does that falls on the “policy” side of the line as you define it and what falls on the “doctrine” side, and therefore know what might change and what might not. Take polygamy. I think it’s pretty clear that lots of 19th century leaders were convinced that it was absolutely central to Mormonism. But whaddaya know, it changed. (Or maybe the fundamentalists are right and it didn’t and the LDS church is in apostasy.)

    But currently patriarchy is in place as a doctrine precisely because that is the way it should be right now. God has his reasons for it and you can either trust it or call it deeply flawed. Your choice.

    I also find it unreasonable to assume that the state of the Church at any given moment reflects completely the will of God, especially given how much it’s changed, and how many obvious missteps there have been. Oh sure, I know that if you decide at the beginning that there have been no mistakes, that you can rationalize anything. But I think as your rationale for the temple/priesthood bad above illustrates, it doesn’t mean the rationale will be at all convincing.

  95. 95.

    Yes, the church teaches us to stand up for what’s right but he also has to deal with people and the culture from where they are.

    When the church stopped the practice of plural marriage you could also argue that they bowed to popular culture, but the prophet received revelation that that was the right thing to do because the alternative would be to fight and in the end be forced to give it up anyway after the loss of many lives! Why would the saints in the beginning of the church have to leave any of the places where they settled (before going to Utah) instead of staying to fight the mobs? It sounds like you all believe God only works in one way based on our current enlightenment and ways of thinking. But God deals with with whole nations – a whole planet – worth of people with vastly different ideas, beliefs, tolerances and theology. And some of them get down right nasty (witch trials/burnings, KKK, stonings, beheadings).

    Why didn’t God restore the church earlier? He had to prepare us for it! He had to create a free country where it was possible. Why wasn’t smoking against the word of wisdom at first? He didn’t want to condemn the people who were struggling giving it up…the idea that it was bad was new! After a time it was part of the Word of Wisdom. He had to prepare the people to give it up, to change.

    I think God tells us to stand up and fight for what’s right but if/when there are cases where we are told to wait or to fight in a less confrontational way then there are reasons for that too. God is the only one who can see the big picture.

  96. 96.

    God is the only one who can see the big picture.

    Well, and you, apparently, since you have a ready explanation of why God did or didn’t allow this or that or the other thing.

    I find it far simpler to simply attribute obvious mistakes like denying blacks access to the temple to flawed men running the Church. Really, it strikes me as kind of blasphemous to insist they originated with God.

  97. 97.

    I never said my explanations were right, only one possibility. Geesh.

  98. 98.

    (Hi galdralag! Always good to see you here. :))

    Sarah, for the sake of clarification, what feminism generally means on our site, in a Mormon context, is the questioning of all patriarchal and androcentric norms in the Mormon Church. Maybe that helps?

    I suspect our difference of opinion is one that fundamentally can’t be resolved. You’re not averse to thinking the Church is wrong (“I’m not afraid the church is wrong” (#81)), you admit you’re not fond of patriarchy (“I really don’t like the idea of a patriarchy” (#74), and you admit you don’t necessarily know the justification for practices you find disturbing, in saying in your most recent comment that your explanations are “possible,” not necessarily “right.”

    To my mind this is a recipe for concluding the Church is in the wrong–it looks wrong, we don’t have the justification for its behavior, and it’s been wrong before.

    But, to oversimplify, I think to some degree it comes down to whether we privilege obedience to authority (God and the Church have their reasons and we should submit whether we understand or not) or conscience (we should refuse to accede to values we find morally problematic). That’s the difference of opinion I think can’t be reconciled–you can appeal to authority to support obedience to authority, and we can appeal to conscience to support conscience.

  99. 99.

    […] Vada discusses “How Presiding Works in My Marriage.” She explains “sometimes a decision has to be made even if we don’t agree on what the […]

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