Actually, there are three kinds of presiding. At least. The Chicken Patriarch may have crossed the road to get to his other preside, but his wife occupies yet a third space vis-a-vis this most vexed of terms. Or so it would appear from the model laid out by Elder Oaks.
There’s a lot of blurring of boundaries in this talk; in spite of the purported attempt to demarcate differences, it’s often unclear what’s being discussed (priesthood? authority? partnership?). Elder Oaks makes an effort to disambiguate domestic presiding from its ecclesiastical cousin, but there’s evidence throughout of semantic leak from either side. For example, the hierarchical structure of the Church is now designated a “partnership,” borrowing the language of the home (“the concept of partnership functions differently in the family than in the church”). One is not an instance of presiding where the other is a partnership; both seemingly involve both presiding and partnership.
Further, in the section contrasting the hierarchy of Church governance with the non-hierarchy of the home (designated by him, in a creative comandeering of the language, “patriarchy”), he insists priesthood authority in the home be exercised by invitation, not domination (citing D&C 121:41-42). In context, this is an illustration of the non-hierarchy in the home, the supposed thesis of this section of the talk: “When priesthood authority is exercised in that way [following D&C 121:41-42] in the patriarchal family, we achieve the ‘full partnership’ President Kimball taught.” But then, as if in afterthought, he avers that this is even more the case of the exercise of authority ecclesiastically. (“These principles [taught in D&C 121] . . . are especially necessary in the hierarchal organization of the Church.”) So why is it not, here too, an illustration of a lack of hierarchy?
(The lack of coherence in this section of Elder Oaks’ address seems to result from a rhetorical artifice whereby he contrasts abuse and oppression with gospel-centered patriarchy. The implicit point is that the latter is acceptable—good, even—because it’s specifically not abuse. The trouble is that this secondary contrast does not map well onto his primary contrast between hierarchy in the Church and (not?) in the home—surely he does not mean to imply abuse characterizes Church structure! The result is that he changes key abruptly in the cadence, seemingly neutralizing the very point he’s supposedly illustrating—that presiding in the home is different from presiding in the Church. In point of fact, they seem to be the same.)
The waters are muddy. But piecing together indications given throughout the talk, I think we can schematize Elder Oaks’ model of presiding as follows:
exercise of priesthood superordinate status
Men in the Church: x x
Men at home: x o
Women at home: o x
Observe that when women preside in the home, unlike men (?), they are in charge: “When my father died, my mother presided over our family. She had no priesthood office, but as the surviving parent in her marriage she had become the governing officer in her family.” Here “presiding” is equated to “governing officer.”
My question is: Why can’t both husbands and wives preside together in the home? The term has mutually exclusive application for each of them. From this talk it appears the wife should be the presiding authority and the husband the equal partner.
- 3 December 2010