Monday, October 27, 2008

Fathers Are to Preside

"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." ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World")

We tend to apply these statements to our narrow view of our own world - or at least our Mormon world. Remember, this is a proclamation “to the world” - not narrowly to the Church.

Why would the FP & Q12 phrase it in this way in a message “to the world”? Frankly, I see why all around me - both in our relatively stable town and in my work over the last 10 years focused on the "economically underprivileged" and "educationally at-risk". My children have friends who spend hours (sometimes literally days and months) at our house specifically because their fathers (both biological and non-biological) don’t provide and protect. The inner-cities are imploding and exploding across America, and one foundation reason is that fathers have abdicated their responsibility to provide and protect.

Given the state of the family all around me, I don’t read this as anything other than a reprimand and challenge to the men of the world to take responsibility for their actions and serve their families in righteousness (preside). The world needs it so badly, and the young men of the world need it even more.

53 comments:

Howard said...

We lack a concise definition of preside but we can get a pretty good idea of what it means from the scriptures. (See D&C 28:10, D&C 90:13 & 16, D&C 102:9-10, D&C 103:35, Alma 6:1, D&C 107 uses preside twelve times beginning in verse 60, D&C 124 uses preside five times beginning in verse 136.)

Preside over the conference…voice of it. Preside over the affairs of the church and the school. Preside in council. Preside over the council. Preside in the midst of my people, and organize my kingdom. Priests and elders ordained to preside and watch over the church.

Clearly presiding is more than ceremonial and more than serving. Presiding is leading our families in righteousness.

DAD said...

One who presides, is one who is responsible for the outcome.

SilverRain said...

I think it is easy to focus on "preside" and forget "in righteousness". I am one who would welcome more righteous presiding from men. It is easy for me to shirk responsibility because they are not so physically tied to their families as mothers are. Yet, I think mothers also neglect to nurture their children.

The proclamation is about overcoming selfishness and growing up, in my opinion.

RoAnn said...

Great post and comments!

“Presiding” has mostly positive connotations for me, probably because I have been fortunate in my personal experiences with a father, a husband, and many LDS Church leaders who were doing their best to preside “in righteousness.”

I agree that the Proclamation is directed at the entire world, not just LDS. When I read SilverRain’s comment, I immediately remembered something my husband read about in a newspaper article while on a business trip in Europe more than twenty years ago.

The article was about a speech given by the Finnish Prime Minister in which he expressed concern for the future of his country because women already comprised more than 50% of college graduates, and more than 60% of government workers.

He said that increasingly men were choosing to devote themselves to sports and leisure. As SilverRain so aptly phrased it, "The proclamation is about overcoming selfishness and growing up."

Howard said...

Patriarchal order enables worthy men to preside over their posterity.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks Q12: The government of the family is patriarchal, whereas the government of the Church is hierarchical.

Elder Boyd K. Packer Q12: The patriarchal order is not a third, separate priesthood. Whatever relates to the patriarchal order is embraced in the Melchizedek Priesthood. The patriarchal order is a part of the Melchizedek Priesthood which enables endowed and worthy men to preside over their posterity in time and eternity.

Anonymous said...

For many women,much of the time I think the problem lies in the irony of the situation-this would simply not be an issue for women if we saw it as a matter of course.We envy those women for whom it is not a problem because it is not an issue,those women who have had beautiful men to bless their lives.So Howard,if only... In the absence of such wonderful men .we are left with Dorothy Parker's statement 'Every woman marries beneath her'.

Howard said...

Anon,
So ignore him and go around him? Eternity is a long time, maybe it would be better help him grow into the role.

Christy said...

When I first came back to church, I received personal revelation to treat my husband as if he held the priesthood. Certainly not by asking him to perform tasks that absolutely require the priesthood, but he DOES preside over our home. He does not give our children a father's blessing, but he does pray for them, asking for the blessings he feels they need. This IS a call to the world - to treat our families according to God's plan, and it can be done. I am so grateful for this church that teaches true principles that bring lasting happiness and personal growth.

Papa D said...

I have been away for the day, so -

Howard, I agree with the women who have posted here. Those who don't have to think much about it because they have had and/or have righteous presiders in their lives are blessed. Those who have not and don't really struggle to understand, beacuse it has never been modeled in their lives.

Summary:

If a woman does not understand what "preside" is supposed to mean, generally it is the fault of the man or men in her life. That isn't always true, of course, but I believe it hold true generally.

Mama D said...

I am one of those women blessed to have men who know how to preside in her life. That doesn't mean these men are perfect, but they do take their responsibility to provide and protect seriously and meaningfully. They use the priesthood to bless and lift others.

Silverrain, you said it perfectly: The Proclamation is all about overcoming selfishness and growing up.

Christy, what a wonderful way to respect your husband!

SilverRain said...

I think even women who have not had the best examples of righteous presiding can turn to the scriptures and to modern revelation to learn in theory, if not in application. A woman does not need the examples of men in her life to teach her how righteous (and right) the priesthood power should be or to understand the concept.

A woman (or man) learns more about righteous presiding by becoming a true disciple of Jesus than by any other means I know. As you devote your life to Him, the Spirit teaches you about Him. The more you learn about Him, the more you learn about righteous leadership and the less it matters to you who leads, so long as it is done in righteousness. It no longer becomes a matter of dominance, but a matter of eternal love. It isn't something that can be communicated through words, but that does not make it any less real.

Also, as you learn about how God's power is wielded, you paradoxically become more patient with those who wield it improperly through negligence or ignorance. It still hurts, but it becomes easier to forgive.

Papa D said...

Well said, SilverRain. Very well said.

Phouchg said...

This perpetuates the sexism in Mormon culture. I don't "preside" over my wife...we are co-presidents in our household. I am not first among equals or 50.1% of the vote. While we have different strengths and weaknesses, we manage our affairs together and make decisions together. It is not my place to "preside" or rule in my household.

Papa D said...

Phouchg, Please read the actual post before you comment here. What you describe in your comment is what I describe in my post.

I've read enough of your comments elsewhere to know your perspective. As my comment policy says, I will never delete a comment simply because I disagree with it. I will delete, however, all comments that are nothing more than generic blasts at the Mormon Church - especially ones like this one that appear to have been left without reading the actual post.

If you want to comment here, I welcome your comments. Simply comment thoughtfully and on topic - and, again, read the actual posts.

Papa D said...

Btw, in case there is any question, I was referencing "serve their families in righteousness" in the original post. Nothing in the post even implies control or final say or compulsion or 50.1% of the vote. Nothing.

I will post more detail in a couple of days, just to make it even clearer.

Anonymous said...

I love you Laura

Howard said...

Well said, again SR.

NorthernAl said...

Boys and men are falling behind in education and this is starting to effect the ability of men to provide for their families. For a description of this trend see this article:

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=102408A

It is easy to berate men and boys for their failings but it might be more productive to think about why the educational system is not working for so many of them.

Papa D said...

NorthernAl, I agree with that completely. Our society really is failing boys and men. I spent about 10 of the last 12 years working in education, trying to make a difference in the neighborhoods I described in my post. That is why it is so near and dear and personal to me.

Thanks for commenting. You are welcome here any time.

Anonymous said...

I have been excited and inspired by the beautiful examples of priesthood leadership posted on this site of late ,and have shared them with my family.As first generation mormons this way of being in the world is new to us,and we lack strong men in our lives-we frequently find ourselves 'unequally yoked'We are frequently left waiting for our brethren to take the initiative,and sometimes we lose patience,which is always counter productive.Sometimes I think that for us 'presiding'sets up expectations that can only be dissappointed,and I see many marriages foundering as a consequnce.Our menfolk are just not brought up to play an active role at home and for many church service even has become and excuse to disengage-a substitute for the pub.I'm hoping that this is generational,and that we can grow to do better.Meanwhile,our brethren live with expectations that they are not trained culturally to fulfill,and this leaves a lot of women angry and embittered after many years of waiting for some initiative within the home.I wonder how this can change,as many men then become resentful and defensive,making change even more difficult.The world would surely be a different place with more of the men that you describe.

Howard said...

Boys need a good male role model, they are being raised in a society that devalues fathers and generally considers them optional.

Elder L. Tom Perry calls fatherhood an eternal calling, cautions us regarding Satan’s efforts to diminish role of fathers and defines the role for us:

The father is the head in his family, a teacher and the temporal provider. 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. You give father’s blessings. You take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline. As a leader in your home you plan and sacrifice to achieve the blessing of a unified and happy family. To do all of this requires that you live a family-centered life. Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. The man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.

adam said...

Other than perhaps formal father's blessings, I don't see anything in Elder Perry's quote that mothers should not be doing equally.

Anonymous said...

I see your point Adam,I sometimes wonder if all this presiding stuff is purely honorary.Yet I see in Elder Perry's statement an affirmation that this is men's work,and in that an effort to establish balance perhaps in these days when fecklessness is aspirational.I don't know a woman who does not want those things from her husband,and their absence is,as has been observed,terribly damaging.

Papa D said...

Adam, thanks for that quote. It is a great one.

Anonymous, you are correct that this is a standard that is hard specifically because it is "peculiar". I believe most of the misperceptions out there are a result of exactly what you describe - the difficulty of internalizing something new and, unfortunately, the lack of proper modeling within many wards and branches in the Church. I LOVE the growth that is possible in our structure, but it also can be our biggest challenge.

Papa D said...

To follow up on the last comment by Anonymous, it is a great irony that once presiding is learned it becomes almost invisible.

adam said...

I expect most of those things from my wife as well.

The only almost-satisfactory interpretation I have found of the whole preside issue (e.g. 'taking the lead in FHE etc.') is that it that God has placed the responsibility of making sure these things happen ultimately on the father, and that of nurturing, for example, on the mother. Now, how those responsibilities actually get carried out may differ (i.e. a mother may work and take charge at the dinner table etc., and a father may stay at home).

As for fathers and husbands shirking responsibility, I agree. We have a dismal track record.

adam said...

Parsing Howard's quote of E. Perry a little, adding my views:

"The father is the head in his family, a teacher and the temporal provider."

Because the husband and wife are coequals, the mother is also part of the head in the family. The mother is also a teacher. She may or may not be providing $, but she surely provides temporal support.

"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."

Fathers AND mothers lead in worship. As for the dinner table, I'm assuming he means calling on someone to pray. In my house we have decided together that that means we will always have volunteers. We make decisions together for FHE. We both see that our child is taught correct principles, and we both give direction related to family life.

You take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline.

Agreed.

As a leader in your home you plan and sacrifice to achieve the blessing of a unified and happy family. To do all of this requires that you live a family-centered life.

Agreed. Many fathers shirk their responsibilities.

Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion. The man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.

To me, "coequal" means (among many things) "co-lead"

adam said...

I think what I am trying to get at is while I definitely see the need to rebuke many husbands (including myself at times), to call them to task, I don't understand how a father can be "the" leader while husband and wife are co-equals.

It's really not a huge deal to me though, as things are working out well for my family. Just something that is talked about often in GenCon and elsewhere and I don't see the point of the wordage. I do see the point of husbands needing to step up!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we are moving towards a definition of presiding by example?

adam said...

Anon--that I can agree on!

Also, if my wife is presiding, and I am not, that is a big problem.

I believe in Co-Presiding.

Howard said...

Adam; To me, "coequal" means (among many things) "co-lead" I believe in Co-Presiding.

Sure, we have our agency, we can decide how we want to organize our families. But the proclamation signed by the FP clearly and strongly states; By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness... Co-presiding is not mentioned.

Papa D said...

I typed "adam" when I meant to type "howard" in thanking him for the quote. Sorry, Howard.

adam said...

You're absolutely right Howard, and I don't disagree. I have just always been confused on the meanings. If a father is to preside, but a mother is a co-equal in all the decisions, then what does presiding involve that a mother shouldn't do?

Papa D said...

Howard, it also says that "in these sacred responsibilities husbands and wives are to work together as equal partners" - or similar wording. (I don't have the document in front of me right now and can't look it up.)

To me it's semantics, as long as the husband is not abdicating responsibility for his family and is walking side-by-side with his wife - as stated at the end of the Perry quote.

Howard said...

The proclamation went out of it's way to point out that is by divine design that fathers are to preside over. Presiding is not ceremonial, according to Merriam-Webster preside over means; to exercise authority or power over. So by divine design fathers are to exercise authority or power over their families in love and righteousness.

It is silent with respect to mothers presiding but points out that fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

adam said...

How does a father preside over his wife and still be an equal partner? What does it look like practically speaking?

Howard said...

Everything is equal except leadership and authority. When it is done well it is nearly transparent.

adam said...

So what does "leadership and authority" over one's wife look like, practically speaking? Does it suggest that if the husband believes he is right, and his wife has a different opinion, that ultimately he has the authority to make a decision?

I'm still trying to understand here, sincerely.

Howard said...

When father and mother agree or when mother agrees to follow father's righteous lead, life simply goes on. When they disagree or when they desire divine guidance, the father leads them in asking for the God's advice.

adam said...

So, it's my responsibility to make sure we are going to God for inspiration when we need it, to make sure we pray together, to make sure we have FHE, etc. And although my wife can and often will do those things just as well as I, I am held accountable. Correct?

Howard said...

Sure, you can delegate, but I think it is more than just who will be held accountable. God is recommending that we organize and operate our families around these gender specific principals. I see that you are a therapist so I will speculate a bit, have you noticed that women seem to be at peace when they know everything is being taken care of? Wouldn't a woman at peace make a better nurturer?

adam said...

"have you noticed that women seem to be at peace when they know everything is being taken care of?"

I can't speak for women in general, but I know that my wife for one is more safety/security sensitive than I am. So yes, in my family I can see me taking charge in some things possibly being refreshing for her.

"Wouldn't a woman at peace make a better nurturer?"

While often the mother is the primary attachment figure (with hopefully the father being #2!), I think that many men can nurture just as well as many women, and vice versa--hence the need for adapting to individual circumstances as the Proclamation also specifically points out. Some fathers are better nurturers than their wives, and I think they should be at home. I have no idea about percentages or anything accurate though.

adam said...

From a more clinical/family therapy perspective, roles are VERY important, but the must be flexible as needed. Families suffer without roles, but the suffer with roles that are rigid as well.

adam said...

Apparently I can't seem put a 'y' on the end of my words. :)

Howard said...

If it turned out that women were generally more safety/security sensitive than men, wouldn't this be a strong reason to generally recommend women for the nurturing role?

Papa D said...

I love the fact that the PttW lays out "primary" roles but explicitly allows for individual adaptation. The key, I believe, is the achievement of equality - of walking side-by-side, not ahead and behind - or truly becoming one.

Btw, thank you for the stimulating and very civil conversation. I love that.

Howard said...

The point is (regardless of politically correct thinking) there are gender differences significant enough for God to use them to define our roles. Beyond that, I agree with Papa D, the PttW allows for individual exceptions.

Kiskilili said...

I agree that fathers are important and that the Church should be commended for the work it does in convincing fathers to be active and present in their families.

Where I think this reading falls apart, though--that presiding means "serving families in righteousness"--is the specific allocation of these responsibilities to the father (according to Elder Oaks, the mother presides *when the father is absent*). The implication is that women are NOT supposed to "take responsibility for their actions and serve their families in righteousness" because they're not supposed to preside. By divine design--a pretty weighty phrase--this assignment is gendered. Whatever we decide presiding entails, it's the province of men.

But why wouldn't women be asked to serve their families?

Our various reinterpretations of gendered language in the Church to make the ostensible inequalities more palatable leave us doing exactly what we say we despise in the "world"--blurring the lines between men's and women's identities.

Papa D said...

kiskilili, I agree that we can blur the lines between the sexes if we aren't careful, but I just don't think those lines are as clear in the Proclamation as most people think when the entire document is parsed carefully - at least as absolutes. There is very clear and distinct wiggle room allowed in that document, and I think most people simply miss it because of things that have been said and taught in the past.

(Frankly, I think "most" includes nearly all of us, including even individual apostles.)

Kiskilili said...

Heh--well, I'm not *personally* so concerned about blurring gender roles myself, but I consider it ironic that we're taking the Church's most current codification of those roles and using it specifically to subvert gender roles.

Observe that the last visiting teaching message was titled "Gender Is an Essential Characteristic of Eternal Identity and Purpose." Unfortunately, the article seems utterly befuddled as to what gender *entails*. This is where I think we end up when we exploit the passage in the FamProc allowing for individual adaptation and construe it as meaning everyone should do what makes sense to them in their own marriages (i.e. there are no universal gender roles): we know gender is incredibly important and we need to make sure we adhere to our God-given gender identities. But oddly we don't have a clue what those different roles are.

Kinda bizarre, huh? :)

Papa D said...

Sorry for the long quote, but:

"This is where I think we end up when we exploit the passage in the FamProc allowing for individual adaptation and construe it as meaning everyone should do what makes sense to them in their own marriages (i.e. there are no universal gender roles)."

I know this is very hard to understand, but that's not what I am saying. All I'm saying is that the Church seems to recognize that there is a difference between "primary" and "universal". While there are valid generalities that should be made, especially in a proclamation "to the world" (where living those generalities is a huge step up for many), once the ideal is approached those generalities become true generalities.

That is the distinction I am making, and it's hard to see when someone is involved in the ideal - or something close to it.

Doug Towers said...

I am left a bit lost on these definitions of presiding. There is talk of responsibility. Yet women are also responsible for what they do in the family. Responsibility demands power. You can't be responsible without having some ability to make something happen. So by your definition how does a man have more power to make things happen in the family than the woman, with 50-50 decisions?

The Scriptures set forth that the woman is subject to her husband as the Church is to Christ (Eph 5:2, Col 3:18). They also set forth, as you present, that the man must love his wife in his decisions. But the authority is given to men. God doesn't present some 50-50 government in the home, any more than he does in the church, where a bishop presides. Does the bishop have some 50-50 government on who gets callings? He asks for advice and listens to the counsel. But in the end it is 100% his presiding decision.

This doesn't mean that I support dictatorships, as a woman must support her husband's position voluntarily. And a man must listen very carefully to his wife as an adviser. A man must respect the position he has been given, and make Christ centred decisions by revelation. He must not abuse his right. But God lays down that the man must take the final responsibility to make the decision, whether this concept suits popular philosophy or not.

Papa D said...

Doug, I understand what you are saying - and probably would agree without the Proclamation to the World. When I read that declaration, however, I get the message that "preside" now means something different than it has in the past - and I'm fine with that, since continuing revelation does that all the time to many of our perspectives.

I really believe that the Proclamation fundamentally changes the discussion of presiding **in the home** - making that definition of "preside" different than the definition of "preside" that a Bishop does. Again, I am fine with that, since we have multiple meanings for nearly all of our words in English - **depending on the context**. When the Proclamation says that a man and wife are to be "equal partners", I take that to mean exactly that - and I see it as an explicit change from the past.

I understand former statements (and even contemporary ones from individuals); I just don't give them the same weight as the signed statement of the united apostles and prophets.