Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Presiding: An Evolution of Definition

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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In THESE sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. (Emphasis added) Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

In this paragraph, I 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. I am fine with that, since we have multiple meanings for nearly all of our words in English - depending on the context. If we can have multiple meanings of many words, why can't that be valid for this word? When the Proclamation says that a man and wife are to be "equal partners", working together in their primary roles, 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 individual leaders); I just don't give them the same weight as the signed statement of our modern, combined Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency.

I take final responsibility for what my wife and I decide, but I NEVER play the "I preside, so this is how it is" card. It never crosses my mind - mostly because I like breathing and the attendant joys of true marital unity. (*grin*)

For example, when I say I take final responsibility, I simply mean that I am the one who usually says to our children, "Your mother and I have reached this decision, so I don't want to hear you whining about it, anymore, especially to her." They know that when WE reach the decision and I tell it to them (generally with Mama right next to me - and sometimes coming from her if I am not there to be with her), it is final - since we have spoken as one. If either of us has spoken independently, it isn't a final decision - even though they are expected to do what either of us says independently until we talk about it and address it together if they have a concern about what one of us has said. When we speak as one, it is final.

So, I "preside" - but it has no strength or power or efficacy without Mama's equal participation and partnership. It is very much a title of responsibility with little or no practical meaning in isolation. In other words, my presiding is a sub-set and function of our equality - something that is granted freely by my wife's participation and "help" every bit as much as it is a divine investiture - and that is of critical importance to me. We truly are equals, and my presiding doesn't change that one single bit.

48 comments:

Howard said...

The proclamation was published in 1995. In 2004 Elder L. Tom Perry called fatherhood an eternal calling and went on to say: Once a family has been established, the father’s roles include the following: 1. The father is the head in his family.

Then he quoted a 1973 Q12 pamphlet called Father, Consider Your Ways: 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.

Anonymous said...

So Papa D,are we saying that Fathers preside by example?I think that's a definition that squares the circle for me.We are all so different,aren't we?It's just never been an issue in our home as by and large we want the same things,and if we dissagree about how we achieve them then it pretty much has to be hashed out until we get agreement-at no point has either 'outruled' the other.No-one has the final say,as there is no final say.We have to adapt to changing realities in our family,and no-one gets the control over circumstances that they would like to have come the crunch.
I think the church's purpose in all this is to get feckless men to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their families,according to the capacity of the weakest.Sisters can and do do it for themselves but both they and their children pay a price.I think the proclamation asserts this without denigrating what women can do.It simly sets out best practise and for those of us who have been merrily paddling our own canoes it has been validating,and to others I hope it will be liberating.

Christy said...

So your the "messenger"? I like that! I am a woman of "modern times" and I am not offended by the statements made by the general authorities. I believe that to lead is to lead by example. I also believe that if any husband forces his will on his family, he has missed the point completely. Finally, exactly how one leads in a family is going to depend upon the dynamics of both the wife and the husband, and as long as neither is shirking his/her duties, and as long as they are united, then their way is the right way, for them.

Papa D said...

Howard, I just don't see any contradiction in what Elder Perry says and what I am saying. It is the father's responsiblity to ensure that he and his wife are one - to lead in the attainment of that goal, if you will. Once true unity is achieved, "presiding" almost becomes moot. The responsiblity is still there, but it is latent in most practical ways.

Howard said...

Papa D,
The proclamation and Elder Perry agree, the father leads the family. There is NO indication by either that the father and mother co-lead the family.

You believe that the proclamation makes a fundamental change in this area, Elder Perry does not and in fact states; It has always been so; it always will be so.

Howard said...

As I commented in Papa D's last post, Elder Oaks says; The government of the family is patriarchal. Elder Packer explains; 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.

Joseph Smith: And I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of Latter-day Saints honoring and sustaining in truth and in deed the authority of the Holy Priesthood which is called to preside… Now, while the commandments of God are to all the world, there are some special commandments that are applicable to the Latter-day Saints only. What are they? One of these commandments is, that we shall honor those who preside over us; in other words, we shall honor the Priesthood.

Men are to lead their families in love and righteousness. Their families are to honor their authority in truth and deed.

Joe said...

I think you explained that very well. I'm also grateful for the link to "The Family: A Proclomation to the World". I never had the chance to read that before. Thanks Ray.

Papa D said...

Howard, After all our discussions about this topic, it is apparent that we simply word (and perhaps see) things differently. That's fine.

Anonymous said...

Howard,would it be possible for you to clarify , as I'm just at a loss to know what this manner of relating looks like on the ground.

Papa D said...

"The proclamation and Elder Perry agree, the father leads the family. There is NO indication by either that the father and mother co-lead the family."

My point, Howard, is that I disagree with this statement. I think the co-lead meaning is obvious in both the Proclamation and the Perry quote you posted on the last thread. As I have said previously, I preside in our home, but that does absolutely nothing to put me above my wife in any way. I think that message has been stated over and over and over and over again since the Proclamation was published. Pres. Hinckley, especially, was adamant that the husband is neither better nor higher than the wife.

The only way for that to be true is if the meaning of preside "in the home" is different now than it was in our past - and I see that change in too many statements to try to list here. If you asked every apostle the direct question, "**In the ideal marriage**, are a husband and wife equal, and do they share the responsibility of making every important decision together - and does that mean that sometimes the husband will have to compromise what he wants to accept what his wife wants," I am positive each and every one of them would answer, "Yes." That, I think, is the difference between our views - and, if so, those views right now are irreconcilable.

We have hashed this out in multiple threads, and I respect your view - especially because I believe in your case it does not cause abuse. However, I know it does in far too many marriages, which I believe is why the Brethren have taken such pains to articulate a different meaning of "preside" over the last few years. Perhaps I am wrong, but neither of us is going to change the other's mind at this point - so let's agree again to let it go.

(If there is a different aspect that we have not discussed, I would love to explore it, but the central issue has been exhausted, methinks.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Papa D-I think there is a third way.We kick it around until we can want the same thing.It takes time and is inefficient,but it works for us.I think if we are working for the same goals,it's possible,although challenging.I think this is what I signed up for

Papa D said...

Actually, anonymous, you just said much more concisely what I have been trying to say. There may be a "presider", but that does not mean he is the "decider". His major responsibility is to ensure that a decision is reached, but the highest form of that in practice is ensuring that the decision reached is unanimous and not contrary to the will of God.

There often are mulitple options that would not be contrary to the will of God, so being able to reach an acceptable consensus through personal or combined compromise often is the truest form of "presiding".

Thank you for your wording. I really like it.

Anonymous said...

In our marriage, we are both responsible for our decisions. We try to operate under the principle of "common consent." My wife and I have decided, implicitly, that as "father", I gather the family for family prayer and family home evening and family dinner, and I select the person to offer the prayers for family prayer and dinner. I also usually "appoint" the person whose turn it is to conduct family home evening (we have an unwritten schedule) and that person, in turn, selects the the individual who conducts.

I am not sure in what other way my role, as distinct from my wife's, might be considered "presiding." However a couple divides up the duties, though, I think it needs to be done by common consent (true and complete common consent, not the ratificatory version of common consent that has developed in the Church).

Anonymous said...

comment 13, just posted, was mine. DavidH

Papa D said...

David H, for what it's worth, I share your frustration with the nearly thoughtless sustaining motion that has developed in the Church. Whenever I am announcing a calling and asking for a sustaining vote, I always make it a point to look obviously around the chapel and also behind me to those on the stand - just to make it clear that I am taking the process seriously and really looking.

Howard said...

Papa D,
The Lord and the First Presidency crafted a very powerful statement; By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness. Why would they eviscerate it with a single word buried in the next sentence?

These must refer to providing the necessities of life, protection and nurturing.

President Boyd K. Packer explained it this way in 1998: In the home it is a partnership with husband and wife equally yoked together, sharing in decisions, always working together. While the husband, the father, has responsibility to provide worthy and inspired leadership, his wife is neither behind him nor ahead of him but at his side.

Anon,
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.

Papa D said...

Howard, I honestly don't see where we disagree. I would use Elder Packer's quote to reinforce what I am saying in a heartbeat. As I said, I think we just are wording things differently.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Howard,'the father leads in asking for the God's advice'.I like that action of reponsibilty,it sounds kind,and I can really use that .Maybe your'e one of those guys who sounds grumpy but is really a sweety?My guy's like that sometimes and I remind him that not everyone knows him as well as we do.I think it serves him well in a stressful workplace.

Anonymous said...

But then again...what happens when father decides to follow mother's righteous lead?Or when we both,or even,all,decide to follow each other's righteous lead?
I think I like that too.

Howard said...

Papa D,
Great, we agree on the 2nd Packer quote! Do we agree on the 1st Packer as well? 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.

Anon,
Do I sound grumpy? Strange, mostly I’ve been quoting GAs.

Sure, we have agency, we can even follow the babysitter’s advice if we choose but God is explaining that patriarchal order is the best way for most couples to organize their families.

Papa D said...

anon, Sometimes in the desire to define specific terms, we forget the overarching ideal - unity in following God. Where there is that type of true unity, I'm not going to stress over the specifics of the arrangement - since the fruits of that unity are delicious.

Anonymous said...

Dear Papa D,they surely are.

Mama D said...

Howard and Papa, I believe you are more in agreement than you realize. You're talking past each other, both meaning pretty much the same thing. The biggest difference I see is that Howard is emphasizing the "preside" aspect and Papa is emphasizing the "obligated to help one another as equal partners as father presides" - while BOTH aspects are reiterated (and stated clearly, IMO) in the FamProc and every quote used in these threads.

Mama D said...

Just to make it explicitly clear on these threads: As the wife/mother in this home, Papa unequivocably is a worthy presider. He presides in love. He provides for and protects his family. I primarily nurture our children. We work together to fulfill these responsibilities. We are equal partners. We support each other in our divine roles with love and respect. We believe the FamProc is divinely inspired.

Some of you may have issues with semantics in these discussions, but when it comes to putting the doctrine into practice, Papa is amazing!! Our kids would agree.

Mama D said...

One more thing, which I wasn't sure I'd post...

Howard said "The Lord and the First Presidency crafted a very powerful statement; By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness. Why would they eviscerate it with a single word buried in the next sentence?
THESE must refer to providing the necessities of life, protection and nurturing."

Actually, "these" is NOT in the very next sentence. The next sentence talks about mothers' primary responsibility for the nurture of their children. Only then does it talk about "these sacred responsibilities."

I believe it is clear that preside, provide, protect, and nurture are ALL included (or *intended* to be included) when the Lord inspired the First Presidency to say "in THESE sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."

I absolutely do not see that including *mothers being responsible for the nurture of their children* with *fathers presiding in love and righteousness, providing the necessities of life, and protecting their families* as they "help one another as equal partners" to be undermining the father's right / ability to preside or as "eviscerating" God's divine plan for His children.

I think that Howard is giving the pre-eminent position to presiding alone. But I read this as one continuous, flowing sentence - it IS one sentence without ANY punctuation. I believe they (preside, provide, protect) are so intertwined one cannot separate out the individual parts. It is vital that these divine responsibilities are viewed as the unified and essential responsibilities I believe HF and the FP intended in the FamProc.

Thora said...

This comment is totally just my thoughts on the matter and not following the comment discussion:


My husband jokes that usually this statement only comes up between us when I say, "You preside. You get to decide (a decision that neither of us are sure on, and neither wants to make a decision) or you get to make the phone call, you get to be the disciplinarian."

If anything I think that Avram inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) groans/sighs when he hears me bringing up the "you preside" card.(Although he is good at presiding. We also joke (like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, although I thought it up on my own) that in a family Men are the head of the family - but women are the neck. They tell the head which way to turn. I don't actually force Avram to do one thing or the either, but neither does he force me. I've also never seen the bishop, who presides over a ward, stand up and ever force something in a sacrament meeting.

I think as far as men being called over to preside over families that D&C 121:41 gives the best description of what this means. "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood [ie being a man/father with the priesthood], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness and by love unfeigned." It goes on for a couple more verses, but I think this shows the essential of what it means to preside, and also why fathers are called to do so.

In a very long-winded way, I guess I just commented to say that I liked your post, and agree with you. The End.

Papa D said...

Thank you, Thora, for that thoughtful comment. Feel free to contribute anytime.

Howard said...

Mama D: I believe it is clear that preside, provide, protect, and nurture are ALL included…in THESE sacred responsibilities.

While we seem to be coming closer together, this is where we disagree. Kiskilili said it well in Papa D’s prior post: By divine design--a pretty weighty phrase--this assignment is gendered. Whatever we decide presiding entails, it's the province of men.

Howard said...

Mama D,
President Joseph F. Smith explains: “In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father…This patriarchal order has its divine spirit and purpose, and those who disregard it under one pretext or another are out of harmony with the spirit of God’s laws as they are ordained for recognition in the home. It is not merely a question of who is perhaps the best qualified. Neither is it wholly a question of who is living the most worthy life. It is a question largely of law and order, and its importance is seen often from the fact that the authority remains and is respected long after a man is really unworthy to exercise it.”

Papa D said...

Howard, three things:

1) In the context of this post, it is hard to site a quote from that far back as relevant, unless you are saying that the way we use and assign meaning to words never changes in the Church. I think that's a very difficult argument to make.

2) I still don't see anything in that particular quote that would contradict anything I actually have said - since I have NEVER said that men should not preside.

3) I see no conflict between "the authority remains and is respected long after a man is really unworthy to exercise it" and there being NO power in presiding unrighteously. ("No power or influence . . .") Hence, there is a HUGE difference, imo, between having the "right to preside" or the "divine role to preside" and actually being able to "preside in righteousness".

That last point is the point I am making in this post - that "preside" as used in the most recent statements (and especially the Proclamation to the World) now means, in practical effect, "preside righteously" - as opposed to how it used to mean simply "be in charge and expect obedience". I have not heard or read anything since the publication of the Proclamation that supports the former definition. (The Packer and Perry quotes you provided are great examples of this.)

Howard said...

The Q12 pamphlet mentioned in my first comment states: Fatherhood is leadership, the most important kind of leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so. If this is true the age of the JFS quote is irrelevant and its content is still instructive today.

Papa D: There is a HUGE difference, imo, between having the "right to preside" or the "divine role to preside" and actually being able to "preside in righteousness". Sure, I agree.

Papa D: "preside" as used in the most recent statements (and especially the Proclamation to the World) now means, in practical effect, "preside righteously"

Genesis 3:16 reads in part; thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. In the 1970s “rule over” was softened by President Kimball to “preside over”. The proclamation now reads” preside over their families in love and righteousness”.

Papa D said...

Howard, let me ask this directly:

If you believe adamantly that your family needs to do "A", and if your wife believes adamantly that your family needs to do "B", what do you do? Does the answer to that differ at all if neither "A" nor "B" has a direct effect on righteousness - if the decision is a "mundane" one and not of obvious spiritual import?

Rather than pursue our previous conversation, I want to see your answer to those questions - since I'm not sure yet exactly where (or if) we disagree.

Papa D said...

Sorry, one more:

What should a wife do if what her husband wants is not in harmony with the Gospel?

Understand, I am trying to see if we really do agree in principle or if we disagree fundamentally. Please, humor me and answer the questions in this and the last comment as simply and directly as possible.

Howard said...

Papa D,
For the past 4 years I have followed the spirit literally seeking the Lord’s guidance for myself and my family on a daily basis. Should my wife adamantly disagree with the Lord’s direction I would again seek his council regarding the disagreement and follow his advice in love and righteousness.

If a wife suspects her husband is not in harmony with the Gospel she can check him with her own personal revelation lovingly presenting her findings and ask her husband to confirm them and consider them. She can also ask to speak with their Bishop.

President Henry B. Eyring: The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would be part of His Church: “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine”. And at the Creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”. Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity. The requirement that we be one is not for this life alone. It is to be without end.

Papa D said...

Thanks, Howard. I agree with what you are saying in the case where the husband is rigtheous and in tune with the spirit.

What if the husband is not in tune, won't listen to his wife, and won't meet with the Bishop? Does she need to follow him and accept his directives in that case?

Papa D said...

Howard, I also asked about the mundane aspects of life and family life. (I don't know if there is a better word than "mundane", but I mean the decisions that don't have a direct impact on our eternal progression and potential exaltation - those where the Lord's answer is very likely to be, "It doesn't matter. Whatever you do is fine.") I'm not sure you answered that in your last comment, so I'm not if we agree or disagree there.

How do you see those decisions being made within a marriage?

Howard said...

Papa D: What if the husband is not in tune, won't listen to his wife, and won't meet with the Bishop?

If he repeatedly fails to lead in love and righteousness she is not obligated by the preside clause. But the question of following his unrighteous lead or not is the least of her problems. An evaluation needs to be made. Are they or is he being tested by this? Do they need to work through this together? Or is she in need of a different eternal mate? Should she seek divorce or should she follow him knowing that if he falters she will be given to another as David’s wives and concubines were in D&C 132:39.

Howard said...

By mundane to the extent that you mean common; ordinary and banal the outcome is far less importance that being able to make a decision without strife. Contention is of the devil. Couples can sort this out for themselves keeping in mind that fathers can delegate and God clearly gives mothers responsibility for nurturing.

Mama D said...

Howard, nothing I said could reasonably be construed to mean that I believe the father should not be the one to preside, or that presiding is not a divine or gendered appointment, or that our family does not follow these principles. We do not "disrespect this patriarchal order," which was implied in your timing of the use of the JFS quote.

I repeat what I said:

Just to make it explicitly clear on these threads: As the wife/mother in this home, Papa unequivocably is a worthy presider. He presides in love. He provides for and protects his family. I primarily nurture our children. We work together to fulfill these responsibilities. We are equal partners. We support each other in our divine roles with love and respect. We believe the FamProc is divinely inspired.

Mama D said...

One more thing and then I'm out of this conversation.

Howard, based on your answers to Papa about how you and your wife handle decisions about "A" and "B" - I reiterate what I said about both of you agreeing far more than you both realize. Papa also could have written what you said about seeking the Lord's counsel, and discussing and making decisions together without contention.

Anonymous said...

Is honestly disagreeing being viewed as contentious here? I think this is a very important question.

Papa D said...

Anonymous, I certainly don't view honest disagreement as contention.

Howard said...

Mama D,
My intension is to explore the ideas put forth in the OP and the comments, not to imply anything personal about you, Papa D or your marriage.

Mama D said...

Howard, thank you for that clarification.

Matt W. said...

Ray:

From my reading, widtsoe agrees with you.

Strong Man said...

Similar to several comments above, I see the proclamation supporting and right in line with numerous biblical scriptures, Book of Mormon examples, etc, in which fathers preside in every bit the same way as a Bishop presides over the ward.

What do you do, then when it's really decision time and you fundamentally disagree with your wife--who wins? Who should win?

My blog, Preside vs. equal partners

A husband being the final, presiding authority does not make him better in any way, but it does not change the fact that he's finally responsible.

You hint that you have to go along with whatever your wife wants in order to get intimacy with her, which is also not in keeping with how I understand the scriptures. A common easy way out, though, for many modern men.

Papa D said...

Strong Man, that wasn't an implication; it was a joke. I probably should have made that even clearer than just typing (*grin*). That implication is not accurate for my marriage - just to make that unmistakably clear.

Papa D said...

Oh, and the idea that one of us has the ultimate and final say in everything if there is a disagreement of some kind is NOT how I read the Proclamation - nor is it how I want it to be. I take VERY seriously the idea that those who are TWO prior to marriage become ONE after marriage - and that, imo, means we are each 50% of the new 100%, not that I am a majority percent and she is a minority percent.