Thursday, January 27, 2005

I was going to post on missing Jessica. She died on January 26, 1993. I miss her still, so much. To have a child die on your wedding anneversary does things to the day, creates a web of feeling and thought and loss, mixed with the hope. Instead I am writing about what it means to love, and to the extent that a fallen world means that men preside, what presiding in the home means. It is, of course, important to note that all scriptures that lead and discuss men presiding all tie that to being a result of the fall, not something that is part of the unfallen world.

When I was young (I turned 49 in 2004) a talk that really got my attention was about a man who took his wife in to see a General Authority (a "G.A." in the parlance) so that the Church leader could tell the man's wife that he got the last word because he had the priesthood. Citing a core source of Church doctrine, D&C 121 the G.A. told him he was wrong and that he lost any claim to the priesthood or to authority in attempting to compel any decisions in the household. The only right having the priesthood gave the man was the right to serve, as Christ served when he washed the feet of the apostles.

I was looking for that talk recently, and could not find it. I did, however, find newer versions of it.

They support my bottom line belief that when we talk of marriage and the priesthood, we are talking of a duty to act by love, patience and faith without control or dominion flowing from any source or by a call to authority. No power or influence can be or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood. The following are quotes and excerpts. Not all of the originals agree with me in every perspective, but they do seem to agree on the authority of the core religious doctrines from which I drew my conclusions as a young man.

E.g. H. Burke Peterson, “Unrighteous Dominion in Marriage,”
Tambuli, June 1990, 17

* President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that this relationship extends to the home. “There is nothing in the teachings of the gospel which declares that men are superior to women,”

* A husband should not make decrees. Rather, he should work with his wife until a joint decision agreeable to both is developed.

* A man needs to understand that his power to influence his wife or children for good can only come through love, praise, and patience. It can never be brought about by force or coercion.

* Paul has counseled, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25)

* “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:36–37)

* By persuasion. By long-suffering. By gentleness. By meekness. By love unfeigned. By kindness. By pure knowledge. Without hypocrisy. Without guile.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric Priesthood Session,
Saturday, April 3, 1976 Ensign, May 1976, 32

* May I also suggest to you that it is important for the brethren to develop the same concern for the training of girls as they have for the training of the priesthood boys.

* No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.,8672,1461-1,00.html
Husbands and wives are equal partners

* The Apostle Paul taught that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11).

* In marriage, as before God, men and women are equally important.

* Marriage gives neither partner the right to dominate or abuse the other. Rather, husband and wife should help each other as equal partners.

Being a Righteous Husband and Father Howard W. Hunter,
“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 49

A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood 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 independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion.

First Presidency Message Fatherhood N. Eldon Tanner
“Fatherhood,” Ensign, June 1977, 2

Husbands, love your wives, honor and respect them. Praise them and hold them high in the estimate of your family. Always remember that they are not your chattels.

John A. Widtsoe, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 50 John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Council of the Twelve from 1921 until his death in 1952.
(seems to be the wrong citation, but as cited at

* Church leaders have continually encouraged people to regard marriage as an equal partnership. President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 106.)

* Barbara Smith, former general president of the Relief Society, draws an interesting parallel between some marriages and some small companies in which one partner owns the controlling stock and thus acts as the chief decision maker. In some cases, the unhappy result has been dissolution of the company.

* Sister Smith points out that “too many marriages use this model and do not utilize the strengths of either the husband or the wife. These marriages often end in unhappiness, a disaster for the entire family that was started with happiness and hope.

* “I suppose what I would like to see is my son and daughter-in-law as equal partners in their marriage relationship. Both would bring their assets and liabilities, their teachings, testimonies, educational and professional background, their healthy vibrant spirits, good bodies and minds, their evaluative understanding to help them recognize truth so they would ‘reason together’ and make the most of what each has to offer.

* “In that way they can learn to function as equal partners, both helping to make decisions with a clear, healthy vision of what each thinks and why, so they can come to a consensus of opinion cooperatively together. … They would then be prepared to fulfill their individual roles and function well together in their joint roles. When he speaks he will know that she will support him and that he can confidently speak for both of them. She will also feel free to express an opinion or make a commitment for both of them because she would know his feelings about their plans; they will be able to work together as one.” (The Love That Never Faileth, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 109.)

* I believe strongly in a marriage of equals, where husband and wife make decisions together, with neither partner dictating to the other.

* Yet the family needs someone to preside, and the Lord has designated the father to fulfill that role. As the presiding officer, he may preside at family home evenings or family councils, call on family members to offer prayers or blessings or to present lessons. And if he holds the priesthood, the father may bless his wife and other family members. He may baptize and confirm his children and perform other priesthood ordinances on their behalf.

* Having one person designated as the presiding officer suggests order—not superiority. All important deliberations and decisions within the family should involve the husband and the wife equally, both interacting with gentleness and love unfeigned. In cases of disagreement, a couple is wise to wait until they can agree, rather than one pushing ahead with his or her own decision. Even the most pressing problems should be treated carefully, allowing enough time for tempers to cool and prayers to be offered.

* A man and a woman should each have an equal opportunity to resolve disagreements. It is not right for the man to think that, since he is “the head of the home,” his opinion is the right one. “The head of the home” can be wrong; yet many men endeavor to get what they want by pulling rank. In some cases, the woman is the one who insists that her view should always prevail, and the man, out of deference to her, complies. Insistence on the decision-making right is undesirable for either the man or the woman. The couple should discuss their differences, candidly consider the pros and cons, then make a decision both can live with.

* “If you are guilty of demeaning behavior toward your wife, if you are prone to dictate and exercise authority over her, if you are selfish and brutal in your actions in the home, then stop it! Repent!” (Cornerstones of a Happy Home, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1984, p. 2.)

Doctrine and Covenants 121:36–37 [D&C 121:36–37] explicitly warns against such behavior:

I believe strongly that there is no place in God's system for dominion by authority, only for persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness,love unfeigned, kindness, pure knowledge, faithfulness, charity, and virtue except for situations so novel and untoward that God will give us direction and tell us. If God does not direct otherwise, what we have is a call to love and service, nothing more and certainly nothing less.

1 comment:

john f. said...

Great post and nice collection of teachings. I think this is such an important message in our times. I am glad that the Church takes these issues seriously and works for equality in marriage in these things. The fact that men hold the priesthood should not be grounds for feelings of inequality in the home, in my opinion.