Guest Post: The New CHI and Priesthood in the Home

church buildingby Jesse

I had heard rumors that parts of the Church Handbook of Instructions were online, so I peeked in at  The rumors are true.  Handbook 2, which is distributed to priesthood and auxilliary leaders is fully searchable (and meant to be read: see the end of paragraph 9).  Handbook 1, which is intended for Bishops and Stake Presidencies is not available.

With a slight sense of dabbling in the forbidden, I began reading.  I stopped when I got to section 2.3 The Priesthood and the Family.  The wording of the second sentence startled me*.  It brings the equality of men and women into the forefront. Such wording was found in The Family Proclamation, but it was buried near the end of a paragraph and situated after a clear delineation of the roles of fathers (full stop) and mothers (full stop)**.

I was excited at this emphasis on equality.  As I read it, the remainder of the sentence seems to refer to presiding as a joint priesthood responsibility, not the male presiding and the female supporting (which I don’t often see, but still seems to be the “ideal” towards which I am encouraged to strive).

I keep re-reading that sentence trying to re-construe it in some other way, but the grammar forces me back to the idea that the husband is given only equal authority as his wife.  If his wife is his equal partner and he is presiding, then so is she.  If his wife is his equal partner and he is serving as the family’s spiritual leader, then so is she.  The key thing is that the equal partnership is mentioned first.  They are working together in this role.

Hair splitting?  Perhaps.  But at least this time my split ends are making me happy.

What do you make of this change in emphasis?

* CHI 2.3 The Priesthood and the Family

Each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader. He leads the family in regular prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. He works with his wife to teach their children and help them prepare to receive the ordinances of salvation (see D&C 68:25–28). He gives priesthood blessings for direction, healing, and comfort.

** The Proclamation

“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.”

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107 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    This does help me. Thank you for sharing it. The impression I get from the language used is that the father is the “spiritual leader” in an equal partnership where the mother is another type of leader. Two different leaders in the partnership, each with unique responsibilities. I can buy that.

    The one change I would love to see is “he presides” completely taken out so that it would read like this:

    Each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he [serves] as the family’s spiritual leader. He leads the family in regular prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. He works with his wife to teach their children and help them prepare to receive the ordinances of salvation (see D&C 68:25–28). He gives priesthood blessings for direction, healing, and comfort.

    I really get hung up on this idea that a father “presides”. In this last conference, Elder Oaks said this at the end of his talk: talk:

    But the authority that presides in the family—whether father or single-parent mother—functions in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys.

    In a marriage, the father always presides (with “authority”). A single mother may preside, but a married mother may not. I read his conference talk from 2005 that he footnotes, and it clarifies more. I’ll put it in the next comment to avoid getting caught in the spam filter.

    • Justin says:

      The one change I would love to see is “he presides” completely taken out so that it would read…[he serves].

      This is entirely correct. The priesthood is an inverted hierarchy. A hierarchy is defined as “a ruling body of clergy organized into orders or ranks, each subordinate to the one above it.” It is true that the priesthood is organized into orders and ranks, but instead of rulers, it consists of servants. The Lord’s “rulers” are not rulers in the typical, Gentile sense. They are ministers and servants.

      To properly use the priesthood, then, one must consider himself a servant [voluntary slave] of all and act accordingly. Even when called to preside, the use of the word “president” means, in the Lord’s terminology, servant.

      Admittedly, it is an alternate view of things, but priesthood is not the man-based, top-down, oligarchal patriarchy that exists in Salt Lake. The priesthood is meant for tribal functions — and only thru that method can both androcracy and gynocracy be fully manifested without any side being suppressed.

      • Rebecca says:

        I like this. In the lord’s terminology, we can probably always substitute preside with serve. King Benjamin is a great example of this, a servant to his people.

      • Kiskilili says:

        What I wonder is this: are “presiding” and “serving” isomorphic, or is presiding a subset of serving? Either way, how do we make sense of the fact that women are being asked not to serve?

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is Elder Oaks’ talk from 2005 called “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church”.

    To be brief, I’ll just highlight a few things he said:

    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. At the same time, she was always totally respectful of the priesthood authority of our bishop and other Church leaders. She presided over her family, but they presided over the Church.

    If men desire the Lord’s blessings in their family leadership, they must exercise their priesthood authority according to the Lord’s principles for its use:

    “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; By kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41–42).

    When priesthood authority is exercised in that way in the patriarchal family, we achieve the “full partnership” President Kimball taught.

    The presiding parent is the “governing officer” of the home. There must be some concept here that I don’t understand because I don’t see how it can be a “full partnership” when one parent is the “governing officer”.

    I love what I hear coming over the pulpit about equal partnership, but then there is always this nagging detail that a husband “presides”. I don’t know what to make of it, but it leaves me feeling sick to my stomach.

    • Jesse says:

      Ugh… Yes, I see your point. As I read the bits of Elder Oaks’ talk in your post, though, it struck me that presiding in the home is explicitly decoupled from priesthood office.

      …And I think this newer CHI softens Elder Oaks’ talk. I dunno, when I try to reconcile the two, I am left with this idea:

      When Elder Oaks father died, his mother presided because she had become the SOLE governing officer in their family.

      This seems to capture the essence of the new wording (I could be way off base, but at least it allows me to sleep at night). It is so hard to try to reconcile these statements with each other and with what I see actually happening in families.

    • The problem is that all the speakers come from a background in business and law where the concept makes perfect sense. A law partnership, for example, has everyone equal. But, to allow everyone to do their work, rather than waste time administratively, someone ends up as the managing partner. No more votes. No more authority.

      But on day to day stuff (maintenance of the firm stuff, like making sure the trash gets picked up, paychecks go out, etc.), if an issue comes up it is “go bother him” sort of thing. When I think about it, it is often very much like you will see in a typical family when someone says “go ask your mother.” 🙂

      In many systems the same role is filled by the secretary. All the old soviet systems used secretariats who filled the same role.

      I’ve been working on an essay on the topic, still not finished after a couple years, since it is a metaphor that makes perfect sense to the people espousing it, yet obviously does not work for many people. I’m not sure what to replace it with though, which is what I am looking for.

      What do you call a person in a group who is equal to the others, gets no more votes than anyone else, but is responsible to make sure that things go forward and who is also responsible to be there to back up whatever decision is made?

  3. Whitney says:

    You are so much more optimistic than me. It’s true that equality is mentioned in the first sentence, not buried later in the paragraph. But as I read the paragraph, that equality is undermined in every sentence (most of them begin with “He,” not “they”). *He* presides. *He* leads. *He* works with the mother–to me, that sounds like leaders “work with” youth, bishops “work with” ward members, etc.

    • Jesse says:

      I agree: the “he”s are disheartening. But, your comparison of the husband-wife relationship to the leader-youth or bishop-ward relationship doesn’t work for me. I have never encountered the idea that “With the youth as an equal partner, the leader…” or “With the ward as an equal partner, the bishop…” In these cases the relationship seems more single-faceted: the leader has stewardship over the youth. The bishop has stewardship over the ward.

      The statement in the CHI seems to leave room for a more multi-faceted relationship between spouses: It doesn’t remove some of the traditionally masculine language or granting of authority, but at least it acknowledges that the wife is an equal partner.

      Here’s where I started splitting hairs: The clause is attached to the sentence about presiding and leading. It is not a separate sentence…as it was in the Family Proclamation. The equality is somehow being linked to the leading and the presiding….

      This creation of a clause out of a separate sentence is what makes me happy.

      • Whitney says:

        You make a good point about the false analogy (bishops vs husbands “working with”). Still, that is what that wording reminds me of in a church context. I would prefer to see “Husband and wife work together to teach their children….” Why doesn’t it read, “The wife works with her husband to…”? Sounds weird, doesn’t it? This is why I think the current wording in that sentence still reflects the patriarchy.

        Still, I do think that putting equality at the beginning, rather than as an afterthought, is an important step…even though it’s about the tiniest step that could ever be called a step at all.

  4. Jesse says:

    I agree there is a lot of authority delegated to men and withheld from women (except in a circumscribed set of circumstances). What impressed me was the shift in emphasis. There is no about face, but there is a softening of the “male authority figure” stance. I first started picking up on it in the Family Proclamation (although there it seemed more of a tacked on sort of thing). Here it seems emphasized much more strongly.

    I’m not sure why this idea would be getting more play at this particular juncture in time, but it does seem to be getting more emphasis. This sort of shift makes me happy.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Jesse, I agree. I am really happy with the changes in the new Gospel Principles manual in the chapter on “Family Responsibilities”. It describes much more of an equal partnership than a “patriarchal order” marriage. There are reasons to hope. 🙂

  6. Starfoxy says:

    If nothing else it is another point in a increasingly clear trajectory towards equality. Sure the pace may be maddening, but I have little doubt it will get there eventually.

  7. Janna says:

    I’m curious to hear from the married women readers: do you follow what the “brethren” say about this issue? Or, do you just do your own thing?

    I understand that it is important to analyze and hope for equitable formal guidelines of the church because these systems define broader attitudes and certainly, behavior. However, in this forum, I wonder if on a personal level you are waiting for the “brethren” (sorry, I keep putting that in quotes because it’s such a bizarre, antiquated term of these people) to say it’s all right for you and your spouse to have a truly equal relationship. For example, how many of you have husbands who “preside”? Or, do you and your spouse disregard those terms altogether opt for not defining roles, so to speak?

    • Caroline says:

      Great question. My husband does not preside over me. We are equal partners all the way. I regard the two injunctions as contradictory, so therefore I go with the one that I see best represents the will of a loving and just God. If there is any presiding going on, it’s we as a couple who do it over our children.

      See the first few paragraphs of my Patheos essay here in which I give an anecdote about a conversation I had with my then-boyfriend about presiding.

    • Whitney says:

      We do our own thing. We’ve only been married about 7 months, though, so you can take that for what it’s worth. But I definitely chose my husband with the goal of finding someone who would want to ‘do our own thing’ and not someone who insisted that he preside.

    • Stephanie says:

      I guess DH and I just do our own thing. When I bring up things like Elder Oaks’ talk and ask, “What does this mean? Why does it say you are my governing officer?” he just shrugs and says he doesn’t know.

    • CatherineWO says:

      I have been married for almost 38 years. Early in our marriage I was very idealistic, and I think our relationship was very egalitarian for the time. I was raised by quite non-traditional parents, so that was what I expected. However, a few years into the marriage, my husband was called as bishop, where he served for five and a half years. That, and his subsequent fifteen years in two stake presidencies, have changed our relationship significantly, as he has served in positions that made him a presiding authority over me at church. We have found it very difficult to have an equal partnership at home when it is so unequal at church. He is a good person. He recognizes the problem and has tried in the last couple of years to take off his presiding hat when he is at home, but it is very difficult for us to have a really open and honest conversation about some topics when he is in a position of judgement over me. We expect that he will be released next fall, and we both agree that it is time for him to hang up that hat for good.

      • Stephanie says:

        CatherineWO, I know what you mean (from my short experience with DH in the Bishopric), and that is what scares me about the potential years and years of church service ahead of us. I want DH to serve, but I don’t really like the box that I feel it forced us into.

      • Aimee says:

        What a fascinating dilemma, CatherineWO. I hadn’t thought much about how the implications of a lay clergy made up of husbands having leadership roles which determine the week-to-week religious lives of their wives can further upset the balance in the home. I can imagine how a lifetime of that dynamic would take a toll. Thanks for sharing. You’ve given me lots to think about.

    • spunky says:

      Great question, Janna. Its does sort of imply that married women submit to their husbands, whereas single mothers have the ability to preside in the home. To be very frank, I think I preside in a religious sense at home much more than my husband. I suggest praying, offering blessings and service-oriented tasks much more often (or at least verbally) than my husband does. But very frankly, and probably because he makes more money that I do, he is the one who brings up investment or financial issues– i.e. buying a new car, donating over $100 to a cause (this in part because I am cheap), how much to spend on a vacation or home repair, etc. I guess we divide certain responsibilities naturally which doesn’t imply equality, but seems to imply at least a balance. The important thing is that it works for us and we support each other in the areas where each of us tends to “preside”. (from a financial perspective though, I always do tithing- which goes back to me being the one presiding in religious things). But that is the key for us– we may preside, or administer certain household tasks, but we do not preside over each other.

      I don’t think we could accomplish eternity of one of us was the boss of the other… “presiding” implies removing a degree of agency or submitting one’s agency to another, which is contrary to the whole plan of choice and accountability and frankly voids the atonement if we submit to a partner, rather than making our own choices in regard to obedience to our Heavenly parents. In short, the whole preside things seems contrary to the root of Mormon doctrinal philosophy, IMHO, so I can’t see myself or feel impressed to require my husband to do it.

    • MJK says:

      We’ve been married 7 years and we do our own thing.

      Past that, I will say only this. It is better for *me* to let me husband take a leadership role in various things in the family because my tendency (and that of many other wives I know) is to manage EVERYTHING and to run everything and treat the husband as an extra kid. This is disrespectful to my husband. But it’s hard. He doesn’t do X, Y, or Z “right” – i.e. exactly totally 100% the way I would have done them.

      I am trying to learn from my mother in law who, thankfully, is a very wise woman and came later in her marriage to some of these truths and is trying to teach us earlier. When we’ll listen.

    • Corktree says:

      I’d say that in most family decisions and roles we are pretty darn equal, except in church related matters at the moment. I’ve really needed to take a step back lately from anything involving church directly, so I’ve sort of given over those decisions (as far as they involve the children) to my husband. I don’t intend for it to remain that way, but I don’t feel like I can be relied on as a clear view in those matters right now, so I really want him to take the lead. I’m not sure why. My children are used to seeing me lead in a lot of areas, so I’m not worried about them getting mixed messages about gender roles, but I just feel disingenuous acting like I feel strongly about anything that I currently don’t.

      And I do worry about the role of my husband as my priesthood leader. His patriarchal blessing hints as more and more leadership down the road, so I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that. But I’m hopeful that by then I will have figured out where it is in relation to church that I want to be and that we can structure our family accordingly.

      As for the new CHI. I’m glad to see steps in the right direction, but I’m curious as to what inspired those steps and what it really means. Is it just pacification, or does it indicate true progress?

  8. Janna says:

    p.s. I can’t wait for someone to WikiLeak Handbook 1!

  9. Janna says:

    Wait a minute. This statement is nonsensical, “With his wife as an equal partner, he [serves] as the family’s spiritual leader.” “With” conveys partnership, but then the words “the” “leader” are used. Huh? How can he be “the [one] leader” if he has an equal partner in the pursuit? This statement is akin to stating, “With his Vice President as an equal partner, the President serves as the country’s executive leader.”

    Makes no sense.

    • Justin says:

      In a gospel-centered marriage, the man and woman have covenanted with each other — making them equals. They have also covenanted with Christ, which binds both of them individually to Him. This makes a triangle, with the husband, wife and Christ each taking a corner.

      Paul’s words, though — about God being the head of Christ, Christ being the head of man, and man being the head of woman — create a straight line of authority [interpreted as androcracy].

      But what needs to be kept in mind when reading Paul is that this is only one frame of the picture. If the full, tribal picture is not seen, then it is understandable that the gospel may be understood as containing only patriarchy. Paul’s words, then, must be viewed in light of the complete, tribal picture, which also contains matriarchy and gynocracy.

      The egalitarian nature of the gospel and the priesthood cannot clearly be seen now because we are not currently living in egalitarian tribes.

      In the gospel, the chief ones are to be the servants, by entrance into the priesthood. So, when Paul says that the man is the head of the woman, it is because he is meant to be the servant of the woman.

      Jesus taught that whoever wanted to be great, was not to be great — they were to be the least. And whoever wanted to be first [chief, leaader] — was to be last [the servant of all].

      The priesthood, as articulated by Jesus, is not any -archy, but an anarchy. The order is reversed: whoever wants to be first must be last. There are to be no rulers, only servants.

      • Stephanie says:

        Justin, I really like your comments and what I have read on your website so far. It seems to fit with some of my thoughts while I am reading the OT.

      • Getting that across, though, is hard. Obviously, or we would not have D&C 121 which emphasizes that just about everyone goes astray and that it is by patience and lovingkindness and service that the priesthood acts.

      • Kiskilili says:

        I’m not sure it’s accurate to say husbands and wives are equal because they’ve covenanted with each other. I see two problems with such a statement:

        (a) The quality of the covenants is being elided. Obligations that are two-way need not be egalitarian. Covenants can be used to reify relationships between lords and vassals; they’re at least as likely to codify hierarchy as equality. One way of illustrating this is to point out that if a human covenants with God and God with the human, that does not elevate the individual in question to the level of God.

        (b) Women are burdened with particular obligations to their husbands that are not reciprocated.

        In short, the patriarchy comes through a lot clearer to me than the supposed matriarchy or egalitarianism.

      • Justin says:


        I’m assuming you didn’t read the links.

      • Kiskilili says:


        Maybe you can point me to the part of your posts that explains the logical necessity of understanding covenanting as equalizing?

      • Kiskilili,

        No marriage is ever equal in the strict sense, except for gay marriage in which two men are married as husband and husband or two women are married as wife and wife. Other than that peculiar circumstance, all other marriage covenants create a division of roles in which one is the steward (the husband) and the other has claim on the steward (the wife). Our covenants with Christ are also marriage covenants. He is the bridegroom (the steward) and we are the brides (the concerns of His stewardship). One of the reasons why marriage between a man and a woman is acceptable before God is because it is patterned after the covenants we make with Christ, creating a stewardship.

        The equality of marriage covenants does not lie in that both parties do the same things, but in that both parties share in the blessings that come from the relationship. In the case of Christ, if we keep our part of the covenant, we can claim all that Christ has. In the case of a marriage between a man and a woman, the woman has claim on her husband for all he has or ends up getting. This is both in a temporal and spiritual sense. In the end, those who pass the test of mortality end up receiving all things as joint-heirs with Christ, so the prize is the same regardless of gender.

        The only truly equal gospel covenant made is between two or more stewardships for the establishment of a united order. Other covenants, patterned after that, likewise create equality in that both parties carry the same title and duties.

        One last thing, although same sex marriage may in word create “equal partners,” in day to day operations, all long-term gay couples historically have split tasks into male and female roles, one of the “partners” becoming the female and the other becoming the male.

      • Justin says:

        Kiskilili — I second what LDSA said,

        and would only add that unless you come to understand the gospel in light of its tribal nature, you will continually be discouraged by the “androcracy” you see [which is not real androcracy, but androcratic oligarchy].

        Read this post — that is if you can get past the title.

      • Kiskilili says:

        “and would only add that unless you come to understand the gospel in light of its tribal nature, you will continually be discouraged by the “androcracy” you see”

        Is that a prediction? Because my own prediction is that androcracy will continue disturbing me regardless of my understanding of tribal social organizations.

        “Other than that peculiar circumstance [gay marriage], all other marriage covenants create a division of roles in which one is the steward (the husband) and the other has claim on the steward (the wife).”

        I don’t believe this to be the case. If you’re talking about marriage as the Church understands it, gays aren’t covenanting with each other at all. If you’re talking about marriage in the broader society, many heterosexual couples have adopted the language of equality in their vows (“husband and wife” rather than “man and wife,” etc.). You point out that gays aren’t necessarily equal in practice, as if you’re discussing de facto equality rather than the situation inscribed in the covenants. I don’t know whether or not this is the case (I’ll ask my married gay friends for their opinion), but I don’t think it’s an adequate excuse for making unequal covenants. Covenants are already idealistic–we make lots of covenants we fall short of keeping in practice.

        Subordination is simply not a form of equality. To argue that God will bestow equal blessings on husbands and wives in eternity, therefore the power distribution is justified, is to gloss over the fact that more sacrifice is required of women to receive these blessings than of men and that the structure relegates them eternally to a lower status, vis-a-vis each other and vis-a-vis God. (And it’s not at all clear the situation will be any more “equal” in the next life–Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother appear anything but equal in power and prominence). An oath of fealty between a lord and a vassal does not structure an equal relationship, even if the lord swears to protect the vassal (which would put him ahead of Mormon husbands, who take on no such formal obligations).

      • Justin says:

        Because my own prediction is that androcracy will continue disturbing me regardless of my [lack of ability to read someone else’s point-of-view provided in the links].

      • Justin says:

        If you’re talking about marriage as the Church understands it, gays aren’t covenanting with each other at all.

        Tell me, who is this “the Church” you speak of. I thought the church was merely a group of people, which would include LDSA and myself who understand that same-sex couples do covenant with one another, according to D&C 132:7, 13.

        You aren’t making the Catholic blunder of conflating “the Church” with the androcratic oligarchy that exists in Salt Lake are you?

      • Kiskilili says:

        All right–gays aren’t making marriage covenants with each other in the context of the Church (at least that I’m aware of), and this is a direct result of policy crafted by the Salt Lake oligarchy (God hasn’t revealed to them or they haven’t composed standard marriage covenants that are appropriate to gays).

      • Kiskilili says:

        The problem with invoking the blessings of the next life as an equalizer is that, in this system, there’s no earthly arrangement that’s not justified. God will make up for it in the eternities. So it’s fair.

        Thought experiment: Let’s imagine Heavenly Mother decreed that all white, heterosexual males should be enslaved to others in the community, for whom they’ll work and whom they’ll obey and who, in response, will chivalrously protect them and provide for them financially. (a) Is the situation fair because both parties covenant? (b) Is the situation fair because all parties will inherit Heavenly Mother’s blessings in the next life? I would answer no to both questions, and it’s why I think neither argument works to justify women’s subordination. (I’m not arguing the latter is slavery, merely that slavery is an extreme form of unequal distribution of power so the situation is analogous.)

      • Kiskilili says:

        For starters, I’m not sure why you’re labeling your schema “tribal” rather than “feudal.” Secondly, I can’t find an argument in your posts for why this structure (husband as bishop, wife as counselor, for example) constitutes egalitarianism, other than that they covenant with each other and that matriarchy and gynocracy are allegedly involved in the complete picture (in other words, what’s already been stated in this thread). In fact, I neither see the gynocracy in our ecclesiastically structured relationships, nor do I see how it could be compatible with egalitarianism. All I see in your system is a feudal hierarchy. Just because the lords protect the vassals doesn’t make it equal.

      • Caroline says:

        Bless you for taking the time to point out the fallacies in LDSA’s and Justin’s arguments. “Subordination is not a form of equality.” Amen!

      • Kiskilili,

        If you’re talking about marriage in the broader society, many heterosexual couples have adopted the language of equality in their vows (“husband and wife” rather than “man and wife,” etc.)

        “Husband and wife” is not the language of equality. That is stewardship language. Wives have claim upon their husbands for their maintenance, not vice versa. I wonder if you are so open to equality in language and practice (as you appear to be in your writings) that you would consent to entering a marriage relationship in which you both had to contribute 50% of the maintenance income. Perhaps you are okay with employment and would say yes to such an arrangement. But what if your husband makes $100,000 a year and you only $18,000? He matches your $18,000 per your equality covenant (after all, you don’t want to unequally yoked) and you both share in the combined maintenance income of $36,000. His left-over $82,000 he spends on himself, buying everything he ever wanted materially. As none of this money and property pertains to you, per your equality covenant, he lives life to the fullest with the additional income while you make do with the combined maintenance income (which he also uses). Then along comes the day that you learn you are pregnant. Now, you are on maternity leave. Perhaps you have planned for this and have some kind of reduced income to contribute to the maintenance of the partnership. Your husband, abiding by your rules of equality, matches your reduced income. Now, you are living in squalor compared to before, but with an additional human being to feed. Your husband, though, is still living the high life on his surplus income. Isn’t equality grand? So, you’ve finally had enough and file for divorce. Now, do you have any claim on your ex-husband’s income? “Yes, you do,” says the judge. But how is that possible? You entered the marriage as husband and wife, the “language of equality!” Ah, but it not the language of equality, it is the language of stewardship, and you suddenly are entitled to half of everything your husband owns. The only thing that makes marriage equal is an equalizing pre-nuptial agreement.

        Subordination is simply not a form of equality.

        The “subordinate” in the above scenario made out like a bandit, don’t you think? It sure is wonderful to be a subordinate to someone else and reap what he has sown, isn’t it?

        To argue that God will bestow equal blessings on husbands and wives in eternity, therefore the power distribution is justified, is to gloss over the fact that more sacrifice is required of women to receive these blessings than of men.

        I wasn’t aware of this fact, which you claim exists. I must have missed something. When did they invent a sacrifixometer? Last I checked, no one was able to measure sacrifice. Don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous to claim that women sacrifice more than men do? Can you truly look into people’s lives (men or women, take your pick) and see the amount they sacrifice to obtain blessings?

      • Kiskilili,

        Thought experiment: Let’s imagine Heavenly Father decreed that all males (without adjectives) should be enslaved to women (their wives) in the community, for whom they’ll work and provide for and give romantic gifts and attentions and whom they’ll obey by acceding to their wishes because otherwise they will nag and complain and generally make life miserable for everyone around them plus start telling the world that their husband is a tyrant engaging in unrighteous dominion and who, in response, will not protect them nor provide for them financially, nor contribute in any way for the maintenance of the marriage and family except to demand that in addition to providing the income for the family the husband must also do half of the chores, cooking, cleaning and care-taking of the children or must hire out someone to do these things so that she is free to visit the beauty party and talk to her friends. (a) Is the situation fair because both parties covenant? (b) Is the situation fair because all parties will inherit Heavenly Father’s blessings in the next life?

        It’s funny that you used the word “enslaved.” You do know that most men refer to their wives, and marriage in general, as a “ball-and-chain,” don’t you? It is women, not men, who desire marriage. It is women, not men, who want a stewardship relationship with men. Women don’t want equality to men. They want men to give and do everything for them, because they are pretty and because their husbands love them. In other words, because they are women. This is the reason why feminism will never work to produce happiness among the women of the world. The instant women get “equality” with men, they lose everything they’ve gained. For a man, treating a woman as an equal is to treat her as a man and for all the lip service that feminists give, no woman wants to be treated as a man.
        Now, to answer questions (a) and (b) above: I would answer YES to both questions, and it’s why I think a temporary trial of submitting to authority, by which I learn obedience, is totally worth the prize of receiving all things the Father has. Coveting the drop is sheer stupidity when God is offering an ocean of prizes to those who pass the test.

      • One more thought and then I’m off. The word equality has 8 shades of meaning. Equality can mean “exactly the same,” so that, for instance, if you have a balance scale and you put one troy ounce of gold on one side and one troy ounce of gold on the other, we have equality. That is one way to arrive at it. But another way is to take the ounce of gold away from one side and replace it with two half ounce silver coins. The gold and the silver are different, yet still balanced. Again we have equality. In a gospel sense, men and women are like gold and silver. Just as you would never use silver for gold or gold for silver, so men and women have their distinct and unique divinely ordained purposes. One is not more important than the other. When bringing them together, equality is achieved through balance, not by making one exactly like the other, or even remotely like the other. For just as it is the goldness that makes gold precious, and the silverness that makes silver precious, so it is the manliness of men and the womanliness of women that makes them precious in God’s sight.

        What Justin and I have been attempting to explain, I think, is that the gospel fully allows and provides for this balance. This balance can be seen (at least, I see it), as long as one doesn’t become preoccupied that the silver isn’t doing what the gold does.

      • Kiskilili says:


        You’re talking about equality in value, which is useful to your point because value can be assigned arbitrarily (to continue your analogy, in one country one ounce of gold coin may be worth one once of silver, where in another it’s worth 6 pounds in silver). We can balance any scales easily this way because we determine relational value ourselves. But diverting attention to value is a sleight of hand. I’m talking about equality in power, and there’s still an unequal power distribution.

        In a post-Industrialized society it’s very possible for the wife to bring home the $100,000 where the husband makes the paltry $18,000. As I read your position, since the husband has stewardship, the wife takes all of it in other case, citing her “maintenance” and the pressing need for a “beauty party” (whatever that is) and gives him a weekly allowance if she feels generous. Isn’t stewardship grand? (Personally I would never accept such an arrangement on the grounds that it’s demeaning to men. I’d prefer equal power and respect whereby financial decisions are reached together, not dictated by either party.)

        You seem to have a lot of pent-up anger toward women. Is it possible you’re not as happy with the current arrangement as you claim to be, or that it doesn’t feel to you as fair or equal as you argue it is? You say you would cheerfully accept slavery, yet you seem to have taken on “stewardship” with quite a bit of resentment.

        In any case, your stewardship illustration does not adequately account for the covenants men and women make with each other. You’ve framed the situation as if men have (stewardship) obligations to women where women have no obligations to men.

        In fact, the situation is exactly the reverse: women covenant to hearken to men, where men never make any equivalent covenant to women about anything at all. Women give themselves to men; men receive them. Men don’t give everything they have to women. Far from it: they accept what women have and are. Men don’t even covenant to be stewards over women.

        Remember, in my thought experiment, you don’t receive all that the Father has. You receive all that the Mother has. Except: not sharing her gender, you can’t ever really attain her status, so it’s not clear what you receive. (Perhaps you’re rewarded as being part of the prize that women receive.)

        But regardless of the eternal situation, it’s irresponsible ethically for religion to promote earthly injustice on the grounds that everything will be made just in the hereafter. To my mind any religion that promotes injustices in this life has too weak a moral compass to be worthy of our respect.

      • Kiskilili says:

        P. S. Your comment on my thought experiment is absolutely charming. Men contemptuously throw goodies at their wives to placate them in the hopes that God will throw them goodies in the next life. And it’s women who insist on this system, because we’re the beneficiaries.

        If you want to defend the model you proposed, you’re going to have to defend it yourself. Don’t take refuge in the projection that it’s what I want as a woman, whether or not I know it. I find your system as absurd as your assumption that you’re the authority on women’s psyches.

        But I don’t need to explain what’s wrong with the system to you–you don’t sound too enamored of the arrangement yourself. So maybe we should ask ourselves this: What’s the justification for maintaining it? Is there anybody who finds it acceptable? (Whether or not this is an accurate representation of the status quo is of course a separate question.)

        As a sidenote, I wonder why you changed Mother to Father. Why does the Father have everything? Isn’t it ultimately all Heavenly Mother’s to bestow, if she has claim on him for her maintenance, as per your system?

      • Kiskilili,

        Re: silver and gold. Gold and silver have unique properties. You can’t use silver to stop corrosion like you can gold and gold does not have the anti-bacterial properties of silver. So, I was talking of the actual uses of the metal according to their properties, whereas you are assigning an arbitrary monetary value. Men and women are different as silver and gold are different, yet both are children of God as silver and gold are metals. They are not equal in the sense that they are equivalent, but they are equal in the sense that they are equally, but distinctly useful, and that they balance each other out, meaning they are complementary.

        Re: beauty party typo. Lol. Haven’t you ever had a Mary Kay or Avon party? Obviously, any income arrangement is possible, but for most marriages between a man and a woman, the man goes into the relationship with the understanding that he is going to be the provider (steward).

        Re: anger toward women. I give you an accurate, truthful, real-world example of how average men feel toward marriage and you accuse me of being a misogynist? Just about every man I’ve ever talked to about their marriage hates the institution. Men complain about their wives and about marriage and encourage single men not to enter it all the time, 24-hours a day. I don’t know where you get your information from, but it doesn’t sounds like you’ve talked to many men about how they feel about marriage. It is men, not women, that view marriage as slavery, and feel they are pressured into it by society, religion, their girlfriend, etc. Only if a woman is in a bad marriage does she begin to want out, but even men who are in a good marriage want out!

        Re: stewardship obligations. All men enter marriage with the understanding of stewardship obligations. And in cases where the woman makes more than the man, the man typically feels uncomfortable about it, because of those stewardship obligations.

        Re: marriage covenants. There are no marriage covenants in which the woman covenants to hearken to men. You are referring to the endowment. That ain’t a marriage covenant. Women give and receive men in temple marriage. Men receive women in temple marriage. Women get the better end of the deal because they also covenant to give. It is better to give than to receive. That is gospel law.

        Re: receiving all the Mother/Father has. So, you believe God is incapable of giving all He has to His daughters, because of a difference in gender? Does that mean you also believe He doesn’t fully understand His daughters? How else do you limit the power of God, I wonder?

        Re: religion promoting injustice. I agree, except that a stewardship is not injustice. The test of life is how we deal with stewardships as they are given out. Even the law of Zion has that pesky little word in it: the law of consecration and stewardship. If you can’t wrap your mind around the law of stewardships, how do you propose to enter Zion?

        Re: P.S. The model I propose is the egalitarian tribe based upon the revealed law of Christ. As long as it is based upon the law of Christ, I’ll defend it. I do not defend monogamy, polygyny, polyandry or any other system that limits the use of both sets of keys. I won’t defend feminism because feminism is about the acquisition of power for women. As you stated above, “I’m talking about equality in power, and there’s still an unequal power distribution.” “Whoever will be first or chief, must be last and servant of all,” said Jesus. Seeking for power is doctrine inspired of the devil. We are here on Earth to acquire joy, not power. We are here to learn how to serve, not rule. An obsession with power makes it easy for a person to discard gospel laws at whim, or when convenient. It is always: “When we are in power, then there will be justice!” This was Lucifer’s whole premise: “Give me the power and I’ll save every last soul. We won’t have the injustice of souls being banished into outer darkness.”

        So, the arguments you put forth don’t hold up under gospel scrutiny, unless you do away with the gospel laws.

        One last thing, about Heavenly Mother. I changed it because we don’t know anything about Heavenly Mother. Do you know of any scriptural passage that tells anything about a Heavenly Mother?

      • Kiskilili says:

        It sounds like the gospel has given men a raw deal; it’s no wonder Mormonism is so much further from gender parity than many denominations that ordain women. I’m wondering what the harm would be in proposing women’s ordination and marital presiding as a means of empowering men in their relationships with their wives. It can’t be healthy for either gender for men everywhere to be this bitter and resentful about the arrangement that’s shafted them. I’d love to see data on why men willingly fall on the marriage grenade and sacrifice themselves and their earthly happiness, even as their married friends try to warn them away from the minefield. Is it nothing more than a healthy martyr complex that gives them the fortitude to bear their trials (i.e., their wives) with patience?

        I absolutely believe in a limited God. A gendered God is limited; there’s no way around it.

        P.S. I throw up a little in my mouth when I hear about Mary Kay or Avon parties.

      • Mormonism is peculiar in that we say a man (and a woman) must receive temple marriage in order to be exalted (though not to be saved). Our “top prize” is tied to marriage. For the Christians, their “top prize” (salvation) is not tied to marriage. They can remain single and still feel they are 100% obedient, but for Mormons, we are all under a lot of pressure to get married, otherwise we “risk our exaltation.” So, Mormon men are under much more pressure to get married than non-Mormon men.

        That would be okay as long as monogamy wasn’t the expected social order of the day. My own opinion is that married men make the wrong assessment in pointing the finger of blame at the institution of marriage. It is not marriage that is bad, it is monogamy, etc. Anything short of the multihusband-multiwife marriage system (that the gospel allows and provides for) goes against our very natures. So men (and women) are forced to enter into an unnatural order in order to get the “top Mormon prize.”

        Women not only are more accepting of the situation, but actually champion it. For most women, monogamy is divine. Men, on the other hand, have no problem with polygyny except for the fact that each additional wife comes with more stewardship responsibility, so most men would not enter into it for that reason alone. In public, men give lip service to monogamy, whereas in private, they are okay with it, as long as minors are not involved. Men, when talking to men, are open books. When talking in the presence of women, they hide their true views of marriage. They act this way so as not to hurt the feelings of women.

        In truth, monogamy is not the order of the day: serial monogamy is. We marry, then divorce, then marry again. Over and over again. The thought is: the marriage didn’t work to bring me happiness because I chose the wrong person. Instead of: the marriage didn’t work because it was monogamous. Married men’s advice to single men to stay single (to have the freedom of having more than one sexual partner) adds evidence to our non-monogamous natures. In reality, men actually do enjoy marriage, they just don’t like the monogamous restrictions tied to it.

      • Corktree says:

        LDSA, for all your logic and understanding of what you interpret to be the gospel according to Christ, you are being falsely generous to women by maintaining your view of tribal relationships. It benefits no one but men to have multiple sexual partners in a marriage (even if it is a covenant, God-sanctioned arrangement). The real-world implementation of what you describe allows men to bow out of any form of self control by giving into their biological natures. YES, our biology makes monogamy very hard, I believe that, but there are other gospel laws we are asked to live that go against our biological natures.

        For women to have more than one husband would be exhausting and and less secure than you imagine (not to mention the strangeness of possibly not knowing the father of your children). Biologically, polygamy only favors men as far as reproduction and libido are concerned.

        So stop trying to pretend that what you propose is the grand answer to everyone’s problems, when it really sounds like it’s the answer to yours.

        I’ll admit a lot of what you mention is intriguing. You are very skilled at arguing your point and mingling scripture, but it still seems as though all you are looking for is cultural acceptance of men having mistresses to keep their brain stem happy. You don’t even care if the church accepts it officially, as long as you have a nice pool of women willing to accept these covenants with you.

        It sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it too. Stop recruiting.

      • Kiskilili says:

        I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Men have “no problem” with polygyny–except that they recoil from it, because “each additional wife comes with more stewardship responsibility.” If “enslavement” to one “nag” is misery, surely it’s not because men wish they could be enslaved to numerous nags simultaneously.

        This all seems like a very weak and incoherent defense of the status quo. As I’m reading you, you (and all men, if they’re honest) are miserable with the situation but believe it to be fair, divinity inspired, and non-ideal. The problems with monogamy for men that I hear you are articulating are that it imposes (a) an unrealistic expectation of exclusive sexual fidelity, and (b) a burdensome requirement of “stewardship” over bitchy and demanding women. But it’s a devil’s bargain. The more wives (and thus the more sex) men have, the more obligations they have to so many shrews. This sounds to me like the old canard that men want nothing but sex; love and commitment are a hassle. The irony is that my view of men is less dim than yours.

        If men feel miserable having their philandering impulses damped by monogamous marriage, think how women must feel knowing they’re nothing but heavenly green cards to their husbands.

      • Starfoxy says:

        And this:

        Men, when talking to men, are open books. When talking in the presence of women, they hide their true views of marriage. They act this way so as not to hurt the feelings of women.

        Whiffs of an attempt to pre-emptively discredit everything a woman could say about her lived experience with her husband. If her husband tells her otherwise then certainly he is lying- because he really secretly agrees with you. Hogwash.

      • Kiskilili says:

        Similarly, you’re an authority on what women want, whether or not they know it:

        The instant women get “equality” with men, they lose everything they’ve gained. For a man, treating a woman as an equal is to treat her as a man and for all the lip service that feminists give, no woman wants to be treated as a man.

        You’ve stacked the deck so that any evidence that disagrees with your claims–people saying they want something other than what you say they want, or that they’re happy in a situation you say makes them unhappy or vice versa–is “lying” or “lip service”: in short, disingenuous.

        But what makes you the authority on how other people feel?

      • Lol. One of the shortcomings of writing on a blog, I guess. Confusion over what a person means…

        Kiskilili, a woman wants equality. So her man gives it to her. In addition to sharing all the decision-making, etc. (the things she wanted), he also equalizes all the special treatment women get from men. He stops opening the door for her, etc. He starts treating her exactly as he treats a man, totally equal to him in every way. She got what she wanted, but why is she now more miserable than ever?

      • Starfoxy, please don’t put words in my mouth. I’m telling you my honest experience, not trying to discredit what women say.

        Men say one thing in front of their wives and once the women are gone, say the opposite in front of their male friends. When the wives come back in, the go back to saying the opposite.

        Now, I won’t go so far as to say this happens with Mormon men, but men in general put on an act in front of their wives. Choose to think it’s a fable if you want. But in my own experience, it happens all the time.

      • Kiskilili says:

        But what makes you think she’s more miserable than ever? I for one find chivalry demeaning. If being treated like a “woman” means being treated like a child, I’ll pass.

      • Justin says:

        It is often assumed that monogamy comes naturally to humans. Mainstream science – as well as religious and cultural institutions – have maintained that men and women evolved in family-units in which a man’s possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman’s fertility and fidelity.

        However, human society developed in egalitarian tribes that shared food, childcare, and often – sexual partners. In these small, intimate family groups, the most mature individuals would have had several ongoing sexual relationships at any given time. Here the extended family, which was often the entire community, is where children were raised.

        [“Paternity”, as you worry about it Corktree, is a much newer idea than what LDSA and I are talking about.]

        You are all the descendants of these multimale-multifemale tribal groups and, even though we’ve constructed a radically different society from our hunter/gatherer ancestors, the behavioral and psychological traits from the past still manifest themselves today.

        Monogamous animals, by definition, don’t have to compete for reproduction and, as a result, are characterized by a low-level of sexual activity. However, humans sit atop a very short list of animals that engage in sex for pleasure. No animal spends more of its allotted time on Earth focused on sexual matters than we do. In fact, the animal world is filled with species that confine their sexual behavior to just a few periods of the year, only during times when conception is highly probable.

        Also considering that males have a very large genitalia to body size ratio and that females can experience multiple orgasms indicate that humans are designed, by our natures, to engage in concurrent sexual relationshps within a group/tribal setting.

        Cocktree: YES, our biology makes monogamy very hard, I believe that, but there are other gospel laws we are asked to live that go against our biological natures.
        The other possibility is that, considering God created our bodies after the pattern of Goddesses and Gods, monogamy is contrary to our biology b/c it is not a part of the order in heaven. Which is precisely why D&C 132 outlines a multihusband-multiwife, tribal marriage system.

      • Kiskilili says:

        LDS Anarchist,

        Thanks for maintaining your good humor in spite of our disagreements. This seems like as good a point as any to cut the discussion short. Cheers.

      • Agreed, Kiskilili.

        To the administrators: one of my comments is still in your moderation queue. It is the one that mentions Sex at Dawn.

      • Justin says:

        To the administrators: one of my comments is still in your moderation queue.

        I too have one stuck there.

    • Jesse says:

      I’m hoping this is just one of those inadequacy-of-language things. I recently edited an article for a conservation group. The article focused on one member. With a group of friends, he organized a fund-raising event. I struggled with the grammar of that. I ended up using “he” because the article was about this one person, but he was working as part of a team, he didn’t lead the team: he was just part of it.

      I used the same grammar as this bit in the CHI…which is probably why I read the handbook the way I did.

    • Stephanie says:

      I am thinking along the lines of something like VP of Finance and VP of Operations, so it could read like this:

      With his wife as an equal partner [in marriage], he [serves] as the family’s spiritual leader [and she serves as the _____leader].

      I choose “life leader” like I explained in another comment (that I think might be caught in a spam filter?)

  10. Janna says:

    I don’t think it’s a grammar issue at all – it’s a meaning issue. The church is struggling in a postmodern world as it pertains to equality (and many other issues), so it’s better to just stun and confuse the women so that by the time we orient ourselves (i.e., perform all the mental gymnastics needed to make any sense out of these edicts), perhaps we will have forgotten what bothered us in the first place.

    • Rebecca says:

      Jana – The dazed and confused strategy has me laughing out loud!

      Seriously, I think there is a subtle shift in the language. In the leadership broadcast where the manuals were introduced, there was a mock ward council where women spoke up, gave ideas and were included as equals. They had a scenario where the YM were going to visit a garage and the YW president asked if the YW could be included. A bit goofy, yes. An attempt to be sensitive and inclusive, yes! Despite not using professional actors ;), I was encouraged by the church’s attempt to show women as equals. In the discussion after the role play, they emphasized it again. I do think change is afoot. Subtle. Slow. But change none the less. I don’t think the church wants the image of being misogynistic anymore than it wants to be portrayed as bigoted. The lifting of the priesthood ban in the 1970’s made us late-comers to the civil rights movement. Better late than never. Perhaps this is what we are going to see with regards to the women’s movement.

  11. Olive says:

    Just not doing it for me…it may be worded differently, but the message is still the same. And I’m less likely to hold up wording in the CHI over the Proclamation. I don’t see how the hairs can be split any other way. Men lead. That leaves us to follow. They can sugar coat it all they want, but thats the way it is.

    What we actually practice in our marriages is most likely different than what they preach, at least based on most of the young(er) women I know. I don’t know many people who still adhere to that. But we all go on repeating it anyway.

  12. Ingrid says:

    I understand it the same way as Stephanie does when she says
    “The impression I get from the language used is that the father is the ‘spiritual leader’ in an equal partnership where the mother is another type of leader. ”
    Though … what type of leader, exactly, is the mother? I assume she’s more in charge of “nurturing” the children and taking care of their physical needs, but hasn’t it been said multiple times in conference etc that this is equally the husbands responsibility? I don’t understand how the woman’s responsibilities are equally the man’s, but the man’s aren’t equally the woman’s.

    • Stephanie says:

      My thinking is largely shaped by the Two Trees Article.

      I am thinking something along the lines of “life leader”? Some responsibilities can be shared, but some really can’t. If DH and I want to have a baby, I’m really the only one who can volunteer to be pregnant. I’m the only one who can produce milk if we want to breastfeed. I’m the one who takes care of life. We have taken on more traditional roles, so I really would call myself our “life leader” in our family. I take care of the kids’ lives, with his help. I suspect, though, that even when/if I work and have children at home that I would still be more of a “life leader” and he would be more of a “spiritual leader” just because that’s how it works out for us.

  13. Last Lemming says:

    This statement is akin to stating, “With his Vice President as an equal partner, the President serves as the country’s executive leader.”

    How do you feel about the following statements?

    “Although the Chief Justice’s vote counts the same as every other justice’s, (s)he serves as the presiding officer of the Supreme Court.”

    “Although the Fed Chairman’s vote counts the same as every other committee member, (s)he serves as the presiding officer of the Federal Open Market Committee.”

    I include both statements because the Chief Justice and the Fed Chairman represent two very different models of presiding (neither bearing any resemblance to the Presidential model). If you understand the dynamics of the two institutions, you could feel very differently about the two statements. I am still trying to figure out how those models of presiding might apply to the family.

    • Stephanie says:

      Last Lemming, could you spell this out a bit more?

      • Last Lemming says:

        I was writing a whole essay on models of presiding, but gave up because I was unable to relate any of them persuasively to the family. Here is a summary of what I came up with on the Chief Justice and the Chairman of the Fed.

        I characterize the model of presiding represented by the Chief Justice as that of decision framer. Decisions of the Supreme Court are by majority vote, with the Chief Justice’s vote counting the same as the other eight justices. But the Chief Justice does have some prerogatives. He speaks first in conference, which sets the tone for the deliberations. But split decisions are still common, so the power flowing from that prerogative is limited. If he votes with the majority, he appoints the justice who will write the majority opinion (or writes it himself.) It is the written opinion that will really determine how the decision is interpreted and implemented. Chief Justices have been known to switch their votes so that they can exercise some control over how the decision is framed. But they can also be on the losing side and end up having no input at all.

        I characterize the model of presiding represented by the Fed Chairman as consensus builder. Decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC–where interest rates are set) are also by majority vote, with the Chairman’s vote counting the same as every other committee member. But most votes are unanimous, and the Chairman is never ever on the losing side. He typically listens to everyone’s opinion first, then states his own, then everybody speaks again, indicating whether they can support the Chairman’s recommendation. Other members are free to dissent, but the culture of consensus is so strong (because markets react so intensely to uncertainty) that few do. How much the Chairman modifies his opinion in reaction to the first round of discussion is unclear, but the popular wisdom is “not much.” (See for more details on the FOMC’s decision-making process.)

        So, I don’t know for sure what that contributes. But it at least provides two models of presiding that do not involve one person simply dictating the outcome.

    • Janna says:

      Very interesting point. Definitely makes me a pause a moment, but, a very, very short moment until I launch into the well-trod argument that many of us have made in this forum that basing leadership on gender is simply immoral.

    • Last Lemming, I’ve been struggling too. Part of the problem is that other than the whole “servant-leadership” approach (that is very Baptist and carries a number of connotations), someone like Justin can point out what the scriptures mean, but there is not a good metaphor in our society.

      The closest I can think of is the guarantee fund board I sat on for a while. Sure, we had a president — he was an employee the board hired. It was his job to do the work (and he did not get a vote on the board, btw). Most of the board was a group of actuaries. We were almost always unanimous, but that was because if someone disagreed everything tended to come to a full stop until the issue got worked out.

      There were a few non-unanimous votes, but those all arose after outside complaints that we agreed too much. The outside observers, who had complained, rapidly got the point.

      I know Orson Scott Card had the website person who “presided” titled “Janitor” for a while (that was a while back). But we do not have a good number of institutions to draw from. I’ll bet that Elgin would probably use some sort of word that means to assist a garden. Like a husbandman or something. The problem is that husband no longer brings to mind the meaning it has (of one who cares for and husbands something). Gardner has too much of the elements of control.

      I will close with the fact that a very real issue from the Church side is keeping men engaged. “Preside” is often used in terms where operatively it means “engaged.” Men disengaging from religion and from family is an endemic issue in our society.

  14. Rebecca says:

    About the online publication of the CH2 – It’s a good thing. I’m sure the church realized it was impossible to keep it off of the internet anyway so they might as well be official about it. Also, there is a movement to have people refrain from writing letters to the GA’s to clarify points of doctrine or administration. It makes sense to have the information widely available. Want to know the church’s stance on cremation, sperm donation, surrogacy? Now you can go online and look it up. Good.

  15. Justin says:

    As I was going thru this post and comments with my wife, she asked that I relate this story:

    At tithing settlement, our Bishop asked my daughter if she would like to give our opening prayer. She said, “No, I’d like Mommy to say it.” My wife and I got in the prayer posture, but before she could start — he said, “Okay then, Justin, would you offer the opening prayer.”

    At least we now know how he feels about the whole presiding issue.

    • Rebecca says:

      Speechless. I’m just hoping that he misheard your daughter, or had a bit of mental dyslexia going there. Surely if a little girl can pray, her mother can as well.

    • I kind of understand where your bishop was coming from. When you enter someone’s house, you do so with permission from that person. That person, male or female, is the one to take the lead in the gatherings in his or her house, and to conduct the meetings. This is by right of owning the house. It is disrespectful to have someone come into your home and then take charge without your say so.

      In the same manner, the bishop’s office is the bishop’s office, not anyone else’s. Although he doesn’t own it, he is in charge of it, it is in his care (his stewardship), it pertains to him and him alone while he still retains that office and calling. So, when you enter his office, it would be disrespectful to take charge of any meetings in it.

      However, if the bishop enters someone’s home, and tries to assert his leadership and conduct meetings by virtue of his office, without the say-so of the owner of the home, that would be disrespectful. In such a case, the owner of the home can conduct and select who does what, even if that owner is a woman and in the presence of visiting priesthood holders. She “outranks” the visitors, by virtue of her owning the home or it being her residence and not theirs. So, whoever is the husband, or husbonda (master of the house, house-holder), is the authority figure of that house or dwelling.

      This is why missionaries, who hold the holy priesthood and the office of elder, enter non-member homes and then ask permission for offering prayers, singing, etc. Permission is always asked and if the father or mother decides to take charge, they are to defer to their authority, because in that home the non-members “outrank” the priesthood-holding elders.

      Another example would be grandparents visiting their son or daughter and in-law for the holidays. Although the grandfather may be a high priest and the son or son-in-law an elder, in their family gatherings, as they are invited guests, they have no right of taking charge of the meetings. It is the head of the household they are visiting that leads and conducts, regardless of their priesthood and family rank. On neutral ground, gatherings are led according to priesthood office or extended family rank, but on private lands, priesthood bows to the background.

      (Heavenly Father is a special case as He both outranks everyone and owns everything. So, regardless of where the gathering is, He is presides.)

      In your bishop’s case, it might have been more magnanimous for your bishop to have acceded to your daughter’s wishes, but perhaps he was trying to teach this principle by demonstration.

      • Tom says:

        Not that I was there, but I doubt the bishop was “trying to teach this principle” anymore than he was trying to fill the void created when Justin’s daughter turned down the offer. He was probably feeling awkward and wanted to fill the void by asking someone else. Just my thoughts.

  16. spunky says:

    I have to say that I really like CH1 don’t used the terms “father” and “mother”, wherein the proclamation does. That in and of itself is an improvement… men and women whp aren’t parents are at least still recognised in the Kingdom… but I have always wondered about that- it seems to me that in traditonal thought, the man “presides” over the woman, and the woman “presides” over the children – well, until her sons become 12, at least… anyway, I wondered if, in part, that is why some women in past generations chose to have so many children (if they had a choice) even if they were in unhappy marriages– “presiding” over children somehow gave them authority or agency that they might not have otherwise been allowed (?).

  17. Stephanie says:

    I think I get this now. Justin, your comments and posts have really helped me to understand this issue. It’s not about the relationship between a husband and his wife (or family) – it’s about the relationship between a husband and other priesthood leaders in the church. Presiding is about who has responsibility, stewardship and authority. Which priesthood leader has it for a family? If there is a conflict, which priesthood leaders trumps in spiritual matters? The husband or the Bishop? The husband or the Stake President? The husband or the prophet? Always the husband. No other priesthood leader can trump his priesthood authority. The church’s hierarchical organization is just temporary, but the family is eternal. Our hierarchical organization is based on our weaknesses as mortals, but the family is based on our potential as eternal beings. So, in saying that the father “presides”, I think the point is that the father is the primary priesthood leader in our temporal church organization. I don’t think it has anything to do with his relationship to his family.

    With that context, the quote from the CHI reads much more like Jessr interpreted it:

    With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader.

    Not the Bishop or Home Teachers or EQ President – no other church leader can preside over the family. It then lists the family ordinances that the spiritual leader of the home is responsible for.

    It makes Elder Oaks’ statement in these recent conference make sense that the presiding officer in the home is the father or single mother. Again, he is not talking about the relationship to the family, but the relationship to other church leaders. Who trumps? The single mother or the Bishop? The single mother, of course.

    The extension of this is that a married mother trumps the Bishop, too. Parents are more powerful and carry more authority in the church than other church leaders. I think that is the point. And they are equal partners in this authority.

    I think I will keep this perspective in mind as I read and listen to church statements from now on and see if it changes the meaning.

    Thanks, Jesse, for this post. I have really been struggling over Elder Oaks’ talks for the past few days, and this thread has helped me sort my thoughts out. And, Justin, I am really looking forward to reading more on your site, too.

    • Elder Packer gave a talk about this for conference, stressing that people ought not to be trumping the father because of hierarchy. If you read the talk again, with this lens, I think it will make a lot more sense to you.

      The extension of this is that a married mother trumps the Bishop, too. — which is why Oaks mother presided and not the bishop or someone else.

      • Stephanie2 says:

        Are you talking about “The Power of the Priesthood” from the May 2010 conference? I read that talk again last night with these new thoughts in mind, and it made so much more sense! I had really struggled with that talk, but I get it now. Here is one example. He quotes Joseph F. Smith as saying:

        In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and it all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount.

        It always really irked me because I thought it was comparing the authority of the father to the mother and saying that his authority trumps her authority. But I don’t think that is what it was saying. I understand it more like this:

        In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father [with his wife as equal partner], and it all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount [including other church leaders or government officials].

        It changes the meanings and implications significantly.

  18. mmiles says:

    I’m alarmed at your interpretation of the father being the spiritual leader. What does that mean exactly? If the father is the spiritual leader, does that mean if the children are not taught the gospel it’s the father’s fault? It’s all on him? When it comes to day to day Mormon things, is the mother not supposed to do FHE? Prayer and scripture study? make sure the family attends church?
    The church recognizes the father or husband of the family as the presider, regardless if he has the priesthood or not, and regardless if he is a member or not. If members or missionaries visit the home and want to leave a prayer, they yield to the man of the house to call on someone, regardless of his standing. Presiding doesn’t really seem to have anything at all to do with the priesthood in family life as far as the Church is concerned.

    • Stephanie says:

      mmiles, I am not sure what would cause you “alarm” about my comment. My understanding of a father being a spiritual leader is that in terms of church ordinances and practices for the family, the father is responsible, not any other priesthood leader.

      If the father is the spiritual leader, does that mean if the children are not taught the gospel it’s the father’s fault? It’s all on him? When it comes to day to day Mormon things, is the mother not supposed to do FHE? Prayer and scripture study? make sure the family attends church?

      No, both the CHI and Proc clarify that:

      With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader.

      Again, I don’t think this is about his relationship to his wife. They are equal partners.

      I don’t think that all of our cultural practices dictate doctrine. In fact, I think a lot of our cultural practices are just misunderstanding the doctrine. I think it is misunderstanding the doctrine to assume that a husband “presiding” means he has anything “over” his wife (but I think our entire culture has misunderstood it and is evoloving).

      • Tom says:


        Neither the CHI nor the Proclamation are neither scripture (at least I’m not aware of any voting to sustain them as scripture) nor binding in any way, so why should we rely on them to arrive at any conclusion?

      • Tom says:

        — sorry, an extra “neither” made it in there on accident —

        Should read, “neither the CHI nor the Proclamation are scripture … “.

        My apologies.

    • Justin says:


      Perhaps if you would read the links that I provided [which Stephanie indicated that she read prior to making her comment] then you wouldn’t be so alarmed.

    • Stephanie — that was well said.

  19. mmiles says:

    By which I mean, presiding in the home and the priesthood are not always linked.

  20. Stephanie says:

    Last Lemming, that’s an interesting point, but to be honest, I just don’t think that the use of the word “presiding” has much to do with decision making for a couple. If husbands and wives are actually equal partners, then we figure things out as equal partners. I think that applying presiding to decision making (like in a horrid Ensign article I linked to once that said that if a consensus isn’t reached, then the husband gets the final say) is misunderstanding the concept. That’s just my opinion, though.

  21. This has developed into a great essay of its own in the comments.

    • Aimee says:

      What this all boils down to for me is this: if the mathematical equation of the roles of men and women are always
      MAN=Priesthood Presider AND Father
      there will never be real gender equality in the home (if a couple is following this prescribed model). Although I can see and even appreciate the more nuanced tone in the CHI, I am finding that the ultimate insistence on this model offers less reason for hope and more reason to worry that the softer language is merely an opiate.

  22. Justin says:

    I remembered this paragraph from my Bradley method book as I was reading the comments:

    “We do get objections about the word ‘husband.’ Our definition of a husband is someone who loves and protects the woman. It is someone she can depend on and relate to. It is generally the father of the child…
    Husbandry is what they teach at universities when they breed cattle, the word doesn’t have to mean ‘married.’ You can ‘husband’ your resources…
    One does not have to be the biological father or even a Y-chromosome person to have this title…
    There is simply no other word in the English that conveys the same tender bond that a birth-coach shares and expirences. A ‘husband’ is one who is dedicated and supportive of the woman — willing and anxious to serve and defend her like no one else can: in labor, birth, child rearing, and life.”

  23. mmiles says:

    Fair enough. However that seems more like simple priesthood authority than spiritual leadership. I think the language is problematic. If we call it spiritual leadership it implies women have less control over even their own spirituality, and less influence in the home over spiritual matters. We can say they preside as equals all we want, but making one a leader negates all of that with a word.

  24. Jesse says:

    What a rich conversation. I have been thinking about the dialogue between Stephanie and Justin. It is hard to shift my understanding of these passages from: “the husband and wife are in charge of what happens in their home (with the husband getting a final say)” to “the husband and wife are the final authorities over anything that happens in their home. No other priesthood authority has precedence over their decisions.”

    I think the first reading has become my default interpretation of church doctrine–which is why I got so excited about the small change in wording. However, Stephanie, Justin and Ethesis’s comments really strike a chord with me. This idea just makes so much more sense. I think it will take a great deal of effort on my part to hold onto this interpretation in light of my lifetime of reading the doctrine, and hearing it interpreted and practiced in a much more misogynistic manner.

    I’m so glad Caroline agreed to post this for me. Now, when this topic comes up in conversation, instead of just whinging that patriarchy makes me itchy I will have some thought provoking, well reasoned, and doctrinally based ideas to contribute (thanks to all of the comments here).

    • I will note that Brigham Young and others stated that acting properly withing marriage was extremely difficult, and that getting across the equality of women was a very hard task.

      The language (and its encapsulated metaphors) is just not well suited.

  25. Kiskilili says:

    “With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader.”

    I too find this statement thoroughly nonsensical. “He” seems to be presiding both with his wife and to the exclusion of his wife (i.e., it’s “he,” not “they”).

    I can appreciate the hope that the cook is unveiling a new dish on the menu. But I just smell leftover Chicken Patriarch Stew, reheated and with a dash of pepper added.

  26. Stella says:


    Thank you for all of your comments. I finally had time to read through them today and you put voice to what I have been thinking (you usually do).

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