Thursday, May 7, 2009

Perspectives On LDS Doctrine: Is A Marriage Truly Equal If The Husband "Presides" Over The Wife?

An interesting question was posed by two different bloggers in the Bloggernacle on May 6th, 2009. The question: Can a marriage be truly equal if, according to LDS Church doctrine, the husband presides over the wife? Two different answers resulted. Which of the two, if any, is right?

On Waters Of Mormon, the Baron gives his opinion, based upon a limited legalistic human perspective:

If men are called to “lead”, “rule” and/or “preside” over the family, then by definition the relationship is not equal. And if they truly are not equal, then why not just say so, without trying to cloud the issue through grafted-on, nice-sounding rhetoric about equal partners.

Or, on the other hand, if husbands and wives really are equal partners, then why introduce the abstract concept of "presiding" in the first place?

But on Blogger Of Jared, Michelle gives a different opinion, based upon a less limited and more divine perspective:

I also think that language is limited. This idea of presiding is a perfect example. In the dictionary, presiding means something and we pigeonhole doctrinal teachings by the dictionary, instead of considering that perhaps sometimes there could be different meaning in gospel context. e.g., the presiding thing. I really believe that presiding by definition in a marriage is essentially doing what is necessary to create a safe, consistent, Spirit-led environment where equal partnership can take place and where family life can thrive. Equal partnership simply cannot happen if a man is not willing to make that possible. For whatever reason, imo, that is a key part of the man’s duty in a marriage.

In her mind, Michelle believes that the husband must act as the "president" of the home in order to fulfill his equal obligations, and if he fails to do so, then he is not pulling his weight. Interesting concept.

Michelle then drives the message home later in the post by reminding us that in the Lord's perspective, marriage is supposed to be a cooperative relationship rather than a competitive relationship. With that in mind, "presidency" doesn't become oppressive or chauvinistic.

In the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord, through His prophet Joseph Smith, took very short shrift with men who used "presidency" or "Priesthood" to wrongfully impose their will upon their wives. Section 121 contains the guidance, beginning with verse 36:

36 That 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.
37 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.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 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;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

As you can see, merely designating the husband to be "president" of the family is not, in and of itself, an unequal or oppressive act. It is only when the husband misuses that authority and exercises unrighteous dominion that it becomes an oppressive act. And at the very moment he begins to exercise unrighteous dominion, the Spirit abruptly flees, and the man's priesthood authority immediately ceases in spirit. At that point, the man has just exchanged "priesthood" for "priestcraft". Priestcraft is the Satanic counterfeit of priesthood, and Satan, having lost eternity because of open rebellion, prefers to insinuate and counterfeit in order to seduce and lead away the spirits of men.

Also take note of the use of the word "sharpness" in verse 43. "Sharpness" does NOT mean abusiveness, but means "clarity". Note that the reproval with sharpness is intertwined with the influence of the Holy Ghost. This prevents "sharpness" from becoming abusive.

Michelle clearly has a better grasp of the Lord's mind on this issue.

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