Drawbacks to Ordaining Women

April 9, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 11:16 am   Category: Bloggernacle,Ethics,Mormon Culture/Practices

(Note:  This post was written almost entirely before Elder Oaks’ talk regarding the nature of priesthood.  Sadly, I have not given much thought to the relevance which that talk has to my own thoughts on this subject.)

This post is not about the Ordain Women movement.  Quite some time ago, I posted a critique of the Ordain Women organization wherein I suggested that even though the movement is about faithful LDS women, that does not mean that it is actually for faithful LDS women.  Rather, I suggested, the movement is actually by and for humanistic intellectuals.  In that post, I repeated what has become almost a cliché for those who aren’t fully on board with OW:  It’s not that I am against women being ordained to the priesthood, it’s just that I object to the OW organization and the tactics they employ.  In that way, I attempted to sideline the inevitable accusations of misogyny which such a post provokes so as to look at the conflict that OW presents between intellectuals and priesthood authority (patriarchal or otherwise).  In this post, however, I wish to do the exact opposite: I wish to sideline any thoughts or preferences concerning the nature of the Ordain Women in order to focus exclusively on the ordainability of women.

The progressives are right.  With the first distraction out of the way, let me now say some things that will likely alienate both extremes of the OW debate.  I think the progressive description of the state of affairs is pretty much right, in that women are clearly not on equal footing with men in the church.  Sure, we can point to any number of benefits/responsibilities that men and women share equally within the church, but doing so merely attempts to draw attention away from rather than explain or justify the inequalities that are really at issue.  Since priesthood authority includes the authority to legitimately close and open debate on certain issues, then the plain fact of the matter is that there are some men within the church who can legitimately open any debate that women have attempted to close or close any debate that women have attempted to open.  By contrast, the debates among men that can legitimately be opened or closed by any woman in the church are very few and far between.  Whatever you want to call this asymmetry between the genders, it is not equality.

The progressives are wrong.  Having agreed with the progressives in a way that is likely to alienate many (most?) TBMs, I now want to say some things that will also alienate many (most?) progressives.  While I agree with their description of gender relations within the church, I have serious reservations about their prescribed solution of ordaining women to the priesthood.  I am not so convinced as to actively assert that women should not be ordained, but I can say that I am not at all convinced that ordaining women would be a good thing overall.  Furthermore, my reasons for doubting the propriety of ordaining women has nothing at all to do with any supposed lack or surplus of abilities, qualifications or worthiness in men or women.  The progressives are right to think that any theory that holds women to be too good or too pure for the priesthood are probably meant to distract from rather than explain or justify gender inequalities.  On the contrary, my reasons for resisting women’s ordination and the benefits that would likely come with it are based in the costly changes that I think it will cause to the values and structures within the church.  In particular, I fear that ordaining women will not only undermine patriarchy within the church, but will also undermine several things which serve to set priesthood authority apart from other secular forms of authority.

If everybody has priesthood authority, then nobody has it.  Priesthood authority is designed to set specific people apart from the rest so as to prevent competition and power struggles.  Priesthood authority, then, is utterly antithetical to the universal and democratic equality which is at the root of progressive movements.  There is no church organization in which there is or is meant to be complete equality throughout the entire group.  Every meeting, class or group gathering has assigned to it a presiding officer who, to some extent, decides which discussions will be opened/closed and when.  To be sure, the righteous presiding officer will regularly confer with their counselors along with the rest of the group as well as do other such things that prevent unrighteous dominion, but what the final decision is and when it is made is ultimately up to that presiding officer and nobody else.  To be clear, I do not wish to argue that progressives wish to undermine or destroy priesthood authority altogether.  Progressives do not necessarily want to stop ordaining people to such presiding positions within the church so much as open these positions up to people of both genders.

Progressives want to restructure and redefine priesthood authority.  Progressives do not want to give every single person equal standing and authority within the church.  They still want people to be given authority that sets them apart from the rest of their group so long as it is done in a way that discriminates along roughly the same lines as modern, Western bureaucracies:  skill, experience, productivity, reason and (especially) worthiness.  Progressives object to any kind of authority (priesthood or otherwise) that discriminates according to race, gender or sexual orientation rather than those qualifications listed above.  As such, progressives are especially scandalized by the fact that unworthy, non-member males are accepted into priesthood meetings while unquestionably worthy females are not.  This implies that the church sees gender as being even more essential to priesthood authority than personal worthiness and other such qualifications are.  Such a view of authority is utterly at odds with the values of the 21st Century, western democracies in which we are brought up.

Priesthood authority is structured around the family.  The church and its priesthood, however, are supposed to be an expression or embodiment the family and its values, not those of 21st Century western democracies.  For Mormons, the kingdom of God on earth (as it is in heaven) has always been a familial organization.  Teaching men, regardless of their worthiness, to be priesthood holders, effectively extends the church organization into each individual family by making the male parent the presiding officer over his “quorum”.  Thus, structuring the family around the same priesthood authority that governs the church essentially integrates each family within the church’s organization, an organic relationship which stands in contrast to the more casual association that the household would otherwise have with the church organization.  Furthermore, since the family is part of the church and the church is part of the family, it too is led by the prophets and apostles.  Finally, this most important meeting, class and group that is the family is just like any other group in the church in that it has one and only one presiding authority.

Ordaining women is not at all like overturning the racial ban.  It is, however, very much like accepting same sex marriage in that it involves a radical restructuring as well as redefinition of authority within the most important organization of the church – the family.  Ordaining women, like accepting SSM, would make the family very different from every other group within the church in that it would have two equal authorities who occasionally disagree and thus compete with each other.  When all adults within the family have priesthood authority, no adult has priesthood authority, since priesthood authority can no longer function to resolve, settle or terminate any disputes, disagreements or power struggles which might arise between these two authorities.  Rather, all disputes and decisions must thus be resolved according to public criteria which define 21st Century western democracies and intellectualism in general: experience, reason, expertise, etc.

Ordaining women transforms that most important of all priesthood organizations – the family – into a secular institution.  A family in which there is no uniquely recognized authority figure is one which can no longer be governed by personal revelation to that presiding authority.  Instead, the personal revelation of the two competing authority figures is instead evaluated according to publicly available and therefore naturalistic and secular criteria such as reason, experience, etc.  Like other secular institutions such as intelligentsia, bureaucracy, democracy, etc. the family thus becomes marred by competition, discord, disloyalty and voluntary disassociation since these are the very behaviors that secular groups incentivize.  By contrast, granting unique presiding authority to the father reinforces a – paradoxically artificial and at the same time divine – state of affairs in which the dependency of the wife and children is matched by a sense of responsibility of the father.  This symbiotic relationship of dependency and responsibility serves to non-voluntarily reinforce familial bonds of loyalty, unity and stability.

These are historically situated drawbacks rather than timeless arguments against ordaining women.  As in all things, certain costs and benefits must be weighed and traded-off against each other and there are no guarantees that the costs and benefits that I have discussed in this post will always weigh the same.  Furthermore, my critique of equal co-presided families does not directly speak to how these costs and benefits would weigh against each other within matriarchal or single-parent families.  The fact is that neither I nor anybody else knows exactly what would happen for good or ill if the church began ordaining women.  None of us know if the dangers which might befall the family outweigh the blessings which might result from ordaining women.  Nor do any of us know if or when the probabilities or magnitudes of these dangers and blessings might shift in another direction.  Only God knows and only His duly and uniquely ordained prophets and apostles are qualified hear His wisdom on the subject.

(Post Script Edit:  I would really like to have a level-headed conversation here.  Please no sarcasm, name-calling, etc.  The ideal comment would probably begin by noting the part about the post/comment that you think is most correct and only then articulating the part that you think is most wrong.  Hopefully this will keep trolling as well as accusations of trolling to a minimum as well.)

76 Comments »

  1. So let me see if can sum up:

    The church set up is unequal, perhaps even wrong to our modern sensibilities, but that’s the way it is supposed to be because God isn’t saying anything different.

    Seriously, this is the best argument I’ve seen. It’s also the argument that is the last to precede any real meaningful change in the church.

    Comment by Rose50 — April 9, 2014 @ 11:48 am

  2. Your argument about family structure seems to suppose that this is the only way a family can work. Outside the church and outside patriarchal societies, co-equal marriages work well. The equal partners in these marriages do not compete but they do have to work together to resolve disagreements. That’s life. That’s marriage. Having a priesthood holder who uses his priesthood as a 2nd, deciding vote in conflicts with his wife does not ensure there will be harmony in the home. It only means he’s using unrighteous dominion.

    I think it’s interesting, though, that your view of the patriarchal marriage is more honestly described than the description the church puts out. Mormon feminists have long argued that there can be no true equality in marriage as long as men are tasked with presiding. Your definition of how things work in a marriage with a priesthood holder presiding support that argument.

    Comment by Sarah Braudaway-Clark — April 9, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

  3. Well, you summed up the second and final paragraphs pretty nicely, but you completely ignored the main point which was found in between.

    I know that you aren’t trying to be all that hostile and dismissive, but I really tried to give progressives as much credit as I could. It would be pretty nice if they would return to favor. :)

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

  4. Sarah,

    I appreciate the feedback. I do acknowledge that the options which I have considered are pretty limited. I had to start somewhere and the positions that are the most simple and popular seemed as good a place of any. I suspect that for the most part these points generalize to other cases as well, but I’m not prepared to defend this assertion at this time.

    “Having a priesthood holder who uses his priesthood as a 2nd, deciding vote in conflicts with his wife does not ensure there will be harmony in the home. It only means he’s using unrighteous dominion.”

    According to one definition, you are certainly right. But the whole point of my post, the very point which your comment accentuates, is that there are multiple definitions of marriage. The temple seems to make it pretty clear that your definition of marriage and unrighteous dominion is not the same as the Lord’s. I tried to head this objection off in the post by noting that any quorum president that does not confer with his assistants or other in his group is clearly being unrighteous. But you make it sound as if as righteous presiding officer is a contradiction in terms.

    To be sure, humanistic intellectuals are inclined to think that righteous presiding authority based in social positions such as ordination is in fact a contradiction in terms. And this is almost the point of the post: that making a husband and wife co-presiding authorities in the family abandons the church’s notion of righteous presiding authority and transforms it into that of humanistic intellectuals.

    As for my depiction of the family as priesthood organization, my blunt description in terms that progressives are eager to accept was intentional. I hoped that giving them credit where its due might lead them to return the favor. So many times these conversations amount to little more that trading insults and distractions without ever honing in and focusing on the point at issue. (Neither side is even close to innocent, IMO.) I’m really hoping that we can have a level-headed conversation here.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

  5. I think if the church polled its members, it would find that most marriages, at the very least most of those with couples under 50, already operate under humanistic intellectual principles. I don’t really think it would be much of a stretch for the church to change how they define or describe marriage when the practical, lived experience of most marriages in the church are already more progressive than that definition.

    When the church describes marriages as equal but with a presiding authority (something I consider a contradiction, no matter how righteous the presiding authority might be), married couples are forced to decide which marriage they’ll have…an equal one or one in which the husband presides. I believe most marriages choose the equal one because it’s the one that makes the most sense in modern society.

    Comment by Sarah Braudaway-Clark — April 9, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

  6. Couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon, could you? ;)

    I found your post very thoughtful, and it compliments some of my own thoughts. The Ordain Women movement takes it almost for granted that men and women are supposed to be equal, but equality is actually a very loaded term. Certainly, the scriptures are clear that in terms of accessing salvation, all men and women are equal. But God neither suggests that He is interested in equality of outcome (i.e. there are different tiers in heaven), nor does He suggest that we should have equality of opportunity, and that includes equality of opportunity to receive priesthood keys. Maybe that will happen one day, but maybe not. The point is, equality of opportunity is mainly a civic virtue, like tolerance, and freedom of speech. We want to encourage these in our civic institutions, but we need to remember that religion plays a different ball game, and civic values don’t necessarily become religious values just because they work well in the civic environment. Equality of opportunity is not necessarily a value that’s important to God in His church. Why wouldn’t it be? Well, maybe for the reasons you pointed out. But isn’t that contrary to the acts of a loving God? Well, maybe not. Equality may not be the appropriate path for us to realize our divine potential, but seeking the best of what we have in front of us certainly is.

    Just some of my thoughts.

    Comment by DavidF — April 9, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

  7. I don’t necessarily disagree with your first paragraph. That was a big reason for my final paragraph where I pointed out that this is a historically contextualized drawback that might one day change. Of course, the vast majority of decision made within the typical priesthood quorum operate in ways that appear to be no different from those humanistic intellectual principles, even though this is not really the case. I think the family structure advocated by the church is probably no different.

    With regards to your second paragraph, I think you are on pretty solid ground in that a group which has a presiding authority can never be totally equal. I don’t think, however, that the church is trying to abolish this presiding authority when they urge (what must be) equality in some other sense. I suspect the church means equality in terms of the importance, worth, effort, etc. of each individual – an equality which is clearly not what progressives seek at this point. I would agree that there certainly is a deep tension here, but I’m not sure that I would call it an outright logical contradiction.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

  8. Haha DavidF, you might not have had anything original to contribute, but I still did…. or so I think. ;)

    I agree that there is a significant difference between the secular values which ought to structure the civic institutions which we are compelled to be subject to and those values which ought to structure the religious institutions which we freely subject ourselves to. I may or may not address this point in some other post, but I really wanted to keep this post as short and simple as I could.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

  9. I am really interested in this sentence, as it seems to be the logical pin for your entire argument: “If everybody has priesthood authority, then nobody has it. Priesthood authority is designed to set specific people apart from the rest so as to prevent competition and power struggles.” I have never heard this before. Consider a small group in which there are only men that hold the Priesthood, like the bishopric. One is chosen to preside, while the other two hold a calling that allows them access to the keys of the Priesthood and delegates some responsibility but do not hold the ultimate say. All three still have the Priesthood. I think the hierarchal structure of callings within the church (and the rotating nature of those callings) allows for us to avoid power struggles. “All of us may hold the priesthood, but we can only use it as authorized and directed so to do by those who hold the keys.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1972/04/eternal-keys-and-the-right-to-preside?lang=eng) I think that if your argument were true the church would be limiting the number of people who hold the Priesthood altogether so that we could have less disagreement. I have never heard a scriptural statement or revelation of any kind that suggests the Priesthood is to separate the decision-makers from the non-decision makers.

    Comment by Erin — April 9, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

  10. Impeccably presented, as always, Jeff.

    This reminds me strongly of a situation on my mission. As much as I dislike saying “when I was on my mission,” that was the time I participated in priesthood structure.

    As a junior companion, I generally had amazing senior companions. My final senior companion, I’ll call her Sister Echt, was an amazing woman even though we did not agree very often on what work we should do. When we disagreed, Sister Echt would try to persuade me. She would set out her reasoning, I’d absorb it to varying levels and explain mine. We’d go back and forth, often passionately, but always in a spirit of love and mutual teamwork.

    When we were done debating, even if I didn’t fully agree, I was able to defer to her choice and often understand why she made it. Then we could unify for a common purpose, even though I might not have been fully convinced. I was not unequal because she made sure my opinion was given equal weight, and (where possible) made sure I agreed before taking action.

    Contrast that to one companion, Sister Schlect, who only wanted me to do it her way. She overruled me preemptively, never really explained her reasoning, and made me feel like nothing more than an appendage. In that companionship, we rarely worked as a team.

    Presiding means, not to unilaterally make decisions, but to make sure that the team is functioning unified and under the direction of the Spirit.

    One may try to paint this as being at odds with “modern society,” but even in business management training, this method of management is rapidly gaining popularity.

    We don’t have to frame marriages as being a question of equality when we frame them as a question of unity. It’s a totally different paradigm. Humanistic intellectualism may seem superior to some options, but is only a pale shadow to Zion.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 9, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

  11. SilverRain

    That’s an interesting comparison, however, in that scenario at least you had the option of at one time being the senior companion and learning and growing as such. In the patriarchal structure as it stands and outlined here, that is not possible.

    Comment by Rose50 — April 9, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

  12. Erin,

    You’re exactly right in that this post (along with pretty much every post I’ve written in the last year) does hinge on that way of construing priesthood authority. In this post I didn’t want to get too distracted with this issue, but I have no problem discussing it here in the comments.

    My definition is by no means meant to disqualify other construals of priesthood authority which focus less on the locus of decision making or the legitimacy of various speech acts. In fact, mine is a definition of authority in general, as there is nothing intrinsically church-y about it. Any hierarchical organization, I submit, is structured by authority which dictates who is set apart and properly legitimized to do and say various things.

    For example, in church some people can legitimately say that sacrament prayers within certain contexts. Other can legitimately say that the prayer was not done properly. And so on. A father presides over his family, but a wife is fully authorized to go to their bishop who in turn might open up some debates that the father had previously tried to close down.

    In other words, I think mine is one particularly useful way of construing priesthood authority for the purpose at hand. But this does not mean that other ways of construing it might not be more useful in other situations. Did that address your issue?

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

  13. SR,

    As always, you describe my points in ways that wonderfully compliment my own language.

    Rose in 11,

    The priesthood structure that we are a part of has no senior companion (save Christ himself). We are all junior companions to somebody or another. I know that this doesn’t change the fact that all and only husbands are supposed to preside in some sense over their wives and that this is a asymmetrical relationship which can never be fully equal in every way. The point of my post, however, is that such an equality as progressives seek would necessarily involve trade-offs which restructure and redefine priesthood authority as we know it. No doubt, this isn’t terribly comforting, but K think it should at least give us a small sense of hesitancy with regards to the magnitude of each trade-off as well as the standards against which we are weighing them. (I find it very difficult to believe that God uses the same standard as humanistic intellectuals.)

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

  14. Jeff,

    No, it doesn’t, actually. What I was thinking and perhaps not saying is that I am really uncomfortable the premise that Priesthood is kept from some part of the population in order to create order. It’s not that I think you were discounting other construals, but that you were making yours up with no scriptural evidence. I think that the hierarchy of church callings is separate from the calling of the Priesthood, as evidenced by there being 12 year old boys entrusted with the power of God but not the care and keeping of an entire ward, or High Priests who are not holding callings and do not have keys but still have the power. If there (for some reason) were an entire ward of men, the entire ward could have the Priesthood. I think this invalidates the specific claim and reasoning that women can never have the Priesthood because it would create disorder. There are other claims that I cannot disprove with anything else than my gut feeling, but in this case I feel like your oversimplification of the reason for Priesthood power being withheld from some people is not a sound logical underpinning.

    Comment by Erin — April 9, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

  15. “A family in which there is no uniquely recognized authority figure is one which can no longer be governed by personal revelation to that presiding authority. Instead, the personal revelation of the two competing authority figures is instead evaluated according to publicly available and therefore naturalistic and secular criteria such as reason, experience, etc.” Outrageous! Do you seriously believe that authoritarian dictatorships are better than democracies? That decisions are better when they are not encumbered by logic and discussion? That giving women a say in decision-making results in disloyalty (when participation is proven to actually create higher levels of loyalty)? What hell-hole family life are you proposing?? In our family, everyone gets to share their ideas and feelings, including the kids. Obviously, the parents work together to make most decisions. The husband is not entitled to supreme veto power any more than the wife is. If you want a recipe for disloyalty, you’ve created it.

    Comment by hawkgrrrl — April 9, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

  16. I don’t think the church teaches anymore that the wife must submit to a husband’s decisions, but that the husband and wife are equal partners in presiding and leading the home. I do think your position is the same as was understood and taught routinely in the church in the 1970s. https://www.lds.org/ensign/print/1973/02/strengthening-the-patriarchal-order-in-the-home?lang=eng&clang=eng I don’t believe I have seen a single article or talk in church approved sources in the last 20 years asserting that a husband’s presiding means he makes the final decision that a wife must sustain (that is we should not use a bishop and counselor model). The model I have heard recently is Elder Perry’s–that the husband and wife are equal and that no decision should be made unless both are in agreement (i.e., no obligation of the wife to defer). “As President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught: ‘In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are coequals.’10 Since the beginning, God has instructed mankind that marriage should unite husband and wife together in unity.11 Therefore, there is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.”

    Comment by DavidH — April 9, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

  17. Jeff G: I guess you knew you would get crap from a lot of women really incensed at you. If we ordain women and adopt the “progressive” platform, we will face the same kind of decline as the rest of liberal Christianity like the Episcopal Church that has essentially jettisoned every sense that Christianity is actually true in more than a moral and socially progressive sense. There are so many women clamoring for a position that they are overburdened with women who want to serve and few congregations who care: http://juicyecumenism.com/2012/12/27/episcopal-church-ive-got-99-problems-but-a-priest-shortage-aint-one/

    In addition, instead of seeing greater participation by younger Christians and women, liberal Christianity has seen a near collapse since ordaining homosexuals and women: http://anglicanink.com/article/episcopal-church-down-24-ten-years

    I believe the reason for the collapse is precisely the point you make — the parishioners see the church for what it is: merely another liberal secular institution that has given up on any real claim to truth or revelation, but is big on the liberal social agenda. If the Church were merely a secular institution set up to insure that everyone is pleased, or that everyone has equal access to power structures, or just another liberal organization to foster social “progress,” what we get is no reason to really care. They get liberal ideology preached a them when what they crave is Christ and Him crucified. But liberal Christianity cannot be so old fashioned as to take the scriptures and prophets and apostles seriously. After all, they were homophobes and sexists and just not really enlightened, except for that Jesus dude who preached love for everyone.

    Comment by Blake — April 9, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

  18. “Ordaining women transforms that most important of all priesthood organizations – the family – into a secular institution. A family in which there is no uniquely recognized authority figure is one which can no longer be governed by personal revelation to that presiding authority… Like other secular institutions such as intelligentsia, bureaucracy, democracy, etc. the family thus becomes marred by competition, discord, disloyalty and voluntary disassociation since these are the very behaviors that secular groups incentivize.”

    Leaving aside the fact that the passage is condescending toward non-LDS families, I am baffled by this part of your argument. The vast majority of families on the planet do not have an LDS priesthood holder as a member, so they are “marred by competition, discord, disloyalty and voluntary disassociation”?* They become more comparable to a bureaucracy than a family?

    Leaving aside the issue of women’s ordination … Is a family a divine institution or not? Because it seems that your position is that the family is only divine if the father (and only the father) has the priesthood — making 99.999% of families past and present “secular institutions” and not (as the Proclamation to the World states) institutions “ordained of God.” Or did I miss the asterisk in the Proclamation that said “only LDS families”?

    Regardless of your position on women’s ordination, the idea that women having the priesthood would destroy an institution ordained of God seems particularly weak to me.

    * And please don’t reply if you’re going to quote divorce statistics. They are equally applicable to members of the church as non-members.

    Comment by Ru — April 9, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

  19. Ru – the family is “divine” only if patterned on the divine pattern. The family is surely merely a secular/civil institution unless it has been given some sacred foundation. I do not see how that is demeaning to non-LDS families that have nothing more than a secular view of the family.

    Comment by Blake — April 9, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

  20. I’m fairly baffled by the responses of those who say that a couple where a male priesthood holder presides can’t be equal. It seems to be based on a misconception of the LDS meaning of “presides.” It basically means a) the husband has a duty to make sure that he isn’t tyrannically leading the home, and b) the father has a duty to make sure the children are being spiritually nourished (so does the mother, but the father’s duty stems from his duty to preside).

    My mother handled the family finances; my father gave blessings. My mother cared for us when we were sick; my father brought money into the home.

    Were my father and mother’s roles balanced? Were they equal? I wouldn’t even know how to begin to say their roles were equal. What I do know is that my father had a duty to try to make the marriage equal (whatever that really means).

    A wholly secular family does not conform to this kind of role-relationship. They can of course function well in spite of it, but we’re called to fit a more divine pattern if we can.

    Anyone claiming that having a father presiding equates to tyrannical leadership either doesn’t understand what we typically mean by presides, or is picturing LDS families who misuse and abuse the term presides. Insofar as that happens, it’s a tragedy.

    Comment by DavidF — April 9, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

  21. I think ordaining the women and children first is entirely prudent, it will be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Surely implementing all the suggested changes from tradition will instantly satisfy everyone, we will all choose the right by natural instinct, and are guaranteed to dwell together happily ever after, with liberty and justice for all.

    I’m just really looking forward to discarding all the tired old stuff and learning everything new. It will be so much more fun when women are in charge of everything. When do we get started?

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — April 9, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

  22. I’m fairly baffled by the responses of those who say that a couple where a male priesthood holder presides can’t be equal. It seems to be based on a misconception of the LDS meaning of “presides.” It basically means a) the husband has a duty to make sure that he isn’t tyrannically leading the home, and b) the father has a duty to make sure the children are being spiritually nourished (so does the mother, but the father’s duty stems from his duty to preside).

    I’m fairly baffled that anyone thinks this makes sense.

    Comment by Orwell — April 9, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

  23. Well done Jeff.

    I think this is meaningful. And the idea of a house of order rings true.

    I think one weakness in the post is the lack of keys. For example, in the priesthood quorum, everyone has the priesthood, but one has the keys for presiding. That order could exist even if everyone has the priesthood. If everyone has the priesthood, someone must have the keys. Could be anyone in the quorum. If women were ordained, there would still be presiding keys. At least I presume.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 9, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

  24. This is crazy. Presiding=”you get the final say” is textbook unrighteousness dominion in the family.

    Comment by Owen — April 9, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

  25. Whew! Well it certainly looks like my pleas for civility have clearly gone unheeded. I might have to start moderating and/or editing soon.

    Erin,

    Let me try again. Again, I’m not talking about priesthood power or any such thing that goes beyond authority. My argument is equality in authority is the same as no authority at all since authority just is being set apart from others. This is why people can only receive revelation for those over whom they have some kind of authority in the church. Equality in priesthood authority de-legitimizes priesthood authority thereby leading to a secular bureaucratic structure at best.

    As such, in the case of your bishopric, it is clear that the bishop is the only one that has priesthood authority over anybody else within that small group. Yes, the councilors also have priesthood authority, but only over some people who are not within that small group. The same could be said for whatever hierarchical structure existed within your all-male ward. We must admit however, that within a Mormon context, such a ward would be lacking is a significant way due to its lack of families (again the most important organization within the church). That is why the church would do almost anything to make any kind of all-male wards as temporary as possible and is why all the men in this ward would still be ordained…. so that they could – as soon as possible – preside over a family of their own.

    Moving on to 12 year old boys: it is my contention that the primary reason why they are ordained to the priesthood has to do with their standing as potential fathers of families, the structure of the family being the primary reason for discrimination along gender lines. There are some decisions which these 12 year boys get to have the final say in, although they are significantly watered down and preparatory in nature.

    “I am really uncomfortable the premise that Priesthood is kept from some part of the population in order to create order.”

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. Unfortunately discomfort isn’t an argument or reason and we have no reason or argument to think that the order of the kingdom of God can come without some moral trade-offs somewhere. Like I said in the post, however, I don’t think ordaining women would create disorder. Rather, it would entail a radical restructuring and redefining of the order away from the familial and patriarchal order which is at the very heart of Mormonism. While you might not like or agree with this perspective, I see no reason to doubt its consistency and soundness… not to mention its grounding in the temple and other church teachings.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

  26. HG,

    Even putting aside all the huffing and puffing (seriously, I didn’t express outrage or indignation at anybody I disagreed with, but instead did my best to give them their due credit), your comments clearly and willfully attempt to put words in my mouth that are easier for you to disagree with.

    1) I see no reason to choose between authoritarianism and democracies. Do you honestly think that every elders quorum, local ward or missionary companionship is an authoritarian dictatorship? What about football teams, workplaces, courtrooms, etc.? None of these are democracies and are so much better for not being so. Why are we to automatically assume that the familial structure which is at the heart of Mormonism ought to be a democracy?

    2) When did I say that women should not participate at all in family decisions? The whole reason why bishops have councilors, etc. is so that other will participate in the decision process. As SilverRain pointed out, participation from a junior companion in the mission field is another fantastic example.

    3) Furthermore, this participation which is and ought to be sought for those who are being presided over most definitely involved logic and reason. This, however, gets right to the heart of my argument. When there is one single person who is uniquely authorized to preside, their revelation constrains logic and reason. When, on the other hand, two or more people are authorized to preside, each with their own, at times conflicting revelations, then logic and reason are then used to constrain revelation. This is the very secularization which my post warns about! I’m not banishing logic and reason, but placing it under the jurisdiction of priesthood and revelation as it was always meant to be.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

  27. DavidH,

    I think most progressives – especially those who have been through the temple – would disagree with you. I was definitely agree that the language of the church teachings surrounding the structure of the family have definitely changed since the 1970′s, but I see no reason – especially in light of the proclamation – that the basic structure of the family has changed in any fundamental way.

    You do bring up a number of examples that are worth addressing. (Do you have a link to Elder Perry’s talk?) As noted in the post – and I think that this gets at your point about the 1970′s – the rhetoric of church leaders has definitely focused more on the equality which should exist between husband and wife. I do not wish to deny or dismiss these statements, but as I said in #7, I don’t think that these are really aimed at the inequality which progressives find so offensive. I see these statement more in terms of unity which is not at all the same thing as equality.

    To be honest, I surprised that progressives are so keen to reject my characterization of authority within the church, since it is this characterization which really serves to highlight the inequality between men and women in such stark terms. When the relationship between men and women within the church is described in terms of their equality, progressives get upset that the inequalities which exist are being repressed. If, on the other hand, I describe gender relation within the church in terms of inequality, progressives get upset that the equalities which exist are being repressed.

    To be sure, what progressives want is a description that acknowledges the inequalities as departures from an egalitarian ideal. Unfortunately, this egalitarian ideal is one which originates from a western democratic tradition rather than one of the priesthood.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

  28. Blake,

    Good to hear from you! It’s been a while! The funny thing about your comment is that in my experience such comments from men are at least as incensed as are those of women. As I mentioned in the post, I think the progressive agitation for ordaining women is only about faithful LDS women, but is primarily for humanistic intellectuals. After all, while ordaining women may very well be to the benefit of women, the real winners are those who specialize in the secular values along which they wish to restructure and redefine priesthood authority.

    I like that you brought a form of Protestantism into this discussion, since the authoritative equality which they endorse – in its extreme form – is very much at the heart of the western democratic and modern, secular tradition. We should remember that God told Joseph in the first vision that such organizations in which revelation as structured by priesthood authority was constrained by logic and reason rather than the other way around was an abomination to his sight. They only talked about God, but effectively denied His power and authority. But it is not personal revelation which sets us apart from Protestants, but the priesthood authority which allows presiding authorities to asymmetrically receive revelation for other people.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

  29. Ru,

    Just because a family does not have any person who is ordained to the priesthood does not mean that the father does not or should not preside over his family according to righteous principles (the vast majority of families have been patriarchal in nature). Rather, it means that the organization over which he already presides is not integrated within the kingdom of God. The church is not yet a part of his family nor is family a part of the church. As such, the wife and children do not have access to higher priesthood authorities which could properly constrain the husband’s exercise of his authority. The best that such women and children can hope for is an appeal to secular authorities which operate according to secular principles.

    And yes, I think that equality in the family has clearly eroded the unity and stability of families, both within and without the church.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

  30. DavidF,

    I think that you trivialize the inequalities which these people speak to. They are not advocating identity across genders, but equality in authority. Two parents coming together and negotiating which task will be performed by each parent is not an example of identity of the genders even though it is an equality of authority. What my post is arguing is that when this process of negotiation is carried all the way through such that the presiding authority seeking personal revelation is constrained by this process of public negotiation, deliberation and reasoning rather than the other way around, we have restructured and redefined priesthood authority along secular lines.

    On the other hand, I fully agree with this:
    “Anyone claiming that having a father presiding equates to tyrannical leadership either doesn’t understand what we typically mean by presides, or is picturing LDS families who misuse and abuse the term presides. Insofar as that happens, it’s a tragedy.”

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

  31. Jim,

    If I’m going to insist the my progressive critics remain civil and non-dismissive, I have to ask the same of those who aren’t on their side as well.

    C’mon everyone, let’s try to keep things level-headed and respectful…. I’m looking at you, Orwell.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 7:17 pm

  32. Eric,

    I think I already addressed your concern as directly as I’m willing to at this point. Yes, such men do have priesthood authority over people that are not a part of that quorum. But to isolate these men and their quorum from their families and still maintain that they have priesthood authority is a rather vacuous claim. But the whole point that I’m trying to make is that any attempts at isolating a quorum of men from their families is totally contrary to the kingdom of God.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 7:21 pm

  33. Owen,

    In my experience, any appeal to the craziness or obviousness of something is the exact point at which I wish to critique a position, for that is where things are becoming accept as axiomatic as a matter of faith.

    “Presiding=”you get the final say” is textbook unrighteousness dominion in the family.”

    According to which textbook? Not that of the temple or that of Joseph Smith and his successors. It is, however, unrighteous from the perspective of humanistic intellectuals and western democracies.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 9, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

  34. As one having reached the old age of 61, I can assert that holding the priesthood has done nothing to assure myself the satisfaction of getting my way in the inevitable power struggles involved in missionary and marital companionships. The winner in those struggles is the partner who desires it the most, the one who is willing to make the other’s life miserable to get his or her way. That is why I think that the marriage issue is of little help on the issue of whether women should be ordained to offices in the priesthood. Before that issue can be productively discussed, we must come to a certain agreement concerning the real differences between men and women. We may find that women make better leaders because they are less competitive, less inclined to use authority for the purpose of satisfying their need to be honored in the eyes of the congregation. However, if women seek the priesthood merely to occupy a ground that is traditionally male, then such desire is mere mimetic rivalry, the consequences of which will lead to increased conflict between men and women. If we can agree on real reasons for different roles between men and women or at least different talents and dispositions because women have different types of bodies and brains, then we could discuss which sex would make the better presidents and leaders. We could discuss whether priesthood ordination might detract from that glorious and privileged role that women enjoy in bearing and nurturing the souls of God’s children.

    Comment by Bryce Dixon — April 9, 2014 @ 8:23 pm

  35. Jeff G, I appreciate the original posting. Thanks! I appreciate the perspective and the thoughts the article brings to my mind.

    Comment by ji — April 10, 2014 @ 3:35 am

  36. I think DC 121 is clear on this point. Claiming that anyone has to do what you say because of your priesthood (or calling or whatever) rather than because you convinced them is unrighteousness dominion. The speaker of a democratic body presides but has no special decision-making authority beyond how decision-making is organized. The gospel family is the same–no matter who is conducting the meeting (say FHE or a family council), both parents carry an absolute veto over group decisions. Until consensus is reached, no decision is made. Not about where to go on vacation, what car to buy, or whether or not to give blacks the priesthood. Husbands who override spousal vetoes are jerks and the tears of their wives will condemn them at the last day.

    Comment by Owen — April 10, 2014 @ 6:48 am

  37. “My argument is equality in authority is the same as no authority at all since authority just is being set apart from others.”

    I still don’t think this argument precludes women from having the priesthood. Let me be clear, your arguments about the nature of roles and women and men do. You’ve said those things clearly and logically, and while I can disagree with you I cannot critique the structure of your argument in those areas because eventually it just comes down to interpretation of scripture and ceremony.

    As for this one specific point, though, I still think that the Mormon idea of “taking turns,” turning the authority over from one person to another and our cultural respect for the appropriate authority in different contexts would allow us to accept that sometimes men hold the authority and sometimes women do, but we all maintain the power that could be called upon at different times. I feel like we already do this in some ways (as stated in Elder Oaks talk in PH Conference) but that it would be an easy adjustment to allow women to preside in turn.

    But to continue thinking:

    I’ve spent some time with this statement: “…it would entail a radical restructuring and redefining of the order away from the familial and patriarchal order which is at the very heart of Mormonism…”

    If this is true then my theory that women will be given authority to preside eventually cannot happen, and might never happen even into the eternities. I guess it comes down to how well-organized we feel the Kingdom of God on the earth really is. Do I believe that this organization was completely outlined by God? I’m not sure I do. I think that often we are given principles (in our case, the Gospel, which I do believe is the most complete of any on the earth) and create the organizations based on our cultural surroundings. I don’t think that Heavenly Father concerns himself very much with how the details are arranged because things eternal will overwhelm the structures we have built here completely. I will be really honest and tell you that I’m not sure that what I “think” here is true. These are the things I continue to wonder about and study about.

    Obviously I am trusting some of thoughts to you and your readers here in a way that could easily be quoted and abused. I’m not sure why, since I don’t usually engage on blogs. I’ve spent some time thinking about what you’ve said, and I realize that your arguments are the ones that have led others like me to leave the church completely. There has been a lot of vitriol and sarcasm directed at you here. I’m wondering if you have thought through the reasons for the anger. Can you imagine what it would be like to be told that you will be presided over by your husband for eternity, with no hope of presiding in any capacity yourself? Can you see why we seek an explanation from our Heavenly Father that allows “Goddess” to mean the same thing as “God” in the eternal scheme of things?

    I truly believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only church that will allow me access to saving ordinances and will educate me for eternity. Whether you are right or I am, I cannot walk away because I actually believe that what I think is irrelevant to truth. I cannot look at my son and husband and slack on the covenants I’ve made, because my love for them overwhelms my desire for authority. But if Patriarchy is eternal is this strife that I feel also eternal? What will be the missing piece of information that will help me to have peace as a woman who will always be presided over by a man? There is a part of my soul that tells me that we do not understand how this works yet. I have hope that there is some piece of information that fixes this problem for me. I am looking for that information.

    I don’t know you at all. I do not know if you are a compassionate person or if you feel disdain for the way in which I shared all of this with you. But I do hope that you hear my voice as a faithful LDS woman who feels real pain and wants to understand. I need to make it clear that I do not consider you an authority over me, but I am engaging with you and sharing with you as an attempt to think through this more thoroughly and share more completely. I cannot accept what you say because it tells me that I will never ever hold the kind of power over my own life that I believe my God would want me to have. I do not believe God will fault me for questioning those who tell me differently or looking for this answer. I will continue to ask and seek until I find peace.

    Comment by Erin — April 10, 2014 @ 7:36 am

  38. Section 121 is a lesson on how to exercise righteous dominion as a presiding authority, something which you seem to think is a contradiction in terms. (The speaker of a group is usually the one who conducts, not the one who presides.) I hope it’s as clear to you where your ideology comes from, because it sure isn’t from the temple or the prophets who have insisted that the church and it’s priesthood are not democracies.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 10, 2014 @ 7:42 am

  39. So let’s be clear what you’re saying: if your wife disagrees with what you want, your priesthood and genitals mean you get to do what you want anyway. Right?

    Comment by Owen — April 10, 2014 @ 8:41 am

  40. Just check out the heading “The Decisions of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Are Unanimous” in this church manual:

    https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-the-living-prophets-student-manual/chapter-5-the-quorum-of-the-twelve-apostles?lang=eng

    Over and over the same message: unanimity is required for the Spirit to support the actions of the council. I would prefer to see my family follow the democratic pattern set by the 12, not the hierarchical despotism you suggest.

    Comment by Owen — April 10, 2014 @ 9:44 am

  41. Owen,

    Unanimity does not imply democracy or equality. The 12 still defer to the presiding leaders in that quorum. The presiding leader exercises significant control over what discussions are opened and closed, the terms of negotiation and debate within those discussions, when a disunity of opinion will be sidelined and when it will be addressed. In many ways, all members of the quorum are equal, but in some ways they are not.

    Erin,

    I definitely want to address your thoughtful comment, but I’m short on time at the moment. Hopefully later tonight.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 10, 2014 @ 10:04 am

  42. I am totally with Hawkgrrrl on this The OP made me feel like puking. It ignores the many, many, many teachings on equal partnership and how presiding in church is different than in the family, notably Elder Oaks “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church” from October 2005 General Conference, in which he made it clear that “The concept of partnership functions differently in the family than in the Church.”

    I am one of the many women who joined the church in the 70s and 80s because of the church teachings on equal partnership in marriage.

    And I actually do see possible drawbacks to female ordination, but this analysis does not make the case. It is stained by sexist distortions of actual church teachings.

    “When did I say that women should not participate at all in family decisions? The whole reason why bishops have councilors, etc. is so that other will participate in the decision process. As SilverRain pointed out, participation from a junior companion in the mission field is another fantastic example.”

    No way in hell am I a junior companion or mere counselor to my husband. Please stop spreading these lies. It is undoing the great work of every prophet from at least President Kimball forward.

    My husband uses his priesthood to bless our family through administering ordinances and encouraging us in spirituality. That is a huge contribution.

    Being “the decider” is NOT part of his job description.

    And indeed, since wives have primary responsibility for the nurture of children, which is the biggest part of effort for some families for a season, there may be times when she, not he, receives revelation about that stewardship.

    Comment by Naismith — April 10, 2014 @ 10:20 am

  43. Briefly, I don’t expect you to like or even agree with my analysis. But you have to admit that, if nothing else, it is consistent with a great deal of Mormon doctrine and teachings.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 10, 2014 @ 11:21 am

  44. No, I don’t have to admit that. While some of your analysis is fine, the idea of man as decider is a sick perversion of Mormon doctrine and contrary to everything that I have ever heard taught in official church channels.

    Fortunately Elder Oaks’ opinion is more important to my salvation.

    Comment by Naismith — April 10, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

  45. Honestly, I think one of the biggest breakdowns in communication is that some people see senior/junior companion as a value judgment and others don’t.

    I prefer to be someone who advises the one who makes decisions for the group. Some people think that making the decisions, or being the final voice for decisions, is somehow more valuable or better than not. That is a cultural bias that makes understanding divine hierarchy almost impossible.

    There can be a hierarchy, without there being a value attached to it. Isn’t that what the Atonement demonstrated? That God, the greatest of all, suffered beyond imagining for such small, insignificant souls as ours? HE sees us as having as much value as He has. Why can we not trust Him on that?

    How is my being a junior companion (and I submit that if one focuses on the potential to be a senior companion, they are missing the point. Not everyone does experience that…) make me any “less” or how is being a counselor “mere”?

    Senior companions cannot meet their responsibilities without their junior companion’s full participation and engagement. Without counselors, a bishop could not do his job nearly so well.

    Until we realize that divine hierarchy literally places as much value on being the person to clean the bathrooms and greet at the door as the president of the Church and, dare I say, even the Savior Himself, we can never exercise divine power: the power of the priesthood. Until then, it doesn’t matter who you give the authority to. No one can really use the power anyways.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 10, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

  46. Also, just because women don’t have the opportunity to exercise the same priesthood keys as men do here, doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

    I, for one, am content to just serve the Lord with all the energy of my heart wherever He places me.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 10, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

  47. “My husband uses his priesthood to bless our family through administering ordinances and encouraging us in spirituality.”

    That’s how I’ve understood the idea of presides. But these comments are forcing me to think more carefully about what presides really means, at least in a family context.

    Per Naismith’s reference, I took a look at Oaks’ “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church.” The talk actually leaves me with more questions than answers.

    Oaks points out at least a couple times that families have a patriarchal structure. He also points out that his widowed mother presided in his home. (he doesn’t expressly reconcile this with the patriarchal structure). Furthermore, he points out that when priesthood authority is exercised correctly in a patriarchal home, then the couple has a “full partnership.”

    But Oaks never says that the priesthood holder presides in a home. He only implies that men typically preside (since families are patriarchal in nature). Of course, Oaks also doesn’t say that families are supposed to be patriarchal, just that they are. That opens the door to the notion that a wife/mother could preside in a home, even though the husband holds the priesthood.

    Furthermore, Oaks pointed out in this last General Conference that women exercise priesthood authority in their callings. Does that mean that his widowed mother exercised the priesthood when she presided over the home? Do both men and women exercise priesthood authority in the home? If so, does that mean that both preside jointly, or could preside jointly (i.e. the early Roman pro-consuls)? Oaks gives no explicit answer.

    Things to ponder (at least I will, anyway).

    Comment by DavidF — April 10, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

  48. SilverRain I actually agree with pretty much everything you wrote here. The only catch is that a family structure is explicitly NOT supposed to be hierarchical, according to Elder Oaks and various church teachings. This is why I would never advocate that an RS president has or should have as much say as the bishop. Clearly, there is a hierarchy in church units and the bishop is the ultimate authority in the ward.

    But in a marriage, the partners are supposed to be equal. Neither is a junior companion. We are different, and contribute in different ways, but never one over the other.

    DavidF, we should compare definitions of what the patriarchal order is, and what it means to preside. Patriarchy gets a bad rap from some feminists and rightly so, given the abuses that are done in the name of patriarchy. But at its purest, it is servant leadership, following in Christ’s footsteps by using his power to benefit others, never for his own gain, comfort, or advantage.

    Or maybe I joined the wrong church and should go back to being catholic…..

    Comment by Naismith — April 10, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

  49. Still short on time.

    Are you sure you’re understanding Elder oaks correctly? To be sure, the church teaches a lot of equality in many aspects if married life. But the temple makes it abundantly clear that there are still some asymmetries when it comes to priesthood authority. I’m not convinced that Elder Oaks has contradicted these teachings like you think he has.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 10, 2014 @ 7:12 pm

  50. I don’t exactly disagree with the principles you mention, Naismith.

    But I believe there is something important to be understood in both frameworks.

    In other words, understanding that there are a junior and senior companion in a partnership where each is equal to the other. “Junior” and “senior” delineate roles, not values.

    I, for one, tend to gravitate to more of a “junior companion” role. I am not less because of that. And for those who don’t gravitate to the roles outlined, there is still something to be learned, and the option of individual adaptation. That doesn’t mean there is no value in teaching the principle.

    I dearly wish to someday love a man willing to take his familial roles/responsibilities seriously. I’ve experienced too many men who don’t understand them, don’t take them seriously, or both. And it is very exhausting to try to be both at the same time.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 10, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

  51. I am so glad I live in the dispensation of the fullness of times when we, including in the church, are moving so quickly away from the nonsense being espoused here. I thank God my daughters, not only female but of mixed race and with disabilities, will not have to live in the same world of white male privelege and dominance that Jeff attempts to excuse in the name of salvation by organizational chart. Make no mistake, any leadership other than love unfeigned without any appeal to one’s supposed authority always leads to inequity and pain.

    Comment by Owen — April 10, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

  52. And to not completely drop the actual argument, Jeff, can you see how in your response 41 you essentially define presiding as identical to what the speaker of a democratic body does? Yes, there is power in controlling the flow of debate (hopefully that’s not actually what presiding looks like in our homes), but that isn’t he power you’ve been claiming men should have in the family. As others have said, you’re making the man the decider, not just a conductor of proceedings. The 12 very clearly work in a democratic fashion, and no one, not even the prophet, apparently, gets to just “put his foot down” and act the despot. Why a family should be any different and expect to enjoy harmony is beyond me.

    Whatever the technicalities of the current web of doctrinal statements, the reality is that a church or family leader who starts resorting to arguments from authority and telling people what to do over their objections, has already failed as a leader. He has failed to follow the admonitions of D&C 121, and the idea that he deserves to have people do what he wants due to his priesthood is probably what got him there. Treat your wife like a “junior companion” or “counselor” rather than fully equal with you in all family business unless the two of you have unanimously decided otherwise for some reason, and you (speaking generally of course) are not worthy of that daughter of God. (Maybe the cherubim and flaming sword are also keeping our Father’s Counterpart from raining hellfire down on us for this kind of behavior…)

    The fact that coequal spouses can simultaneously receive revelation for the family and remain in harmony is a central practical miracle of the gospel. I can’t think of any area of my own family’s life in which my wife isn’t obviously as inspired as I am. I may give formal blessings, but her guidance to me and my children is every bit as meaningful and divine, if not more so. I find the second-to-last paragraph in your OP utterly bankrupt.

    Comment by Owen — April 10, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

  53. I don’t think that Elder Oaks has contradicted anything in the temple. Thanks so much for helping me to understand better the frustration of my sisters in OW:)

    I actually agree that there may be drawbacks to ordaining women in the church, and I appreciated much of the OP.

    What I disagreed with is your idea that LDS families should be

    …governed by personal revelation to that presiding authority.

    If this is true, then why should anyone but the dad spend any time on his knees? Sometimes the revelation comes through his equal partner. President Eyring told a story in a recent Conference of when his wife had received revelation about their employment situation. And a few years back it was a mission president’s wife who had a dream that they needed to prepare the missionaries for a natural disaster.

    Instead, the personal revelation of the two competing authority figures….

    How about considering them “complimentary” rather than competing? Ying and yang. So many LDS couples have heeded church counsel to be equal partners and manage to govern their families together. Thus little is likely to change on that issue if she happens to be ordained.

    There is a body of research on “servant leadership” that can be googled. “Authoritarian” is not the only model of effective leadership.

    As Owen put it so well,

    The fact that coequal spouses can simultaneously receive revelation for the family and remain in harmony is a central practical miracle of the gospel.

    Exactly. I thought that was one of the purposes of marriage, and why the church promotes equal partnership. As we come together, we learn so much.

    In almost 40 years of marriage, I can think of fewer than a handful of times when we disagreed and it was something that could not be tabled. On one occasion, I felt strongly that I needed to fly out to be with my daughter, whose baby was not due for two weeks. My husband laughed and teased me, but even then we were not “competing” because he appreciates that nurturing our children is my stewardship, so while he did not have the revelation, he helped me get ready. She went into labor hours after I arrived.

    But I should have discounted by own revelation since it did not come through the presiding authority for our family?

    I do agree that priesthood gives men unique service that they can render to the family, and that is a good thing. But that paragraph in the OP distorts the role of men in LDS families.

    Comment by Naismith — April 11, 2014 @ 4:17 am

  54. Naismith, your last comment is pretty much what I was trying to drive at, too. I think, for me, I appreciate both perspectives because there have been times when I have submitted to priesthood authority “under duress” as it were, and been blessed far beyond my hopes.

    To me, talking about “final say” and “overruled” automatically indicates there is no priesthood authority operating in that relationship. I take “amen to the priesthood” very seriously. As you may remember, I am deeply acquainted with unrighteous dominion in the name of the priesthood. But I have also experienced true priesthood authority.

    True priesthood authority is not “veto power.” It is a responsibility to make sure both are in tune with the Spirit and each other. It is “stewarding” the couple’s struggle before the Lord. The moment it becomes anything other than longsuffering, meekness, and love unfeigned, it is no longer priesthood.

    Thus, the difficulty in translating divine hierarchy into modern minds.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 11, 2014 @ 4:55 am

  55. Also, I believe that two people oppressing under the Spirit can have two very different answers. The Spirit is not a weighed coin toss.

    If, for example, a mother and father both pursued over whether or not their daughter should go to a sleepover, they may be both filed with the Spirit, but one may feel “yes” and the other “no.”

    At such a point, it is the responsibility of both to make sure they stay open to the other’s promptings as they hash it out. But as the Priesthood presider, it is particularly the husband’s responsibility to make sure his wife feeds valued, loved, and cherished. It is his particular role to make certain the discussion stays under influence of the Spirit. It is not his role to simply overrule.

    Priesthood is about responsibilities more than rights. The rights of the priesthood relate to calling down the powers of heaven to authorize ordinances and open the windows of the powers of heaven for others as they make covenants. This is how all may have access to the power of God by/under priesthood authority.

    In the end, the only reason women are not ordained to offices in the priesthood is because the Lord hasn’t given to them. The end.

    I appreciate Jeff’s post because it gives food for thought, especially to those who primarily see ordination as a status measurement. Some of his reasons feel right to me, others don’t. But ultimately, there is only that one reason. It, alone, is enough for me to be content. I trust our leaders and their service to my Savior.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 11, 2014 @ 5:11 am

  56. Sorry…no matter how much I try to check Skype, I always miss something. Ironic slip…”operating under the Spirit” not oppressing.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 11, 2014 @ 5:13 am

  57. I’m still short on time, but I do want to renew my promise to Erin that I will respond to her comments. I make no such promises to any commenters who think that descriptions do their bodily reactions to my post and sarcastic charicatures of it count as level-headed engagement.

    After some thought, I agree that comparison of a marriage to a missionary companionship is somewhat patronizing and not entirely fitting…. Although I think my basic point still stands. To recap, here is my main argument:

    1) Every priesthood unit or group has exactly one presiding authority because having more or less than one would make group action subject to publicly available and therefore secular standards and values. (There is nothing misogynistic about this point, although it is certainly anti-progressive.)

    2) The family is the priesthood unit or group around which the rest of the church and priesthood is organized. (Again, this doesn’t in itself seem at all misogynistic.)

    Therefore,

    3) The family has exactly one presiding authority.

    Still, this position isn’t necessarily misogynistic since I am not arguing that

    4) The father – rather than the mother – must necessarily and always — rather than alternating or letting some other leader choose between the two parents – be that presiding authority. It’s not that I don’t have some position on this issue, but that I’m not prepared to debate it at this time.

    Perhaps this will help people pinpoint where they think I have gone wrong.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 11, 2014 @ 5:57 am

  58. I agree with Naismith in the poor application of hierarchy to the family. I loved Elder Oaks talk in 2005 about how the Church is hierarchical but the family is patriarchal, though it certainly did create more questions than answers, and I’m glad for that.

    I think part of the problem we all have is in trying to place the family into some sort of structure similar to those we’ve constructed in society. Neither hierarchical or patriarchal really fit. Neither democracy or authoritarianism really fit. This is where I think the reasoning in the post fails, stating that there can’t be women ordained in the Church because it would change how we think of families, and that change would be detrimental to families. The Church is meant to help strengthen families, but it is not meant to be an example of a family. Bishop and RS President aren’t complimentary, nor were they ever meant to be. She is not the “mother” of the ward any more than he is the “father”. The Church is also temporary, where family will be forever. It’s just not a clean match.

    If the Church began ordaining women, there would certainly be adjustments to the hierarchical structure, just as there have been as the Church has grown. It wouldn’t be the end of the Church, despite the statistics, simply because of whose Church this is. Any “drawbacks” will be dealt with and adjusted for, as they have continually been in the history of this Church. It’s not a matter of weighing options.

    I do wish we had a better understanding, a better description of how the family is supposed to work, but I don’t think we’ll get much more of one. As humans, we really like simple, neat answers, and I’ve not seen a family yet that was either simple or neat.

    Glad you put your thoughts out there, JeffG, even if I don’t agree with the lot. You certainly managed to start more questions.

    Comment by Frank Pellett — April 11, 2014 @ 11:56 am

  59. This is a reasonably long comment, so my apologies in advance. I still have an awful lot to think through and understand on this subject, and I’m not sure whether I will be able to explain myself in a way that is comprehensible to others, but here goes….

    I think D&C 107:27 is relevant here. Although you could argue that it is exclusively referring to the Quorums of 12 and Seventy, the First Presidency is also referred to as a Quorum only a few verses before and I think the principle applies: unanimity is a requirement in any quorum – and that applies equally to the “quorum” or presidency of husband and wife.

    The issue of “presiding” only comes to play if agreement can’t be reached and a decision absolutely must be made. Who “presides”? Well, the temple obviously gives us a clue, but I think there is a specific application of temple teachings on this, which I think is slightly different to our mother and father “stewardship” accountabilities. Hopefully I can explain in a way that makes sense.

    So, a hypothetical example: let’s say I believe that I have received a spiritual impression that our family should move to another part of the country as that would enable me to better provide for the family, but when I speak to my wife about it she does’t feel comfortable about it. We decide to independently take it to the Lord in prayer, after which I say I have had confirmation that we should move and my wife says she has had confirmation that we should stay put. We pray together about it and still both feel the same way. So we’re at an impasse, but if we simply wait for us both to feel the same way that may just be a way for my wife’s view to carry the day as that is the status quo. So what do we do?

    Well, if the Lord really has spoken to me and told me that we ought to move, then I really should speak to my wife and with love, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, etc, explain that the Lord wants us to move; BUT – I had better be sure that it’s what the Lord wants because I’m effectively saying that my revelation on this is more reliable than my wife’s (and in my experience the opposite is in fact true!). And if I’ve got that wrong then I believe I will be under condemnation of the Lord.

    Now let’s assume I have that discussion with my wife, but she still doesn’t agree with me. If she is sure of her own revelation on the matter she is under no covenant obligation to follow me, because she only needs to hearken to my counsel if I am hearkening to the Lord; so if she doesn’t believe my revelation is genuine she is entitled to say, “No” ; BUT – she had better be sure that it’s what the Lord wants because she is effectively saying that her revelation on this is more reliable than mine. And if she’s got that wrong she will be under condemnation of the Lord.

    And if she decides to stay put regardless, then I will stay put with her because: 1. I’m just not going to abandon my family (Adam chose to disregard a commandment in order to be with his wife), and 2. If I were to take the appalling step of threatening to go anyway that would be a case of unrighteous dominion, as I would be putting her in a position of either simply doing what I say or else breaking up the family – which would be a form of compulsion (or even emotional abuse), and at that point I would lose all authority in any case.

    That example, I think, is fine where it comes to my stewardship accountability to provide for the necessities of life; but my wife also has stewardship accountabilities where she would take the lead, for example in relation to having and nurturing children. If we use the same example above but substitute my wife coming to me saying she thought we should have another child, and me saying I didn’t think so, we could follow it through just about the same.

    Neither of these examples implies exclusivity of revelation on any matter: my wife can initiate a discussion with me about how I fulfil my stewardship and I can initiate a discussion about how she fulfils hers; but ultimately once initiated she will take the lead in our discussions in areas which are her stewardship, and I will on mine. We will always aim for total unanimity before any decision is reached, and neither of us must ever seek compulsion in any way, shape or form.

    In 20 years of marriage there is one occasion when my wife was nervous about something I felt I needed to do in my family stewardship, and I did it anyway (she wasn’t opposed I should add – just not convinced), and fortunately I can say that my decision to proceed literally saved our family physically, emotionally and spiritually and we can both say in hindsight that it was absolutely inspired. Equally, my wife has had many revelations about our children and what is best for them and inevitably has been right every time.

    I have found this divinely inspired model to be spectacularly successful in my life.

    Now moving away from parental stewardships to what I consider to be the patriarchal presiding. That, I believe, is primarily that the Priesthood-holding husband should be seeking to draw down the powers of heaven – as one other commenter has put it – so that husband and wife may hand in hand walk back into the presence of God. I can’t do that unless we are both equally righteous, and equally seeking it, but it is my accountability to lead. I think that is what we see in the temple, and I think that is what the scriptures teach.

    That is how I see this issue anyway. Hopefully it makes sense….

    Comment by JeffC — April 11, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

  60. JeffC, I love your example. That is much clearer than how I was trying to say it. I also appreciate your pointing out how the “primary responsibilities” work in a presiding sense.

    Beautiful.

    Comment by SilverRain — April 11, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

  61. “DavidF, we should compare definitions of what the patriarchal order is, and what it means to preside.”

    Hm, I must not have been clear about what I meant about patriarchy. For the record, I agree with your summary.

    JeffC,

    Very thoughtful point. I get that some people hear about men presiding over women and think that this structure is backwards, misogynistic, and tyrannical. But when you lay out the full scope of it, as you did, the present structure really is a way to make sure that a husband and wife are equal.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the vocabulary in this discussion is pretty charged, and often has different meanings. A home can be patriarchal in structure without advancing the cause of patriarchy. A husband can preside as a way to ensure that a home is intentionally made equal. The priesthood can be invoked without forcing women to become submissive to men. Sadly, that level of nuance often gets lost in these kinds of discussions.

    Comment by DavidF — April 12, 2014 @ 9:51 am

  62. I promise that I’ll have a better follow up tomorrow.

    I think this conversation has been very helpful in a lot of ways. Thinking more on my last comment, I partially regret framing the issue in terms of women’s ordination since my point is really aimed at equality in the priesthood. I stand by my – what I think is the most important – point that more than one presiding authority is the priesthood secularists it. Although I think interesting points have been raised concerning the practical differences that this does and does not entail with democratic organizations.

    The other interesting point of difference is regarding the nature of the family. In my opinion the family is the fundamental level of analysis in terms of strength, stability and value is the family while progressives seem more focused on the individual. This two perspectives entail rather different structures and definitions of the family.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 12, 2014 @ 9:52 am

  63. whew! Crazy work week.

    Erin,

    I wanted to thank you again for your thoughtful comment. As is to be expected, we don’t completely agree with each other (we each have our reasons for doing so) and I sincerely appreciate the efforts that you have obviously made to engage me and my ideas rather than the knee-jerk dismissals that we are so often tempted to emote. I think that I have addressed most of your theoretical concerns already, but I felt as if you deserved a little more than some off-hand qualifications and nuances that I tossed out during a busy work day.

    I completely agree that I did not engage the possibility of men and women taking turns in authoritative positions. I do have suspicions and hunches on the subject, but nothing that I feel comfortable debating at the present time. That said, I think this idea lends itself to a bit of equivocation in that while we are told that fathers and mothers within a household do alternate in terms of some responsibilities, the church authorities never suggest that fathers and mothers should alternate with ALL responsibilities.

    I think this is one important place where the rhetoric of equality within the church simply does not match up with the inequalities progressives are most vocal about. We are told that men and women are equal in so many ways within the family as quite a few progressives within this thread pointed out. However, just as these people’s continued agitation suggests, there are still inequalities that these statements do not do away with … nor are they intended to. Consider the proclamation about the family:

    “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.”

    This, it will be found, exactly matches the position defended by Elder Oaks in his 2005 talk. In each case, the husband and wife are said to be equal partners… in some sense. However, we are also told in each case that the husband – and he alone – is the presiding priesthood holder within the family. This is the very point which makes progressives so uncomfortable, and I’m surprised that I received so much push-back on the very point that I acknowledged they were right about. But of course the push back wasn’t because I was acknowledging the inequalities, but because I attempted to help us come to terms with them rather than the opposite. I feel, however, that I might be a bit off track.

    Like you, I feel in no way prepared to say how God will and will not restructure His people in this life or the next, only how He structures them in the here and now. I certainly haven’t made any argument against the possibility of women gaining access (in some way or another) to the position of sole presiding authority within the family. I can now see that the core of my argument was actually aimed primarily against the possibility of there being two or more fully equal in every sense, co-presiding authorities within the family. But in no way does this necessarily mean that the sole presiding authority must be male.

    Your drawing attention to the fact that arguments like mine push many people out of the church is especially painful since this is the exact opposite of what I am trying to do. I see very clearly (more than most would guess) why some people are offended by posts and arguments such as these. Unfortunately – and I truly hope that this is interpreted in the right way – I don’t think that many of the people who are so offended actually see their own reasons all that clearly. I am not trying to say, “If you get down to it, they don’t really have any reason to be offended and they just need to get over it.” To the contrary, I think that they are very justified in feeling the way they do… within some traditions. Justification for ideas, feelings, actions, etc. are not things that just happen, but are instead things which happen within some tradition or mindset. The idea that the husband as the sole presiding authority within the family can be so offensive as to cause nasty feelings in the stomach requires an immense amount of ideological scaffolding. Furthermore, I have found that it is usually those ideological beliefs and values that are most dear and close to us – the kind that can cause nasty feelings in the stomach – that are the most difficult to distance ourselves from in order to see their contingent nature and critically evaluate.

    In this thread we have seen some people who seem very willing and capable of distancing themselves from and critically evaluating the nature of priesthood authority that we are taught in church but then have a rather difficult time doing the same when it comes to the humanistic values that we are taught in school. This worries me quite a bit, since this was the exact same thing which lead me out of the church: I was simply incapable of standing back from and critically evaluating the humanistic intellectual values with which I had been indoctrinated. Thus, when people say that they are considering leaving the church because it clashes with their values (whatever they may be), alarm bells go off in my head.

    For this reason, I employ a largely sociological analysis of the clashes and tension which I see between humanistic intellectualism and the church, hoping that this is the best way to tease out the contingent nature of the former since the contingent nature of the latter seems to have already been taken for granted. In other words, the last thing I am trying to do is push progressives out of the church. Rather, I am trying my very best to get members to stop judging the church by progressive standards and start judging progressivism by the church’s standards. Unfortunately, I know from first hand experience how difficult this can actually be and how natural and unavoidable it can feel to lay most of the blame for our scandalized thoughts and feelings at the feet of the church.

    In my opinion, the most touching part of your comment is when you say,

    “I cannot walk away because I actually believe that what I think is irrelevant to truth. I cannot look at my son and husband and slack on the covenants I’ve made, because my love for them overwhelms my desire for authority. But if Patriarchy is eternal is this strife that I feel also eternal? What will be the missing piece of information that will help me to have peace as a woman who will always be presided over by a man? There is a part of my soul that tells me that we do not understand how this works yet. I have hope that there is some piece of information that fixes this problem for me. I am looking for that information.”

    As many of the old time bloggers here at NewCoolThang know, I strongly identify with your feelings here. I would never be so presumptuous as to suggest that you now feel exactly as I once did, but I can say that I have been in a situation that was close enough to yours such that your words would have expressed my feelings perfectly. The thoughts that I blog about here are precisely that piece of information which – I like to think – would have fixed my problems if I had known about them. I post them in the hopes that they might find somebody who felt just like I did before they make any decisions that they will later regret, again, like I did. Whether you are one of these people or not, I cannot say. What I can say is that I sincerely hope that when all is said and done, in the long run (I don’t expect any humanistic progressive to find immediate peace in my arguments) my thoughts will have helped you more than they hurt you.

    Thank you again for your thoughtful comment, Erin, and feel free to stop by and disagree with me anytime you like. :)

    Comment by Jeff G — April 13, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

  64. Jeff #63,

    That resonates with me deeply. Thanks dude.

    Riley

    Comment by Riley — April 14, 2014 @ 9:58 am

  65. Jeff,

    Thanks for your response. I started out feeling really angry about your initial post, but feel like we were able to move it into a civil place where I felt heard. I assure you that you were heard, as well. We do disagree, but I was able to think more deeply about the subject and discuss it with my husband in a way that I don’t think I would have without your comments. I came to a new understanding of myself and my expectations of my church community. I did more research. I sought the Spirit.

    I take comfort in President Uchtdorf’s declaration that the Restoration is not complete.

    Until next time, thanks again.

    Comment by Erin — April 14, 2014 @ 11:56 am

  66. Okay, I realize that one of the reasons I see this differently is that while reading this thread I have been preparing to attend a statewide conference of a civic organization that is incredibly effective, but nevertheless has an organizational chart that looks much more like a daisy chain than a pyramid, that doesn’t hold regular meetings, that allows co-presidencies for local units. And I have worked with other such horizontal organizations, so I genuinely don’t buy into the need for “one person at the top” as the only effective model of governance.

    So while I agree that the family has one presiding authority, it is NOT because other models wouldn’t work as well. And apparently we don’t have the same ideas on what it means to preside.

    The issue of “presiding” only comes to play if agreement can’t be reached and a decision absolutely must be made

    .

    I would be sad if my husband only presided when there was a disagreement. He presides all the time.

    Lest my definition of presiding as noted above is some idiosyncratic twisting of any reasonable definition, I might point to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, which defines “presiding” as “to exercise guidance, direction, or control.” Notice the “OR” there; control is not required. Absolutely, I see my husband’s job as providing spiritual guidance and direction. And I am very grateful that he steps up and does it so well.

    BUT – she had better be sure that it’s what the Lord wants because she is effectively saying that her revelation on this is more reliable than mine. And if she’s got that wrong she will be under condemnation of the Lord.

    Whatever happened to faith preceding the miracle? I have to say that when I felt inspired to drop everything and catch a flight, I was not that sure. I thought that was what I should do, but it wasn’t carved in stone, and it was only when I saw the fruits of that decision that I knew that what I had done was right.

    I have found this divinely inspired model to be spectacularly successful in my life.

    And so have I, even though we do things slightly differently, apparently. I’m very grateful for the church teachings on equal partnership in marriage.

    And I can envision some actual drawbacks to ordaining women, and perhaps we can actually talk about those sometime.

    Comment by Naismith — April 14, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

  67. Jeff G: I’m late to the party. I haven’t made it through all the comments yet.

    My positive feedback is that you expertly identified, articulated, and distilled the central questions. Namely, the Proclamation’s statement that,

    “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families…. fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

    My negative feedback: I’m not compelled by your argument that,

    “When all adults within the family have priesthood authority, no adult has priesthood authority, since priesthood authority can no longer function to resolve, settle or terminate any disputes, disagreements or power struggles which might arise between these two authorities. Rather, all disputes and decisions must thus be resolved according to public criteria which define 21st Century western democracies and intellectualism in general: experience, reason, expertise, etc.”

    Why can’t two equal partners resolve disagreements via patience, longsuffering, empathy, charity, etc.?

    Alternatively—and this may be distracting from my main question above—wouldn’t your argument allow for alternating between presiding authorities within the home just as we do in the ward and stake? I preside in my home for the next five years, then my wife presides for five years. One and only one person would always preside, thus preserving the order you claim is achieved by having a presiding authority.

    Comment by BrianJ — April 14, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

  68. Jeff G: making my way through the comments, I read this:

    The other interesting point of difference is regarding the nature of the family. In my opinion the family is the fundamental level of analysis in terms of strength, stability and value is the family while progressives seem more focused on the individual.

    I guess that I am a progressive in that I feel very open to the ordaining of women*. My reasons come from the emphasis that I put on the family—the very same emphasis you place. I see the way my wife and I work together as equals and see no reason why she could not contribute in the same ways to the Church.

    In other words, there is far more “equal partnering” going on in my home than ever goes on in any ward. If the family is meant to be the model, then the current structures of the Church are creating wards that do a very poor job of following that model. In the ward, the bishop should seek counsel from others, but is under no obligation to seek consensus. In contrast, husbands and wives are encouraged to act in unanimity.

    __________
    * More than anything, I would just hope for clearer revelation on the issue. I feel that what we have is decades of explanations for the gender distinctions—unfortunately, we had similarly refined explanations for the priesthood and temple ban…until it was ended.

    Comment by BrianJ — April 14, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

  69. Naismith,

    Just to be sure, that comment you responded to wasn’t mine… Although I did agree with much of Jeff C’s comment. Another clarification, my argument is not that copresidencies are inefficient in any way, but that they are secular in nature since decisions must be made by public criteria.

    Brian J,

    I think the comments from 55 on will address your concerns.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 14, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

  70. Blake:

    If we ordain women and adopt the “progressive” platform, we will face the same kind of decline as the rest of liberal Christianity like the Episcopal Church….

    False analogy. The Episcopal Church lacks countless doctrines that distinguish the LDS Church as “the only true and living church.” Perhaps the decline you worry about is from a host of reasons that have nothing to do with ordaining women.

    There once was a guy who was seriously ill with all sorts of diseases. He tried to hike the Grand Canyon, but the stress of it killed him. Doesn’t mean that I should avoid the Grand Canyon.

    Comment by BrianJ — April 14, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  71. Naismith,

    I’m not sure I’ve explained myself terribly well. I totally agree that faith precedes the miracle; however, what I was trying to address was a (hopefully very rare – or ideally only theoretical) situation where agreement simply can’t be made between a couple and opinions are probably quite strongly divided, but a decision simply must be made.

    In that situation, the person “presiding” has the authority to make the decision; but if it is a matter on which I am presiding and I then make that decision, and then get to the next life and the Lord says “oops, you got that one wrong Jeff”, I believe I will be accountable not just for the wrong decision itself, but for the fact that I have wrongly over-ruled my wife, having wrongly claimed inspiration. Personally I don’t want to take that risk lightly.

    At the same time, I think the temple teaches quite clearly that my wife has no obligation to follow my “presiding lead” if she doesn’t believe that I am in fact hearkening to the Lord. But again if she decides I’m wrong and we get to the next life and the Lord says to her “Oops, you got that one wrong”, then she would be accountable for disregarding an instruction that came from the Lord through me. I also wouldn’t want to take that risk lightly.

    So, in any instance (again, hopefully exceedingly rare) where unanimity can’t reached but a decision must be made, for me the faith precedes the miracle doesn’t really work because that could also be interpreted as “I’m not so sure but I’ll over-rule my wife anyway because I think I’m right”, and I think that would be unwise – perfectly good in an everyday situation where maybe I need to exercise some faith, but not so good if I’m “pulling rank” when views are polarised. In that situation I think the one presiding (in this case me) should be confident that their inspiration is from the Lord if I’m going to stet that my revelation on the issue is superior to my wife’s; or alternatively the one not presiding (in this case my wife) should be confident that the person presiding (me) is not inspired if she’s going to state that her revelation on the issue is superior to mine. I think this is a different proposition to exercising faith to catch a flight, or stop the car and talk to someone, or make a phone call to someone because you just feel it’s the right thing to do.

    In my own marriage, we’ve never had really polarised views on a decision that had to be taken, and so it is really hypothetical, and I’m sure it doesn’t in many marriages; but it also does occur in many marriages – and I’ve also seen in Church presidencies where the one presiding, whether Bishop or a President “pulls rank” when Counsellors disagree (and where usually the decision isn’t urgent) – and it almost always has had negative consequences.

    The Lord requires unanimity in any form of presidency, but human nature and frailties being what they are it is inevitable there will be occasions when that isn’t possible. Usually there is no urgency to a decision so a couple can simply wait for as long as it takes to gain that unanimity, but that won’t always be the case, so I was really trying to express my views in what should be exceptions to the rule (although sadly they aren’t always).

    I don’t know if that is any clearer – or maybe it is and we just don’t agree :-)

    Moving off the subject of presiding and back to the subject of ordaining women, I’d be interested in what you think the drawbacks are?

    Comment by JeffC — April 15, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

  72. Jeff G: Hah, I see that I stopped reading the comments just before you addressed one of my questions: alternating which spouse is the presiding authority.

    But the comments from 55 on did not address my main concern with your main argument. Your main argument is that there must only be one presiding authority. I asked, “Why can’t two equal partners resolve disagreements via patience, longsuffering, empathy, charity, etc.?” I still don’t see where you answer this.

    (Now, your answer may be a simple, “Because it can’t work that way.” If so, I think that is a fair—albeit unsatisfying—answer because it’s basically the reverse of what I am saying: “It can work that way.”)

    I expressed an additional aspect of my main concern in #68:

    If the family is meant to be the model, then the current structures of the Church are creating wards that do a very poor job of following that model. In the ward, the bishop should seek counsel from others, but is under no obligation to seek consensus. In contrast, husbands and wives are encouraged to act in unanimity.

    It seems to me that you are inadvertently trying to model the family after the church, not the other way around, even though you argue that the family should be the “fundamental level of analysis.”

    Let me put it this way: I think you would agree that, if a father presides properly, it would be difficult for an outsider to recognize that presiding in action in the family. Yet, in the Church, it is impossible not to notice presiding.

    (PS. Sorry, I know how hard it can be to respond to late commenters on an old post. I won’t be offended if you haven’t the time.)

    Comment by BrianJ — April 21, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

  73. Hey BrianJ, sorry that I just saw your message.

    The main point at which I think yours as well as most others’ objections go wrong is in assuming that “patience, longsuffering, empathy, charity, etc.” are in any way antithetical to priesthood authority. Remember, section 121 is a description of how to wield priesthood authority, not how to have an egalitarian debate with another person. The virtues listed are the ways in which we are to use and respond to authority rather than a substitute for it.

    That said, I did address your main concern in the post, but obviously not clearly enough (which is my fault). Presiding authority can only be in one person since this is what allows interpersonal debate to be trumped by revelation (to that one person) when disagreements arise. When there are two presiding authorities, then revelation to those individuals is not able to resolve trump interpersonal reasoning and debate. The idea that no person has authority to receive revelation over others is exactly what led to the secularization of Protestantism and is exactly why having co-presiding authorities in the family would secularize them as well.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 24, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

  74. Saying something over and over again does not make it true. If your wife is going to be trumped by your revelation at every turn, what possible motivation does she have to spend any time on her knees? A cardboard cutout would do just as well. Ooops, no, you do want a functioning uterus, just not a brain or any spirituality, apparently.

    Fortunately, that is not what the church teaches. And this perversion makes me sick every time I read it, so I will not be back to this thread. (and I am not even a feminist!)

    I do agree that the husband presides over the home. And there are many so many ways that he can provide service to his family. He can give father’s blessings, set an example of righteousness, perform saving ordinances for family members, encourage them in scripture study, hold interviews with each child, teach the children to work, respect and defend his wife’s efforts in nurturing and homemaking, display a positive attitude about service to others, ensure that family home evening happens, give blessings of healing, help the children establish a pattern of church attendance, and so on. And on. There are many, many things that a husband can do for his family in his role as the presider, which is different from presiding at church.

    I do think that our current system of only men being ordained has value in that it gives them a unique way to serve in the family.

    Comment by Naismith — April 25, 2014 @ 10:22 am

  75. You’re right. My asking over and over for you to exercise a bit of charity in interpretation so that we could have a civil discussion didn’t change a thing. Your comments are still full of sarcasm, Strawman caricatures and descriptions of your bodily functions.

    Comment by Jeff G — April 25, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

  76. Jeff G, 73: no worries about the delay. I appreciate you responding.

    I can see where you and I diverge in our interpretation of D&C 121. You take vs 41-42 as instructive on how to wield the priesthood; i.e., the virtues listed are inextricably linked to, perhaps even encompassed by, the priesthood.

    I take those verses as delineating virtues that are neither part of the priesthood nor antithetical to it. The priesthood cannot function properly without them, but that does not mean that they are the priesthood. (By analogy: fuel is not part of my car and it is useful outside and apart from my car.)

    I quote those verses here, adding a few words to help illustrate my reading:

    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood [. Period. Rather, influence is maintained] only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned….

    Thus, those virtues are given as the true source of power and influence and alternatives to ruling via the priesthood alone—though, to be clear, there is no statement that they are antithetical/opposed to the priesthood.

    “Presiding authority can only be in one person since this is what allows interpersonal debate to be trumped by revelation (to that one person) when disagreements arise. When there are two presiding authorities, then revelation to those individuals is not able to resolve/trump interpersonal reasoning and debate.”

    I agree. This is one way to resolve/trump debate. I see D&C 121 suggesting other ways. Co-presidents would not be able to rely on revelation alone to resolve debate. I point to 1 Cor. 13:8:

    8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

    I don’t want to put words in the Apostle’s mouth, but when he says “prophecies” I think that is synonymous with “revelation,” and I don’t think it a stretch to include “priesthood” in his list of “vanishing” attributes.

    “The idea that no person has authority to receive revelation over others is exactly what led to the secularization of Protestantism and is exactly why having co-presiding authorities in the family would secularize them as well.”

    I worry that this is a false analogy. First, we’re talking about co-presiding authorities within the family only; Protestantism was throughout the church. I have not seen anyone here arguing for co-bishops or co-stake presidents. Second, Protestantism differs from Mormonism in many ways; I hope there are more aspects to our doctrine that keep us true to the Gospel than just male presidency.

    Comment by BrianJ — May 2, 2014 @ 9:54 am

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