Unrighteous Dominion

This post is directed at men. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about equality and how guys aren’t all power-hungry patriarchs, and try to apologize for the “few” that are,  but the fact is, too many of us men actually are power-hungry, and like to call ourselves “patriarchs.” So I will attempt here to address the issue without sugarcoating it, but without offending anyone. Guys, I invite you to take this with a grain of salt. I do not wish to accuse anyone of anything. I do wish to bring attention to an issue that we have complete control over, and if we can control it, we will not offend or hurt those special women in our lives.

I have strong faith in the power of the priesthood. It is the reason we call ourselves the only true church. We have many wonderful priesthood leaders who use their priesthood for blessing the lives of many. However, we have an unfortunate number who believe that this priesthood power gives them authority outside of the prescribed bounds. That they somehow are over women. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency says, “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.”

Now, if there are any men who read this and think, “there you go! ‘Fathers are to preside over their families…’ that means I make the decisions, and I am solely responsible for receiving revelation for my family, and my family is obligated to follow my direction and counsel,” then I urge you to re-think what it means to preside. A president is not a king. He is not a dictator. Every president has councilors, or a vice president who council him, debate ideas, and who have an equal say in each matter. In a presidency with 2 councilors, a decision cannot be made without a unanimous vote. Not a 2/3 or 1/3 vote. Unanimous. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve make decisions in a like manner. Every vote to the contrary is treated with gravity and is given much respect as long as it can be backed by valid argument. Those who are “entitled” to receive revelation on behalf of others are also subject to council. Councilors are also entitled to this revelation, and if they don’t receive it, the president has no right to force the issue.

I have a very good friend whom I am quite protective of. She helped me through a hard time after my mission, and has always been the most genuine friend a person could ask for. She recently broke off an engagement, all of which was a living hell for her. She gave me permission to tell her story, in part. Her ex-fiancé attempted to control her on very levels. On their second date, he quoted scripture to her and said that they were commanded to replenish the earth, and forced her to kiss him. Something that I know for a fact she does not do on second dates, or eighth dates for that matter. Later, when he proposed, he again quoted scripture, and took her on a major guilt trip before asking her to marry him, such that she felt that if she said ‘no’ she would go to hell. He forbade her from speaking to any of her male friends, asked her to cut contact with friends that she had had since childhood, and etc. Eventually, to her, and many others’ relief, she got out. However, the damage had been done emotionally. She doesn’t trust men, and who can blame her? She was controlled and used by a man who said he loved her. When she told him of a health problem, and used it as an excuse to break off the engagement, he actually accepted it.

I have another friend, who also has an ex-fiancé. When they were dating, they read the book that listed questions LDS couples should ask before marrying. One asked whether they believed the patriarchal system, and what this meant to them. He immediately answered in the affirmative, and she pressed for details. He answered that if they ever had an argument, that he got the final say, because he held the priesthood and was entitled to that revelation.

I would direct those men to Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-39

And they wonder why the relationship ended. Now I must admit, I once held this type of thinking. I did not completely understand what it meant to preside in the home. Luckily, I was young, and I had an exemplary father who treated my mother as his absolute equal. He did not make any decisions alone, and neither did She. THEY made decisions together, and they are happy, and their six children are happy. This is what the first presidency was getting at when they said “equal partners.” My parents are about as opposite as it gets- the athletic math and science guy married the “danceletic” (as my mom puts it) music and English woman. They complete each other as husband and wife ought. They each shine in different areas, as they should. It gives them identity, but they are completely equal in the governing of the family, of their understanding of the gospel, and most importantly, in their standing before God. One is not in front or behind. They are side-by-side. Equal in all things eternal.

My point is, a father’s responsibility is to make sure he does everything he can to make sure his family follows the Plan of Happiness, but, his responsibility is not to enforce it he is also to assist in any way he can, his wife in all of her responsibilities. Mothers’ responsibilities are to nurture children, and to support and help her husband with his responsibilities.

If one receives revelation, the other will also receive it. If it isn’t, the couple ought to keep praying and asking for guidance until they can both feel good about a decision.

To wrap up and sum up- your priesthood is to be used to bless the lives of others, and to serve them. It is not to be used to get what you want, or force anyone to do anything. If you use your authority and power properly, it will bless you and your family’s lives infinitely. If not, “…it is withdrawn, [and] Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

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One comment on “Unrighteous Dominion

  1. Amber says:

    You should listen to this podcast sometime when you get the chance: http://feministmormonhousewivespodcast.org/episode-46-mormons-and-domestic-abuse/

    I think this is where I struggle the most as a Mormon feminist – I just don’t see the need for the word preside. I have seen it done much more damage than good. I think that many smart, wonderful members such as yourself and my husband are able to read the word preside and know that it doesn’t mean to rule in unrighteous dominion, but for many others, they read the word preside and apply it the way it is literally described in the dictionary – to rule over. I think that for men who are already prone to violence and dominant behaviors, it gives them a free pass to be controlling. And since we already live in a male-dominated society, I just don’t see it doing as much good in the church as it does bad.

    In that podcast, you’ll hear the story of a woman who was being beaten by her husband. When she went to her bishop, her bishop said that she needed to stay with her husband because she needed to priesthood in her life. As time went on and she had a baby, her husband continued to beat her AND the baby. The baby suffered brain trauma so badly that he (the child) will never be able to walk or talk today. A life was essentially wasted because a bishop failed this family.
    Will every bishop give this kind of advice? absolutely not. But the fact that this is even happening at all tells me that the language that we use in the church (i.e. preside) needs to change to protect our women and children.

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