The “Presiding” Question
The Presiding Principle
As equally loved sons and daughters of God none of us has an inherent right to preside over another. The children of the kingdom are equals. People are peers. Therefore, we each have a very natural aversion to being coerced, manipulated, looked down on or talked down to by each other. Nothing is more offensive to the free spirit. Nothing elicits more righteous indignation than to be treated as an inferior. Within our souls we sense, believe and know our inalienable individual rights as peer children of God. There are simply no morally valid grounds for anyone arrogating to themselves the arbitrary control of others. This applies to conditions inside and outside the home.
Nevertheless, throughout the history of fallen man various individuals have risen above their peers to rule and reign. Usually, this domination is accomplished by means of one or more of the following attributes: 1) Greater physical strength; 2) greater intellectual acuity; 3) greater charismatic charm; or 4) greater financial wealth.
Unfortunately, these people customarily reign with blood and horror on the earth, using their talents to manipulate and coerce others to serve their own selfish ends. Even if they were to rule in love and unselfishness additional endowments of certain talents may give these people the power to rule over others, but never the right!
We repeat, no one has any inherent right to preside over another with this single and obvious exception: Parents have always had the inherent right and obligation to lovingly preside over their children. It has ever been so from the beginning. Children, small and inexperienced, need protection and nurturing, guidance and supervision. Without this care they would perish.
In the beginning there was only one order, the family order. There was only one family, the family of Adam and Eve. All other people dwelling on earth were their children, born and nurtured in their home, in their family. Adam and Eve as parents naturally ruled and reigned in their home. The record indicates they ruled in love and sought to bring up their children in the light and truth of the gospel, according to the obligatory command they were given by their parents the Eloheim.
The Eloheim passed on to their children, Adam and Eve, the divine family order of heaven, revealing and assigning the grand division of parental duties that devolve upon all parental partnerships. The man was to provide, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, and the woman was to bring forth the children. This dichotomy of parental responsibility revealed from heavens in the beginning follows one general and simple demarcation principle: Both parents joined as equals in a full partnership are endowed with capacities to enable each to do many great things as they lovingly and jointly preside over their children, but one parent has primary responsibility for matters outside the home and the other has primary responsibility for matters within the home.
This divinely revealed and time-proven division of duties is both remarkably simple and extremely effective. As noted earlier it makes no sense for both the female and male parents to leave children and home, seeking to serve and save their external environments at the expense of their family. Nor can both always remain home with no thought for the provision and preservation of the home’s external environments. Either way the family loses.
It is feasible both sets of duties, those without and within the home, could be accomplished by either parent as each is endowed as offspring of deity with wonderful potentials of intellect, strength and nobility of character. However, there is wisdom in endowing each with natures especially suited for their specific areas of responsibility to enhance performance of their separate duties.
While both would need the godly attributes of patience and sensitivity, yet an extra endowment of these fruits of the spirit would be of great worth to the parent in the home charged with the incredibly important and demanding duty of working with their tender little ones day in and day out. While both would need the abilities to be soft and gentle at times, it would be prudent to especially endow the parent assigned to care for the delicate and easily hurt little ones in the home with these qualities. This parent would also need special provisions in their physical anatomy to feed and nurture the infants, and so forth.
On the other hand, the parent assigned to duties outside the home could benefit from a somewhat different nature. While both parents need great courage and good strength, the parent required to protect and provide in the environments outside the home could surely use an endowment of extra muscles for combat and backbreaking physical labor. A more aggressive temperament may be required of this partner to face and mitigate the forces at work in the world every day that would threaten the peace and welfare of the family.
The brute strength and relatively unemotional and aggressive nature of man that equips him to carry the burdens of the world outside the home, if not properly tempered and balanced by the tender sensitivity of the woman, could prove to be serious liabilities within the home where easily frightened little ones need to feel loved, safe and secure.
Our gender differences are divinely programmed endowments to enable us to better perform our roles, as they run deeper and broader than many have perhaps understood. Even our different communication styles appear to spring from the fountains of our unique natures.
Charles Pulvino and James Lee write:
Judy Cornelia Pearson (1985), Deborah Tannen (1990), Judy B. Rosener (1990), and Linda Carli (1991) provide insight into differences in male and female communicative styles. Pearson, Tannen, and Carli focus on the communicative process whereas Rosener examines communication in leadership. . .
Differences in communication between the sexes can be found in all channels of communication. In the verbal channel, for instance, there are a number of differences between how males and females communicate. Pearson highlights some of these differences. The first significant difference is in the formality of language. Females tend to use formal words and phrases, whereas males are more likely to use informal ones. For instance, a female might say, “I understand what you are trying to tell me,” while by contrast a male might say, “I get the picture.” Second, females appear to prefer the specificity that language can provide, while males appear to focus on the underlying principles or issues. . . One approach is neither better nor worse than the other, they are merely different. And the differences can often lead to misunderstanding and conflict.
Males often feel they are explaining a concept and find that females responding to their statements focus on the accuracy of the words being used rather than on the ideas being relayed. Males then may judge that the females do not understand or are being unnecessarily picky about the choice of words. . .
A third major difference can be found in the nature of the words or phrases used. Males and females differ in their tendencies to use hostile words, profanity, or expletives. Males are considerably more likely to lace their conversation with words of this type than are females. In general, men tend to have a much more earthy quality to their language. Females, by contrast, use more precise descriptions and are less likely to reveal overt aggressiveness in their speech.
A fourth difference exists. According to Pearson, males are less likely to use hyper correction, intensifiers, fillers, qualifiers, or disclaimers than females. . .
Tannen, in You Just Don’t Understand, adds a slightly different perspective to our understanding of differences between male and female communication styles. Her emphasis is placed on the fundamental goals or purposes one has for communicating. In general, she suggests that most male communication is aimed at achieving independence, whereas a significant portion of female communication is geared toward relationship development or maintenance. (Financial Counseling, A Strategic Approach, [Madison, Wisconsin: Instructional Enterprises, 1991], 45-48, emphasis ours).
Such are the dichotomous natures of the sons and daughters of God. While every generality has exceptions, and learned behavior clearly plays a role in our lives, it must be acknowledged by all honest people that anatomical and emotional gender differences emerge naturally and extremely early in the lives of our children as they instinctively begin favoring dolls or trucks. These unique natures pertain to our divinely appointed roles, not only now but in eternity.
We had full equality as his spirit children. We have equality as recipients of God’s perfected love for each of us. . . Within those great assurances, however, our roles and assignments differ. These are eternal differences -- with women being given many tremendous responsibilities of motherhood and sisterhood and men being given the tremendous responsibilities of fatherhood and the priesthood. (TSWK, 315).
From the beginning, fathers have been not only assigned, but also prepared, to serve outside the home, and mothers have been not only assigned, but also prepared, to serve within the home. Neither role nor nature is superior or inferior to the other. Both are absolutely imperative for the blessing and progression of mankind.
As earlier observed, within the home and the context of the family the authority of parents to preside is inherent. It is not only their right but their duty. Parents naturally love and serve their children, and children naturally honor and submit to their parents in righteousness (to the extent they do not yield to the enticings of the flesh and the powers of the adversary).
Outside the home, however, there is no inherent right of any man to preside over another! None! For the fathers assigned to deal with the realities of the environments outside the home this poses a most significant problem. How is one family going to deal with another family? Possessed of inherent and inalienable equality, yet having no inherent authority, no order, we have chaos. As individual families vie for territory and other resources, anarchy, war and contention will redound upon the generations to follow. What is to be done?
As long as men and women were one big righteous and happy gospel-oriented family, the family order worked just fine. Parents would always be righteous and loving heads, and children would always be righteous in honoring their parents. No matter how many generations co-existed simultaneously there would be order and harmony, the oldest parents reigning supreme and each generation revering parents and grandparents in succession. This is the patriarchal priesthood order of heaven where all things are in their proper and rightful place.
Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family but they are all disorganized and in great confusion. (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, February 23, 1847, Church Historian’s Office).
What is to be done in this state of disorganization and “great confusion” wherein people are not living in the family order? How are they going to co-exist in harmony with each other? What order will there be to govern separate and distinct families as they vie for common resources, differ in opinions and seek to communicate? How will order come where there is no inherent right to preside, no inherent right to govern each other?
There has to be a valid authority outside the home, outside the immediate family. While it is not currently patriarchal in nature, it is still the priesthood. The fathers of the Church were given the ecclesiastical priesthood, a non-family-ordered extension of authority, so homes could still co-exist in harmony and order in the larger communities of the saints. Obviously, mothers would not need this authority, as their assignments within the homes already embody inherent authority in their motherhood.
How could the order of the priesthood work, either patriarchally or ecclesiastically, if fathers were not heads of the homes they represented in the greater community, if they could not legally and authoritatively speak for their entire marital partnerships? What if the mothers were not obliged to honor those external decisions and the priesthood order in the greater community? The division and contention jeopardizing the communities would continue. Nothing would have been accomplished. One partner could not speak for the other. No agreements could be met and no binding accords could be consummated without all the mothers leaving home and children on a regular basis, as no one could rightfully and legally represent anyone else.
Either the home would be destroyed from without as no order could be brought to bear upon the external environments in which the home dwells, or the home would be destroyed from within as the children were left to themselves. Either scenario represents a losing proposition for the survival of home.
The equal female partners faithfully serving within the home were either going to have to voluntarily sustain their husbands in the priesthood order of the greater community outside the home, or order could never prevail and the peace and harmony of communities and homes could never be realized.
Someone might propose that fathers stay in the home and nurture the little ones, while mothers go out to handle all the ecclesiastical affairs, the warfare, the competitive business and combative political infighting. This arrangement of role reversal would accomplish nothing more than the first proposition.
First, the partnership would still be in the very same situation as before, requiring one partner to be governed and bound by the decisions and agreements entered into by the partner representing their partnership outside the home. Secondly, this arrangement would cause both partners to work extensively outside the home, or demand a complete reversal of the divinely appointed roles of the two partners, neither as well-suited to perform the other’s duties.
In the beginning, God placed a woman in a companion role with the priesthood. The Gods counseled and said that “it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him.” (Moses 3:18). Why was it not good for man to be alone? If it were only man’s loneliness with which God was concerned, he might have provided other companionship. But he provided woman, for she was to be man’s helpmeet. She was to act in partnership with him.
In this pronouncement that it was not good for man to be alone, God declared a fundamental truth. The Lord gave woman a different personality and temperament than man. By nature woman is charitable and benevolent, man is striving and competitive. Man is at his best when complemented by a good woman’s natural influence. She tempers the home and marriage relationship with her compassionate and loving influence.
Yes, it is not good for man to be alone because a righteous woman complements what may be lacking in a man’s natural personality and disposition. Nowhere is this complementary association more ideally portrayed than in the eternal marriage of our first parents, Adam and Eve. (Woman, 69).
Imagine a society where men and women had become so one-sided everyone behaved like a man! Who would opt for losing the principles of gentleness, sensitivity and kindness? We need both the nature of women and the nature of men.
Some may question the need of the male nature in the blessing and preservation of society, contending we should discard all aggressive tendencies in preference for gentleness. This presupposes a condition of evil being eradicated. However, the forces of evil will ever be at work in opposition to the forces of good in the universe. This opposition in all things is an eternal configuration. (See 2 Nephi 2:11). This being the case, passionate indignation, brute force and aggressive fervor to compete against the forces of evil will always be needed by the people of God.
Is there ever a time when war, or the taking up of arms is justified?
Yes, there are such times. There have been many instances when the Lord has justified the taking up of arms and has approved his people in their obedience to such action. When it becomes necessary for a righteous people to take arms against their enemies who are the aggressors, in protection of their lives and in defense of their possessions, the Lord has approved. If you will read the scriptures carefully, you will discover that the Lord commanded his chosen people to prepare for war and even to be the aggressors in the accomplishment of his purposes. (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 Vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-66], 3:50-51).
However, competition, justice, aggression, cold rationality and sheer power must always be tempered by cooperation, mercy, sensitivity, compassion and gentleness to bring about the righteous balance of these eternal principles to preserve and prosper life. Unchecked, one is too strong and the other too weak. One would consume us with its power and the other would leave us to be destroyed by our impotency. It is not good for either of these to stand alone. Only joined together in harmonious union do these principles bless and prosper. In the exalted couple we call God we see the perfect balance and union of these eternal traits and principles. In The Book of Mormon we learn God is perfectly just -- and merciful also. (See Alma 42:15). Justice is characterized as being male in gender, and mercy is typified as being female in gender:
For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus none but the truly penitent are saved. (Alma 42:24).
The unwise have debated throughout the centuries about justice vs. mercy. So also, unwise and inexperienced partners in marriage have tended to war with each other because of their contrasted natures. Some have adopted unilateral configurations where one spouse is dominant and one is subordinant, others have opted unisexual configurations where one or both seek to become the same as the other in every way --
. . . becoming a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. (2 Nephi 2:11-12).
Both of these configurations are wrong and will produce certain weaknesses and flaws in the marital relationship that will mitigate the effectiveness of the marriage and the happiness of the couple.
Wise and experienced partners, however, will use their unique influences to righteously temper and balance each other’s natures, but never to destroy them. They will learn to respect and treat each other as equals, yet value and capitalize on each other’s special strengths. Working as a team, they will become one synergistic whole, binding their diverse natures together in harmony, not unison, thereby becoming a greater and more complete man and woman.
These important gender differences emphasized in the sexes do not mean single males and females are completely bereft of each other’s qualities, nor do they mean males and females are inferior or superior to each other. If we believe in God and a conscious intelligent creation, it all simply means we are each intentionally designed to be wonderfully unique partners (parts). These key differences are calculated to bless us in ways we could not be benefited otherwise. Perhaps a simple analogy will be instructive:
This structure has been demonstrated beyond doubt to be the most effective. The goal of the team is to be successful. Teams with short inside centers and forwards, and tall outside guards don’t succeed. They fail for obvious reasons.
In general, big players are not as adroit as smaller players in skillfully handling the ball outside, and shorter players are not going to score as many points and get as many rebounds inside as the taller players.
Occasionally, coaches play tall lineups and short lineups, but the only consistently successful teams play the big guys inside and the little guys outside. Even though the inside duties and the outside duties can generally be performed by both, if you want the greatest possible success in basketball you play to your strengths.