. . . because this may be the longest post you’ll read this year. (I want a Niblet!!) Randy wanted me (and Nate) to explore the issue of presiding a little more on the temple thread, but some yahoo cut off comments, so Randy emailed me. Here is our discussion, with Randy’s words in italics:
I like your (and Nibley’s) view of the hearkening covenant. I heard
the Nibley quote
OK, this is me interrupting Randy’s train of thought to reproduce the infamous Nibley quote that I couldn’t find when this discussion began:
“There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in the Garden; the two supervise each other. Adam is given no arbitrary power; Eve is to heed him only insofar as he obeys their Fatherâ€”and who decides that? She must keep check on him as much as he does on her. It is, if you will, a system of checks and balances in which each party is as distinct and independent in its sphere as are the departments of government under the Constitutionâ€”and just as dependent on each other.” Hugh Nibley, “Patriarchy and Matriarchy,” Old Testament and Related Studies, page 92f.
OK, back to Randy’s question:
on the bloggernacle a couple years ago now, and it strikes
me as an entirely reasonable, even the most probable, interpretation.
Yet it still seems somewhat problematic in some ways, which is where
Nate’s comment on option #1 comes in. This interpretation, as I
understand it, takes the hearkening covenant as a type of how our homes
are to be run. As Nate sees it, the symbolism suggests that the
husband “presides” (whatever that means) in the home. In other words, the
asymmetry is intentional; woman do not preside, men do. My first
question here is do you agree? By that I don’t mean, do you agree that
men preside in the home (you’ve already answered that question).
Rather, do you agree that this covenant compels/supports this view?
Yes to all of the above:
(1) The story that unfolds in the Temple involves the husband being given the role of presiding in the family.
(2) Most of us think ‘presiding’ means things that no Church leader has ever said that it means. I’ve repeatedly made the challenge to the Bloggernacle for someone to find me a statement from a Church leader stating that husbands have the last word. No one has ever produced one. (Maybe there’s one out there . . .)
(3) While the fact that husbands preside appears to create an assymetrical relationship (since wives don’t preside), wives take on a different role that provides symmetry. See the Nibley quote above. Also:
“No woman has ever been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding this, she should always be sure she is fair.” Spencer W. Kimball, â€œThe Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,â€? Ensign, Mar. 1976, 70f.
Or, if you like things put a little more baldly:
“But I never counseled a women to follow her husband to the Devil.” Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, pages 200-201.
“When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner.” Spencer W. Kimball, â€œPrivileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,â€? New Era, Jan.-Feb. 1979, 42f.
(4) This is a bit of a digression, but I think that one problem we (including me!) have in interpreting the temple ceremony as it relates to men’s and women’s roles is that Adam and Eve are each filling two roles: husband-wife and priesthood leader-member. How do we tell which is which? I know of no objective rubric. It does seem to me that the moments where people find the most sexism are moments where I do not think that Adam is doing husband things but rather prophet things.
This has been long. To sum: yes, men preside. This might appear uneuqal or asymmetrical until you remember that you are only looking at half of the equation. Then it appears equal in terms of responsibility, privilege, and ‘rights’, but not identical.
The reason I ask is that the way Nibley tells it (if I am remembering
correctly), the roles of men and women in the hearkening covenant are
different but equal (indeed, that is his whole point, that there is no
need for women to be concerned about the relative inequalities, because
there are none). If so, then I don’t see how Nate’s option #1
necessarily follows. But perhaps this is just a debate over what it
means to preside.
Yes, I think that is it. It is possible for one person to preside but for both people to be equal. This has been a constant theme in the addresses of members of the Q12 and FP over the past decade, but I’ve sensed that the reaction is usually (1) ‘they are talking out of both sides of their mouths! hypocrites!’ or (2) ‘this reflects a shifting paradigm; we are abandoning the preside rhetoric for the equal partnership rhetoric’. I think we at least need to try to assume that they are offering reconcilable statements. I think they reconcile because (1) preside doesn’t mean what a lot of people seem to think it means and (2) the counterpart to presiding is Eve’s responsibility to judge Adam’s counsel for herself and act according to her assessment of whether he is following the Lord.
Here’s the second part of my question: My experience personally, and
what I perceive taking place elsewhere, including in church leadership,
is that God does not direct our every move. We do our best to study
things out before hand, come to a tentative conclusion of what we
should do, and then go to the Lord asking for guidance and direction.
Sometimes we are given the go ahead, even if God perhaps would do
things a bit differently. If this view is correct, then it seems to me that
even Nibley’s view of the hearkening covenant creates unequal status in
the family. A hypothetical: Adam and Eve are facing a decision of
whether to read the BOM, the D&C, the NT, or the OT during family
scripture study this year. Adam and Eve ponder the issue, ultimately
coming to different conclusions, both for equally compelling reasons.
They take the issue to the Lord. Assume we can know (always difficult)
that the Lord leaves the decision to Adam and Eve. If so, doesn’t Adam
get what he wants? And moreover, wouldn’t Eve be in violation of her
covenant to not follow Adam’s lead? He is, after all, hearkening to
God and has suggested a righteous course of action; it’s just that God left
the decision up to them (not an uncommon occurrence), and ultimately,
at the end of the day, Adam.
I think there are two ways to look at this, I suppose which model you choose depends on the couple:
(1) The counsel of the Church has been pretty consistent that Adam does not get to have ‘the last word’ here but that they need to keep talking and praying together until they come to an agreement. They don’t proceed until there is unity. So I would dispute your statement that ‘at the end of the day’ it is Adam’s decision.
(2) Most of what I consider to be presiding (calling the family to prayer, being sure family scripture study happens, etc.) are not exactly things where people have huge differences of opinion. Your situation above is interesting, but do you really think many divorces are caused by people who cannot decide which book of scripture to study that year? Most husbands and wives I know would be pretty shrugful about that one and agree to alternate days or something. Issues such as whether to move, take a different job, select from medical treatment options, have another child, etc., do not fall under the rubric of ‘presiding;’ the husband has no more decision-making authority there than the wife (see Pres. Kimball above). My point is that wives do not have their faces ground into the dust and their personal autonomy denied because their husbands are choosing who says the prayer.
Thanks, Julie. I’m going to think about this some. I think you are
right that at the end of the day, much of this comes down to what it
means to preside. Perhaps part of where things go wrong is failing to
distinguish between presiding in the home and presiding in a calling. For
example, in a Bishopric, the Bishop presides. The Bishop is counseled
to listen to his counselors, but at the end of the day, it is the
Bishop’s call whether to hold the ward picnic on Saturday afternoon rather
than Wednesday evening. While the Bishop may try and work toward
consensus, but if that is not possible, it is up to him, ultimately, to make
a decision. Perhaps presiding in the home is a different type of
animal, and is not a tool of conflict resolution at all. In fact, perhaps
presiding in the home carries exactly zero independent weight in making
decisions for the family (beyond, for example, picking out people to
pray). Under this view, presiding would be nothing more than an
assignment to see that certain issues are raised and addressed. How those
issues are resolved is left to the husband and wife, as equal partners
(which is decidedly not the case in the Bishop/Bishopric example, as there
is no suggestion that a counselor is the Bishop’s equal). So even in
my example about which book of scripture to read, the question of who
presides would be irrelevant to how the question is resolved. Is that
going to far? Not far enough?
Yep. I think that is it: presiding in the Church and presiding in the home are entirely different animals. I think this is the gist of Elder Oaks’ last talk on the subject. It is also behind President Packer’s famous “don’t treat your wife like you treat the stake” quip.
How would you affirmatively define what it means to preside (other than
to say what it is not)? Does it go beyond calling the family to prayer
and being sure family scripture study happens, or is that it?
I think you had it exactly right when you said, “an assignment to see that certain issues are raised and addressed.” The ultimate responsibility for holding FHE rests on my husband, not me. I don’t feel violated by this (and I’d go into the reasons for that, but this is already way too long). But that doesn’t mean he gets to decide what all the lessons will be about, or that we’ll hold it on the roof, or whatever. As far as making the decisions where there might be a reasonable difference of opinion, neither of us has ‘the last word’ but rather needs to work together until we reach an agreement. And if he wants all of our FHEs held under the auspices of the NFL, well, then I’m under no obligation to follow him to the devil on that one.
I really should be getting some work done, but a few more thoughts
(before they leave me):
On my second original question, on your two models, some ideas:
Take the second model first. You say “most of what I consider to be
presiding . . . are not exactly things where people have huge differences
of opinion.” I would agree, if we limit presiding to something very,
very narrow. But let’s go back to the language of the covenant: Eve
covenants to hearken to Adam as Adam hearkens to God. This strikes me as
more than just a discussion of “presiding” (in the limited sense).
After all, when I pick someone out to say a prayer, I generally am not
acting on inspiration, but am trying to think of who has not said the
prayer recently. “Hearkening” in the context of the temple covenant
surely requires more than simply deferring to the selection of who is going
to pray. It demands listening and following God’s counsel, whether
directed to the church in general or to individuals in particular.
Further, unlike presiding (narrowly defined), the hearkening covenant sounds
to me like one of several tools for resolving conflicts. Thus, in
deciding upon a course of action, whatever it may be, Adam is to hearken to
God, and Eve to Adam. This brings us back to Nibley, and the way the
husbands and wives work together to make decisions. What I was trying
to get at with my original second question is what happens when this
tool for decision making and conflict resolution does not end the matter
Ã¢â‚¬â€? e.g., God does not give a clear answer? One possible answer in that
situation is that Adam and Eve must simply find a different way to
resolve the conflict. At that point, the hearkening covenant simply has no
more applicability. Another possible answer (and one I personally
reject), is that Eve still must hearken to Adam (provided, of course, that
Adam is still hearkening to God). In other words, when God does not
give specific direction, Eve still must follow Adam. I think this view
is incorrect, but I’m trying to better understand why. After all, it
strikes me as an entirely plausible reading to say that as long as Adam
is hearkening to God, Eve must hearken to Adam, even if God is not
speaking to Adam on the particular question at issue. (And judging by the
reaction of many, some have concluded that this is what the covenant
means, for better or worse.)
I don’t think that hearkening is more than presiding, but I do think that presiding is more than calling on people to say the prayer. Maybe we need to emphasis areas where presiding can be done unilaterally (selecting people for prayers) and where it cannot (selecting topics for FHE lessons, for example). I do not see the hearkening covenant as a tool for conflict resolution, because I don’t think it implies (not have church leaders taught that it implies) any ‘last word’ authority. I will also say that I have been blessed with a decade of marriage to someone with whom I have disagreed maybe twice (about ‘real’ issues–discussing politics is another matter!), and I don’t have a backlog of personal experiences with marital conflict resolution upon which to draw. When we’ve come to the table with different views, we’ve kept talking until we were both genuinely in agreement.
Your answer to that interpretation, it seems to me, is found in your
first, not the second, model. There you say, “[t]he counsel of the
Church has been pretty consistent that Adam does not get to have ‘the last
word’ here but that they need to keep talking and praying together until
they come to an agreement. They don’t proceed until there is unity.
So I would dispute your statement that ‘at the end of the day’ it is
Adam’s decision.” A couple things. As an initial matter, just to be
clear, it is not my view that Adam gets to call all the shots (provided
they are not inconsistent with God’s counsel). That simply strikes me as
wrongheaded. (But I suspect you already knew that.) As to the
substance of your point, I think there is little question but that attitudes
towards the proper role of women have changed both inside and outside
the church over the last 150+ years. I agree that the current counsel of
the Church about Adam not having the “last word” has been consistent,
but I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that this counsel has
been consistent throughout church history. (I’ve been reading Wilford
Woodruff’s journals lately, and it’s often not pretty.) If we had to
rely on what the brethren taught about the role of women at the time the
hearkening covenant was first written, I suspect your (and my)
interpretation of this covenant would not fare so well as it does when compared
to current counsel. True, Brigham stated that a wife is not to follow
her husband to hell, but that only guts us so far Ã¢â‚¬â€? what about
matters on which there is no right or wrong answer? I suspect on that point
Brigham might come out differently than you or I would. Does that
I don’t disagree with you about what the nineteenth century Brethren taught on the matter, but I also don’t see any point in losing sleep over it. It is interesting as a historical matter, but I think one would be hard-pressed to make the case that we should follow what Pres. Woodruff said about marriage relationships instead of what Pres. Kimball did.