The Hafens on Equality

ECS wrote about this article over at FMH [1]; I’d like to take a different perspective on it–I want to tell you what I liked about it. [2]

(1) First and most importantly, the article makes very clear that the LDS Church does not believe that wives should submit to their husbands.

(2) They explore how unexamined assumptions from one’s upbringing can affect thinking as an adult.

(3) They point to the errors of “traditionalists” (who want women to be dependent on men) and “liberationists” (who want women to be independent of men) and call for marital interdependence.

(4) They cite Elaine Pagels’ Adam, Eve, and the Serpent in the footnotes.

(5) They really try to grapple with scriptural texts; although I don’t entirely agree with their parsing of “meet” or “ruler,” I give them high marks for trying.

(6) They quote the President Kimball quote that should be the final nail in the coffin for the ever-pervasive folk doctrines surrounding the meaning of “presiding”:

No woman has been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him [only] as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding [whether he is obeying Christ], she should always be sure she is fair.

(7) Elder Maxwell’s line about the error in the Church that the men have been the theologians while the women have been the Christians is a good one and well worth repeating. The story about Elder Maxwell graciously submitting to his wife is a nice touch, too.


[1] What’s up with her getting the Ensign at least four days before me? And it still isn’t online.

[2] Like ECS, the “women are naturally more spiritual than men” position–which is included in this article–has never seemed true to me. But I grant that it may just be me–maybe normal women are more spiritual than normal men and I’m hanging out on the tip of the bell curve.

73 comments for “The Hafens on Equality

  1. Naismith
    July 24, 2007 at 7:18 am

    I still haven’t gotten my Ensign, so it will be hard to discuss the article itself since (as you note) it still isn’t online.

  2. JKC
    July 24, 2007 at 7:53 am

    I didn’t notice that they referred to Pagels. That’s pretty sweet. I liked the article. It did include the same “women are more spiritual” thing which always rings false, but I think it went about as far as anyone can toward equality within the framework that would have kept it Ensign-publishable. I’m sympathetic to concerns that it doesn’t go far enough, but I’d rather have it go half-way and be in the Ensign then go all the way and not lack the accessibility and authority of church publication.

  3. Mark IV
    July 24, 2007 at 9:37 am

    I just got my Ensign yesterday, too. They must have sent it by Pony Express.

    This article make for about the six- or seven-hundredth time I have heard church leaders refer to innate character differences between men and women without saying what those differences are. Is there a reason they never enumerate the differences? It is very possible that those differences are obvious to many, but we dumb people would appreciate a crib sheet. Please, brethren. If we are going to build the structure of doctrine on the foundation of gender differences, let’s do more than just assume those differences. Let’s put them out in plain sight and name them.

    I also found it very interesting that the Hafens seem to take issue with the way that most of us assume a man presides in the home. In the paragraphs where they describe how worldly influences shape the way we view gender roles, they say:

    Suppose his parents believe that a wife’s first duty…is to “submit graciously to her husband”. And suppose they believe that a husband’s duty is to give directions – leading out, assigning tasks, and expecting results.

    I’ll bet a dollar that 99% of church members who think of themselves as traditionalists would define a husband’s duties exactly that way.

  4. Kristine
    July 24, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Julie, I agree with both you and ECS–there were several things I really liked about this piece, and several that drove me completely nuts. I think it was an excellent performance of the vexed nature of our rhetoric about gender.

  5. Marjorie Conder
    July 24, 2007 at 10:12 am

    I don’t have my Ensign yet either, but it doesn’t matter. The thing I like the very most about this article (no matter what they say) is that they are speaking again together. Before Bruce Hafen became a GA, he and his wife often, maybe almost always, spoke together. They were absolutely amazing. They even published a book of some of their dialogues. The book came out just before he was called as a GA ten or so years ago. Immediately at his call they stopped speaking together. The scuttlebutt was that “somebody” did not want a wife speaking in tandem with a GA. It gave her too much “power.”

    As a long time “China watcher” the present cheers my heart on many fronts about women and the Church. Sometimes the changes seem almost imperceptible but sometimes they seem more than (at least I) can absorb all at once. To quote Joseph Smith from the Nauvoo RS minutes, “this is the (new) beginning of better days.”

  6. ECS
    July 24, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Just so there is no confusion here, if you link over to my post, you’ll see that I enjoyed the Hafen’s article and wrote about it favorably at FMH. I’m grateful to the Hafens for writing the article, and I look forward to more dialogue about these issues in Church publications.

  7. ben
    July 24, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Marjorie: When my Dad was called as SP a few years ago (not in the Mormon belt), he was given the specific instruction that my Mom was to travel and speak with him.

  8. Rosalynde Welch
    July 24, 2007 at 10:55 am

    My badder angel whispers that it’s easier to job-share private spiritual roles to the extent that spiritual roles are less important in the private sphere. When fewer family decisions are made on the basis of moral deliberation, and when those decisions are less urgent, it’s much more feasible to use the less-efficient, more-egalitarian institutional model of discussion and consensus.

  9. anon
    July 24, 2007 at 10:57 am

    For me, the elephant in the room on this issue is how gender roles are described in the temple. Sorry if it\’s inappropriate to discuss, but I can\’t help cringing everytime I hear the reporting stucture back to God… described therein.

  10. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 11:06 am


    Can you rephrase your comment in plainer English? I can’t quite follow.


    No, this isn’t the place to discuss what happens in the temple. (Sorry.) I can tell you that, as a feminist, I have no trouble with the temple ceremony–and actually find it to reflect the most feminist strain of Mormon thought. I wish I could say more, but I’ll leave it at two thoughts: (1) even a quick reading of Genesis will show that gender disparity comes about *after* the Fall and (2) it is amazing to think about what women *do* do in the temple. I do realize that the temple ceremony causes great grief for many feminist Mormons, but there are feminist-friendly ways to interpret the very same material. If you are ever in the Houston or San Antonio area, I’d love to do a session with you.

    [Note: I get delete-happy when commentors talk about the temple ceremony. If you can’t say it with reference to Genesis, don’t say it here or I’ll delete it.]

  11. Steve
    July 24, 2007 at 11:21 am

    It is interesting to read the Ensign article after looking at this month’s Sunstone. There remains tremendous disparity between how genders are “handled” and therefore valued in our Mormon Culture. Like the (sort of) formal issue with “blacks” and the “priesthood”, I am always more uncomfortable with the justifications given than with the policies themselves.

  12. July 24, 2007 at 11:52 am

    I’m looking forward to reading the article. Until then, I’d just like to question one of your statements.

    No woman has been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him [only] as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding [whether he is obeying Christ], she should always be sure she is fair.

    Why do you feel that this quote by President Kimball “put[s] the final nail in the coffin” for the meaning of presiding? No, we are not to follow our husbands into an evil pit, but here he states clearly that we _are_ to follow him (as he follows and obeys the Savior). This means that if my husband and I have two equally righteous desires–say he wants me to uproot myself and eight children from my comfortable Houston home and move to Vernal, Utah–and if we can’t come to a consensus, that I am to follow him. I realize that _in practice_ many husbands allow a more egalitarian approach to their marriage, but the embrace of the word itself in Mormon rhetoric tends to impede equality within marriage.

  13. anon
    July 24, 2007 at 12:15 pm


    That was my point in #9 – Julie, we’ll be in SA soon, can I bring my wife?

  14. Beth
    July 24, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Julie, I just barely got my copy of the Ensign yesterday. When I blogged on the FMH site I vowed I would not read a well meaning advice article on how to interpret/incorporate the Family Proclamation into my marriage. Well, of course, I was too curious not to read it. When I read the first part I was struck that the Hafens were asking all of us to be moderates. I guess this makes sense when we talk about moderation in all things. It just seems like it is sometimes hard to repair the damage that has been done by a majority of traditionalists in our church. Our church seems to be more willing to accept change only after it has been accepted and reflected in mainstream society. But as others have commented, at least this article was accepted into a forum that opens the door to this type of discussion and debate. So, it does give me hope as well.

  15. David Brosnahan
    July 24, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Being the Presiderer does not mean you are the Deciderer.

  16. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Re #12:

    Really this is a moot point because no one in their right mind wants to live in Houston. But, hypothetically, I think the wife in that situation has the obligation to determine what God’s will is for the family. (Because the husband is _not_ following the Savior if he is insisting that the family move if (1) the wife doesn’t want to and (2) God hasn’t required it.)

    The reason I like that quote in general is that it dispels the ‘presiding means having the final word’ false doctrine. In a righteous marriage, God has the last word, and the wife has independent access to God’s word.

    anon–email me; info in the sidebar.

  17. July 24, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Julie, #10 “[Note: I get delete-happy when commentors talk about the temple ceremony. If you can’t say it with reference to Genesis, don’t say it here or I’ll delete it.]”

    What about the Pearl of Great Price? ;)

  18. July 24, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Julie, the problem comes in when
    –we mortals don’t always know exactly what God’s will is,
    –two conflicting scenarios may both be righteous choices for the family.

  19. Adam Greenwood
    July 24, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    My obligation to obey my church and family priesthood leaders cannot only apply when God also commands this thing independently because, if so, there would be nothing left of the obligation to obey my church and family priesthood leaders. After all, I take it that if God asks me to leave Houston I’m obligated to leave whether or not any of my authorities have also asked it. I suppose that Julie S. could be saying that presiding is really an agenda-setting power, such that my duty to obey my leaders is, in effect, a duty to pray about things they’ve brought up that I might not otherwise. But if this is the content of presiding, it would mean that leaders don’t have the obligation to pray about things that their flock bring up, and this doesn’t seem right. Bringing it back to the family context, I feel that if the mother suggests leaving Houston, the father does have the obligation to take the suggestion seriously and seek God’s will on the matter.

    The quote Julie S. uses is not the quote as given by President Kimball, though I’m betting that the emendations are the Hafens’?

    The original version The wife follows the husband only as he follows Christ. 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.

    The Julie S. (Hafens?) version (emphasis added) No woman has been asked by the Church authorities to follow her husband into an evil pit. She is to follow him [only] as he follows and obeys the Savior of the world, but in deciding [whether he is obeying Christ], she should always be sure she is fair.

    But even with the emendations, I don’t think this quote does the work Julie S. wants it too. Its not clear that its suggesting an evaluation of whether each decision is right or a general evaluation of the character of one’s husband. And its not clear that its saying that if one doesn’t receive a clear impression and one doesn’t want to do it, then the authority asking it must be unrighteous.

  20. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 5:27 pm


    Then I think both people need to keep pondering and praying until they figure out what God’s will is. Maybe God is a lot meaner than I imagine, but I find it hard to believe that it often plays out where the wife can say, “I have been inspired that we need to do X” and the husband can say, “I have been inspired that we shouldn’t do X.”


    I can’t agree: from missionaries with investigators on up through life in the church, we tell people to seek their own confirmation of everything we hear. We are asked to find out for ourselves whether a certain teaching is true if we struggle with it.

    And, yes, I sloppily copied the Hafens’ version of Pres. Kimball’s quote. I’m not seeing how your objections are really relevant, in any case. It simply states that she doesn’t have to follow her husband if he isn’t following the Savior. How will she know whether he is following the Savior unless she evaluates the decision for herself?

  21. Adam Greenwood
    July 24, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    My objections speak for themselves.

    I do think that you misinterpret our obligation to pray about the counsel our authorities give us. Its not principally so that we can sit in judgment on the truth of what they say but to give us conviction, fervor, and to put us in contact with God, which is the great miracle that the Gospel proclaims. With investigators its a little more about judging truth claims but, of course, investigators don’t know whether our missionaries are authorities or not yet either.

    I am not as sanguine as you about both parts of a matrimony receiving clear, identical answers to prayers. I usually don’t recieve clear, ambiguous answers to prayers and neither do most people that I know.

    God wants us to be agents to ourselves, and this applies to our priesthood leaders too, I think. In other words, I think that within their sphere of authority God often wants priesthood leaders to come to their own decisions. So I think that lots of times if a decision is God’s will it is only because an authorized servant made it, and wouldn’t be otherwise.

  22. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    I never said anything about sitting in judgment–the only issue is whether we’ll follow it (not judge its source) and we only need follow what we have received confirmation for (with all the usual caveats re personal righteousness, etc.).

    All I can add to that is that I’m glad that my life has played out so much more simply than you and others who comment–can’t think of a time in 11 years that my husband and I haven’t been able to reach genuine agreement after praying/pondering over whatever the issue is. Perhaps my thoughts on this would be different if my experiences were.

  23. Adam Greenwood
    July 24, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    “we only need follow what we have received confirmation for”

    I think that’s where we disagree. I see following as the default.

  24. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    I see following as a default–unless you have a problem with the counsel. Then you seek confirmation. And if you don’t get it, you aren’t obligated to follow.

  25. Rosalynde Welch
    July 24, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    “I see following as a default–unless you have a problem with the counsel.”

    This kind of following has no moral content; it puts no bridle on individual subjectivity. It’s meaningless, in moral terms.

  26. Adam Greenwood
    July 24, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Anyway, in marriage this is more a theoretical discussion for me. What my wife is commanded to do is my wife’s concern, not mine.

  27. Adam Greenwood
    July 24, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Rosalynde W.,

    That’s what I was trying to get at, but I think you overstate the case. Following still makes a difference to Julie S. where the follower is neutral. I suppose you could argue that following also makes a difference in that the leader has an agenda-setting ability. They can’t shape the answers you receive, but they can shape the questions you ask. I tend to see this as a distinction without a difference, though, since followers should also be able to shape the agenda by raising issues.

    There’s no subjectivity problem if you assume that (1) a praying person will generally believe that they have received a clear yes or no from God (2) and further that they will generally be correct in this belief and (3) either that (a) only the follower has prayed or (b) the prayers of the follower and the followed have always agreed. I don’t make these assumptions but from what Julie S. says they appear to have been her experience.

  28. Justin
    July 24, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Re #5:

    The Hafens spoke together at BYU’s Women’s Conference in 2001. His part was more than 2000 words longer than hers.

    The Touch of Human Kindness

  29. July 24, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    If presiding is as meaningless as you suggest, then the term really should be dropped so that unrighteous priesthood holders would not be tempted to exert dominion in LDS marriages.

  30. queuno
    July 24, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Really this is a moot point because no one in their right mind wants to live in Houston.

    Not to offend BiV, but I’d rather spend my days in Houston than in Vernal.

    The Hafens spoke together at BYU’s Women’s Conference in 2001. His part was more than 2000 words longer than hers.

    Since when does size or word count matter? Does anyone think an elder gets more done in 24 months than a sister missionary does in 18?

  31. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    #25 would make perfect sense if it weren’t for my next sentence–the moral content comes from the obligation on the individual to seek divine confirmation (or refutation) of disputed counsel.

    I’m really surprised that I’m getting any flak for taking this position. Perhaps this is what happens when you come at the Church as a convert instead of a lifer, but I always thought it was obvious that you have a right (and responsibility) to seek divine confirmation for anything you have doubts about–whether it comes from your spouse or the prophet or anywhere in between. I don’t know if I could/would/should have joined a Church that taught that you had to do what someone in authority said you had to do (even if you had doubts) and that you had no right to an independent confirmation of the issue.

  32. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 8:03 pm


    I don’t see presiding as meaningless at all. I think it is a hugely important concept that will be to the benefit of all families wherein it is righteously practiced. I just don’t agree with the (admittedly common) folk definitions of what it means.

  33. July 24, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Perhaps you can explain how a marriage which includes the “righteously practiced” presiding paradigm differs from one which is merely egalitarian.

  34. Julie M. Smith
    July 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Re #33–

    I think presiding consists of:

    (1) What might be called ceremonial authority–calling on people to pray, welcoming everyone to FHE (I almost wrote FMH–ha!), etc.
    (2) The kind of agenda-setting Adam described.
    (3) An ultimate level of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the family.
    (4) An obligation to seek, as the Hafens put it, interdependence instead of independence for the spouses.

    There may be other items that should be added to this list–that’s just off the top of my head.

  35. Ray
    July 24, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    I preside in my home. That means to me, in practical terms, Julie’s #3 – and not much else. #4 is supposed to be a given, IMO, for any marriage. It often isn’t, but it’s supposed to be.

    FWIW, I view my responsibility within the endowment’s covenant I accept relative to this conversation as a counseling one – not as a directive one. IOW, I have the responsibility to counsel with my wife regarding all decisions concerning our family and reach a consensus (an expression of our united will) in all things regarding the family. Sometimes, I counsel her specifically in regard to things I believe she should do as an individual – and she does the same for me. In each case, neither of us has the right or authority to insist that the other implement the other’s counsel or advise on “individual” issues. I can’t count how many times I have suggested things to her and she has not followed that counsel – sometimes when I believe in hindsight I was correct and sometimes when I obviously was not.

    I love that about her – that she will listen carefully to me in those situations and then reach her own conclusions about what she should do. Frankly, my response is, “Yes, Dear,” much more often than hers is – and I’m fine with that. We don’t keep track, because it’s not about the numbers. It’s about mutual respect. We care enough about each other to offer the advise; we respect and trust each other enough to let it go at that.

  36. queuno
    July 25, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Don’t worry, Julie. Some of us agree with you (even some of us “lifers” who had to convert ourselves anyway). The trouble is that it’s hard to adequately express it — my wife and I find that we understand it best when in the temple. Some of us read the words of the other lifers who disagree with you and ask ourselves — are they really part of the same Church?

    I think it’s interesting how the temple is often such a central point of the discussion — my wife often says that if people really listened in the temple, this wouldn’t be a firestorm. There’s too much of the “you must prove to me that the Church isn’t misguided” blather sometimes on the Bloggernacle. No, I don’t have to prove it to you.

  37. Tenet
    July 25, 2007 at 3:17 am

    I think a large majority of you are the type of member I really try to steer my investigators away from.

  38. Ray
    July 25, 2007 at 4:00 am

    That’s sad, Tenet, since that means you are steering them away from a lot of members (including many ward and stake leaders) who are doing dedicated and great work in spreading the kingdom wherever they live. This is Gospel Doctrine, not Gospel Essentials. I talk very differently here than I do in SS or with investigators – much more like I do in my Stake Leadership Meetings.

    Some? Perhaps. A large majority? Absolutely not.

  39. Rosalynde Welch
    July 25, 2007 at 8:44 am

    “the moral content comes from the obligation on the individual to seek divine confirmation (or refutation) of disputed counsel”

    Then the moral crux inheres only in one’s obedience to God, not to one’s priesthood leader, and again it looks to me like the presiding authority is vacated. There’s no problem with your model as long as the spouses reach the same conclusion independently, but as soon as there’s a conflict—which such a model would presumably be designed to mediate—it’s completely non-functional.

    I’m not trying to give you any flak, Julie, and I apologize if I’ve given that impression. I’m just trying to figure out what’s really going on. I don’t think it’s an issue of a convert perspective v. a lifer perspective; I know lifers who share your confidence in the the robustness and centrality of personal revelation. And incidentally, my husband and I have never once in our marriage made any decision based on anything that works at all like *any* version of a presiding model—-we haven’t deliberately rejected that model, but it simply doesn’t ever come up in any way.

  40. July 25, 2007 at 9:16 am

    That ‘presiding’ may actually mean ‘egalitarian’ is good news for me. I’ve never actually used ‘egalitarian’ in a sentence, so I’m appreciative of the efforts to update that other, more familiar, term to mean whatever it needs to in order to keep me from looking like a dinosaur when I use it, thanks!

  41. bbell
    July 25, 2007 at 10:22 am


    I would go along with your list in #34. Except for #2. I think a family agenda needs to mutually derived and agreed to

    I would add Temporal/Financial to #2 based on the Proclamation.

    I also believe that if a happily married couple is honestly striving to live their religion and follow Christ this is largely a non-issue. They will be in harmony on most major issues.

    As for Houston Ick double Ick. I am a Texan and everytime I visit Houston I wonder why people live there. The climate is simply nasty. There is Black/Green Mold all over everything. Houses, fences etc.

  42. anon
    July 25, 2007 at 11:37 am

    queuno #36: Do you really mean to suggest that those who disagree with you and Julie do so only because they aren’t really listening in the Temple? That is an astounding accusation to make. Many of us have listened and listened and listened and studied and studied and studied and have prayed and prayed and prayed, but still have serious questions. I am a lurker, and not a regular participant here, but I have read many threads on this issue where Julie and others have eloquently defended their point of view. I have thought carefully about the temple ceremony. The more I read, and the more I attend the Temple and listen just as carefully as I can, the more I remain unpersuaded that your interpretation is correct. But then maybe God doesn’t like me very much so he doesn’t give me all the answers that he seems to give to you.

  43. Adam Greenwood
    July 25, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    God loves you. Whether he likes you or not I can’t say. (Grins). You are not the only one with your views. In fact, the only reason I put my oar in here was that so folks like you would know. Don’t worry about people getting a little overheated and saying regrettable things.

  44. Julie M. Smith
    July 25, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    queno, I’ve never had anyone agree with me so disagreeably. I strongly object to the tone and content of your statement and hope you’ll consider that you are doing “the cause” more harm than good when you question whether people belong in the church and/or are paying attention in the temple. They all do and they all are.

    Rosalynde writes, “Then the moral crux inheres only in one’s obedience to God, not to one’s priesthood leader, and again it looks to me like the presiding authority is vacated.”

    Yep. If you can honestly say that you have received an inspiration NOT to follow the counsel of a priesthood leader, then I believe that you are under no obligation to follow the counsel. I don’t think this kind of thing happens very often–maybe never for most people–but I do believe that it can and does and that if someone is struggling with counsel, we are far better off telling them to pray about it than we are telling them to just shut up and do it.

    Rosalynde writes, “There’s no problem with your model as long as the spouses reach the same conclusion independently, but as soon as there’s a conflict—which such a model would presumably be designed to mediate—it’s completely non-functional.”

    I don’t think that presiding has anything to do with conflict mediation, so no problem there.

    bbell, you are right–I forgot financial support.

  45. Laurie
    July 25, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    The scenario in the kitchen that the article parcels: How many of us thought that the “approved” ending was the traditional one? Did anyone besides me get the impression from the article that the preferred outcome of that scenario is the traditional one–with the wife drawing on her inborn nurturing nature to take care of the children in the kitchen and help dad go to his church meeting? Given the arguments in the article, I do not see any way that the liberated view had a place; I did see plenty of justification for the traditional view, which has been alive and well for decades in the Church, and still is.

    I consider it a bit disingenuous of the authors to slam an unnamed religious denomination (the Southern Baptists) on their position that women need to submit to their husbands, without acknowledging that this has been the dominant Church message to women and men for decades, if not generations. With all due respects to Julie and others, the Temple ceremony and the doctrine of eternal marriage still provides ample ammunition for this.

    It is most unfortunate that women continue to be characterized as the nurturers (and thereby they like to be self-sacrificing), while men are not so characterized. I personally know a number of men who are better nurturers than women. Gender-based characterizations deny individuality. This gender-based characterization smells suspiciously like telling women that they are consigned to the subservient role because it is consistent with their nature.

    In every way, shape, and form, the Church continues to struggle with the idea that women are competent and to be taken seriously. Women are still not welcomed in key ward and stake meetings; their input is limited.

    Without the Church as an institution demonstrating that it values women’s thinking and input, that it deliberately draws on their superior spirituality (as stated by those who pose gender-based arguments), and regards women as competent and to be taken seriously, then the premises of the article are lacking and hollow.

    That said, I am glad to see the issue being addressed in the ENSIGN in this more creative manner, andd this very healthy discussion.

  46. Julie M. Smith
    July 25, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Laurie, I thought the approved ending was that they _both_ had to give up their desire for complete “relief” and relieve each other. (Maybe I’m projecting from my own life, but my typical greeting as my husband walks in the door is, “If you’ll pour the juice, I’ll dish up the chow.”)

    I’m sorry you aren’t more open to other interpretations of material that obviously troubles you. If you _are_ interested, this manual from LDS Social Services ( contains one of the lengthiest discussions of appropriate marital decision making that I’ve seen from an “official” source. Perhaps you could allow this correlated, approved, recent statement to shape your understanding of difficult-to-understand temple (and other) teachings instead of working from worldly concepts of power to reach the unfortunate conclusions that you draw.

    I find it deeply unfortunate that you think “nurturing” has any correlation with “being submissive.” I can assure you that it doesn’t in my house.

  47. Adam Greenwood
    July 25, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Julie S.,
    In your personal revelation model, are you open to the idea that God’s answer would ever be something like ‘I want you to do X solely because your leader has asked it’? Because if not, I think I have to agree with Rosalynde W. that your definition of ‘preside’ has no content.

  48. JanetGW
    July 25, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Where the ratterfratterdangitgrrrrr is my *Ensign*?????

  49. cms
    July 25, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Julie\’s list in #34 is basically the one I have heard most often. But for me while #2 and #3 seem to fit in a \”preside over the stake or ward\” model, I do not see how they fit in a family in very concrete terms. I would love to hear very specific examples. I will give my own.

    As far as agenda setting and presiding–our stake president asked us all to attend the temple once a month. I have prayed and sought for individual confirmation of that counsel–the model Julie and other describe. I do not approach the SP with my own \”agenda\”–I share feedback/information/impressions about stake policy that might ultimately inform his agenda, but I don\’t stand up in church and say \”Our stake needs to do family history one day a week.\” I believe he has a responsibility to identify stake concerns in a different way than I do. So I get agenda setting there. In my own family, however, I struggle to see the parallel. I feel just as responsible to identify family policy/problems/goals/etc as my husband. So I am curious to hear a very specific example of how Julie or any of you see that a husband\’s agenda setting role differs from a wife\’s. This is a sincere question in an effort to make sure I understand. Is your experience that men have an obligation to raise more “agenda” items? Different kinds? In different contexts? The only thing I have been able to make out is that some might feel the husband’s suggestion is the default option without a specific revelation to the contrary. Have I understood that position correctly?

    My second reservation is with #3, the ultimate spiritual responsibility idea. I had this discussion with my dad as a girl–his view is that he is responsible for making sure we have family prayer/FHE etc. I asked if he didn\’t if my mom would then be responsible for making it happen. Well, yes. (I assume you would all agree.) So what does \”ultimate spiritual responsibility\” mean concretely? Does this mean that the father gets beaten with more stripes than the wife if family prayer doesn\’t happen? (This is also related to my dad\’s idea that as a priesthood holder, he has the obligation to apologize first. That is certainly a nice way to behave–but I actually think we all are under obligation to be quick to apologize.) I am not rejecting the idea that this is true–that a man\’s spiritual progress in the hereafter would be more impeded by his not making sure family prayer happened. I\’m not sure I believe it either. I am just curious to hear if that is what you think spiritual responsibility mean or if you mean something else. Julie? Ray? What does #3 mean to you in concrete terms?

    That said, I do think that in our world it is important to affirm that men have an important role in family life. It is easy for me to see how my family is blessed by having two parents around, although this usually does not in our case collapse into gendered roles. Though my husband does call on people for prayers.

  50. bbell
    July 25, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    I generally find that Julie is on target here.

    I think that one thing that drives us (the traditionalists, or maybe just me) nuts about this topic is the following…..

    I do not take a secular philosophy or way of thinking and try to reconcile it with LDS Teachings. Its simply not possible. If you look at this topic thru a secular Feminist prism the LDS Church is nothing but oppressive.

    However if you look at this topic thru an LDS Prism you see the value of the gender/family teachings first.

    I am a small business man who owns a small company. The world teaches me to operate and think of money in a way that is incompatible with LDS teachings. In my example the LDS teaching concerning money and business takes precedent over my secular training. So I go with the LDS teaching first.

    The same applies here with this topic in my view. We need to jettison beliefs and practices taught by us from the world and favor LDS teachings first. Not the other way around.

  51. Ray
    July 25, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    To add to bbell’s comment, I have found that when we follow what the Church actually teaches (not what individual leaders say about the teachings but the teachings themselves) about most, if not all, of these things, we see how well it works – like the difference between presiding as an equal partner with your wife and presiding within a counsel. (For example, I wouldn’t shed a single tear if all of the commentary about “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” disappeared, leaving only the proclamation itself – nor would I shed a single tear if it happened to all of the scriptural commentaries.)

    I had a friend years ago who worked in the Harvard Freshman Dean’s Office. She was very well-educated, very opinionated, fairly liberal socially, quite conservative personally, amazingly gifted and married to a future doctor – and she had a deep and abiding testimony of the Restoration, of the Church AND the Gospel. They had two young children, and she worked to help pay the bills while he finished his residency. One day a co-worker mentioned an article he had read “proving” that Mormon women were oppressed. She looked at him and asked, “How many Mormon women do you know personally? (One, you.) Am I oppressed? (No, but you are the exception.)”

    Are there real and difficult issues surrounding the way that couples in the Church interpret and apply the counsel regarding marital equality? Yes. Can it be difficult to read seemingly contradictory statements and opinions and find a way to reconcile them in a positive manner? Yes. Is it difficult to read a statement about an emotional topic, set aside the emotions brought to the surface because of that topic and carefully try to understand the intent of the statement? Yes. Is it difficult to accept someone as a leader while maintaining disagreement on an emotional topic? Yes. Do some people go overboard and gravitate to both extremes of whatever issue is being discussed? Yes.

    IMHO, that’s the beauty of agency, organizational lay ministry, personal responsibility and all the other root doctrines of the Gospel. It’s hard, but it’s worth it – and, ultimately, we only are held to the standard of enduring at our best minute-by-minute, day-by-day, week-by-week “to the end”.

  52. Mark IV
    July 25, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    bbell, # 50,

    Well, I’m not sure what to think of the church’s teachings on gender, but if you’re going to call me a secular feminist, we’ll need to put on the gloves and get into the ring and settle it.

    I have no problem whatsoever with the idea that I should provide for my family. I have very little problem with the idea of gender roles, and even the Proclamation allows for quite a lot of wiggle room in that area. It makes sense to me on a practical level, and I’m grateful for the guidance the church provides us. I think that is what you are getting at with your comment 50.

    My confusion arises when we take practical advice meant for a specific time and place and try to expand it into eternal, unchanging doctrine. At least the first six prophets of this dispensation wouldn’t even recognize the somewhat tortured definition of presiding in the home that we have arrived at here. Are we really ready to go to the wall in order to protect the father’s right to designate who says the blessing on dinner? Do we honestly think that if Mom and Dad alternate performing this task that damage has been done to the Plan of Happiness? The church’s teachings on gender have changed even from my parent’s time to mine, and I expect them to change for my children and again for my grandchildren.

  53. Mark IV
    July 25, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    By the way, I think it was pretty shrewd of Adam to attempt to goad people into admitting that the husband is the priesthood leader of the wife. And it was pretty shrewd of everybody else to not take the bait. But those exchanges only serve to demonstrate how very little even faithful people agree on here.

    I predict that within fifteen years we will think of men’s and women’s duties in different ways than we do now. And I also predict that many of us at that time will say “A gender role, a gender role. We already have a gender role, and we have no need for another gender role.” Or something like that.

  54. Julie M. Smith
    July 25, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Re Adam in #47–not only does my theoretical model have room for it but my real life has experienced it. Ask me what it was like living in CA during Prop 22 :)

    cms, those are very thoughtful questions. As far as agenda setting, I think (and this is just my opinion, I’m not claiming that this is Official Registered Trademark Patent Pending Doctrine or anything) that women (esp. SAHMs) are more on top of the agenda (“we need to figure out what to do about our son’s spitting, the family reunion, and the wallpaper in the den”) and that presiding is a way of reminding husbands that they shouldn’t wait around and wait for their wives =o be in charge of realizing everything that needs doing. As far as ultimate spiritual responsibility, again, I think most women (esp. SAHMs) are all over everything already (“we need more food storage, to get those names cleared through templeready, new socks for ds’s baptism . . .”) and presiding means that FHE is one thing I get to take off my list of things I need to remember to do. Frankly, I consider it a relief. (Of course, if my husband slacked, I would step up to the plate. But in the same way I’m pleased that the 2yo screams out “DADDY!” in the middle of night, I’m glad FHE is his ball of wax–I have enough wax.)

    You write, “That said, I do think that in our world it is important to affirm that men have an important role in family life.” Absolutely. My conception of what presiding should be is that it takes a man busy with a career and church and puts him on a closer level of engagement to that of a woman who is home with her kids all day and relieves some of her burden in the process.

    Mark IV, I agree with you that the church’s teachings have changed in some respects. But I think the current concept of presiding is much more important than just Who Calls on the Pray-er and I think that it is part of the important bulwark against the diminishing role of fathers in modern (Western, middle class) families. So I think that that is worth fighting for.

  55. Mark IV
    July 25, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    True enough, Julie. But as the church becomes less Western and less middle class, don’t you think we’ll need to adapt? You and I have discussed this before, but I believe that the way saints in the Phillipines understand gender roles differs from the way we in North America do. I’m very grateful for the way the church advises and helps in specific times and places, but I’m hesitant to go out on a limb and say that the advice for my time and place constitutes immutable doctrine for all times and all places.

  56. Julie M. Smith
    July 25, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    No doubt, Mark IV. In fact, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the new emphasis on equality in marriage is primarily motivated by and aimed at the ever-increasing number of Saints from non-Western cultures.

  57. Kristine
    July 25, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Julie, what was it like living in California during Prop. 22?

  58. Julie M. Smith
    July 25, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Kristine, don’t ask.

  59. Julie M. Smith
    July 25, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    OK, OK.

    If you lived in an area with liberal stake leadership, you got a few GA letters read over the pulpit with nothing more said. If you lived in an area with conservative stake leadership (and I did), high council members visited stake members asking for financial contributions, videos of GAs were shown in bishops’ homes and all were invited, all ward activities (except seminary and the Sunday block) were canceled the week before the election so people could focus on getting out the vote. Before that week, mutual nights were spent delivering lawn signs to members. All members were encouraged to go door-to-door and get out the vote. There was probably more that I’ve forgotten.

  60. Kristine
    July 26, 2007 at 12:02 am

    Julie, my ward too. (I wish I had known you when we were 25 miles apart, instead of 2500!)

  61. Katie
    July 26, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Julie, I think I have come to the same conclusion as you when you advise to notice that in Genesis and the temple ceremony, gender disparity and the presiding role, come AFTER the Fall.

    But isn’t the logical conclusion from this that we should seek the more righteous path on the gender issue, the same way we seek the more righteous path on all consequences of the Fall-immorality, deceit, selfishness, murder, thievery, ect ect ect. If gender disparity entered the world the same way that all sin did, should we not fight against it, the way we do all sin?

    Which is to say, shouldn’t “presiding” be the basic building block, but as we progress spiritually we shouldn’t seek for egalitarianism to supplant the presiding relationship?

  62. Katie
    July 26, 2007 at 1:00 am

    “shouldn’t we” not “we shouldn’t”

  63. Naismith
    July 26, 2007 at 3:18 am

    Thanks for #48, so I know I am not alone.

    Still no Ensign.

    I think there should be a bloggernacle rule not to discuss articles like that until they are at least available online.

  64. cms
    July 26, 2007 at 8:09 am

    Regarding #55 “But as the church becomes less Western and less middle class, don’t you think we’ll need to adapt? You and I have discussed this before, but I believe that the way saints in the Phillipines understand gender roles differs from the way we in North America do.”

    I don’t have my Ensign either, so this is speculative–In the past I have found it frustrating that the word “preside” can be defined so loosely as to seem almost meaningless to my ear in a family (see #47–I think Julie’s CA example is great of this, but again, I have not had a similar type of “following” experience in a family context). But actually, as I am thinking about it, maybe that is because of #55. To my ear, the article and most recent statements about “preside” are about what it is NOT–what kinds of family models are ruled out by the gospel. As in–husband dominating wife? Not okay. Husband leaves all family work to wife? Not okay. Wife deems husband unnecessary? Not okay. Husband and wife pursuing independent (as opposed to interdependent) courses of action? Not okay. But what is left as okay–well, my parent’s more traditional model of marriage is probably fine if it works for them and Mark IVs rotating prayer calling is probably fine, etc. So maybe I should stop complaining that the word “preside” seems sort of vague–maybe that’s the point.

  65. bbell
    July 26, 2007 at 10:20 am


    Everybody I have ever spoken to in person about prop 22 is frankly proud of the churchs actions.

    I would hesitate to bring up third world ideas of gender roles into this conversation. Our LDS Preside idea as vague as it is is a walk in the park compared to the male attitudes in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (lets not even get into Islam). A quick discussion with a local SP about how things are going in regards to this issue in your local non English speaking unit will quickly evaporate any idealized ideas about gender roles outside of the West. In my experience the LDS PH Leaders go to great lengths to convince the bretheren in these units to drop the attitudes and traditions of their fathers/culture and quickly adopt LDS standards.

  66. Laurie
    July 26, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Julie, with reference to #46, I had read what you recommended and much more in the Church, for decades. The perspective presented in #45 is a legitimate view, long observed by many, and is neither fortunate nor unfortunate.

    When disagreeing with someone, it is more productive to engage on the merits of the arguments rather than disintergrate into baseless judgments of what the other person is \”troubled\” by, as you did in #46. Respectful dialogue is healthy in the Church and elsewhere; as a wise sage noted: \”Where everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much.\” People with whom we disagree often have legitimate viewpoints, and a sign of respect is considering them. Agreement is not required!

    Experience does have an impact on opinions. I learned much, less than two decades ago, from RS presidents who took the extraordinary step of quitting their callings because of their bishops\’ handling of domestic violence cases. These bishops insisted that the women were at fault for being beaten by their priesthood-holding husbands, men who had used what they had learned in Church as their license, and that the women needed to cook and clean better and fulfill all other duties better in order to be spared the hitting. These women victims often reported that the husband would take them to the temple so that they (the wives) would be more compliant afterwards. And some of them reported that they were.

    Perhaps these RS presidents no longer exist; perhaps wife beaters who use the church as an excuse are no longer around. These might be experiences from a bygone era, just as polygamists might be….

    The GA I consulted at this time predicted that changes would come, as society moves forward. Noting that his two daughters were in graduate school on the east coast at Ivy League universities–one in law school and one pursuing her MBA–he predicted that welcomed changes were simply a matter of time, as more and more daughters and granddaughters of GAs were seeking advanced professional degrees. It is my observation that increasingly young couples are embracing a less traditional model of interaction, prompted in part by more women in the professions and more with college and advanced degrees. These women, in and out of the Church, are often colleagues and bosses to young LDS men in the workforce. These women are seen as credible. As a result, incremental changes will continue to be fostered, as they have been in the recent past.

  67. Julie M. Smith
    July 26, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Laurie, what point were you trying to convey with your domestic violence anecdote?

    On another topic, I resent your implication that “credible” women can only be found in the workplace. I also resent your implication that LDS men are such dolts that they thought patriarchy was a keen idea only because they didn’t realize (until now!) that women could, you know, actually do professional stuff in offices. And there’s probably no point getting into a debate over your assumption that changes can or should result from the opinions of LDS men.

  68. Laurie
    July 26, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Your resentments are well taken, Julie! Thanks!

  69. Paul S
    August 1, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    It seems to me that the Hafens’ article, which I thought was excellent, is another step on the difficult road of reading out cutltural errors within anciant and more modern revelation received by divinely inspired but imperfect prophets. Although we can find a few spots in the Bible and Book of Mormon that discuss gender roles within marriage relationships in a way that confroms to current Church teachings, they are a small minority. The majority of the ancient accounts from Genesis to the later Epsitles of Paul include cultural gender roles that do not appear to me to be Christ-like nor do they conform to my understanding of current Chruch teachings. However, even with modern revelation, such as Pres. Kimball’s excellent quote, we are left with terms such as preside that have to be almost completely emptied of menaing in order to “fit” within our modern prophetically-inspired conception of a marriage relationship. This is a difficult linguistic task that ultimately comes up a little short in discussions of the meaning of both “preside” and “rule” in the Ensign article.

  70. Matt W.
    August 8, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Oddly, I got the Ensign only last friday, and have been eagerly waiting to read this article to discuss with you. Maybe because my last name starts with W. My first comment would be that it seemed to me, that the article was going more for a position that men and women are spiritually different, not that women are more spiritual than men.

  71. Matt W.
    August 8, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I am surprised no one here offered a critique of “rule over” as “rule with” or “helpmeet” as “help equal to”. That was something I found really interesting.

  72. August 8, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Matt, I’ve been thinking about that. Your comment prompted me to put up post on those two questions.

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