Guide is the new Revelation

There’s some discussion happening over at 9M concerning changes to Boyd K. Packer’s most recent General Conference talk. While I find the changes to his (probable) statements on homosexuality fascinating, what I’m actually curious about are the changes concerning the Family Proclamation.

In his spoken talk, Elder Packer stated concerning the Family Proclamation:

Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It qualifies, according to [the?] definition, as a revelation, and it would do well that the members of the church [to?] read and follow.

The written talk now reads:

Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.

So the Family Proclamation has been downgraded from a “revelation” to a “guide.” While a “revelation” can certainly be a “guide,” I don’t think the switch can be written off as insignificant on a technicality like that. If the Family Proclamation was truly considered a “revelation,” it makes little sense to alter that description in the printed version.

My question:

What does it say about the revelatory process experienced by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when one of its apostles shows confusion on whether something is a “revelation” or just a “guide”? Does this have any bearing on the question of whether or not the prophet has a “bat-phone to God“?


Comments

Guide is the new Revelation — 80 Comments

  1. Wow, that is a big deal. While the church preaches continuing revelation, it seems difficult to figure out what those revelations are. If the family proclamation isn’t a revelation, than what is?

  2. Those Latter-day Saints who believe that Church leaders have a “bat phone” to God are mistaken. And, with all respect, I believe the same thing with respect to the writers of the gospels and the epistles in the New Testament and the writers and prophets in the Hebrew Bible. I don’t think any of them did or do. (The sole exception would be Jesus, the Son of God, who could speak on His own authority as well as in direct connection with His Father in Heaven.)

  3. I would wonder which of the items was written first. I know that the talks in general conference are by and large written in advance of conference and then given over for translation, so that the live broadcast in other languages are fluid and not dis-jointed sounding. So it could be that what was written, and subsequently published, came first and then when he gave the talk he felt impressed to change the word from guide to revleation

  4. Chase O is correct, in that the written text of General Conference talks is submitted to the publishing arms (web and magazine) of the church weeks prior to conference.

    Because of the lead time of the magazines, there is no way they could transcribe the conference talk into text and publish what was actually said and get it distributed by the 1st of the following month. Lead times for magazines are at least 6 weeks.

    And since they already have the talks in text format for the Ensign/Liahona, it seems most likely that that is the version that goes on the web immediately after General Conference.

    However, the MP3s and videos are live, and the foreign language audio translations _are_ usually done live, so you could download and listen to, say, the Spanish translation of that talk and see whether the translator used “guia” or “revelacion”. If he said “guia”, he would have been reading the pre-submitted pre-translated text. If he said “revelacion”, he would have been translating live from the audio.

    However, the greater point that Jack and the previous commenters seem to have missed, is that the Brethren don’t have to explicitly state “Thus saith the Lord” or “Hey, listen up, this is an official revelation.” We believe that what the Brethren say at conference in their official capacity is revelation, or should be treated as revelation anyway. Therefore, even a “suggestion” from the prophet is supposed to carry weight.

    It took me a while to understand possible reasons for thus couching those kinds of things. I finally concluded that it’s up to the faith of the listener. Those with the faith to recognize if it’s the will of the Lord will obey the counsel and reap the benefits of obeying the Lord. Those without the faith won’t recognize it as revelation, and won’t “get it”. However, those who don’t “get it” won’t have seen that light, and by not having the light, won’t be under the “greater condemnation” for having disobeyed.

    I think it’s a way that the Lord gives light to those who are ready and willing to receive it, without condemning those who aren’t ready, as per the scripture “He who sins against greater light receives greater condemnation.”

    In the New Testament, the Lord’s parables were not just a way of teaching/rewarding those who were “in the know” but also about not having to condemn those who weren’t capable of or ready to obey the teachings enclosed in the parables.

    Think back to how people were supposed to give heed to the original 12. Supposed Peter, James or John, or whoever, was speaking at a gathering of saints, and gave out a document, or series of verbal statements, and said “I want you to take this as your guide.”

    Would a faithful saint of that day have been in good standing if he/she ignored the advice by claiming “Hey, he didn’t say ‘thus sayeth the Lord’, or ‘verily verily’.” What kind of disciple responds to an apostle with “Do we absolutely _have_ to, or is this merely a suggestion?”

    So in my opinion, the bottom line shouldn’t be about parsing words and agonizing over nuanced meaning, but rather: “Is the man a real live Apostle and official representative of Jesus Christ? And if so, is he speaking in an official capacity?”

    And then, if he’s an official Apostle speaking officially, the question is: “How do I now implement his words in _my_ life?”

  5. “How do I now implement his words in _my_ life?”

    Which words? The ones he spoke? Or the ones that were published?

  6. DavidH.

    Don’t be a deceiver David. Everyone here knows you have no intention of implementing any words he spoke into your life. It therefore becomes a distinction without a difference in your case…

  7. Bookslinger ~ Chase O is correct, in that the written text of General Conference talks is submitted to the publishing arms (web and magazine) of the church weeks prior to conference.

    Are you sure about this?

    Talks are always made available approximately 1 week after they are given (sometimes a little earlier). This includes the Relief Society / Young Women session talks, which are made available 1 week after they are given and before the May/November editions of Church magazines are published.

    I always figured that the reason for the 1 week delay was so that minor changes could be made if needed. Otherwise I don’t see why the 1 week delay even exists. They could easily make them available immediately after they are delivered, but they don’t.

    I don’t know everything about publishing, but I know that if the editor has a near-final copy of the article and a general idea of the lay-out in the magazine, minor changes just before publication are not hard to make. I have an article coming out in Mutuality soon, and the editor sent me a PDF copy in its future layout to ask me to do a final proofread. I did and suggested some minor changes. I was told the article is coming out “this week,” but I haven’t seen it yet.

    I know that these talks are written in advance and given to translators and whatnot. I’m not convinced that what we see in the Ensign was finalized six weeks before the release of the print version.

    I mean, are things like President Monson thanking the outgoing Primary presidency and remarking on how wonderful Conference has been really scripted weeks in advance? I find that hard to believe.

    (Edited comment for some timeline errors)

  8. As for me I am not sure, I am only sure of the translator thing because I have a few friends that have or do work for that department in the church.

  9. There’s also the example of Ronald E. Poelman, who served in the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1978 – 1993. In October 1984, his talk at General Conference apparently upset some people and was dramatically altered in the November Ensign. The church even had him re-film the talk in the Tabernacle, and a cough track was added to make it appear as though it had been given during Conference itself. The re-filmed version was used in official church materials from then on.

    I’m sure plenty about publishing has changed since 1984, but I can only imagine it takes less time to correct an article and get it to press, not more. Clearly the published version was the final word in Poelman’s case.

    I do have to laugh at the Web sites I’ve seen insinuating that Poelman was disciplined by the church by not being invited to speak at Conference again for 4.5 years. In our day and age, only about 10 members of the Seventy speak at each Conference, which means they get to speak every 3.5 years if there’s an even rotation. I don’t know how it was done in the 80s, but 4.5 years may have been about right.

  10. Easy there, psychochemiker. Your comment to DavidH appears to be completely out of line.

    Just stopped by to say that you can count me in as one who is quite pleased with this “edit” (among others), and find the whole situation quite interesting.

  11. Jack, as to the Poelman talk in 1984, I’d like to think that the Church learned from that experience (which I view as a complete mistake). But I don’t think that specific event has much bearing on these changes. Subtle changes are actually quite common. It’s just that usually they don’t seem quite so necessary as they do now.

  12. I was just using the Poelman talk to show that the published version of the talk is probably the final version, not the other way around.

    I don’t much care for charges elsewhere that the church is trying to be sneaky about its changes to Packer’s talk and whatnot. They may have been trying to be sneaky about Poelman, but I agree they probably learned their lesson.

  13. There is other precedence of a published change happening at the start of the church when Oliver Cowldrey added to the articles of faith and were then published in the D&C and were later removed by Joseph who didn’t feel they were divinely inspired. Maybe something like that happened here. Just a guess but it is a precedence.

  14. It took me a while to understand possible reasons for thus couching those kinds of things. I finally concluded that it’s up to the faith of the listener. Those with the faith to recognize if it’s the will of the Lord will obey the counsel and reap the benefits of obeying the Lord. Those without the faith won’t recognize it as revelation, and won’t “get it”. However, those who don’t “get it” won’t have seen that light, and by not having the light, won’t be under the “greater condemnation” for having disobeyed.

    That’s pretty much total crap.

  15. I agree with Kullervo on #16
    How can there be prophetic warning, which is what I assumed that this talk was about, if it was not intended to go to the whole world and for everybody to understand it. That is like saying Jonah’s warning to Nineveh could never have come to pass because the people would not have had the faith to understand the warning and therefore could not be condemned, and the city would have been saved anyway even if they didn’t repent like they did.

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  17. Actually, I was first introduced to the idea of Conference talks being edited – not on the bloggernacle or online – but by my rather orthodox father. It was early during my undergraduate studies at BYU and we were discussing sources of LDS doctrine. He remarked that Conference addresses are binding (another word asking for some explanation) only AFTER they’ve been published in the Ensign.

    I was a bit curious about his emphasis on this word and asked about it. He then noted that at times the Church has seen fit to make corrections to talks given in Conference, and that they should not be held as binding (whatever he means by that) until that point.

    As for the Proclamation – I don’t see why it can’t be both revelation and guideline.

    Many things that are meant only as temporary guidelines for the present day are still revelatory. And there are many instances of individualized revelation that are not meant to be considered canon or doctrinally binding in that sense.

    I think the Church wants to maintain a bit of a blurry line here between the iron-clad timelessness of canon, and the transient nature of temporal sermons and advice (or exhortation). And that’s honestly fine with me. I don’t think the Proclamation ought to be canonized. But I also consider it important enough that I’d rather the membership not forget it quite as quickly as they forget most of what was said last General Conference.

    Keeping the line blurred helps accomplish this.

  18. Seth, I think that’s the closest I’ve ever heard a Mormon come to admitting that the church likes to keep things confusing on purpose. :)

  19. What ever happened to “Mean what you say; Say what you mean”?

    I admit I do get a little tied up in explaining myself, due to being slightly autistic.

    “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” got beat to death around here. They were discussing it once a quarter for a number of months in my Ward.

  20. For members of the church, does it matter if the Proclamation is a revelation or a guide? According to D&C 82:8-10, it is fairly clear that charges from the Lord through His prophets and apostles are meant to be guides for us.

  21. Is there any room for members of the church to believe that the Proclamation isn’t inspired and therefore shouldn’t be taken as a guide?

  22. Personally, I think it reads as being inspired, but the interpretation thereof is left to the individual. There have been quite a few conference addresses that have quoted the proclamation in its entirety, and then followed up with the call for individual families to apply its message in appropriate ways. (For example, we have Elder Oaks expressing that his mother was the authority in his home because she was a single parent.)

    I think members would be hard-pressed to ignore a message from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve that is a solemn proclamation with warnings. I think members of the church can accept the proclamation as an inspired guide, which is a revelation without being a commandment.

  23. Nice post. You’ve zoomed in on the more important change to Boyd’s talk. I’m always happy to protest BKP at Temple Square any day of the week just on principle, so any sop to LGBT humans in the officially redacted version was always gonna be a meh in my book anyways.

    Meanwhile, I still don’t want this dimwit anywhere near my biracial kids.

    “We’ve always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians.” — Boyd K. Packer

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  25. Sure there’s room Jack – but they’d darn well better keep it to themselves each Sunday, and you might have trouble getting a temple recommend.

    Chino, let me know when you manage to develop an ability to see both sides of an issue, and we may have something to talk about.

  26. I only ask because it seems it would be easier to see a “guide” as fallible and containing errors than a “revelation.”

  27. There’s room for degrees here, but your statement seemed to suggest a position of not believing in it at all. I think you almost have to believe in the Proclamation to some degree or other if you want to call yourself an active Mormon.

  28. Here’s another question: Packer said this was the fifth official declaration in church history. I assume OD 1 and OD 2 are among the five.

    Anyone know what the other two are?

  29. Seth R. – I’m confused. Are you saying there are two sides to the interracial marriage issue? I mean, I guess there must be, but I just assumed nobody around here subscribed to the anti-miscegenation position.

  30. Sure there is.

    They were just making the point that interracial marriage is hard because there are frequently big cultural divides.

    Husbands and wives usually have enough to fight about without adding completely different cultural assumptions to the mix.

    If you actually read Kimball’s talk, you’d see that this was his primary meaning. He didn’t say to avoid them because it’s yucky, or because people with different skin tones are lesser beings. He said to avoid it because of cultural differences. He felt it would unduly burden a marriage.

    I happen to disagree, of course. I don’t think the drawbacks of such a message – like potential for racial hostility, and misinterpretation of the limited message by the membership – were worth the more or less true point he was making.

    Inter-cultural marriages DO have their share of additional hardships. But I don’t think that mere fact outweighs the potential for racial unfriendliness that can come from this kind of stance, and simply allowing people to figure things out for themselves.

    I went to Japan. And while I wasn’t a “TRIFF-hater” by any stretch (I actually thought Japanese women were pretty hot), I wasn’t under any delusions that a serious relationship with a lot of Japanese girls wouldn’t pose any additional problems beyond the set found with American girls.

    That said, I think Kimball’s talk is inappropriate for our modern context, and probably inappropriate even in its original 1970s context.

    But calling Kimball “evil incarnate” simply for being misguided is a very one-sided stance, and shows a lack of adult ability to understand other people.

  31. Here’s another question: Packer said this was the fifth official declaration in church history. I assume OD 1 and OD 2 are among the five.

    Anyone know what the other two are?

    http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Proclamations_of_the_First_Presidency_and_the_Quorum_of_the_Twelve_Apostles

    There are four there, the fifth must be the Proclamation on the Family.

    My favorite is the second declaration because of this lovely line:

    He has revealed the origin and the records of the aboriginal tribes of America, and their future destiny.-And we know it.

    Put that one in your pipe and smoke it, LGT theorists.

  32. Jack – President Packer said that the Family Proclamation was the fifth proclamation in the history of the church. The official declarations are not classified as the same thing. A good summary of the first four can be found here.

    They are titled as follows:
    1. A Proclamation of the First Presidency of the Church to the Saints Scattered Abroad (January 15, 1841, Nauvoo, Illinois)
    2. Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (April 6 and October 22, 1845)
    3. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles (October 21, 1865)
    4. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (April 6, 1980)
    5> The Family: A Proclamation to the World (September 23, 1995)

    I’ll admit, that of the five, I only knew of the Family Proclamation and the Solemn Proclamation made in 1845, the latter being issued in a response to the Lord’s command in D&C 124 that said proclamation be made.

  33. Oh, OD 1 isn’t really considered a declaration because it was issued only by Wilford Woodruff and if you read it carefully it doesn’t actually say much of anything. And that was the whole point of it, to try and appear to be saying something, but not actually say anything. Everyone in the church, Woodruff included, knew that it was business as usual and so the plural marriages kept on coming.

    That’s why the 1905 “No we REALLY mean it now, because good old Reed Smoot needs his Senate job” manifesto/whatever had to be issued.

    I don’t think OD2 is really considered a declaration either because it is pretty much accepted by the LDS intelligentsia now that it was just a policy change, i.e. there was no doctrine to declare since there was no doctrine being changed, just policy.

  34. Thanks, David and Alex. Aquinas had directed me to that link while we were discussing this in chat, too.

    What’s interesting to me about those four proclamations is that they see zero play in the church today. They’re virtually forgotten. I even logged onto the Mormon.org chat today to see if the missionaries there would know; they answered that maybe OD1 & OD2 were two of them and went on to bugging me about whether I’d ever read the Book of Mormon. I doubt many people would consider those “revelation.”

    And secretly, that’s my hope for the Family Proclamation. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that someday it becomes one of those things that’s virtually forgotten.

  35. I hold on to a delusional hope that perhaps someday the LDS church will repent of teaching my daughter hierarchical gender roles, which the Proclamation advocates.

    I mean, as a Protestant, there’s plenty I disagree with in it, but those are broader theological disagreements. The hierarchical stuff could be removed without effecting the overall theology.

  36. You know, it really is a fact that the LDS Church has a different notion of the word “preside” than most English language speakers. I’m not just being an “Internet Mormon” here. The word really is held a different way in the LDS Church. It simply doesn’t mean leadership in the paradigm most of us are used to.

  37. #35 David Clark ~ He has revealed the origin and the records of the aboriginal tribes of America, and their future destiny.-And we know it.

    A thought occurs to me. Maybe that’s the reason “revelation” was changed to “guide”; because BKP would have been saying that the other 4 proclamations were revelation as well.

    Maybe this wasn’t an objection to labeling the Family Proclamation a “revelation”. Maybe this was an objection to giving that label to the other 4.

  38. Also, please let the record show that so long as “preside” is being re-defined to mean stuff that isn’t found in the Dictionary, I prefer BrianJ’s definition of the term:

    “In my house, I take ‘preside’ to mean ‘make sure your daughters grow up with Led Zeppelin.’ Now, you can argue whether that’s really what ‘preside’ means, but seeing that I preside in my house, I get to choose the definitions.”

    ;)

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  40. so long as “preside” is being re-defined to mean stuff that isn’t found in the Dictionary

    Seth R. is right though. The vast majority of Mormons are not going to understand the proclamation as advocating hierarchical gender roles. Inasmuch as Mormons do read it as hierarchy, the wording should be changed. But I think the teaching of the church has been sufficiently clear that very few Mormons will come away with such an understanding.

  41. I don’t care how egalitarian-minded Mormons are personally reading it, I care what the leaders mean when they say it. Rank-and-file Mormons (particularly the younger generations) are reading egalitarian interpretations into it because that’s how our culture is trending and that’s what they’re comfortable with.

    And I do think that the leaders intended for it to have a hierarchical connotation of some sort. Boyd K. Packer said at the April 2010 General Conference (quoting an older talk by Joseph F. Smith), “In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount.” Honestly, what’s more hierarchical than that? And this came from a talk given in General Conference this year, not some antiquated talk from the 70s or something.

    I also completely disagree that “the vast majority of Mormons” aren’t reading hierarchy into it. I’ve had plenty of Mormons tell me that “preside” means that the husband gets the final say when husband and wife disagree, or the husband is the spiritual leader in the home, or the husband is the head and the wife is the neck, etc.

    So if you want to hang something on your wall that teaches your daughters that their husbands have a divine right to preside over them, go for it. As for me and my house, no thank you.

  42. If you read the next few sentences of Elder Packer’s talk, it’s clear that the “no other authority paramount” refers to priesthood holders of a higher office. Not women. He even says, “If the father be absent, the mother should request the presiding authority present to take charge.” He’s simply teaching that in the home fathers and mothers outrank apostles and stake presidents and whatnot. It’s the complete opposite of a hierarchy, so wherever people are getting it they’re not getting it from here.

    And I usually hear statements like “the woman is the neck that turns the head” from people trying to argue the opposite of what you’re saying. They’re downplaying male headship, usually in a response to the saying “the man is the head of the home.”

    But if you’ve had Mormons tell you that the husband gets the last word, or the spiritual leader, I agree, those are wrong and these are people who could benefit from more egalitarian language in the proclamation. I think it would be pretty easy to set them straight though with the myriad statements from leaders on the topic.

  43. Mephibosheth, why on earth can’t the wife be considered the presiding authority in the home even if priesthood holders of higher office visit? And why should she designate someone else if the father isn’t around? Why isn’t she the authority that they defer to? It’s her house for crying out loud.

    And what if priesthood holders of higher office are visiting a home where the wife is a temple endowed member and the husband is a non-member? Whom do you think they would say is the presiding authority then?

    Besides that, if this is just a priesthood thing, then I see no reason for the husband to be considered the presiding authority “in all home affairs and family matters there.” He would only be the presiding authority in priesthood matters there.

    I agree that the head-neck analogy is meant to downplay male headship, but it isn’t meant to eliminate it. As for Mormons telling me that the husband is the spiritual leader, that comes straight from the church:

    It is the husband’s responsibility to preside and provide leadership in the home. A Melchizedek Priesthood quorum manual explained:

    “In the perspective of the gospel, ‘leadership’ does not mean the right to dictate, command, and order. On the contrary, it means to guide, protect, point the way, set the example, make secure, inspire, and create a desire to sustain and follow. Literally, the husband is to lead the way” (The Savior, the Priesthood and You [Melchizedek Priesthood course of study, 1973–74], 172).

    While the father is the leader in the home, “his wife is his most important companion, partner, and counselor” (Family Guidebook [1999], 2). A husband and wife must work together to strengthen their family and teach their children the principles of the gospel. By fulfilling her role as counselor to her husband, a woman can reinforce her husband’s position as head of the home and encourage greater family unity.

    From The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, last revised in 2000.

  44. why on earth can’t the wife be considered the presiding authority in the home even if priesthood holders of higher office visit?

    She IS considered the presiding authority in the home, that’s why Elder Packer says she directs them to take charge. A statement that refers to a woman directing apostles and bishops and whatnot is hardly an example of gender hierarchy.

    And why should she designate someone else if the father isn’t around?

    I think this is specific to the example he is using. That the priesthood holders need to take charge of some priesthood duty or whatever they’re there for in the first place, not that she’s ceding control of the house to them. If you want to talk about the institutional inequalities that come from an all-male clergy, you got us there. But that’s a far cry from saying men have a divine right to preside over women. Elder Packer doesn’t say it. And the Family Proclamation doesn’t say it.

    If the husband was not a member and the wife was they would still follow the same pattern, that’s the whole point of Elder Packer’s statement here.

    As for Mormons telling me that the husband is the spiritual leader, that comes straight from the church

    Which is followed by a quote of 30-year-old quote that says leader does not mean leader. And we wonder why Mormons don’t think that preside means preside.

  45. A statement which says the husband is the head and the wife is a counselor at the surface sounds like gender hierarchy. This would lead to some confusion, but like I said before we could easily set someone straight if they came away with that idea. We could even use the same statement where leader is meant to be understood as example, and counselor is meant in the sense of one who gives counsel, and works in a partnership with her husband, not a hierarchy. So the teaching is there but we could do well to strip the less-egalitarian language from our vocabulary. Fair?

  46. Jack,

    It’s simple. “Preside” doesn’t mean preside. This should come as no surprise since:

    1) “Steel” doesn’t mean steel, or any other iron alloy metal.
    2) “Horse” doesn’t mean horse.
    3) “Translate” doesn’t mean translate.
    4) “Alphabet and Grammar” doesn’t mean alphabet and grammar, it means super secret cipher.

    And the list goes on. Really, sacrificing one more perfectly good word isn’t that big of a deal.

  47. David Clark,

    I would call you a tool but you’re probably not going to find the particular definition I’m going for in the dictionary, either.

  48. Mephi,

    Haven’t you heard?, tool has been redefined to mean, “An incredibly handsome, intelligent, witty, and highly ethical person.” Thanks for the compliment, you really should try and keep up. You probably skipped that particular meeting and didn’t hear where that was promulgated.

    As I recall this happened at the meeting after the one where sword was redefined to be “a wooden paddle with bits of obsidian shoved in the sides,” but before the one where chariot was redefined to be “a sled pulled by a tapir.” That should help you find meeting notes from that particular meeting.

    In any case, have a nice day!

  49. David Clark,

    I can’t be sure but maybe if you recycle that joke a third time it will be even funnier.

  50. Mephibosheth, I really don’t have the heart to continue this conversation. I find it beyond discouraging that I can’t even make this complaint and have it taken seriously without people reaching for the chicken patriarchy apologetics.

  51. Jack, I am trying to take it seriously, and I take exception to you calling my arguments “chicken patriarchy apologetics.” But I am happy to leave it for another day.

  52. Jack, I’m not really bringing this up as an apologetic. I’m just bringing it up as a way that Mormons tend to think. If you want to point out flaws in this paradigm of authority, be my guest. I can’t speak for Mephibosheth, but I didn’t have any intention of defending the paradigm beyond merely bringing it up.

  53. Let me give this another shot.

    These conversations frustrate me because I feel like Latter-day Saints have a difficult time distinguishing between soft patriarchy and egalitarianism. So long as hierarchical terms are used with qualifiers to make them gentler than a “do what your husband tells you to, wench” scenario, Mormons seem satisfied with them. But I’m not. A soft patriarchy may be a better deal for women than a hard patriarchy, but it’s still a hierarchy.

    Take the example that I cited from the manual. Mephibosheth is apparently satisfied with it because it states that “leader” is not meant in the sense of “to dictate, command and order.” But it does say very clearly that the role of husbands is “to guide, protect, point the way, set the example, make secure, inspire, and create a desire to sustain and follow.” I still see most of these as hierarchical functions, and I see no clear reason for assigning them to the husband over the wife. Why should my husband be the one primarily responsible for any of those tasks in my family? Why does one of us need to “sustain and follow” the other? Why does one of us need to guide, point the way, and set the example for the other?

    “But wait, Jack! It says the woman is the man’s counselor in those tasks.” Okay, but in my view, this does not negate the hierarchy that was laid out in the first paragraph. It creates a system where the husband is the leader and initiator while the wife follows and advises him in those roles—and the manual drives this point home by admonishing the wife to “reinforce” the husband in his position as “head” of the family. This is not a matter of unfortunate hierarchical terms being sprinkled into a relationship that has otherwise been pictured as an egalitarian one. The relationship is depicted as hierarchical in both name and function.

    That’s the manual though. Let’s go back to the Proclamation, which doesn’t say anything about husbands being leaders or heads of households. It does say “preside.” The Dictionary definition for “preside” is “to occupy the place of authority or control.” Mormons often object that this is not what the Proclamation means when it says “preside,” which is mighty confusing to begin with. The Proclamation was written in English, and the English language has no shortage of words that can be used to express precise degrees of complex concepts. If they did not want this word to mean what it means, they should have just selected a different word.

    On top of that, the Proclamation has been translated into dozens of languages. Between myself and friends who speak other languages, I’ve checked a number of these, and the word used in other languages is always just as hierarchical in connotation as “preside.” If the church did not intend for “preside” to have hierarchical connotations, one would think this would manifest itself somewhere in a variant translation. But it doesn’t.

    Let’s move on though to “preside doesn’t mean preside, it means ______” arguments. I’ve had LDS friends suggest:

    - It means stewardship over the family
    - It means ultimate responsibility for what happens to the family
    - It’s like the husband is the president and the wife is the vice-president
    - It’s like the husband is the bishop and the wife is one of his counselors
    - It’s like the husband is the chairman of a committee and the wife is one of the committee members

    The problem with these explanations is that they are still hierarchical. They may be softer than the conventional understanding of “preside,” but that does not make them egalitarian. Sure, it’s nice that the subordinate member of the hierarchy, i. e. the wife, is considered an invaluable and cherished counselor on the team. But that doesn’t eliminate the hierarchical nature of the relationship.

    Hence my original complaint about the Proclamation.

    Bonus question for Seth and Mephibosheth: If you don’t think “preside” means “to occupy the place of authority or control,” how do you see presiding as functioning in your marriages?

  54. Jack-I’m just curious. Do you think that the woman should preside?

    I think it was a C.S. Lewis book that said something about (note my rather sketchy referencing here) how there are occasionally likely to be disagreements in a relationship that need to be resolved. And if there are no better ways, then perhaps a person needs to be chosen to be the ultimate decider. You know, using good English and all. :)

    Now, I’m not saying that the man should be the one. In our house, if there are issues that are super important to one of us, the other defers. For example, I am extremely anti-gun. I don’t want guns in my house. I don’t want them around my children. I don’t like them. Now, Kullervo would happily have guns in the house, for fun, for whatever. But since I feel so strongly about it, and he feels less strongly about it, he deferred to my wishes on the matter. There have been other issues where we’ve done the opposite. And I imagine that most relationships function in generally the same way.

    But what if there was an issue that we both felt super strongly about? Who would you say in that situation should get their way?

    As far as revelation vs. guide is concerned… well, the LDS habitually sort of cherry pick what is a revelation, guide, or commandment. For example, D&C 89:2 says, “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation…”. This is interpreted in modern day Mormonism to be a commandment that, should you not follow, constrains you from entering the temple. Although, eating meat every meal of every day (which is not ‘sparingly’) will not keep you out.

    So, I think Seth’s unexplanation makes the most sense to me. :)

  55. katyjane ~ I don’t think either partner should “preside.” In my mind Paul and I are co-presidents, though I seem to do more of the work that the LDS church associates with “presiding.” That isn’t because I woke up one day and decided to play leader; it’s just what I’m good at.

    Personally, in nearly seven years of marriage, we’ve yet to have a disagreement that was such an impasse that one of us had to exercise veto power over the other, and since we come from an interfaith marriage, I think that’s saying something. Whenever we’ve disagreed, one of us has always lovingly and voluntarily submitted to the other (not counting the divorce and separation mess, but I think impassable fights are expected in such a situation).

    But let’s say we do come to that hypothetical impasse. I think the parent who has more expertise in the disputed area is the one who should be deferred to. So if mom is a stay-at-home mom and dad works, and mom wants to homeschool them but dad wants to put them in public school, I think mom should win. If dad has a choice between two jobs and mom thinks he should take one while he thinks he should take the other, dad’s the one who has to work it, so dad should win.

    I really don’t believe that one parent should be designated as having the wholesale veto power in all situations though. I’ve read some complementarian evangelical blogs that basically say dad should have the final say in all disagreements, and the idea makes me sick. (I wonder what these people would say about me and Paul disagreeing on the age of baptism for Harley . . . )

    And yes, I remember C. S. Lewis’s chapter in Mere Christianity on marriage. I didn’t know it once upon a time, but honestly, C. S. Lewis’s arguments on gender were some of his worst.

  56. “In my house, I take ‘preside’ to mean ‘make sure your daughters grow up with Led Zeppelin.’ Now, you can argue whether that’s really what ‘preside’ means, but seeing that I preside in my house, I get to choose the definitions.”

    Rest assured, by this definition I preside over my house.

  57. Along the same lines as what Jack is saying, I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where a healthy marriage reaches such an unresolvable impasse that one person feels they have to pull out the “God ordained me leader” card. I guess it’s probably happened, but it seems like it would be pretty darn rare.

    I think the risk of abuse of authority at being told you have the ultimate say is far greater than the risk that there will be an unresolvable conflict in the marriage. I’m sure there are more instances of unrighteous (or even abusive) dominion thanks to a feeling of entitlement on the part of the husband than there really being such an impasse between loving, committed spouses.

  58. Katie L. ~ The data on abuse, happiness, and stability for hierarchical marriages v. egalitarian marriages is absolutely devastating for traditional marriage models. To summarize:

    Extensive studies and research have been performed by marriage and family professionals, sociologists, and demographers. Over the last 50 years these studies reveal that significant numbers of egalitarian marriages are happy in comparison to traditional hierarchical marriages. A recent study quantified these results revealing that over 80% of egalitarian marriages are happy while less than 20% of traditional marriages can say the same. That represents over a 4:1 ratio in favor of egalitarian marriages. Spousal abuse continues to be more than 300 percent higher in traditional marriages than in egalitarian marriages.

    These research studies accomplish the following: First, they effectively discredit any traditionalists’ notion that dismantling hierarchy destabilizes marriage and that the root problem in marriage is the unwillingness of each spouse to accept the role for which he or she was designed. Second, they prove that hierarchy actually destabilizes and harms marriages. Third, they provide objective data that egalitarian marriages produce the healthiest, happiest, most intimate, and stable of all marriage relationships with the least amount of spousal abuse.

    For the record, egalitarian marriages are defined as “mutual partnerships without forced roles” while traditional marriages are defined as marriages where the husband and wife have “distinct roles with the husband on top in authority over the wife.” See this article here.

    It should also come as somewhat disturbing to conservative religious types that atheists have far more stable marriages than any religious group. Ron Barrier of American Atheists attributed this in part to atheist rejection of patriarchal mores: “[W]ith Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is no room in Atheist ethics for the type of ‘submissive’ nonsense preached by Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage.” (See the article I just linked.)

    What does that mean for Mormons? It’s tough to say. The LDS church’s teachings on marriage are regularly peppered with patriarchal terminology and concepts, but a number of Mormons have quietly re-defined the teeth clean out of these terms and have egalitarian or mostly-egalitarian marriages in practice. And I do think that the LDS church does a better job of instructing husbands not to mistreat their wives than other Christian groups that preach marriage hierarchy. On the other hand, separate gender roles and the breadwinner-homemaker model is still pretty regularly preached by the church, sometimes with a “separate but equal” argument.

    But since egalitarian marriages are clearly superior, why not just ditch the mental gymnastics of squeezing equality out of patriarchy and start teaching egalitarian marriage all of the time?

  59. But since egalitarian marriages are clearly superior, why not just ditch the mental gymnastics of squeezing equality out of patriarchy and start teaching egalitarian marriage all of the time?

    Standing ovation.

  60. But since egalitarian marriages are clearly superior, why not just ditch the mental gymnastics of squeezing equality out of patriarchy and start teaching egalitarian marriage all of the time?

    The main reason is a deep seated need, at all levels, to promulgate and protect the hierarchical relationships in the church. I think it’s pretty difficult for an Evangelical to grok just how hierarchical Mormonism is to its core. It pervades almost every aspect of Mormon theology, such as it is. Just take one example, subordinationism in the Trinity is a clear heresy for orthodox Christians. The Mormon Godhead is deeply subordinationist. Almost all offical relations in the church are mediated through hierarchy. Much more even than Catholics, Mormons think in terms of hierarchy, it’s the air they breathe. It’s only natural that marriage will be seen as hierarchical, even if it is only lip service. So I think at least the language of hierarchy is protected at all costs because of theological need, the general tendency towards conservation of beliefs, and of course raw power politics in some quarters.

    I think this is also reinforced by how Mormons use language. I don’t have the time right now, but later I might write down some thoughts I have had in this direction. It’s easy to make fun of it (as I did previously), but I think the Mormon use of language is based on certain historical antecedents, apologetic necessity, and are reinforced by having a lay clergy. Daymon Smith’s dissertation might have some similar thoughts about this, I have been meaning to read it.

  61. #69 David Clark ~ Just take one example, subordinationism in the Trinity is a clear heresy for orthodox Christians.

    Yes and no. It was declared a heresy in several creeds.

    However, it was revived in the 1980s, mostly by complementarians who needed help sustaining the flawed logic of their new gender theology. “Women can be equal with and subordinate to men, just like Christ is equal with and subordinate to the Father!” See the Google preview chapter on it from DBE.

    You’ll see all kinds of debates on it among prominent evangelical theologians now.

  62. For the record, egalitarian marriages are defined as “mutual partnerships without forced roles” while traditional marriages are defined as marriages where the husband and wife have “distinct roles with the husband on top in authority over the wife.” See this article here.

    What about where there are distinct roles without anybody being “on top” about everything?

  63. Yes and no. It was declared a heresy in several creeds.

    However, it was revived in the 1980s, mostly by complementarians who needed help sustaining the flawed logic of their new gender theology. “Women can be equal with and subordinate to men, just like Christ is equal with and subordinate to the Father!” See the Google preview chapter on it from DBE.

    You’ll see all kinds of debates on it among prominent evangelical theologians now.

    Which is precisely why Evangelicals need more than ever to reconnect with their roots in historic Christianity. Phillip Cary had a great article in the Priscilla Papers about this. (I got there from the link you gave me) Here it is for anyone else that wants to read it:

    http://www.cbeinternational.org/files/u1/free-art/new-evangelical-subordinationism.pdf

    The warning he gives is particularly relevant:

    For if evangelicals go off again in a fundamentalist separatism while clinging to an unorthodox doctrine of the Trinity, their separation from the rest of the body of Christ could prove irreparable, like the invention of a new sect in the characteristically American mode of Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  64. David ~ http://www.cbeinternational.org/files/u1/free-art/new-evangelical-subordinationism.pdf

    Now that was an excellent article. I hadn’t read it before, but I’m pretty familiar with the historical theology discussed therein via my theology and history classes here at TEDS. (Did I mention how grateful I am that my theology classes have been using the textbook by Millard Erickson, not Wayne Grudem’s?)

    I couldn’t agree with him more here (emphasis mine):

    When Giles pointed out the problem in his earlier book, Trinity and Subordinationism (InterVarsity Press, 2002), his opponents responded with scathing criticisms coupled with emphatic affirmations that role subordinationism is historic orthodoxy. I still wonder how such sheer historical ignorance is possible.

  65. My phone was blowing up all day with the emails of the new comments on this post but I didn’t have time for it until now. The comments here related to the Subordinationism heresy have given me something to think about and may change my views and how I would respond to Ms. Jack’s queries above.

    Suffice it to say that before I was just going to deny that the manual/proclamation teaches hierarchy in marriage, and then disagree with all your friends’ definitions of preside and quote some statements from leaders about marriage strictly as an equal partnership working together.

    But this idea of Subordinationism might actually shed some light on why you’re not going to get very far convincing the average Mormon that presiding is incompatible with equality. I think we do believe in Subordinationism, and if you were to ask a Mormon who gets the “last word” when The Father and The Son have a disagreement, you would get the exact same blank stares as you would if you told them their church teaches that men have a divine right to preside over women.

    Christ “thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” and yet Christ is situated in a hierarchy beneath our Heavenly Father (“Ye are of Christ, and Christ is God’s”). The Son is equal to the Father, and they exist in a perfect unity of will, purpose, and in-dwelling love, but their relationship, which is hierarchical down to their titles of Father and Son, isn’t meaningless or akin to a “soft patriarchy.”

    I’m sure this is all very blasphemous to traditional Christian ears, but I’m going to have to think about this a little more. Thoughts?

  66. #16/#18, My quote to which you refer was made after I transitioned from the specific to the general, and was more to the point of Jack’s question of “guide versus revelation”, not the more controversial points of Elder Packer’s talk. The church’s stance on homosexual behavior, as amply communicated elsewhere, is not murky at all.

    Next:
    I have to agree with Seth R about “preside”. In Jack’s dictionary, “to preside” (or “to lead”) is apparently synonymous to “to boss”. In Seth’s Mormon dictionary “to preside” is not the same as “to boss.” LDS prophets have been clear, priesthood authority in the home does not mean the husband gets to boss around his wife.

    Again, the husband/father’s “leadership” doesn’t mean he has sole responsibility or sole decision-making for determining the direction to take the family. Leader/presider is NOT synonymous with dictator in the LDS lexicon.

  67. As to what actually happens within the walls of happy and well-adjusted Mormons homes, I don’t know for sure (I didn’t grow up in a Mormon home, and I’ve been single my whole life) but from what I’ve observed of well-adjusted LDS households, what actually happens is more akin to what Jack describes as egalitarianism.

    Maybe Jack just hasn’t attended enough Priesthood meetings to get it. The message I recall over and over is “Brethren, do what it takes to keep your wife happy.” And, “Brethren, if you and your wife can’t resolve a disagreement, it’s better to just agree with her than have contention.”

    Maybe this is another “murky” thing, where the church wants each couple to work out what “preside” and “lead” means to them.

  68. Bookslinger ~ In Jack’s dictionary, “to preside” (or “to lead”) is apparently synonymous to “to boss”.

    In Jack’s dictionary (better known as Webster’s), “to preside” means “to exercise authority or control.” There are far more ways to exercise authority and control than “to boss” someone around.

    Take my relationship with my actual boss in the library where I work. He’s definitely “my boss,” but he isn’t bossy. He gives me an incredible degree of autonomy over what I do. He lets me decide my own hours and the collections I organize and catalog are completely mine to deal with; he never intervenes or tells me how to do my job. He pays me well, he regularly praises my work and lets me know how important I am to the library team, and he’s always kind and gentle with me.

    But none of that means that he doesn’t preside over me. He has authority and responsibility in the relationship that I do not. Our relationship is hierarchical with me at the bottom

    So no, “to preside” ≠ “to boss” in my book.

    LDS prophets have been clear, priesthood authority in the home does not mean [SNIP]

    Again, the husband/father’s “leadership” doesn’t mean

    You guys do a hell of a lot of talking about what preside doesn’t mean. I’ve yet to hear any LDS person on this thread (or anywhere in the dozens and dozens of conversations I’ve had on this, for that matter) offer a clear and succinct definition of what preside does mean.

    Maybe Jack just hasn’t attended enough Priesthood meetings to get it.

    Maybe that’s because:

    (1) Jack is a woman and women are generally not allowed in priesthood meetings
    (2) The men coming out of said meetings are doing a terrible job of explaining what they’ve learned there.

    Either way, I’m hardly the one to blame.

  69. Pingback: The Pants that Rock the Cradle | Worlds Without End

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