What does presiding in the home mean?

    “What does presiding in the home mean?” Ensign, June 2001, 70–71

    My wife and I want to have equal voice in decisions made in our home, but we are taught that it is my responsibility to preside in the home. What does this mean, and what are its limitations?

    Response by Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., president, Salt Lake Brighton Stake.

    From the time Adam and Eve were placed upon the earth to the present day, the principle of presiding authority has been practiced. Where groups are gathered, societies created, and partnerships formed, individuals are designated by appointment, delegation, or election to preside—that is, to provide presiding leadership or order to a group.

    When the Creator provided Eve as a companion-wife, or helpmeet, for the lone man Adam (see Gen. 2:18; Moses 3:18), He created the first and fundamental unit of society, the family. Though both man and woman are equal in Heavenly Father’s eyes, for “male and female … are alike unto God” (2 Ne. 26:33), Adam was given the presiding role in the family.

    Some have misunderstood or misinterpreted the instruction to Eve when Deity declared, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16; emphasis added; see also Moses 4:22). Commenting on this scripture, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) said: “I have a question about the word rule. It gives the wrong impression. I would prefer to use the word preside because that’s what he does. A righteous husband presides over his wife and family” (“The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 72).

    The scriptures and declarations of prophets have consistently taught that a husband has the divinely delegated responsibility to preside, or provide Christlike leadership, in the home. For example, the recent proclamation on the family states, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

    It is significant to note the wording “preside … in love and righteousness.” The Apostle Paul taught this same concept, although in different words, to the husbands and fathers of his day. “For the husband is the head of the wife,” he wrote, “even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). Then this servant of the Lord admonished, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

    Husbands are to give themselves totally to the welfare of the family. The presiding position does not entail the right to dictate or to “exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39).

    A bishop was startled during an interview with a husband and wife seeking counsel when the man said: “I want you to tell my wife that she is to do whatever I say because I preside in the home!” To the husband’s amazement, it was he who then received instruction from the bishop in principles of true priesthood leadership.

    On another occasion a stake president was interviewing a woman and asked about her relationship with her husband. Tears of gratitude began to well up in her eyes as she told of her love for him. Not only was he a kind and loving husband to her, but he was a wonderful father to her children from a previous marriage. He provided them with love and an example of Christlike conduct.

    The qualities essential to presiding in righteousness are enumerated in modern scripture:

    “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    “By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42).

    The husband who exhibits these godly traits honors his priesthood and his position as the presiding authority in the home. He will speak and act out of love and with a desire to bless his family, not to dominate or dictate. Such a husband follows the example of Christ.

    A righteous husband sees his wife as described by President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95): “a companion equal and necessary in full partnership” (“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 51). I believe that a wife who feels loved, is treated with respect, is listened to as she counsels with her husband, and knows her voice is a valued part of family decisions will recognize the marriage as a full partnership in which she is an equal contributor. Such a partnership is based on trust in one another and trust in a loving Father who presides over His eternal family.

    A key element of Christlike leadership in the family is counseling together. (Photo © Digital Stock.)