What does "preside" mean, anyway?

preside-be in a position of authority in a meeting or gathering; be in charge of a place or situation. -Oxford American Dictionary

“…fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness…Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” –The Family: A Proclamation to the World

So what does it mean to preside in a family? According to the dictionary, it means being in charge. According to LDS doctrine it means…being equal partners? This doesn’t really work with the dictionary definition. Maybe we need a new word (or a new dictionary). If anyone wears the pants in an LDS family, it’s not usually the husband (just an observation). There seems to be a lot of teachings and opinions on the matter but none of it really makes it clear to me exactly what “presiding” means. So, I am taught that I have a divine responsibility to preside in our home. What do I do that my wife doesn’t? If we both are equal partners, are we not both presiding? Is the word “preside” just a word without much practical application in the home? I see how it has application in an organization or church or business, but not really in the family. I’m open to ideas, but I’m sort of leaning to the opinion that the word is not significant in practical family life when a married couple acts as “equal partners.” What do you think?

About shenpa warrior

"Patience is not learned in safety." View all posts by shenpa warrior

19 responses to “What does "preside" mean, anyway?

  • wordsfromhome

    It is kind of like the interesting use of the word dominion, as is “having dominion,” which comes from the same root as dominate, but does not mean to dominate. It is also from the same root as domestic. “Adam having dominion” meant that he was responsibile to take care of others and help them feel “at home.” Much different that the concept of dominating. (See Nibley in The Timely and The Timeless)
    If one holds a meeting, someone must preside. Someone must conduct. They may or may not be the same person, but if there is no one in charge to direct the meeting, not much will be accomplished. One who presides gets the imput of the others in the meeting and organizes and directs the work of the meeting so that it is effective. One who presides can delegate the authority to preside as needed. In a family having dominion and conducting are similar tasks. Someone needs to direct activity to make work effective. Sometimes direction happens with both of you side by side, some times one takes the lead. But in any case you do it together, and with agreement, which makes you equal partners.
    A presidency in the church consists of three men who work together. Two are counselors to the third. A marriage consists of a man and a woman who work together. Perhaps you could be considered to be counseled by a third member of your marriage, who is your Father in Heaven. So in that sense you preside together in your marriage.
    Just my thoughts on the subject….

    Your are right, though. In your everyday life you are not holding meetings and the concept of preside may be reserved for FHE.

  • Adam

    In addition to Family Home Evening, N reminded me tonight that the husband also presides over the TV remote. I did, however, let her have it for a few minutes before taking it back. : )

  • HW

    I just read a great (I thought…) book that addressed this issue and several related issues. It was called “Eve and the Choice made in Eden” by Beverly Campbell (2003, Bookcraft).

  • Adam

    I just looked up that book–it does look pretty interesting. Couldn’t find it on Amazon but DB has it. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I’m assuming that the book ties the fall somehow with the presiding issue (among other things)? What does it say?

  • HW

    It says many things. Perhaps the most significant is that references to Adam in the creation stories are always plural. The basic unit of personhood, Adam, consisted of a man and a woman. In addition, the book discusses the evidence that Adam and Eve were full, equal partners.

  • hanndallfam

    Very interesting. This reminds me of the kind of thing we would talk about at our house while hanging out. I read it to Kendall and want to think about it a bit more before responding. It is an intersting topic and something I’ve thought about before but never really put into words. We’ll get back to you…I’m sure Kendall will have an opinion as well. Hope you guys are doing well!

  • Concrete Fiction

    Thought-provoking post. This is something I (even though I am still quite single) bat around my head trying to make sense of.

    Men and women’s roles within the church has always seemed very controversial to me, at least since I’ve been old enough to understand the differences and form my own thoughts toward what equality, liberty, justice and authority mean.

    I like the idea that has been talked about in the comments, about how Adam was referred to in the plural, which would signify Adam more in line a partnership-marriage itself rather than a singular person. As I look toward marriage someday, I definitely see it as a cooperative democratic experience, where both husband and wife have equal authority to preside over decisions and discussions which effect the family. And I definitely think that as a man, it will also be my role to nurture my children just as I would hope my wife, their mother, would. Again, I am an outsider on the marriage experience, but it is what makes sense to me.

  • Allie

    Somewhere, I read recently (it was a quote from an apostle maybe?) that we often get Priesthood Authority at church and Priesthood Authority at home confused. The church is hierarchal, while the home is patriarchal.

    At church you have the prophet and the hierarchy on down to lead the church. At home you have the priesthood holder who presides, but it’s not a hierarchal order, so the husband presides, but as an equal partner with his wife.

    If that makes sense.

    Connorboyack has a good post right now about the role of the presiding patriarch in the home.


  • adam

    Thanks for the link–

    “By assuming his patriarchal role and ultimately making important familial decisions, the father fulfills his role. By nurturing the family, offering counsel and support, the mother fulfills hers. When this takes place, the partnership is whole and equal.”

    I still don’t have a clear idea about his, however. So according to this quote from Connor, I am supposed to ultimately make the important decisions, and my wife is supposed to nurture the family and give me advice? I don’t get it–I still don’t see why it matters.

    No good husband ever makes big decisions on his own. Now, if one counsels with his wife on the decision, he didn’t make it alone.

    A lot of the comments were about husband and wife having different roles, which I’m totally ok with according to needs, but I do not agree that the husband is a better decision maker and the wife a better nurturer.

  • Allie

    Which is why each family has to work out what works for them. I think Heavenly Father has given each of us unique talents and abilities, and I don’t think he’d want us to not use them just because we aren’t the right gender.

    As for the priesthood authority “ultimately making decisions” I view that like he’s the speaker. The couple/family works together coming up with ideas etc… and the father, voices them. (although I don’t think it always has to be that way either)

    We had a member of the stake presidency in our sacrament meeting today, and it was announced that he presided at the meeting. Maybe it’s something like that. He’s there, but it’s not like he planned, organized, or led the meeting. 🙂

    There’s also the quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Something to the effect of The man is the head of the family, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head anyway she wants. 🙂

    Here’s another random thought- I fully expect my husband to take an active part in raising and “nurturing” our children (and folding laundry), so why shouldn’t I take an active part in decision making.

  • Allie

    I missed the comment on the book Eve and the choice made in eden. I read it awhile back and really enjoyed it. I should read it again.

  • adam

    I just read an interesting post and discussion on the apparent uselessness of the idea of fathers presiding. Check it out here.

  • Anonymous

    This article may answer many of your questions regarding husband who presides and also the equality of husband and wife. A rightious presider will never override others opinions but will discuss and guide discussion until all are in harmony, through the spirit and come to a correct decision. This is how the twelve work also. Everyone is heard and they don’t move forward until everyone is on the same page. Anyway, for what it’s worth.


  • shenpa warrior

    Thanks for the link Anonymous. I will read it. I can see how that works on a church-leadership level.

    As for a marriage, I don’t understand the purpose or even the meaning of having one person (the man) “move forward” after everyone is on the same page. Pragmatically speaking, when a husband and wife are discussing some decision, and come to an agreement, what does the “moving forward” (i.e. presiding) look like?

  • John

    pre-side … to be on ‘the’ side before.. to be on the side of..
    Charge must come first and then you can say preside. If you charge your self with the betterment of your family then your ‘pre’ ‘siding’ to anything that might come before them. That means you’re on their side.

    Just as a judge is presiding with justice over a case. What is the honorable just presiding? What is he in charge of, well he ‘pre’ ‘sided’ with justice. He has charged himself with upholding law and so before the case he was already on the side of justice.

    • Anonymous

      Hi John, This is a very interesting thought. I have never heard the word preside explained this way before. Where did you get this from?

  • Mark

    The person who presides is simply the one who has been designated as the head of an organization. Through that person, other members are delegated authority and responsibility. Without that delegation and sharing of authority, the organization does not function. In a family organization men and women discuss and share resposibilities – the man having the responsibilty to support and bless his wife and the wife having the responsibility to support and bless her husband. Husband and wife have a common interest in each others welfare and find happiness in serving each other as they are able.

    The priesthood, the authority delegated to man to act in his name, is in turn delegated by men to women so they have the same authority to act in God’s name. You cannot bless yourself or administer to yourself with the priesthood, you can only bless others. The man is not without the woman, and the woman is not without the man. We need each other to fully exercise the authority that God has delegated to us.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for the links you shared regarding the opinion of Elder Dene L. Larson, He has some nice things to say, however he is misleading in a few matters.He says, “I cannot think of a better pattern for the decision-making process in the family than that which is followed in the presiding councils of the Church. In these circles, when a matter of importance surfaces for consideration, it is often necessary for considerable staff work or committee work to be done to research past decisions and to review all of the circumstances and facts that may have a bearing upon final decisions. When reports have been made regarding these details, then is the time for careful and prayerful consideration and discussion. When all has been considered and every point of view heard, it is the responsibility of the leader to propose or place before the council a recommended [recommend, being the operative word] decision. Once this decision is reached,[a decision is never made until all agree; if it is not unanimous it is tabled until all can come into agreement on the matter. See teachings of the Prophets] it becomes the consensus and position of every member of the council regardless of what private views may have been held prior to the decision. It is only in this way that harmony and order can prevail.
    In the process of fact-finding and review prior to the decision-making, it is the duty and responsibility of every member of the council to make his views and feelings known. If he has information that may affect the decision, he is duty-bound to present the information before the council. If there are avenues of investigation open to him, he is obligated to pursue them in order to be as helpful as possible in the decision-making process. If he fails to do this, he is acting unaccountably and is shirking his responsibility. If he has strong feelings about the outcome, he must do all in his power to persuade others to his point of view.
    When a [unanimous] decision is reached, however, [if the person agreed then he must honor that agreement] he has a solemn obligation to honor that decision as though it were his own, knowing that his views have been fully heard and considered. It would be destructive to unity and harmony and totally unacceptable for him to continue to lobby or complain or solicit support for his personal position once the decision is made.
    It seems to me that this same principle can operate well in the leadership of a family. [yes it seems that this same process must be acknowledged in families] The husband must assume the role of leadership and see his wife as a knowledgeable counselor and partner in decision-making.” I added [ ] where I inserted the truth of these issues. I invite you to do some further investigation into this doctrine. This sort of talk, promotes oppression of women, when there are weak minded, controlling men, who are unsure of their own manhood, or who are unwilling to follow the Lord’s example of love and agency, “presiding.”


    Faithful daughter of God.

  • danechapman

    Perhaps we should all live by the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. That is simple and effective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: