I hear this term all the time at church or in conference talks. Certain leaders preside over their prospective quorums or stewardships, the man with the highest level of Melchizedek Priesthood presides over church meetings. A father presides over his home.
I was pretty sure I knew what it meant. The one who presides is the one who is “in charge,” or the one with authority over everyone else, right?
Whenever I thought of a person presiding over a meeting, I couldn’t help but think of a king sitting on his throne surrounded by his loyal subjects.
This perspective didn’t necessarily leave me with warm and fuzzy feelings...
But, what does the word “preside” really mean? Do we apply it in the way that Christ intended us to?
It’s a word that gets thrown around so often it becomes just another thing we say in mormon jargon, kind of like “I’d like to bear my testimony, I know this church is true,” or “bless this food to nourish and strengthen our bodies….”
Or how about the words “virtue,” “worthy,” “natural man,” agency…”
We repeat them all the time, but have we ever sat back and thought about what they really mean?
In this week’s episode of the Mormon Marriages podcast, we talk about this very thing with Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, a prominent therapist of 23 years and owner of Wasatch Family Therapy. Working predominantly with women and couples in Utah, she is very familiar with the ins and outs of Mormon family relationships.
As we talked, I realized that associating the word preside with kings and rulers had more to do with unrighteous dominion rather than Christlike leadership.
Yet another phrase we say all the time, but don’t know exactly what it means.
Unrighteous dominion is someone attempts to control or manipulate another using their “power and authority” as an excuse to do so.
In a marriage, it is things like making financial decisions without consulting a spouse, using authority as an excuse for unacceptable behavior, holding others to their unrealistic expectations and then shaming or belittling them when they don’t.
Unrighteous dominion can be as extreme as using physical violence to enforce authority, to something as simple as assuming that your way is always the right way - no exceptions.
Have you ever heard of someone saying, “We’re doing it this way because I said so, and I preside over this family with the priesthood.”
(There's that word again...)
This is not God's way.
D&C 121:41 says, “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;”
As we continued to investigate the term “preside,” we found something super interesting. The origin of this word comes from the latin term praesidere which means to “stand guard” or literally to “sit in front of.”
This is so profound!
Those who are responsible of presiding over others are not meant to control or exercise authority over them, but rather to protect and to guard them.
Someone who is presiding over their family should not be like the king sitting on his throne in charge of making all the decisions and getting his own way, but rather like a general at the frontline with his army.
He’s right there in the trenches with his men, literally standing between them and the enemy.
This shift in perspective reminded me of the following, powerful image:
“Presiding” over a meeting isn’t about being above everyone in attendance. It’s about being amongst them - protecting them, guarding them and keeping them safe.
Likewise, celestial marriages were never meant to be a hierarchy. There is not one spouse over another in the eyes of God. It is not about domination and power, but relationships and connection.
Husband and wife are meant to be equal partners. Providing, protecting and nurturing their families as a team. The way a husband and wife choose to apply the principles of presiding over their individual families is unique to circumstance and situation.
This conversation is so important!
It’s vital to talk about these things in order to create a Celestial culture in our marriages, our families, and our church as a whole - to preside in the way Christ intended for us.
Take a listen! Let us know your thoughts!
About Our Guest
Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist specializing in women’s emotional health and relationships. Dr. Hanks is the founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, author of The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide for Women, a blogger, a local and national media contributor, an online influencer, a private practice consultant, and an award-winning performing songwriter. A native Californian, Hanks currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT. For additional resources visit DrJulieHanks.com or connect with @drjuliehanks on social media.