Friday, July 10, 2009

He Said: In a Good Mormon Marriage, Who Holds the Trump Card?

I read with great interest BiV's post on who holds the trump card. In a world where relationships really are patriarchal I would see better her position and respond that men actually have a decision-making power and are ultimately responsible in the Mormon system of accountability. However in the United States and Canada most Mormon males would tell you that their wives have for the most part usurped that power. No man with any sense would think that he is in charge of the family. The reality is that the wife is usually in charge and calls on us for decisions when children don't comply.

The business about women are more spiritual than men is because it is the woman who usually presses the spiritual things like lets pray or hold family home evening or go to the temple. Recently my daughter was able to get in to all three BYUs. I have a preference for BYU in Provo having gone there for seven years. I worked at BYU-Hawaii for two years and had a daughter attend BYU-Idaho. I tried to get my wife and daughter to see the logic of my daughter going to BYU. In the end my wife convinced my daughter it was better for her to go to a school I considered inferior at BYU-Hawaii to BYU at Provo. I admit her rationale of being smaller might mean better attention but knowing the arrogance of professors at both places up close and personal I feel it is the luck of the draw.

I can't think of single incidence where I said something and my wife or children did what I suggested. As a result I don't see what has her knicker's in a bunch other than the fact that the leaders suggest the man make the final decision.

In my opinion it is because if the wife is so prone to being in charge than it might equalize it if she were to consider the opinion of her husband from time to time. This is a cultural specific thing in the U.S. and Canada and matriarchal places like the Phillipines. My argument wouldn't probably hold up in truly partriarchal cultures in the world like the Middle East or Europe but for this culture I believe the disparity is on the other side unless a woman truly is a wallflower. Having seven daughters I haven't seen one yet including in my twelve years of living in Utah. I find this outrage over a fundamentalist doctrine hard to fanthom.

It would actually be refreshing in terms of intimacy if more mainstream Mormons women actually thought we trumped them since many of the men I talk to are just trying to keep their wives happy. I learned in Family Relationship classes at the Y that women control the intimacy. It might balance things out if men actually had a say in other areas.


  1. Dr. B, I usually disagree with pretty much everything you say, but I found myself chuckling through your post and agreeing with you. I'm sure my husband would too. I don't actually have a problem with the church doctrine for exactly the reason you stated - I know my husband just wants to make me happy and I can pretty much guarantee that things will go my way. I can't imagine an instance where I felt strongly about something and my husband would pull the "trump card" and choose something else for our family because to him it just wouldn't be worth it. I am sure that's not the ideal, but that's just how it is. Thanks for the chuckle.

  2. I see a problem in offering anecdotal evidence as an answer to the question: the way things play out in real life is not (though it often influences and sometimes becomes) the doctrine of the Church. You could take this line of argument, or discussion, into all kinds of places: "the Church says that pornography is bad, but look how many men with temple recommends look at pornography" (obviously a ridicuously extreme example, of course). In this case, the doctrine of the Church "clearly" states that men and owmen are equal and men ultimately make the decision. Many Mormon marriages do not fit the pattern you describe because the husband and wife are trying to follow the Church's teachings.

  3. Zillah since you think anecdotal evidence is not an answer show me some scientific data to support a dcotrinal statement made by a mormon general authority or go out and do a sizeable enough survey of who makes the decision in LDS families I have thirty-five years of living in eleven different states and a foreign country and the majority of the men told me the wife controls the relationship and makes the decisions. The classical model doesn't cut it for radical feminists anyway who are more in to the critical or overthrowing the status quo. I'm not saying there aren't any oppressive relationships it cuts both ways some women are just as abusive as men but it is the extremes you are talking about. It is the majority here I am talking about not the minority. The one country I lived in was Saudi Arabia and in the Mormon Church the women dominated to the nth. If we were discussing the Islamic women I would see your point. That you put down ancedotal is a reflection of the same mentality you attack. Having a doctorate I call my model the Bruno Observational Model based on 54 years of talking to hundreds of men.

  4. In my opinion, you were right about college. The quality of the education is not even close on the three BYU campuses. Provo is far superior.

  5. I agree with you that male domination is probably rare in Mormon families. Although, one can occasionally see it.

    For most women, it's probably much more about choices and options than about daily decision making.

    For example, I find it troubling that so many female students at BYU do not graduate because they are putting their husbands through school.

    The other problem is that in some cases, wives cannot expect support from the bishop against abusive husbands. I know about several cases where women who were beaten were told to obey their husbands because supposedly our religion is all about patriarchy.

    I am sure the bishops meant well and did not appreciate how they exposed the women to danger. I suppose that could be rectified if we trained bishops in marital counseling.