Having established that families are the most important organization in the Eternities, the next step is to discuss how the Lord has delegated responsibilities. Any research or psychology demonstrating men or women are better for or equal to tasks is besides the point. What the Scriptures and prophets have to say will be the baseline. There surprisingly is a lot of very specific information and guidance. Despite modern sensibilities, men are commanded to be the leaders and protectors.
What we know about gender roles starts with Adam and Eve. The first creation was a male. Eve comes out, in a non-charitable reading, almost as an afterthought to help him as a sort of servant. Other readings are that she was created to harmonize and complete what he lacks. Regardless of what viewpoint, Adam is given the duties directly of tending the garden and naming the animals. Eve comes later when eating the fruit and bringing mortality.
Mormon beliefs about Eve split from traditional theology with the fortunate fall, but that will come later. We learn after the apple incident that men are cursed where they once had been blessed. The easy pickings of paradise have been replaced by hard work in bad conditions. It is here that the first and a primary role of men is given by the Lord. We learn in Genesis 3:17–19 the curse:
“17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Satan has a worse fate because he will be eating the dirt that plants grow from, symbolizing a completely worthless existence. The woman Eve has her own curse, but for the moment it is important to recognize this specific message. Bringing food to the table will be a constant struggle. The work requirement is not left to Adam only, but repeated for any male who will some day form a family.
Providing for the needs of others is important enough that 1 Timothy 5:8 leaves a strict warning, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” This is in context of supporting older widows along with wives and children. The ideal is for men to support those in need with the family as his main attention. For the record, this same scripture requests young widows to get married so not to become an unnecessary burden when they are perfectly capable of living a full life.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
“Early in the history of the restored Church, the Lord specifically charged men with the obligation to provide for their wives and family. In January of 1832 He said, “Verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown” (Doctrine and Covenants 75:28). Three months later the Lord said again, “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken” (Doctrine and Covenants 83:2). This is the divine right of a wife and mother. While she cares for and nourishes her children at home, her husband earns the living for the family, which makes this nourishing possible . . .
. . . Fathers, another vital aspect of providing for the material needs of your family is the provision you should be making for your family in case of an emergency. Family preparedness has been a long-established welfare principle. It is even more urgent today.
I ask you earnestly, have you provided for your family a year’s supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel? The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.”
After wives, comes the responsibility to children. Women are not to be left alone as caretakers of the next generation. Men must do their part to raise a family of strong and faithful boys and girls. To continue with President Benson:
“As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children. You must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide. Your place is to give direction to all family life. You should take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline.
Your homes should be havens of peace and joy for your family. Surely no child should fear his own father—especially a priesthood father. A father’s duty is to make his home a place of happiness and joy. He cannot do this when there is bickering, quarreling, contention, or unrighteous behavior. The powerful effect of righteous fathers in setting an example, disciplining and training, nurturing and loving is vital to the spiritual welfare of his children.”
President Howard W. Hunter continued this theme:
“Honor your wife’s unique and divinely appointed role as a mother in Israel and her special capacity to bear and nurture children. We are under divine commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and to bring up our children and grandchildren in light and truth (see Moses 2:28; Doctrine and Covenants 93:40). You share, as a loving partner, the care of the children. Help her to manage and keep up your home. Help teach, train, and discipline your children . . .
. . . A man who holds the priesthood regards the family as ordained of God. Your leadership of the family is your most important and sacred responsibility. The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life.”
It is not enough to be the head of the household or a “ruler” over wives and children. Those men who seek to burden the family with arrogance and an iron hand are not inspired by the Lord with their actions. They will be judged harshly and lose both the Holy Spirit and true authority. It might be said “spare the rod and spoil the child” (see Proverbs 13:24), but abuse is not tolerated. That same Proverbs 11: 29 reads, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.” The New Testament has Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Likewise there is Colossians 3:21 stating, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” To be strict in observance is not the same as harshness and violence in words or deeds.
Perhaps the most controversial subject is mens place in Church leadership. Western Christianity has slowly invested women with leadership positions over congregations. Even the liberal Community of Christ, a Mormon faith that has its ties to the Priesthood revelations of Joseph Smith, has allowed women to be ordained. The Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seem to be the few holdouts to this modern practice. The Protestant teaching of Priesthood of all has taken a whole new meaning.
A closer look at the Scriptures, especially modern Mormon revelations, paints a completely different picture. Priesthood has been and, if example has meaning, always will be Patriarchal. Looking far into the past before Joseph Smith’s ordination is the Earthly formation of the Power of God given to mortals. It was first place on the head of Adam by God after expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He in turn, according to Doctrine and Covenants 107:41–56, ordained other males who passed it on to their descendants:
” 41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner:
42 From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth;
43 Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.”
The order of the Priesthood continued with the ordination of Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah:
“56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.”
In Abraham 1:2–3 It is that same Patriarchal Priesthood that Abraham desired to obtain:
“2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.”
Father’s blessings are an important responsibility that was passed down from Adam until today. The greatest was to the House of Israel as Jacob in Genesis 49 gathered his sons and administered to them. Lehi in the promised land did the same according to 2 Nephi 4 for Nephi, Lamen, Lemuel, Sam, and others including wives and daughters. With all the revelations and promises given to Joseph Smith Jr., his father as the head of the family still blessed him.
Related to the ordination of the Priesthood to men is the responsibility to lead the Church. There is no separating the Priesthood offices from the authority. If the Priesthood comes from male lineage, then all offices to it are governed by the same origin. President, High Priest, Bishop, Elder, Deacon, and others might be temporal in nature, but they come from the same main body of authority. Women who hold any positions do so under supervision and not within the same structure. They can at most imitate the order, but not as equals other than in faith and salvation. Even the Temple that might come closest to granting Priesthood to women does not ordain them positions and acknowledges that they must become subordinate to men, as they are subordinate to God.
This idea that men hold the leadership positions as the Lord’s way is not new. Titus 1: 5–7 and Timothy 3: 2–5 talk about Bishops who must be married to one women with good families. They are picked from Elders that must be ordained in each area of the work. Women might be strong personalities and have authority in their own right, but not have an official title that gives them more than charismatic leadership. More on that later.
President Joseph F. Smith, quoted by Elder L. Tom Perry, taught:
“… There is no higher authority in matters relating to the family organization, and especially when that organization is presided over by one holding the higher priesthood, than that of the father. … The patriarchal order is of divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity. There is then a particular reason why men, women, and children should understand this order and this authority in the households of the people of God, and seek to make it what God intended it to be, a qualification and preparation for the highest exaltation of His children. 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.”
There are at least two more responsibilities of men that has some ambiguity; missions and military defense. The former has been, as President Thomas S. Monson taught, designated a Priesthood function even if not restricted to men:
“First, to young men of the Aaronic Priesthood and to you young men who are becoming elders: I repeat what prophets have long taught—that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord. Maintain your health and strength. Study the scriptures. Where such is available, participate in seminary or institute. Familiarize yourself with the missionary handbook Preach My Gospel.”
Defense is tied into protecting families. The declaration of Alma 43:45–47 seems to place this burden as a commandment of the Lord along with what circumstances war is allowed:
“45 Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.
46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.”
To quote The Proclamation on the Family as a short final recap, “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.”