CTNAHM: Encourage Your Wife—By Telling Her Her Role!

A guest post by Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created to Need a Help Meet, pp. 97—98

Understanding Your Roles

If Mr. Steady Turtle were to come out of his shell, what could he do immediately that would encourage his wife? First, you need to address her concerns that you are not spiritually minded and are not open to her. I have read her concern in thousands of letters.

“He is not a spiritual leader. I just pray and pray that he will step up and do what God has designed him to do as head of our home. He won’t even pray with the family at meals.”

This is odd, because I have felt the exact same way. When we were first married, and way less questioning of the Mormon church, my husband was like this. If I didn’t suggest scripture study, or non-meal prayers, they wouldn’t happen. And I would go so enraged.

“It’s your PRIESTHOOD duty! It’s not my place to be spiritual head of this household!”  Thinking over it now, it’s rather embarrassing, but that was what I thought. (Dang, it’s crazy how much can change in 3 years!)

I even remember scandalizing women at church, because when they would ask the question “What should I do if my husband doesn’t lead?”, I would always answer “Don’t do it for him, because he won’t take the responsibility ever.” You would think I would have suggested killing kittens, for all the shock I received in return. But my philosophy was “If it’s not important enough for him to lead, and it’s not my responsibility, it’s not my problem anymore.”

But then we reached a tipping point, and I was frustrated. And you know how I fixed the problem? Did I write to my stake president? Talk with my bishop about how I could support my husband while encouraging him to take an active Priesthood role? (These were both solutions presented in the aforementioned women’s meeting) No. I talked to him, and told him it was important to me that he lead. So he did. Not 100%, but about 70; and that was good enough for me.

The point of this extra-long story? The same point I always make: If you’re not satisfied, talk with your spouse!

You can fix this problem. Lead the family in prayer at the table. At least once a day, express your gratitude for God’s blessing’s on your family, either in family prayer or just an offhand manner. Set aside a time each day when you and your wife sit down together to read the Scriptures.

While it’s good advice, if the problem was only “Men need to lead”, Michael doesn’t give strategies for actually doing it. Here’s what I mean. Michael begins this entire section with “If Mr. Steady turtle would come out of his shell…” Does he give strategies, encouragement, anecdotes, or examples of ways people can become more comfortable leading spiritually? Not at all. It’s something that had always bothered me about church, and I see now that it’s not just with my church. But there seems a lot of emphasis on telling people what to do, without telling them how to do it.

And yes, sometimes it is better to say “Do it and it will eventually get easier.”, but the fact that men in this culture need to be told and reminded they are spiritual leaders, the problem doesn’t seem to be with them not knowing this. Perhaps the real problem that should be addressed is why they’re not doing this.  But either Michael doesn’t realize this, or he doesn’t think it’s a valid reason.

Announce that the two of you are going to review all the Scriptures on the duties of husbands and wives. Write on a calendar the verses you will read each day. Go slow, “here a little, there a little.” If you don’t like to read then tell her to read aloud to you because you like the sound of her voice. Discuss the texts. She needs to know that you are aware of what God says about your duty, and she needs to know what God says about her responsibilities as a wife. Sharing your heart is what will change her actions.

I think it’s interesting that there is no place in this paragraph for a wife’s opinion. Maybe she wants to read verses on compassion, or the miracles of Jesus, or verses about love. Maybe re-reading verses about her marriage duties will make her depressed, or uncomfortable. Maybe she has an opinion on which verses she wants on what day. Heck, maybe she doesn’t like reading aloud any more than the man does. The point I’m trying to make is that it makes me sad that there is no room for the wife to have an opinion on anything, even reading scriptures.

Also, if the churches of the book’s targeted demographic are anything like the Mormon church, there should be no question that each person knows their gender’s roles and duties. Because, at least in my experience, it is preached almost from cradle to grave.  So again, we have a case of people not doing something, for reasons other than ignorance.  Michael, give solutions for those, please!

Certain passages are key for a Mr. Steady and his help meet to read together. First Peter chapter 3 talks about a wife being in subjection. Titus 2 covers the man and his wife’s positions before God. Ephesians 5 is also used in marriage counseling, as is Colossians chapter 3. These verses are not for you to use to lord over your wife, and I would not recommend Mr. Command or Mr. Visionary read these verses to their wives unless they just happened to be reading through that book of the Bible.

I was going to type out what these chapters say, but after reading a few, I was too distressed. So I linked them above. If you’re curious, click away. One thing I am grateful for, after reading this: Growing up LDS, these scriptures were never harped on. Which is weird, because it seems like Mormondom agrees with these tenets. But for some reason, the actual scriptures were never brought up. I’m grateful, because it was bad enough hearing “God made women for XZY purposes! Aren’t you lucky to know what God expects of you?” I don’t think I would have done well being pointed to scriptures that said the same thing.

I think it’s funny that Michael claims he wouldn’t recommend submission texts to Command or Visionary men. It’s funny, because his wife had no problem at all badgering those points to the wives of C’s or V’s. Perhaps Michael wouldn’t recommend them because those wives are already submissive? I’m also amused, because there is no emphasis on what the husband needs to do. What would have made sense to me, is, if you insist on touting gender roles, and believe the wife is to submit and the husband is to love, suggest some scriptures on love for the husband!  Why just use your together time telling the wife what she should do? Gah!

But if you, Mr. Steady, will open a dialogue with your wife she will relax, knowing that you are not asleep at the wheel. Then she can begin to trust your quiet spiritual leadership.

I’m confused as to why Michael assumes spiritual leadership entails re-hashing of verses the wife probably had memorized at age 12. In my head, spiritual leadership is praying, encouraging people to love the scriptures (mostly by example), listening to other’s concerns, and making decisions based on what you know/believe. Not just shouting “THIS IS YOUR PLACE! SEE ME LEADING!” Because, honestly, that’s not leading, that’s dictating.

Which may be what Michael really thinks, after all.

CTNAHM: Eve and Her Gullible Female Nature
CTNAHM: Don't Command Your Wife to Obey
CTNAHM: Love Never Enslaves!
CTNAHM: Obey vs. Submit
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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