I recently sat down with Nate and Angilyn Bagley to discuss issues relating to unrighteous dominion in marriages. This phrase comes from the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 121:9 that reads, “[w]e have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority…they will begin to recognize unrighteous dominion.”
Influence By Fear or By Love
As a therapist who has worked with Mormon clients for over twenty years, I’ve seen unrighteous dominion manifested in a variety of ways: making major decisions (such as financial or employment) or in any other way being controlling and manipulative. Unrighteous dominion can extend to children as well; when a mother or a father using shame or intimidation with their children, this is another example. And any type of abuse certainly falls under the category of unrighteous dominion.
Families are central to Mormonism, and creating eternal families through making and keeping covenants with the Savior is at the core of our work here on earth. However, it seems that primarily mothers, are talked about as the heart, or the center, of the families. Preparing to be a “good mother” is emphasized in Primary, Young Women’s, and continues as a central thread woven throughout Relief Society lessons and discussions.
When we speak of “good mothers” in church, we often hear stories of mothers’ great sacrifices (like a pioneer women burying a child along the trail West), frequent heartache and long-suffering (Elder Holland’s talk ‘Behold Thy Mother’), and the great joys, blessings, and the eternal significance of mothers. These themes echo family research that highlights a paradox of parenting — it is considered to be one of the most rewarding aspects of life while simultaneously being associated with increased stress, dissatisfaction, and even depression.
Are you crafty? Do you enjoy sewing or making elaborate designs to adorn your house or entertain your children? I’ll admit that craftiness is not really my thing; I prefer musical expression and writing, but everyone has different creative outlets, and for some, crafts are enjoyable and fun!
Pride is often referred to as the universal sin. From the perspective of LDS theology, this seems pretty accurate; pride caused Satan to rebel against heaven, pride led to the downfall of ancient civilizations, pride is the driving factor that has caused evil individuals throughout history to come to power, and anyone who has studied the Book of Mormon has probably heard of the pride cycle. However, for this discussion, I’d like to move away from the archetypal, “big picture” idea of pride to focus on the perspective of it as an individual characteristic, that is, of personal pride.
In online discussions about my article “30 Questions Nobody Has Asked My Husband” I noticed a theme in many of the comments: the phrase “you’re choosing to be offended” (or some variation of it) emerged over and over again in response to the article. I found this fascinating because I am not personally offended by the questions; I am, however, very curious about underlying gender assumptions, concerned about the impact of our unexamined perceptions, and I believe that we, as a culture, could greatly benefit from more self-reflection and thoughtful dialogue.
“All I’ve ever wanted in life is to be a mother,” she sobbed as she slumped over burying her hands in her face. Through her tears she muttered, “My whole life I’ve been taught that being a mother was the most important role. Now, I’m getting so old that I will never be able to have a child. What meaning is there to my life without the role of mother?”
I’ve heard sentiments like this over and over again in my twenty years of clinical psychotherapy work with LDS (Mormon) women. In our efforts to acknowledge and validate the crucial contribution of mothers are we unintentionally sending a message that women who aren’t able to bear or rear children in this life are somehow less valuable to the Church and to God? A deeper understanding of our doctrine reveals that this is not true; we know that “all are alike unto God” (2nd Nephi 26:33) and that an individual’s worth is not dependent on his/her accomplishments (is there not something strange about considering children an accomplishment?).