As a new male member of the church, you may have learned that you are to be the head of the household. If this hasn’t been a part of your marriage in the past, it may seem complicated to you to understand how to do this in light of the way the missionaries taught you to treat your wife. This is because many people confuse being the head of the household with being the boss. They picture an autocratic man controlling every decision, every action. This is not at all what the church means when it tells men to take their place as the head of the home.
“The priesthood places upon the fathers the responsibility of being the head of the family and the home. What does being the head of the family mean? It is a priesthood power, and the Doctrine and Covenants, section 121, makes it clear that all priesthood responsibilities must be exercised “only by persuasion, … by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). Holding the priesthood does not mean that a man is a power-broker, or that he sits on a throne, dictating in macho terms, or that he is superior in any way. Rather, he is a leader by authority of example. Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians included, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). As Christ lifts us all, so must we, rather than put down women or anyone.
Nowhere does the doctrine of this Church declare that men are superior to women. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). Each brings his or her own separate and unique strengths to the family and the Church. Women are not just cooks, stewards of our homes, or servants. They are much more. They are the enrichment of humanity.”– James E. Faust, “The Highest Place of Honor,” Ensign, May 1988, 36
As the priesthood leader, you set the example of righteous living for the family. You should, when you’re available, call the family to prayer and scripture study without needing to be reminded. You should be certain Family Home Evening happens and be prepared to assist anyone who needs help with his or her assignments.
As the head of the household, you’ll honor your wife’s role and be certain she has whatever she needs to fulfill it, which includes help with childcare and homemaking. Being the head of the household does not excuse you from doing the dishes or changing a diaper. When there are children, running a home is more than one person can reasonably manage alone, especially since it doesn’t come with built in quitting times or days off.
The head of the household interviews his children on a regular basis and watches for opportunities to guide their growing up years. He counsels with his wife to understand the child’s needs and to make decisions both parents are comfortable with.
In general, the head of the household watches over the family, sets a good example, and monitors the righteousness of the home, handling concerns with love, respect, and prayer, not force. He honors his wife’s wisdom and inspiration, and helps, rather than controls. He guides his children gently, creating an atmosphere of love and trust. He follows the example of His Father in Heaven and the Savior for righteous leadership.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.