Dominion within the church is something that I have heard spoken by others as a criticism so I thought that I would take some time to write about this topic.
A woman once told me that men think that they have the right to be in control of their wives because they have the priesthood, therefore she should be required to obey his orders without question. This woman felt that within the church men are taught to be controlling and demanding and that the priesthood was in fact about control. This view sadly, is so far out of sync with reality that it begs the question how did this view come to be in the first place. What happened to cause such an idea about the priesthood. There have certainly been those within the church who have practiced unrighteous dominion over their spouses and perhaps have even used the priesthood as the means of control. What these men do not realize is that once you begin to practice unrighteous dominion the power that they hold with that priesthood becomes void.
If you want to really know what the priesthood brethren are taught just read or listen to any General Conference Priesthood session and see and listen to what the church leaders are talking to the men in the church about.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-40
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
This principle applies on more than one level and ways than just the priesthood. Unrighteous dominion is a problem that we see in all aspects of our culture and society. There is nothing inherently wrong with dominion over others however. Our employers have dominion over us within our work place. We have dominion over our children. Our politicians have dominion over us politically. The problem lies in the desire, intent and actions of the one who has dominion or control. At what point do we cross the line? When does it become unrighteous dominion?
I would like to illustrate an example of something that I had experienced with regard to this issue. While having a conversation with a woman I was told that I am domineering and controlling. That I sought to subjugate my wife and sought to control her every move. That I was treating her horribly and that I was wrong to do so. I was told that I was evil simply because I was a man and that it is simply in my nature to exercise unrighteous dominion.
What was going on that I was treating my wife so horribly wrong. Well I was asking her to let me know when she makes a purchase or when she would be going out. You see in my desire to be in control I would not allow her to spend money without permission or go out with her friends. She had to clear every action and deed with me first. Or so I was perceived.
I was perceived to be evil because me and my wife have a working relationship and mutual understanding in that we respect each other enough to communicate in those matters that would affect the others. This is perceived by the world to be restrictive, evil, controlling, and domineering.
The truth however, is that those that perceive me in such a way are wrong because they do not understand. It is the way God meant it to be. What this person did not understand is that while I am the head of my home I do not require my wife to get permission to spend money or go out with her friends should she choose to do so, what I need and require is a willingness to work together. It is by working together that we achieve harmony and achieve righteous dominion.
This problem is especially important within our family relationships. When dealing with our children we can be tempted to dominate them and control them in a manner that is not consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our children are going to make decisions that will cause them harm, sorrow and heart ache. We must make sure that we are allowing our children to make these decisions for themselves.
When our children turn 8 years old they are baptized and become members of the church. The Lord has decreed that at 8 years old children have reached the age of accountability. We exercise unrighteous dominion over our children when we do not allow them to be accountable and to make decisions on their own. Now clearly this principle is within reasonable limits based on our own judgment, but let’s be sure we are seeking the Lords council when making that judgement.
Elder Larry Y Wilson said
“This scripture says we must lead by “principles of righteousness.” Such principles apply to all leaders in the Church as well as to all fathers and mothers in their homes.3 We lose our right to the Lord’s Spirit and to whatever authority we have from God when we exercise control over another person in an unrighteous manner.4 We may think such methods are for the good of the one being “controlled.” But anytime we try to compel someone to righteousness who can and should be exercising his or her own moral agency, we are acting unrighteously. When setting firm limits for another person is in order, those limits should always be administered with loving patience and in a way that teaches eternal principles.
We simply cannot force others to do the right thing. The scriptures make it clear that this is not God’s way. Compulsion builds resentment. It conveys mistrust, and it makes people feel incompetent. Learning opportunities are lost when controlling persons pridefully assume they have all the right answers for others. The scriptures say that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men” to engage in this “unrighteous dominion,”5 so we should be aware that it’s an easy trap to fall into. Women too may exercise unrighteous dominion, though the scriptures identify the problem especially with men.
Unrighteous dominion is often accompanied by constant criticism and the withholding of approval or love. Those on the receiving end feel they can never please such leaders or parents and that they always fall short. Wise parents must weigh when children are ready to begin exercising their own agency in a particular area of their lives. But if parents hold on to all decision-making power and see it as their “right,” they severely limit the growth and development of their children.”
Let us be sure that we never exercise unrighteous dominion over others.