Monday, September 12, 2011

Becoming Equal Partners: Holding a Family Executive Council

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" it states,

"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. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."
In a world where equality is such a volatile subject it can be hard to figure out how men and women actually go about becoming equal partners in a marriage. The world teaches that to be equal there should be no differences between the work men do and the work women do. Yet it is important to remember that in God's eyes being equal doesn't mean that men and women have to do the same job. Instead, being equal means that equal value is given to both the man's contribution and the woman's contribution to the family. Being equal partners means that both a man and a woman realize that even though they have different jobs they are working towards the same goal-- an eternal family-- and are willing to step up and help the other partner fulfill their responsibilities especially, like the Proclamation teaches, when "disability, death or other circumstances... necessitate individual adaptation."

I know that for my husband and I learning to be equal partners has been an evolving, and sometimes challenging, process. Yet one thing that has really helped us has been a concept I learned from LDS educators Oliver and Rachel DeMille in their book "Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning." They said:

“It is our belief that the basis of our society is the marriage relationship—specifically the sovereignty given to married couples to prayerfully determine what is best for their family. We call this process, and the body that carries it out, the Family Executive Council, or FEC. The FEC consists of the husband, wife, and divine inspiration as an executive trio; each is a voting partner and all decisions are based on consensus of the three….a family where the core unit—the married couple—is not regarded as sovereign has little defense against the things that threaten it, no matter what their source or intention. … married couples [should pray] finding out and implementing what’s best for their family…trusting instead of worrying what society thinks…and not second guessing the sovereignty of someone else’s Family Executive Council…”

When I first read about the idea of Family Executive Council (FEC) my husband and I decided that it was something we wanted to try in our own family. A normal FEC at our house is conducted on Sunday afternoons or evenings when our children are napping or in bed. We begin by kneeling in prayer together to ask the Lord to be present with us and to give us direction as we make decisions about our children, our family, and our marriage. I usually write up a simple agenda in which we talk about the plans for the upcoming week, plan topics for future family home evening lessons, discuss each of our children’s individual needs, report on our personal goals, discuss how we are each fulfilling our family responsibilities, and talk about what we are doing to strengthen our marriage relationship. Sometimes it lasts 15 minutes and sometimes it lasts 2 hours (or however long our little ones sleep) because we find that we have so much to talk about and work on together. We try very hard to not let the meeting get contentious and if it does we stop it right away. Yet no matter what we always end our meeting by kneeling in prayer to discuss with the Lord some of the things we have talked about.

My husband and I have found that regularly counseling with the Lord concerning our stewardships has made us better parents and has helped us to recognize our children’s physical and spiritual needs. It has also strengthened our love for each other and for the Lord. Some of our most meaningful conversations as a married couple have happened during FEC and it is a time we both look forward to. More than anything, regularly counseling together with the Lord has helped us both realize that even though we may be doing different jobs in the family both of them are crucial, and we don't value one above the other. Instead we work together with the Lord to find the best way to build and strengthen our family.

We’ve also found that regularly counseling with the Lord has increased our ability to respect other couple's choices about their families, especially when it isn’t what we have chosen for our own. We don't have to feel threatened by other people's choices because we know that God is giving us revelation and direction concerning our family and that it doesn't necessarily apply to others. In fact, God may tell the family next door something totally different that He told us because their needs are different than ours. It is not our place to judge the choices another family makes nor is it our place to assume that what is right for our family is right for everyone else’s. Yet we can feel confident that the course we are on is the one that is right for our family... that is the beauty of personal revelation.

The world does a good job of making the concept of "equality" between men and women a confusing subject, so much that there are many people who believe that equality between men and women in marriage is impossible and advocate for alternatives. Yet the Family Proclamation makes it clear that even though God has given men and women different stewardship in the family it is very possible for them to be equal. Equality may not always look the same for each couple and each family, yet that is because each marriage and each family is different. The important thing is that we are including the Lord in our decision making processes and are working together to make sure that all the needs of the family are being fulfilled.

I'm linking this post up to the Celebrate Family blog hop going on this week! Make sure you hop over and read the rest of the wonderful posts!


  1. This is really, really nice. I like the idea of formalizing this process, rather than it just being a stolen moment as we are driving down the road, or have the DVR paused.

  2. Another terrific post, Heather! I like that you actually take the time to have FEC rather than doing it spur of the moment while driving. That's something we need to work on.

  3. I like the title EFC. My husband and I do a weekly "Couple Business Meeting" we read about in Mort Fertel's books "Marriage Fitness: 4 Steps to Building & Maintaining Phenomenal Love" & "43 Ways to Make a Good Marriage Great". We like to open and close our meetings with prayer and find that it makes our "Family Councils" (with us and the kids) more effective when we've had our couple business meeting and reached unity with eachother and the Lord first. Great post.

  4. When we were kids, we had family council. I remember it being something I enjoyed...perhaps we should start that up with our kiddies. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. I really want to try this out. Great idea, thanks for sharing!

  6. Most couples wait to seek Christian counseling until their relationship is just about beyond repair, with one or both spouses planning to move out, or both prepared to simply call it quits and divorce.
    irvine marriage counselor

  7. Thanks for the clear description of what you do -- so helpful, Heather!

  8. Hi Heather, Just got around to blogging about our girl's night out. Here's the link:

    Warmly, Michelle

  9. Excellent post. I believe strongly in the council system.

  10. Oh, we were so much better at this in our first 5 or so years of marriage. Now we are 100% with FHE, but our counseling happens while we lie in bed at night. i guess that's better than nothing, right?