After Alma organized the church at the waters of Mormon, he and his people fled for their lives from the armies of King Noah. Arriving in a new land, which they called the land of Helam, they began to organize themselves as an independent community. After warning his people to be careful whom they chose to follow, he consecrated priests and teachers, who “did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness” (Mosiah 23:18).
Alma’s son, who served as high priest over the church in Zarahemla, also recognized that church leaders have a responsibility to take care of their people, just as a shepherd attends to the well-being of his or her sheep: “For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock?” (Alma 5:59). After delivering this sermon, “he ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God, to preside and watch over the church” (Alma 6:1).
What does it mean to preside? The word is a combination of two Latin roots: prae, meaning “before,” and sedere, meaning “to sit.” The word literally means “to sit in front of.” I envision a person who presides facing the people they are responsible for, being with them, observing them, and being aware of them. A person who presides is engaged, attentive, and proactive.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World states that “fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness” and that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” The General Handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explains this responsibility in more detail:
Presiding in the family is the responsibility to help lead family members back to dwell in God’s presence. This is done by serving and teaching with gentleness, meekness, and pure love, following the example of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 20:26–28). Presiding in the family includes leading family members in regular prayer, gospel study, and other aspects of worship. Parents work in unity to fulfill these responsibilities.General Handbook, 2.1.3, “Parents and Children”
Today, I will strive, in unity with my wife, to preside in my home. I will spend time with my children, “sitting in front of” them, so that I can be aware of their needs and goals. I will be proactive in working to ensure their well-being and to facilitate their growth.