Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven

Since Tim is gone, I thought I would back him up by writing a Tim-Style Post.  i.e. throw out a controversial LDS doctrine in sort of a challenging way and then open it up for comments.

Few Mormon doctrines are more radically paradigm-shifting than the believe in the existence of a Heavenly Mother.

What equally interesting to me is what this particular doctrine tells about how Mormonism works.

I think Evangelicals often stand with open-mouth when they read that those crazy Mormon’s believe such things because they are nowhere to be found in the Bible.  Aside from being a radical shift in understanding of God and Man between Protestants and Mormons, the doctrine also shows a fundamental difference in the way Mormons form their personal theology vs. the way Evangelicals seem to go about it.  This is what I want to explore with this post.  To try to explain to bible-focused (limited?) Evangelicals why Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven, even when its not in the bible.  For this I am going to have to call on the usual bunch of commentators.

Few people, if any, know the ultimate origin of the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven.  Joseph Smith does not seem to have spoken directly about it in his life and there is no reference in the LDS Canon.

The first time we see it in writing comes from a woman, Eliza R. Snow, in a hymn, “O My Father”  President Kimball acknowledged that “O My Father” was a “doctrinal hymn” and dozens of prophets and apostles have reiterated this idea.

President Lorenzo Snow explained that Eliza Snow got the doctrine from Joseph shortly before he was murdered.

President Spencer W. Kimball in a general conference address:

“When we sing that doctrinal hymn … ‘O My Father,’ we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less?” (Ensign, May 1978, p. 6.)

The doctrine of the hymn is pretty straightforward, there is a mother in heaven and we will return to live with Her and the Father, and that they together sent people on their mission to earth:

I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Let me come and dwell with you.
With your mutual approbation
All you sent me forth to do,
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

So there we have it, a revolutionary new way of looking at God and heaven that turns traditional notions on their ear.

Mormons believe it, but I can see the Evangelicals left scratching their heads:

  1. The doctrine is not found in scripture, including Mormon Scripture
  2. The doctrine was not explicitly taught or explained by Joseph Smith (even though it is pretty clear that he was claimed that he originally  taught the doctrine)
  3. It really shifts away from all traditional interpretations of the Bible.

I can see how an Evangelical is probably left dumbfounded:  “You can’t win with those Mormons, how can I teach them correct theology whenthey are going to beleive stuff like this with such slim support or understanding?”

Here we have, in my mind, the genius as well as the vulnerability of  Mormonism. . . our willingness to believe in things that are not in the Bible.  To some Mormons, this doctrine is very uncomfortable.  We sometimes downplay it and even reproach those that make “too much” of it due to the little we “know” about it.  To others, agreeing with Eliza R. Snow, it makes religion make more sense: i.e. “If man is made in the image of God, why wouldn’t there be family in heaven as well as on earth. ”

I think if we can give a good explanation to our Evangelical friends  of why we believe this doctrine, they will be a lot closer to really understanding Mormonism.  (and we might have a clearer way of understanding our own view of how “doctrine” is born).

So Mormons, explain to Evangelicals :

1. Do you believe in a Mother in Heaven? and

2. Why?

3. What is the significance of the doctrine to you, to the Church, and to the world?

Evangelicals, we know you don’t believe it, and we know its not in the Bible, if you try to understand why we believe you may learn a lot about Mormonism in general that will enlighten you on how we do religion in other areas.

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68 thoughts on “Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven

  1. Here we have, in my mind, the genius as well as the vulnerability of Mormonism. . . our willingness to believe in things that are not in the Bible

    I would extend this to canonized scripture, not merely to the Bible. As Gerald Lund once put it, many members simply assume that “the Church teaches many principles which are accepted as doctrines but which the First Presidency has seen no need to declare in an official pronouncement.” (>>)

    we know its not in the Bible

    Some Mormons and evangelicals would argue that it is in the Bible, namely references to the queen of heaven. The problem of course is that such references are denunciations. I recommend Kevin Barney’s, “How To Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Getting Excommunicated)”. He responded to another Mormon’s concerns this way:

    Your complaint about undermining the authority of reform prophets is where the rubber really hits the road, and I think it’s your strongest point. I knew this was going to be tough for rank and file Mormons to accept. We tend to want to read the scriptures as being univocal, without development, and if one prophet was negative on a practice then it’s a bad practice and all prophets would agree.

    Just recently I had to counsel with a man in another state who used to be in my ward, because his BYU attending son had learned of Adam-God. His son said in effect, Look, this isn’t a trifle, it’s on the nature of God. It’s something as important as can be. And BY as prophet taught this. So it either has to be true and the Church is in apostasy for not teaching it, or the prophets are wrong altogether and they have no authority. We’ve raised a whole generation of Saints with such linear thinking about prophetic infallibility that we can’t handle the nuances, and there really are a lot of them beyond the obvious A-G example.

    The truth is that the winners get to write the history, and it was those who rejected Asherah who largely redacted or wrote the OT as we have it today. There is, quite frankly, a lot of political spin in the OT. I recognize that we get really nervous when we start talking about spin in the scriptures. So I don’t blame anyone, including you, for not wanting to follow me there.

    To be clear, most Mormons don’t even know about “Asherah” (I didn’t either till recently). But the exchange between Kevin Barney and the other Mormon I think are good reflections of the kind of internal conflict Mormons can feel when trying to relate doctrine to canonized scripture.

    On another note, the kind of fringe ways of dealing with this subject and the degree to which some LDS are willing to kick against basic Mormon tradition surprise me. Paul Owen, who is in the good graces of LDS academics and apologists, wrote,

    Some Mormons understand our “heavenly parents” in terms of the Father and the Holy Spirit for example… I wasn’t denying that the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is officially taught. However it has never been officially defined or interpreted in terms of God the Father having a wife (though that is commonly assumed). Some Mormons understand Heavenly Mother as the Holy Ghost, others as a reference to a feminine aspect within the being of God, and I have even seen it suggested that Jesus is the Mother figure, as the one through whom mankind was created in the image of God (”let us make man in our image” being applied to the Father and the Son)… The LDS Church has never defined the Heavenly Mother language in a prescriptive manner. It is not an official teaching that God has a wife. The view that the “Heavenly Mother” actually refers to the feminine aspect of the being of God was advocated by Erastus Snow, himself an apostle. The language used in the statements of the First Presidency on the Origin of Man and Evolution (which vaguely speak of “the universal Father and Mother”) are ambiguous enough to allow for this alternative interpretation…

    I know for a fact that Roger Keller, who teaches religion at BYU, does not believe God has a wife. At least that’s what he told me a few years ago. Nor does Blake Ostler (a very well known and respected Mormon theologian). It was Richard Sherlock (an LDS philosophy professor at Utah State University) whom I believe I first heard suggest the possibility that Jesus could be our heavenly mother, given his co-participation with the Father in creation (”let us make man in our image . . . So God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them”). It is interesting for instance, that in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul grounds the ordering of the genders in the relationality within the Trinity between the Father and the Son.

    There is a strain of piety within Western Christianity that has long conceptualized Jesus as a nurturing heavenly mother figure. This is especially evident in Anselm and Julian of Norwich. So it’s not like such theological moves are lacking in precedent. And yes, before someone asks, many Mormon theologians do want to be in conversation with the wider Christian theological tradition, so voices like Anselm do matter in these discussions.

    As for views that would relate Heavenly Mother to the Holy Ghost, or a feminine aspect within the divine being, see Bergera, Line Upon Line, pp. 98, 106.

    I don’t deny that the language of Heavenly Parents and the Universal Father and Mother suggests that God has a wife. Likewise, the fact that (they teach) God the Father has a physical body suggests that he was once a man like us. But suggestions and prescribed teachings with official definitions are not exactly the same thing. When a doctrine is not officially defined, it allows LDS theology considerable room for creative engagement with the wider theological tradition. When you participate in forums like the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (as I do most every year), and enter into open conversation with those sorts of people, who are very much insiders (not liberal LDS apostates), it becomes apparent that the boundaries of “official” Mormon doctrine are a lot more fluid and flexible than evangelical apologetic literature would convey.”

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

  2. Yeah, if Aaron hadn’t pointed it out, I would have. There are Mormons asserting that Heavenly Mother (aka – Asherah) actually IS in the Bible.

    For myself, I find the scriptural and historical arguments Barney and Peterson raise on the subject to be pretty compelling. You combine this with a lifelong Mormon assumption of a Heavenly Mother, the recent Proclamation on the Family – which declares gender to be an eternal characteristic both of God and human beings, and my own internal desire for theological parity among genders, and you’ve got a pretty strong belief in Heavenly Mother as both the wife of God the Father, and the ultimate aim of LDS women.

    I also find hints at the Holy Ghost being Mother to be interesting. The doctrinal basis for the Holy Ghost being presumptively male seems pretty weak to me, and the newer so-called “Gnostic Gospels” like the Gospel of Thomas delineate the Holy Ghost as female. So I’m totally willing to buy into it.

    But there’s that problem of the Holy Ghost being a personage of spirit. Since our aim of mortality in Mormon theology is to gain a body so we can “be like Heavenly Father” it seems a little out-of-place to have an unembodied Mother.

    My own pet theory is that God the Father is actually composed of a husband-wife couple, then you have Jesus – the Son, and the Holy Ghost – the daughter.

    Has an attractive sort of symmetry to it. But it plays heck with scriptures laying out a “Holy Trinity.” How do you have a “Trinity” when there are four personages? Unless you are willing to submerge the Mother’s identity within the Father to a degree that my feminist sensibilities are not entirely comfortable with…

    But if you don’t want to go that route, then what?

    What do Mormon women really have to shoot for in the hereafter? For Mormon men, it’s simple – we aim to become like Father. But Mormon women?

    Well, to a certain extent, they are aiming to “become like Father” too. But the presence of Mother complicates things. Shouldn’t LDS women be aiming to become “like mother?”

    Well, what does mother do?

    Is She an equal partner with God sharing the same sovereignty, omnipotence, and authority that He does in equal and absolute share?

    Or is she an eternal subordinate following the counsel of her husband and deferring to Him?

    Or is she, as one creative commenter on Zelophehad’s daughters suggested, and part of an outside cosmic council of Eloheim’s wives who dictate the course of the universe and basically give Eloheim and the Trinity instructions to be carried out. Kinda like Congress in early US history telling the President what to do…

    It’s all rank speculation of course. We have no real clue. It could be any one of the above, or none at all for all we know. Simply declaring that “we have a Mother” doesn’t give us enough to go on really.

    Which is too bad, because the time and societal context of the modern LDS Church seems more than ripe for a bold new vision of womanhood.

    Alas, we still walk in darkness here.

  3. Jared ~ Here’s how I feel about this whole Heavenly Mother thing.

    Gender is tremendously important in the LDS church. I think it’s safe to say that it is doctrine that: (1) a sealing between a man and a woman is required for exaltation, which means gender has salvific qualities; (2) you will always be the gender that you are right now, and (3) you have always been the gender that you are right now, in the pre-existence and before that. If I’m wrong on any of those, correct me. I’m very, very open to being wrong.

    I’ve often pointed out that functionally, the LDS church isn’t very different from a hard complementarian evangelical church in regards to its gender roles, but there are some key differences. I’ve never been to an evangelical church that had gender-segregated meetings from ages 12 and up (yes, I’m aware that the segregation can start earlier depending on ward). The LDS church stresses different gender roles and functions from a very early age and places more weight on those roles than any form of Christianity that I know of. It’s not uncommon for evangelical churches to have special gender meetings, but they’re not as frequent or as important to evangelical life as the LDS ones.

    The point of all this is, if gender is so important to who we are and comes with such prescribed roles, and if the ultimate destiny of women is to become goddesses, it seems like a Heavenly Mother ought to exist. And if God the Father has a physical body and looks like a human man, and men were created in the image of God, who were women created in the image of? Did God just decide to improve on the original design or something? I don’t want to inhibit the freedom of Mormons to interpret their own doctrine, but given their other doctrines, it makes little sense to me that HM doesn’t exist.

    Even if you do think she exists though… so little said or known about such an important thing. No one knows what HM does or even whether there’s just one HM. She isn’t a person and she isn’t a doctrine, she’s just a whisper in someone’s mind, trotted out to explain the church’s stance on gender when it’s convenient and then just as quickly trotted back into obscurity. Bottom line, I just don’t think the LDS church has a very satisfying answer to its stance on gender.

    I should note that I would like this to not become another women-and-the-priesthood topic, so if anyone brings that up in reply to me please try to keep it brief.

    Aaron ~ That quote from Owen is very interesting. Thanks for sharing it. A few weeks ago we discussed what evangelicals think of God & Jesus being a man, and I find it interesting that the LDS theologians who don’t think there is a HM came to some of the same conclusions I did on God & gender, that God and Christ must have something feminine to their natures.

    Roger Keller was one of my favorite profs at BYU. Wish I’d thought to ask him more about his views on HM. I’m probably going to see Kevin Barney next weekend in Chicago and I imagine we’ll have plenty to discuss re: his Asherah paper.

  4. Jared “Tiny Tim” C: excellent post!

    if we can give a good explanation…why we believe this doctrine, they will be a lot closer to really understanding Mormonism:

    1. Do you believe in a Mother in Heaven? and

    2. Why?

    3. What is the significance of the doctrine to you, to the Church, and to the world?

    Well, obviously I’m the wrong Mormon to respond here because:

    1) No.

    2) Because I have next to nothing to go on.

    3) None—though I recognize that it is profoundly important to others. I don’t see how this doctrine, one way or the other, would significantly change my beliefs/actions/etc.

    Seth: I’m trying to understand your position. You believe in a HM, that she embodied, but that there is not sex in heaven—and I take this to mean that you do not believe in viviparous spirit birth… What’s the need to have a mother and father in heaven—why not just one or the other? What is it that HF cannot do if he doesn’t have a HM with him (or vice versa)?

    Jack: “And if God the Father has a physical body and looks like a human man, and men were created in the image of God who were women created in the image of?” I don’t think that point is as sticky as you do. What does that mean “in the image of”? Obviously, the phrase allows for a great deal of variation between men and God; males come in diverse shapes, sizes, colors. Women and men are just so similar physically that I don’t see why they need two separate molds to be “in the image of.” That said, I think the rest of your points are quite strong and interesting.

  5. Oh, I don’t necessarily think there is no sex in heaven. I just don’t see any particular reason to think that that is how spirit babies are made. I think there is no particular reason why a resurrected being couldn’t have sex. But we don’t really have any basis for saying what “heavenly sex” is for. So it’s not worth spending much time thinking about (though I may change my mind on that point).

    I think the way suggestions of “celestial sex” are handled by countercult ministries is reprehensible and purely an attempt on their part to argue via shock value. Religious pornography if you will.

  6. Jack said: “The point of all this is, if gender is so important to who we are and comes with such prescribed roles, and if the ultimate destiny of women is to become goddesses, it seems like a Heavenly Mother ought to exist. And if God the Father has a physical body and looks like a human man, and men were created in the image of God, who were women created in the image of? Did God just decide to improve on the original design or something? I don’t want to inhibit the freedom of Mormons to interpret their own doctrine, but given their other doctrines, it makes little sense to me that HM doesn’t exist.”

    This seems to be the somewhat the same reasoning that Eliza R. Snow gives in “O My father”

    “Truth is reason.”

    Interesting idea.

  7. Okay, my bad, but the sex in heaven part was just to get at whether you believe that spirits are created/born (through whatever process requiring a male and female god-couple), or whether spirits are eternal (neither created nor destroyed). If the later, what is the need for a god-couple?

  8. Brian ~ I can see that not being too big of a hang-up I guess. Here’s something interesting though: in Genesis, the Hebrew word for man ( אִישׁish) does not occur in the Bible until Genesis 2:23, when God presents the woman to him and he calls her אִשָּׁה (ishah, woman); up until that point he’s simply called הָאָדָם, “the earthling.” I don’t think that’s coincidence. The implication is that the man wasn’t a man until the woman was there, too.

    If God is so literally a man, I just can’t see Him not having a woman. Would He really be a man without one?

    That isn’t actually a problem to me as an evangelical since I don’t think God is eternally male. I’m just playing with the LDS system.

  9. Why shouldn’t a church that believes in human interference with the Bible, that believes men altered it and removed precious truths, which emphasizes family structure into the eternities, and deliberately declares a Heavenly Mother… why shouldn’t such a church embrace the passages on Asherah, the “Wisdom Literature” etc.?

  10. Finally got around to reading Kevin’s paper. Now I get why you don’t like Wisdom Christology.

    I’d like to know if there’s any evidence that ancient Israelites believed Wisdom = Asherah other than just “hey they’re both feminine.” But that’s probably something to bug Kevin about when I see him next week.

  11. I have felt the powerful presence of a divine feminine, but in a decidedly non-Mormon (and non-Christian altogether) context.

  12. I am personally much more interested in experience’s like Kullervo describes. Theology doesn’t mean a lot to me, or even scripture, when it is not clear and supported by experience.

    What does it matter if there is a Heavenly Mother if we never hear from her?

  13. Seth~ I would suggest that almost all of the trepidation behind Heavenly Mother belief is political. Mormons don’t like to be seen as weird.

    The Church’s official reaction to a recent Newsweek article is instructive:

    Newsweek said: “(God) also has a divine wife, whom Mormons call the Mother.”

    CJC-LDS said: “The Mother” is not a term that is used among Church members, in Church meetings, classes or lesson manuals. While the official Proclamation on the Family affirms that each human being is a beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents, there are no teachings about a Heavenly Mother in Latter-day Saint scripture.”

    see full reaction: http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/clarifications-to-religion-writers-and-editors-regarding-newsweek-report

  14. Nope, no close encounters with a divine feminine here, and I can’t say I’m looking. In fact I’m not even sure I’d call my encounters with God masculine. What does masculine v. feminine feel like?

    I do think the church is doing quite a bit of dancing with acknowledging the existence of “heavenly parents” on a statement on gender roles, but not formally declaring HM. Well played, Mormon church, well played.

  15. My wife caught our 2 year old son breaking eggs on the kitchen floor last week. He wasn’t looking either.

    But boy did he ever find out.

  16. Jack: that ish/ishah is very interesting. I’m sure you can see how some LDS will hold that up as proof that Mormonism is right on the marriage issue. And to be clear: I think it makes sense within the LDS paradigm that there are both a HF and HM, but “making sense” and “being so” are not the same thing. That’s why I said I am agnostic.

    btw, I think some LDS are reluctant to make definitive statements about HM because they are open to the possibility that there are multiple HMs—and that’s where the “doctrine” really raises questions.

    Jared: “I would suggest that almost all of the trepidation behind Heavenly Mother belief is political. Mormons don’t like to be seen as weird.” My trepidation is entirely due to not wanting to invent a doctrine. After all the doctrines we openly proclaim, do you really think HM doctrine is that weird? Like Jack points out, it’s maybe even more weird if we don’t believe in a HM.

  17. Brian ~ that ish/ishah is very interesting. I’m sure you can see how some LDS will hold that up as proof that Mormonism is right on the marriage issue.

    I know. It’s a good thing Mormons don’t actually care about Bible exegesis or else they might find more biblical arguments for their beliefs.

    Whoops… did I say that out loud?

    I don’t blame you for being agnostic on the HM thing. And yes, I do think given Mormonism’s other unquestionably doctrinal teachings on gender, it’s actually weirder to be Mormon and not believe in her. Though at first glance the HM thing sounds weirder to uninitiated outsiders, and the church is deeply concerned with its public image and surface appearance.

  18. Hmm, you know, while I’m fond of the input of our male participants, I’d love to hear about this from some LDS ladies if anyone is lurking. I know Katie Langston has been hanging around, and if katyjane wants to say how she felt about it when she was LDS, that’d be cool too. So if anyone is listening…

    How do you feel about having so much emphasis put on your role as a woman when all of your divine exemplars are male?

    Do you believe in a HM? If not, how do you interpret the church’s emphases on gender? If so, why do you think we know so little about her? Are you satisfied with the old adage about how she’s too precious and God won’t let her be known so that people won’t blaspheme her like they do Him?

    Are you open to the possibility of multiple HMs, i.e. God is a polygamist?

    You guys can ask your wives if you want.

  19. Hmm… since I only recently found this blog.. not sure on whether
    1) I should jump in or
    2) I’m allowed to jump in.

    Lots of you are a lot further in your “theological understanding” than I am, so feel free to correct or stop me.

    But for grins… anyone want to throw in the RC Mary veneration ? Can we consider her the HM of the RC church ? And yes, there’s a lot of people in the RC who have had “Mary experiences”.

    Just a thought.

    In Him
    Mick

  20. Jump in if you want Michael. No requirements for participation I’m aware of – other than being polite.

    Feel free to take us to task at any time if we become too arrogant about our existing, or (more likely in my case) imaginary theological prowess.

    As for Mary in the RC tradition, I will admit I found the parallels interesting. I think the religious impulse toward Mother is likely universal in some form or other. But I’m not sure most Catholics would go so far as to equate Mary with Mother in Heaven as she is conceptualized in the LDS tradition.

  21. If being polite is a requirement, what’s Kullervo still doing here?

    He can stay though. I like his shenanigans.

    I’d love to hear more about the RC view on Mary v. the LDS view.

    I did have an experience with my own mother after she died, and while I certainly think she’s divine now compared to what she was in life, I don’t think that’s quite what Jared was after on experiences with a divine feminine.

  22. Well now, since there was a call for LDS women to weigh in (something I just barely saw this moment), I suppose I’ll dip my toe in the water…

    You know, I’ve never been able to relate to Heavenly Mother.

    I don’t know if it’s just me and the result of some weird message I heard growing up or what, but I have never been particularly comfortable talking about her. I have this vague sense that if she exists, she probably doesn’t approve of me very much.

    After all, she’s so distant, comfortable serving in the background. She never speaks up. And she’s so pure, she won’t even reveal herself to us. I’m like the EXACT OPPOSITE of her. I’m sure a full 72% my jokes send her cringing to the farthest corner of Kolob. 🙂

    I realize that much of this comes from my inability to relate to the gender roles established by the church. I’ve never felt like I fit the bill for what a good Mormon woman is supposed to be–and therefore, the idea that there is this Heavenly Mother who ostensibly lives the life I’m not particularly good at for all eternity is a little bit…I don’t know…discouraging, maybe?

    Anyway, this was kind of a downer comment. Sorry. I’m sure it’s just because I don’t understand the doctrine and haven’t given it enough thought.

  23. I don’t think belief in HM is a requirement to be a Mormon. However, I would expect those who don’t (of mature, temple going Mormons) to a statistical minority. I with Jack, view it as only natural logical progression of our doctrine.

    WRT RC Mary veneration; our Institute choir is singing a rendition of “Regine Celli” for our upcoming concert. For the other Christians I’m sure they’ll accept it as roman Catholic. For us, it’s musical, and if we have to harmonize, we’d harmonize from a HM POV.

  24. Katie, you really ought to read that article by Kevin Barney that Aaron referenced to way at the beginning of this thread. Barney identifies Heavenly Mother as Asherah – a divine feminine figure in early Pre-Exile Israelite worship.

    The name Asherah can be interpreted as “happiness” or “blesssedness.” Fragments of her name are associated with “to set right or straighten” and then “to pronounce happy or call blessed.” Her name is also associated with wisdom. Read through Proverbs and look for the references to wisdom. Chances are pretty good most of those verses were written with our Mother in mind. She is also described as dancing and rejoicing before the Lord in the beginning.

    I agree with Kevin. Heavenly Mother is in the Bible if you know what you are looking for.

  25. Was he denouncing the god Aaron? Or the method of worship?

    I find it telling that Elijah’s campaign to eradicate Baal seems to have left Asherah untouched.

  26. I read all those verses you linked to Aaron. Every last one of them is talking about drink offerings. Seems like more a criticism of the method than the deity. Especially when you have examples of other deities being attacked directly in the Bible (such as Elijah and the priests of Baal).

  27. Seth, regarding Asherah, which passages do you think Kevin Barney was referring to when he spoke of the “winners” (i.e. the reform prophets) writing history?

  28. Katie ~ Thanks for answering. I personally went through an exploratory phase of feeling like I needed to find a divine feminine, and that was when I began considering the possibility of a female Holy Spirit. I ditched it eventually because I realized, why stop at needing God to have the same gender as me? Why not find ways to say that God is 6′ tall with blue eyes, curly brown hair and pale skin? What if I were Asian or black, would I feel the need to find ways of saying God is Asian or black?

    I dunno. I guess I don’t believe a divine feminine exists because I don’t see what’s stopping her from declaring who she is if she does. Why is this backdoor, under-the-table stuff like Kevin’s article necessary?

    I believe that God knows how to relate to me because He made me, and nothing about me (good or bad) surprises Him, and I think He knows how to relate to women because He made gender.

    Oh, and I feel like I’d make a crappy Mormon woman, too. Most days, people’s expectations of me as a woman make me feel like this.

  29. I would say it’s more likely to be an absence of scriptures rather than the presence of existing passages. I say “likely,” because you and I both know this is just my opinion and I’m not a Bible text scholar.

  30. Seth, I read Kevin’s article and enjoyed it. Thanks for the recommendation. It certainly lends some credibility to the concept that she may exist. I didn’t discover too much about her nature, though, and that’s where my inability to relate to her comes in.

    See, it’s not the idea of a Divine Feminine per se that troubles me. It’s the idea of a Divine Feminine within the context of Mormonism. Within the LDS construct, gender is eternal. And not only that, it comes with specific characteristics and roles attached. It only makes sense that the God-version, therefore, is the perfected version of that ideal. When you take someone like me, who has never been able to fit the mold very well, it almost makes godhood seem downright unappealing.

    I’m sure there are other ways of interpreting Her. But barring direct revelation, I don’t know how else to conceive of Her. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why a loving Mother doesn’t come after us if She’s really there. You know?

    Jack, it’s interesting to me that you talk about going through a period of time when you tried to create God in your own image. I think we all do that to a certain extent, especially in our search for Him. I know I have. It’s probably one reason why the LDS concept of God as “one of us” is appealing on many levels. But the more I think about it, the idea of a person-like God just isn’t making a ton of sense to me right now. And tossing gender into the mix really muddies the water! Isn’t it almost crass to think God has or needs…ummmm…”plumbing”?

    I mean, isn’t it possible that God is neither masculine NOR feminine? Or put another way, that there IS a Divine Feminine–but she’s not a separate Person or Being, she’s just God…because God encompasses it all? If you take away the requirement that God must be a glorified Man or Woman, it seems like you actually open God up to be much more.

    *sigh* I don’t know if any of this is making sense. It’s late and I gotta get to bed. But I’d be interested to read people’s thoughts about this… 🙂

  31. Katie, you’ve just hit on one of the key gripes that other Christians have about Mormonism. A lot of them think the human body is “gross.” So they can’t imagine God having one.

  32. It has nothing to do with the body being gross. Jesus has a resurrected body, does that make him gross? The saints will have resurrected bodies too.

    There really isn’t a philosophical problem, per se, with the Father adding a human nature and body to himself either.

    What really bothers Christians is the idea that God’s fundamental deity is necessarily embodied, since embodiment is by definition a kind of limitation—the kind of limitation traditional Christians don’t ascribe to God’s essential nature. In other words, we don’t equate deity with humanity. For God to be embodied requires a kind of hypostatic union, the very thing that happened to Christ.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

  33. madchemist: “I with Jack, view it as only natural logical progression of our doctrine.” No, it’s a natural progression of your doctrine, not all of which your fellow Mormons share. For example, there are some Mormons who believe that God the Father has always been God; probably more believe that he was once a man and became exalted. If you believe the former, however, then it’s very easy to believe that there is no need for a Heavenly Mother. Or, if like some Mormons, you don’t believe in any kind of spiritual birth/creation, then the concept of needing an HM to compliment an HF is proven unnecessary.

    katie: more comments from katie = good. Here’s a thought I stole from someone at New Cool Thang: God is a “divine concert” of exalted beings acting together. I’m not sold on that idea, but I do think it’s worth considering.

  34. Seth, I’m not sure my concern is because I’m grossed out by bodies. In fact, I like bodies quite a bit. I think my point is more that if God the Father is eternally male (in the literal sense), then it follows that there MUST be an eternal Female for there to be balance. But that’s problematic for some of the reasons I’ve talked about. The biggest one is this: if gender is eternal, and gender roles are eternal, then it seems to limit God.

    Like, I’m getting this image of God asking Heavenly Mother to refill His buffalo wings while He watches the BYU game on the bigscreen.

    (Okay, I’m not really getting that image. But if God has a big screen, I bet it’s the biggest in the whole Universe.)

    On the other hand, if God is less literally “manlike,” if He is simply everything that is good, then He CAN be masculine and feminine in Himself–not because He *is* those things literally, but because He transcends them.

    Of course, that doesn’t necessarily answer how and why Jesus has a literal, physical body. Evangelicals, do you guys say He is eternally male?

    Brian: God is a “divine concert” of exalted beings acting together.

    You’re blowin’ my mind. Will have to think about that one more.

  35. Katie ~ We discussed Jesus’s gender in detail here. Long story short, while I think He has a male body, I do think there is something both masculine and feminine to Him, and in theory I don’t think the second person of the Trinity had to incarnate as a male. I feel the same way about God, that He has elements of both genders. I don’t see any way that both men and women were made in the image of God if God is literally and eternally male. “He” is more of a point of reference to me.

  36. Pingback: God & Humanity « ClobberBlog

  37. THe only thing left out of here was that Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven, so if there is a Heavenly Mother, she’s shacking up with Heavenly Father. We can’t accept that.

  38. I am not Mormon and am however a believer in Jesus Christ. I have always known that there is a heavenly mother. We in private of course called her the great mother. We are not pagan as we believe in God the Father , Jesus Christ the son and the holy spirit who despite mans attempt to hide the fact thatthat holy spirit is the comforter, the nurturer, and the eternal mother one in the same. My family goes back for hundreds of years and many of us knew precisely of her existence and her importance.in the old days some of us were even murdered for our beliefs. if ever there was a time in history that we needed her nurturing it is today. Blessings to all.

  39. Well, you have particular beliefs that are different from the beliefs of other Christians. Whether or not you have a name for that, it’s a thing that can be meaningfully talked about.

  40. The belief in the great mother was an ancient belief system that accompanied the belief in god the father. It was the patriarchal mindset and will of mankind that all traces of her were to be removed. Thus it has come down through the ages that man has dominion over the woman which is the furthest thing from the truth. They are equal partners and to be equally revered and honored.

  41. The belief in the Mother is many thousands of years old. Stone carvings of her that have been carbon date tested have been found on almost every continent in the world and are some of them tens of thousands of years old. Do the homework as to her authenticity and history. There are volumes of records about the belief in her since even before recorded history. Blessings to Her, the Father, and the Son.

  42. Do the homework as to her authenticity and history.

    Yeah… that’s not how burdens of proof generally work.

    There are volumes of records about the belief in her since even before recorded history.

    I see what you did there.

  43. Heavenly other is not mentioned in Scripture because Her name would be used in vain by mankind and She is saved from that possible sin of mankind. As bad as it is to use the Sabvior’s name in vain, how bad would denigrating our Mother’s name be?

  44. Alan, you are so sure about your belief but it also is not either biblical or book of Mormon founded. Show me the text. There is an understanding that you do not have. I do not say that to be disrespectful, I do so to help us get to the truth. SHOW ME THE TEXT.

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