32: Heavenly Mother in Today’s Mormonism

May 17, 2011
By

The most recent issue of BYU Studies features the article, “ ‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven,” co-written by David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido. (Here is a link to the article and also a blog post on it by Joanna Brooks.) The article presents an overview of research that attempted to find every printed or recorded mention of Mother in Heaven or Heavenly Parents by LDS leaders. It is a great piece of scholarship and much needed.

In this podcast discussion, host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Martin Pulido (article co-author), Tresa Edmunds, and Joanna Brooks present an overview of the BYU Studies article’s key findings, as well as significant statements and moments in the history of this doctrine, but then ventures beyond historical reporting and into broader territories. What is the nature of the discourse about Heaven Mother in today’s LDS Church? What ideas about God the Mother hinder vigorous discussion or advancement of this important doctrine, and how can these challenges be met gracefully? What might the future hold for this teaching? How does Mother in Heaven affect the panelists’ own faith?

This podcast is a bit longer than most other Mormon Matters episodes. We think you’ll find the extra listening time to be worth it, though! The podcast also contains what might possibly be the first one-liner joke in the history of this discussion topic. (It’s in good taste, of course, courtesy of the quick mind of Joanna Brooks.) After listening, we hope you’ll join the discussion below!

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  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised and disappointed that the panel did not coverone of the most significant aspects of this whole Mother in Heaven issue. They touched upon it, but quickly drew back and avoided it.

    That aspect is the obvious motivation behind the official silent treatment Mother in Heaven gets. Acknowledging her too much, and certainly allowing members to pray to her, threatens the patriarchy. There’s too close a connection between developing a close relationship to a female God and seeking her out in prayer, and the demand for women to hold the priesthood.

    No, there’s no smoking-gun evidence for this motive, but it’s easily deduced by the simple fact that the leaders of the church are diligent in guarding the patriarchy, plus there’s no other compelling motive available to account for the policy.

    I see this as an outrageous circumstance, and I’d like to offer an analogy to illustrate why.

    The analogy of our relationship with God being compared to a family arrangement is ubiquitous and well established in the church. He is our Father, and we are his children. When the relationship is extended to include the Divine Feminine, we cast her in the same terminology: Mother in Heaven. The whole plan of salvation centers on this eternal family of Heavenly Parents and their offpsirng, of whom we are. This means we are all brothers and sisters, which concept we officially confirm with our habit of addressing each other as Brother and Sister.

    To extend this analogy to its logical conclusion, the leaders of the church are our brothers who are claiming authority over us. And our brothers are telling us we are not allowed to talk to our Mother. Daughters are not allowed to talk or seek help from or commune in any way with their Mother.

    In any other family sitution, this would not be tolerated. Yet within the context of the eternal family from an LDS perspective, it’s considered the natural order of things. And all this so the authoritative brothers can keep their sisters in their place.

    This is unconscionable! It casts a disturbing pall over the behavior of this church. I can see no acceptable reason to perpetuate such a policy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tresa-Brown-Edmunds/100000073068938 Tresa Brown Edmunds

      Shoot! Didn’t hit Reply!

      If you read Martin’s article dmichael, you’ll find lots of church
      leaders speaking openly about her, which I think makes what you describe
      as an obvious motivation far less likely. The outcome may be the same,
      but I do think there are a lot of motivations beyond a conscious goal of
      keeping women in their place. 

      • Anonymous

         I haven’t read the article yet, but the podcast already alluded to them, so I don’t see them as affecting what I wrote. I tied the motivation to the speech Hinckley gave, which was a clear low point in how this issue has been handled. Only a fool would claim there isn’t a sense of trepidation surrounding this topic that’s felt throughout the church since then. There has to be some causative motivation for this situation, and I see no other one than the one I suggested. You’re welcome to offer a counter-proposal if you have one.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tresa-Brown-Edmunds/100000073068938 Tresa Brown Edmunds

          It’s hard to discuss this when you’re happy not having all the information. The podcast alluded to over 600 positive references to Her, the article goes into a great deal more depth including categorizing those references and proving the honored role She has in our doctrine. With 600 positive references to Her going far beyond “she exists,” focusing on one admittedly low point and claiming that it represents a conspiracy to keep women down is, in my opinion, inaccurate and incomplete.

          As I said in the podcast, I think the trepidation on the part of the members is a hypervigilance to circumstances they aren’t privy to, combined with her absence in the temple.

          The trepidation on the part of the prophets could be everything from a conspiracy, to not asking for further revelation, to not being comfortable elaborating on doctrine, to being stuck in their perspective that doesn’t feel the need for a Heavenly Mother, to begging for further revelation and just not receiving any yet. I don’t think there’s anything obvious about your conclusions at all.

          None of these reasons change the problematic effect this doctrine being downplayed has on the members, particularly on women, but I don’t believe for a minute that She’s being maliciously kept from us in order to shut up us uppity women.

          • Anonymous

            What does that mean: “happy not having all the information”? Because I haven’t had the time yet to read the article, after investing an hour and 40 minutes in the podcast? That’s pretty cold.

            Something motivated Hinckley’s comments, and it sure doesn’t sound like anything positive. If, after over 600 positive references to Mother in Heaven, he suddenly comes out with that “low point,” I’m sorry but I have to ask, why? Especially when that one “low point” has profoundly impacted the treatment of Mother in Heaven in this church ever since. Your own podcast described how that event blindsided many members, and sent a chill through the church on the subject.

            I still welcome your scenario on why you think it happened. I don’t mean why the members reacted to it the way they did, which is what your comments on her absence in the temple etc. are addressing, but why the sudden switch to a negative approach officially happened in the first place. If the motivation isn’t malicious, then what is it?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tresa-Brown-Edmunds/100000073068938 Tresa Brown Edmunds

            Not cold, a fact. We’re don’t have the same information to draw on to discuss this. That’s hard. It’s not a character flaw, it just makes discussion harder.

            I already did offer you a scenario and I’ll quote it again here:

            The trepidation on the part of the prophets could be everything from a
            conspiracy, to not asking for further revelation, to not being
            comfortable elaborating on doctrine, to being stuck in their perspective
            that doesn’t feel the need for a Heavenly Mother, to begging for
            further revelation and just not receiving any yet. I don’t think there’s
            anything obvious about your conclusions at all.

            If I’ve left you unconvinced, that’s cool. But I wanted to offer a counterpoint to your certainty.

          • Anonymous

            Okay, let’s take these one at a time:

            Conspiracy: this is my scenario, except I wouldn’t label it a conspiracy so much as a natural tendency for a group of people focused on protecting the patriarchy. I don’t think the leaders are really out to get women. They’re just stuck in this mindset that makes it difficult for them to think outside of it, and it colors all their approaches and decisions.

            Not asking for further revelation: this is just a variation on the conspiracy scenario. Why not ask for further revelation? It’s their job!

            Being stuck in the perpective that we don’t need Mother in heaven: yet another variation on the conspiracy scenario. This illustrates even better why I don’t think it’s an actual conscious conspiracy, but a pervading mindset that the leaders can’t get past. How could anyone possibly believe Mother in Heaven is not relevant, especially when a lot of women are saying she is? Your podcast went to great lengths to explainwhy she’s relevant. Someone in Salt Lake City is not listening!

            Asking for revelation but not receiving it: this violates the scriptural promises of “Ask and ye shall receive”; “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, with giveth to all men liberally”; etc. I don’t believe this is a viable scenario. If this is happening, I think there’s some kind of mindset blockage that’s preventing the “begging” from being sincere somehow. And if this really is the scenario, they could just say so from the pulpit. “We’ve asked, but we haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

            Besides, I don’t know why they’d need to ask in the first place, since there’s already the precedent of over 600 positive references to Mother in Heaven in our history.

            I don’t see your suggested scenarios as improving the situation. They seem to me to be more restating what I already said in words that sound more palatable to faithful members who feel squeamish about being critical of church leaders.

            As for my certainty, I’m not certain. I’m trying to figure all this out. I simply haven’t come up with a viable alternative to my scenario. When there seems to be only one viable scenario, I’d call that in some sense “obvious.”

          • Mary March Newell

             Again, well said.

          • Amelia

            Tresa, while I think it’s lovely that there are over 600 mentions of a Heavenly Mother in the 181 year history of our church, that begins to dim when you think about how many mentions of a Heavenly Father there are.  I did a very quick Google search of http://www.lds.org for a small comparison: 134,000 mentions of God or Heavenly Father or Elohim; only 740 mentions of Heavenly Mother, Mother in Heaven, or Goddess.  That’s 181 mentions of our male God for every one mention of our female God.  That’s 4 mentions per year of our female God and 740 mentions per year of our male God.  And that’s just what’s archived on the church’s official website; I imagine were we to compile all of the mentions from our entire historical record, the numbers would be even more imbalanced.

            I simply cannot buy these numbers as evidence that we don’t have a functional silence about Heavenly Mother.  If this were the situation in any typical family, we would not hesitate to name it as the abusive situation it is.  If in my family of 38 individuals my mother was only mentioned 4 times per year, but my father was mentioned 740 times per year–well no one could see that as anything *but* an abusive silence about my mother.  Yet in this church, which we do conceive of as a family, we live with this situation and don’t bat an eyelash about it.  At least not in any official context.  

            I appreciate the work that Paulsen and Pulido did to illustrate that there is a consistent history of acknowledging the existence of God the Mother and of her involvement in the various aspects of creation and existence.  However, rather infrequent (to put it mildly) mention does not counter what is clearly a functional silence about her.  And the article has some pretty problematic apologetics in it (for instance the notion of worshiping her indirectly by worshiping God the Father–see page 80 of the article).

          • Martin Pulido

            Hey Amelia,

            I laugh that i saw this comment two years later, but I thought I would add this here. You and other commentators on our article seem to be conflating “mentions”/”references” with “sources.” It is not correct that we found 600 references to Heavenly Mother in our research. We found around 600 unique sources (a source being an article, a book, a poem in a periodical; something essentially self-contained) that refer to Heavenly Mother. Why would this matter? There are often multiple references/mentions within these sources, and this doesn’t account for repeats (such as when an article is reprinted in various works). If we translated this into your format, it could end up being 4000-5000 references (I haven’t tallied each one, but it could easily even exceed that range). Thus, you can see how your statement can misrepresent our findings.

            That being said, you are right that there is still a gross discrepancy. I don’t think any research could suggest otherwise, historically!

            As for the “apologetics” (which I didn’t see as being apologetics), I don’t know what is problematic with it. I think it was more noting an issue of consistency. If we are saying that part of what makes Gods worship worthy is their divine relationality via sealings, that they are only Gods by being joint, does not this imply some worship on behalf of Heavenly Mother? The comment wasn’t designed to reinforce the status quo, but to question the meaning of worship and who it is directed to. Interesting that depending on how you read it, it can be seen as apologetics.

    • Laurel Cannon Rogers

      dmichael–Small world.  I was looking at the article/podcast by my son-in-law (Martin Pulido) and look who I run across!

      • Anonymous

        There’s nowhere in the world safe from me.

    • Mary March Newell

       Very well said! :)

    • celestial9513

       Very well said.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to address other aspects of the Mother in Heaven issue as it relates to current issues the church is dealing with. These aspects were also touched upon in the panel, but I’d like to explore them further.

    We’re familiar with the “red flag” mentioned in the discussion of Gordon B. Hinckley’s speech about Mother in Heaven, and I’ve expressed my conviction in my post above as to the motive behind it: to protect the patriarchy.

    Yet the concept of Mother in Heaven is deeply embedded in the doctrines of the church about the plan of salvation. There are plenty of pronouncements in modern scripture and from authoritative leaders that we have Heavenly Parents, which include a Father and Mother. But becuase of the threat an authoritative God the Mother poses to the patriarchy, this doctrine is played down as much as possible.

    Then the issue of homosexuality comes to the forefront.

    Suddenly Mother in Heaven becomes a valuable commodity instead of a liability. The deeply ingrained religious bias against homosexuality is alive and well within the LDS Church. Fortunately its doctrine has a ready-made objection to same-sex relations. It violates the plan of salvation!

    But for that objection to fly, we have to bring Mother in Heaven back into the spotlight. It’s not terribly viable to claim homosexuality violates the plan of salvation unless there are procreative heterosexual couples that continue into the eternities. If everyone is single and no one procreates in the eternities, then homosexuality becomes a moot point there, and the argument against it becomes much ore difficult to make.

    But eternal heterosexual couples that procreate means exaltation, and exaltation means godhood. And now Mother in Heaven needs to be emphasized again to vividly illustrate the point. So the Proclamation on Families is issued, which validates the concept of Heavenly Parents (including a Mother), and everyone knows that the Proclamation was motivated by the battle against homosexuality.

    But now the church must walk a treacherous tightrope. On the one hand, it needs Mother in Heaven to combat homosexuality. On the other hand, emphasizing her too much empowers females in the church, and that threatens the patriarchy. The church has ensconced itself between a rock and a hard place with Mother in Heaven.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tresa-Brown-Edmunds/100000073068938 Tresa Brown Edmunds

    If you read Martin’s article dmichael, you’ll find lots of church leaders speaking openly about her, which I think makes what you describe as an obvious motivation far less likely. The outcome may be the same, but I do think there are a lot of motivations beyond a conscious goal of keeping women in their place.

    • womanwithnofeartoquestionman

      The world keeps spinning because there is always woman defending men in their selfishness and womanphobia. I said well man not priesthood.

  • Anonymous

    My final thoughts on this issue.

    The podcast discussion brings up some promising hints that changes may be in the wind in regards to the standing of women in the church. The status of these hints seem at the level of hunches and hope right now more than anything substantial, but for the sake of discussion, I’d like to postulate that they’re real.

    The question then arises, what do they mean? And what’s motivating them? The panel suggested they might be a result of grass roots inspiration as harbingers of change to come through revelation. I concede that’s a theoretical possibility within the context of LDS beliefs.

    But I’m too cynical to be satisfied with that idealistic explanation. The church has shown in the past–including the change that took place with Blacks in 1978–that such dramatic, even revelatory changes often come through more gradual, mundane processes.

    Could these “hints” be little trial balloons unofficially floated out there to  see how the changes are received, or to condition members to be more receptive to the changes when they come, or both? Or are they more along the lines of PR, as the pressure increases for the church to appear more mainstream to the world at large (such pressure partially caused by the possible candidacy of Mitt Romney or Jon Hunstman)?

    This PR aspect is not unprecedented. As the Internet has destroyed all hope of keeping the more unpleasant aspects of church history under wraps, and as the leadership of the church has finally figured this out, they’ve been taking steps to proactively release information themselves, most notably with the Joseph Smiths papers project.

    I can see the “hints” of a change mentioned in the podcast as being of the same cloth. Even while the controversy of the Blacks-and-the-priesthood policy remains raw in this country 33 years afters it was supposedly fixed, the claims of sexism are only getting worse, and that doesn’t help the image of the church. Are these “trial balloons” merely a vanguard effort to soften the sexist perception of the church, not necessarily harbingers of real change?

  • Jeremy

    In the podcast there is reference to a graph that will be posted to the MM site.  Are there any ideas on when that will be posted? 

    • amelia

      Yes! I’d really like to take a look at this graph, too.

  • http://gunarmdyne.blogspot.com/ Dave P.

    I’d just like to offer an alternative view of the whole Mother in Heaven concept. There are those who say that her existence is “too sacred” to touch on and her name is protected from being dragged through the mud by today’s world. However, let’s consider an opposite idea:

    * What if, instead of her concept being too sacred, it is the exact opposite in terms of holiness?
    * What if it was Heavenly Mother who was able to rally the hosts of heaven in open rebellion against the Father in order to usurp His power and establish false gods that will save everyone through control?
    * What if this rebellious wife was able to convince more men than women to join in this rebellion and, as a result of being cast out and becoming the god of this earth, subjected women to 6,000 years of hardship and near-slavery at the hands of controlling men?
    * What if her name was Lucifer?

    It makes sense from a logical standpoint and a friend’s near-death experience supports the claim. I’m just wanting to find some scriptural witness to back it up.

    • Joanna Brooks

      Heavenly Mother = Lucifer?

      That takes the cake.

    • Joanna Brooks

      Heavenly Mother = Lucifer?

      That takes the cake.

      • http://members.cox.net/gfullmer Glen Fullmer

        If we are going to speculate, maybe Jesus’s brother was a sister!  Satan as Jesus’s bother/sister is not traditional Christianity, either. However, there is about as much historical (Non-Mormon) justification for a Mother-in-Heaven as there is Her being Lucifer!  ;-)

      • Jbird

        Heavenly Mother = Lucifer? Dave P., I think I can promise you you will never back that up with scripture. 

        Is that DMichael D. Michael Quinn? Or just a fan? Or just some other dude with the name D. Michael? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tresa-Brown-Edmunds/100000073068938 Tresa Brown Edmunds

      It makes sense from a “logical” stand point? Asking the question does not make a logical argument. I think it’s safe to say that your search for scriptural witness will bear no fruit – just off the top of my head I can tell you that Lucifer is called the Son of Morning. Not the daughter or the mother. The Son.

      Plus there are plenty of positive referrals to her, including in the Proclamation, so that if your suggestion was accurate it would mean that all the revealed knowledge we do have about her would be wrong.

    • Anthony Garrett

       Replacing hyper-literalism with hyper-literalism won’t help anyone. New theology where everything is over-explained won’t help. Instead, like this topic does, we need to seek out those parts of Mormon history which open up to possibilities, both theological and doctrinal, and not further limit the system of belief. That’s at least part of the reason why discussing Heavenly Mother is controversial; in general, we have attempted to create a homogeneous story of the universe and Mormon history, when it really is much more rich and varied.

    • O.M. Armstrong

      This theory parallels nicely with Young’s Adam-God theory. If we’re going to blame woman for the fall of man, then do it right and create an entirely new mythology that matches up perfectly. Maybe the middle age myth of Lilith will provide a few more stepping stones along that path for you. Check it out.

    • Mary March Newell

       Interesting…. Boy if the grief women have had throughout the history of the world for Eve eating from the tree of knowledge first weren’t enough…That would pall in comparison to your claim that Heavenly Mother is Satan, and our “Eternal, Heavenly parents are divorced” or at least seperated…

    • celestial9513

       Also, both Muslem and Jewish Lore, agree that Adam had at least 3 wives. One of whom was Lilleth, for whom the “lullaby” was named, and sung so as to protect infants from her. She was Adam’s first wife, made from the dirt as he was, but was unwilling to be submissive to him, so then Eve was made from his rib and was more submissive…

      • Anonymous

        As a Muslim, I’ve never heard that Adam had three wives.  There’s only one that I know of, Eve…who is called Hawwa in the Qur’an. 

  • truthseeker

     Which heavenly mother is mine? God is, according to LDS doctrine, a polygamist so there are many heavenly mothers. Why assume we all came from the same goddess?

    • James

       ”God is, according to LDS doctrine, a polygamist”

      I hear this all the time and I can ‘t help but think it’s total rubbish. Just because God COULD be a polygamist does not mean that he IS. We can just as accurately assume that we all came from the same goddess as from separate ones.

      • Mary March Newell

         According to LDS Doctrine God would HAVE to be, because the early saints were taught that one couldn’t be exalted without AT LEAST 3 wives!!! Initially Temple Sealings or Eternal Marriages were NOT performed for monogomists…ONLY for those entering the “principle”. Besides that members thought that all that was required for salvation was to be SEALED to the prophet Joseph. According to the Adam/ God theory that was initially part of the endowment, Adam WAS/IS God, and Eve was ONE of his wives… This is consistent with Muslem and Jewish Lore that Both describe Adam as having 3 wives….One of which was Lilleth for whom the term “Lullaby” was formed, sung to protect infants from her as they slept. She being Adam’s first wife, made from the dirt as Adam, but unwilling to submit to him…therefore Eve was formed from his rib, and was more submissive.

        • James

          “According to LDS Doctrine God would HAVE to be, because the early saints
          were taught that one couldn’t be exalted without AT LEAST 3 wives.”

          Source please.

          “Initially Temple Sealings or Eternal Marriages were NOT performed for monogomists…ONLY for those entering the “principle”.”

          Source please.

          ” Besides that members thought that all that was required for salvation was to be SEALED to the prophet Joseph.”

          Source please.

          “According to the Adam/ God theory that was initially part of the endowment, Adam WAS/IS God, and Eve was ONE of his wives”

          This has been rejected as credible doctrine by later prophets. Also, I have never encountered in Mormon writings (from apostles/prophets) acknowledgment of the Lilith myth (not saying they don’t exist, but simply that I’ve never encountered any, which means that a source would be helpful here as well). I know your point is that the two myths resonate with one another, but I’ve always understood the Adam’s multiple wives deal to be a reference to some sort of premortal polygamy, rather than having resonance with Lilith narratives.

          To sum up, you may be right about the early Mormon teachings relating polygamy to celestial rewards and all that, but please provide a source for your information. You are wrong, however, to say that just because something was taught in the early days of the church that it is “LDS doctrine.” LDS history, yes, but LDS doctrine, no. LDS doctrine is a very slippery animal about which people both in and out of the church debate, and for this reason I disagree with the premise of your statement, but I would be interested about the problematic teachings of the early church. I hope you will give me some source information.

  • Martin Pulido

    Dmichael,

    It seems like you are trying to give a hidden psychological motivation reading of LDS leadership and discourse regarding Heavenly Mother. Telling such a story is fine, but I think you should understand why many others (including myself) will be suspicious of such a story: what objective basis does it have? I want to go through some of your claims, and discuss some of the premises.

    (1) “There’s too close a connection between developing a close relationship to a female God and seeking her out in prayer, and the pressure for women to hold the priesthood.”

    I don’t know if there is a strong connection between developing a relationship to deity and seeking them out in prayer. I can’t say I have been very tempted to pray to Jesus or the Holy Ghost, even though I would say I have developed a strong relationship to them. Why is there suddenly a need to seek the person out in prayer because they are a female? I don’t see the pull. However, I will concede that we, in our tendency to anthropomorphize our heavenly parents into our earthly parents, could likely want to talk to a Heavenly Mother as we would our earthly mother (if we had a good relationship with that earthly mother, it could be reverse after all). Thus, the importance is not that the deity is female, but a parent. Jesus is also described as being our father and parent too, so this may not be quite right either. Anyway, whether we should so anthropomorphize (and to what extent) is another question with no immediate answer in my mind. I have enjoyed reading Martha Pierce’s “Personal Discourse on God the Mother,” which explores the wide anthropomorphic imagination of LDS women regarding heavenly mother. For some, she is a woman’s own higher self. For others, she is like a grandmother. Peirce shares one account where heavenly mother is described as an old lady in a rocking chair with a shawl wrapped around her. In another she is like some portrayals of business women–strong, vigorous, and assertive. For others, she is a rational leader. I have speculated whether it is the vagueness of the divine, which allows so many of us to relate and feel comfortable with deity. With all of the various imaginations about what God is really like, perhaps a detailed revelation on the Father or the Mother could be “the Great Disappointment,” for very few would have their image affirmed. I am certain that most would quickly adjust, but it is interesting to consider how vagueness might bring trust and closeness, and the challenges and strengths of anthropomorphization (which includes your analogy in your comment).

    But granted the natural urge to pray to heavenly parents, I think that it only justifies a natural desire to pray to both heavenly parents in conjunction, versus supposing that you will talk to HP about somethings and HM about other things. As deity, they lack the foibles that should keep us from addressing preferences, and they both hear us regardless of who is addressed. Elder Hafen mentioned this in his The Belonging Heart, speaking of “some women [who] pray only to their Mother in Heaven, because they believe that only a being who has a female frame of mind can fully understand a woman-as if the all-knowing God were not really all-knowing.” Now, I have no idea whether or not such women existed, but the point still is worth considering hypothetically. We shouldn’t claim there is something a male or female God just cannot understand that the other can. As for praying to both in conjunction, I noted in the panel that there actually is no specific censorship on this, just that “red flag,” feeling that one is treading on dangerous ground. Now, that could just be the concerns of overzealous LDS, and not the direction of our leaders (always something to consider). I know some have tried to circumvent this issue by just praying to “God,” seeing this as a genderless term referring to both.

    Nonetheless, I think we can respect our church leaders’ reasoning (or Elder Hinckley’s alone) on this topic. It is valuable to look at the tradition and scriptural warrant regarding prayer to deity. And here, I think there is a strong tradition of praying to God the father. This goes without saying in the New Testament/BoM/D&C/POGP, although I think we can question the Old Testament. And the prophetic tradition seems likewise. Elder Hinckley’s remarks do not diverge far from Orson Pratt’s remarks in “Celestial Marriage” in The Seer: “But if we have a heavenly Mother as well as a heavenly Father, is it not right that we should worship the Mother of our spirits, as well as the Father? No; for the Father of our spirits is at the head of His household, and His wives and children are required to yield the most perfect obedience to their great head. It is lawful for the children to worship the King of heaven, but not the ‘Queen of Heaven.’ Although she is highly exalted and honored as the beloved bride of the great King, yet the children, so far as we are informed, have never been commanded to pray to her or worship her. Jesus prayed to his Father, and taught his disciples to do likewise; but we are nowhere taught that Jesus prayed to His heavenly Mother; neither did he pray to the Holy Ghost as his Father. If He were begotten by the Holy Ghost, then He would have called him His Father; but, instead of doing so, the Holy Ghost himself was subject unto Jesus; and he had power to send him as His minister after he returned to his Father.” Clearly, Orson Pratt’s initial reading of households thinks of heaven as being based on some Victorian model; very questionable. That set aside, we can see Pratt alluding to the worship of the “Queen of Heaven” in Jeremiah that was looked down upon, and then to Jesus praying to the Father and teaching his disciples to pray this way. Elder Hinckley uses a similar line of reasoning. I can see why the church hierarchy would not want to diverge quickly from the prophetic and scriptural traditions (seeking to follow a quasi-jurisprudence). And I think they are honest, good men seeking from God further light and inspiration. They are not sitting and thinking of how to reproduce some patriarchal regime to oppress women (and subconscious arguments are poor). In regards to this topic of prayer, I think a good question to ask is if it was so important to pray conjunctively (or singly) to a Heavenly Mother, why aren’t Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother making a stronger effort to change this practice themselves? Clearly, if they wanted to be heard, they could. Now, this is not meant to be a knock down question; there could be plenty of good reasons. But it is at least food for thought. I think it is difficult for our leadership, for they so desire to be led by revelation and not tossed about by every wind of doctrine or modern sensibilities. What do you do as such a church leadership when revelation does not come? You wish to be loyal to God and our traditions, and yet straying too far from modern sensibilities is sure to cause a loss in membership and activity. What would you do if you were a church leader? I don’t think you can “easily deduce” from the church leaders maintaining the current ecclesiastical structure and policies that their motivation is to guard patriarchy and oppress women. I think your account of Elder Hinckley’s talk is remarkably uncharitable, and I think you also mistook what the podcast described as being the immediate response of church membership. Again, I was 7 at the time so I don’t remember any stir, but Tresa noted people in LDS communities thinking, “huh? People are doing that?” I think the event showed the church’s lack of doctrinal/practical continuity between Utah and other LDS communities. Also, I think a lot of historical research should be done around that event before we start assuming what all (or the chief) motives behind Elder Hinckley’s remarks were.

    To return to the issue at hand, I don’t think that the question of praying to heavenly parents is a moot point. As others have pointed out, we do believe in continuing revelation and we do modify our practices and doctrines over time. Thus, adjustments in praying patterns are not impossible. In discussing Christ’s instructions involving prayer, we could observe that Christ taught “after this manner” pray, not “with these words therefore pray.” After all, expressing thanks is a significant portion of our prayers and our church leaders’ prayers, and yet Christ does not express gratitude in the Lord’s prayer (explicitly, at least). I should note that historically there have been prayers to Heavenly Mother/Heavenly Parents. In the panel, I noted the prayer/invocation to our Heavenly Parents sung in “O, My Father.” In the article, I note another poem from Eliza R. Snow written to Mrs. Lyon, where in the trail diary (versus the published version), where Snow states, she “Will with pray’r and supplication/ Plead for thee before the throne/ Of the great eternal mother/ Do not feel thyself alone.” Orson F. Whitney criticized Theodore Parker’s prayers to Father and Mother in heaven for being behind the times, since the Mormons had done this long before. Susa Young Gates, as a general board member of the YMLIA, gave an address in December 1892 at a YLMIA Conference entitled “Duties of Children to Parents,” where she claimed that, “We must impress upon our children what they owe their spiritual parents, that they may pray often to them from a sense of love.” Clearly, Gates felt that such prayers to both heavenly parents were fine, nor does it seem like she was suggesting something that would be shocking to her audience. Praying to both probably wasn’t such a difficult thought then. Lester H. Jones, a Mormon elder, wrote a reworking of Snow’s hymn entitled “O, My Mother.” This hymn invocation to Heavenly Mother was published in the Millennial Star while John A. Widtsoe was editor to be circulated and sung on Mother’s Day. Other forms of devotional literature including written prayers were done by the likes of Willard W. Porter, and in more modern times by Lisa Bolin Hawkins. I am sure there are others. So there are points that can be made on either side of the prayer question, and I think we should respect them both.

    I am not sure if there is a clear connection between priesthood and prayer either. Most will admit HM has authority, as I pointed out in the panel, because mothers are described as having power over their households even now. Since we are all under her household, her authority still applies, regardless of priesthood. So I don’t think recognizing her authority or influence or whatever word you want to apply here necessarily leads to women wanting the priesthood. Tresa and Joanna have pointed this out, and I think it is widely accepted by LDS on the whole (correct me if I am wrong), that men and women jointly share a patriarchal priesthood. After all, they do perform ordinances in the temple. How else to explain this without priesthood? The question is not as much whether women participate in the priesthood, but in what functions do they participate and to what extent? How are they involved in the ecclesiastical structure of the church? On this latter question, I don’t know if HM gives us much of an answer, as Dr. Paulsen and I explore in our article regarding the relationship between HM and the Trinity. But I would be careful between confusing having a relationship with a female deity and a desire for ecclesiastical power. I would recommend reading Amy Hoyt’s “Beyond the Victim/Empowerment Paradigm: The Gendered Cosmology of Mormon Women” in Feminist Theology 16. We need to be careful not to trap Mormon women between narratives of victimization and empowerment, since these can easily obscure the theological motivations guiding their lives, discounting what is central to them. It can end up in a caricature. The question of praying to Heavenly Parents and the relationship between women and the priesthood will continue in the church, and I think from a variety of motivations and issues. I think the church has done a great job so far.

    (2) “To extend this analogy to its logical conclusion, the leaders of the church are our brothers who are claiming authority over us. And our brothers are telling us we are not allowed to talk to our Mother. Daughters are not allowed to talk or counsel or commune in any way with their Mother.”

    I think this is somewhat of an odd comment. If you ever have the leader of a church sharing the will of God (the whole voice of my servants is my voice deal, a pretty common LDS thought I believe), then you accept that the leader is not simply mouthing off wholly his own opinion and claiming his own authority. Mormons accept the parents give their authority to some children to lead and guide the other children. If so, your analogy breaks down. If you do not accept that any are invested as God’s representative, then this seems problematic with Christ (the son telling all those daughters how they should behave and relate to their parents, shame on that son!) and for being Mormon. The relationship you portray reminds me of Greek Gods, where the son seek to overthrow their father. I am also confused about you dividing the men from the women here (brothers from the daughters), because many men (including myself) obey their leaders under the assumption that the parents are with them too. I don’t think I have older brothers ganging up on me, sorry.

    (3) “Suddenly Mother in Heaven becomes a valuable commodity instead of a liability. The deeply ingrained religious bias against homosexuality is alive and well within the LDS Church. Fortunately its doctrine has a ready-made objection to same-sex relations. It violates the plan of salvation!”

    I agree that the church and its members, on the whole, have a bias against homosexuality (mind you that bias is being used here as a descriptive, not a derogatory term). Many, I have heard make offensive and derogatory remarks to and about them as well. We need to work on that as a faith community. However, I think it is problematic to assume that the family proclamation was used as an essentially anti-gay tool. The idea of the family valued by the church has been targeted from many different sectors, and homosexual marriage and homosexuality is only one such factor. However, I disagree that Heavenly Mother is a doctrine that can be specifically used as a ready-made objection to same-sex marriage, as I noted in the panel (I use the word marriage, since the church opposes fornication in all its forms). Just because Heavenly Father and Heavenly mother are married and so exalted through both their characters and divine relationality, you cannot infer that all other people must out of necessity do the same. This is a modal fallacy. Thus, it is conceptually possible to admit of other forms of exaltation. Mormons might think about other forms of exaltation in regards to potentially discovering an intelligent form of life that reproduces asexually or through some other method. The artificial intelligence question could be interesting here too. Of course, those are hypothetical situations, but I think they are worthy of consideration. The point is that the church has only been informed of one form exaltation, through the sealing of men and women, and so we promote that way. If there are others, I think we can say, “we don’t know.” It makes sense to promote what you do know. But a person could accept both gay marriage and belief in a Heavenly Mother; I don’t see the asymmetrical relationship between the two. It doesn’t, out of necessity, violate the plan of salvation. The doctrinal framework used to oppose same-sex marriage extends far beyond Heavenly Mother, so that citing her would not be enough of an objection. It goes into wider claims or requirements for exaltation, Mormon soteriology, etc. Heavenly Mother does not make homosexuality a moot point. But so that there is not any confusion about where I stand, however, I do support the church’s stance on heterosexual marriage. I just don’t think that the church’s stance is dependent (or even significantly based upon) there being a Heavenly mother. The church has not placed itself at all between a rock and a hard place with Mother in Heaven.

    As a final note to truthseeker, I don’t really see the polygamy problem with HM. We need not assume that heavenly father is a polygamist, which is far from LDS doctrine as you seem to believe. We can consider HM without the issue of polygamy at all, as I brought up in the panel. Thus, we should consider what polygamy brings to the table, not what Heavenly Mother brings to the table. Even if heavenly father was a polygamist, what is the big problem with having multiple HMs? Or if we reversed it, 1 HM with multiple HFs? I am not affirming what orders are/are not allowed in heaven, but I don’t think it should terrify us to wonder about the possibilities. The shock value comes out of difference from common modes participated here on earth. The moral value and truth value of such orders lies outside shock value, so I am not quite sure about the point of your questions.
     

    • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

      I agree w/ you on most of your assertions. I especially like that you consider yourself a faithful LDS (as do I myself), and yet you’re open to speculating about other possible paths to Exaltation, other relationship patterns than what we know about etc..

      I do, too, often wonder about these things, and I don’t think it’s taking me to the verge of apostasy. As long as there’s no revelation on the issue, I feel free to speculate. Now, one thing I don’t feel so free to speculate about is the revealed route to exaltation, which goes through the sealing room of the Temple of the Lord. We are perhaps not stressing enough the importance of the sealing power and the spirit of Elijah.

      P.S. Our boys and girls grew up knowing that Father has a companion, who is an equal partner, just like my wife and I are equal. I bless my kids through my gifts (among them the Priesthood), while my wife blesses them with her gifts. And we have felt that we sort of “share” the priesthood, it’s just my responsibility to act in the role–we talk about this quite a bit how our gifts complement each other.

      Besides, and I’ve said this before: the home/family is more important than the Church. The Church is there to support the family.

    • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

      I agree w/ you on most of your assertions. I especially like that you consider yourself a faithful LDS (as do I myself), and yet you’re open to speculating about other possible paths to Exaltation, other relationship patterns than what we know about etc..

      I do, too, often wonder about these things, and I don’t think it’s taking me to the verge of apostasy. As long as there’s no revelation on the issue, I feel free to speculate. Now, one thing I don’t feel so free to speculate about is the revealed route to exaltation, which goes through the sealing room of the Temple of the Lord. We are perhaps not stressing enough the importance of the sealing power and the spirit of Elijah.

      P.S. Our boys and girls grew up knowing that Father has a companion, who is an equal partner, just like my wife and I are equal. I bless my kids through my gifts (among them the Priesthood), while my wife blesses them with her gifts. And we have felt that we sort of “share” the priesthood, it’s just my responsibility to act in the role–we talk about this quite a bit how our gifts complement each other.

      Besides, and I’ve said this before: the home/family is more important than the Church. The Church is there to support the family.

    • guest

      In your 7th paragraph, you said,” I think it is widely accepted by LDS on the whole (correct me if I am
      wrong), that men and women jointly share a patriarchal priesthood.”
      I wouldn’t say that most members don’t understand “patriarchal priesthood” or have even heard the term.

  • Anonymous

    I was glad that you (Tresa in particular) touched on two points in particular: (1) the impact that ignoring Heavenly Mother has on girls and young women (and women generally), and (2) the absence of Mother in the temple ceremony. Having the Father and Son haunting the empty celestial halls in the film always struck me as lonely and bizarre.

    As the mother of daughters, I have been all too aware over the years of how acutely the Mother’s absence, coupled with women’s general invisibility as leaders or VIPs in church settings, underscores LDS women’s second class status. No matter how it’s sugar-coated, no matter how many attempts there are to somehow explain it away, LDS girls can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears who is treated as more important to the church, who has more opportunities (and better financed activities), who is more blessed. The specter of an eternity of being a silent or silenced half-partner, a voiceless mother whose children are not allowed to speak to her… chilling. It is little wonder that more young women than young men drop out these days.

    I wish I entertained more optimism about forthcoming revelation about Heavenly Mother. But as ever, if no problem is perceived, no questions will be asked. I cannot think of anyone in the hierarchy who would remain “primed” to ask by the time he might be anointed church president (in fact, I’m not sure I can name anyone among the top leaders who might be considered “primed to ask” at all; can you?). Dear friends of mine were punished for asking questions, for asking the “prophets, seers, and revelators” to please ask God for more light and knowledge. Gordon B. Hinckley’s (apparently uninformed) opinion stomped the life and hope out of many LDS women and men for clarity about something utterly fundamental to our theology.

    It may be that the BYU Studies article (great compilation, by the way, thanks!) is the start of a sea change and that this potential “normalization” will ultimately lead to revelation. But I honestly don’t think it will happen in my lifetime (35 years left, give or take; I was one of the notable Mormon feminist theologians 15-20 years ago; interesting to see the same discussions and arguments debated yet again—but I digress). It won’t occur soon because any such genuine revelation would require a huge rethinking and revamping of how the church integrates men and women, and of how the church views priesthood. For now, there are very few places within Mormondom that could tolerate such a paradigm shift, and given women’s abysmal status in far too many parts of the world… well. 

    Someday, maybe. But too late—much‚ much too late for me and mine.

    • celestial9513

       I read the book of Enoch and was rather disturbed that he “saw no women in heaven…” Also, the angels that left their posts to take wives among Adam’s daughters that were fair… were chastised by God, in that they didn’t “need” wives because they were with Him, whereas men on earth are apart from God, and therefore “need” wives… Are women in heaven sequestered away somewhere in some type of harem? (Wearing Burkas so as not to tempt angels???) Or are women only temporary creatures that don’t exist at all in the hereafter?

      • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

         By the book of Enoch you mean the Jewish pseudepigraphal book that is attributed to Enoch, yet is clearly a much later work? He sees the seven Heavens etc.

        I think that has little to do with LDS theology. Not that there’s anything wrong about reading the book, but I doubt if it’s valid as a source of new doctrines. We’re told that there are women in Celestial worlds, “no man without a woman”…

  • http://www.alreadytoharvest.com Glen Fullmer

    Good News:
    Heavenly Mother is referred to 25 times in General Conference.

    Bad News:
    Six of those times were by Apostle Hinckley in 1991. Quoting himself from a Regional conference he said:

    “Logic
    and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven,
    we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.”

    “However,
    in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I
    regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our
    Mother in Heaven.”….

    “I suppose those who use this expression and who try to further its
    use are well-meaning, but they are misguided. The fact that we do not
    pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her.”

    (http://corpus.byu.edu/gc/)

    Good News:
    I really enjoyed the discussion and panelists.

    Bad News:
    When it comes to the nature of God, I follow Jesus, I am a male chauvinist.

    Good News:
    There is a rumor that there is a fourth version of the First Vision where Joseph Smith saw God the Father, God the Mother, and Jesus.

    Bad News:
    It is in the Church Archives and not available without permission from the First Presidency! ;-)

    Good News:
    There is scriptural evidence that there is a Mother In Heaven in Section 132.

    Bad News:
    It is tied to polygamy and is the only place where she is even alluded to in scripture.

    Good News:
    Jesus had some close connections to sisters Martha and Mary and that maybe Mary was even an Apostle.  And some GAs mentioned that He was married to them. (Journal of Discourses 2:81)

    Bad News:
    When Jesus gave us an example of prayer, He prayed to His Father-In-Heaven.

    Good News:
    On mother’s day one can give a talk about Her in Sunday School without repercussions.

    Bad News:
    Try bearing your testimony about her or praying to her in Church and see where that gets you.

    Good News:
    The Church showed lack of sexism when it excommunicated both Margaret Toscano and her husband.

    Bad News:
    Margaret Toscano was excommunicated in part for her teaching about Mother-In-Heaven.

    Good News:
    Early Church leaders were much more vocal about Mother-In-Heaven.

    Bad News:
    Mostly to justify polygamy.  Didn’t Section 132 come after Joseph married his 30th polygamist wife as a way to get Emma to go along?

    Good News:
    Fundamentalists Mormons are more aware and talk about Mother-In-Heaven.

    Bad News:
    That think that there are many Mothers-In-Heaven and married to Father-In-Heaven.

    Good News:
    The members of the Church are starting to talk about Mother-in-Heaven more.

    Bad News:
    But not equally with Father-In-Heaven.

    Good News:
    One Mormon woman who saw herself as a feminist had a near-death experience and described her experience to find out once and for all who was there to greet her. (http://www.embracedbythelight.com/mp3/Quotemusic_April2011_EBTL40-53.mp3)

    Bad News:
    It was Jesus, the Father and the Son. No Mother.  She is no longer Mormon nor believes in divine feminism.

    Glen

     

    • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

       As it was referred to in the podcast, Margaret Toscano was called up before she published her controversial stuff, so it’s not a clear link from HM to excommunication.

      As long as we’re throwing out unsourced stuff…

      • Amelia

        Actually, Margaret was first called in before the September 6, but she was not excommunicated until several years later.  Before she was initially called in to speak with her SP, she had been publishing on Mormon feminist issues (women and the priesthood, mother in heaven) for nearly ten years and she and Paul had already published _Strangers in Paradox_.  By the time she was excommunicated, she had been actively publishing on Mormon feminist issues (including, again, women and the priesthood, mother in heaven) for more than 15 years.  So I would argue that Velska’s assertion is wrong.  My source is Margaret herself, whom I’ve discussed her experience with.

        • Martin Pulido

          Having read Strangers in Paradox, the outlandish ideas in it are not Heavenly Mother. Don’t you think, for example, that it could be a lot more the explicit resurrection of Adam-God theory in it? Many others were writing about Heavenly Mother at the time time, but didn’t receive excommunication. So I don’t think we need to draw some causation between discussing Heavenly Mother and excommunication. Back then, you could be excommunicated for approaching a topic in what the brethren saw as the “wrong” way, such as applying ideas from modern biblical scholarship to the historical authenticity of texts like Isaiah. So my point is that it was not the topic, but the approach.

          That being said, I am pretty opposed to the excommunications that happened (although we do not have the church’s side of the story, which is important to keep in mind). I definitely support freethinking within the church! I would have been booted out long ago, otherwise. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/aduramater Jenny Shelton Anderson

      Well, it’s not just Fundies that posit multiple Mothers in Heaven. I remember in Sunday School that discussion of A Mother was pointless, because it was obvious some of us in the Ward had different Mothers. And I remember how uncomfortable our black members were afterwards.

  • Joe Geisner

    I enjoyed the podcast. I think all participants brought up
    important points.

    But, I always find it important to put things like this in historical context.
    I think 1991 – 1996 were watershed years when it comes to Mother-God and
    feminism.

    On April 5, 1991 Gordon Hinckley spoke at a Regional
    Representative Seminar. Hinckley divided his talk in to four sections. The
    first section was titled, “To Keep the Church Doctrinally Pure”, where he
    begins by suggesting that the great apostasy began when errors crept into the
    church “in a relatively small way. Some scholar or otherwise came along with a
    new bit of philosophy that did not square with the pure doctrine.” He then
    equates praying to Mother in Heaven as one of these errors and tells the representatives
    to be alert to these this error and
    “make correction where necessary.” He then ends his talk telling these
    men, “None of us knows anything about her.” (see Sunstone September 1991)

    In August 1991 the 1st Pres. & 12 issue their
    statement against Symposia. On September 7, 1991 the Mormon Women’s Forum hosts
    a panel discussion on Worshiping God the Mother. This discussion is found at
    the following website: http://www.mormonwomensforum.org/pubs/quarterly/MWFVol3Num2.pdf

    At the October 1991 General Women’s conference Hinckley
    makes fun of people who had received copies of his April talk and then repeats
    much of what he had said about praying to Mother in Heaven. He does not tell
    those in attendance that he had compared praying to Mother in Heaven to the beginnings of the
    great apostasy or that he said no one knows anything about her. This was changed
    to “none of us can add to or diminish the glory of her of whom we have no
    revealed knowledge.”

    In 1992, BYU issued its statement limiting academic freedom.
    After this (1993) Cecilia Konchar Farr and (as was pointed out) (1996) Gail T.
    Houston were fired for their feminist voices and in 1992 Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    was not allowed to speak at the annual BYU Women’s Conference.

    In May 18, 1993 Packer gives his talk about the three
    dangers to the church, feminism being one of those dangers. In September 1993
    six people were either excommunicated or disfellowshipped for their feminist writings
    and speech, as well as other things that the leadership named apostasy.
    Margaret Toscano was the person who they were going after originally, but being
    that she was so nice, they saw Paul as an easier target. (see Margaret
    Toscano’s Sunstone talk about her excommunication)

    I also recall at least one young woman in Utah or at BYU
    praying in public to Mother in Heaven and receiving some kind of discipline.

    This was a dark time in the Mormon community. I remember the
    feelings of fear and hurt. People were afraid of having a subscription to
    Sunstone and Dialogue. The Mother-God issue was one of the reasons for being
    fearful.

    • celestial9513

       If you listen to ANY of Hinkley’s interviews he claims to NOT KNOW very much about ANYTHING…His favorite and most common interview answer being “I don’t know.” I just find it difficult to imagine Biblical prophets answering that way…. Aren’t prophets supposed to be the ones receiving the answers? If they aren’t getting any, what right do they have to tell others NOT to seek them on their own? Very hypocritical.

      • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

        For me, it’s also very, very difficult to imagine, for example, Moses exposed to such scrutiny by the kind of media we have today… I don’t imagine Moses was a know-it-all so much, coz he did have a few gaffes, like the Meriba incident.

  • Dan Wotherspoon

     Thanks for all this additional context, Joe!

  • http://mutualapprobation.blogspot.com/ TopHat/Heather

    I haven’t finished listening, but I’ll definitely link over on my blog for my month in review post! When I’m done listening, I’ll probably share some comments.

  • http://mutualapprobation.blogspot.com/ TopHat/Heather

    I loved the straight-up message that none of the Church leaders have ever said that Heavenly Mother is too sacred or special to talk about. I’ve gotten some grief from extended family about my blog dedicated to Heavenly Mother as something that is blasphemous and is something that needs to be brought to my bishop’s attention (don’t worry, he’s cool and liberal). 

    I really liked the BYU Studies article and used it to find quotes for my Mother’s Day talk. Thanks for that! And I’d love if something artistic or a children’s book was put together! I wouldn’t mind being in on that either. :)
    But I do think it is a bit of a misrepresentation to imply, “Hey, we talk about Her all the time! We’ve found 600 references!” when so many of those references are beyond the reach of the average member, and many articles about how to become closer to God the Father are at our finger tips at lds.org. And I don’t think this discrepancy was discussed much in the podcast. 

    But I do think it’s great that this article has come out and that it’s been well received. I hope all these articles and such add up and the next generation won’t be so timid about Her.

  • Joe Geisner

    Thank you Dan.

    As I was listening to the podcast, one question continued to be raised for me. Why is the BYU Studies article, written by two men, thought of as  orthodox or main stream while the previous  articles by women such as Toscano, Allred, Whitesides, and DeSimone (Wilcox) all considered outside the orthodox box?

    I should point out that I am biased. I think DeSimone’s article in “Sisters in Spirit” is the best of the bunch. But I also think the same of Newell’s article on women performing ordinances. I guess you can call me old fashioned.

  • Gail F. Bartholomew

     Great pod cast.  Mother in Heaven is central to my view of my personal deity. 
     What I believe we as Mormons typically do not realize is how the theology of mother in heaven puts us very far from the bulk of the Monotheists and right in the camp of the pre-Monotheists that of the Pagans.   Before the God of Abraham Pagan Gods were typically pared male and female, because it takes both for creation. When the God of Abraham came along his God was strictly patriarchal, he had no need for a woman to create he could do it with just his word.  This strictly male God that the Jews, Christians, and Muslims share is typically  talked about as one who invented or is outside natural law.  Even before the Monotheistic concept was fully developed their was a strong anti feminist  movement.  There were Pagan Gods represented in King Solomons Temple but none of the female Gods were aloud.  Joseph had this fascinating  ability to marry apposing ideas.  I believe he not only married the the ideas of male and female deity with Monotheistic Christianity, but also marrying this duel gendered deity and the very patriarchal idea of polygamy.When talking about the talk by Elder Hinckley I think there are a few things that I speculate about his reasoning.  First of all while he was not prophet at the time he gave this talk, I would venture to say he was the most powerful man in the church and had been for a decade by this point.  Also, if you look at his statements as prophet to the press I think you can safely say he really wanted to move the church to be accepted as a mainstream Christian church. I believe that our idea of gender pluralism in our deity and our idea that our God is bound by Natural law really put us outside of the rest of the Monotheists.  I believe Gorden would have liked us all to stop talking about the theological ideas that put us outside main stream Monotheists.

    • http://www.allreadytoharvest.com Glen Fullmer

       Perhaps Bro. Hinckley would have liked the Church to be more mainstream Christian like, but that is  speculation.  Facts are, Mormonism is not Monotheistic as Joseph Smith’s last recounting of the First Vision identifies two distinct beings with flesh and bones, and then Bro. Young’s statement about Adam being a glorified resurrected being that came from a different world to populate this one as the Father and then there is the temple ordinances that have multiple Gods.  It is little wonder that most Christians don’t think that the LDS Church is Christian. Mormonism is not traditional Christianity. However, it is interesting to note that the Book of Mormon, when it comes to the Deity is more “Christian” than most Christians give it credit as it talks of Jesus as the Father and the Son and at the same time most LDS shy away from the Trinity that is taught in the Book of Mormon.  This is speculation, but notice the timing of the one-god becoming many in the Church.  It was about the same time that Joseph needed to justify polygamy after he had his affair with Fannie Alger. Thus the connection between polygamy and polytheism.  I don’t believe that was a coincidence.

  • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

    We’re a bit shy about talking up Heavenly Mother (HM) for some logical reasons:

    1. For some years, we’ve tried to appear more mainstream, and granted, this is one of those things “not important to our salvation”, IMO. HM is anathema to most mainstream Christians.

    2. There have been some political manoeuvrings re HM, in context of rising feminism among LDS folks. 

    3. Because there’s been little said about her, it’s difficult for an average member to come up with a clear picture of what “prophets, seers and revelators” have said about her.

    But, at the same time, there are many of us, including men and women, who feel that there is a feminine compound in the plural words “Gods” or “Elohim”. As for me, they enforce the concept from D&C 132, that gives us the idea, that we can only become like Father as Man and Wife–for me it seems very clear.

    Excellent discussion. Still haven’t go to the end of all of the 1:40 gabfest, but I love it!

    • http://english.velska.net/ Velska

       I guess I should’ve mentioned, that I’m not a fan of this trend of sucking up to Evangelicals. They won’t accept us, until we throw out all that makes us special. Because the ones that hate us, hate us because of that very specialty.

      Personally I find myself caring very little if this Keller guy thinks I’m a Christian.

      At the same time, we should use a language more familiar to them, when we talk to Protestants.

  • Bill

    I have found that referring to “Heavenly Parents” is much more palatable to the TBM than any reference to Heavenly Mother.  I can even get away with that in Primary and YM.  You can substitute Heavenly Parents for Heavenly Father with impunity.  A small thing I realize, but inmportant nonetheless.  Baby steps.   

  • Antonio

    Tresa (?) said: “…She is not present in the temple. When we all go to the temple and do not see a role for Heavenly Mother … silence does exit.. in our temple…”

    A very interesting point indeed.

    I just think we need to take into consideration all the different versions of the temple endowment and how it reflects the doctrine taught at the time. So if you take Brigham Young’s  Lecture at the Veil, Heavenly Mother is present, she has a face, she has a name and a very very active role in the drama of creation and fall.

    Also, even after the Adam-God doctrine had been abandoned, in some earlier versions there was a dialogue between Elohim and Jehovah about their being married.

  • Antonio

    Tresa (?) said: “…She is not present in the temple. When we all go to
    the temple and do not see a role for Heavenly Mother … silence does
    exit.. in our temple…”

    A very interesting point indeed.

    I
    just think we need to take into consideration all the different
    versions of the temple endowment and how it reflects the doctrine taught
    at the time. So if you take Brigham Young’s  Lecture at the Veil,
    Heavenly Mother is present, she has a face, she has a name and a very
    very active role in the drama of creation and fall.

    Also, even
    after the Adam-God doctrine had been abandoned, in some earlier versions
    there was a dialogue between Elohim and Jehovah about their being
    married.

    I guess that these teachings by the “early brethren” may explain why the Mormon Fundamentalist women mentioned by you were so open about the topic of Heavenly Mothers, once that the identification of Adam as God the Father leads them to the idea of Eve as Goddess, the (Heavenly) Mother of all living.

  • Antonio

    Sorry! I’ve tried to edit my first post adding a final paragraph. Couldn’t find how to delete it.

  • Luckeyeth

        This discussion has opened my eyes to the integral role in faith a Heavenly Mother plays for so many people.  She isn’t a topic I like to see discussed in church at length, but it certainly isn’t due to misogyny.  I feel somewhat maligned, as though my lack of certainty on this subject is being attributed to my own small-mindedness, and in that regard I think this broadcast was a somewhat unfair treatment.  I have girls in my singles’ ward who are vegans, socialists, feminists (we live near Seattle), and they’ve described me as the most feminist person they know – and I’m a guy.  In fact, in my experience, those local leaders (Institute teachers, bishopric members) who have discussed Her frequently are very conservative, and often borderline bigots.  They’re the same people who tell me members aren’t permitted to believe in evolution or support Democratic candidates.  They’re the ones who tell me banning black men from the priesthood was God’s will, and that I shouldn’t question it.

         In my case, my hesitation arises because there certainly isn’t a lot of scripture on the subject, and what exists is VERY open to interpretation.  When scriptures are silent or vague, I think room should be made for all kinds of different thought.  In my opinion, the case for Heavenly Mother is no stronger than the case for the priesthood ban – though of course the former is an extremely positive, uplifting concept for many, and the latter an appalling blight on our history.  We need to leave the door open for heterogeneity, and often the speculative tradition, so enriching for one’s personal faith, is imposed on others at the expense of common faith.  In our modern state of Correlation, any idea promoted by anyone in authority is accepted as firm doctrine.  When I have an Institute teacher tell the class every week that Heavenly Mother gave physical birth to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and that they must accept this to be believing members of the Church, it pushes a lot of people out the door who simply have different opinions. If subjects like these are presented, it must be done in a way that allows those with different views to regard themselves comfortably as members of the Church, and accepted in their community.  As I think people here are likely to know, only the Standard Works qualify as doctrine binding on the whole church, and no new revelation is such until it is presented, sustained by common consent of the people, and placed in the scriptures. However, this fact is not very commonly known, and I think it’s a prerequisite to speculative discussion in church.  When I teach Elders’ Quorum, people discuss all kinds of things, but it’s because I’ve made certain that everybody understands the difference between doctrine and opinion before we begin.

         I see a strange combination of things in this conversation – a very black-and-white attitude regarding this subject, yet from a group that seems to promote acceptance of agnostics, non-literal believers, heterodox thinking, et cetera.  Within this framework, I also feel like Heavenly Mother IS presented as something for women, something that the Young Women would be strengthened by – which for purposes of this conversation DOES make Her the realm of feminists.  Since our understanding of God is so limited, a personal image of God that a person is comfortable with is a good thing, and it’s a valid enough reason.  I’m certainly not for dismissing anything that bolsters another person’s faith, and I’m all for the discussion that took place here today.  Frankly, I see no reason people shouldn’t pray to both of their Heavenly Parents if their faith leads them to do so.  I see no reason people should not teach their children this concept if it is an important aspect of their faith.  However, I think there are very legitimate reasons to refrain from large-scale public discussion at church of something we honestly know very little about.  Remember, for all the good speculation has done, it also created fence-sitters, unclean descendants of Cain, and forced honest-hearted people to choose between their faith and what they believed to be true. 

    • Luckeyeth

       To clarify my personal opinions on the Church, I’m something of a literalist when it comes to scripture, at least to the degree that men can comprehend the things they have witnessed.  I believe Joseph Smith saw God and translated a record into the Book of Mormon.  I am, however, guilty of picking and choosing in some matters, if it is a matter of guilt to do so.  I don’t know that his perceptions of the divine represent the final word on the matter, or that every statement from a prophet old or new was the word of God and not that man’s own agency.  I do believe that women should be equal in priesthood and that full fellowship should be extended to gays.

    • Amelia

      How’s this for a compelling reason to teach Heavenly Mother as a doctrinal fact (and one based in scripture): I am a female.  I have a female body which will be resurrected in its perfected form in the eternities.  It will be mine forever.  And I have been told that gender is eternal.  Modern scripture makes it very clear that we all will be Gods (see D&C 132 for one example) if we follow God’s plan and are exalted.  The only logical conclusion is either:

      1. I will become a female God, with my eternally female body and my eternally female gender

      OR

      2. My body in its perfected state will become male.  

      Pretty sure most Mormons would object to option #2, which leaves us with option #1.

      And if mortal women will at some point become female gods, then I feel pretty confident in postulating the current existence of a female God.  Even if she is not mentioned explicitly in scripture.

      And since my entire existence and eligibility for exaltation are caught up in the postulation that there must be a divine female, I’m willing to tell anyone who isn’t okay with the existence with a God the Mother to take a hike.  Because I just am unwilling to believe that half of the human race is either: 1. inherently flawed by being female and will be perfected into males in the hereafter; or 2. ineligible for exaltation.

      In theory, I agree with your desire to keep things open–to try to avoid pushing people out by reifying speculative theology.  But please understand that the unwillingness to firmly state the existence of God the Mother does to women what the ban on blacks holding the priesthood and denying blacks the opportunity to receive temple ordinances did to them: it renders us eternally insignificant at best and potentially non-existent.  And that is not an openness I think we should tolerate any more than we should have tolerated the racist treatment of blacks as we did.

      • Luckeyeth

        My main point is that people may choose not to believe (and I’m still open-minded on the subject, not committed either way) in Mother in Heaven without being bigots, and I feel that viewpoint was underrepresented in this discussion.  In my own case, I just don’t think we have much information and don’t grasp what we do have very well. If we want to use scriptures that prove we will become gods, Adam and Eve were told they would be as gods if they partook of the forbidden fruit.  Turns out that didn’t mean what somebody might assume – rather, it simply meant that they, like deity, would gain knowledge of good and evil.  What has been revealed about the premortal and postmortal world is limited enough (and our understanding of it even more limited) that it’s a rather large extrapolation.  I think our grasp of the nature of exaltation is tenuous enough to preclude its informing entire discussions of this nature.

        Besides, following your logic about the So-Called-Negro Doctrine, those people who are not of the race of our creator (probably Middle Eastern with possible North African ancestry in the case of mortal Jesus; beyond mortality, who knows?) would be inferior.  We would have to have been created by deities representing all various ethnic backgrounds.  Either that, or extending priesthood to women would solve this problem.  I don’t think the comparison you made is very compelling for those reasons.  It’s also somewhat fallacious to assume that the form our own creation took will be mirrored exactly with any future creative endeavors. 

        Besides, “doctrine” is a term that only applies to what can be found in the Standard Works.  This is the same principle that allowed members of the church NOT to interpret scriptures to believe in the inferiority of darker-skinned peoples.  Any statements outside the Standard Works are not binding doctrine on the church (though some may be binding policy), and what is in the Standard Works is quite open to interpretation.  Again, mostly I just take exception to the idea that my lack of conviction in the existence of Mother God is because of prejudice or misogyny.

        • amelia

          “My main point is that people may choose not to believe (and I’m still open-minded on the subject, not committed either way) in Mother in Heaven without being bigots”

          And my main point is that they cannot.  The standard works (of which the D&C is part) make it clear that if we keep the new and everlasting covenant, we will become gods.  And the language of D&C 132 makes it undeniable that it refers to both men and women.  So women will become gods.  According to the standard works.  

          Adam and Eve were not told by *God* that they would be as gods if they ate of the fruit; they were told that by Satan.  So that example of how we misunderstand the statement is not exactly pertinent, since Satan is at best an unreliable witness.  D&C 132, on the other hand, is from God to his anointed prophet–a witness that Mormons accept as unassailable.  And, again, part of the standard works (which I repeat because somehow you seem to ignore the fact that I did point to the standard works in my comment).  I may not know the details of what that means; I do know, undeniably, unequivocally, that the standard works say that women will be gods.

          Our grasp of exaltation may be tenuous.  And we may not know all the details.  But the standard works do make it clear that if we do as God asks, we will be exalted and become gods.  Which means that there will be female gods.  Undeniable doctrine.  Not speculation.  And it is common Mormon practice to accept the word of our current prophets as the word of God.  I’m not a big fan of giving every little utterance that status, but when something has been asserted by multiple prophets and apostles (and the existence of God the Mother has been; I may not love the BYU Studies article, but it does establish that much) I believe we can confidently accept it as doctrine until we have multiple statements by prophets denying its truth and replacing it with new knowledge.  You may not like that that’s how Mormon practice and belief works (hell, I don’t like it either in lots of ways), but that doesn’t change that fact.  One cannot believe that the president of the church and the apostles are ordained prophets, seers, and revelators and *deny* the existence of God the Mother.  Now, if you want to assert that our presidents don’t actually function as prophets and don’t actually speak for God then I suppose you can deny the existence of God the Mother.  And if you want to say that they are only prophets insofar as they teach exclusively what is contained in the Standard Works and nothing beyond, no elaboration thereon, you can say that and deny the existence of God the Mother.  But you’ll also have to deny the sanctity of the monogamous family unity, because the standard works don’t support that, either.  And oh yeah–the temple?  You can throw that one right out the window since the content of the temple is not in the standard works.  And etc.

          This:

          “Besides, following your logic about the So-Called-Negro Doctrine, those people who are not of the race of our creator (probably Middle Eastern with possible North African ancestry in the case of mortal Jesus; beyond mortality, who knows?) would be inferior.  We would have to have been created by deities representing all various ethnic backgrounds.”

          Is completely nonsensical as a reading of what I said about blacks and the priesthood/temple blessings or of what I said about God the Mother.  The only point that I made about race was that by denying blacks the opportunity to be ordained and to receive the ordinances of the temple, the church implied their eternal insignificance at best or their eternal non-existence at worst.  I said nothing about the race or ethnicity about their creator and my point had nothing to do with creation; it had to do with the next life.  When we deny an entire class of people access to an exalted state (e.g., blacks by not ordaining them and giving them access to temple ordinances; women by denying the existence of God the Mother and by rendering them mute and inferior beings in the endowment), we render them either insignificant or non-existent in the eternities of the next life.  That has nothing to do with the nature of blacks’ or women’s creator; it has to do with the cosmology of the church and how its doctrine allows us to envision exaltation.

          “Besides, “doctrine” is a term that only applies to what can be found in the Standard Works.  This is the same principle that allowed members of the church NOT to interpret scriptures to believe in the inferiority of darker-skinned peoples.”

          If you believe that, you clearly have not read the Book of Mormon very well at all.  Because it undeniably implies that “darker-skinned peoples” are inferior.  and the BoM is part of the Standard Works, just like the D&C.  By your own logic, “doctrine” is precisely what ALLOWED (as opposed to what did NOT allow) members of the church to believe “darker skinned peoples” are inferior.

          You know, a couple years ago when my brother told me I should not be dating my boyfriend because I am white and my boyfriend was black, because I would be happier if I dated and married someone of my own background–my brother insisted he, and his belief that miscegenation was likely to lead to unhappiness, wasn’t racist.  And I don’t think my brother is actively, aggressively racist.  He’d never use racial slurs.  He has friends of many races. He accepts members of other races as his equals.  But in spite of his general acceptance and decent treatment of other races, he still made a racist statement.  He still held to a racist belief.  And he had good intentions for making the comment he made.  I believe you have good intentions for making the statements you made.  I have no reason to believe you are actively or aggressively misogynistic.  But to deny the existence of God the Mother in the face of evidence in the standard works that women will be gods and of statements from God’s modern prophets that God the Mother *does* exist–that denial is misogynistic, that belief is evidence of misogyny.

          • Luckeyeth

            The BOM does not imply that dark skinned people are inferior at all.  In fact, the darker-skinned people in the Book of Mormon are frequently more righteous than the lighter-skinned people.  The Book of Mormon only implies the superiority of lighter-skinned people if you only read the first couple of books.  And I feel that the church’s policy toward black men was entirely based on the racism of both leaders and general membership.

            Perhaps I was not blunt enough before:  I think our interpretation of doctrine regarding our eventual status as creators of worlds is tenuous enough that I don’t like making ANY assumptions on the subject.  I spend absolutely no time contemplating my future divinity.  If others want to, they are welcome to.  You feel that it’s pretty ironclad, I think we’re reaching for Heaven to the detriment of Earth.  It’s not only about Mother in Heaven to me, it’s about the King Follett Discourse, the speculative tradition that a lot of our current understanding is based on, et cetera. I think our reach will inevitably exceed our grasp.  And I don’t see how the idea of giving eternal birth to spirit children as a polygamist wife is not misogynistic.

  • Anonymous

     Here is a link to a very cool blog post at Keepapitchinin that contains the words and music to an 1892 hymn that was written as a companion to Eliza R. Snow’s “Oh, My Father” (that was originally titled “Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother”).

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2011/05/19/our-mother-in-heaven/

  • Anonymous

    I was raised to keep the existence of Heavenly Mother hush hush.  Now She comes up within the first ten seconds of being asked what I believe.
     
    We need a revelation on Heavenly Mother.  Even those who would never agitate towards priestesshood should be able to empathize with those who want to ask for a revelation on Heavenly Mother.  Let’s call for a Church-wide fast!

  • hkobeal

    Just finished listening to this today.  Great great stuff. I love these panel discussions.  I also enjoy the Mormon Stories podcasts, but love hearing multiple voices on the same topic.  

  • http://twitter.com/shellie27 shellie kendrick

    I tried to listen to this today (by the way I’m so excited to have found such a enlightening site) and this podcast stops right after everyone gets done with the introductions. It might be my computer but if not I just wanted to alert you. I would love to hear this pod cast

  • Crystal

    I really enjoyed this podcast.  I agree that you can not literally see Heavenly Mother portrayed in the temple, but I have always felt that the words of the initiatory are straight from Her to me…. blessings given to me from my Heavenly Father and Mother, but especially Her.   I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way but it has always been very comforting to me.

  • Anonymous

    I came across this site, doing research to bring some calm to a  fellow High Priests concerns about a Heavenly Mother,  but am stuck with the fact, that I am left mainly with my testimony  of it from the Holy Ghost; indeed really, what more do I need then that, but for others it may not be enough.

    I have because of past prayers an concerns, been shown by the Holy Ghost that there is not just one, but those of us here on Earth, come from many Heavenly Mothers. Who just like us, have many different personalities, and developed spiritual gifts and abilities. This is not something one sees,  but feels by the Spirit. If this was not so, no need for a man and women here, at least in marriages, we could just be like the rest of the animals here on Earth. Why Temple  Marriages and etc.

    Earth is a similitude of what exists in heaven, just not in perfect form.

  • Herulord2000

    Hotep Family,Hotep means peace in Ancient Egyptian.I am a studant of a path that includes the Mother Goddess openly.In Egypt she was known as Aset or ISIS.I have great respect for the Mormon religion because it succeeded and you all have a working temple system.Forget those other churches that refuse to understand.The only thing i wish is that the early leaders of your church would not have had a thing about race.I know your prophet did not believe in slavery.If black people had been included in the priesthood from the start.The church  of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would have been a pillar in the black community.And these so other churches would not have a weapon to attack you with.Peace,Norman C Carr a.k.a Hetep Ka Ab Ankh.

  • http://profiles.google.com/geoffsnelson Geoff Nelson

    Could anyone email me this article? It’s no longer available at the link. 

  • LindaRose

    It is fascinating to follow this discussion and how it breaks across genders.  Women passinately want to believe in a Heavenly Mother, man  tend to be ambivalent.  Men tend to see it as confirming polygomy and the many “mothers” in heaven,  while most women abhor the thought.
    This all shows how deeply we are entrenched in a cultural, basically misogenist reality.  Can’t wait to be able to step out of a cultural context and see what the truth really is. 

    In the meantime, I think men have to be aware of a very real deep-seated misogeny that they may want to deny and that is really there, and women may want to be aware that even though polygomy is so abhorant to us, it may in fact be in the cards.

    I think as society evolves and thinking becames more liberated, future generations will wonder at this discussion and the passion it evokes, because the way things are will just be obvious to them, just as blacks having the priesthood is so obvious to us now.

  • Larry

    People tend to blow this out of proportion.