In Praise of Heavenly Mother

October 6, 2010 | 141 comments
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Heavenly Mother & FatherI had a rather formative and utterly unique experience in Elders Quorum a few years ago. I taught the Mother’s Day lesson and at the end, after bearing my testimony, not one soul said “Amen.” Instead, there was a sea of blank faces staring silently back at me and a palpable atmosphere of discomfort. It actually happened. I’m not exaggerating. It really, that is really, took the wind out of me. I floundered, completely unequipped for how to deal with my quorum’s reaction. For a while I fluctuated between shock, hurt, outrage, and offense. Overall I felt completely rejected by my quorum, and felt like they collectively rejected one of our basic and most precious truths.

This feeling of rejection, however, has long since given way to what I now understand as an inability to deal with my violating a deeply, though not always explicitly, inculcated taboo concerning the object of my testimony: our Heavenly Mother [knowing that many of you will be either curious or skeptical concerning the full content, here’s what I did: I reviewed Zina Diantha Huntington Young’s well known statement of Joseph teaching her about Heavenly Mother, Eliza’s insights, and then bore a heartfelt testimony of their truth and how much it meant to me]. It was not rejection that I was receiving from my quorum, but surprise and complete lack of experience. The collective reaction was spontaneous, not a matter of intention or inference. It was the result, I believe, of our failure as a people to cherish among the greatest treasures of the Restoration: our understanding of the eternal family and our doctrine (as prophetically proclaimed and recently quasi-canonized) that our exalted Father is exalted through his living a celestial, eternal life with our Heavenly Mother. This is as clear a case as I know of the scriptural curse being fulfilled (stated and repeated explicitly in various places and captured in several parables and stories) that when we reject the light and truth that God has given us, we lose it.

That’s my diagnosis. We, collectively, and particularly in the recent past, have not only failed to follow up on what is undoubtedly among the most profound truths of the Restoration, but likewise neglected even the bare glimpse of eternity that we’ve been entrusted. Consequently, what little we have has withered.

Much has been said about Heavenly Mother recently, some of which has been more in depth and more eloquent than I can manage (I highly recommend Dr. Paulsen’s comments as a background, and many of you will recognize Margaret Toscano in my negative comments and Kevin Barney [see Dialogue 41 no. 4 2008] in my positive suggestions). But the taboo is still significantly in force, we’ve still failed to determine appropriate ways of treating Her in our public and religious discourse, and the topic is so poignant, so weighty, so worthwhile as to warrant another post – lots of posts, lots of honest, faithful, acroamatic dialogue. I look forward to a fruitful dialogue on the subject here at Times and Seasons.

I’m going to suggest some positive and what I believe are completely orthodox ways that we can honor our Heavenly Mother and overcome our curse. But first, inevitably, I’m going to respond to some of the frail and literally damnable, but also ubiquitous, even platitudinal excuses that have helped to reinforce the cultural taboo under which we bury She who gave us life.

  1. She’s too sacred to discuss. In response, it’s hard not to simply say, “Really? I mean, really really?” We hold many things sacred in our religion, and I’m convinced that our understanding and experience of the sacred are unique in Mormonism. But there’s not one additional example of something we hold sacred that we simply bury in the closet. Perhaps the closest analogy is the temple – we covenant not to reveal certain sacred things about the temple. Nonetheless, a significant part of our holding the temple (and its rituals) sacred is our parading it. We declare it to be the center of our religion. We make pilgrimages to temples and literally wear a part of the temple at all times thereafter, stolidly facing the ensuing scorn. Temples are at the center of our art. We talk of, sing songs about, and frequently teach public sermons on the temple. We build them in prominent places and open our doors to the public and invite dignitaries to visit before dedicating them. We hold massive, passionate, and meaningful cultural festivities before dedicating them. Holding something sacred is a matter of existentially taking that thing up in certain ways in our practices. Outsiders associate us with temples, and we love it when they do, and nothing sacred is lost or desecrated thereby. Quite the opposite. Ignoring has nothing to do with treating sacred.
  2. Heavenly Father doesn’t want her profaned. These first two are often related. The deep problems here have mostly to do with the repugnantly chauvinistic implications that are implicit. First, it assumes that Heavenly Mother is too weak and frail to deal with reality, particularly the not infrequently crass nature of her children, or perhaps that mothers ought to be protected from their own infants’ excrement. There isn’t a mother I know of for whom this is true. To the contrary, the work of a mother is to be elbows deep in it, working tirelessly and ceaselessly to help her children become more. This excuse is directly analogous to certain radical strands of Islam that not only suggest or honor veiling, but seek to enforce women’s complete public invisibility. Like the men who sustain such practices, this excuse problematically suggests our Heavenly Father’s unilateral authority to hide our Heavenly Mother, setting up a divine and clearly immoral disparity between the two. Such a position is entirely antithetical to our belief in the divine and celestial union between wife and husband. Third, it assumes that Her salvific role and positive effect on Her children is more effectively carried out in secret, rather than as the inspiring public model that we ought to take her as.
  3. We’re scared or embarrassed that the truth might be that by “Mother” we really mean “Mothers.” There’s far more going on here than I can get at in this post. I think the only thing to really be anxious about is the reality of the existence of this excuse. First I think we need to ask, why is this an issue in the first place? There is simply nothing compelling to substantiate the worry. I personally do not believe in celestial polygamy (I’m persuaded by Eugene England’s [see On Fidelity, Polygamy and Celestial Marriage] and others’ similar reasoning). But let’s assume that it is a reality. Why ought we to be anxious about it? Why wouldn’t I love and cherish and seek after my (though not your) Heavenly Mother just as deeply? Why wouldn’t She be just as involved in my salvation? Or on the reverse, does envisioning Her to have another husband somehow detract from the honor and glory of and my sacred relationship with my Heavenly Father? Does it detract from all He’s done for me? Children have occasionally been deeply ashamed of people finding out about their parentage on account of repressive social norms – they are embarrassed that their parents are divorced, that they are orphans, that their family is poor or the parents work jobs that are typically scorned. Here the children are made victims, and the (at least long-term) solution is not to assist them in keeping the embarrassing aspects of their parentage secret, but in exorcising the immoral social norms that victimize the children in the first place.
  4. We simply don’t know enough and discussion of Her is inevitably idle speculation. This is surely the most reasonable and understandable of the excuses. There is to date, relatively little revealed knowledge about our Heavenly Mother. There are several important things to say about this excuse, however. First, there is revelation on the matter – and there are no divine or prophetic injunctions against discussing Her. Second, the excuse, as I’ve stated it here, is simply false. We know that She is the Divine and exalted Wife of our Heavenly Father, and that She is our spiritual Mother in just as real and literal a sense as He is our Father. Furthermore we have officially endorsed our prophetess Eliza’s hymn. Indirectly at least, this is an endorsement of the “reason” that led her and us to this profound insight. Knowing what we do, reason certainly suggests many other prudent truths. Furthermore, discussing Her, acknowledging Her, honoring Her certainly does not count as “idle speculation.” This brings up number three: it’s simply wrong to assume that all discussion on matters for which we do not have a complete knowledge are “idle speculation.” If this were true, Sunday School would have to be condemned. There is nothing pernicious about cherishing doctrines that are partial – like those revealed in the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, of which Joseph Smith declared he could reveal a hundred times more if the saints were ready [see his address 21 May 1843]. I think it’s instructive to ask ourselves, “Is there really that much more that I actually know about my Heavenly Father?” Fourth, if this were true, the default response surely ought not to be that we ignore Her, but that we collectively yearn for and seek after greater light and knowledge concerning our Heavenly Mother. We ought to pray that we will be worthy of such truths and that our prophets might receive greater revelations on Her. Ask, Knock, Seek, Find.

There are others, but these are the most common excuses, and I really don’t want this post to be primarily negative. This last point leads us into the positive portion of our discussion: orthodox ways of taking up our Heavenly Mother at church and in our homes.

To begin, there is another inevitable preamble that must be inserted: I really am trying to get at orthodox ways of honoring and discussing Heavenly Mother. There are lots of unorthodox things you can do, some of which might even get you into ecclesiastical trouble, others of which will merely be personal – things you don’t want to share publicly. The rule of thumb here, as instructed by Elder Pinnock while on my mission, is not to presume to teach things other than what has been specifically laid out in the scriptures and prophetic revelations and declarations of our day. And of course, don’t flagrantly violate the direct counsel of Church leaders on this (or other) matters. I’m quite confident that nothing I say here does so. I trust that the well-meaning souls who have been willing to read to this point will let me know if I do otherwise.

And now on to my suggestions:

  1. Talk of Her. I think this is the most important thing we can do. The taboo has been developed largely because we’ve ignored Her. Consequently, the number one thing we can do both to honor Her and help remove the curse of ignorance we currently bear is to make Her a regular part of our religious discussions. We ought to talk of Her, rejoice in Her, preach of Her [i.e., preach the actual revelations and things we know], prophesy of Her [i.e., bear testimony], and make sure that our children know to what source they may look to know from whom they came. We ought to mention Her in our private and public prayers [read: mention, not pray to]. In general, bring Her out of the closet and treat Her as sacred. Know and repeat every shred of prophetic revelation that has been given on Her. In doing so, be mindful of the reality that She is genuinely (if tragically) a current taboo. Be prepared for others’ shock and be sensitive. I don’t think I said anything particularly shocking in my lesson and testimony. But I was perhaps too cavalier. And heaven forbid, in discussing Heavenly Mother, don’t set yourself up as a light or pretend the authority to reveal more about her.
  2. Teach your children about Her. I think the ideal is that we raise our children up, at least initially, oblivious to the taboo. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t clear distinctions, which are sort of built in to Mormon worship practices (e.g., it might well be conspicuous to your children as it is to mine that we don’t pray to Heavenly Mother). But let your home be a place where talk of Her is completely normal. Let the inevitable shock that they one day experience not be hearing someone explicitly bear testimony of Her, but instead that they find out about the existence of the taboo for many Mormons. Like most of my religious experiences, it has been in the home and in discussions concerning Heavenly Mother with my wife and children that the sweetest moments with the Spirit have come.
  3. 3. Pray for greater individual and collective light and knowledge. This is a divine privilege that we claim and one that is scripturally promised to us as children of God, as well as an obligation that we all have. Elder Oaks’ just given General Conference talk lucidly describes our need for both personal and collective revelation and involvement in ordinances. As Mormon’s we maintain an intimate union of and dependence on the individual and the community, heaven and earth, past and present. Elder Oaks’ counsel and instruction ought to be applied to this issue as well. As the Book of Mormon makes clear repeatedly (e.g., see here and here and above), God will reveal things to you as an individual (but only for you as an individual) that have not yet been given the Church as a whole if you faithfully pursue such knowledge. We also have numerous examples both scriptural and historical of the prophet’s tongues being bound when the community of Saints are lacking in faith and striving. Let us not be guilty of tying the hands of our prophets.
  4. Honor Her in your prayers. We’re all aware of Pres. Hinckley’s Ensign comments (“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”). We’re also aware of BYU’s firing Gail Houston for teaching her student to pray to Heavenly Mother. But not praying directly to Her does not equate to an inability to honor Her in your prayers. We don’t pray to Jesus either, but we certainly praise and honor Him in prayer. Some have elected to respect Pres. Hinckley’s statement but still pray to our Heavenly Parents. This is an idiosyncratic, though creative and interesting approach. But one need not go that far. The fact is, I love it when people praise my wife. Very little gives me greater joy. And you can be assured that my wife always hears about such praise (I’ll admit, sometimes it even gets amplified in the retelling). I can testify that my personal experience confirms to me that my Heavenly Father reacts in a similar way when I honor His Wife in prayer.
  5. Sing to her praises. The reality is, however, that we already have a perfectly orthodox and accepted way to pray to our Heavenly Mother, and we do so frequently in sacrament meetings all over the Church. If “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me,” then a song to our Heavenly Parents is a prayer unto them. My children all know and love “O’ What Songs of the Heart,” and of course our classic “O’ My Father,” and I’ve even taught them “All Creatures of Our God and King,” changing the last stanza, which speaks about “Dear Mother Earth” in order to say, “The flowers and fruits that in thee grow/Let them Her glory also show.” “Sons of Michael” is another great candidate (and particularly interesting in my opinion, given its connection to the Adam-God theory), though the tune is an abysmal march. My children and I also sing one of my all times favorites, “I Often Go Walking” as a hymn of praise to both their mother and their Heavenly Mother. Singing prayers to Heavenly Mother is a sacred form of worship that is entirely acceptable in our community, one that respects our present, limited understanding.
  6. Follow Eliza’s example and enshrine her in worshipful art. We desperately need hymns to our Heavenly Mother that are not entitled “O’ My Father.” Write more hymns. Those of you who are musically talented could try and publish them (or at least share them with us!). But we ought to honor and worship Her in every good form of art. My five-year old daughter just today (entirely coincidental but it was as though she were reading my mind since I was actually typing this post when it happened) drew a beautiful picture of a couple holding hands in the clouds. I asked her who it was and she told me it was Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. Yes, it’s now hanging in our home. The reality is, art is one of our most powerful experiences with religion, as President Monson just testified in conference. I’m convinced that the lack of worshipful artwork enshrining our Mother is one of the reasons she remains absent (or tabooed) from our religious consciousness. Is there anyone with connections who can commission an exhibition of fine art dedicated to Heavenly Mother?
  7. Celebrate her. I’m highly in favor of idiosyncratic family holy-days. My wife’s a connoisseur of exotic holidays, and we’ve had them spring up both organically and intentionally in our family – all of which have been a wonderful blessing. I think that an organic but genuine and widespread Latter-day Saint holiday honoring our Heavenly Mother would be absolutely beautiful. In its absence, you and your family might determine significant ways that you can celebrate her yourself. As Barney has suggested, you might want to adapt your Christmas tree into a revered symbol of Heavenly Mother via Asherah traditions in I Nephi 11 (see Daniel C. Peterson’s article). If re-appropriating pagan traditions makes you uncomfortable, I’m sure you can develop other traditions.
  8. Study Her in the scriptures and ancient cultures. Again, Kevin Barney and Daniel Peterson have done a lot of legwork for you there already (trees, groves, wisdom, etc.). But far more significant than the connections they have pointed out to me are the connections I have found on my own as I have searched for Her. Seriously, if we can find Christ in the Old Testament – which we’re very good at, in both more and less legitimate ways – we can find our Mother in all our standard works. You can find Her in other traditions as well. As Joseph Smith said, “Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, &c., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.” (see address given 23 July 1843). I testify that the pagans and other ancients likewise have truth and can help you come off a truer Mormon, with a deeper connection to your Heavenly Mother. (We have a beautiful framed depiction of Nut hanging in our home to remind us.)
  9. Honor the other women in our tradition. There’s no coincidence to our ignorance or burying of our Heavenly Mother, the lack of female heroes in the scriptures and our history, and our being next to illiterate concerning those who are actually there. Seek them out and learn of them. In general, endeavor to study and enrich your life with a greater understanding of the feminine. As President Hinckley commanded, honor women in your life. Surely this is a way of praising Her.
  10. Name your children after Her. Barney suggests variants on Asherah. This is likely to be a bit much for many of you, especially given the inconclusive connection between our Mother and this ancient fertility goddess condemned in the Old Testament. And let’s be honest, it’s not that pretty of a name. But you can connect your children’s names to Heavenly Mother in other ways. ‘Mere’ is one of my favorites. I personally think that Emma, Myriam, and Eve also have direct linguistic, symbolic, or cultural connections. In addition to this sort of sacred act, be willing to discuss the meaning of these names with other saints when appropriate.
  11. Appropriately connect her to our other (perhaps even more firmly established) truths of the restoration. Understanding the gospel, and enriching that understanding, is not merely a matter of possessing a list of true doctrines, but also continually gaining new insights into how those doctrines on the list relate to one another. For example, one’s understanding of the temple, the family, and the home are all mutually enriched as one gains new insights into how these are related. How can we talk of eternal families and not mention Her? How about the scriptural symbolism of water, blood and spirit in the atonement and birth? My most profound insights on the atonement have come as I’ve been able to connect the atonement and what is taking place therein with the other aspects of my religious and scriptural knowledge and experience. My sacrament is enriched as I ponder these connections. We can do something similar, recognizing individually the ways in which our Heavenly Mother connects to our own families, the temple, our covenants, eternal progression, social relations, nature, wisdom, spiritual gifts, and all other aspects of the gospel. This is not a matter of spontaneously creating new doctrines, but allowing the Spirit to help you connect doctrines that God’s prophets have already revealed.

I hope these thoughts have been worthwhile. I desperately hope that we can overcome the curse of ignorance we currently operate under. It’s not just our women, but also our men and Zion itself that significantly loses out when we excise our Heavenly Mother from our discourse.

I would love to hear your thoughts and any other suggestions you might have.

141 Responses to In Praise of Heavenly Mother

  1. Bill on October 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    you are nuts !!!!!

  2. Clark on October 6, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I kind of remember at the SMPT conference with Kevin Hart attending many of us getting rather embarrassed at the discussion of (3) and the like. I felt pretty uncomfortable not because of the ideas themselves but there was just something difficult about talking about the topic in that way in that context. After thinking about this for several weeks (and I wasn’t the only one uncomfortable although I’ll not name names) it made me wonder if we really aren’t too quick to discount (1) and (2) afterall.

    I don’t think this is the “too sacred” gimick some put out where she’s on a special pedestal. I just wonder if it’s not more a manifestation that some things won’t be revealed before the world.

  3. Julie M. Smith on October 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Lots of interesting stuff here, thanks.

    I agree with you that the excuses for the taboo that you list are lame. However, I think there is one very good reason not to say more about Her: What exactly can you say about Her that you can’t say about Him? I actually live in fear that we would develop a theology that emphasized her (stereotypically culturally feminine, of course) virtues. But really–how could She be more nurturing (for example) than He is? That would imply some lack in His nurturing abilities.

    I also think, although I’m too lazy to look up and provide you with relevant GA quotations, that some LDS definitions of God imply that God is male + female. Therefore, anything we say about Him is really about Them, even if we use male pronouns or singular verbs. If I were to suggest a route forward re our thinking about our Heavenly Mother, it would be to mention and think about Her alongside Him, not Her as distinct from Him. I think one of the great things about the Family Proclamation is that it does just that: “Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.”

    Perhaps you were saving this for another post, but I think one of the most interesting paradoxes of Mormon thought is the discrepancy between the role earthly mothers should ideally have with their children (=intense, hands-on, hyper-involved) and the role our Eternal Mother has with Her children. If it is intense, hands-on, and hyper-involved, it is certainly those things in a much different sense.

  4. ECS on October 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    “But really–how could She be more nurturing (for example) than He is? That would imply some lack in His nurturing abilities.”

    I didn’t realize there was a nurturing contest between Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I’d say Heavenly Mother is equally as nurturing as Heavenly Father, and we children need both a Mother and a Father in our lives.

  5. Julie M. Smith on October 6, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    ECS, yes, that was my point. If anyone works up a theology of Heavenly Mother that says that She is X, Y, and Z, they are implying that Heavenly Father is not X (or less X), not Y (or less Y), and not Z (or less Z). I don’t see how that can be true (assuming, of course, that X, Y, and Z are good things), therefore I don’t know how we could develop a meaningful theology of Her as distinct from Him.

  6. Mark N. on October 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    My take on it, from what I’ve read that Eliza Snow has said on the subject, is that the taboo exists because it’s inextricably bound up in Adam/God “theory”. Talking about the one without talking about the other doesn’t work, and we’ve all pretty much agreed that the ol’ A-G stuff is completely out of bounds.

  7. Geoff J on October 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Hey, if making assumptions about a Heavenly Mother and then talking about it floats your boat, I say knock yerself out James Olsen.

    Julie (#3) — See here for some good quotes on the idea that God is a combination of a divine male and female person. (Taken to the extreme some people even believe in an androgynous God)

  8. Dave on October 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    James, I think this post unintentionally points out how the Church is trying to go down two non-parallel tracks at the same time on the topic of Heavenly Mother. On the one hand, it is plainly a topic that is not addressed in any detail by senior LDS leaders. We get occasional allusions or references in passing (such as the reference to “heavenly parents” in the Proclamation), but no clear statements. There is no existing LDS doctrine of Heavenly Mother that defines Her nature or attributes, and there is certainly no desire on the part of present LDS leaders to develop one from scratch.

    On the other hand, we have become the Church of the Family. The family is addressed incessantly at Conference; any other doctrine can be given additional emphasis by relating it to the family. The Proclamation, which most LDS consider a canonized revelation even though it is not a canonized revelation, powers the process. The logic of the family as the new center of LDS doctrine leads to an implied doctrine of the Heavenly Family (by a mixture of speculation and projection) and the natural inference that there is a Heavenly Mother modeled after earthly mothers.

    So I think the Church is either going to have to develop a doctrine of Heavenly Mother (if it keeps up the Church of the Family approach) or else de-center the family to avoid having to come up with such a doctrine (we could, for example, focus on salvation or on temples or on Jesus Christ).

  9. ECS on October 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    “ECS, yes, that was my point. If anyone works up a theology of Heavenly Mother that says that She is X, Y, and Z, they are implying that Heavenly Father is not X (or less X), not Y (or less Y), and not Z (or less Z). I don’t see how that can be true (assuming, of course, that X, Y, and Z are good things), therefore I don’t know how we could develop a meaningful theology of Her as distinct from Him.”

    I don’t see the implication here. If you are kind, loving and gentle, why does this imply that your husband is not (or less than) kind, loving and gentle? I think I’m missing something here, because I’m not seeing why it matters that we don’t have a meaningful theology of Her distinct from Him. I don’t think we have that much of different theological construct for Jesus than for Heavenly Father. I mean, they pretty much do the same things. Why should it be necessary to have a distinct theology of HM in order to worship Her as we do Jesus?

  10. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    One of the beautiful things that Hugh Nibley presents in his book, The Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, is the Hymn of the Pearl, from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. It is a detailed allegory that somewhat parallels the Parable of the Prodigal Son, in which a prince is sent by his royal parents on a journey to Egypt (the world) to find and return with a Pearl of Great Price. When he begins to forget his mission, a letter is written by his royal parents, reminding him of his true status as a prince, with royal garments laid aside and waiting for his return. The prince remembers what he was taught by his father and mother, and returns triumphant to their waiting arms, bearing the treasure. This narrative displays the fact that some of the early Christians had the concept of a Heavenly Mother, at least allegorically.

    May I suggest something else? How much of our automatic cultural avoidance of thinking about our Mother in Heaven is related to a Protestant-like rejection of the worship of Mary, the mother of Jesus? In Catholic worship, Mary is often depicted in heaven, as a semi-divine being who intervenes on behalf of worshippers with her Son. She is literally God’s mother, just as God the Father is God’s father. Though she is not assumed to be an actual mother to mankind, in practice she is something like a divine step-mother. Is rejection of Mariolatry something we just absorbed into LDS traditions, like so much of american Protestantism, such that it affects our ability to worship a divine mother? Or, on the other hand, is Mariolatry a cautionary tale for us, demonstrating how respecting a woman, honored with a unique role in the story of salvation for mankind, as emphasized in the Book of Mormon by Nephi and Benjamin, can get out of hand and become distorted, out of felt emotional and cultural needs by many worshippers? If a mortal woman like Mary could be turned into a divine being that is worshipped like God or in lieu of God, how much more would specific knowledge about our actual Mother in Heaven have the potential to be distorted and abused and distract from proper worship of the Father? If the Asherah tradition had legitimate roots in the depiction of the Menorah in Solomon’s Temple as a Tree of Life (discussed by Daniel Petersohn and Margaret Barker), does the fact that she was worshipped as part of the Canaanite pantheon tell us that worship of our Mother in Heaven might be abused and distorted, as it apparently was in ancient times? Was God more explicit about the Heavenly Mother in prior dispensations, but mankind’s apostacy demonstrated that most of mankind is not ready to reverence her properly?

  11. Lorin on October 6, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Add me to the list of men who would have had a hard time making eye contact after such a lesson. I think this post is a good example of overthinking and over-reaching.

    Three more important reasons to tread lightly on the subject of a Heavenly Mother:

    1. The notion that we have a Heavenly Mother is not controversial in the church, but we’ve arrived at it through logic and reasoning more than through revelation. It’s only one comfortable step beyond revelation. Everything else — EVERYTHING ELSE — is speculation. And speculative doctrines and practices regarding a Heavenly Mother, however well intentioned, are just as likely to dishonor her of whom we know almost nothing. We have no way of knowing whether we’re wrong. At best, that is shooting beyond the mark. At worst, in our minds and by our speculation we are creating a Goddess in our own image. Dangerous doctrinal and spiritual territory, if you ask me.

    2. Were incorporating our Heavenly Mother into our Earthly worship a priority, we’ve had 180 years to establish that precedent. Instead, even the reasons for why we know so little are speculative. God needs to take the lead on what we should worship and how we should worship, and any authortative enlightment can come through no other source but the authorities. It’s pretty clear they’ve told us all they know, and suggested plenty that they don’t know. I’m very leery of any attempt to blaze doctrinal territory, particularly since the already-revealed areas are so poorly applied and appreciated.

    3. All of us are likely woefully inadequate in our veneration of the Father and the Son, and in our companionship of the Holy Ghost. I suspect that we will all die that way. Sometime in the eternities, we will have a full knowledge of our Heavenly Mother and a full appreciation for her nature and place in our worship. For now, we’ve been commanded to worship the Father in the name of the Son, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Instucting me to worship other than the way Jesus Christ has instructed me to worship strike me as inventing one’s own religion on the fly.

    Don’t shoot beyond the mark and don’t make up doctrine. Trust your Father enough to tell you what you need to know when you need to know it. He’s told the prophets next to nothing, therefore he’s told you next to nothing as well. Accept that and move on. You’ll never finish plumbing the depths of revealed doctrine in your own life. Leave it at that.

  12. aquinas on October 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    By any chance was this Elder’s Quorum lesson based on “Chapter 20: The Women of the Church,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, given on May 13, 2007?

  13. Aaron S on October 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Why is “Heavenly Mother” being spoken of when it isn’t clear if there are Heavenly Mothers?

  14. Aaron S on October 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I am referring to the ambiguity over whether there are a plurality of Heavenly Mothers, of course.

  15. Joel on October 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Under this premise, why would she not be worshiped? Also, what of Heavenly Grandfather and Grandmother? (logically pushing the regression back further)?

  16. Geoff J on October 6, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Hehe Joel. Good point. Don’t forget the Heavenly Aunts and Uncles…

  17. Kristine on October 6, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Aaron–it’s a long post, but you only have to read the first 3 or 4 paragraphs before the question you ask is addressed.

  18. Jack Mormon on October 6, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    @ James Olsen – Very thought-provoking post. I can’t recall the last time I heard the term “Heavenly Mother” used at a General Conference.

    I think your suggestions #1, #2, #3, #9, and #11 are on point. We should indeed publicize the Heavenly Mother a bit more. Suggestions #6 and #8 are also acceptable. But I can’t buy off on suggestions #7 and #10 – they smack too much of goddess worship, although you clearly state you don’t advocate such. Matthew 6:9 makes it explicitly clear who we are to worship, at least while we remain in the flesh.

    When I served in the military, and I had a problem, I would go see my commander — not my commander’s spouse. I apply the same rule here.

  19. CJ Douglass on October 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Back in May, I made the following comment over at clobberblog:

    I’ve always had a problem with the concept of a Heavenly Mother for two reasons:

    1. One has to employ the Mormon art of assumption to reach Her- which I dislike/hate. For example: “We need to be married to become like God – so God must be married”. The canon is what I look to and Heavenly Mother is not explicitly in there.

    I admit that Genesis 1:27 NRSV is compelling (”So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”) But that still leaves a lot of blanks to fill in. I think the Peterson/Barney attempts to uncover Asherah also fits this category – compelling but with a lot of blanks. Great for discussion and debate – but not something I’m going to bank on.

    2. We Mormons spend so much time trying to make God like us that we end up dethroning Him. I once read an explanation for praying to Heavenly Mother: “Heavenly Father wouldn’t understand what its like to be pregnant”. I absolutely reject this characterization of Deity (I also don’t accept the King Follet Sermon as scripture – but that’s for another time) I admit that ~God as Father with a body~ is a standard Mormon belief, but it inevitably leads to problems – which leads to assumptions – to explain away the problems. I would just rather pare down our supposed understanding of who God is (cutting away non scriptural assumptions) than expanding God and risking the disrespect that could follow.

    In short, there is a conspiracy to suppress the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven about as much as there’s a conspiracy to suppress the doctrine that God was once a man. Speculation abounds – especially when you compare it to the stacks of explicit info we have about who God is in the scriptures.

    Concerning how to proceed, I think your suggestion that we search for her in the scriptures and in prayer is very good.

  20. Bob on October 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with #11-Lorin. This must be a top down opening up of this doctine.
    Also_taboos are very powerful things in any Culture. You may not agree with the reasons for them, or even understand the reasons. But you must know they are strong enough to keep them going for a long time.

  21. Clair on October 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    If an instructor follows the promptings of the Spirit in preparing and presenting a lesson, there is no reason for him or her to take the class’ reaction personally.

    And vice versa.

  22. SKH on October 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    I’m with Lorin…although I would still have looked at you, smiled and enjoyed a private conversation with you after the lesson.

  23. Kristine on October 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Jack, when you were a child, was your mother or your father your “commander”? (Careful, it’s a trick question).

  24. Seth R. on October 6, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    OK, there’s a snag when you hit the idea of “Heavenly Mother” vs. “Heavenly Mothers”

    Are we made the literal spirit children of God the Father (and any mother(s) involved) by some sort of literal spirit birth (and what would that even look like?)?

    Or are we made his and her spirit children by some process of adoption (which I personally believe)?

    If adoption – then the whole thing of “which one is my mother” becomes moot. We’re adopted into the family – they’re all your mother.

    Incidentally, I think most of the people in the LDS Church who dismiss the idea of “Celestial polygamy” are people who have never lost a spouse. Just saying…

  25. Thomas Parkin on October 6, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    ” He’s told the prophets next to nothing, therefore he’s told you next to nothing as well.”

    We don’t know what the prophets, individually, might know nor can we say what individual members might know. Based on Alma 12-9, anyone who might know anything on the subject isn’t likely to be talking about it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t individually delve into it. There is no such thing as forbidden knowledge in this religion. ~

  26. Sally on October 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    #9 “I don’t think we have that much of different theological construct for Jesus than for Heavenly Father. I mean, they pretty much do the same things. Why should it be necessary to have a distinct theology of HM in order to worship Her as we do Jesus?”

    Yes, Jesus and HF pretty much do the same thing and we are able to see a bit of what that is. But as a woman, it is very hard for me to think about the eternities and have no idea what my role and duties will be. It may be very different than what HF does. A distinct theology would help me understand what I am to become.

  27. Lynnette on October 6, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    The arguments that this could be dangerously distorted, such as Lorin’s concern in #11 and RTS’s in #10 don’t hold water for me. Worship of God the Father has been crazily distorted and used to justify all kinds of horrible things throughout history; we humans are clearly prone to creating God in our own image, often in problematic ways. But the fact that the doctrine of God gets misused hasn’t led us to abandon it.

    I also think that the argument that we should set this aside as something to learn about in the eternities, and focus on the doctrine we have now, overlooks the fact that the role that HM plays in our tradition (or more to the point, doesn’t play) has very real implications for women here and now in mortality, and their sense of who they are. The idea that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother should be avoided because it’s a distraction from the things we should be focusing on, in essence the things that really matter–I’m just thinking about what message that sends to women who are grappling with their theological identity.

    My concerns are connected to the question raised by Julie in #3–is there are a way to talk about her as distinct from HF without falling into sexist stereotypes? Considering what church leaders have speculated in the past–a Victorian mother sitting by the fireplace–okay, I think we can do without that. But I wonder if that could be avoided if we were careful not to say things about HM that we wouldn’t feel equally comfortable saying about HF–because don’t they together exemplify the highest virtues? Re the concern about speculation, would it really be considered dangerously speculative to think that she exhibits the ultimate degree of nurturing, strength, etc.? We actually speculate about God the Father all the time, in our various stories and imaginings. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    The thing is, relationship matters in LDS theology. It matters a lot, and it matters eternally. Given that, I don’t see how our relationship with HM could be a minor theological question better avoided.

    I do think the topic can get a bit New Agey in a way that I’m not crazy about. But I’d actually say that’s more reason to talk about her in church, in an explicitly LDS framework, rather than hoping that taboos will prevent any discussion of the subject anywhere.

  28. TMD on October 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    #19, The theology of God you express seems to me to be strongly influenced by particularly catholic and high church protestant notions of deity as an ontological other. I’ve long found that the alternative offered by Restoration theology provides a more compelling view, one in which–as Joseph said–man is able to draw nearer to God (both in the communicative sense, and, in the eternities, in character). While there are risks of doing as the Greeks and depicting Him as a more natural man, I think that there is much that is powerful and fairly distinctive to the Restoration that is lost in doing so.

    I also think that the ‘ontological other’ view can lead to broader contradictions with LDS doctrine. For instance, I have heard ++Rowan Williams of Canterbury use it to argue against the idea that God can be bound on earth; but this is in rather direct opposition to our notions of priesthood. I imagine that it is possible to adopt the oo perspective without arguing that God is unbound in his relations with man, but merely introducing that distance in the relation between God and man seems to me to sit uneasily with the doctrines of the priesthood and particularly of the temple.

  29. James Olsen on October 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Sorry, I was away; but enjoyed the discussion. My thoughts:

    Julie (#3): I really agree with your comments generally; and I don’t support developing a theology without prophetic revelation. I’m also persuaded of Elohim (plural) being male + female. Erastus Snow’s comments (JD 26:214) are also relevant here. As to thinking of Her alongside Him, we ought to be just as comfortable with the opposite: using feminine pronouns and implicitly recognizing Him alongside our discussions of Her. And the paradox you point to is very interesting. I hadn’t considered.

    Mark N. (#6): My understanding is that there was more discussion of Her in AGT stuff, since she was, obviously, Eve, someone we know much more about. Nevertheless, I can’t see any reason why the two have to be in tandem. They did not, as you suggest, grow up in tandem. And I’ve no reason at all to think that Pres. Hinckley was implicitly endorsing AGT in his comments above.

    Geoff J. (#7): What assumptions am I making? And Julie said male + female, not male & female. An androgynous God does nothing for me personally.

    Dave (#8): Very interesting. I certainly hope that our leaders would seek and receive revelation on the matter, as opposed to merely “developing” theology to be more in line with our contemporary emphasis.

    Raymond (#10): Enjoyed these points. I think there’s really something to the Protestant influence in our rejection of Heavenly Mother (in fact, I think that this is on display in some of the comments here). I don’t think we ought to be worried about distortion, however, any more than we’re worried about mortal distortions of things like the nature of the Godhead, revelation, priesthood, temple worship, etc. Is there any divine truth revealed in the past that we haven’t distorted or apostatized from?

    Lorin (#11): Sorry you feel that way. Your points are mostly just a rehash of my pt 4. I don’t see you adding anything new. Joseph F. Smith’s 1909 declaration makes it more than mere logic, as does it’s various prophetic endorsements throughout this dispensation. Why is worshipping our Heavenly Mother in any sort of tension with worshipping El, Jehovah, and having the companionship of the Holy Ghost? If it’s a true religion we have, these things ought to go together. And again with each of your points, why isn’t our lack of further knowledge a reflection of our own failure to seek? I find pt 2 literally damnable. We’d have no Dispensation now if that were how our spiritual forefathers and mothers felt.

    Aquinas (#12): I don’t think so; I believe I threw out the lesson and just taught a MD lesson that I created. But maybe; if you were there perhaps you remember better than I.

    Joel & Geoff (#15 & 17): Taking Joseph’s King Follet Discourse at face value, it’s not clear that our Heavenly Grandparents don’t likewise deserve honor, at least as our exalted progenitors. But there’s an obvious distinction with our Heavenly Mother who is directly involved in our “creation” and salvation. Your tone seems to put you on par with the anti-Mormons who mock our “polytheism.” Are you that uncomfortable with our theology?

    Jack Mormon (#18): Your commander’s spouse was not exalted to the same military status as your commander; nor did your commander require such an exalted spouse simply to be your commander. This is not the case with our Heavenly Parents. And again, my suggestion is that we do indeed go to our “commander” (i.e., God), in order to seek more light and truth.

    CJ Douglas (#19): I obviously disagree. In general, it sounds like you’re less comfortable with the Mormon elements of our theological understanding and more comfortable with understandings grounded in Biblical interpretation. I’m the opposite and think that our arrow of interpretation ought, generally, to go the other way (although clearly both modern revelation and scripture from past dispensations ought to inform one another). At any rate, I don’t think we actually have “stacks of explicit info” on God in the Bible. We’ve got lots of contradictory statements, and lots of metaphysically vague praise.

    Seth R. (#24): True, I’ve never lost a spouse. I’m not sure if some form of literal birth vs. adoption would make a difference here.

    Lynette (#27): Amen.

    As I said above, if we endorse reason when cautiously used in tandem with revelation and the Spirit (in an “O’ My Father” style), then reason suggests many prudent ways of thinking about our Heavenly Mother, such as those you suggest. We certainly do this with all other aspects of the gospel (like Heavenly Father). Why wouldn’t we do this with Heavenly Mother?

    Remember Jacob 4:8.

  30. James Olsen on October 6, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    TMD (#28): Well put, and worth thinking on.

  31. ji on October 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    James,

    You didn’t get an “amen” because you didn’t get any prayerful assents from the people you were teaching. You used your teaching assignment in a Church setting to explore a gospel hobby of yours. It would have been better if you had magnified your assignment to teach the doctrine and principles requested by your priesthood leaders.

    God’s ways are not our ways, and we can never fully understand God’s ways. How I wish we could accept what little information we know from our canon and rely on it, in faith, without trying to reduce God to our understanding. The right answer is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, with the scriptures and priesthood leaders he has given us. The time will come when those who have been faithful will know receive and know everything there is to know, while those who looked beyond the mark will still be ignorant.

    There might be a time and place to discuss the wonderings and possibilities of some of these hobby questions, but a formal church teaching setting is not it. I’m not sure this forum is it, either. The apostle Paul beautifully deals with differences in individual doctrinal interpretations in the fourteenth chapter of Romans, where he allows for diversity of opinion but cautions against putting stumblingblocks in front of others. I recommend that reading to you.

  32. Geoff J on October 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    James Olsen: What assumptions am I making?

    Is this a tongue-in-cheek question or are you really not cognizant of the assumptions you are making?

    But there’s an obvious distinction with our Heavenly Mother who is directly involved in our “creation”

    There’s an example of an assumption. Joseph Smith said that spirits are uncreated and that spirits cannot be created. If we take his word literally on that (and ignore the contrary opinions of some of his successors like Brigham Young) then spirit “parents” aren’t required in any procreative sense.

  33. Tom D on October 7, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I agree with many of the posters here (especially Julie #3 and Lorin #11) that speculating about Heavenly Mother as part of an Elders Quorum lesson is not a good idea. Clearly, this is something for a High Priest Group Meeting ;-).

    Seriously though, I have taught EQ off and on for many years. Being an intellectual sort I have often wandered far afield while studying for a lesson, but somehow, whenever it came time to actually teach the lesson, it has always been the simple and plain doctrines that came to mind. I think that’s what Heavenly Father (and Heavenly Mother) want.

  34. Ms. Jack on October 7, 2010 at 12:34 am

    If an Elders Quorum lesson given on Mother’s Day is an inappropriate place for discussing Heavenly Mother, what venue within the church would be the appropriate place?

  35. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Jl (#31): Combination here of my not supplying a fuller context and you making a host of assumptions in order to tell me I was out of line. First, I was in the Elders Quorum Presidency, there was no priesthood leader giving me direction on my lesson. Next, as already stated, I’m pretty sure it was not a “manuel” week (but rather, my choice), and it was Mother’s Day, which warrants an abandoning of the manuel anyway. Third, if you really think that a Mother’s Day lesson focused on honoring women wherein one points out and bears testimony on one of the unique doctrines of the Restoration is a “hobby horse,” then we’re not very likely to have a constructive conversation.

    Personally, I’m with Joseph Smith: We have a Heavenly Mother, and “It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation” (Words of Joseph Smith 13) and “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness” (HC6:363)

    Geoff (#32): No, I wasn’t being tongue and cheek. And your example is rather shallow. There’s a reason I put “scare quotes” around creation. We obviously mean something when we say God created or gave birth to us. Whatever we mean applies to our Heavenly Mother. I fail to see how this is an assumption. And I’m fine with your adoptionist view – it’s not something I’ve come to a conclusion on. If there’s an assumption here, however, it’s your claim that “spirit ‘parents’ aren’t required in any procreative sense,” since other legitimate interpretations obviously exist and none of our prophets have yet spelled it out in detail.

  36. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Thank you Ms. Jack. I suppose I should have attached a bigger, flashing-light banner above when I said

    knowing that many of you will be either curious or skeptical concerning the full content, here’s what I did: I reviewed Zina Diantha Huntington Young’s well known statement of Joseph teaching her about Heavenly Mother, Eliza’s insights, and then bore a heartfelt testimony of their truth and how much it meant to me

    and

    I don’t think I said anything particularly shocking in my lesson and testimony.

  37. Paul Bohman on October 7, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Re #31. Heavenly Mother is a gospel hobby?? She represents the end goal for over half of the members of our church (the females)! She is the perfected, married, exalted, celestial woman that the earthly women of our church hope to become like. It’s a travesty that we ignore her as we do. She may as well be named Voldemort, for way we hush those who dare mention her at all. Shh! You must never utter that title again! She is “she who must not be named!”

    Is the doctrine of eternal family relevant to earthly life only? How do the women of the church feel about being the center of their children’s lives here on earth (or at least being taught over the pulpit that they ought to be the primary child-nurturer), and then being absolutely forgotten, ignored, and stigmatized forever more, having no direct contact with their spirit children during their future sojourns in mortality?

    It’s going to be an awkward reunion with our Heavenly Mother if we’re all falling down to worship her husband and oldest son, and we have to be reminded that she even exists at all. “Don’t forget to say hi to your mother,” says our Heavenly Father. “Oh yeah, I forgot about her,”
    we respond. We don’t raise our own children to forget that their mothers exist, and we don’t muzzle their mouths or lower our gaze when they talk about their earthly mothers.

    We don’t “honor” our mothers or wives into oblivion here on earth. Why do it to the woman who gave us spiritual life?

  38. ji on October 7, 2010 at 1:33 am

    James,

    You closed your original posting with “I would love to hear your thoughts” — here are mine…

    You offered your best understanding as to why your fellow quorum members did not give you an “amen” when you finished your teaching — your surmise “surprise and complete lack of experience.” But there is another possible reason going to the meaning and the purpose of the “amen” in the first place — perhaps none of the elders in the meeting were able to say “amen” because none of them felt the whisperings of the Holy Ghost supporting and bearing witness of your teachings, and absent that witness, they were unable to offer the customary “amen.”

  39. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Jl (#38): Fine. I’ve never seen it before or since (and I can can tell our “great moments in Mormon laity” just as well as anyone, with all of our hilarious and tragic moments). But let’s say that everyone, in the split second after I said amen, really did make the inference that they couldn’t support what I’d said (even though it IS revealed doctrine), and they had the amazing self-control almost always absent in such contexts, and were able to resist the habitual “amen.” That is, let’s say you’re right. Other than self-righteous condemnation of a lesson you didn’t hear, can you say anything constructive that interacts with my actual arguments and suggestions?

  40. Paul Bohman on October 7, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Or maybe she’s not all that important after all.

    Or is it that she’s so much more important than everything else?

    It’s hard to tell.

    But wait… doesn’t it say in the Lectures on Faith that one of the keys to exercising faith is having a correct understanding of the nature of God? Wouldn’t that include male *and* female?

    At the very least, wouldn’t that at least imply that it’s not a forbidden topic to discuss?

    Interestingly, we hardly know anything about our Heavenly Father, to be honest, except that he’s perfect and that we’re his children. Maybe we don’t really have to know anything more about Heavenly Mother at all. But whether we learn any new information about her or not, we should at least feel free to talk about her without feeling guilty. And we shouldn’t have to fear being reprimanded or shamed into keeping our silence for daring to engage in a meaningful discussion about her, in the same way that we would about our Heavenly Father, about whom we also know very little.

  41. ji on October 7, 2010 at 2:33 am

    James,

    You haven’t seen any self-righteous condemnation in anything that I wrote, only an opinion that differs from yours on why you didn’t get the customary “amen” at the end of your teaching. But since you ask for something constructive, I hope this will be helpful.

    Elder Quentin Cook gave an excellent talk in 2003 called “Looking Beyond the Mark.” It is very applicable here or wherever the subject matter goes beyond the gospel basics.

    Regarding your suggestions, you have to admit that we have absolutely nothing to work with. Zina Diantha Huntington Young’s and Eliza R. Snow’s recollections and thoughts are not Church doctrine, and those that we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators have not taught us doctrine which we can use to implement your suggestions.

    Granting that the idea of a heavenly mother is one of the threads in the Mormon tapestry of thought (which tapestry of thought contains both truth and error and is far larger than the body of our agreed-upon Church doctrine), the best I can say is that if there is a heavenly mother, the best way to honor her is to obey the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow the example regarding her of the leaders of the Lord’s Church. It seems to me that your suggestions will turn us away from the Lord Jesus Christ, and any such course is worrisome to me. Neither the Lord nor his prophets have taught us to do anything approaching your suggestions. Inasmuch as Times and Seasons bills itself as “a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints,” I want to offer my thoughts here as a help.

  42. Geoff J on October 7, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Ok James, it appears you weren’t kidding when you asked what I meant about your assumptions. So I guess I’ll start with the most obvious assumption you are making: That a single divine person we could call “Heavenly Mother” exists.

    It is entirely possible that such a divine person exists of course. But it is not certain, despite the popularity of the idea in Mormonism. Here are a few alternative ideas:

    1. Blake Ostler contends that scriptures make it clear that the One God consists of just three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He preaches these three have chosen love and unity with each other eternally and they invite us to join in their unity. While Blake doesn’t explicitly deny the existence of a Heavenly Mother his theology doesn’t leave much room for anyone in the Godhead besides the Big Three.

    2. As I linked in commment #7, there is a strain of thought in Mormonism that assumes godhood requires the literal fusion of an exalted man and woman. In such a case the Father and the Mother could be literally one being.

    3. If we take Joseph Smith at his word when he said in the KFD:

    God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself — Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle — is a spirit from age to age & no creation about it (William Clayton account)

    then God the Father was not involved at all in creation of our spirits. Rather our spirits, like his, are beginningless and uncreated. If that is the case it removes much of the justification for the original speculations surrounding a Heavenly Mother (such as spirit birth).

    3a. There is another theory that the One God is actually the complete union of all divine persons in existence, not just three. If that is true then there is no single divine person acting in the role of our Heavenly Father or our Heavenly Mother, rather there is just the One God comprised of male and female divine persons.

    There are other possibilities as well. But my overall point is that if you want to start preaching about a single divine person and calling her “Heavenly Mother” you are already making a large number of speculative theological/metaphysical assumptions about the nature of the universe. Of course we are forced to speculate because God hasn’t really cleared these questions up for us yet.

    But as I said in #7, if making assumptions about a Heavenly Mother and then talking about it floats your boat, I say knock yerself out.

  43. Niklas on October 7, 2010 at 4:48 am

    JI said: “if there is a heavenly mother, the best way to honor her is to obey the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow the example regarding her of the leaders of the Lord’s Church.”

    At least suggestion 1 and 2 go well with that. Our leaders have talked and our correlated manuals teach of Heavenly Mother. If you don’t believe just do a search in lds.org, you might not find many hits, but you will find some.

    Geoff J has a point in his comment (#42), the idea of Heavenly Mother isn’t really that clear.

  44. Lorin on October 7, 2010 at 7:47 am

    James,

    My basic point is that if you’re teaching doctrines and practices that will help us venerate a Heavenly Mother, you’re flying far ahead of the prophets on this matter. In fact, you’re flying solo. This is a doctrinal area where we really have no guidance at all — well, actually there has been some “don’t go there” guidance. And considering that the question at hand is the nature and role and NUMBER of Deity, this is an area where flying solo present more fundamental hazards than other areas of speculation.

    Here’s some speculation of my own. Jesus has taught us to be one even as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one. And as we believe that means they are individuals with different roles but with one mind and purpose, let’s presume that our assumed Heavenly Mother is likewise of the same mind and same nature as our Father. She would do exactly what He would do, and vice-versa.

    If you’re picturing a feminine, omnipotent equal of the Father, fine, that sounds like a logical extension of what we already know. But logic then also dictates that whatever reasons for which the Father has revealed nothing of a Mother in Heaven must be HER reasons as well. The revealed doctrine to worship ONLY the Father, and to look to his Son for our redemption — it’s logical to conclude that must be HER doctrine, too.

    You want to honor your Heavenly Mother? Honor the Father and honor the Son. Assume that whatever attributes and perfections they have must be hers as well, but study, worship and embrace only the God you CAN know. If there were a need to add another deity to our earthly repertoire, we’ll find out through prophetic channels. It’s spiritually hazardous to run ahead of the brethren on something this basic and essential.

  45. chris on October 7, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Nice points James. I’d just add one thing. You may very well be right about Heavenly Mother. However, what you experienced was not unprepared people not knowing how to deal with what you said. What you experienced, I believe, was the result of revealing something you had no authority to reveal. The scriptures you quoted plainly talked about line up line, precept upon precept. From who? The EQ instructor or EQ President? No, from God. You may very well have been prepared and received line up line. Certainly your understanding of the concept of Heavenly Mother is not complete, only I believe the Lord has revealed to you there is something here and yet more here that will someday be brought to light, by him through only his authorized servant. Do you have the power to teach line up line? Yes. But you do not have the power to reveal what has not been fully revealed.
    Saying that Joseph Smith or BY or Eliza, etc. had some knowledge they shared and then claiming the authority to disseminate it as revealed truth, I believe, is contrary to the channel of revelatory authority. I anxiously await the day when these things do come more fully to light, but not from you or a historian or my bishop. I hope I said that right…

  46. Kristine on October 7, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I’m a little surprised that we’ve made it this far into the thread without quoting the direct prophetic affirmations of the doctrine. Wilford Woodruff said (Millennial Star, April 1894) “that hymn is a revelation, though it was given unto us by a woman.” (I think that’s the ecclesiastical equivalent of “she throws pretty good for a girl,” but I’ll take it :)). Joseph F. Smith (that radical feminist) affirmed that the idea “that we have a mother as well as a father in heaven” was revealed by God to Joseph Smith, who then taught it to ERS. (Deseret Evening News, February 9, 1895)

    It’s not clear that that’s enough for Lorin, chris, et al., but it does suggest that James is not “flying solo.”

  47. Alpheus on October 7, 2010 at 8:23 am

    This is not a matter of spontaneously creating new doctrines, but allowing the Spirit to help you connect doctrines that God’s prophets have already revealed.

    James, If our discussions or veneration of Heavenly Mother are only in proportion to what “God’s prophets have revealed”, then your Elders Quorum lesson would have lasted all of one sentence.

    Contrary to popular theory, this is not a cover up – because there’s nothing substantial to cover up!

  48. Ms. Jack on October 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

    On March 9, 2010, Glenn L. Pace of the First Quorum of the Seventy said in a BYU Devotional:

    Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    So I don’t understand some of the objections to what James did. It’s acceptable for a member of the Seventy to bear a sincere, heartfelt testimony that touches on the existence of a Heavenly Mother, but regular members are forbidden from doing likewise? Please explain.

  49. Lorin on October 7, 2010 at 8:28 am

    James,

    In case it isn’t clear, your post does include some important ideas and concepts that I agree with. I’m operating under the assumption that you are a faithful and well-intentioned member and not some kind of apostate. But I think some of your suggestions simply go too far.

    For me, suggestion #3 is kinda, sorta pushing it — I’ve seen actual apostates use this rationale for their own doctrines. “Follow the brethren” is far more representative of what we teach. Suggestions 4-7 cross the line for me. Suggestion 8 is good advice, but Ostler and Peterson are keeping their study in the realm of philosophy and academics. Bully for them. But they aren’t asking anyone to take the next step of incorporating that study into our outward practices and inner spiritual lives, as you are.

    9 is fine, 10 is a bit out there, and 11 is good practice as long as you recognize your conclusions as heterodox personal beliefs, and only share them as such.

    Too many of your suggestions, to me, draw attention away from the worship we have been given. Even the many parts of your post that I agree with are presented in a manner that comes across to me as a little too much enthusiasm for a pet doctrine.

  50. Lorin on October 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Kristine: “It’s not clear that that’s enough for Lorin, chris, et al., but it does suggest that James is not “flying solo.”

    To clarify, I’m not arguing that James flying solo on existence of this doctrine, but I do believe he’s flying solo on the practical applications of said doctrine in the modern-day church. What he suggest we do adds up to something very close to worshiping another deity. And in proposing that we do so, yes I do believe that he is running ahead of the brethren on this issue and indeed “flying solo.”

  51. Bob on October 7, 2010 at 8:53 am

    I think you have to factor in how the world would react if Mormons starting to worship a Heavenly Mother. I recall the idea that Christ and Satan were brothers was hurtful to Romney in the 1988 election.

  52. Kristine on October 7, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Wait–we can derail a Romney campaign by praying to Heavenly Mother? Sign me up!

  53. bbell on October 7, 2010 at 9:21 am

    My YM’s lessons that involve either the plan of salvation or marriage all include HM in them. You can’t really illustrate either the pre-existence or explain exaltation with your wife without HM. Plan falls apart without her. YM dig the idea

    Recently a local HC on Mothers day referenced “knowledge about HM as a blessing” in a prayer he gave on Mothers day.

  54. chris on October 7, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Holy Cow Kristine,
    I never said we didn’t. I never said I disagreed with the doctrine. I said really dwelling on it and digging deeper than what has already been given is going beyond what the prophet’s have revealed and that is not calling. As I said, I think its interesting the scriptures talk about giving line up line, and from God specifically, and yet here we are jumping beyond the line and talking about something beyond the “lines” which God is currently giving to the prophets. That does not make the doctrine true, but clearly there is very little we know about the concept.

    I would say the same to anyone that was wondering why when they got up to bear their testimony and talked about creating planets and were met with blank stares. Yes there is some doctrine in that concept as well. We don’t understand enough of it and it is not being revealed to us.

    I really like what Lorin said in 44 and about the Father and Son and Holy Ghost being one, and they are my exact thoughts with the rationality behind a heavenly mother. I’ll also note we really shy away from calling the Holy Ghost a God or Jesus God, etc. because we start sounding a bit odd. I recall McConkie saying something like God the first, God the 2nd, God the 3rd. That sounds a bit odd, even though there is some doctrinal truth there. Perhaps its the impreciseness of language without being aided by a perfect understanding through the spirit (or assuming that all will be in tune with that same spirit).

    I’m not going to tell you want to say when you bear your testimony. I have no authority to do so. I was just offering up my opinion and possible explanation for the blank stares and uncomfortable feeling.

    I think the author noted one possibility – the listeners weren’t prepared for what revelations he unearthed. Yes, that could be. And that feeling could also be that he had no authority to start teaching that particular message in the manner he did. (and that is a whopper of an accusation to make because I wasn’t there and I acknowledge it’s an assumption). Generally, I have no beef with someone saying, yes, we believe there is a mother in heaven, we don’t know much about and there will be a lot more we’ll find out beyond the veil. What’s wrong with that approach? Is it offensive to you or to a Mother in Heaven? (and how would you know?)

  55. chris on October 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

    “revelations he unearthed. ” should probably be “revelations he unearthed and possibly added to.”

  56. Kristine on October 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

    nope, not offensive at all–I’m sorry if I sounded peevish. There was a suggestion that we only have ERS’ song and speculation; I merely wanted to point out that there’s more authoritative support for the doctrine, even if there’s not much detail.

  57. Seth R. on October 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    The reason for the blank stares is easy enough to explain.

    Mormons always get like deer in the headlights whenever anyone says anything in church that hasn’t been said and heard a gazillion times already.

    It wasn’t because James was “digging too deep”, or “revealing a line he wasn’t authorized to”, or (gasp) “speculating.” Really, he gave no indication in his post that he did any of that (just about everything there was pretty conventional and unexceptional). I actually find it kind of interesting that people were so eager to jump to those conclusions about his testimony without any evidence. Why is that, I wonder…

    The reality is that most Mormons have buried this particular talent in the ground, and they don’t like being reminded that this is exactly what they’ve done. Thus the reaction in Elders Quorum.

    “We have received enough, and we need no more” seems to be the operative slogan in our 2nd and 3rd hours of Sunday services. Anyone who tries to offer anything more than that is, of course, “speculatin’.

  58. jkimballcook on October 7, 2010 at 10:01 am

    “I’ll also note we really shy away from calling the Holy Ghost a God or Jesus God, etc. because we start sounding a bit odd.”

    Seriously? You think it sounds “odd” to say that Jesus and the Holy Ghost are God?

    Odd to whom? To other Mormons or to folks from other Christian traditions? (Seriously, that’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t understand what you’re saying.

    Honestly, I can’t think of any reason why it would be odd to acknowledge the members of the Godhead as God.

  59. CJ Douglass on October 7, 2010 at 10:17 am

    So I don’t understand some of the objections to what James did. It’s acceptable for a member of the Seventy to bear a sincere, heartfelt testimony that touches on the existence of a Heavenly Mother, but regular members are forbidden from doing likewise? Please explain.

    James, I apologize for rushing through your OP. As I re-read your EQ testimony (not lesson), I found it very appropriate considering you simply recited a story involving Joseph Smith and then simply stated that you believed it and that it meant a lot to you.

    I still think the rest of your post is based on 99% speculation, but I believe you already know that.

    “We have received enough, and we need no more” seems to be the operative slogan in our 2nd and 3rd hours of Sunday services. Anyone who tries to offer anything more than that is, of course, “speculatin’.

    Seth, I love ya brother, but I think you’re out to lunch. By your rationale, the reason we don’t talk about Kolob is because we believe “We have received enough, and we need no more” .

  60. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Lorin, Geoff, and JL: Here’s why your comments aren’t very constructive, and how you might make yourself more of benefit in future T&S participation or other dialogues where you find yourself in disagreement (or agreement for that matter) with your interlocutors. I’ve stated certain ideas and backed them up with various reasons. Rather than engage these ideas and reasons, you’re engaging the general topic I’ve brought up and merely asserting disagreements (and in Geoff’s case, alternatives to my general view – which are at least more helpful). In general, when arguing in disagreement, you either need to attack the reasons given for the ideas, or show how those ideas aren’t really supported by the reasons given. Again, Geoff at least starts to do the latter, and I’ll address that below. Another legitimate way of engaging constructively would be to claim that the entire framework that supports both ideas and reasons is bankrupt. A charitable reading of Jl & Lorin would suggest that this is what you’re actually attempting. Unfortunately for your comments, however, I also made various meta-arguments above in support of my overall framework, which you’re likewise ignoring.

    Just to give an example, all three of you take issue with the very existence of Heavenly Mother as a well-established point of Mormon doctrine (one of my ideas). But you say nothing about the reasons I gave in support of this, nor do you mention the various sources I cite/hyperlink (like modern prophets) which also support this idea (in fact, it’s pretty clear you didn’t even look at them).

    This doesn’t mean that you can’t comment on my post, that you’re sub-par human beings, or even that I don’t like you. It just means you still haven’t constructively disagreed with what I’ve said.

    Geoff: if your obviously speculative (but in my opinion legitimate) alternatives are worthwhile considerations (i.e., if I read you charitably as trying to show that we can reach different conclusions when both using Mormon doctrine as a starting point), then what we’re presently left with are two pictures: mine, which makes explicit use of prophetically and traditionally established conclusions based on Mormon doctrine starting points, and yours, which makes various (again, perhaps legitimate) rational extensions of Mormon theology in order to create an alternative. In this case, I don’t think I have to argue further to claim that my conclusion (She exists as a Heavenly Mother alongside Heavenly Father) ought to be the default. You’re going to need to give a great deal further support before you’ll be convincing that we ought not endorse the picture the prophets have given us because of the rationally speculative alternatives you’ve given us.

    Jl: if that’s not self-righteous (albeit in a *sweet* Mormon tone) then I don’t understand normal communicative conventions very well. I’ll try and do better.

    In general: As a few commenters have begun to point out, simply asserting that I was “revealing” things I didn’t have authority to reveal isn’t helpful unless you first give us all reasons why my citation to prophets and citations to others who go through lists of prophetic endorsements of the idea of Heavenly Mother are all wrong. After explaining this, then you’ll have a case. I’ll take some of the blame, however. I now know that a third necessary preamble to positively discussing Heavenly Mother is to expand on what Kristine and Ms. Jack (#46 & 48) have done, and explicitly lay out every prophetic endorsement.

  61. b on October 7, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I especially like the comments that imply that they aren’t sure about the clarity of having a Heavenly Mother. What alternative (pun intended) do they suggest to ‘parentS’? Two fathers? :-)

  62. Ms. Jack on October 7, 2010 at 10:38 am

    #61 b ~ In a word, yes. Some philosophically savvy Mormons interpret “heavenly parents” as a reference to God the Father & Jesus Christ or the entire Godhead, seeing Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit acting in something of a “parental” role.

  63. Seth R. on October 7, 2010 at 11:01 am

    CJ #59, that’s a ridiculous comparison.

    We are talking about Mother here. MOTHER.

    That’s just a tad more important – both theologically and personally – than the details of Abrahamic cosmology. The nature of our Mother has direct bearing on divine destiny of around half the LDS population. Kolob does not.

    This is mere rebuttal by trivializing the topic.

  64. CJ Douglass on October 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Seth, I’m not comparing level of importance, but level of INFORMATION. As it is, we have about the same concerning our Divine Mother, than we do about Kolob.

  65. Geoff J on October 7, 2010 at 11:12 am

    James #60,

    First, thank you kindly for the blogging/debating lesson. I am kinda new at this…

    Second, here are some responses:

    I’ve stated certain ideas and backed them up with various reasons. Rather than engage these ideas and reasons, you’re engaging the general topic

    The problem is that you started with a set of assumptions and then you piled a bunch of arguments on top of those assumptions. But if your initial assumptions fail all of the arguments based on those assumptions likely fail too. So what is the point of engaging the list of arguments when I have suspicions that your basic assumptions are false? (I’m glad you can see that was my approach.)

    You’re going to need to give a great deal further support before you’ll be convincing that we ought not endorse the picture the prophets have given us because of the rationally speculative alternatives you’ve given us.

    True, but convincing you of any of those alternative speculations was not my intention. My intention was to show that while the speculative path you have traveled down is popular in Mormonism and not without supporting evidence it is still just one of several plausible speculations about the nature of God, the universe, and spirits. What I didn’t say is that because it is speculation, it is better fodder for blogs than for your Elders Quorum. (And heaven knows I love me some theological speculation at blogs.)

  66. Seth R. on October 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Yes CJ, but no one was advocating heading off into areas we have no information about.

    The point of James post was that we don’t even talk about what we DO know about her. We just ignore her. Neither of us was suggesting inventing new stuff – merely acknowledging what IS there.

    Since we LDS fail to do even this much, my example of the slothful servant burying the talent in the ground still holds.

    I’m not suggesting that this is the equivalent of being given ten talents – a topic we are expected to run with and reap a bounteous interest rate with. I’m suggesting that it is at least the equivalent of being given one talent, and God expects us to work with what we have.

    You seem to be complaining here that God “reaps where he does not sow” and that this somehow constitutes an excuse for taking a precious doctrine of the Restoration and never saying anything about it ever again.

  67. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Seth R. (#66): Yes, that was exactly what I meant with my hyperlink to that parable. Nicely put.

  68. CJ Douglass on October 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Also Seth,
    The quote from the BoM you cited (“We have received enough, and we need no more”) is a prophecy related to the coming forth of scripture (hard doctrine in my book) and using to apply to an important, but highly speculative concept.

  69. Bob on October 7, 2010 at 11:29 am

    If the Church wants to be view as a Cult__starting an open worship of a Fertiliy Goddess should help. But they don’t, and that’s why they don’t.

  70. CJ Douglass on October 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Fair enough Seth. She IS worth digging for. That makes sense to me.

    I would still like to know about all this info we have on Her. All I’ve heard is – “We have a Heavenly Mother”. That’s it. I’m just not sure how to expound on that one sentence.

  71. Jonathan Green on October 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

    For what it’s worth, I find myself most in agreement with Geoff J and Lorin. Innovations in devotional practice based on speculative theology seems like a bad idea to me.

  72. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Jonathan (#71): It would be worth a lot more if you’d do a little more (see #60).

  73. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Geoff (#65): Thanks for the response. The only foundational assumption that I’m making is this: “It’s our doctrine that She exists as the divine, exalted Wife of our Heavenly Father.” That’s the bedrock on which everything else is built. Again, you bring up some interesting alternatives that one can derive from other parts of Mormon doctrine. But before these would be appealing (again, I’m not saying they’re illegitimate or implausible), you would need to somehow cast doubt on what the prophets have said about our Heavenly Mother.

  74. Lorin on October 7, 2010 at 11:58 am

    James (60),

    I do not consider the doctrine that we have a Heavenly Mother to be controversial, nor am I bothered when it is mentioned. I only have a problem (in general) with the way some members take that doctrine and run with it. The most well-supported parts of your post are the ones I already agree with, so I didn’t address those. It’s your suggestions that give me pause. (See my #49 and #50.)

    Some of the taboos on the subject are well-earned. You don’t have to look far to find historical and contemporary examples of members and former members who have carried the doctrine to what they considered logical ends, but which are not. We can find folks who recommend addressing their prayers to our Heavenly Mother, or to our Heavenly Parents. I’ve seen people go way out on a limb with all all sorts of personal doctrines, feminist dogmas, heterodox practices, disturbing reinterpretations of existing doctrines — all tied to the end of what is actually a very small and tender branch. All in support of a being we know almost nothing about, and at the expense of that God whom we do worship.

    You have not done that here, but your suggestions are too close to that territory for my comfort. Do you think if a Primary leader asked the children to interpret “I Often Go Walking” as a hymn to their Heavenly Mother, do you think a bishop who observed this would be wrong to correct that leader? Whom do you think the Stake President would back, if this got to him?

    I can’t address your SUGGESTIONS on the factual merits because they aren’t factual. Many of your suggestions may, to you, appear to be a logical next step for this doctrine, and I’m saying they are not. If I read these suggestions in President Monson’s next First Presidency message, perhaps I would feel differently about them. But then, it would be the brethren taking the lead on this. I don’t believe you or anyone else should presume to be able to do the same.

  75. Seth R. on October 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Lorin, the members can and will “run” with many doctrines of the Restored Gospel. But why is Heavenly Mother one of the few doctrines we don’t talk about at all in order to avoid such adventures?

  76. Geoff J on October 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    James (#73): The only foundational assumption that I’m making is this: “It’s our doctrine that She exists as the divine, exalted Wife of our Heavenly Father.”

    Right. And I’m saying there is a pretty decent chance that assumption is false.

    It arose is the same time and place as other false assumptions such as the one-time “revelation” that Adam is our Heavenly Father. But while parts of that strange 19th century Utah stew have been explicitly refuted other parts have been allowed to linger is the wings. I think the term Ostler uses might very well apply here: “cultural overbelief”. I place the version of “Heavenly Mother” you are assuming right on par with other popular but potentially false speculations like the notion of viviparous spirit birth. Both have enjoyed a long shelf life in Mormonism but both have highly suspicious origins.

    Of course these sorts of popular and oft-repeated speculations may end up having merit. But they may not as well.

  77. Lorin on October 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Seth,

    Most of the doctrines people run with are peripheral doctrines that don’t belong in the center. With a Heavenly Mother, we’re potentially fiddling with the idea of who and what should be the object of our worship. There is no more central doctrine than that we are children of a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus is our creator and Savior.

    Add a Heavenly Mother to the mix — assuming roles for her that we cannot know she has, and giving her a place in our worship that the Savior did not establish — and we’re throwing unnecessary ambiguity into our relationship with the Father and the Son. Shooting beyond the mark.

    I’m all for intellectual exertion on this topic and others, and all the speculation that comes with the territory. But only if we realize we’re speculating. When we start recommending practices, and without an authoritative basis to do so, that’s where I draw the line.

  78. Cameron Nielsen on October 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I think many members figure that if Heavenly Father doesn’t talk about her often or at all, that he probably doesn’t want us bringing her up, even in hymns/worship? I dunno.

    One interesting thing to note: my mission president was a catholic choir boy in Price, UT invited by a girl he liked to seminary. When they met with the seminary teacher, he was prompted to bring up Heavenly Mother as the first principle to teach. My mission president said that as soon as he heard that, everything became really clear to him.

  79. jon on October 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I think you make many important points that in many ways needed to be said. I also like your suggestions. However, I will wait to implement these suggestions until our general church leaders begin to reference and discuss this issue more in their teachings. We need to be very careful to follow our leaders. Good intending people have been pulled off the path by pursing what they held as important truths that were restored in the fullness of times (ie leaders around the year 1890). Our leaders are well aware of the fact of Heavenly Mother’s existence…and if they are in tune with the Spirit (as we know they are) they will reference her in ways that God intends. The only negative thought I take away from this article is the unspoken suggestion that our general authorities have allowed this important truth to whither away because they don’t pay attention to it or discuss it. It seems that that is a necessary conclusion from the article, and I disagree with that point. Aside from that, I think this is interesting and I am excited to do some more research to learn more.

  80. Amy on October 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Beautiful. I actually gave a talk about Mother in Heaven on Mother’s Day last year. It went over really well, and started a great conversation in my ward. Unfortunately, it’s the only such talk I’ve ever heard. I’m all for hearing more about her. Here’s my talk:
    http://amy-gordon.blogspot.com/2010/05/another-mothers-day.html
    I went to great pains to make sure everything in it was doctrinally supported, and it’s all based on apostolic statements, so I figured I was on safe ground. The bishop did too.

    Some of the commenters here (and elsewhere) who claim that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is peripheral or a gospel hobby fail to understand that the idea of an exalted woman beside an exalted man is central to our idea of the family, marriage, the plan of salvation, and our idea of exaltation together as married pairs. This isn’t the location of Kolob we’re talking about–this is the salvation of half of God’s children! If we ignore Heavenly Mother, all of these principles lose their foundation. But with the doctrine of Heavenly Mother, we have heavenly support for all these things, as well as an assurance to the women of the church that exaltation is actually a meaningful goal to them, as well.

    Put plainly, this doctrine is so vitally important because if the purpose of mortality is truly to become like God, and if “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” and since I *as a woman* can NEVER be a Father, or an Elder Brother, there must be an exalted Woman to whose station I can aspire. Otherwise, exaltation is limited to males, an idea as dispiriting as it is undoctrinal.

  81. James Olsen on October 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Lorin (#74 & 77): Alright. I can certainly respect that we’ve got two fundamentally different approaches to the gospel here. I really am convinced that treasuring up but doing nothing with gospel truths – especially those, as has been pointed out, are fundamental to the overall story we tell in Mormonism – is simply burying our talent and waiting for the divine curse to come upon us, wherein we lose even that which we have. What’s more, taking the sacrament and pondering on the body and blood of Christ is really similar to pondering on the sacrament as the body and blood of Christ. I don’t think there’s much we do in our practice that isn’t similar enough to apostate practices as to make people uncomfortable (one of the reasons so many new initiates to the temple have such a hard time). I don’t see my practical suggestions as a “next step” but as a way of taking the initial step. Right now there are no steps being made. And as I’ve stated several times, while we absolutely respect the injunctions of our leaders and follow them when they come, waiting around to “be compelled in all things,” (D&C 58:26-28) particularly when we’ve got as much light on the subject as we do here, is a recipe for damnation.

    Geoff (#76): The doctrine of Heavenly Mother was firmly in place when AGT sprang up, and certainly survived it’s withering. I take that as prima facie evidence against your claim here. Likewise, things like AGT have not explicitly been endorsed by recent church presidents (Pres. Hinckley above) or quasi-canonized in the Proclamation. Ostler’s various possibilities certainly don’t enjoy the same standing. Likewise, as has been stated in several places in this thread, Heavenly Mother works to make sense of or tie together our overall theological understanding. I don’t think you’re crediting the substance of what we have with our Heavenly Mother and the way in which it seems clearly distinct from the (again, perhaps legitimate, even plausible, but not on par) alternatives you sketch.

  82. Geoff J on October 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    James: The doctrine of Heavenly Mother was firmly in place when AGT sprang up

    I understand that the idea started gaining popularity in the 1840′s. And I am firmly on board with the notion that all humans have the same divine potential regardless of their sex. My issue is that your assumptions about both the Father and the Mother are tenuous theological assumptions. They are found nowhere in our canon. They can’t even be found in the writings of Joseph Smith.

    It seems to me that you are mostly relying on the widespread popularity of your assumptions as a defense of them. But of course metaphysical truths are not determined by popular vote. What your popular version of the MiH model really lacks is a foundational revelation. There is no D&C 76 to back it up. All we have are second hand whispers about what Joseph might have told someone privately that gained steam over time. Not enough steam to be talked about often in the church today but enough steam to be just outside of our grasp.

    As I have said all along, I have no beef with people making assumptions about God and talking about them. I just don’t buy some of those assumptions after spending a lot of time trying to understand their origins.

    Let me also add that most of the various alternate possibilities I have mentioned in this thread can’t be attributed to Ostler. He has a specific set of assumptions but I mentioned several others that he would reject outright.

  83. cms on October 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I did a quick search on lds.org. Heavenly Mother per se is not referenced much alone–surprisingly, most of the references were in the 70s.

    But there is a huge increase in the references to our heavenly parents. Just about every apostle now references them and does it really often–Uchtdorf, Nelson, Ballard, Hales, Holland, and Packer in particular seem to be big fans of that usage “heavenly parents.” And the context of nearly all of these makes it clear they are NOT talking about Christ and Heavenly Father.

    So I don’t get why commenters feel we (a) don’t know if we have a heavenly mother and (b) don’t know if we should mention it out loud. I mean, there is uncertainty about lots of topics, but to the degree you take current General Conference statements as legit, we’ve got heavenly parents.

    That said I’m with Julie. I prefer “heavenly parent” usage. I’m not keen on celebrations/art of Heavenly Mother alone (I don’t have a holiday or art for Heavenly Father either–just Jesus). I worry that trying to promote a separate discourse related to Heavenly Mother might quickly slide into conflating her with childbirth, fertility, nursing, etc. (which I see Kevin Barney doing. But for all we know, She’s in charge of the Big Bang and black holes and has nothing to do with childbirth now). I’m not crazy about conflating her with Mother Earth either–she’s a person, not the planet.

    But talking frequently about our Heavenly parents to my kids? Referencing our Heavenly parents in talks and lessons? I doubt anyone would bat an eye. So I like your first two suggestions.

  84. Carla on October 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    This is awesome!!

  85. Alpheus on October 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Amy (80),

    Yes, of course we achieve exaltation together but no where does it say that the same is required of God. In short, do you think that attaining exaltation means becoming God’s equal? I don’t.

    The talk you linked to is well done with a lot of great quotes. I still am left with only one sentence on the matter – “We have a Divine Mother in Heaven.” Only conjecture follows.

    Finally, are you a deist? You say that Heavenly Mother is in every way aligned with the Father, and yet, we hear close to nothing about Her. She never reveals herself in scriptural accounts and never makes an appearance during the early years of the Restoration. Is this Her will? Why does she remain silent? You accept her as God and at the same time accept that she allows us to know next to nothing about her. You accept the statements of past prophets when they speak of her and at the same time reject the current prophet’s silence concerning her. This is all very puzzling to me.

  86. Seth R. on October 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    One might also wonder if there is anything objectionable in simply pointing to Proverbs 8 and calling it a list of some of the attributes of Mother.

  87. Lorin on October 8, 2010 at 7:27 am

    James,

    I actually agree with almost everything you just said in 81. Nobody’s asking you to bury your talent, especially not me. That said, I’m not going to bury mine, either.

    At least in my professional life (organizational communication), my talent and unofficial role in the organization has been the subtle tweaking of organizational culture. Sometimes that means unearthing the best ideas and shepherding them through all the political and psychological barriers until they become part of the culture. I’ve also got a talent for spotting political land mines, potential misunderstandings and credibility killers from a mile away and nipping them in the bud.

    In any case, I’m the unofficial go-to guy when it comes group psychology and in predicting the outcomes of seemingly small things. I have a tendency to spot trouble in situations that others see as innocent or non-threatening, and I recommend course corrections before others see a problem. I’ve been vindicated often enough that I’m pretty trusted for my intuition, particularly when my “Spidey Sense” goes off. I’m no better than average at reading individuals, but I’m getting pretty good at predicting how ideas and actions will play out within an organizational setting.

    Anyway, that’s the day-to-day world I live in, and that’s how I’m approaching your post. I have no problem with teaching the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven and mulling over the implications. I’m fine with most of your post, and with your stated intentions. I just predict that many of your suggestions (already outlined in my prior posts) would not play out as well in the real world as you believe, and they would carry a lot of unintended consequences.

    I’m not claiming any spiritual insight for that conclusion, but it’s what I think. I hope no offense was taken by my posts, as none was intended. I’m not as conservative in my thinking as I may have come across on this issue — I believe your ends are noble. I believe many of your suggested means would be problematic.

  88. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Geoff J,

    Ok James, it appears you weren’t kidding when you asked what I meant about your assumptions. So I guess I’ll start with the most obvious assumption you are making: That a single divine person we could call “Heavenly Mother” exists.

    It is entirely possible that such a divine person exists of course. But it is not certain, despite the popularity of the idea in Mormonism.

    ames (#73): The only foundational assumption that I’m making is this: “It’s our doctrine that She exists as the divine, exalted Wife of our Heavenly Father.”

    Right. And I’m saying there is a pretty decent chance that assumption is false.

    I suspect that the reason we don’t know more about our Heavenly Father has more to do with the lay membership than anything else. We’ve lived in such a male-centric world for so long that what purpose does having a Heavenly Mother serve? How could men exert full dominance if it was assumed that even among the Gods, Heavenly Father has an equal partner in Heavenly Mother?

    The unique hope that Mormon theology gives us is that we will become Gods. If we keep the commandments and receive the ordinances and stay on the path, we will someday become Gods like our Heavenly Father is a God. If there is no Heavenly Mother, then what will happen to me as a woman? Will I not really be a God? Is that option only available to men? Will my gender turn to become male or unisex? Will I just merge to be one person with my husband and cease my own identity? The Family Proc says that gender is eternal. If there is no Heavenly Mother, what happens to my hope? What do I have hope in?

    We are receiving truth line upon line. The truths we have lay the foundation for us to learn more about our Heavenly Mother. I don’t think we should speculate or teach our own doctrines about it (which it doesn’t sound like James did), but to even question Her very existence? No, that is an incredibly male-centric view of eternity, and I think it is likely one of the reasons we don’t know more yet. Maybe not enough people care yet or feel that it’s okay to ask.

  89. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Oops, I screwed up right off the bat. I mean that the reason we don’t know more about our Heavenly *Mother* . . . oh, the irony. I can’t even get Her name right.

  90. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Interestingly Stephanie, you were entirely correct in your typo. We don’t know much at all about our Heavenly Father. That goes hand in hand with the point I have been making here all along.

  91. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 11:07 am

    What point is that? That we don’t know much about Heavenly Father or the nature of God? I think that ignores a lot that we DO know. We have entire lessons
    about what we do know. With truths unique to Mormonism. So what exactly is your point?

  92. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

    We know some things about the attributes of God. We know next to nothing for sure about the history of God. But we Mormons do like to kid ourselves into thinking we know more than we really do about God.

  93. Seth R. on October 8, 2010 at 11:13 am

    That doesn’t prevent us from talking about him in Elders Quorum Geoff.

    Heck, it’s not even entirely certain whether the LDS notion of God the Father consists of one person or many such individuals participating in the role in perfect unity. What we term “God the Father” may actually turn out to be an infinite chain of such individuals perfectly harmonized.

    That doesn’t prevent us from talking about him in the singular.

    So I’m not sure that I see what your point is either.

  94. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 11:14 am

    So is our theology about becoming Gods ourselves just kidding ourselves? (I’m leaving right now, so I won’t be able to respond for a while)

  95. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Sigh.

    Stephanie: I have no idea how you take my comment that we don’t know very much about the history of God the Father to “So is our theology about becoming Gods ourselves just kidding ourselves”.

    Seth: My point is we we don’t know if a person we would call “Heavenly Mother” exists. I personally suspect that there is great extended Godhead consisting of all (not just three) exalted persons, male and female. That unity of persons is the One God. But of course God hasn’t clarified any of this for us yet so that is just my preferred theory.

    If you want to chat up your idea of a single divine person you call Heavenly Mother in EQ, have at it. (See my comment #7)

  96. fmhLiza on October 8, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for recognizing that our Heavenly Father may have mutliple wives thus the reasoning for the idea of Heavenly Mothers. I believe in Heavenly Mothers as we still practice spiritual polygamy by allowing men to marry mutliple women for time and eternity.

    I would like to focus on another reason we do not have more details on Heavenly Mother(s). The idea is very ugly, but it is a consideration. ***Women are lesser spiritual beings*** My position is based on: 1) Patriarchal Order 2) The creation of woman, starting with the woman before Eve. 3) Blacks are lesser spirits 4) Men are greater than the beasts 5) The current position that women are equal… but the practice in the Church is otherwise 6) Etc…

    This conversation is all mental masturbation. There is nothing wrong with my idea as ugly as it appears. No one wants to be told that they are less than equal. It is a Man’s world.

  97. Seth R. on October 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I think that regardless of whether there is one mom up there or more, there is absolutely nothing wrong in referring to a single person as Heavenly Mother. The General Authorities do it, our hymns do it. Why shouldn’t I?

  98. Alison Moore Smith on October 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    fmhLiza makes good points, IMO. I don’t call it “spiritual polygamy” — but serial polygamy. The policy makes no sense to me in light of the church’s “it’s in the past” stance. And less because now DEAD women can be sealed to more than one man.

    **Women are lesser spiritual beings**

    I think this is a reasonable (although lousy) conclusion. When President HInckley was surprised about the young teenage girl who wrote asking if girls could go to the celestial kingdom, *I* was surprised that he was surprised. How are we to know which scriptures apply to us and which don’t? When does “men” mean “male” and when does it mean “mankind.” As far as I can tell, the only determination we have it what the male leaders decide.

    As to your points:

    (1) Yup.

    (2) You referring to Lilith? Never could see a connection to her within LDS doctrine.

    (3) & (4) Don’t understand you points.

    (5) Yup.

  99. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    fmhLiza,

    Did you check in with fMhLisa before aping her online name? If not, that is a trollish move. (Of course your comment sounds trollish too, so I think we might have a pattern here…)

  100. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Seth #97,

    As I have said all along in this thread, knock yerself out with that.

  101. CJ Douglass on October 8, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    “When does “men” mean “male” and when does it mean “mankind.” As far as I can tell, the only determination we have it what the male leaders decide.”

    Allison,

    For a clearer Biblical interpretation, I recommend a modern translation.

    http://www.devotions.net/bible/00bible.htm

    http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Todays-New-International-Version-TNIV-Bible/

  102. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Geoff J 75, I think you are ignoring/discounting a lot of light and knowledge that we do have. We have the plan of salvation and the temple that teaches us who we are, where we came from, why we are here, where we are going. We have the Proclamation on the Family telling us that gender is an essential characteristic of pre and post-mortal identity and that we are spirit sons and daughters of heavenly parents. With all that knowledge that we do have, I don’t understand how you can question the existence of a Heavenly Mother.

  103. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Stephanie: I don’t understand how you can question the existence of a Heavenly Mother.

    It’s pretty simple Stephanie. Our scriptures tell us over and over that there is only one God. Just one. I believe that. So while I think there are lots of divine women and men who unify to make up the One God (I like the term “divine concert” coined by Mark B. I think), I don’t think it is safe to look to any one of them as a Father or Mother. (Especially if our spirits are beginningless and uncreated as Joseph said). So I am not at all denying that women and men have equal opportunity at exaltation or complete unity with God. I am questioning the underlying assumptions that require more that one God to exist in the universe. I just don’t buy the idea of lots of Gods off running their own galaxies.

  104. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Quite honestly, Geoff, I think your comment #103 includes more speculation and theorizing than just the idea that we have a Heavenly Mother along with our Heavenly Father. So, I’ll just agree to disagree.

  105. Seth R. on October 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Actually Geoff, we have three Gods in one God. And it goes further than that if you talk about the Divine Council and all that.

  106. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Stephanie, of course it is speculative. Everything we want to say about divine women is speculative. It’s not like we can go to our canon for clarifications on the subject or something.

    Seth, if saying things that way works for you the more power to ya.

  107. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Everything we want to say about divine women is speculative.

    I disagree. As soon as you accept divinity for men, you have to accept divinity for women. Unless you are telling half the world’s population that they don’t count and aren’t included in the process.

  108. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    My bad. I agree with your #107 completely. I should have said everything we say about a “Heavenly Mother” is speculative. I personally thing the term “Heavenly Father” is a code word for the One God.

  109. Stephanie on October 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Okay, that makes more sense.

  110. Cynthia L. on October 8, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Geoff, it sounds like you are arguing that the same school of thought is pushing hardest in an all-out war on the world-ending possibility that a child might be reared by two men and no mother, is also pushing hardest to suppress discussion of Mother in Heaven, because they so prioritize protecting space for the chance that we *all* might be being raised by 1 (or 3) men and no Mother. That doesn’t really sound right to me.

  111. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I don’t really know what you are talking about Cynthia. Where was I arguing any of that?

  112. Cynthia L. on October 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    You were saying that a/the reason for not discussion MiH is that She may not exist, and you noted several alternatives to the idea that God includes a MiH and FiH (see your #42 for example). So you are saying that in order to preserve plasticity on this issue–not finalize the idea of MiH–we have to ban discussion of Her.

    I am saying that it seems odd to me in light of the fact that an overwhelming organizational priority right now is fighting gay marriage, and the foundation of our whole anti-gay war is the idea that gayness is incompatible with eternal increase, i.e., God = a procreating heterosexual couple.

    If we aren’t solid on the idea that God is necessarily a procreating heterosexual couple, why on earth were we involved in Prop 8?

  113. fmhJanet on October 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    James, thanks for this. My three-year old son offered his first solo prayer this week; I can’t adequately describe the happiness in my heart when he matter-of-factly added “Thank you for Heavenly Mother” after offering gratitude for floor hockey and Jesus.

    Your text alludes to the looming day when he will find that his attitude is not normative. That day may bring the sort of discomfitting silence you encountered from your Quorum or, alternately, condemnation from his peers, leaders, or both. I’m just enough of an optimist to think faithful grass-roots efforts like yours–or mine–can deter or delete that day. Here’s hoping. Thank you again for your thoughtful essay.

  114. Geoff J on October 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    No Cynthia, I don’t really care if people want to discuss theology or make guesses about the nature of deity. In fact I make a habit of doing it. I was not providing reasons why people shouldn’t talk about this stuff here. Rather, the conversation went like this: I told James that if he wanted to make assumptions about a MiH and talk about I was cool with that. He asked what I meant about making assumptions. I then explained what metaphysical/theological assumptions he was making in this post and why I am highly skeptical of some of them.

    Now as for the Church’s stance against gay marriage being grounded in assumptions about a Mother in Heaven — I don’t have any real insights into that.

  115. fmhLiza on October 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Geoff J – Do you believe that two women can become the God(s) of a new world and follow the current plan of spirit world, earthly word, and glory?

  116. ji on October 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    We know almost nothing about the economy of heaven and the living arrangements there. At best, we see through a glass darkly. Philip, one of the Savior’s apostles, asked the Savior at the last supper to show the Father to him — the Savior’s answer is instructive — we should look no further than the Savior himself. For anyone who wants to know more about heavenly arrangements, either past or future, I recommend the fourteenth chapter of John, especially starting at the eighth verse. If anyone today were to have an audience with the Savior, and were to ask about a mother in heaven, I think the answer would be the same — we should look to Jesus, an Jesus only, and have faith in him, and him only. Anything else is looking beyond the mark. At the right time, everything will be given to those who become joint heirs of Jesus Christ, receiving all that the Father hath.

    I also draw instruction from the fourteenth chapter of Romans, regarding disputations and stumblingblocks.

    For these reasons, I am content to be silent on the notion of a heavenly mother. I think it is the best approach for me. For those Latter-day Saints who do believe in a heavenly mother, I would prefer that they be very careful to avoid implying any doctrinal truth to the notion, and implying that all other good Church members do or should believe similarly. I would prefer that they use Church times (such as lessons, sacrament meeting talks) to teach the simple and fundamental truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For my part, I hope never to use Church times to do anything other than this.

  117. Geoff J on October 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    #115,

    I believe there is only One God and there will always be only One God. I think I have explained that pretty clearly already in this thread. I recommend you read my comments here a little more closely

  118. fmhJanet on October 9, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Geoff — I understand your monotheistic interpretation within the context of New Testament; certainly it aligns with most other Christian faiths. I am curious how you reconcile this reading with the LDS temple cosmology. Please forgive me if you explicated this already and I missed it–I’m trying to read on a phone and haven’t mastered the task. Thanks.

  119. Geoff J on October 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Well the basic idea Janet is that the One God is not a single person. Rather the One God is the unity of all exalted persons. Sort of an extended Godhead.

    The key is that there are not different potentially competing “Gods” in existence in such a model. From a feminist perspective this allows the One God to be as female as it is male. As I said before, this model assumes the term “Heavenly Father” used here on earth is a code word for the One God.

  120. Seth R. on October 9, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Yes, but Mormon teaching also assumes a personal interface with that “One God” in the form of a limited number of individuals.

    The fact that we are allowed a personal interface with the male aspect, but not allowed a personal interface with the female aspect is a major FAIL on our part.

  121. fmhJanet on October 9, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks, Geoff. I appreciate the personal reply, especially as you apparently had to repeat something you’d previously explained. That was quite kind of you.

    I agree with Seth’s point but see no reason why, in a church which allows for continuing revelation, things couldn’t change. That’s both the optimist in me and the simplicity, I suppose, that comes from staring at an eesny beensy screen.

  122. Corktree on October 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Late to comment, but I really appreciate this post. It’s always good to get a sampling of what the more general church population might think on the reality of discussing HM more. I plan to make her a regular part of the dialogue in our home, but not because I have evidence of her from scripture or because I got permission from any leader. I’m doing it because it feels right to me and it makes me happy to teach about her with love to my children. I also use the term “God” much more than “Heavenly Father” and explain to people when I can that I intend it to mean the both of them unified.

    I’m hopeful that the more we do this, the more normal it will seem as our children grow.

  123. Scott on October 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Late as I am, I want to mention some things touched on by others, such as Lorin and ij.

    Elder Oaks was explicit in stating that not all information is for us. This means there are some things we should not ask to be revealed. The gospel is all knowledge, but it is not all given to us. The prophets and the apostles are the outer boundaries for what is teachable Church doctrine, or even palpable Church doctrine.

    The words of Elder Oaks, on examples of spiritual downfall:

    “My first example concerns Satan’s efforts to corrupt a person who has an unusual commitment to one particular doctrine or commandment of the gospel of Jesus Christ… Elder Boyd K. Packer likened the fulness of the gospel to a piano keyboard. He reminded us that a person could be ‘attracted by a single key,’ such as a doctrine they want to hear ‘played over and over again.’ He explained: ‘Some members of the Church who should know better pick out a hobby key or two and tap them incessantly, to the irritation of those around them. They can dull their own spiritual sensitivities. They lose track that there is a fulness of the gospel, . . . [which they reject] in preference to a favorite note. This becomes exaggerated and distorted, leading them away into apostasy.’

    The proportion to which the leaders of the Church preach doctrines should be our proportion to studying them. If the Brethren teach faith 60% of the time, repentance 30% of the time, and let everything else fall into the remaining 10%, so should be our study and our preaching: in proportion.

    Elder Oaks went on to explain: “Another strength Satan can exploit to seek our downfall is a strong desire to understand everything about every principle of the gospel. How could that possibly work to our detriment? Experience teaches that if this desire is not disciplined, it can cause some to pursue their searchings past the fringes of orthodoxy, seeking answers to mysteries rather than a firmer understanding and a better practice of the basic principles of the gospel. Some seek answers to questions God has not chosen to answer. Others receive answers–or think they receive answers–in ways that are contrary to the order of the Church. For such searchers, Satan stands ready to mislead through sophistry or spurious revelation. Persons who hunger after a full understanding of all things must discipline their questions and their methods or they can get close to apostasy without even knowing it.” (Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfalls, 7 June 1992)

    When something is spoken very little of by the Brethren, that is a good warning. Let no one trespass into “forbidden paths” (1 Ne 8:28), because there will be no revelation to correct you once you go there, only repentance.

    When the Brethren reveal it, it will be enough. Until then, we know that many members of the Church have apostatized by initially receiving harmless “new revelations” out of step with the movement of Church leadership, as with Hiram Page detailed in D&C 28. Hiram meant nothing wrong, but he wanted more revelation than what our Father in Heaven would reveal, so he went to a different — and false — source to hear things. Had he continued on that path, he would’ve grown so accustomed to this “new revelation” that spiritual dullness would’ve blocked out the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost, and he would invariably fall into apostasy.

    So let us be in line with the Brethren. If they speak of a certain doctrine .01% of the time, let us not establish it .02% or 10% of the time, because the Lord has forbidden it.

  124. Seth R. on October 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Scott, I would classify Heavenly Mother as a key we obsessively REFUSE to play at all, rather than one that is being played too much by some.

  125. Scott on October 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    @Seth R.

    “Scott, I would classify Heavenly Mother as a key we obsessively REFUSE to play at all, rather than one that is being played too much by some.”

    If the Brethren teach a thing .01% of the time, it is unwise for us to teach it 10% of the time.

  126. Seth R. on October 10, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    The brethren also don’t teach the multiplication tables, or proper spelling and grammar.

    I feel absolutely zero obligation in my blogging life to match my content up percentage-wise with what the brethren are or are not talking about.

    They have their role, and I have mine.

  127. Scott on October 10, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    “The brethren also don’t teach the multiplication tables, or proper spelling and grammar.

    I feel absolutely zero obligation in my blogging life to match my content up percentage-wise with what the brethren are or are not talking about.

    They have their role, and I have mine.”

    We do not teach multiplication tables or grammar in Sunday School. We teach the gospel, and the gospel is the realm of the Brethren, who we should obey. Disobedience to Church leadership is the spirit of apostasy.

  128. Stephanie on October 10, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    This means there are some things we should not ask to be revealed.

    So what’s your criteria in determining which things we should ask about and which things we shouldn’t?

  129. Stephanie on October 10, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Disobedience to Church leadership is the spirit of apostasy.

    Seriously, how is talking of Heavenly Mother disobedience to church leadership? President Hinckley made it clear that we are not to pray to Heavenly Mother. But, prophets and apostles have spoken about Heavenly Mother.

    President Kimball said this (speaking to young women): You are daughters of God. … You are made in the image of our heavenly mother. … Your body is sacred to you and precious.

    Elder Pace spoke of Her recently at a BYU devotional. Then he got released this past conference . . . hmm . . .

  130. Scott on October 10, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    “So what’s your criteria in determining which things we should ask about and which things we shouldn’t?”

    My personal criteria may have some flaws in it, and it’s subject to change as I gain better understanding. Elder Oaks’ reasoning is clear, though: not everything under the sun will be revealed.

    Elder Oaks said in this past conference why we need a priesthood oversight for the things we teach and seek (Two Lines of Communication, October 2010). And in 1988, then-Elder Eyring explained this need in kinder terms: “I know a few of the reasons why the Lord requires us to listen to mortal servants. One of the reasons is that you and I need a check on our own inspiration occasionally. We can be mistaken. We at times, even with real intent and with faith and with careful prayer, may come to wrong conclusions.” (Listen Together, 4 September 1988)

    To be short, the further we stray from the central teachings of the Church (faith, repentance, enduring to the end, practical applications of the Priesthood, and the commandments), the more likely a topic will not be covered by the Brethren, which should establish healthy fringes where we should turn back around and head for a more productive topic.

    Because we don’t need to know everything in order for the gospel of repentance to work, some things regarding underpinnings won’t be revealed to us. If we try to understand what the physical-metaphysical nature of truth is, for example, we’ll find ourselves bankrupt of revelation. But if our aim is finding practical truths for repentance, we’ll have revelation.

    This is because revelation is given to foster eternal life, which includes the Atonement of Christ. If we deviate into pure interest doctrines which will not further repentance, the Spirit will surely have little interest in revealing it. All facts of all things will be revealed someday, and our curiosities will be fed in that time.

  131. Scott on October 10, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    “Seriously, how is talking of Heavenly Mother disobedience to church leadership?”

    You have taken my words out of the question they answered. I said that in response to the doubt that we should correlate our studies with that of the Brethren.

  132. Mary on October 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I’m coming late to the discussion and there are so many comments, I don’t have time to read them all. I hope I don’t repeat. At any rate, I would have to say I think there is a need, a very real need for Heavenly Mother to be acknowledged as deity. Yes, I am coming from the framework of “damaged woman”. It is just nearly impossible to pray to a male deity when most of the men in one’s life have been less than exemplary (I also feel it is inappropriate to look at other women’s husbands as role models). I also know that many, many women suffer alongside me. We are an element of the church’s population that sorely need spiritual solace and find ourselves unable to trust the only Church sanctioned source we are provided.
    Although, I think that women who are in a position similar to mine need to be aloud to pray to Heavenly Mother without fear of retribution from the Church or it’s members. These women are already hurting enough as it is. Also, I think it would be possible to teach about a Heavenly Mother who is remarkable for her attributes outside those that are “motherly”. Most of the other religious traditions name “wisdom” as the chief attribute of the feminine divine. Eve, we are told, is to be revered for her wisdom. Remember also, that Brigham Young considered Eve as our Heavenly and Earthly Mother in his Adam-God theory. I agree with most of your suggestions, but some of them would be a little too “out there” for some people. At any rate, Sophie means “wisdom” and is a very nice name for girls.

    Just the fact that there is even this and other discussions of this nature and have been for a very long time, is an indicator that something is missing. It is time to listen to the women of the Church. It is time to do something for us other than to tell us to make doughnuts while you men attend General Priesthood. We are, after all, more than half of the populace of the Church.

    I accept the fact that if this Church does change, it will not be any time soon. I, however, have to speak for myself and the millions of other of my sisters who are suffering in silence. Maybe, one day the men who run this Church will actually listen to us and take action. That is why I add my comments. I don’t expect to alter anyone’s opinion, but I just hope that one of these days, the Brethren will look at the women in the hospital wards and the graves–women who were put there by the “righteous priesthood holders” they have covenanted to “hearken to”–and will wake up equalize the equation.

  133. Joel on October 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Mary @132 – that would mean that there are at least four gods/godesses that we know of, correct?

  134. David on October 12, 2010 at 12:44 am

    James – from a fellow Pinnock PA missionary who likewise once talked of our Heavenly Mother on Mother’s Day. Mine was simply expressing gratitude for Her 20 years ago in the closing prayer in Sacrament and if no one else did, I felt the Spirit of it. Thanks for initiating this post. Sorry I just now saw it.

    One need not define who She is in order to honor and respect Her. We need not envision Her with a certain color hair or any other attribute other than pure light and perfection. Indeed, the same can be said of our Father. I certainly don’t know what He looks like. While it is “life eternal to know God and Jesus Christ,” I hope and believe we don’t miss that greatest of all gifts because we aren’t able in mortal life to paint an accurate picture of what any of Them look like. Each is One with the Other. Each is Perfect. Accordingly, beyond the Lectures on Faith description of some of what perfection includes, I wonder if trying to describe our Heavenly Parents isn’t futile? Perfection includes and encompasses every good thing.

    And yet, I still feel impelled to come to “know God and Jesus Christ.” And, fortunately, for me, that knowledge seems to come most intimately and more fully as I experience life by the side of my companion – the mother of our children. Through those family relationships, births, joys, sorrows, pains and deaths, – more than any other searching, I believe I am able to come to know God. Without Mary my wife, despite all scriptures and teachings, I’m dense enough that I fear I wouldn’t have a clue who God and Jesus really are – let alone who my Heavenly Mother might be. God be praised for my Mary. God be praised for His Eternal Companion.

    The Bottom Line for Me: What is there to fear about more openly and frequently expressing our gratitude to God, our Heavenly Father, for our Earthly Sisters and our Heavenly Mother? Nothing. We could all lift each other by the simple more frequent heartfelt expression of gratitude for Her existence. That’s all it really takes. Gratitude felt and expressed for Her existence.

  135. Tatiana on October 12, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Has anyone proposed the possibility that we don’t speak of or know Heavenly Mother much yet because we have yet to be truly “born” as a species? Like, maybe we’re still figuratively in Her womb, so that we know Her the way a fish knows water, perhaps? Like, She’s maybe so much a part of us that we don’t yet even know Her as a separate being from us, or something like that?

    That idea led me to think about how we’re dependent as a species so far on the bounty of this planet or this biosphere, and we’re currently consuming it faster than it’s replenished. Not that our Mother in heaven could be a planet, really, but could the earth perhaps be part of her body, or something like that?

    That makes me think of identifying our Sun as part of someone’s body, too; maybe the Father’s? I know this sounds weird and pagan, but I don’t mean it in a primitive way but rather in a refined, sophisticated scientific way. The complexity of the sun, with all its magnetic fields and currents really could support something like a brain, the way our physical brains with their complicated webs of neurons support our spiritual selves somehow in a way we don’t understand. We’re told that Heavenly Father’s body shone above the brightness of the sun, when He appeared to Joseph Smith. All wild speculation, of course, but intriguing to me.

    Maybe being “born” as a species happens when we’re no longer dependent on the physical body of Heavenly Mother for nourishment and life. In other words, when we launch into space and begin colonizing formerly lifeless moons, planets, and other bodies, or building else inside-out worlds to live in out of raw materials. Like physical birth, this kind of species birth would be fraught with danger, and maybe many species like ours die (or go extinct) trying to get born.

    The time of our birth as a species is approaching. Will we make it through the process, or not? It’s quite a thrilling situation. Things are looking rather bad, rather catastrophic, in truth, for humans on Earth right now. But all births are physically catastrophic, as the baby suddenly shifts all its life support functions from its mom to independent living. Hopefully our Heavenly Parents are watching out for us and doing everything possible to help us to produce a good outcome in this particular birthing, and avert human extinction.

    Has anyone else had that idea?

  136. Mary on October 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Joel @ 133. I don’t want to make assumptions. Could you please elaborate (name the Gods and Goddesses)?

    All. David @ 134 is not my husband…even though his wife and I share the same name.

    Tatiana. No, I have not had those thoughts, but I want to add to what you’ve said. I have done a lot of searching of a woman’s place in the cosmos. In my searching I have come across scriptures saying that Adam was created from the earth and commentaries (I’ve read so many that I couldn’t tell you where–could have been Nibley) that said, in effect, that both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother were involved in the creation of Adam and Eve (let us make them in OUR image) and that nothing unnatural took place in their creation. When I’ve tried to put those two thoughts together in my head and a very weird picture forms. So, what you’ve said, in a way, kind of makes sense in the context of all of that.

    I can’t say whether I agree or whether I don’t, but it’s food for thought.

  137. Michelle Glauser on October 12, 2010 at 11:18 am

    The whole saying “amen” thing is so engrained in our culture, I really have trouble believing not a single person said “amen,” not even the old deaf guy in the back. Oh wait. This was Elders Quorum. Never mind about that.

    I really liked the post.

  138. nhilton on October 13, 2010 at 11:41 am

    James Olsen is misguided on several counts and his quorum rightfully felt uncomfortable during and after the lesson he presented for reasons among which include the following:

    1. Olsen strayed from the approved lesson manual and material for which he was authorized to teach which drives the Spirit away from the meeting;

    2. Did not stay vested in scripture but turned to hear-say and vague documents not within the cannon, relying on the philosophies of man, mingled with scripture to make his point;

    3. Questioned the faith and diligence of modern prophets who have not taught and currently do not teach what Olsen thinks they should teach;

    4. ‘Steadied the ark,’ i.e. reaching beyond his stewardship in ‘correcting’ others (see D&C 85:8);

    5. Did not focus on Christ, His atonement and distracted others’ focus from the same by appealing to human appetite;

    6. Delved into ‘fringe’ subjects of religion which bring up more questions than answers and are often the gateway to apostasy.

    Olsen would be saddened to know who has read his post and the greater harm vs. good that it has done them whose testimonies were already weak and were craving the acceptance and love offered here in counterfeit to the real love our Savior offers when we set our eyes on Him, nothing wavering. As a Daughter of God and mother of 5 Daughters of God, I resent Olsen’s misplaced focus on our Heavenly Mother and know that She, too, would prefer he keep his focus and direct the focus of others toward the Savior.

  139. Geoff J on October 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Re: #138

    Lighten up Francis.

  140. Seth R. on October 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    nhilton,

    I would be interested in you providing quotes from James Olsen’s post to back up each of your bullet points. Because, aside from #1, I’m not seeing any of your bullet points as even addressing what he said.

  141. James Olsen on October 13, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Well, it’s been fun. As is usually the case, it’s also been a lesson in our often unskilled attempt to express our thoughts clearly and straightforwardly (I clearly failed to do so for many of you who commented), and in the fact of how poor readers many of us are (I believe we only had 3 out of 140 comments who responded to the question at the end of the post). I meant to go ahead and close the comments some time ago (around #100, as is common), but am glad for those who were able to participate thereafter.

    In closing, I’ve three thoughts:

    1. We have a strong propensity in Mormonism to be orthodox. I think it’s strongly supported by the reality of our being quite unorthodox within the larger context of Christianity, and our annoyance with the splinter groups that have formed into genuine competitors for the baton of the Restoration. But it’s not merely a reactionary or simply human propensity; I think there are lots of good reasons internal to Mormonism for us remain firmly embedded within the truths of the Restoration, sustaining our prophets, and waiting on God’s promise of the further light and knowledge that remains to come. Adam was wise in following a true principle.

    2. Paradoxically (read Givens-style paradox), we have a parallel propensity and passion to seek out further light and knowledge. “A man [or woman] is saved no faster than he [or she] gains knowledge” said Joseph, and the entire impetus for the Restoration was in seeking God, wearying him with our prayers, and acting ourselves to gain more than was currently available. We have a solid history of condemning those who chain themselves merely to the Bible, or to the prophets and revelations of the past, as opposed to asking, seeking, knocking, and receiving revelation in the present – both on a personal and an institutional level. Sometimes, as Pres. Packer has reminded us in a recent General Conference, we have to step out beyond what we can see in order to gain further insight from heaven. Eve was wise in following a true principle.

    It is certainly my hope that we can follow them both in their wisdom, ultimately following both our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Praise be to them both together.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.