Why I’m glad Heavenly Mother is as yet uncorrelated

May 15, 2013 | 51 comments
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There is something creative about getting to know God: to recognize the infinite attributes of God and to express that ineffability in testimony and story, art and song.

Sometimes, one person’s vision of God becomes codified, set in stone as the truth for all people. It may be a beautiful, profound view of God, one that answers the yearning of the time. But God is greater than even the most perceptive one’s capacity to behold, much less fully communicate. Man’s best description of God is still a description of man, not of God.

And so I am glad that we haven’t been told as much about our Heavenly Mother as our Heavenly Father. (Honestly, I expect we know much less about Him than we assume we know, and that assumption, sadly, may hinder some from deeper seeking.) We are not limited in seeking Her, the feminine divine, by constraints set out by the visions of men. She is the dark side of the moon, the substantial half of God as yet hidden from the searchlight of institutional revelation and the strictures of correlated curriculum.

Don’t tell me who my Mother in Heaven is. Let me seek Her for myself. And one day, I’ll tell you what I have discovered about Her, and you will share with me what has been revealed to you, and neither of us will know Her completely, but we will both know ourselves better for the way in which we know Her. We will love each other better for loving Her. And with our Father and our Mother we will rejoice when we are reunited with our one complete God.

51 Responses to Why I’m glad Heavenly Mother is as yet uncorrelated

  1. Jason U on May 15, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Agreed. Thanks for this.

  2. Rameumptom on May 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Rachel, this is a great way of discovering Mother in Heaven,without all the baggage or politics that often happen. You are right, we know almost nothing about her, but given the immensity of the universe, we barely know more about Father. That really is an important insight for me. Thanks.

  3. Dave on May 15, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I suppose thinking of Heavenly Mother as “God’s better half” is in line with the recent emphasis on gender complementarity in LDS discourse. But I am not inclined to replace Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with a Father|Mother dyad. That’s the sort of do-it-yourself theology that seems so natural to Mormons but so offensive to orthodox Christians.

  4. Rachel Whipple on May 15, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I don’t think we have to reject the Trinity to accept a Dyad. I’ve been in a dyad with each of my children (the mother/infant dyad is a strong one, and typified by the idea of the Madonna and Child), and I’m in a very happy dyad with my husband. And we are a family group. Each person can have more than one relationship to another. So the Father can be paired with the Mother, as well as being one in purpose with the Son and the unembodied Holy Spirit. But I do plead guilty to the charge of do-it-yourself theology. But isn’t that what makes it my testimony and my belief rather than one borrowed from another person, however authoritative he might be?

  5. Michael H. on May 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Why should we judge Mormon theology on the standards of what’s offensive to orthodox Christians, of all people? Joseph Smith was quite fond of offending theologians (heaven’s sake, he called himself a prophet and introduced new scripture!), and it seems to have become a pastime of ours encouraged by the Church’s official doctrinal minimalism.

    I also feel this way about Heavenly Mother and, in a way, Heavenly Father. My worry is that if she ever were correlated in specific ways, we wouldn’t end up with the sort of expansive gender identity HF has (have you ever heard HF given as an example of masculine perfection?), but instead would take on whatever attributes the dominant culture in question sees in women. You can see it in the way she’s treated now: as something too holy to talk about, someone too tender to be blasphemed, and so forth.

    However, the problem here is that such *seeking* after her isn’t correlated. If seeking were correlated but traits weren’t, that would be ideal; else people who seek after her are branded as rebellious or fringe.

  6. Michael H. on May 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Which brings me to one of my favorite Joseph Smith quotes, made after presenting a scriptural interpretation and acknowledging that Christian theologians would dispute it:

    “I have it from God, and get over it if you can.”

    Sure, do-it-yourself theology has its own problems, but so does the sort of systematized, professionalized theology (some) orthodox Christians prefer.

  7. Cameron N on May 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I don’t think correlating God has restricted our understanding of Him at all. I also disagree what Mother is uncorrelated. But I love your first paragraph:

    “There is something creative about getting to know God: to recognize the infinite attributes of God and to express that ineffability in testimony and story, art and song.”

    I wholeheartedly agree that getting to know God is a creative act, in the best sense of the word.

  8. Ashley on May 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I love, love, love this! Both what it says about our responsibility and prerogative to reach out to Heavenly Father AND Heavenly Mother. I am quickly learning, at 28 and after being born and raised in the church that the things I’m taught about Heavenly Father are so limited when compared to what I may know through sincerely and fervently seeking Him.

    And I love what Michael H said: “However, the problem here is that such *seeking* after her isn’t correlated. If seeking were correlated but traits weren’t, that would be ideal; else people who seek after her are branded as rebellious or fringe.”…my whole life I have harbored a secret desire to seek after Her in the same way I’d been taught to seek after Him-the joy of rediscovering the gospel (as one who has always been active in “the church”) is looking more to early leaders who bucked tradition and whole-heartedly embraced the “DIY” approach to religion. I’ve found for myself that if it’s not DIY, then how can it be personal with a power to inspire growth and change?

  9. Ziff on May 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    This is a really great point I had never thought of, Rachel. Thanks for posting it.

  10. wreddyornot on May 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    What you describe of God — the infinite attributes, that ineffability in testimony and story, art and song, etc. — can be and is true of each individual.

    What I’m seeking in a culture that says I have Heavenly Parents is accountability. It’s okay to leave it to each individual to get to know his/her parents his/her own way. That’s fine. And we will and do. But to say I have Parents and then to not account for one of them in any significant way is not okay. Especially in a tradition that teaches us to honor and respect our parents so much.

    And why must we delay the telling of our experiences to a later time? Dispensations have ticked away already.

    Ask and you shall find.

  11. Michael A. Hickman on May 15, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Why the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price do not mention a Heavenly Mother is probably revealing enough that it is not important for our salvation to return to our Parents. We know we have a Heavenly Mother and anything else is speculative. If the hierarchical leaders of the LDS church have believed that revealing who our Heavenly Mother was critically important for our salvation then they would have done it long ago. They have not done it long ago and they are not doing it now. For someone to “seek after Her,” is contrary to the revelations provided to us through the prophets since the beginning of Adam even down to this present time. Our God is the Eternal Father, Jesus is the Christ by which the Holy Spirit testifies of. Our Heavenly Mother does not constitute what the Standards Works and the modern day Prophets and Apostles consider to be in the GodHead. The role that she plays in our daily lives is unknowable. You can search and search but it will be in vain. “Don’t climb to the extreme branches of the tree, for there is danger of falling: cling close to the trunk,” says Joseph Smith. “Avoid the vain mysteries and the discussion of them. Avoid imaginative speculation,” says Truman G. Madsen….”the speculative pursuit of matters that are without profit to the soul.”

  12. Michael H. on May 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    #11 – Joseph Smith should have consulted with you before he went into the Grove!

  13. Michael A. Hickman on May 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Wow! An ad hominem attack? Why so much contention by my reply?

  14. Michael H. on May 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    That wasn’t an ad hominem. I didn’t attack you as a person. However, I believe that Joseph Smith probably got the same advice when he was asking around about what church to join. If the only questions that can be asked are the ones that have been asked and which, thus, have seemed important to people in the past, you’re cutting off the possibility of dialogic revelation: humans asking new questions and God answering them (which was Joseph Smith’s modus operandi, and is the basis of the 9th Article of Faith).

  15. Michael A. Hickman on May 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I still don’t understand what you mean by “That wasn’t an ad hominem attack,” when clearly you are making reference to me being a “know it all.” Despite your fruitless attempt to correct yourself from a strange comment such as “Joseph Smith should have consulted with you before he went into the Grove…” allow me to respond your misreading of my reply. I am not cutting off possibilities of advancing more knowledge by revelation through the correct person. The prophet is the only one who can “seek after Her.” A lay member seeking after Her is not in line with scripture.

  16. Michael H. on May 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    You misread my first comment. I meant to imply that had Joseph Smith asked your opinion before praying, you would’ve reprimanded him for thinking of praying for himself instead of relying on the mediation of his pastor/minister/priest. I wasn’t accusing you of being a “know-it-all” at all; I was accusing you of having ideas of Mormon revelation that are contrary to the foundational narratives of the Mormon faith. Joseph Smith prayed himself, before he was a prophet. People seeking themselves for answers came to him with questions, and he consulted with God.

    Church history is chock-full of people seeking revelations, putting things into action, and then Church leaders picking up on them. There are plenty of doctrines and practices that various people hold that have been propounded by non-prophets and yet have caught on.

    And you’ve proven my point that the only way people curious about Heavenly Mother to avoid the condemnation of some members is to have the prophet give them an “okay.”

  17. Michael A. Hickman on May 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Cool, Thanks and Sorry. haha. Man, face to face dialogue is so much better lol.

  18. Rachel Whipple on May 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    A lay member seeking after Her is not in line with scripture.

    That may be so if that lay member then attempts to subvert the authority of the prophet by presenting their personal insight and revelation as the truth for the entire church. But I’m pretty sure that is not what I am advocating in the opening post. But I understand that you are disinclined to agree with me, and that’s fine. I’m glad that you are comfortable in your understanding of the process of revelation and the nature of God. I have less confidence, which is why I am still seeking further light and knowledge.

    And by the way, I love how you two worked out the misunderstanding. Well done, both of you.

  19. Michael A. Hickman on May 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    well, how can my heart not feel warm after your comment Rachel? Sorry if I misunderstood you too. I am new to this whole bloggernacle dialogue thing so I have a lot to learn and share. I came off way too hard on my comments and misunderstandings. Lesson learned!

  20. Michael H. on May 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Glad to know you’re new to it! I apologize for being snarky.

  21. DeepThink on May 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    …And what if…there are Heavenly Mother(s)? What if all of us here on this planet have the same Heavenly Father and different Heavenly Mothers? After all, isn’t polygamy a celestial law?

    It could happen.

  22. Michael A. Hickman on May 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    True… I have always thought about that.

  23. wreddyornot on May 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    What kind of parents hide from or facilitate their spouse’s hiding from the kids? What are the scenarios for such conduct among us? It seems that doing so only seeds speculation among the kids.

  24. RB on May 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    regarding 21, i think we give polygamy a lot more credit than it deserves. we do not fully understand it and we make a lot of assumptions about it. which is fine, i suppose, as there is no harm in wondering. i just find polygamy particularly damaging and hurtful to a lot of people, and insinuating that HF is polygamous can be really negative to a lot of people.

    so while i guess it could be a possibility, i refuse to believe it because it hurts to much. heaven isn’t supposed to be a place that causes pain, and if polygamy is the law there, i think i’ll demote myself and save myself from an eternity of heartache.

  25. Raymond Takashi Swenson on May 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    One of the general concepts we seem to have in the Church is that, just as our spirits are embodied through the process of growth and birth through our mothers, our transformation from eternally existing mere intelligences into spirit children of God was an essential step in our progression. There is almost nothing told us about it, even though it appears to be a critical step towards mortality and resurrection. Since our belief in Heavenly Mother is very much based on analogy to our earthly families, our belief in “spiritual embodiment” seems to indicate that Heavenly Mother had a major role in that essential transition. We obviously don’t know how it was done, but it was clearly just as essential to our becoming like Heavenly Father as anything that happens to us in mortal life. Heavenly Mother brought us through that transition, imperfect as we all were, as a matter of charity and grace. The importance of our relationship with her is not looking to her as a role model for mortal feminism and salary parity. It is, I believe, that she raised us to the point where the drama in Abraham could begin.

  26. WI_Member on May 16, 2013 at 5:59 am

    If the powers that be were to give us more information about Heavenly Mother, I think they would have to specify if she is the only Heavenly Mother. And that could potentially require them to contradict many of the early church leaders or regard their teachings as speculation, undermining their prophetic authority. I don’t think that happen any time soon, given the current treatment of the Priesthood/Temple ban. It’s much easier to say “we don’t know” than to take responsibility for giving a specific statement.

  27. Irenaeus on May 16, 2013 at 6:07 am

    I’m always intrigued and somewhat confused by the fascination with learning more about our mother in heaven in this sense: Our parents are one, just as Christ is one with the Father and as all will be one in the process of exaltation (John 7:20-23). Expecting to find different attributes in one that does not exist in the other is a hopeless endeavor, as far as I can tell. It’s like trying to discover where a circle begins and ends, or trying to find out how Christ differs from the Father (other than their relationship as father and son, of which we are already fully informed). When we know the Son, we know the Father and vice versa (and anyone else with divine attitudes and attributes–the one heart and one mind thing).

    The search for more information on our mother in heaven seems more akin to “looking beyond the mark” (and expecting to discover something).

  28. WI_Member on May 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Irenaeus,

    If they are indistinguishable from one another, and share all the same traits, then why all the hyper-focus on gender essentialism? Would you tell anyone that all they need to know about your spouse they can discover by observing you?

  29. Old Man on May 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    RN (#24):

    I wonder how a polygamist Latter-day Saint from the 19th century would respond to your concerns? Or Father Abraham?

    Perhaps it would go something like this… “if polygamy is not available there, I think I’ll demote myself and save myself from an eternity of heartache by losing a person that I love.”

    And you have to square your concerns with D&C 132. Or should we chop that revelation because it may offend our 21st century sensibilities?

  30. JLMerkling on May 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    One of the things I have found most interesting in my own studies reciently is that we probably have a lot more available we just havent realy looked at it.

    This a survay of references to HM in official church publications.
    http://byustudies.byu.edu/PDFLibrary/50.1PaulsenPulidoMother-482bf17d-bbc5-4530-a7cc-c1a1b7e5b079.pdf

    Dr. Margret Barker (Methodest minister, former Preseident of the Sciety for Old Testiment Studies, and leader of the temple studies group), is publishing two boks focused on evidence for MH in the Old and New Testaments(http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Lord-Lady-Temple/dp/0567528154/ref=la_B001IQWG34_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1368722875&sr=1-6) and its the subject of this years Symposium(http://www.templestudiesgroup.com/Symposia.htm)

    And this post over at Patheos.com just tickeled my funny bone.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/aidankelly/2013/05/the-queen-who-is-hidden-in-the-gospels-part-i/

  31. Cameron N on May 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Interesting JL. That patheos one sounds a lot like the bride/bridegroom analogies.

  32. Irenaeus on May 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    WI_Member (#28):

    I never stated they were indistinguishable from one another. There is a difference between physical and spiritual “oneness.” Christ and his disciples will all be one with the Father in heart and mind, as indicated above (#27). That oneness is a statement of the divine nature (not physical oneness) that all the faithful will become “partakers of” (2 Pet 1:3-4), without loosing the essential and eternal gender characteristics that we brought with us from our premortal sphere. It is precisely why Paul stated that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:11)

    The inhabitants of Zion being of one heart and of one mind (Moses 7:18) does not change the nature and role of gender in Zion or in the Celestial realm where its inhabitants will be exalted as a result.

  33. Kaimi Wenger on May 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Old Man (29), there is zero scriptural account of any loving relationship between Abraham and Hagar.

  34. Cameron N on May 16, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Well Kaimi, neither is there of Heavenly Mother, if we use strict definition of scripture (which we shouldn’t, since anything ratified by the HG is scripture.

  35. wreddyornot on May 17, 2013 at 12:01 am

    How dare anyone tell an abandoned maturing child that they have no right to inquire after their absent parent? Or that a mother is just subsumed in a father, that knowing the father is the same as knowing the mother. Only self-important prigs do that. Now, for your information, that — calling them self-important prigs — is a calculated ad hominem. I suggest that the prigs deal with it. But, on the other hand, their telling such an abandoned child that they are wrong to inquire as to their abandonment or about the subsumed parent’s uniqueness is also a very ugly, personal attack upon that child. That’s like telling an assaulted individual just to let the assaulter go because otherwise it’ll make waves. Give me a break. If a parent is abandoned or subsumed a child has every right to ask, seek, knock.

  36. wreddyornot on May 17, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Last sentence above: …If a parent has abandoned… not …is abandoned…

  37. Mike on May 17, 2013 at 12:06 am

    There seems to be a pervasive theme (not held by everybody and not just in this discussion) that “men in Salt Lake” should just tell us x, y or z, ignoring the fact that revelation is supposed to come from God. Maybe the men in Salt Lake don’t know any more than we do on the subject, and God hasn’t revealed to them more than what we have.

    Perhaps if Pres. Monson were to join this discussion he might say, “I’d love to tell you more about HM, but I don’t know anything more.”

  38. Irenaeus on May 17, 2013 at 1:20 am

    wreddyornot (35): No one’s been abandoned (we were adults and fought for the opportunity to come here just as we have), no one’s been subsumed, and Christ is the one who said “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also…. [H]e that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:6-9, as a direct analogy). He wasn’t being a prig. And he wasn’t diminishing his important role in the plan of salvation; rather, Christ was making a statement of what it means to be one with God. Their wills are perfectly aligned, as are those of our heavenly parents. You seek to divide them and all I’m saying is that they are one. The divine nature doesn’t change regardless of who partakes of it. All our wills will be “swallowed up” in the will of the Father, and there is no God without both male and female as my post above made clear (through scripture).
    Every partaker of the divine nature has gone through the same sacrifice of self-will to the will of God, including the Father (no, that’s not a paradox–it’s part of the story of eternal progression even before “our time”). It’s the common sacrifice we all make and I’d suggest your ad hominems stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel. And not to put too fine a point on it, but as I have taught my children: if you look for offense, you are certain to find it–even where none exists.

  39. wreddyornot on May 17, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Suggest away. I may indeed have a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel and more. But that doesn’t stop me from asking, seeking, knocking. Even in the scripture you cite, questioning led to revelation, didn’t it? And nobody has said Christ there was being a prig.

    What makes you think that that scripture should be a direct analogy to the situation at hand, a missing Mother? I don’t seek to divide them; we *are* divided from our Mother. And the division through time has had devastating consequences for women. Deal with it.

    I believe I can trust a Heavenly Father, but not a person on a blog who it seems wants to continue to deny a place for the feminine divine. And incidentally, if I were your child, I would have little respect for such a notion that suggests that questioning after an absent mother equates to looking for offense.

  40. wreddyornot on May 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I believe a prophet would not dismiss sincere seekers and those who make honest inquiries. I believe he would admit to asking too.

  41. Cameron N on May 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Perhaps Heavenly Mother is like Frances Monson, or Sister Eyring or Uchtdorf, all of whom expressly seek to avoid the spotlight? (not saying that is a moral issue, just a personal preference).

  42. Frank Pellett on May 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Bit of a difference – none of these women avoided speaking to their own children. If HM were just another Goddess, with no connection to us, then this might work, but we are her children.

  43. Cameron N on May 19, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Well, Dad hasn’t spoken directly to many of us either during mortality. Seems to be kind of a policy?

  44. Sharee on May 19, 2013 at 9:08 am

    #24, RB, I don’t know why you think that in a celestial world, polygamy would cause pain. I have heard women say that they don’t want there to be polygamy in the next life, as they don’t want to share their husbands. That is an earthly, mortal way of thinking, not a celestial one. I believe here will be polygamy in the eternities and I believe HF has more than one wife. You and I may not have the same Heavenly Mother. And I do not think it is wrong to seek to get to know our particular HM. We are instructed to to pray to her, but I’ve never heard anyone say we should not find a way to get to know her.

  45. stephenchardy on May 20, 2013 at 9:58 am

    A few questions:

    Cameron (#41) If you believe that it is possible the HM is simply shy, like Frances Monson… or if shy isn’t the right term, if you believe that HM is someone who avoids attention; if you believe that, then would it have been possible that we could have instead had an introvert HF who shuns attention, and thus leaves everything to his HM wife? Frances Monson is allowed to exist mostly in the background partly because we have no real use for the wife of the Prophet. Except, perhaps, as a symbol of Mormon womanhood.

    If it is the case that our HM is simply shy, would it have been possible, then, for HF to also be shy, and therefore to have left everything up to HM? Is our HM a sweet and possibly awkward wallflower who loves to serve, but chooses to remain hidden? And again, does that imply that it could have been very different for us if her personal preferences were different? If she had a personality not like a Victorian-era woman, but rather more like a 21st century career-woman would woman in society and the church have a more expansive role?

    Sharee (#24): Would a HM with multiple husbands also be OK? Would it also be more eternal for me to simply accept that my wife will have many husbands here-after? Why does HF live in polgamy? How many wives do you think he has, and why? 2? 11? 67,000,000? Is any number implausable? Are we sure that we all have the same HF?

  46. jennifer rueben on May 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Stephen#45 Your comment says something about our limited understanding of the Heavenly Parents and their relationships to each other and ourselves. As to polygamy, studying the life stories of polygamist in my own family during early church history gave me insight into the whys and hows and timing of this family structure. As polygamy is not practiced commonly among us, it is difficult to relate to our reality and therefore becomes misunderstood and distorted and even dismissed.

    Same comment on your statement about Sister Monson Although Sister Monson’s name and life events did not appear regularly in the Church News, she is a real women with real importance and real impact including but not limited to “wife of the Prophet”

  47. stephenchardy on May 20, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Amen to my limited understanding. To all of ours as well.

  48. Chadwick on May 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    #37 for the win!

    This sums up my view point of almost every unanswered question out there. I think the revelatory process, even for a prophet of the Lord, is so taxing, that getting a handful of answers to the millions of possible questions is pretty darn impressive. Unfortunately, however, that sure does leave a large pile in the unanswered inbox.

  49. Cameron N on May 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    A phrase comes to mind “it is not expedient…”

  50. Jan on May 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    What a great article. And so true, as I’ve tried to understand who She is and how to see myself in a divine role, things have become very clear to me, and those kinds of special, personal things are not for everyone else to know about. You have to seek to find. You can’t just google it. Check out my post about Heavenly Mother at http://indefenseofwomen.wordpress.com for like-minded analysis.

  51. Ben H on July 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Wonderful post, Rachel! Beautifully and simply put, my sentiments exactly.