Ahh… Margaret Toscano….

The latest issue of Sunstone has an interesting back-and-forth in its Letters to the Editor, involving Margaret Toscano. Have you read it?

A ne’er-do-well from Washington has an achingly familiar critique of Margaret Toscano’s essay on Mother in Heaven, accusing the article of being “a ’70s-vintage feminist whine about male chauvinist ecclesiastical power and the oppression of so-called female intellectuals.” Ms. Toscano, seldom one to back down from a fight, has an interesting answer which I think misses the point of the snarky accuser: namely, that she’s not telling us anything new. This oft-repeated refrain plagues not only church feminists, but all kinds of so-called intellectuals in the Church, including yours truly.

In any event, Ms. Toscano’s reply contains an interesting analysis of Pres. Hinckley’s recent Conference remarks, and asks the intriguing question: “Has any male leader desired a revelation about the Heavenly Mother, or sincerely asked for one?”

I think I’ll save that question for this Sunday in Elder’s Quorum, but it’s worth asking here as well.

N.B. I know that the post at the Evil Blog I link to wasn’t talking about Ms. Toscano, and instead spoke in favorable terms about her article. But the refrains used therein are strikingly similar.

Comments

  1. I can’t imagine that the powers that be are ever going to delve deeply into the Mother-in-Heaven point of doctrine, because, based on my own research of the topic, it’s directly connected to the Adam-God “theory”: for Eliza R. Snow, our “mother there” was Eve.

  2. Mark, historical roots are only partially relevant to the idea of MIH, I think — so long as we have that hymn in our book, it’s still an intriguing doctrine, and one we ought to figure out, sooner or later.

  3. Mephibosheth says:

    Some say that the heavenly silence on Heavenly Mother is a way of protecting Her from the same blasphemies and cursings that are often applied to Mary and Christ.

  4. Mephibos….. can I call you Meph?

    I’ve heard that old chestnut too. It rings true, if only because a similar rationale is behind the naming of the Melchizedek Priesthood. But again, not naming her is one thing — filling a big doctrinal hole is another.

    I should note, for purposes of the Committee persons in the blogosphere, that I don’t have any position on the MIH issue. I don’t pretend to know as much about it as Ms. Toscano or Pres. Hinckley. But as a casual observer, it does seem like a glaring absence in our otherwise fleshed-out Godhead. (Well, except for the Holy Ghost…)

  5. In the thread that you linked to, I praised Toscano’s article as being intellectually interestings, while accusing a different Sunstone article of being predictable boilerplate. I thought that Toscano’s article was not without its flaws and its cliches, but on the whole I thought she made some important points, particularlly about the various (rather bad) theological explanations of the status of MIH.

    There are, it seems to me, two central theoretical problems with her article.

    First, she does not seem to employ her stated interpretive methodology consistently, or alternatively doesn’t recognize when it is used. Thus, she provides an extended critique of a talk by President Hinckley that is employing precisely the methodology that she advocates later in the article. The result is a rather baffling piece of pique and inconsistency.

    Second, she fails to provide any coherent account of authority. This would not be a theoretical problem for her if she were offering nothing more than a feminist critique of the Church or a set of rhetorical or institutional strategies for manipulating the Church into adopting more attractive doctrinal positions. The problem is that she doesn’t seem to be offering a the simple the-Church-is-misogynist-whine imputed to her by the letter to the editor, and as a set of practical, rhetorical strategies her article is laughably bad. This, I hasten to point out, is not a problem because I don’t think that this is what she is doing. Rather, I take her to be pointing toward the possibility of constructing a genuine theology of MIH on the basis of Mormon texts. Hence the problem of authority. She needs some account of why THOSE texts should form the basis of her theology rather than some other set of texts. (Why worry about how the D&C is interpretted rather than Egyptian funery texts about Isis?) An answer to that question will require some account of the authority of those texts, yet it is precisely the current authority that warrants those texts that she wishes to attack or at anyrate reconstruct. Without some account of authority, I don’t see that her gesture toward the possiblity of a feminist theology can get off the ground.

  6. not naming her is one thing — filling a big doctrinal hole is another.

    Brigham Young’s early statements (and there were plenty of them) show that he believed that Adam and Eve were Celestial Beings who had already gone through their own mortal states on another world, who had been given this world to populate as a reward for their rightousness elsewhere. Mother Eve as my mother-in-heaven sounds perfectly plausible to me, because the whole LDS concept and teaching of what it is celestial beings are supposed to do seems to fit in exactly with what Brother Brigham said that Adam and Eve were sent here to do.

    Now, if Brigham and Eliza were wrong about that, then I guess I hope to eventually be pleasantly surprised with the reintroduction to my heavenly mother, whoever she is.

  7. Nate, I agree with the problems surrounding textual authority in feminist theology, esp. Ms. Toscano’s. Still, though, picking and choosing from the scriptures is a time-honored tradition among Mormons scholars, and I’d hate to begrudge her the same. That being said, I admire her attempts to try an construct a cogent way of evaluating women in the Gospel. It seems easy enough to do for men.

    Mark N., I’m not buying AGT just yet. I think your last sentence sums up current thought in the Church; we’re all looking forward to meeting Her, whoever she is and whatever her true role turns out to be.

  8. Steve, I think the GAs are smart enough to realize that any attempt to talk about MIH is a losing proposition. Whatever they say, it will strengthen the hand of those they define as critics, such as Toscano, and almost certainly lead to more questions rather than settling anything.

    Doctrinally, if they were to formally recognize there’s “a mother there,” then they would have to define her identity and status, which would only open another can of worms. So I don’t see any movement on the MIH front anytime soon.

  9. “Has any male leader desired a revelation about the Heavenly Mother, or sincerely asked for one?”

    Maybe – probably not. But, while they are at it, it would be great to get the skinny on our ambiguous origins and the nature of exaltation. Nate’s post at T&S on our origins has been a lot of fun, and despite the spinning, has been a great forum to delineate disparate ideas on our eternal nature (most of which have implications for the role (or lack thereof) for a Heavenly Mother).

    I think that it is safe to say that, with the lid on dramatic prophetic announcements on the plan of salvation closed for close to a century and with everything we assume about Heavenly Mother coming from the AG doctrine (directly or by evolution), though Orson Pratt, the great antagonist, also believed in HM, our perspectives are not likely to be changed any time soon.

  10. It’s never been quite clear to me what Ms. Toscano exactly wants revealed? It seems to me that the proclamation on the family logically entails a lot about Mother in Heaven. However, as J. Stapley points out, it seems difficult to say much about her without revealing a lot about the whole nature of spirit creation.

    When one considers not only the move to “accommodation” by Wilford Woodruff culiminating in Heber J. Grant but also Pres. Hinkley’s actions of the last ten years, then I think emphasizing an area that would undoubtedly drive a huge wedge between us and other Christians might not be in the Lord’s timeframe at the moment. I say that independent of the whole “how do we understand Brigham” question. Even if Brigham was completely out in left field, the answers will be troubling to most people.

    But, contra Ms. Toscano, why does she assume no male leader has asked or more importantly received an answer. My strong belief which has at times been confirmed, is that the Brethren know much more than they talk about. (Which isn’t to say they know all the questions we might wish) I wouldn’t be at all surprised in many of the Apostles do know the answers Ms. Toscano wants.

    I seem to recall Joseph saying that the reason people don’t receive more revelation is because they can’t keep a secret. (There are numerous similar quotes both in the BoM and many GAs such as Brigham Young)

    “The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep them but reveal them, we do not keep our own secrets but reveal our difficulties to the world even to our enemies then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord Joseph says I can keep a secret till dooms day” (Woodruff Journal, Dec 19, 1841)

  11. Dave writes: “Doctrinally, if they were to formally recognize there’s “a mother there,””

    Um…Dave…I think that this has already happen. The Proclamation on the Family contains references to “heavenly parents.” Indeed, the First Presidency refered to “heavenly parents” in its 1924 statement “The Mormon View of Evolution” (which incidentally says nothing about evolution!). President Hinckley also endorsed the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven in his sermon instructing members not to pray to her. Whether or not the Church takes the position “there’s “a mother there,” is not nearly as ambigious as you suggest. The issue is what the affirmation of the existence of an MIH means.

  12. I agree with Nate — we already have clear acknowledgment of Heavenly Parents, plural. What’s unanswered is the effect of such a doctrine. It’s a can of worms, to be sure, but one that’s already been put on the shelf.

  13. Nate, what if Toscano recognizes the prophetic authority of Joseph Smith in generating the texts, but has questions about the way prophetic authority is invoked today to keep doctrine and practice relatively static? It isn’t necessarily inconsistent to favor the charismatic novelty of new revelation while criticizing contemporary orthodoxy. Maybe Toscano (whom I knew at the University of Utah for a few years in the early 1990s) simply wishes the LDS church were a bit more prophetically adventurous, as Joseph Smith was. In a prophetic church, why can’t there be new texts?

  14. Philocrites: I suspect that you are right as to Toscano’s views. My problem is two fold. First, she does not herself articulate this position in her article. One is thus left somewhat confused as to the import of her critique of the authority. Second, while there is nothing wrong with new texts in a prophetic church, this point is (for that reason) rather platitudinous. The important and interesting questions are not about the possiblity of new texts, but rather about how they are produced and how they are warranted.

  15. “we already have clear acknowledgment of Heavenly Parents”

    I don’t know if this is the case. We have acknowledgment, but clear may be to difinitive an adjective.

  16. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism article “Mother in Heaven” says this: Latter-day Saints infer from authoritative sources of scripture and modern prophecy that there is a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father. But Mormons infer all kinds of screwy things from “authoritative sources of scripture and modern prophecy.” There has not been a clear and formal declaration or statement of doctrine on MIH that legitimizes the topic for public discussion. That’s why Mormon scholars get in trouble for publishing on the topic.

    It seems like MIH is in the class of “we don’t want to talk about it” doctrines, along with polygamy, Adam-God, etc. To the extent I’m familiar with the Toscano saga, my reading is she got into difficulty not because her MIH ideas were unsupportable or “false doctrine,” but because she insisted on talking (in public, no less!) about a topic on the “we don’t want to talk about it” list. And, to restate my first comment, leaders are probably correct from their perspective in viewing MIH as a topic they have nothing to gain from discussing publicly.

  17. With the Mother-in-Heaven idea, we basically have a logical conclusion drawn in a hymn (and perhaps a few other sources) and then a prophetic confirmation of that logic. But that’s it. To really get anywhere on the MIH idea we’ll need to receive an actual revelation and move beyond the simple logic.

    And as others have said, there’s a lot for the LDS Church to lose by any kind of additional revelatory details on this matter.

  18. Is there any way for feminists in the Church to appeal to authority or to the scriptures without seeming like hypocrites? Not a lot of scripture comes to us through women.

  19. “there’s a lot for the LDS Church to lose by any kind of additional revelatory details on this matter”

    There’s a lot to gain, too: a theological justification for our otherwise unscriptural emphasis on families, a model for a working partnership between men and women, a clarification of the status of polygamy in the eternities, role model for women and a better understanding of what gender means…

    It’s a long list, and could be long enough to justify rocking the boat a little. I suspect we need another 3 decades away from the feminist theology of the 70s, though, before anyone will touch it.

  20. Kristine, I agree with you — we have a lot to gain, here.

    Last night in the car home I thought of the line, “the thought makes reason stare” — and I wondered of all the ways we could make sense of our relationships, our families and our lives if we had a better understanding of our Heavenly Parents. For example, think of the all-male priesthood: can you imagine a Heavenly Mother that would not fully possess the power and authority of her spouse? Reason stares, indeed.

  21. I realize that the intent of this thread is not a debate of possible MIH doctrines; however, Steve, your assertion: “can you imagine a Heavenly Mother that would not fully possess the power and authority of her spouse” implies a theology of exaltation that is not, as yet, perspicuous. There are many scenarios that are highly plausible (at least from the prophetic texts) in which the popular ideas of exaltation just don’t jive. That said, what if a prophetic utterance is delivered and it does not fit the popular assumptions?

  22. “what if a prophetic utterance is delivered and it does not fit the popular assumptions?”

    When has a prophetic utterance ever fit the popular assumptions?

    Of course you’re right that we know next to nothing about what exalted life is like, save for snippets.

  23. Steve Evans: … so long as we have that hymn in our book…

    And I can’t help but wonder if popular LDS sentiment will continue to be strong enough to insure that “that hymn” remains in the hymnbook for another couple of generations, or if all reference to “a mother there” will eventually be largely erased, similar to the way A-G has been largely erased.

  24. Adam-God is still in the hymnbook–check out “Sons of Michael, He Approaches” (!)

  25. Say, that reminds me–there’s a clever little essay in the current issue of Dialogue about Primary songs as useful, under-studied repositories of doctrine.

    ;-)

  26. There was some discussion of “Sons of Michael, He Approaches” awhile back on that other blog.

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/index.php?p=813

    Brent Metcalf’s comments are particularly interesting.

  27. Julie in Austin says:

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I am going to suggest that there will be no revelation about a Mother in Heaven and that the reason there won’t be one is. . .

    . . . there can’t be. What, hypothetically, might this revelation say? Our understanding of the unity that exists between our Heavenly Parents would preclude any meaningful statement that would describe one of Them but not the other. This, perhaps, might also explain why it is inappropriate to pray to Her.

  28. It gets worse: If leaders formally endorse the concept of a Mother in Heaven, they might be confronted with the possibility of a Mother-in-Law in Heaven. Even without any revelations about MILIH, I’m guessing it is inappropriate (and perhaps inadvisable) to pray to Her.

  29. My own thought is that God isn’t going to go give us more revelation when we aren’t making use of what he has given us. We can speak all about how nice it would be to have a revelation, but the fact is that as a people we still aren’t cutting it with what God has given us. I think there is a danger of looking beyond the mark. Heavens I could list a few hundred questions I have, but once again theology will always be a distant second to ethics and I have plenty to work on in my personal life before worrying about answers to those other questions. Well, except on my blog.

  30. “This, perhaps, might also explain why it is inappropriate to pray to Her.”

    Julie, I disagree — unity among them would explain a scenario where we prayed to some genderless Deity, but not to the Father. I agree, though, that it would be virtually impossible to describe a Mother without also indirectly describing the Father. And yet, that’s what we’ve been doing for our Father all along….

  31. Again, I realize that this is not the intent of the thread, but since the conversation is heading this way…

    I espouse a theology (for now) where the Savior is omniscient because of the expiation. God the Father is likewise omniscient (a la KFD). We (that is our eternal marriages) are consequently left with something less than omniscience through the eternities. As much as a MIH might be excellent, pure, etc, MIH never will be omniscient, because there was never an atonement made.

    Under this scenario, it is evident why we would not worship or pray to Her. Moreover, it would be erroneous to project the Father’s character on to Her.

  32. Mr. Stapley, under your theory, we could never gain all the Father hath; isn’t that against scripture? I like the idea of expiation being a mechanism for omniscience, but I think your conclusion of some sub-omniscience existence isn’t necessarily doctrinal. The application of this idea to MIH is I think a secondary concern.

  33. Clark: “we still aren’t cutting it with what God has given us.”

    Of course you’re right, Clark, but somehow doctrine of this sort seems tough to “use.” For example, how could we appropriately show our Father that we understand and appreciate what he’s told us about the nature of the Godhead? The threshold level for gaining new revelation seems very elusive, although I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this.

  34. Clark: “God isn’t going to go give us more revelation when we aren’t making use of what he has given us. We can speak all about how nice it would be to have a revelation, but the fact is that as a people we still aren’t cutting it with what God has given us.”

    To follow up on Steve’s point, hasn’t this always been true? Has there ever been a time in history when the human family has adequately made use of what they had been given? In fact, it almost seems that the failure to adequately understand or “use” what has already been given is a reason for more, not less. Jesus himself came to the Jews who were not using what they had been given. The restoration of the Gospel came to people who were not using what they had been given. The Saints in Nauvoo and Kirtland and Missouri were not using what they had been given, and yet Joseph continued to reveal more and more. If we had to use what we have been given to get more, then revelation would have stopped with Adam and Eve.

  35. I hesitated to post, because I didn’t want to hijack the thread, my apologies in advance.

    While I differ in my conclusions, others have argued for an exaltation that is sub-omniscient (e.g. Ostler, and though I am still reading, I am told Talmage as well). Scripturally and from the words of Joseph Smith, it is actually a much sounder conclusion than the exaltation popularized by BY and his contemporaries. Others have said it, but I will reiterate it: there is a difference between having all that the Father has and being all that the Father is.

  36. J. Stapley,

    On your theory, is it impossible for women to become omniscient because they don’t make atonement? If so, how do you make sense of the temple ceremony, which seems to promise similar status to exalted men and women?

  37. Actually, Kris, according to Stapley’s interpretation its sounds as if both men and women have similar limitations.

  38. Kristine: check out “Sons of Michael, He Approaches”

    Has any congregation you have ever been in ever sung this hymn? I can’t think of a time where that has been the case with me. If hymn popularity is one of the measuring sticks which help decide if a given hymn makes it into the next edition of the hymnbook, I wonder if this one will merit keeping around for reasons other than it’s sheer LDS point of view (any Protestant hymns to Adam out there?). Maybe it made the cut this last time just to help the hymnbook meet some minimum weight and thickness requirement… ;-)

  39. Steve, you are correct. Men and women are equal in exaltation. It is just depends on what exaltation means.
    Joseph Smith was pretty clear in the KFD about the succession of the Gods. Moreover, when one allows for a God the Father that has not always been “perfect”, lot’s of weird possibilities start to occur (e.g. Young and Kimball’s interpretations). The process of achieving omniscience (and consequently omnipotence) also becomes difficult.

  40. Mark, we’ve sung “Sons of Michael” in our ward pretty recently, but only because I pick the hymns :)

    Popularity was only somewhat important to the music committee in doing the 85 hymnal–there are plenty of hymns in there for historical or sentimental reasons or the idiosyncratic preference of particular committee members or GAs. And I don’t think they would have had any trouble making it thick enough! Anyway, I’d be surprised to see O My Father go away anytime soon, if only because a President of the church once mentioned it approvingly–there just aren’t many hymns that have been singled out that way. Sons of Michael might not make the cut, though. In any case, I think it will be a long time (another decade, at least) before they do another hymnbook.

  41. Okay, after reading through this thread for the third time (small brain) some of it is starting to sink in. I’m not a docterine wonk like you all, so it’s all a little Greek to me, but here’s my question.

    You all seem to be in agreement that the whole MIH issue is a can of worms and that there is much risk, and much to be lost in opening said can. Could you explain this? What is the risk, what may be lost, what do those worms look like?

    Thanks darlings!

  42. J. Stapley said: Men and women are equal in exaltation.

    Where does this idea come from? AFAIK, D&C 76 describes men being kings and priests, but fails to mention queens and priestesses. D&C 131 states that men must be married to enter the highest level of the celestial kingdom, but doesn’t say whether or not women would go with him into those highest realms. Given mortal precedent for separating men and women in religious contexts (for example, men are apostles, their wives are not), what makes us think that women are eligible for an exaltation as high as men?

    Certainly, a secondary level of exaltation for women would explain MIH’s voiceless, faceless, and invisible status.

    I agree with Kristine’s statement of what we could gain from a revelation on our MIH. (There’s a lot to gain, too: a theological justification for our otherwise unscriptural emphasis on families, a model for a working partnership between men and women, a clarification of the status of polygamy in the eternities, role model for women and a better understanding of what gender means…)

    Maybe I’m paranoid, but I do wonder if the lack of information on a MIH is proof that women really aren’t as valuable as men.

    I’m leery about putting too much reliance on the temple ceremony’s implications about the status of men and women. That text has been changed more than once.

  43. Lisa: “What is the risk, what may be lost, what do those worms look like?”

    An excellent question. First of all, no one knows how expanding doctrines regarding Deity will affect practice or belief, but our separate persons view of the Godhead already causes us to be rejected as Christians by much of the world. Adding MIH into the mix would only expand our differences.

    Second, it would require the re-interpretation or the explanation of a great many scriptures, as well as a whole shift in focus in terms of our worship. Depending on what’s set forth, it could mean the total re-evaluation of our relationship to God. So… it’s basically the risk of forging once more into totally unknown territory. Our Church hasn’t done that for quite some time.

    Janey — are women equal in exaltation? I think we reasonably can rely on temple blessings to reassure us. Although you’re right that ceremonies change, this part of it has been there from the get-go. In terms of your interpretations of the D&C, I’m inclined to think that those are directed to men as the default gender reference of the day, as opposed to referring to men to distinguish them from women. Otherwise, there’s lots of things we could say about women not being involved — heck, do they even need to be baptized?

  44. “Maybe I’m paranoid, but I do wonder if the lack of information on a MIH is proof that women really aren’t as valuable as men.”

    I much prefer my interpretation that suggests both men and women are not as “worthy of worship” (I’m not sure valuable is right) as the Savior.

  45. I typically wouldn’t write such a post, but I have been thinking about this for the past couple of hours, and would honestly like to get a read for what others actually think:

    Mormon theology puts a lot of weight on “being”. That is, your eternal opportunities are predicated by what you are. The whole hierarchy of intelligences in the BoA as well as the concepts of “nobel and great ones” and foreordination typify this. Christ was Christ because 1) He had the capacity to fulfill the expiation and 2) He was willing to bare it for the ends that it brought. Every other person to live on this earth could not fulfill those two criteria (but really just the first).

    I know that my pet theology is somewhat iconoclastic to contemporary Mormon sensibilities; however, will someone who is in the neo-orthodox camp give me one good reason why if a MIH was deserving of our worship she would be denied it? (and to start: the pedestrian answer that it is to save Her from blaspheme denies our theology its justice).

  46. Where God is male, male is God.

    If MIH were deserving of our worship, it would upset the men’s apple cart, wouldn’t it? Just think of all the changes we’d have to make:

    The prophet would have to receive a new revelation and the Q12 would have to concur.

    We’d have to re-think how we’d interpret our scriptures.

    We’d have to figure out how to live with our expanded knowledge and our daughters’ new godly role model.

    And what, exactly, would be wrong with doing any of these things? We have a precedent in “big theological changes” with the 1978 Priesthood revelation and we seem to have survived that without completely disintegrating.

  47. When has a prophetic utterance ever fit the popular assumptions?

    Excellent point. I started to respond, realized that I was straying beyond the topic, and moved the response to a post on my own blog.

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/2004/12/one-thing-that-struck-me-twenty-years.html

  48. “We have a precedent in “big theological changes” with the 1978 Priesthood revelation and we seem to have survived that without completely disintegrating.”

    I note that there wasn’t a big group of black people waiting in the wings to take over callings, leadership roles, places in the power structure, doctrine and policy-setting positions, etc. in 1978. Twenty-six years later, there are barely any black members, let alone black leaders, of the church. The reign of old white men is looking pretty secure for at least another generation or two. Whereas, women make up a majority of the membership of the church, they would be ready to take on any leadership position, and would have a bunch of new ideas about which church programs should be emphasized, what the church’s priorities should be, which doctrines should be emphasized or discarded, etc. That’s a power shift of a way bigger magnitude.

    How many men would belong to a church run by a council of twelve women, a council of 70 women below them, and a vast corps of female leaders below them? There is certainly no precedent for it anywhere in the world that I am aware of. I think the thought is so scary, that men try to keep women at bay for as long as possible. Ditto for any kind of goddess worship. For some reason that really freaks men out. What is the point of being a goddess if no one is worshipping you and praying to you and crying out to you when they are scared and sad? Maybe MIH has her own planet somewhere, where everyone worships her and talks about her all the time and takes her name in vain, and everyone wonders why their heavenly father is hiding from them.

  49. Wendy: you obviously have some strong beliefs: ”I think the thought is so scary, that men try to keep women at bay for as long as possible. Ditto for any kind of goddess worship.

    Having beliefs that are different than main stream Mormonism is not so foreign to me. I do believe, however, that I have strong evidence for my theology that excludes the worship of MIH based on scripture and the teaching of the Prophet. My question is, do you have a rational basis for your theology?

    I imagine that you will respond with something along the lines of “Men wrote the scripture and delivered the prophetic utterances” and then dismiss the possibility. Then on what do you base your epistemology?

    I sense your frustration, but your discourse seems (at least to me) to boarder on the diatribe.

  50. J.–I wouldn’t put things as strongly as Wendy, perhaps, but I’m suspicious of your claim to having evidence for a theology that excludes MIH. It’s true that there is no support for worshipping MIH in scripture, but there is also no prohibition (aside from then Elder Hinckley’s discouragement of public prayer to MIH in the early 90s). It’s awfully hard to interpret silence.

  51. I just didn’t want Bob’s post to have more comments than mine. Now we’re tied!

    Kris, you’re right that it’s hard to interpret silence. But isn’t it smart to interpret that silence in the most prudent way possible, like how the church has done?

  52. It’s awfully hard to interpret silence.

    I don’t disagree. However, and I realize that this is not the venue for a drawn out theological discourse, theology and the definitions of God within that theology are not limited by the current silence on this one issue.

    We may start with a few simple questions: Why do we worship and pray to God the Father? Why do we worship the Savior?

    There is definitely not a silence on these subjects. As I mentioned in previous post, the succession of God the Father was elucidated by Joseph Smith. So, to respond your skepticism, I think that it is very possible to have a rational theology on MIH despite the current silence. And to be frank, I do believe that an appeal to the current silence as an excuse for an unfounded theology is just plain lame. If you want to appeal to B. Young, H. Kimball, or O. Pratt, that is great, but at least recognize the difficulties of any position.

    My theology is in flux and there is a lot I have not yet synthesized. I recognize that it is in contention with the teachings of B. Young, H. Kimball, and O. Pratt. But I also recognize that their beliefs on this topic (at least Young and Kimball) are no longer held as valid.

  53. Steve, no. It’s best to interpret silence as silence, and just admit that we don’t know.

    J., I won’t argue with you that there are any warranted theologies of MIH. However, I think all of LDS theology is speculative enough, and, most importantly, open enough to the possibility of revision by revelation, that we *have* to allow the possibility of a future revision of our thinking to make room for a Mother in Heaven with real power and import for our ideas about the Godhead. I’m arguing for leaving space, rather than filling in the silences in the scriptural/prophetic canon with lots of can’t’s, shouldn’t’s, and mustn’t’s. (Take that, all you punctuation sticklers!)

  54. Kristine: I completely agree that we have to be open to the possibilities of future revelation changing our conceptions. In fact I think we should look forward to the novel dialectic that would be a consequence of such a possibility.

    I’m not so sure that we should limit our beliefs in anticipation of contradiction, however. I believe in “theology A” as a result of my synthesis of evidence. This theology limits MIH (and me for that matter) to a situation where we never are omniscient, omnipotent nor worthy of worship. I don’t see why I have to limit my justified beliefs for the sake of evidence that may or may not be forthcoming. I hold the same position in the sciences.

    With complete respect to all who differ in their view of MIH, Kristine, it seems as if your theological holding space is simply a way to retain beliefs that are otherwise unjustified.

  55. I should also note that I think that it is plausible to have a valid theology that incorporates MIH differently than mine and is based on sound epistemology.

  56. “I think that it is plausible to have a valid theology that incorporates MIH differently than mine and is based on sound epistemology.”

    And yet you voice your suspicion that my theology of MIH(of which I have given no hint here) is just unjustified speculation. I wonder how it is you have arrived at the conclusion that I am not one of those whose theology, though different from yours, is based on sound epistemology. Someone less magnanimous than I might be insulted.

  57. Kristine: Indeed, your magnanimity is deeply appreciated :) My intent wasn’t to disparage your theology. To the extent that I did, I apologize.

    There were two things that I had trouble with: 1) Wendy’s assertion of consequences due to an expanded theology (and really, the direction it was expanded without justification) and 2) the idea of limiting possible belief systems for hope of an, as yet, hypothetical revelation.

    Again, accept my appologies.

  58. Of course, someone as magnanimous as I graciously accepts apologies :)

    I agree that limiting one’s beliefs in hopes of future enlightenment can be a copout, but I think that it’s in some cases a requirement, and (this is where we disagree, I think) I think that the case of MIH is one for which we just can’t develop a robust theology without at least a little more revelation.

  59. VeritasLiberat says:

    “will someone who is in the neo-orthodox camp give me one good reason why if a MIH was deserving of our worship she would be denied it?”

    Well, I can’t think of a reason to “deny” her worship, but there may be a reason that She does not *wish* the Saints to worship Her at this time. Mama knows what’s best for us.

  60. I think that the case of MIH is one for which we just can’t develop a robust theology without at least a little more revelation.

    I’ve been working on (actually more off than on lately) a paper that attempts to disprove your statement. At some future point, maybe I’ll get an opportunity to have you reconsider.

  61. ” At some future point, maybe I’ll get an opportunity to have you reconsider.”

    See, aren’t you glad I’m keeping a gap open?

    ;)

  62. How many men would belong to a church run by a council of twelve women, a council of 70 women below them, and a vast corps of female leaders below them? actually there are a few female run churches, a friend of mine spoke at one (she isn’t a member [of their church or ours], they just valued her perspective, and paid the going rate).

    Lots of men in the other church.

    Mama knows what’s best for us.

    Or, perhaps there is a division of labor? God the Father listens to us in this world, a different heavenly parent talks with us in the next?

    I need to dig up the poem about the guy I met in the BYU writing lab (I used to tutor there to relax while I was in law school). He needed tutoring in math, but the tutor he got was female, so he came to the writing lab where he could work with a male tutor. I always wondered what grade he got …

    But seriously, if there is a division of labor going on it would make perfect sense — “don’t bother your Mom, she’s dealing with the older kids right now, I’ll take care of things.” Or has anyone thought of that?

    And, of course, let me shamelessly promote my blog in hopes of a link at bcc:

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/

    I mean, what is worship?

    How many services have you been in that were adoration and veneration where spiritual power flowed up to God? How many where things were barely a step up from a four year old who has just discovered that sometimes if she asks for things her parents will buy them?

    Give it a moment of thought from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have any ego caught up in the moment.

    Just a thought.

  63. How many services have you been in that were adoration and veneration where spiritual power flowed up to God? How many where things were barely a step up from a four year old who has just discovered that sometimes if she asks for things her parents will buy them?

    I think this our fault rather than God’s.

    Give it a moment of thought from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have any ego caught up in the moment.

    I’m not sure what this means.

  64. Give it a moment of thought from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have any ego caught up in the moment.

    I’m not sure what this means.

    A long time ago I did a myth cycle, with one of the characters a hero who refused to become a god or accept worship.

    I thought a lot about that (and yes, I’m aware that the flaws in our worship this our fault rather than God’s.).

    Why would someone want worship? If you don’t have the ego need for it?

    It reminds me of a discussion I had today with another attorney I respect. There are attorneys who make it big and then retire to other things. Others who keep it up well into the hundreds of millions of dollars — money is a way of keeping score, not a means to another end.

    Again, ask yourself if the quality of our worship is something anyone would be denied by not getting? Assuming that our heavenly parents do not have ego needs for worship, what else is there to it that benefits the person on the other end? Surely, when my child cries out in the middle of the night and I get up to comfort them, that is one thing.

    But, when my kid is asking me to buy them candy in the grocery store (which I use as an example because she doesn’t) does it make me happy to be the one to tell her “no” again?

    As far as I can tell, our worship is a burden on God, when Christ speaks of the greatest being the servant of all, he is making a critical point. When he washes the apostles feet, he makes it again.

    Please explain to me why there would be any competition to be the one washing our feet in this life, remembering that there is plenty of diaper changing and foot washing to go around in the “pre-existance” (to quote a fable) and in the next life.

    If there is a division of labor, if the Holy Ghost does something different than God does, which is something different from Christ, etc., why is this world and the worship in *this* world so critical vis a vis the eternities?

    Think like a god who doesn’t draw power or influence from worship, but who serves through love. Are they going to be insisting on credit and attention at every level of reality and every stage of progression from every soul? When in this world not even a majority of the living sentients have even the name of God? How important is it to God to be recognized in this life by men and women?

    I need to take some time to write a real essay, the kind Nate Oman always complains about not seeing in LDS theology.

    But after all of the writing on the topic, when was the last (or even the first) time anyone approached it from “what does God get out of worship?” or “what does our worship really entail?”

    The answer is that God is watching the children while someone else is out at a day job ;) (ok, but you get the point).

    How many of you have any competition to be the person your children run to when they want something? When they are annoying? When they feel like whining? Come on, how many of you are really anxious to be the one who responds? I make a point of doing that because I am concerned that my children not be spoiled or neglected and because of the things my sixteen year-old went through, that make me terribly concerned for her and her needs. But if I knew someone else would take the job of super Nanny whenever the four (going on five this month) year old was being a pain … would I let them? If her mom’s doing that wouldn’t be unfair (dumping the kids on one parent seems awfully unfair to me)?

    It is late. I’m tired and still not recovered completely from the flu.

    Given more time I could express this better, though I thought the poem I once wrote caught it all (and the summary captures the whole thing). Do we make God in our own image, and if so, what does that say about us.

    Are we fit for the eternities (of course not, none of us, me least of all, as John notes, we don’t even know what that looks like)?

    Anyway, think about it. And think what our perspectives on the argument say about us.

  65. What do you think “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” means? This is an eternal, celestial pattern, not merely an earthly contrivance.

    But the nature of our Heavenly parents’ union is too sacred to my mind to throw it open to speculation. If I felt a need to really understand it better, I would kneel at the feet of the Greatest Teacher to ask for instruction. The Lord’s ways are not our ways. He teaches us line upon line, when we are ready for it. And until we are ready to meekly and humbly ask Him for understanding, it is doubtful that we will receive it.

    I personally don’t feel any need for some kind of “revelation” from the Prophet concerning this; to me it is already all there in the scriptures, waiting for us to partake. And the women who are in leadership roles in the Church speak so eloquently and spiritually that I have no difficulty imagining what our Heavenly Mother must be like.

  66. I agree with Stephen’s position that god is the servant of the universe…thus, the
    church’s emphasis on service here and now. That is the essense of godhood. I think that many will walk away from the celestial kingdom because they want heaven to be a place of rest. However, if we really believe that God is man *and* woman (which is quite doctrinal) we have to accept the consequences of such a belief or reject it. Part of being “one” is being of one mind and unified in purpose. We generally do not debate how the Godhead functions while they remain distinct individuals and we certainly do not think that one of them is dispensable. The dilemma seems to arise when we do not acknowledge that HM, by definition, is of one mind. It would seem to me that when we start with the assumption that HM is sitting in the back seat it is based on a belief that lack of visibility means inactivity and/or powerlessness. We have then destroyed the concept of god(ess) before we even begin.

    I do think that the church has a lot of changing to do when it comes to gender expectations. I think the current stereotypes burden our girls when they have the additional step of determining if “this is for me” (Margaret Toscano made this point but said it better). However, I think this can be handled much more economically by changing our practices and policies than by using an enigmatic HM as a symbolic stand in for needed changes in policy. That does not have to include the priesthood..nor do I think it should. But we can certainly stop making priesthood a prerequisite for positions and duties that could be done by anyone.

  67. I wonder if we could get Toscano to reply to this post?

  68. Ethesis – Your post about whether or not a MIH needs our worship was very thought-provoking. However, you approach the question by asking how MIH would be benefitted by our worship. Perhaps I’m being selfish, but shouldn’t the question be whether or not we would benefit from worshipping Her? Perhaps in a world with a Husband and Wife deity, women would not have been treated as property and mistreated for so long throughout history.

    I think Juliann’s suggestion about not requiring priesthood for duties anyone could fill is a good one. The Sunday School presidency doesn’t exercise priesthood keys; those callings could go to sisters if necessary. I don’t think callings like ward clerk need priesthood keys either, but I could be wrong.

  69. Janey

    Unfortunately, having lots of female gods did not seem to make India more feminist — it took British long rifles to do that. I can think, sadly, of many other examples. Many, many, many. I wish it were not so.

    There is a lot of attention to the need to engage Women in the Church in leadership, at least when I was involved in the fringes of the LDS Women’s conference, the woman in charge of it mentioned that the President of the Church and others saw that as a pressing need and had brought the issue up with her and others as a topic.

    Frankly, I’ve been expecting “something” (I’m not sure what) to arise from that. But, for all I know, President Hinkley is having the twelve to pray with him on the topic much like President Kimball had them praying on the priesthood.

    I do know that until we soften our hearts and are ready, God will withhold from us the further blessings that he has for us. What that means, aside from surprises, I don’t know. (If I did, like when I had a clear message about Blacks and the Priesthood while confirming a Black investigator who had just been baptized in the mid-70s, I wouldn’t be posting, heeding Alma’s comments, but I don’t, so I feel free to speculate. And, knowing God’s commands, feel strongly that those who claim to know, probably don’t).

    I’m glad to get Juliann/Pistas3′s comments — I value them greatly. I’d like to get Toscano’s, because I’m curious. Maybe someone with Sunstone ties can print this entire thread up and present it to her, for her comments.

    I’d like to see more engagement.

  70. Just to add, most of the fertility cults of the mideast had female deities. Indeed many apologists believe that knowledge of mother in heaven was lost because God had to deal harshly with Ashtoreth worship and other such practices that generally involved orgies and human sacrifice. (Recently popularized in the near mother in heaven view of The DaVinci Code which has a remnant of such fertility rites persisting through a secret society regarding Mary Magdalene)

  71. I thought I would try to skip Ishtar and the rest (not to mention everything out of Egypt), but Clark Goble hits things on the head, as well as the inference that Wisdom in the Old Testament is often seen as a stand-in for the Female Essence (rather than a precursor to the Word of God).

    Interesting stuff there. Ties in very well with the Song of Solomon being uninspired and influenced in form and content by local sacred marriage texts (for the union of king and goddess). Though similar Germanic comments on Ba’l and various Psalms, etc. missed the point, since playing off of does not necessarily mean stolen from or inspired by.

  72. MIH is money. Praise It says:

    How will this change your pursuit of exaltation? Love God and your neighbor.

    I worked in Israel for several years and attended meetings at the Jerusalem Center. The supposed intellectuals drove me crazy. (Note: The expats attended a separate Sunday School from the students.) The professors, who attend my Sunday school, liked to ponder gospel mysteries. All of the pondering is meaningless until it is revealed to the Prophet. Stop wasting time on such pondering and get back to the mission of the Church.

    The only people who benefit from subjects like MIH are the parasites who make money off of the Church economy by writing books to satisfy people who cannot even take the time to read the scriptures.

    BTW: Should the church fund a mission to the moon to prove out Brigham’s moon people theory. Even prophets speak as men. Imagine the BS that Luke and Judas use to say. I wonder if Jesus smacked them around and told them to get back to doing G_d’s will. (The _ is out of respect. Maybe we should start using M_H in our discussion. Ha!!!!)

  73. BTW, I owed Janey a fuller response. Let me quote (from a Sunstone source, what the heck)

    For example, right after the turn of the century one noticeable thread which ran through several comments about the Mother in Heaven was an association of that doctrine with the movement for women’s rights, a major issue in the last years of the nineteenth century, especially in Utah. James E. Talmage in discussing the status and mission of women spoke of the early granting of the franchise to women in Utah and the Mormon church’s claim that woman is man’s equal. In this context he then went on to say,

    The Church is bold enough to go so far as to declare that man has an Eternal Mother in the Heavens as well as an Eternal Father, and in the same sense “we look upon woman as a being, essential in every particular to the carrying out of God’s purposes in respect to mankind.”19

    An article in the Deseret News noted that the truthfulness of the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven would eventually be accepted by the world-that “it is a truth from which, when fully realized, the perfect ‘emancipation’ and ennobling of woman will result.”20 To many, the concept of a Mother in Heaven was a fitting expression of a larger movement which aimed at raising the status of women and expanding their rights and opportunities.

    and

    In the 1920s and 1930s there seemed to be an emphasis on the idea of “eternal” motherhood or “everlasting” motherhood, with several sermons or articles having titles of this sort or dealing with this theme. Somehow it seemed important to emphasize that motherhood was as ongoing and eternal as was godhood. Joseph A. Widtsoe, for example, found a “radiant warmth” in the

    thought that among the exalted beings in the world to come we shall find a mother who possesses the attributes of Godhood.

    So, Janey has a lot of positive things going for her viewpoint.

    If Toscano were couching her approach more in terms of returning to basics and fulfilling the promise of Talmage’s scholarship, she would have a completely different impact, I think.

    And yes, I’m cribbing from Linda Wilcox

    Even from her footnotes.

    Milton R. Hunter in 1945 claimed that the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven originated with Joseph Smith, ascribing to him revelations by which “a more complete understanding of man-especially regarding his personal relationship to Deity-was received than could be found in all of the holy scriptures combined.” Among such new understandings was the “stupendous truth of the existence of a Heavenly Mother” and the “complete realization that we are the offspring of Heavenly Parents.” Hunter said that these ideas became “established facts in Mormon theology” and an “integral part of Mormon philosophy.” [ Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages (Salt Lake City. Stevens and Wallis, Inc., 1945), pp. 98-99. ]

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue23.asp in case you would like to read the entire essay, which is well done.

  74. Janey said: Perhaps I’m being selfish, but shouldn’t the question be whether or not we would benefit from worshipping Her?

    Good question. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance where bringing in female gods did anything but produce cultic worship morecompetitive than a unified. Well, according to the OT anyway..whose redactors tended to edit anything that looked too independent. I can easily this setup as giving us someone else to go to if we don’t like what one parent says…who *hasn’t* played their parents?

    I just don’t see anywhere to go with this when we have no body of information. A revelation is not likely to amount to what we find in scripture about Jesus and HF.

    However, just acknowleging that we do have a HM can go a long way and I think that this is something that we should be making more public. This is something very unique that Mormonism can offer.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,701 other followers