God The Wife

Women are endowed with special traits and attributes that come trailing down through eternity from a divine mother. Young women have special God-given feelings about charity, love, and obedience. Coarseness and vulgarity are contrary to their natures. They have a modifying, softening influence on young men. Young women were not foreordained to do what priesthood holders do. Theirs is a sacred, God-given role, and the traits they received from heavenly mother are equally as important as those given to the young men.
—Vaughn J. Featherstone, October 1987

This past year I was asked to give a talk on the value of motherhood in our Mother’s Day sacrament meeting service. As I prepared the talk, I posed two questions to a number of women and mothers I know, including my wife.

What is the thing you most enjoy hearing in talks about motherhood?

What is the thing you most dread hearing in such talks?

The answer, it turns out, in virtually all cases, was identical. For both questions: that mothering is the most important, sacred, divine work we do. This answer was especially polarizing and problematic for the women I questioned when articulated by men. It’s strange that, at least in the anecdotal cases from my own experience, such a sentiment can be simultaneously the most rewarding and disillusioning thing that men can tell women in a devotional setting about the value of their roles.

I thought for a long time about the answers my female interlocutors gave me. What is it about how we talk about men and women and men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities, abilities and gifts, that makes it condescending or even potentially insulting for men in the Church to tell women how important and divine and wonderful their work as mothers is? Is it possible that our efforts to formally honor what women do nevertheless come across as demeaning, as something quite different from the insistent, repeated praise and unrestrained awe that characterize our official rhetoric on the topic? If so, why? What does that have to do with Heavenly Mother (the ostensible topic of this post)?

Our understanding of what it means, both practically and in the grander scheme of things, to be a man or a woman has changed over the course of Church history, the practice and then abandonment of plural marriage contributing significantly to the shift. Most recently, “The Family: A Proclamation To The World” has distilled and crystallized some of our ideas on the topic in concrete, quasi-canonical (certainly authoritative for the vast majority of Church members) form.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Proclamation (aside from its overt, if indirect, invocation of a Heavenly Mother) is how it projects gender/sex forward and backward into the eternities. If you are a male, it is because you always were and will forever be. What the Proclamation calls gender (i.e. biological sex) is an eternal characteristic of our individual identities, of our core selves. Significantly, the (probably stylistic—“sex” is just too scandalously non-euphemistic for an apostolic document) choice to use gender to refer to biological sex creates a semantic slippage with far-reaching consequences. Whereas sex, to put it in simplified terms, typically denotes chromosomal/anatomical categories, gender encompasses the behaviors, capacities, natural inclinations, ideals, etc., which people, in a given time and place, ascribe (often prescriptively) to members of the two sex categories. Sex is male/female; gender is masculine/feminine. Gender, then is far more culturally dependent and socially constructed, more variable and changeable, than sex is.

The Proclamation synthesizes an identity between the two, in part by laying out certain expectations and ideals appropriate to the two sexes, and in part by describing sex as an immutable trait of our eternal, individual selves and calling it “gender.” The idealized qualities of masculinity and femininity are thus corralled into the logic of eternal biological sex, and we call these now fully overlapping venn circles “eternal gender.” A decent first year social science graduate student would point out how this conflation naturalizes what is historical, taking something culturally specific (our current ideas about what constitutes properly masculine and feminine behavioral norms, social roles, predispositions, etc.) and imparting to it a natural and immutable status akin to ovaries, Y chromosomes, or increased upper body musculature. But it does more than this because at the same time that it naturalizes current ideals regarding gender, it also eternalizes the natural (biological) categories of sex. What, for example, could in theory be described as, say, a consequence of the Fall (the social subordination of women to men, the dependence of the former on the latter for protection, provision, and instruction) is instead a reflection not just of inherent male and female human nature, but of an unchanging, divinely ordained, Eternal Cosmic Order.

*          *          *

Finally, remember: When we return to our real home, it will be with the “mutual approbation” of those who reign in the “royal courts on high.”… Could such a regal homecoming be possible without the anticipatory arrangements of a Heavenly Mother?
—Neal A. Maxwell, April 1978

Our neverending concern with defining, clarifying, and reinforcing the nature of the sexes as well as the expectations and obligations with which they are respectively associated is, I think, a natural result of a distinctly Mormon family centered theology. From the opening chapters of the Book of Mormon (think Lehi’s dream) through the adoptive and sealing rites of Nauvoo Mormonism and right down to contemporary debates about the (non)place of homosexual relationships in the Eternal World, it has been clear that salvation cannot really be salvation unless it is family salvation. If the same sociality which prevails now will, on some level, also characterize our eternal lives together, then it stands to reason that our mortal family relationships—again, at least to some extent—must be paradigmatic of the kinds of relational bonds which set apart and define what it means to be exalted in God’s kingdom.

Thus, the notion of a Heavenly Mother did not emerge as the result of any formal revelation, but rather as a kind of indispensable category, as the speculated but nevertheless apparently necessary result of taking more explicit features of our theology to their logical conclusions. Remember, as the great hymn notes, Truth is Reason. It simply stands to reason that She must exist.

Yet if Heavenly Mother is a necessary ontological category in our peculiar theological framework, it is also a relatively empty category. Despite continued and often enthusiastic (if also kept in check) interest in Her, we have very little authoritative material to work with. The same is almost as true of Heavenly Father too. He is something of a mysterious figure if gauged through authoritative, canonical texts. Of course some extremely interesting claims have been made about Him outside of the standard works (from King Follet to Adam-God). But we’re also less troubled by what little the scriptures have to tell us explicitly about our Father in Heaven, because we’re comfortable inferring a great deal about His character and nature, for example, by consulting what we do know about the life and nature of Jesus. We presume, with very good reason, that we can learn much about our Father through reference to His Son.

But even more than this, we have life in the Church from which to draw analogic inference. Heavenly Father does what Mormon men do. Mormon men aspire to cultivate godly traits as exemplified by Him, to become like Him. And we presume much about what He does through reference to what we know we’re supposed to be doing and what we see the men we look up to and hold in highest respect doing. Like Mormon men, Heavenly Father leads. He governs. He teaches and clarifies truth. He plans and executes on exceptionally large scales. He brings things to pass, great and marvelous things. He gives instruction. He presides. And, as a Priesthood Leader, He expects to be obeyed and submitted to.

*          *          *

[W]hen we sing that doctrinal hymn and anthem of affection, “O My Father,” we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less if we live so as to return there?
—Spencer W. Kimball, April 1978

It is worth noting that some Church members, with very sincere hearts and very sound reasons, question whether Heavenly Mother exists at all. We simply have so little to go on. Even our authoritative accounts of Creation—that most divine and meaningful of acts which we, as couples, males and females, can actually participate in here in mortality—are not heterosexually procreative but homosocially constructive (i.e. involving male figures only working cooperatively on stereotypically male creative projects: organizing, building, coordinating, experimenting, traveling, colonizing, speaking and being obeyed, etc.). How is it, if She really exists, that we simply have so little to work with, other than a mysterious reference to the Queen of Heaven, a popular hymn (written, of course, by a woman), and a bone-throw mention of “Parents” in a document that, it turns out, isn’t even a revelation?

It is, of course, possible that She doesn’t exist (and if She does, well, we’re certainly not meant to think or care too much about it). But even if She does, perhaps there is a very good reason why our Mother in Heaven is just an empty logical placeholder, rather than a fleshed out, multi-dimensional individual. Like it or not, women in the Church exist primarily for the benefit of men. They birth, nurture and care for, provide companionship for, and ultimately exalt men. For men exaltation consists in doing and having all that the Father does and has (including an eternal companion). For women exaltation consists in hearkening to, being sealed with, a helpmeet to, and presided over by an exalted husband.

Is it possible that She remains inscrutable and invisible to us because we’re only capable, in our present state, of conceiving of Her as a Heavenly Wife to our Heavenly Father? That we aren’t given knowledge of Her because the moment we learned definitively of her existence we would immediately see Her as primarily an incubator and nurturer of God’s children, as a helpmeet to and presided over by Heavenly Father? Suddenly what always seemed like such an outlandish rationalization—that we don’t talk about Her out of respect—acquires an ironic and deeply disturbing logic. Is it possible that Heavenly Father, assuming that He fully and completely loves and respects our Heavenly Mother, simply will not grant us speculative access to Her? Or, better yet, is it even more likely that She refuses to reveal Herself, Her true identity, to a people who are likely to imagine Her as speaking nothing but deference and submission to male leaders in the dulcet tones of Primary Voice? Given how we infantilize and subordinate women, their roles, their duties, their nature, and their potential, perhaps even thinking about a Mother in Heaven, much less talking about Her in such subservient terms, is a kind of blasphemy, a consummate act of disrespect toward One who deserves much, much better.

Comments

  1. Brad,

    I suppose that a non-believer would be quick to point out that it is profoundly simpler to acknowledge that most of the texts that lack so much in information on the Heavenly Mother were written in the 1800s, so they are relics of their time.
    That said, I think that this is one of the better-written and surprisingly, if tortuously, orthodox posts from an avowed Marxist. Well done.

  2. Also, I’m not sure who Homer is in the following exchange, but it seems relevant:
    Homer: Wait a minute…wait, that’s it! I know now what I can offer you that no one else can: complete and utter dependence!
    Marge: Homer, that’s not a good thing.
    Homer: Are you kidding? It’s a wondrous, marvelous thing! Marge, I need you more than anyone else on this entire planet could possibly ever need you! I need you to take care of me, to put up with me, and most of all I need you to love me, ’cause I love you.
    Marge: But how do I know I can trust you?
    Homer: Marge, look at me: we’ve been separated for a day, and I’m as dirty as a Frenchman. In another few hours I’ll be dead! I can’t afford to lose your trust again.

  3. Brad, thank you for this.

  4. Brad, in so many ways, this is very far from what I believe as a Mormon woman. I think you have sold our doctrine short on many fronts to the point that I find this post disappointing, if not in some ways downright offensive.

  5. michelle,
    It may be helpful for you to point out the specifics that dissapoint/offend you. From my perspective, it is a pretty accurate representation of what I hear in most talks on the subject.

  6. I do want to add that I think it’s interesting how the same doctrine that brings many of us comfort and perspective on our roles (present and eternal) as women can sometimes be the very things that frustrate others. The Mother’s Day dilemma is a microcosm of the tension and different opinions that exist with regard to womanhood (either mortal or eternal).

    But wow, some opinions are really different!

  7. Aaron Brown says:

    In sum…

    The claim that we aren’t to talk about Heavenly Mother out of “respect” turns out to be true, but not in the way we have traditionally imagined. The risk of disrespect arises not out of any callous, degrading, insulting treatment She might receive from those openly hostile to Her. The disrespect would arise instead out of the mouths of those faithful Mormons who imagine themselves to be honoring Her with their praise and adoration, but who in fact would insult Her by casting Her in a limited, infantilized, subservient role which they erroneously believe to befit Her.

    Did I get that right?

  8. blt,
    I think it will always be tricky to talk about. If one finds that teachings around womanhood and motherhood are offensive, then of course, it makes sense to think that any attempt to try to even thinking about Heavenly Mother would be a miserable failure. To want to offer Her the utmost respect is admirable.

    And of course, we don’t know much in terms of specifics so we should be careful, to be sure, about speculation and so forth.

    But if one has a different feeling about and perspective on and experience with the doctrines we are taught, then at least in my experience, Heavenly Mother can become more than “just an empty logical placeholder.”

    But I think it all sort of depends on one’s perspectives about the doctrine and teachings we have. And what’s tricky is that the very thing that one viewpoint labels as offensive may be the same thing that the other viewpoint finds enlightening or at least helpful. (Again, Mother’s Day talks are a microcosm of this dilemma.)

    Some specific points where I differ with the OP are on exaltation (I see it as a couple’s blessing, not just for the men); women’s roles (I don’t see us as simply vehicles for the good of men which to me puts women in second-class status); presiding (I don’t see it as a role that exists so that women are only to obey and be subordinate). I see leadership as being much more partnership-based and much more service-oriented than I feel is reflected here. I see gender roles as being more interdependent than independent as well.

    These are just some examples of where my viewpoints and experiences differ quite a bit from this post. My feelings about these things run deep and so it’s hard to read something that is so different from what I have felt resonate most strongly with my spirit.

    I think another thing differences along these topics suggest is how personal our spiritual journeys can be. We each have different questions, concerns, insights, feelings, experiences, etc. about various elements of our faith. I think that is both a challenge (in terms of talking with each other) but also an opportunity (in terms of trying to take a step back to understand someone else (and I know I could do better at that)).

  9. Spectacular thoughts, Brad. You’ve synthesized things that have bothered me about our discourse on women and HM for a very long time. I really rather hope you’re right…

    We can bend and twist in theological gymnastics forever about why our current roles as women may be divinely inspired, but as someone I love and admire recently said, “Mormonism compels feminism” and frankly your conclusion supports this. Through the glass darkly, we can hardly do any better.

  10. I don’t find it helpful to speculate on why we don’t know more about her. The only reasons we tend to come up with are insulting to women. I’d rather say I don’t know

    If creation and motherhood are given their proper due, I see men in a supportive, but very marginal role…as if a man could watch a woman go through pregnancy and delivery and think HE had the primary role and she was just there to heed and follow him.

    Motherhood gets a bad rap sometimes when we do place our cultural contructs around it and end up with some sort of martha stewart-june cleaver type. Husband is out doing “real” stuff while wife is hot blue gunning doilies.

    I prefer the image of motherhood presented by Christ…his most often used metaphor of motherhood is that of a gatherer (and really protective at that–I prefer to think Christ refers to that because He remembers his mother in heaven that way). Combining the preisthood power to seal and the motherhood gathering..turning hearts of children to parents…it seems like more of a team effort. Gathering is a more real eternal role..you can’t seal what hasn’t been gathered and it doesn’t exactly stay sealed unless they stay gathered.

    Creation and gathering are eternal roles that are powerful and necessary and thry hardly feel diminutive in the grand scheme of things.even if presently our culture view of motherood might pervert it to some barefoot, pregnant party planner with a cute centerpiece.

  11. I completely disagree with this line.

    “Sex is male/female; gender is masculine/feminine. Gender, then is far more culturally dependent and socially constructed, more variable and changeable, than sex is.”

    This kind of worldly nonsense was beginning to be taught when I first started collage. They thought if we gave little girls trucks and little boys dolls we could change their natures. The intent I think was to try and make little boys less aggressive. It didn’t work on my boys!

    This line is off also;
    “…..taking something culturally specific (our current ideas about what constitutes properly masculine and feminine behavioral norms, social roles, predispositions, etc.) and imparting to it a natural and immutable status akin to ovaries….”

    I believe he is misinterpreting Featherstone’s wording, he did say anything there about who goes out to hunt and who bakes the bread.

    “Young women have special God-given feelings about charity, love, and obedience. Coarseness and vulgarity are contrary to their natures…”

    It’s not that men don’t have these traits too, but rarely do you see a woman become a false prophet with a hit list.

    I guess I see the priesthood in a different light. The priesthood was given to men to teach them to be more charitable, loving and obedient/responsible. Peter had to be told “feed my sheep” three times. Most women I know would have their ovens warm and ready to go.

    Brad wrote; ….And, as a Priesthood Leader, He expects to be obeyed and submitted to.

    Brad if this is how you understand the priesthood then I’m glad I’m not married to you.

  12. Natalie B. says:

    An excellent post Brad. One of the things that bothers me with our current discussions of women in Mormonism is our tendency to shy away from asking questions about our fundamental theological visions. Thanks for contributing to this discussion in a very productive way.

  13. Natalie B. says:

    11: For what it’s worth, I think Brad’s posts describes very accurately how gender and priesthood is portrayed in our sacred spaces like the temple.

    Part of the problem I see with discussions of women in the church is that in cultural settings we talk about partnership and equality between men and women, but our doctrine and sacred ceremonies present women in a subordinated light. The distance between what we say in cultural settings and what our theology as embodied in the temple says is quite large. But if we believe that spaces like the temple are sacred, then what is said there should matter to us and not be dismissed lightly.

  14. There is definitely a disconnect between the temple and other discussions and doctrine..but it goes both ways. We have the “hearken” line and we have women given the blessings of the priesthood and using it. laying on of hands and all.

  15. This post feels undermined by the underlying but unexplored assumptions that “we” (the church?) infantilize women and that cultural norms surrounding women such as the “primary voice” are somehow inferior and set in place to “serve men.” These assumptions do not translate to my every day experience in the church.

    For example, not long ago in my corner of the vineyard, a young mother spoke of Jesus in soft tones. And sent most away weeping at the grandeur of it all.

    In my experience, the Church fully respects women. But I recognize others may have different experiences. Though I am hopeful that those experiences, when used as the basis for quite serious criticism against the institution, are real and not simply the result of an approach–”feminist” or otherwise–that simply won’t allow for the Church to operate as currently constituted.

  16. This kind of worldly nonsense was beginning to be taught when I first started collage. They thought if we gave little girls trucks and little boys dolls we could change their natures. The intent I think was to try and make little boys less aggressive. It didn’t work on my boys!

    I don’t really know what to say, except that you’re just totally wrong.

    Brad if this is how you understand the priesthood then I’m glad I’m not married to you.

    Well, you wouldn’t be alone there. And if you’d like to add to the list of men you wouldn’t like being married to, just search for the phrase “obedience to priesthood leaders” at lds.org.

  17. Aaron, that pretty well nails it.

    More generally, don’t we owe ourselves better than some version of “well, I don’t really take official/temple Mormonism seriously in this regard because it doesn’t really square with my own ideals and/or everyday experience”?

    It doesn’t matter how many times leaders in the Church insist that casting women in an inferior role is really a grand act of respect. Even if some women internalize that logic and view their unequal status and their lack of voice as a sign of just how important and valued and respected women really are, if only us poor, confused feminists could just see past our agenda. You can call it what you want. Up is down, presiding is really a relationship of equal partners. Of course it’s extremely convenient to tell someone that the role she has is the most important thing in the universe at the same time as we tell her that it’s the only role she is meant to play and leave the rest (governing the Church, presiding at home, clarifying doctrine, performing saving ordinances, hearkening unto God, praying at general conference, etc.) to us.

  18. Brad, I would love to hear how you included the single/childless women in your talk. This entire discussion is reason enough for this active, single and childless woman to find somewhere else to be on Mother’s Day rather than in Church.

  19. Eric Russell says:

    Significantly, the (probably stylistic—“sex” is just too scandalously non-euphemistic for an apostolic document) choice to use gender to refer to biological sex creates a semantic slippage with far-reaching consequences. Whereas sex, to put it in simplified terms, typically denotes chromosomal/anatomical categories, gender encompasses the behaviors, capacities, natural inclinations, ideals, etc., which people, in a given time and place, ascribe (often prescriptively) to members of the two sex categories.

    Ever since people started haranguing the Proclamation for this very thing in the bloggernacle some years ago, I started paying close attention to the word “gender” in current non-Mormon usage. And this includes everything from casual spoken usage to that of informal and formal documents. My experience so far is that roughly 80%-90% of the time that someone wishes to express something related to the biological difference between the sexes, they use the word “gender.”

    It appears to me that this idea of “gender” as merely masculine/feminine is now really only observed in the world of academia. In standard contemporary American English usage, the word “gender” refers to biological sex. Live with it.

  20. Eric,
    I never argued it isn’t a normative usage. But its ubiquity does not in any way take away from the argument I did make about it, i.e. that it naturalizes notions of masculine and feminine into the biological categories of male and female. The Proclamation is only different in carrying this naturalization process a step further, backward and forward into the eternities. Do you feel predisposed to play rough and hunt giraffes? Well, if you’re a boy, that’s because your preexistent spirit was, is, and forever will be the same way.

  21. Brad, wrong in that she didn’t understand what you were saying or wrong in that boys don’t tend to rip the heads off barbies adn girls don’t tend to take something like trains or dinosaurs and make families of them? Not all boys…not all girls .

    or wrong because you said so.

  22. Kim, I hasten to add that this post is not the talk I gave that Mother’s Day. Perhaps at some point I’ll track down the notes from the talk and turn it into a post here, but for now you’re stuck with speculations as to why Heavenly Mother is invisible to a culture in which the visibility of women is limited to token Conference talks in which they extol the privilege of submitting to male authority and reassurances by males that the one and only thing women are ordained to do also happens to be more important and valuable—really, it is!—than everything else under the sun.

  23. Wrong to claim that the idea that the behaviors, predispositions, abilities, and ideals which we associate at a given time and place with masculinity and femininity are more culturally specific and changeable than male and female anatomical distinctions is worldly nonsense. Totally wrong. Utterly wrong.

  24. I agree with Kim- include single/childless women, but then you run the line of saying “Everyone is a mother” when there are women who simply feel that motherhood isn’t part of their life mission and marginalizing them.

    As far as God the Mother, I think we sometimes forget that She is just as powerful and awe-inspiring as God the Father and as an exalted being, isn’t going to faint at the thought of people not being nice to Her. I say we talk about her more. I definitely do that with my children and I just started a new blog with that purpose.

    I say we just get rid of gender. It’s harmful to everyone: from the woman who feels that God has neglected her because she doesn’t feel innately nurturing, to the man who feels distanced from God because he’s not as “naturally” spiritual. Yes, God gives us spiritual gifts, but I think they are more individualized than “Well, you’re a woman, so you get Nurturing and you’re a man, so you get Priesthood Healing.”

  25. I know I would sit in YW class near tears when we had lessons on women’s roles. It felt so limiting. Here was my future decided for me at 12 when my friends would talk of their limitless possibilities. Of course my response is really simplified and its a bit more complex but you really touched on some of my feelings.

  26. Once you get by who can have babies, and who can best raise them (maybe), the gender lines become less clear. I have worked for women who could tear my head off, who liked football more than me, and had a hotter car.
    I never assume a female will have less ‘male gender’ than me, (or that it is unbecoming).

  27. Maybe we don’t hear much about Heavenely Mother because, in eternity, she’s busy with full-time away from home work and Heavenly Father is primarily responsible for the care and nurture of their children here on earth.

  28. This statement leaves me the most troubled.

    “Like Mormon men, Heavenly Father leads. He governs. …And, as a Priesthood Leader, He expects to be obeyed and submitted to.”

    It completely leaves out D&C 121 where it tells us that if any man does this with the lest degree of unrighteousness “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man”

    And second it does not take into account the principle of oneness which exist in the Elohim. Christ submitted his will to the Father’s will and he was glorified in return, he became one with the Father. We are told in Rev 3 that those who overcome will inherit all things and sit in the throne of Christ as he sits in his Father’s throne. There is only one throne or seat of power and it is share by all who are Elohim.

    It is not a submission to remain a peon but a submission, a merging or wielding of wills into the Devine.

  29. I do not think there is a heavenly mother. However, I also do not believe in the idea of god as a father figure. It is one way of conceptualizing god, but it also leads us to impose our culturally-driven conception of fatherhood upon our vision of god. So, for me, since there is god, but not a father, there does not need to be a mother in my thinking.

  30. Is it possible that our efforts to formally honor what women do nevertheless come across as demeaning, as something quite different from the insistent, repeated praise and unrestrained awe that characterize our official rhetoric on the topic? If so, why? What does that have to do with Heavenly Mother (the ostensible topic of this post)?

    Dunno if anyone has yet brought this up, but it probably has to do with the fact that there is no scriptural mention of our Heavenly Mother, or any evidence of her existence beside modern prophets and apostles, more or less, talking about the possible existence of a Heavenly Mother because the modern world pushes strongly against sexist ideas. If the role of a woman is simply to be a mother, then there must be a Mother involved in the creation of the female gender.

    Given how we infantilize and subordinate women, their roles, their duties, their nature, and their potential, perhaps even thinking about a Mother in Heaven, much less talking about Her in such terms, is a kind of blasphemy, a consummate act of disrespect toward One who deserves much, much better.

    I highly, highly doubt this. I believe that if we had evidence of a Heavenly Mother constantly there, throughout history, man would have treated woman better. When a man looks up toward heaven and sees a reflection of himself standing there, that man tends not to think as highly of his “helpmeet.”

  31. Nancy, that presiding is meant to be done righteously doesn’t change the fact that it is men’s work and men’s work only. Perhaps the imperatives of section 121 are directed only at men because, lacking dominion altogether (independently of their husbands, of course), women are structurally incapable of exercising unrighteous dominion. My problem is not that I think men are called upon to abuse their privilege to lead, govern, be hearkened unto and obeyed, authoritatively declare doctrine, &c, &c. It is that men are the only ones with such privileges.

    It is not the lives of Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton , or even Eliza R. Snow or Sherri Dew which are paradigmatic for Heavenly Motherhood. It is the mostly silent, behind-every-great-man, helpmeet model of the wife of any prominent Church leader. Even the most radically anti-authoritarian readings of section 121—which, if you look into it, you’ll find I enthusiastically support—cannot change the fact that the natural prism for understanding and anticipating male exalted status in the Church is the presiding Adam/General-Authority, while the model for female exaltation is Eve/Wife-of-General-Authority.

  32. Well, you wouldn’t be alone there. And if you’d like to add to the list of men you wouldn’t like being married to, just search for the phrase “obedience to priesthood leaders” at lds.org.

    LOL. Totally saw that coming. Nice.

    It doesn’t matter how many times leaders in the Church insist that casting women in an inferior role is really a grand act of respect. Even if some women internalize that logic and view their unequal status and their lack of voice as a sign of just how important and valued and respected women really are, if only us poor, confused feminists could just see past our agenda. You can call it what you want. Up is down, presiding is really a relationship of equal partners. Of course it’s extremely convenient to tell someone that the role she has is the most important thing in the universe at the same time as we tell her that it’s the only role she is meant to play and leave the rest (governing the Church, presiding at home, clarifying doctrine, performing saving ordinances, hearkening unto God, praying at general conference, etc.) to us.

    I would love to be able to reason this away (and I’m trying) but this is exactly how I feel.

    I would like to believe that when we die and meet our Heavenly Mother that we’ll realise that she was the great big secret because she is the pinnacle of Heaven and the one running the whole show.

  33. How sad is it that I’ve never even noticed or thought to question why women don’t offer the prayers at General Conference? Ugh.

  34. Natasha,
    I heard it is because they would say stuff that is too sacred for the setting . . . I may be getting that wrong.

  35. I would think __ since Utah is the Beehive state__that the queen bee would be the model for a Mother in Heaven (?)

  36. blt, Of course. What was I thinking? Thankfully, we have men to get it juuuust right.

  37. Brad; ….women are structurally incapable of exercising unrighteous dominion. My problem is not that I think men are called upon to abuse their privilege to lead, govern, be hearkened unto and obeyed, authoritatively declare doctrine, &c, &c. It is that men are the only ones with such privileges.

    Joseph Smith taught that a woman’s priesthood keys comes to her in connection with her husband. At the sealing ceremony his priesthood becomes her priesthood as they become one flesh.

    Woodruff said; “Is it possible that we have the holy priesthood and our wives have none of it? Joseph desired to confer these keys of power upon them in connections with their husbands, a wife has certain blessings and powers and rights and is a partaker of certain gifts and blessings and promises with her husband”

    A woman is perfectly capable of exercising unrighteous dominion in any of her callings, especial that of wife and mother.

  38. Nancy, please explain how women’s priesthood keys are expressed? When his priesthood becomes her priesthood, what does that enable her to do? Is it possible that it enables her to do the exact same things which a wife and mother not married to a priesthood holder is also able to do?

    I see no difference between me and my non-Mormon friends in the power and rights we have. Blessings? I can buy that there’s a difference. But keys? I’ve never been made aware of what my priesthood keys are.

    No one is saying that a woman is incapable of exercising unrighteous dominion as a wife and mother.

  39. Nancy,
    If by “unrighteous dominion” you mean abuse of power, then of course you’re right. But if you mean, as section 121 seems to, the abuse of priesthood power, then I don’t think so.

    The kind of joint priesthood early Church leaders sometimes spoke of in connection with the temple is not a mutual relationship of codependence, and does not alter all of the structural inequities I’ve outlined. A man’s ability to exercise the power of God does not require his dependent relationship on a spouse who presides over him. Her priesthood (to the extent that it is recognizable to our authority-fetishizing minds as something even remotely resembling priesthood), depends on her conjoined (sexual?) union with her husband.

    To the extent that we take the consistent teachings of Church leaders (to say nothing of temple covenants) seriously, even Julie Beck is presided over, not just by the administrative priesthood to which her position is structurally subordinated, but in her home, by her husband.

  40. This is a great post, very thought provoking. I have wondered if maybe because of our cultural biases we’re just not ready to understand the Mother yet. I can’t help but suspect that if we had more female leadership in the church that this topic would be addressed more frequently. If it’s true that we don’t know more about her because of our culture, well, that makes me really sad. Like Daniel, I think we’d treat women differently as a church if we had more concrete revelation about her. Our doctrine could change our culture for the better.

  41. I am blessed perhaps to have a glimpse of my true worth and know that I will become like my Heavenly Mother. This is a beautiful doctrine to me and worldly disrespect for women doesn’t change what I know to be eternally true.
    Sure it would be nice to have a few more details, but really, would having more details about heaven and eternity change what I do here on earth? I hope not. I hope I am doing everything I can to use my time on earth wisely and to do God’s will and to give my heart to my Savior.

  42. jks, I’m confused by what you said. First you said that you are blessed to have a glimpse of your true worth and know that you will become like your Heavenly Mother. Then you said that it would be nice to have a few more details but how would that change what you do on earth?

    I’m hoping you will agree that what you do hinges on how you see yourself. Right? Well, you have just said that knowing there is a Heavenly Mother and knowing you can become like her is what gives you a “glimpse” of your “true worth”. (And how can you become “like” her when you don’t know anything about her?) Or, at least, that’s how I’m reading your comment. How much more worth could you feel you have if you knew more about her?

    I feel as if you’ve just acknowledged that it’s so wonderful to know what we know and that it blesses your life and yet to ask for more is perhaps greedy or at least unnecessary. What are the chances that we’ve struck the most perfect amount of knowing in this area? If that’s true, and we know all we need to know to use our time on earth wisely, and men know so much more Heavenly Father… why? Our role as mothers is most important but their role as priesthood holders is more complicated? It just doesn’t add up for me.

    The details about heaven and eternity which we do already have are what decides your earthly agenda. I’m pretty confident about that. I don’t understand, then, why you don’t see the value in more revelation.

    The world disrespecting women may not change what you believe to be eternally true, but I thought someone made a good point that the world might value women more if scripture made reference to there being a Heavenly Mother. That worldly disrespect might melt away and you could still believe what you believe: at the same time!

  43. There is a truly insightful and moving recent article that would complement this dialogue well on FAIR’s website by Valerie Hudson Cassler, entitled: “The Two Trees”

    Here is a link …

    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2010_The_Two_Trees.html

    Enjoy!

  44. Really great piece and great writing. I really loved that your last paragraph ties up thoughts I have had for years so nicely. Thank you.

  45. Brad,

    How long have you been sitting on this? Are you using Hollywood’s strategy for winning an Oscar in order to get a Niblet?

    Great post. Niblet material.

  46. Geoff, don’t mistake my procrastination and general neglect of blogging duties for something remotely close to strategy. Though I am hoping to post one more later this week. :)

  47. Interesting post, Brad. Let’s go out on a limb here and suggest that the almost complete absence of official LDS discussion about traits, characteristics, or powers of Heavenly Mother makes her a blank slate onto which most people who do think or talk about her project their own normative ideas about the role of women.

    I puzzled over the double negatives in your comment #23 before finally concluding that you are actually affirming the claim that “the behaviors, predispositions, abilities, and ideals which we associate at a given time and place with masculinity and femininity are more culturally specific and changeable than male and female anatomical distinctions.”

    That’s right as far as it goes, but it’s not correct that human psychology just falls out of the ether — it is based at least in part on the anatomy and development of our brains. So in some sense both our sex (male or female) and our psychology are both rooted in our anatomy. Furthermore, contemporary research seems to be showing that male and female brains, on average, develop and function somewhat differently. This suggests some of these distinctions are indeed natural, not socially constructed. See my discussion at Times and Seasons a couple of years ago:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2008/01/essential-differences/

  48. Latter-day Guy says:

    Brad, this is excellent.

    What is it about how we talk about men and women and men’s and women’s roles and responsibilities, abilities and gifts, that makes it condescending or even potentially insulting for men in the Church to tell women how important and divine and wonderful their work as mothers is? Is it possible that our efforts to formally honor what women do nevertheless come across as demeaning, as something quite different from the insistent, repeated praise and unrestrained awe that characterize our official rhetoric on the topic?

    Amen and amen. It is as easy to be dismissive by compliment as by insult. (For instance, calling them “wonderfully sexual beings” — but maybe that’s more creepy than dismissive.)

  49. Is it possible that She remains inscrutable and invisible to us because we’re only capable, in our present state, of conceiving of Her as a Heavenly Wife to our Heavenly Father?

    I think this is an excellent point, and it is the best explanation I have heard for why we don’t know more about Heavenly Mother. It’s not about God or His will, it’s about us and our own cultural weaknesses and misunderstandings.

    Like it or not, women in the Church exist primarily for the benefit of men. They birth, nurture and care for, provide companionship for, and ultimately exalt men. For men exaltation consists in doing and having all that the Father does and has (including an eternal companion). For women exaltation consists in hearkening to, being sealed with, a helpmeet to, and presided over by an exalted husband.

    I think “the church” needs to be defined. If “the Church” means the gospel as designed by God, then I strongly disagree with this statement. If “the church” means the people with mortal and cultural weaknesses who formed the institution, then I would have to say I agree.

    Do I believe that “the church” tells me I exist only to serve my husband and sons? No, I don’t. But, it’s taken a lot of teasing apart what is culture and what is God to bring me to that conclusion.

  50. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think the distortion here is seeing Father in Heaven as a ‘priesthood leader’, in the manner of the church.

    It seems to me that everything we can know about Heavenly mother we know through the example of Christ. We have one exemplar, not two. Christ embodies the divine qualities that we set ourselves on a course to acquire – both men and women. The call to come to Christ, and to be like Him, applies to women as well as to men. So that all divine qualities must be shared by male and female.

    I find male and female to be fundamental, essential, but outside of definition except by the words themselves. I do not need to enhance my manliness since I cannot be anymore male than I am now. There needs no repentance, no becoming. What I need is to add to my essence divine qualities, just like any woman.

    We have spent a lot of energy proof-texting reality in order to nail our feet to the floor.

    Yay for the op, btw.~

  51. I think the distortion here is seeing Father in Heaven as a ‘priesthood leader’, in the manner of the church.

    Another excellent point.

  52. StillConfused says:

    So the problem I have with the motherhood talks is that they seem to be in absolutes… as if being a mother is the end-all-be-all. For me, I would no rather hear that as a topic then to hear someone give a talk on how being an attorney is the end-all-be-all or that being a charity director is. I am all of those things. Being a mother is just a part of who I am. Just like how being a priesthood holder is just a part of who my husband is.

  53. StillConfused: Really? You take issue with that? Do you believe that motherhood will be something you can take with you into eternity? We talk about all eternal things with a similar weight, not just motherhood and priesthood. I sure hope we don’t need attorney-you in the next world….

    I understand the emotion you’re expressing. I feel it, too. It would be nice if the leaders routinely spoke of other profound ways in which women contribute to the world, that have nothing to do with converting people to the church or birthing them into the church. But I also understand why the leaders speak of motherhood with such weight.

  54. Thanks to Thomas Parkin for no. 50 — we have one example, and only one — Jesus Christ — in my mind, anyone who looks past Jesus Christ, whether to a heavenly father (as learned about by revelation) or to a heavenly mother (as a construct of our desires and imaginations), looks too far. Male and female, we need to look to Jesus Christ, only, and no further. There is a good lesson in John chapter 14 about looking past the mark.

    The original posting correctly points out that “the notion of a Heavenly Mother did not emerge as the result of any formal revelation” but then continues to offer a possible explanation “but rather as . . . the speculated . . . result of taking more explicit features of our theology to their logical conclusions.” One person’s logical conclusion is another person’s over-reaching, perhaps. For me, I’ll continue to suspend belief in a heavenly mother until the Lord Jesus Christ chooses to reveal such a doctrine. God’s way are not our ways, and his understanding greatly surpasses our understanding, and all of our attempts to fashion a heavenly mother from our own wisdom and without revelation must necessarily fail.

    What to teach on Mother’s Day? Well, Mother’s Day is not a doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ — it is a human-created celebration in the United States on the second Sunday in May — I recommend teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ — faith, repentance, baptism, charity, hope, and love — in sacrament meetings.

  55. If you think I’m arguing in favor of viewing HF as a Priesthood Leader, through the prism of contemporary models of male LDS leadership/presiding, I assure you that I haven’t made myself clear. I am, however, suggesting that figuring male exaltation and godliness in such a manner is more or less the norm, even if implicit, in the Church today.

  56. It is well thought out post, but I think that where it strays is when it ascribes far too much parallel between “what mormon men do” and what those actions infer about God the Father. That’s a dangerous set of expectations to project upon our culture because it inevitably reflexes back upon deity. I.E., it suggests that misogyny is not only a probability for the imperfect men who preside over the church, but also for God himself as a participant in his own cosmology.

    If feminism is to be used as a tool to understand that cosmology (and LDS culture) it must transcend the projectionist tactics, abstract goals and failings that mark the second and third waves. It must be an LDS feminism that “reproves betimes with sharpness,” but then shows “an increase of love” so that an enemy isn’t necessary. In this respect, I think the OP succeeds in recognizing HM’s personal autonomy.

    But the notion of a HM that chooses anonimity as a means of avoiding insult doesn’t really compliment her, imo. It seems more a nod to the collective female ego than to a deity who herself is apparently as self-sacrificing as her son.

  57. wonderings says:

    Regarding #43: Hudson’s theological descriptions are problematic for me. Here are a few observations: first, it sounds like she had to develop this idea to make herself feel valued as an equal while stuck within a framework where she knows she isn’t. Second, much of it seems contradictory to what you learn in the temple. Third, throughout it, Hudson seems so excited about the “hearken” covenant Eve and all her daughters must enter into, although this was only recently changed from an “obedience” covenant.

    However, it is the prettiest repacking of the Adam and Eve story I’ve ever seen but it’s still that, a repackaging of the story- with all the women bearing and raising children as their ordinance, hearkening to their husbands, and silently accepting their part of this deal.

  58. LatterDay Guy,

    I meant nothing demeaning with that term. Sorry you possibly took it that way.

  59. Brad,
    Great post. It sounds a lot like the Mormon feminist blogs I read :)

    I was even talking about this with my husband today. There really isn’t a good resolution to the problem of women’s role in the church (doctrine and policy). Either we are here for the benefit of men (which you’ve provided good evidence for) or the church is a product of androcentric culture. I do buy this last option, but I can’t understand a God that would let His/Her church get so far away from equality (if that is a godly principle) toward men dominating women.

    Even your closing paragraph seems to make the assumption that HM is an awesome being worthy of our worship and respect, but you don’t make the leap that the women in our church are as well. And if so, what would that look like?

    So my question to you, how do you resolve these issues as a faithful and practicing member? (that’s a big assumption, I apologize in advance)

    Side Note-
    I’ll also agree with you about Mother’s Day talks. I posted about my feelings after Mother’s Day here.
    http://www.the-exponent.com/2009/05/11/naturally/

    Quick summary: When I hear that as a mother I am naturally patient, kind, nurturing, etc. it makes me feel like the hard work and sacrifice of mothering is unnoticed. I’m naturally good a that stuff, so it’s no big deal if I do it well. If I do it poorly that’s even worse because it’s in my nature! How can I get it wrong? I must be a freak of nature.

  60. Easy answer…because we’re simultaneously told “Your role is divine, women are the most spiritual ever, Heavenly Mother is the best….but stop asking questions about Her role or yours in the eternities because its not essential for your salvation, oh, and its not important enough for us to receive revelation about it either, even though our entire church is built on modern revelation, so stop sending us letters!”

    So no matter how sincere one comes across, it will be a back-handed compliment. “You’re so important that we don’t need to know about you at all!”

    Ya, we’re important, to the eternal life and salvation of MAN. But who knows what we’re in for after that.

  61. Dave,
    Those are excellent points. I certainly did not mean to suggest that the behavioral/psychological elements of whatever constitutes our collective notions of masculinity and femininity are pure, from-thin-air, cultural constructions. To the extent that our psychological features are primarily biological (which I think they are), and to the extent that those biological and sociobiological trait complexes have been subjected to the selective pressures of evolution, I think it’s impossible (well, at least very foolish) to ignore how these factors influence male/female social relations. (For the record, in between paying attention to this post I am grading final papers for a senior-level course I taught this semester called Biology, Society, & Culture—I assure you these questions are not lost on me. :) ).

    But even if evolution did help shape behavioral complexes which bear some resemblance to our contemporary gender ideals (for example, given the staggering neuro-developmental prematurity of full term human infants and the unique difficulties associated with human childbirth, the relative dependence of mothers on a degree of reliable male provision, as well as the male disposition to provision the offspring of females with whom there exists some form of strong monogamous pair bond), living in the time and place we do now (call it modernity, the latter days, the dispensation of the fullness of times, whatever) makes those adaptive capacities and behavioral patterns significantly less relevant than they might have been for most of our species’ history. Put simply, we no longer live in a world where upper body strength and testosterone levels confer significant advantages affecting survivability outcomes as regards offspring provision and protection.

  62. Even your closing paragraph seems to make the assumption that HM is an awesome being worthy of our worship and respect, but you don’t make the leap that the women in our church are as well. And if so, what would that look like?

    That’s a deficiency in my writing ability then. I am arguing that our inability to truly see what an awesome being—worthy of worship, adoration, and emulation—our Mother in Heaven is is itself a reflection of our inability to see these attributes in the women in our lives. I don’t think we can really fix one without fixing both, so we all, men and women, have work to do. Has it ever occurred to us that we don’t worship our Heavenly Mother because, by projecting our stupid, demeaning, saccharine discourse on women onto Her, we imagine Her as a being totally unworthy of worship?

  63. And I’ll add to my #62 that one of the problems is the notion that men should emulate the Father and women the Mother. We’ve so internalized the notion that our gender/sex is the defining feature of our eternal selves that we implicitly deify a masculinized human nature and imaginatively handicap half of the human family by relegating them to a universe in which the Divine Feminine is at best speculative, at worst a dangerous heresy. The reality is men and women both should be able—and encouraged—to look up to, worship, and emulate both of our Heavenly Parents, without presuming that certain characteristics, whatever they might be, are exclusively limited to one or the other.

  64. Great post, Brad. Appreciating reading this on a snowy Sunday night.

  65. I am arguing that our inability to truly see what an awesome being—worthy of worship, adoration, and emulation—our Mother in Heaven is is itself a reflection of our inability to see these attributes in the women in our lives.

    I can agree with this. But is all our discourse about women “Stupid, demeaning, and saccharine?” I don’t think everyone would agree that it is.

    The reality is men and women both should be able—and encouraged—to look up to, worship, and emulate both of our Heavenly Parents,

    I think Thomas made an excellent point, that we get there by looking to and trying to emulate Christ. I think if we were to all be more like Him, the gendered stuff would fall into place better.

  66. Great post, Brad, but I think I love your comment in #63 even better than the post (which is saying something because I have a lot of love for what you’ve said).

  67. Mommie Dearest says:

    This is the most thought provoking post I’ve read on BCC in a while, and I intend to read all the comments, maybe late some night this week. (ha!)

    I read it late last night before there were any comments, and as I thought about it today, my only comment was exactly what Aaron Brown said in #7. Responded to by Brad in #17.

  68. #63: Yes, yes, yes. A million times yes!

  69. daveonline says:

    I have really appreciated the many thoughtful comments and the sharing of strong emotional resonance to the post by some as well as the push back from others.
    I am puzzled by two things, though. One is the claim about a lack of authoritative scripture and two is the claims to the temple conveying the limiting role of women.
    I have always assumed that the references to Lady Wisdom in Proverbs which spoke of her being at the right hand of God in the creation were certainly as valid a tib bit as a hymnal reference, yet these seem not included in the “orthodox” canons cited here. Though they still have the same tantalizing/exasperating ambuiguity about them as the others, I think they should at least be mentioned.

    On the temple, I find it disappointing when we try to keep positing a literal interpretaion of the fall onto a symbolic experience that is not meant to be uni-dimensional. I think there are serveral great ironies contained in the Eden story. For example, if I look at today’s traditional gender roles, one tension in many male/female relationships centers around the issue of safety. The male wants to take risks, the female wants to keep things safe. I agree that this is a stereotype. But the story of the fall is of a male in the garden who wants to stay safe and follow the rules and of a female who prizes risk and going into new worlds. It seems to me that it is only reluctantly that the male agrees to leave. Yet in the fallen world, these roles/values/natural inclinations seem often reversed. So which is the true gender value for a male and female – the Edenic model or that of the fallen world?
    The Mormon view tends to “cheer” or favor the choice of Eden as the better value, but if in the end, we are to learn how to make shared decisions that reflect the input and agreement of both, then the comments from Thomas Parkin seem particularly relevant. How do we as “fallen” genders recover a unity of agreement and direction when in either the Edenic or Fall worlds we will have different appetites for risk taking?

  70. Unless there is a ironic tone I’m not picking up on, I’m extremely disturbed by your post. You may be trying too hard to emphasize the male at the submission of the female. I presume you are doing this to drive home some kind of point, but because it doesn’t come across clearly, I’m just left disturbed by phrases like:

    “He presides. And, as a Priesthood Leader, He expects to be obeyed and submitted to.”

    “For women exaltation consists in hearkening to, being sealed with, a helpmeet to, and presided over by an exalted husband.”

    I also find your summarizing sentences extremely condescending and logically vacuous. So Heavenly Mother doesn’t reveal herself because she is worried that if she doesn’t reveal herself we may be left to imagine her as a divine housewife?

  71. Love, Love, Love comments 62 and 63, and I’ll third Thomas’ thoughts on emulating Christ. Great stuff!

  72. Good thoughts. I think, too, that the world simply doesn’t comprehend certain virtues as being worthy of emulation. Because we may not “see” the Kingdom for what it is doesn’t mean it isn’t there in all of it’s majesty and glory. So it is with the mystery of Godliness. How great it is — and far we are from truly comprehending what it means to be an exalted man or woman.

  73. …and [how] far we are…

  74. I really enjoyed the post, but it seems to me that you yourself have fallen into the trap that you are pointing out to others:

    “But we’re also less troubled by what little the scriptures have to tell us explicitly about our Father in Heaven, because we’re comfortable inferring a great deal about His character and nature, for example, by consulting what we do know about the life and nature of Jesus. We presume, with very good reason, that we can learn much about our Father through reference to His Son.”

    If the primary/only role of a Mother in Heaven were to nurture, raise, educate, spiritually develop and formulate Her children, why would you assume that the character and nature of Christ were the result (and the spitting image of) the Father, rather than a result of her efforts and a her example? In one fell swoop, you marginalized her completely.

    Either Christ sprang forth perfect (and thereby had no agency or growth) or he was very well-raised. If our theological argument is that a sanctified motherhood is divine and irreplaceable, then the women in his pre-mortal and mortal life must have had a sanctifying role that couldn’t have been supplied by anyone (or anyone male) else. So his character traits are not simply those of the Father, many of them must have been learned from Mom.

    My guess is our problem is twofold. First, we continue to create both our Father and Mother in Heaven in our images, (hence your apt description of the General Authority God) rather going to the trouble of doing it the other way around. Second, that we simply cannot comprehend the unity that they embody. Divine roles aside, it is probably a grave mistake to try to apportion and assign them exclusive qualities and virtues.

  75. What do you mean by:
    “a bone-throw mention of “Parents” in a document that, it turns out, isn’t even a revelation?”
    I assume you’re speaking of the Proclamation? Why is not “revelation”?

  76. Adam S,
    Yes, I’m afraid you appear to have misread my meaning. Reread the parts about projecting male attributes drawn from church governance onto God but subvocalize them with a critically ironic tone. The final paragraph, on the other hand, is a completely sincere and straightforward articulation of how I actually feel about the topic.

  77. BDiddy, listen to Elder Packer’s talk, then read the print version.

  78. BDiddy,
    Where have you ever seen it described as a revelation? I am only aware of one instance, and if that’s what you have in mind, I suggest you take a second look.

  79. Well, Brad, here is where I also find that point of yours confusing: In the Teachings of the Living Prophets, the only Institute course I have ever taken, we were taught that everything said by the presidency and apostles—all prophets, seers, and revelators—from the pulpit is scripture. Would not a proclamation be more serious and revelatory than a GC talk? Do you believe that “proclamation” means that they are only proclaiming their beliefs? And what do you make of Benson’s talk on the fourteen points of a living prophet, one of them being that the prophet does not need to say “thus saith the lord” for something to be commandment? Does a prophet need to say, “This is revelation” for us to believe it to be so?

  80. If you learned it in institute…that should raise a red flag.

  81. I have my own reasons for believing you might have a point there, Chris, but what are your reasons? I mean, I know you don’t like to expound upon your opinions for me but what if I sincerely beg for your reasoning? Email me, if you’d rather, please. Thank you.

  82. Pretty sure I do not have your email.

    Institute and seminary are about teaching loyalty to the church. Their agenda is not to teach scripture, but instead to teach a certain interpretation of Mormon dogma. Institute plays an important social function. The rest I would not trust. Something like that. Much of my reasoning is rooted in my study off what Ernest Wilkinson did to the CES.

  83. Thanks for answering. (And since you’re so clever, I figured you’d click on my name and find my email within a few seconds.)

  84. Brad, so what you are saying is mortality is one massive LARP? ;-)

  85. bree Johnson says:

    I loved the comment on the woman taking risks and the man wanting to be safe before the fall and how after the fall the roles were reversed. very interesting.

    I really hope their is a heavenly mother.

    It would be interesting to see if there are any more talks that relate to her. might have to research tomorrow.

  86. Antoinette says:

    This was one part of the LDS faith that freaked my parents out. They’re alright now:) I explained it to them and found, that when put into a cultural context for us (African Americans) it’s not that far off the “deep end.”
    Before I joined the LDS, I grew up in a non-denominational church, which was an African-American church, and for the most part, I think the reason why I joined the LDS is because my faith and my life was centered around the doctrine of unification, community, and family. In my culture, eternal marriage, covenant, and family is implied, but not an overt doctrine. Black women are caught in this murky middle between the feminine ideal (nuclear family, supportive wife, submissive to husband) and the feminist extreme (“I don’t need no man to take care of me!” or, “I can do bad all by myself!”).
    In my culture, I see a subtle (not even a full drop, maybe a sprinkle) feminization of God in that in, for the most part, functional black families, friendships, and extended families, the women and men both are separate, but equal, but when it comes to marriage, they are one, whole, part of the one-ship of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. So, for the black man, God is a Man. He is The Man, The Father, the Head, the authority figure to whom he is submitted to first. He recognizes, however his wife as Queen, the gift that God has given him because she holds heavenly attributes that will ultimately aid in his faith and exaltation, and thus, in some degree, he is submitted to her because she is Divine.
    For the black woman, Heavenly Father is the Father, her Father, from whom she seeks guidance through and by the Holy Spirit, and yet also, he is her Man, The Man, as “Husband”* and the wisdom gained, by and through the Holy Spirit, is the feminized God because in the old church, wisdom was synonymous with womanhood. Wisdom, truth, virtue, light…attributes of the woman, that old grandmama up the road who knew everybody and told ALL your business…so, there’s no question, at least for the women I know, that there is some female spirit companion, or component, whichever, to God the Father, the Husband, the Head. In essence, Heavenly Mother as an entity, a literal “wife” is recast into the Spirit of Wisdom, much like how charity is cast as a feminine trait when we think of Relief Society.
    So, in my opinion, the feminization of God, or the concept of Heavenly Mother is just that, a concept in order to make sense of our distinctive, unifying, yet polarizing doctrine. It answers the most basic question: why am I male? Why am I female? Why do women do this? Why are men like that? What is my womanly purpose? What is my manly purpose?
    Very interesting and thought provoking article.
    However, I will stick with worshipping Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:)
    I believe that these questions and others will be settled in the eternities.

    *I mentioned Heavenly Husband, because I came from a background which acknowledged the Nicene Creed, mentioning the oneness of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and not as separate entities like the LDS. So, in reference to God as Husband, I’m referring to the oneness of God and Christ, and woman as a bride of Christ, casting Jesus as Husband.

  87. Thank you for sharing your perspective and experiences, Antionette.

  88. glorious future says:

    I can only share my advice based on what I have received and prayed about and received a tremendous outpouring of the spirit confirming to my soul. But I have no authority to reveal what God Himself intends to reveal. Some things are not fit to be given one to another through words, but only through revelation. Go to the temple, pray, mediate, ponder what goes on there and come to know her; as well as yourself

  89. Latter-day Guy says:

    58 — Fair enough.

  90. Latter-day Guy says:

    Because we may not “see” the Kingdom for what it is doesn’t mean it isn’t there in all of its majesty and glory.

    Well, that is fine as far as it goes, Jack, but… I drank the Kool-Aid about “women are sooooo special and precious and nurturing, and a Mother in Heaven must be sooooo special and precious” for a long time before I realized that maybe saying things like “the [gospel/temple/etc.] actually does value [women/HM], but because they’re sooooo [special/precious/nurturing/virtuous/etc.] those truths are buried really deep — you must look deeeeeper, Grasshopper,” just sugar-coated fairly blatant institutional misogyny with the promise of deeper/hidden values/teachings. This practice very neatly allows us to pretend to really value women and their true natures, all while avoiding the more troubling issue of treating women like real human beings in the day-to-day functioning of the Church/our lives. It’s saying, essentially, “You’re so special/powerful/marvelous/wonderful… so don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” Yech.

  91. StillConfused says:

    I consider myself lucky that I don’t believe in gender in the hereafter or in deity. Trying to put gender in those situations, for me, would lead to more issues than resolutions. When God said that man is created in his image, I take that at an atomic level and not at a personage level. So for me, God made the entire earth (and beyond) in his image. Because there is no gender at the atomic level, I don’t have to worry about the gender issues that come when you try to put gender in deity.

    Now granted, my beliefs are not in line with LDS beliefs in this regard, but that does not cause me any grief at all because I encourage people to define God as it make the most sense for them.

  92. Mark Brown says:

    Going all the way back to Eric’s comment # 19. Eric is right, sex and gender are often used interchangeably outside the church, too. Many of the words we use in these conversations are doing double duty — woman equals mother, preside means equal, parenting means mothering — so it is not surprising that the conversations are often frustrating. We talk past each other and fail to understand each other because the language we use is so debased and corrupted that it is almost meaningless. We all learned in freshman English that imprecise and sloppy language both reveals and produces sloppy thinking.

    This is an excellent post Brad. Thank you.

  93. #35, Having just read The Secret Life of Bees, I agree.

  94. Brad, I’ve always had a similar thought about Heavenly Mother and that’s why I DON’T want the church to talk about her more. If we discussed her it would easily end up with practices like she is the one to pray to when you are pregnant, etc. We’ve got your lovely Maxwell quote which makes it sound like she is preparing the homecoming luncheon and I read things like Kevin Barney’s bit on Heavenly Mother, and there it is–she is the goddess of childbirth and fertility, etc. Bleagh. I’d rather not listen to others talk about her.

    Personally, that’s my read of the OT and the ongoing opposition to Asherah/Astarte/Baal, etc.. There is instead a unified God–ONE God, which meant understanding God as something other than the one who is change of the rain and the one who is in charge of war and the one who is in charge of nursing. Only ONE, even if in Mormon theology we have a different concept of what ONE might mean. And that to me is how Heavenly Mother must work–in a unified sense, and not as the one in charge of raising spirit babies or the one in charge of making the homecoming decorations. To the degree that we divide men and women into separate spheres, we cannot understand God in a unified way.

    I’ve always liked to rip this scripture out of context and think of it in terms of HM:

    Isaiah 50:1

    Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

  95. Good points, cms.

  96. 94 says – “To the degree that we divide men and women into separate spheres, we cannot understand God in a unified way.”

    God the Creator/Architect of our Salvation, God the Redeemer as the one whose work brings that Salvation to pass, and God the Revelator as the means by which our will and actions can be brought into harmony, ultimately with the Father. Seems like we’ve already divided the Godhead into separate spheres.

  97. I don’t think it is remotely possible to resolve the question of heavenly mothers until one resolves the question of heavenly fathers. The scriptures are insistent (for sound theological reasons) that there is only one true and living God, and yet that God is composed of more than one person.

    Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end (D&C 20:77)

    Perhaps the most straightforward way to resolve the question is to admit all exalted individuals, fathers and mothers to the same union. Otherwise one is presumably engaging in photocopier theology, where each exalted couple gets their own universe, or a scheme where no one except some small handful are or ever will be joint heirs with Christ in the sense the New Testament speaks of.

  98. cms (94), I very much agree. I can’t imagine a divine partnership in which the Father and the Mother aren’t completely unified, and act as one. I’ve heard that given as an explanation for why we don’t know more about HM – she and HF are one, so it doesn’t matter who is doing what. The problem (in my opinion) is that they both are represented by the male. As the OP pointed out, this leaves women at a distinct disadvantage. It also means that as a society, the holy and authoritative is figured as exclusively male. How can we describe two beings who are one without placing them in a hierarchy or ascribing to them different roles and traits? I’m not sure.

  99. Brad: Thanks so much! This is a great post! I love it. There’s so many implications regarding the subject of a Heavenly Mother. I’m more inclined to agree with her non-existence as a separate entity. He existence as a entity beside God was hinted to Eliza Snow by Joseph Smith on the question of her existence, to which he emphatically said, and I’m very loosely paraphrasing: Is God a single father? No! There must be mother in heaven! Again, very loose paraphrasing but something to that effect. From that perspective, I look at it as a concept dealing with our tendencies to project human understanding and characteristics onto an ultimately mysterious God to make him more accessible and personal to us.
    I think the concept of Heavenly Mother more personalizes our relationship to deity, in that we are children of God, and it only makes sense that because we have earthly parents, and we are made in the image of God, and marriage and family is a divine structure, then the obvious conclusion must be that there are Heavenly Parents.
    I don’t believe there is a literal “Heavenly Mother,” but I do believe that there are Spirits. Like the Holy Spirit, who is God, there are others that inhabit Heaven and work and move on the earth alongside Heavenly Father. So, I’m more inclined to believe that for woman, and womanhood, there is a Spirit of Wisdom by which our uniqueness and our purpose is designed and modeled after. To me, a Spirit of Wisdom is more accessible and less abstract than a concept of Heavenly Mother, in my opinion.

  100. If the church determined that women would [officially] hold the priesthood with its attendant privileges, and would [officially] participate in the administration of the church, would the barriers to discussion go away under this analysis?

    If so, I guess that is fair, because we can discuss only what exists. But I also think that using the structure of church administration as a barrier to discussing a HM may, in the end, do her a disservice. Because she either exists or she does not exist. And she exists independent of, not in spite of, the church and its organization.

    I honestly wonder if patriarchy is a bad word in the heavens. There is plenty of commentary suggesting that patriarchy is an eternal principle. I can only think/hope that we don’t really understand it, though.

  101. And I also think that the feelings of many in the church regarding gender in the church reach much deeper than LDG’s hefty criticisms (90) imply. I have met very few men who would fit the description of “institutional misogyny” in the church. Most, rather, humbly accept the institution as currently constituted and do their damndest to involve all leaders, respect their input, and acknowledge that revelation flows without gender distinctions.

  102. Most of our perceptions of women are based on what has been common practice throughout history: that the woman stays in the home, that she is the primary caregiver, that she is “subordinate” to her husband, etc. Many of the teachings of the Church seem to coincide with these perceptions.

    I don’t believe, however, that they are eternal truths. I believe that God the Parent teaches us according to our understanding and our situation, and our understanding and situation have placed women in this role. I vehemently believe that in the eternal realm, it is *not* this way.

    The root cause of it is seen in Genesis, where all things (including misconceptions) start: the woman partook of the fruit before the man. She was the one who chose, for whatever reason, to disobey first. As such, she was relegated to a position “below” that of man.

    But what if Adam had been beguiled by the serpent first? Might we not find the roles reversed, with women presiding over the family, and man subservient to the woman? And what if neither Adam nor Eve had partaken of the fruit, without first asking the permission of God? According to LDS teachings, we laud Eve as being clever enough to realize that she’d never be able to have children without partaking of the fruit, but what if she had waited to eat the fruit after first asking God for it? I believe that she would’ve received permission, and that we would find ourselves in an extremely different situation today.

    In short, I think that most of our perceptions as to the role of women or the role of men are nothing like what we will find in the next life.

  103. “what has been common practice throughout history: that the woman stays in the home, that she is the primary caregiver,”

    Except that that has NOT been common practice throughout history–it’s a relatively recent and rare phenomenon.

  104. “And what if neither Adam nor Eve had partaken of the fruit, without first asking the permission of God? According to LDS teachings, we laud Eve as being clever enough to realize that she’d never be able to have children without partaking of the fruit, but what if she had waited to eat the fruit after first asking God for it? I believe that she would’ve received permission, and that we would find ourselves in an extremely different situation today.”

    Strange conclusions. And why would God give her permission after strictly forbidding it?

    Sorry. End the threadjack. Just a pet-peeve.

  105. 96 gf, I agree–the Godhead is divided in some ways. But their defining feature is one-ness. When we pray to the father, in the name of the son, and wait for the whisperings of the holy spirit, we see that oneness –it is different than praying to the god of rain sometimes and to the Goddess of childbirth other times. What I reject is relegating HM to babies/women/the spirit world/the homecoming committee. I reject focusing on the division.

    Here is another way to think about it. I have never had a lesson at church that asked us to list all the ways Heavenly Father and the Savior are different–it would be weird–even if it was done in a parallel way. “Jesus was born on the planet earth and Heavenly father was born on the planet Kolob. Adam reports to Jesus and Jesus reports to HF.” etc. I think that sounds weird and is an unhelpful way to approach our relationship with either of them, even if those lists were accurate.

    And I am saying that as long as we make lists for men and women, even if we try to emphasize some parallel structure, it will lead us to the wrong place. And that at the moment if we were to ask for more information about our Heavenly Mother, we would conceptualize that information as a list somehow parallel to Heavenly Father’s–but a separate list. Which is why I don’t want a list of attributes or roles for heavenly Mother.

  106. Tim J– Are you serious? Like God has never given permission to something he’s once forbade? Or forbade something to which he once gave permission? I think it’s a common enough musing that maybe God would have eventually told Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit, or at least eventually told them how to multiply. I didn’t find Dave’s comment all that strange. I have similar doubts about the story of the Fall myself, if I’m reading his comment correctly as having doubt.

  107. Yes, I’m serious.

  108. “Sex is male/female; gender is masculine/feminine.”

    you’re right to clarify that gender *isn’t* biological sex, but the sentence quoted above is murky and not very helpful.

    sex is genitalia, whereas gender is a social construct–the performative thing we do when we become stay at home moms or breadwinning dads, put on heels, or play sports.

    read some judith butler? ignoring academics who have the right answers about this stuff is not only obnoxious; it’s irresponsible.

  109. Kristine: perhaps that wasn’t phrased as correctly as I could’ve made it. Try “what has been commonplace throughout history: a patriarchal society.” In other words, that men are always seen as authority figures, and only rarely (in comparison to men) do we see women in active roles outside of the family.

    Tim J: I respectfully disagree that my comment was “thread jacking”. To me, everything that I’ve ever been taught about the patriarchal nature of the Priesthood has to be taken with the grain of salt of “this is how things are on this world”. My comment was that there’s a distinct and very real possibility that the organization that we have been given for this world is not an eternal principle, but rather a consequence. And if you believe that (as I do), then IMO these discussions of women vs men and HF vs HM and Their attributes and roles are impossible to have, because I don’t believe that we can ever fathom what things are really like in the eternal scheme of things.

  110. “Tim J: I respectfully disagree that my comment was “thread jacking”.”

    Not yours, mine.

  111. “read some judith butler? ignoring academics who have the right answers about this stuff is not only obnoxious; it’s irresponsible.”

    I have read Butler. I love her work. She would also reject the idea that there are “right answers” about this type of stuff.

  112. mr,
    This isn’t an academic journal. It’s a blog. I was fairly upfront about the fact that I was simplifying rather complex social theory for this post. I may not be a gender studies PhD (technically, I’m a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology), but I’ve read enough Judith Butler to know that she’s not even the most impressive name for you to have dropped to demonstrate your super intellectual skillz. Exactly how would citing Foucault or Haraway have substantively contributed to the basic argument of this post?

    I’ll put it this way: ever hear of Socrates? Plato? Aristotle?!?!?

    Seriously, if you have something useful to contribute to the conversation, you sound like you’re more than capable. But save the drive-by, guess-who-I-just-read-and-am-now-authoritatively-citing-because-I’m-awesome for next semester’s grad seminar.

  113. What? No shout out to Kant? Now I am ticked.

  114. #112: morons.

  115. For BDiddy-

    President Packer’s original talk stated:

    Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation and would do well that members of the church to read and follow it.

    The published version now says:

    Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.

  116. Paula: Oooh, I totally forgot about that edit. I was more interested in the other ones. Thanks for the reminder.

  117. #112 – Steve beat me to it, but then I’m no match for his brain.

  118. first, i wasn’t citing judith butler in order to tout my intellectual skillz. on the contrary, i think that when we’re asking questions or making statements about the difference between sex and gender, we should pay attention to academics. there’s no need to talk about haraway or foucalt. but paying attention to butler–who famously explored the difference between sex and gender in *gender trouble*–seems important. (and yes, butler, like other academics, would claim that she’s *right* about what she argues for. sure, she doesn’t practice philosophy proper, but she’s offering arguments. i think it’s wrong to think that academics don’t think they’re offering applicable, real world answers or arguing for clear, identifiable theses.)

    second, sorry to offend. it’s just that i happen to think that are facts about sex and gender. and, as it happens, they have been widely accepted in academia for decades. i find it frustrating and sad when the mormon community lags so far behind. but at least the questions are being asked. i respect that. i suppose it is, after all, a step towards progress. sometimes i just wish we could move faster.

  119. So, mr, was the original post obnoxious and/or irresponsible because it inadequately contrasted sex and gender (the former I described as involving chromosomes and reproductive anatomy, which you corrected by declaring that it’s about genitals; the latter I described as culturally dependent and socially constructed
    behaviors, predispositions, abilities, and ideals which people associate, typically prescriptively, at a given time and place with masculinity and femininity, and you corrected that by calling it a social construct/performative thing), because it didn’t adequately explicate the performativity of gender, or because it didn’t mention Judith Butler by name or include quotations from Gender Trouble?

    If you can read this entire post, and my comments (which I again remind you did not appear on some sociology message board), and the only response you can manage is “Read any Judith Butler?” along with accusations that I am not sufficiently up to speed on what the academic community is saying about gender, that is more a reflection of your reading comprehension abilities than it is of deficiencies of the Mormon community.

  120. I can appreciate the ironic tone and I think I am more sympathetic to the post. However, I still strongly disagree with the logic and implications of the final paragraph.

    “Is it possible That we aren’t given knowledge of Her because the moment we learned definitively of her existence we would immediately see Her as primarily an incubator and nurturer of God’s children?”

    No. If we learned definitively of her then we would see her as she was. Either she is a “incubator and nurturer” or she isn’t. The onus is on God and Goddess to reveal the true attributes.

    “Is it possible that Heavenly Father, assuming that He fully and completely loves and respects our Heavenly Mother, simply will not grant us speculative access to Her?”

    “Speculative access” is not something “granted”. We can speculate or not. We de facto have already chosen to speculate. Not revealing something doesn’t do anything to keep that in check.

    “Or, better yet, is it even more likely that She refuses to reveal Herself, Her true identity, to a people who are likely to imagine Her as speaking nothing but deference and submission to male leaders in the dulcet tones of Primary Voice?”

    Again, to reveal herself is to remove the need to imagine her speaking in deference and submission or otherwise.

    “Given how we infantilize and subordinate women, their roles, their duties, their nature, and their potential…”

    I don’t think this is an accurate picture of the beliefs and practices of the church. It strikes me as hubris to make a weak point. I am on the side of equal rights for women in the church. I believe they should be given the same priesthood and authority as men. That said, I think the members of the church have a stronger view of women on average then you are giving them credit for.

  121. And what if neither Adam nor Eve had partaken of the fruit, without first asking the permission of God? According to LDS teachings, we laud Eve as being clever enough to realize that she’d never be able to have children without partaking of the fruit, but what if she had waited to eat the fruit after first asking God for it?

    The idea that the garden account in Genesis is even remotely literal has got to be one of the most ridiculous theological propositions ever made. So whenever anyone talks like this, I have to wonder whether / if the speaker is engaging in code speak, and what secret interpretive keys are necessary to decipher what the point really is.

    Perhaps that would be okay if it was relatively obvious what they were, but unfortunately Mormon doctrine on the question of what happened in the Garden is riddled with contradictions, one of which Tim J pointed out. Not just internal contradictions in the same account, but contradictions between different canonical and quasi-canonical authorities on the subject.

    Not that the traditional view is that much better. Either way, what we have is a clear case of a scriptural account with net negative theological value, as in we would probably all be a lot better off and a lot less confused if it didn’t exist in its present form at all.

  122. Antoinette says:

    If God did reveal to us the presence of a Heavenly Mother, I would certainly imagine her transcending our finite, limited, and in some cases, sexist versions of her.
    Again, I’m drawing from my own culture and personal beliefs on the matter: I would imagine that she would be offended by the notion of her as ONLY submissive, the Queen of the Home, the Mother, and nurturer. I imagine that, as God’s companion, she would be unified with him, as a functional marriage relationship would be here on earth, to some degree (only WAY better, and, probably, much more fabulous and better dressed, I mean, c’mon, this is Celestial stuff we’re talkin’ here). I imagine her to be multi-faceted, in full power and glory like the Father, intelligent, wise (see, Spirit of Wisdom…) and just.
    It would not do her justice in the heavenly realms to cast her in the mold of only Mother. Like God, her existence would not be dependent upon our belief in her or not. Like God, she can exist, function and operate because she is eternal.
    If there were a Heavenly Mother, she would act in accordance with God, she would create, direct, build, and destroy; sanction, bless, bestow in agreement with Heavenly Father. She would be an emblem, a distinctive among the mission and purpose set forth in the Kingdom of Heavenly Father. Her throne would be clothed in pride, glory, value and worth.
    I imagine she would be a worker, she would be fully involved in the goings-on, she would be aware, in tune, feeling, free-thinking, independent.
    The fullness of her would be incomprehensible like God because they would be unified in purpose and love, she would be in God, and God in her…she would not be a usurper, but she would not be quiet, or an aside. She would be submissive to the will of God, like the Son is to his Father, but also understand their endowment of all power and knowledge from God as a gift and privilege.
    She would be incandescent, beyond beauty, immortal…she would have desires for her children, wills, destinies…she would be at turns magnificent and fearsome to behold, like God.
    I’ma break it down:
    Celestial Mama, in that great kitchen in heaven, would be makin’ up a mess o’ beans and sausage with that leftover ham bone, wiping the sweat off her brow as she returns to the Great Room where she is listening to Mahalia Jackson and Mandisa, gettin’ her Gospel groove on, while breakin’ out Eternal Planner (pfft, weekly planners in heaven are a thing of the past, past, past…talk about Throwback), and work out with God how the weather gonna be, what he wants the clouds to look like, how bright they want the flowers to be, how gory they want the hunts in the Savannah to look like on National Geographic, gather up the Errand and have them clock in for the day’s work (ain’t no slackers up there). They’d gather up the baby angels and give them to Sojourner Truth and Phyllis Wheatley and take ‘em out to the back 40 and teach them “…in the language of their father.”
    Then, she would have her girlfriends over and they’d discuss the angels and what they doin’, rejoice together singing them songs from the Old Church (which they watch as it is restored to the Earth) and praise the Father and the Son for who they are, what they are, and they would be reading the latest tomes, drinking hot…coff-chocolate (Word of Wisdom; see, Spirit of Wisdom).
    They would be accomplished, they would be sittin’ up there typing away at their Macs, inspiring with God, talking with him freely, obeying his commands with purest joy. She would know that he love her, she would wear his love. She be proud of his love!
    “C’mon, I got them beans ready!”
    They would gather at the Great Table, turn the radio off, and them baby angels better get them iPod buds out of they ears! They hold hands and say: “Thanks be to God, our Master, Father, Ruler of the Heavens! Thanks be to the Son, the Prince of Peace, our Lord, our Eternal King…we bless you on this glorious-”
    “C’mon, we hungry! Bless the food!”
    *Tee hee!
    Yes, I had fun with this:)

  123. First, who we really are is a mystery hidden from us. What we will become is beyond our comprehension and expectation. What men and women will become is completely hidden. What God and Jesus are is a shadow representation (see Aristotle’s Cave) of what they really are, i.e. a very restricted mapping of an N dimensional space, where N approaches infinity, into the very finite space of this world. (The dimensionality is time, space, personality, spirituality, perception, etc.)

    We have little idea what we are really doing here and why.

    As for Adam and Eve, this is almost an exact analogy to the emergence of our species from hunter-gatherer to farmer. Adam was cursed from being a hunter gatherer with 80% of his time free to being a farmer with 100% of his time committed. Eve was cursed to be the farmer’s wife and bear lots of children. It can be argued that her intelligence gave her the power to choose the father of her children, which power drove the species to greater intelligence and the ability to sin. Her choice did it. Men, they mate with whomever.

    I think that part of our life here is learning to live together and for men and women to get along. Men who use their priesthood power to subjugate women, even men who use their dominant position by their nature that they do not have to bear the children, will be disadvantaged somehow, some where. In 10,000 years, only the children of good men will survive the selection process by which women choose the fathers of their children, for example.

    Our Heavenly Mother, at least for us, probably mirrors our Heavenly Father. Possibly this is what Elohim are.

  124. Fascinating OP and discussion. I’ve recently wandered down my own path of questioning her existence and true eternal nature and role. But I never went quite the direction of the last paragraph. It’s worth considering, but I’m inclined to somewhat agree with the points made in #120 by Adam S. Absence of revelation doesn’t do anything good IMO. I’m also a bit tired of speculation and more interested in finding out for myself these days.

    But I do appreciated many of the points that have been made, especially Thomas Parkin’s call to look to Christ for our example of all inclusive gender traits. It’s always been interesting to me to consider what Jesus received in the form of inherited traits VS nurtured characteristics.

    Thanks for adding another piece to consider. As for me, I’m coming closer to accepting a unified God and am able to envision this better than either a father OR a mother figure.

  125. Good writing, Brad. I love to speculate and consider alternatives to traditional thoughts, and I really liked some of your ideas. Thanks for that.

    As far as the topic goes, what if the premise of “Presiding Is a Priviledge for Men” is incorrect (not that it is a privilege for all, but that it is not a privilege at all)?

    The more mature I become (I am not claiming any significant level of maturity, only more maturity than I have had in the past), the more I realize that everything I treasure in this life is a gift from my wife (not a derivative of some level of control.)

    I suppose I “preside”, but maybe THAT is the “bone-throw” to give us men some feeling of significance.

    Other than the comment about my wife, I am mostly considering ideas, and not writing my exact opinion.

    Thanks for provoking some interesting thoughts.

  126. First, thanks to Brad for the post and to everyone who has participated in the discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of it.

    Second, there is pretty strong evidence out there for the sex/gender difference mentioned and for the idea that the male and female behavioral and personality differences we can observe in adults are not entirely biologically based (or eternally inherent in our sex). In a nutshell, the idea is that we are how we are as adults largely as a result of our life experience, how we’ve spent our time, and how we’ve been treated since birth. The book “Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It” by Dr. Lise Eliot is current (as of 2009) and much easier to read than some of the heavily philosophical and “academic” writing out there. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in reading more on the topic.

    Third, to the poster of 52: the idea that motherhood is the be-all-end-all of female existence bothers me too. I wrote a post on my own blog about it earlier this year and only got one supportive post from, you might have guessed, a woman without children. The other responses were all from mothers who ignored or dismissed my plea to be recognized for my other talents and experiences and proceeded to “educate” me on how I just didn’t understand the importance of motherhood. I hope that the teacher, therapist, and friend parts of me are valued just as the attorney and charity director parts of you are valued right along with the mother parts.

    Fourth, I’m not sure that I have anything to add about the existence or not of HM. However, I do sincerely appreciate everyone’s views and the willingness to look at confusing and contradictory and potentially controversial topics so respectfully and thoughtfully. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks about these things.

  127. Brady and Becca, thank you for sharing your perspectives here.

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