We need a Mother.

This piece is in response to this essay that the church put out today.

I need a mother.  I don’t need the notion of a mother, or even the appreciation for a mother.  I need a mother that comes with me in the middle of the night to take care of a child.  I need a mother who nurtures my intellect and challenges me to do more. I need a mother who believes in social justice and rages with me when I don’t know where else to go.   I need a mother who validates my wildness and urges my ideas to take root.  I need a mother in heaven, not merely an appreciation at the idea of one.

On this earth I have a mother someone once described as a woman without an ounce of guile, and I agree. She is a constant blessing to me.  Her own mother died when she was fifteen years old and the consequences of that sad and sudden passing away have followed her through the years, sometimes appearing in the form of depression or anxiety and sometimes in the form of gathering her children snuggly around her.   My mother deserves a Mother in Heaven, I do, my husband, my daughter, my son does.  In a sea of patriarchy, it is so sad for me to think that when my grandmother passed away, it was amen to a reachable mother figure for my father.  It brings me to tears to think of the lost years my mother spent without knowing a Heavenly Mother when she so desperately needed a woman figure rather than the unkind stepmother she got.  I won’t even think about myself leaving this world without my own children having a firm grasp and joy in who their Heavenly Mother is.

In the new church essay on Heavenly Mother there are profound and simple phrases that are wonderful to hear, “The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints.”, and, “In 1909, the First Presidency taught that “all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”  What beautiful tidings to spread.  I do, however, take issue with a line in the final paragraph.  Perhaps because of it’s placement as final, as the last word.  The line says, “As with many other truths of the gospel, our present knowledge about a Mother in Heaven is limited. Nevertheless, we have been given sufficient knowledge to appreciate the sacredness of this doctrine and to comprehend the divine pattern established for us as children of heavenly parents.”

Here’s the thing, my knowledge is not “sufficient”.  I suppose it is sufficient if all I am to know is that my Heavenly Mother had many children and is married to my Father in Heaven, both qualities I do love and respect, but I am not sufficed there.  It’s true, we don’t have many details, but is that the final say?

I spent half a year in Sweden, which was actually half a year of me wandering in forest paths with my two small children for most of our days, and there, I found a Mother in Heaven I had not known before.  There were days when my husband would leave for work and I would cry for loneliness in a very new place, and my children would cry because they are children and their mother was crying.  It was these times when we went into the forests to be taken care of.  It was there I began to understand that I could ask not simply for more knowledge, but for more experiences to know and interact with a Heavenly Mother.  I started to keep a notebook of times when I sensed her presence or what she might be feeling or articulating to me.

One night, back in the states, my home teachers came and stood over my daughter’s crib and gave her a blessing  because she was sick and my husband was out of town. I note that I could have also blessed her, but I love home teachers and I love that they offered to come on a busy night because they felt they should.  After they left, I went to my room and wrote in the notebook that our Heavenly Mother was so proud of those men, her sons.   The next week in Elder’s quorum I was asked to talk on my experiences with home teaching and I relayed the experience.  I sensed in that room that many of the men had not considered a Heavenly Mother taking note of their actions, of being  proud of them.  When I finished two men even called out, “Amen!”

My point is this then, we don’t have sufficient knowledge, but I think we can in time.  I hope we are not complacent to simply accept the idea that somewhere, somehow, there is a mother who we believe loves us.  We get more sufficient knowledge as we speak of her in relief society lessons about motherhood–I was recently in one that asked repeatedly what we could learn about motherhood from Heavenly Father, and while there are many valid and wonderful things, couldn’t we most likely learn a thing or two about motherhood from Heavenly Mother?   She did more than create us, I assume that she helped raise us.

I think the essay is a wonderful opening up to the topic and it would be a shame to close it back down with a simple phrase that proclaims that “sufficiency” is enough.  I would hope that someday “sufficient” and “appreciate” can be replaced by “remember”, “know” and “love”.  My hope is that in years to come this essay on Heavenly Mother will be much longer because we have made it so by speaking of her, by study and prayer, by hard work and hard conversations,  teaching our children about her in primary and in the home, asking her to be near us.  We have a responsibility to take hold of the theology we want to account to.  I need more than a pattern to follow, I need a mother.

Comments

  1. Thank you.

  2. Beautifully articulated. Amen.

  3. Thank you.

  4. I thought the same thing when I read “…we have sufficient knowledge…” Sufficient for whom?

  5. Yes.

  6. Or, “sufficient for what?”

  7. Wonderful and necessary. Your experience with the home teachers is an angle we don’t often talk about, but men need mothers too!

  8. Sara KS Hanks says:

    I feel like shouting Amen. The knowledge we have of Heavenly Mother and the way we treat her is not sufficient for me. It is nowhere near sufficient.

  9. Thanks, Ashmae. Your voice is a gift, and I’m deeply grateful for your words here.

  10. Preach! :)

  11. Yes to all of this. Your voice adds so much to BCC! Thank you thank you.

  12. NotRachel says:

    You are a prophetess.

  13. I needed this post so much. Thank you.

  14. “As with many other truths of the gospel, our present knowledge about a Mother in Heaven is limited.”

    Let’s be honest: Our knowledge about our Father Heaven is also severely limited. Much of what we think we know about him is simply a projection of our own culture and belief system. The ancient Israelites portrayed him as a tribal warrior, willing to engage in infanticide in order to help his chosen people secure the promised land. We, in turn, imagine him as a tall, white male, with a flowing beard, who glows in the dark and only approves of sedate hymns.

    Yes, we believe that he is a kind and patient father who sacrificed is only begotten son on our behalf, but those are, in a sense, derivative impressions based upon how we read, through a Mormon prism, our scriptures and our history.

    When you study the teachings of the prophet Joseph you quickly realize that his views of the Godhead were in a state flux—witness the profound differences in the various accounts of the first vision—and I have no doubt that they would have undergone further revision had he lived longer. Some of what he taught I believe is true, but I’m equally convinced that some of it was hopeful speculation.

    Please don’t misconstrue what I am trying to say: I understand Ashmae’s desire to truly know our Mother in Heaven, but she is not going to acquire that knowledge through the filter of a modern-day prophet any more than President Monson can truly describe the mind and character of our Father in Heaven.

    There is, by design, a distance between us and our heavenly parents (“My thoughts are not your thoughts”). Yes, we can begin to bridge that gap by living righteously, but I personally believe that even the most virtuous of our heavenly parents’ children can only gain a glimpse of their true nature during this life.

  15. scott wiley says:

    amen

  16. FarSide, when we are taught to develop a relationship with God the Father, but taught to not do the same with God the Mother, it is very difficult to even glimpse Her nature.

    Ashmae, I very specifically used the words Heavenly Mother in that RS lesson, and many of my sisters in their comments instinctively referred their ideas on divine traits back to Heavenly Father. A few switched once they heard themselves, and repeated their sentence naming Mother, but it sounded as though they were testing the words and the idea. We are pretty sure that Heavenly Father loves His children. I would love to see us grow into a complete knowledge and acceptance of the love Heavenly Mother has for us.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Very nice, Ashmae. Thanks.

  18. I have always believed in heavenly mother and as I grew up I didn’t realize for a long time that other people didn’t “know” this the same way they had knew that there was a God and that the Book of Mormon was true. Because of that inherent belief and my realization that some people not only didn’t have it but actually doubted the existence of a Heavenly Mother I studied about her a lot. Most of what I found was exactly what the church’s recent statement said but until this statement people were able to say those words are from a long time ago or do you think that everything church leaders/the scriptures have said are 100% true. I want more and to know my Mother better, but I’m still so grateful that this statement came out.

    I grew up with a single mother and I know what a mother’s love is like. I have had bad experiences with men and fathers and so naturally I have turned more to my Mother when I’ve thought of my heavenly parents.

    One of the reasons we need to know more of Heavenly Mother is because of lack of women in the scriptures. If gender is an essential part of our eternal identity ( which I believe it is) how can we look only to male role models to know what we should aspire to be?

  19. Serious question: how is it that some members of the church feel so strongly about having a mother in heaven, but also feel strongly about gay rights? I don’t quite understand why it is so important to have a mother in one context (mother in heaven), but not important to have a mother in the other context (gay marriage).

    Does anyone have any thoughts they can share on this for me?

  20. jessie huish says:

    I love this ashley! You are an impeccable woman and mother, whom heavenly mother is shouting ‘amen’ for, from above!

  21. Agreed. In-sufficient.

    My four thoughts reading this were:

    1. In-sufficient. Wasn’t the “sufficient” argument used by religious leaders for centuries as rational for limited knowledge prior to the restoration? A bible-a bible, we have a bible.

    2. “Limited” information? What about the recent literature review by BYU scholars on HM? Didn’t they find like 1,700+ GA sources about her???? What about the ancient evidence as well including Jewish records?

    3. Were there any female co-authors?

    4. Did the writing of 6 paragraphs even require a co-author? (I’ll take paragraphs 1& 2, you take 3…)

    5. Why did the other essay focus on Joseph Smith’s interpretation, and this one not follow the same pattern? Perhaps b/c JS’s King Follett Discourse and the PoGP focus on eternal lights/intelligences which were gathered by not a trinity, but HF and JC. There is no traditional trinity and no “co-creation” of spirit children like the mortal model using a HF and HM. The doctrines don’t sync.

    6. There was no mention of the perpetual question…heavenly mother or heavenly mothers.

    7. Really? The Proclamation as a core source? That cold, legal document that says practically nothing about her? There are so many other quotes by prophets, apostles, and aux. leaders with so much more heart and detail. Why rely on the Proc? It seems like the popular/trending/brown-nosing choice, not the richest one.

  22. My fear is that the temple teaches that heavenly mother is not a goddess, but instead a follower. Eve covenants to Adam. Adam to God.

    Maybe heavenly mother is a disciple instead of a goddess.

  23. When we feel “The Lord’s presence” is it not simply the Holy Ghost we feel? And since Diety are a united “oneness”, I don’t know that we’d feel Jesus, Elohim or Heavenly Mother differently?
    The comfort, the peace, the love should be the same.

  24. @ Emily – Only speaking for myself here… I am interested in Heavenly Mother for two reasons. First, because the heavens feel half empty without her. The doctrine, the creative process, the ‘plan’ (such as we understand it) are empty of her. Therefore, they feel empty of me (a woman) as well. That other women don’t feel that way is fine, but that’s how I feel.

    Second, because in moments I have found Her, it is such a beautiful experience. And I have found Her. Quietly. Silently. Almost secretly. As someone whose role in the church is that of a teacher, I can’t talk about Her (which is I suppose reason number three. Maybe the new article will help change that).

    I also support gay marriage. I have a bunch of legal reasons for doing so, but setting those aside and focusing on the spiritual (which seems to be what you are asking about), I have that as well. My Mother and Father created people who are gay (in all its variations) just as they created people who are not gay. I don’t understand what the role someone who is gay might play for Them in the narrow plan we discuss at church, but to be honest I haven’t found that HM and HF have gifted me with much knowledge of other people’s roles in general (and my own role doesn’t particularly fit tidily into the ‘plan’). I do deeply believe that every soul does have a role. And my feeling is that someones gayness is part of their role rather than an obstacle to it. I mean how can it be anything else, if HM and HF created them?

    I’m happy to leave the rest in Their hands. And in the hands of gay individuals who should be free to make their own choices for their own lives. Same-Sex Marriage for the religious should be a decision between the individuals and their Gods. (For the non-religious, I’m happy to fall back on all the legal arguments I won’t present here.)

    This is where over 10 years of reading, pondering and (lots of) praying has taken me. And I am very much at peace about it.

  25. Thank you for this.

  26. “When we feel “The Lord’s presence” is it not simply the Holy Ghost we feel? And since Diety are a united “oneness”, I don’t know that we’d feel Jesus, Elohim or Heavenly Mother differently?
    The comfort, the peace, the love should be the same.”

    If it is wrong for me to be praying to her (only prayers to The Father are acceptable) or if she doesn’t answer prayers, then when I pray to her directly, I wouldn’t expect an answer at all…

  27. I have been struggling with these issues lately. I can’t happily be a buffet Mormon. Not on the scale of sampling and rejecting core doctrines. There temple teachers and order wherein men are the gateway to God for women.
    Are all women destined to be disciples of their husbands? That is not godhood.
    I am terrified that that is the way it is.

  28. wreddyornot says:

    AMEN to your post.

  29. I have a bit of a conspiracy theory regarding heavenly mother. I think that we currently know her by a different name: the holy ghost. Yes, I’m aware that we’re taught that the holy ghost doesn’t have a physical body, but hear me out. If heavenly mother is an all powerful god like her husband, why couldn’t she have decided that while her children were away on the earth that she would take on a spiritual form to be with them, even as a “constant companion”? Also, the holy ghost is the comforter and leads and guides us, similar to the role that our earthly mothers take. Finally, we know that the holy ghost is a member of the godhead. Wouldn’t it be fitting if the godhead was made up of the Father, Mother, and Son?

    *I haven’t actually decided whether or not I really believe this, hence referring to it as a conspiracy theory. Still, it makes sense on some levels so I’ve never been able to completely disregard it. And it’s radical enough that it can be fun to bring up when you want someone to think you’re really apostate!

  30. I need her too. Thank you.

  31. If scripture is closely read, it tells us much more than we suppose about Mother in Heaven. Here is a link to an article in SquareTwo entitled “Hidden in Plain View: Mother in Heaven in Scripture” that suggests the scriptures–and especially the Book of Mormon–are full of references to Mother in Heaven. We may not get more revelation about her unless we carefully study the considerable amount that has already been revealed.

    http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleLarsenHeavenlyMother.html

  32. Aussie Mormon says:

    heathen: Janice Allred got excommunicated in the 90s for making claims pretty much the same as those about a link between Heavenly Mother and the Holy Ghost. Granted people have been excommunicated for saying things that the church later “admitted”, but play it carefully even if only raising it to cause a stir.

  33. There’s an inherent contradiction when the church states that gender is eternal and men and women have unique but equally important roles to play, and then state that we really don’t know much about Heavenly Mother’s role. Is gender eternal or does Heavenly Father play both roles? I don’t know how male and female can be separate but equal in this regard. They are either not separate (i.e., one parent can function perfectly as father and mother) or not equal (i.e., father presides, has the priesthood power to change the world and communicates with his children while the mother stays silent and hidden).

  34. kingdomfalling: That is my worst fear, too. I don’t know how long I can keep up with being a buffet Mormon either. Lately it just feels like it’s only a matter of time before I have to leave, but I’m afraid that lingering fear will haunt me forever. It makes me so scared of death.

  35. What kind of father prevents his children from having a relationship with their mother? It may be justified if the mother is severely abusive, but I don’t think that’s the case with Heavenly Mother. Keeping a loving mother from her children and vice versa *is abuse.* Is Heavenly Father jealous and doesn’t like sharing the spotlight with Her? This essay just reinforces to me that He is the one wth the problem. Not Her and not us.

  36. One bit of nuance: I read the final paragraph and its “sufficient” statement NOT to be saying we have been given sufficient knowledge, period; but rather that despite the limits of our knowledge, we do understand enough to appreciate such and such aspect of the doctrine. I wish (assuming this was the intent) this had been expressed more felicitously. And I second the hope of the OP that we make this essay grow by our actions to embrace our theology and increase our knowledge.

  37. I had a flash of excitement when I saw the title of the essay, and was left feeling deflated after reading. You articulated why.

  38. Ashmae, I too have found her in the natural world. I am beginning to think that her presence is so all-encompassing, so much around us that we take her for granted and don’t notice her at all. I’m still working it all out in my mind and heart, but I know that when I connect with nature, I connect with her.

  39. Nrc42 we at least can take comfort that our God loves us, regardless of what else is true. And if a loving God looks out for us then our future will be beautiful, notwithstanding gender of us or our deity.
    I try to remember that when I struggle with the doctrines that seem to shift in the breeze like so much laundry on the line.

  40. kingdomfalling, I’m not so sure. I want to believe God loves us, but after going to the temple I’m not so sure that he loves his daughters, or that women are even his children at all. I want to believe that the afterlife is beautiful, but sometimes going to Church makes me hope for no afterlife at all. But thanks for the kind words.

  41. Several people have referred to the temple and to the current essays as evidence that God does not love his daughters, or that Mother in Heaven is held captive somewhere in the eternities. There is so much pain being articulated here and I can’t wipe that pain away. I view those conclusions as horrible, simply unacceptable and contrary to everything we know about God (in particular, that we worship a God of love).

    But I can choose to view the temple and our current conceptions of God as early, amateurish attempts of describing a cosmology. These are rough first drafts. The temple is something very special, but there are real limits on its applicability as a descriptor of relationships. I simply do not believe that the temple liturgy is an accurate portrayal of relationships between men and women in eternity. I know it is not an accurate portrayal of relationships here on earth.

    Mother in heaven is a powerful, powerful force but as a concept, a mother in heaven is also very new compared to most Christian beliefs. I do not believe that our religion knows yet what to do with Mother in heaven. If we take her seriously as a doctrine, then there are many, many incongruities to be resolved. I have some hope that we will continue to address those incongruities. In the meantime, I place limits around how accurate we are in our temple liturgy or other articulations; and chief among those limits is that God is love.

  42. Rt
    There is no female deity that is responsible for our salvation. Also since somebody brought it up I also believe that members who support gay marriage jeopardize their own exaltation here is an intense reading on the patriarchal order

    http://thegoateskids.blogspot.com/2009/11/chapter-sixteen-patriarchal-order-of.html?m=1

  43. Praying to a female deity is paganism

  44. Wow, super unhelpful in this discussion Genhy.

  45. “But I can choose to view the temple and our current conceptions of God as early, amateurish attempts of describing a cosmology. These are rough first drafts. The temple is something very special, but there are real limits on its applicability as a descriptor of relationships. I simply do not believe that the temple liturgy is an accurate portrayal of relationships between men and women in eternity. I know it is not an accurate portrayal of relationships here on earth.”
    Bless you, Steve Evans, and oh, how I agree. I wish more people could see it this way.

  46. I base my knowledge of God’s love on feelings, not doctrines. I would sooner cat off a church than Debby such love.
    Steve I like it, but it feels a bit buffet-ish (waiting for the church to catch up) which is getting hard for some of us.

  47. Sure, I can understand that. I don’t have a good answer to that sort of feeling, but it’s better than many of the alternatives.

  48. Er cast and deny…

  49. :)

  50. I’m going with “cat and Debby”.

  51. “Janice Allred got excommunicated in the 90s for making claims pretty much the same as those about a link between Heavenly Mother and the Holy Ghost.”

    It was my recollection that Janice Allred got excommunicated for publicly speaking and writing and speculating about Heavenly Mother, including about the link between Heavenly Mother and the Holy Ghost. Those problematic activities included various media interviews, Sunstone presentations, etc. Her defense was that she was not teaching it as church doctrine (so there could be no claim of teaching false doctrine), merely raising questions.

    IRL, I know a lot of people who wonder about the Holy Ghost connection, because so many of the functions seem motherly, such as comforting and being the voice in your head that reminds one of right vs. wrong. It is just that those folks are not writing articles or giving media interviews.

  52. “If gender is an essential part of our eternal identity ( which I believe it is) how can we look only to male role models to know what we should aspire to be?”

    this.

    Steve I agree with the temple being an attempt. I absolutely believe Heavenly Father loves His daughters. I choose to feel the weight of that love and wait.

  53. Margaret Barker asserts that the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Mother.

    Q5. Do you believe the Holy Ghost is our Mother in Heaven?

    A5. The answer is yes.

    Q6. Is there any relationship between the Heavenly Mother and the Holy Spirit?

    A6. Yes, another name for the same Lady.

    Q7. Should the traditional concept of the Godhead (i.e., Father, Son, Holy Ghost) include her?

    A7. Well, it does.

  54. I’ve always rejected the Holy Ghost connection because I have assumed Heavenly Mother has a body. I’m unaware of what people have said in that regard

  55. I found a non-mainstream female Rabbi talking about her spiritual experiences with Shechinah, which she interprets to be the female aspect of divinity (other sources describe Shechinah as the Glory of God). Does this fit with Mormon doctrine about Heavenly Mother?

    Here’s her experience:

    “In workshops on Shechinah that I have conducted during the last few years, I find that men and women, Jews and non-Jews, carry concepts, feelings, and images of the Shechinah within them. Again, in most people experience precedes naming the energy or having a knowledge of her characteristics as presented or expressed in the Jewish sacred literature. Interestingly enough, when we share these experiences, we find that individuals ‘know’ or uncover most of the traditional characteristics of Shechinah on their own. The most common experiences are of light and radiance, which is consistent with the writings of many Jewish scholars who describe her as a great light which shines upon all God’s creatures. Many writers consider her the light of creation itself or the place of the primordial light.
    Some people’s experience of Shechinah involves hearing a voice or feeling a great warmth. For myself she is most present on Friday nights after I light the Shabbat candles; that is when I hear her speaking to me. At other times I feel she is present when I begin composing songs with words that address issues or people I care about. During these times, usually in the forest or at the ocean, a great sense of joy overcomes me, and all ordinary problems fade alongside the bliss I feel. On other occasions I have experienced myself falling into a great soft whiteness that is her embrace, as if all the down feathers in the world were in a single pile waiting for me to fall into them. My favorite image came when I saw her ‘dressed’ in stars and the planets. Her size was beyond imagination, and her celestial ‘diadem’ was made up of the heavens. I was overwhelmed.”

    -Rabbi Léah Novick, “Encountering the Schechinah, the Jewish Goddess”

    Original source:
    https://books.google.com/books?id=SV9bBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211&dq=shechinah+experience&source=bl&ots=NQmefieDOo&sig=FjCZ2Tb8LoE315fsb0Zl3BxQzo0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=w4b_VO69Eou4oQTU-4HoDw&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=shechinah%20experience&f=false

    (Sorry if this ends up being a duplicate post… I tried to post earlier, but it looks like it didn’t work for some reason.)

  56. My response to the Women essay is similar to my response to how some people talk about priesthood — if I, as a woman, already “have” the priesthood via the temple, what is that priesthood’s practical application? How am I different in function from an undendowed woman? It’s not enough just to believe in it — in Mother, in priesthood. There has to be action, impact, something visible and tangible, for it to be meaningful.

    Thanks Ashmae. Amen to your feelings here. When I became pregnant with my first child — before I knew I was pregnant — I felt my first real yearning for her. I knew I needed her as much as I need my earth mother, as much as I need my Heavenly Father. I need her supporting and guiding me in practical ways in my real, present life.

    I always feel Her presence strongest among trees as well. It wasn’t until I really delved into Biblical studies that I realized the MotherGod-tree connection is an ancient one.

  57. melodynew says:

    This is so very lovely. So well expressed. And I add my “amen” to those already offered.

    I believe in God – in a God who looks like me and who I have experienced in much the same way(s) you have. Thank you for sharing this, for speaking of Her as present and familiar, which she must surely be.

  58. Theologies of the middle east prior to Deuteronomy tended to feature Father (El), Mother (various names including Asherah), Son (Jehovah), and Daughter (various names). We know from Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets the ancient theology was right about Mother. Perhaps it has something to tell us about the Holy Ghost as well. Those four divine figures could be our modern godhead. Father and Mother might jointly be Elohim, Elohim being a plural and the temple clearly teaching that God is not Father or Mother alone but the sealed union of the two. The Son is obviously Jehovah. But who is the Holy Ghost? The divine Daughter of pre-Deuteronomist theology might fill that role and join the Son as an earthly mediator between our divine Parents and their children. The Daughter, unlike the Mother, could be a personage of spirit without a body. The Holy Ghost is normally referred to with gender neutral pronouns, usage that is more consistent with a female than with a male Holy Ghost given the male normativity of scripture.

  59. Antonio Parr says:

    Isn’t the comfort and love and light and gentle presence you seek found in Jesus Christ? He was enough for the woman at the well and the woman with the issue of blood and Mary on resurrection morning. Why, in your darkest and loneliest hours, is He not enough to save you from and in this present darkness? I find the peace that we all long for as I strive to remember Him and strive to take His name upon me and strive to keep His commandments, the greatest of which is to love as He has loved us. To feel in any way spiritually impoverished in the face of such divine love seems absolutely tragic to me.

  60. Antonio, you could have asked those questions of Joseph Smith as well, I suppose. Why was it not enough for him? What was his defect that so caused him to feel in any way spiritually impoverished? Absolutely tragic!

    In other words, your line of questioning is bogus victin-blaming that seems engineered to shut down most sorts of spiritual inquiry that you don’t like. It’s been superlatively good for me – you must be asking amiss if it’s not going great for you. I’m sure you meant more that salvation comes through Jesus Christ and that should be all we need. That’s true, but that does not render all other spiritual questions moot.

  61. Antonio Parr says:

    Friend – your sharp response doesn’t address the power of Christ to which I alluded. Was the woman at the well a “victim”? Or the daughter of Jairus?

    I acknowledge the longing for the divine conveyed in the original post, but believe that the answer to those longings are found in Christ Jesus.

  62. Antonio, then it is up to you to explain why we have countless other doctrines and institutions. Did the woman at the well need the temple endowment? Did the daughter of Jairus need to be sealed? Once you admit that more is required than the simple fact of Christ Jesus, then your comments boil down to drawing an arbitrary line between inquiries you deem worthy in your personal opinion versus those you deem otherwise.

  63. Antonio Part says:

    Steve – you know I am an admirer and friend. My problem with much of this thread is the implication that if a woman calls for divine comfort, Jesus is somehow inadequate to provide that comfort, and that a Heavenly Mother is needed instead. (If I have in any way misread this, then I apologize.)

    My personal reverence for Gesthemane and Calvary is such that I teach my daughters that when we are alone or afraid, we turn to the One who took upon Himself our loneliness and fear, which is Christ. I am not trying to quash sincere questions, but, instead, share what for me is the deepest of all religious truths, ie, the atonement of Christ, which includes (but is in no way limited to) His eternal friendship and empathy.

  64. Antonio, don’t worry, I view you as a friend as well. Your approach here is simple and Christ-centered, and I think that’s generally a good thing. But it also sounds like you’re ducking my inquiries above. One of the reasons why we have organized Christian religions with rites and ordinances is an implicit teaching that simply turning to the One in personal prayer is not sufficient. Baptism, etc. are also needed. So we start building religion. These sorts of inquiries about the nature of God and a Heavenly Mother are natural offshoots of such religion building, and are generally unavoidable unless you advocate against organized religion in general.

  65. Antonio Parr says:

    I am dodging your questions only because they deserve more consideration than I have time. I acknowledge that, for some, speculation about a Heavenly Mother is important. My life’s journey has included its fair share of speculation (albeit about different issues), so far be it for me to deprive others of their own pondering. However, when that speculation leads to suggestions that Christ is unable to save us from any bondage or burden, and that another is needed in His stead, then I must momentarily resurface from lurkdom and profess the hope and comfort that I believe can be found in Him by any woman, man or child.

  66. A couple of things jumped out at me here. First. Everyone is missing the huge importance of this essay. The church, in a public statement, addressing the principle of a Heavenly Mother. We know it. We believe it and it truly does set us apart in a world that doesn’t have a clue about Her. We take that knowledge for granted, how important and foundational it truly is while at the same time bickering and arguing and murmuring against the “simpler” eternal principles we have been taught all of our church lives. We want the truth? We can’t handle the truth.
    It’s a real good chance we have more than one Heavenly Mother.
    So what do we do then? Is God required to share with an uncaring, wicked and apathetic world the finer details of that which He loves above all other things? What would we be worried about then? Demanding our Patriarchs include in our blessings which Heavenly Mother is ours? Maybe an addendum to the temple videos that shows Heavenly Mother’s input in the creation process to satisfy our need to feel more involved with priesthoody type things. Or do we continue in our pride to insist that “we need to know more” because the amount of knowledge of the gospel of salvation we already have is not enough for us? That same knowledge that we marginalize, minimize, take for granted and doubt publicly to our leaders that what we have been blessed with simply isn’t enough for us in our enlightened state?
    “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble” We must humble ourselves or our hearts will fail us.

  67. MikeT, it is clear from reading your comment that you are not trying to understand a woman’s perspective at all. You just don’t care. As women, our whole lives we are told that our grand destiny, now and forever, is motherhood, but we see NO example of eternal motherhood. Apparently, she isn’t needed for anything beyond producing spirits. Combined with the patriarchal structure of the Church and what is taught should be the patriarchal structure of the family, the clear message is that women don’t matter, now or in the eternities.

    And frankly, a lot of us would rather know now if there is more than one Heavenly Mother. That will allow us to shoot for one of the “lower” kingdoms, rather than the apparent hell that is the Celestial Kingdom.

  68. Mike, the temple gives us the narrative that God and Christ created Adam, then created Eve from Adams rib so he wouldnt have to be alone. In other words, no mother needed to start human creation. If gender is eternal, we have some pretty big gaps to fill. And I am trying to be humble, trying to work out what seems impossible to my tiny human understanding, trying to keep going forward, not sure what to hope for. Definately not eternal polygamy. This breaks me.

  69. RockiesGma says:

    “Or do we continue in our pride to insist that we need to know more?”

    Sadly, this is a question from one whose heart is “two sizes too small”. How very unkind, unloving, un-understanding, and un-Christlike. How full of arrogant, judgmental pride that Mike knows the answers, and anyone who seeks, knocks, and asks questions to seek further light and knowledge receives his chastising disdain. He forgets that the Savior bids us to ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Further, God promises: If any of you lack wisdom, let him (or her) ask of God; which giveth to all men (and women) liberally (not conservatively or barely or sufficiently, but liberally!) and upbraideth (chastises) not, and it shall be given him (or her).

    May we ever ask, seek, and knock.

    [By the way, many scholars note that in the scriptures, “wisdom” is considered to be female. Truth is male. God is Truth and our Heavenly Father. God is Wisdom and our Heavenly Mother, perhaps. Then read James 1:5 again……If any of you lack Heavenly Mother, let him ask of God (who speaks and is Truth); which giveth Truth and Wisdom to all liberally, and chastises not (for seeking wisdom/Heavenly Mother?) and it (wisdom/HM) SHALL BE GIVEN. Just something to ponder upon…..]

  70. “And frankly, a lot of us would rather know now if there is more than one Heavenly Mother. That will allow us to shoot for one of the “lower” kingdoms, rather than the apparent hell that is the Celestial Kingdom.”

    This. Oh, how this torments me. That the price I might have to pay to be with the man I love more than anything else is the utter humiliation of eternal polygamy. I almost think I’d rather be destroyed (D&C 132:64) – at least that way I’d never have to witness it.

  71. Brian Kohrman says:

    I don’t know why, but I’ve tried to comment three times and my comments never showed up. I’m trying one more time.

    I ran across an interesting account of a spiritual experience by a female Rabbi. She practices a non-mainstream form of Judaism, and believes in a female aspect of deity. She referred to it as Shechinah, which more mainstream folks interpret to simply be the glory of God. It may relate to Pacumeni’s comment about Asherah. Here’s what she has to say:

    “In workshops on Shechinah that I have conducted during the last few years, I find that men and women, Jews and non-Jews, carry concepts, feelings, and images of the Shechinah within them. Again, in most people experience precedes naming the energy or having a knowledge of her characteristics as presented or expressed in the Jewish sacred literature. Interestingly enough, when we share these experiences, we find that individuals ‘know’ or uncover most of the traditional characteristics of Shechinah on their own. The most common experiences are of light and radiance, which is consistent with the writings of many Jewish scholars who describe her as a great light which shines upon all God’s creatures. Many writers consider her the light of creation itself or the place of the primordial light.
    Some people’s experience of Shechinah involves hearing a voice or feeling a great warmth. For myself she is most present on Friday nights after I light the Shabbat candles; that is when I hear her speaking to me. At other times I feel she is present when I begin composing songs with words that address issues or people I care about. During these times, usually in the forest or at the ocean, a great sense of joy overcomes me, and all ordinary problems fade alongside the bliss I feel. On other occasions I have experienced myself falling into a great soft whiteness that is her embrace, as if all the down feathers in the world were in a single pile waiting for me to fall into them. My favorite image came when I saw her ‘dressed’ in stars and the planets. Her size was beyond imagination, and her celestial ‘diadem’ was made up of the heavens. I was overwhelmed.”

    -Rabbi Léah Novick, “Encountering the Schechinah, the Jewish Goddess”, from the book “The Goddess Re-Awakening: The Feminine Principle Today”, edited by Shirley Nicholson, p. 211-212

    What do you guys think of this? A link to the original source can be found on the blog “Testimonies of Other Faiths”. I’d link, but I’m wondering if my link is what caused my comment not to be posted.

  72. Interesting conversations here. My own take on the Heavenly Mother/Father issue is that neither one shows any interest in the well-being of daughters, and never has. There is a weird obsession with child-bearing and no obsession with the brains and lives of women. I don’t think that there will be any progress seeking after Mother, because looking for someone who is at heart a sociopathic person who doesn’t care about others isn’t a good thing to do. It leads a person into pain and feelings of betrayal, ashes of invested love that is not requited. I think the best route is to stick with Jesus, the only member who has truly expressed interest in the well being and in fact our exaltation. I do not need a role model to be female to emulate it. I need the role model to be good and whole and comprehensive of all the children, past and future. That is Jesus, and only Jesus.

    As for our future, I am very torn by it, if only because there appears to be no future for me as a woman. As a creator, yes, but that is a body thing that I will not want to partake in, because if patriarchy is true, I would be creating bodies for children who will also grow up in an abusive system that values the boys and throws away the girls. I have thought, “What if I just take off my brain and leave my husband a carcass that he can use to make babies on whenever he wants to?” as an alternative to my current plan of total immolation if abuse/patriarchy are really the rule and Jesus cannot stop it, even while He offers us salvation, who creates the rules of existence? As sad as the vision of my brain-less baby-making machinery is, that might have been the choice of my own heavenly mother, because that is consistent with the evidence of zero communication and zero effort from the prophets to ever value the daughters in their own right as full humans and direct heirs of Heavenly ParentS.

  73. Munga, you expanded on my bleak despair much more clearly. I’m gutted today. I’m going to go hang out with a dying friend for two hours instead of going to Gospel Doctrine & RS, because today I just can’t.

  74. Prairie Chuck says:

    Bittersweet tears of happiness, need, enlightenment, relief. Absolutely. Stunning. Thank you.

  75. Kevin Barney says:

    I suppose Munga at 12:55 was trying to use harsh language to pursue a rhetorical point, but I want to go on record as rejecting her characterization of Mother in Heaven as “at heart a sociopathic person who doesn’t care about others.” What Mother in Heaven is in fact and reality–and what she actually does on our behalf–and what she is represented as being and doing (or not being and not doing) by fallible mortal leadership are to my mind two very different things.

  76. I don’t really think she is sociopathic, because I doubt she is still sentient. People really can’t keep living that way. I apologize for that characterization. I do, however, think the father is sociopathic, as he fits that description very well.

  77. It’s a bit of a surprise to read dystheistic perspectives like Munga’s. I’ve wished I could give myself over to dystheism sometimes. I’m reminded of the episode in Jung’s _Memories, Dreams, Reflections_ where the young Carl felt himself compelled by God to think a blasphemous thought. I also highly recommend this song:
    http://www.worlddreambank.org/G/GODSONG.HTM
    I love these lyrics here:
    Satan is just my flip side
    I admit I’ve a split personality
    For I am the Omnipresent Dude!
    Think quick–I’m as sick as every one of you beautiful people…

    Now some of this play goes too far
    Like Hitler, Jenghiz Khan and the Conquistadors
    But that Black Plague thing? That was the bacteria’s big fling!
    They loved me! You got a lotta bases to cover when you’re God!

    -And there’s Tom Wait’s line too: “Don’t you know there ain’t no devil, that’s just God when He’s drunk.”

    It would be simpler to just go atheist, and conclude that gods and goddesses are projections of the human psyche, attempts to make sense of the terrifying, bewildering powers of nature. I can’t go this far, because I feel a benevolent presence supporting me. But my God, how vast and unknowable You really are!

  78. Munga’s remarks also remind me of something I read by Camille Paglia about Jehovah’s rape-murder of Mother Nature. Speaking of Jehovah as a god created in mens’ image, I’d say that’s spot on.

  79. Thank you, Steve Evans, for your comment with regard to the temple. I concur with Jenny.

  80. Thanks, Ashmae, for the lovely essay. And thanks to all for the interesting discussion. I just wanted to add a personal experience:

    When I was in college, I was rebounding from a difficult, long relationship with a boyfriend who told me many times that I was wrong in some of my deepest beliefs. He continued to produce talk after talk by general authorities and articles from the Ensign to show me how wrong I was, and that God was not pleased with me, and emphasized that my thoughts were at odds with church authority and God. Eventually, I felt paralyzed–that God hated me, that the prophets hated me, that all the best desires of my heart, toward God or otherwise, were inherently bad. Before this, I had always felt that God was pleased with me. I had met with warmth several general authorities and the prophet at the time (due to my parents’ church assignments). I had generally experienced love and acceptance and affirmation in my home, community, and church growing up. (It was not Disneyland, but it was generally good.) I was too young to understand or see the abusive dynamics of the relationship, and I came to doubt my deepest core, and could not act even on good things.

    At the very worst of it, I asked my dad for a father’s blessing. He is one of the most loyal church members you would ever meet–there is no “fringe” in this man, though he is a deeply thoughtful man. We never had the now-popular “school is starting let’s have father’s blessings” or anything like that, but when needed, we could ask him for a blessing, and those blessings were lovely and deeply meaningful. He is now a patriarch, which is fitting for this lovely, devoted, and insightful man.

    He began this particular blessing by telling me first, that I was so much like my Mother in Heaven. And next, that She was very pleased with me. And then, that both She and my Father in Heaven were very pleased with me.

    That blessing helped me not just then, but throughout my life. It has given me comfort and courage to trust myself. I am often able to think of how the best and deepest things in me are reflections of my Mother in Heaven, and that I can find Her within myself.

    Thanks, Dad.

  81. Grateful, I think it is OK to have our parents’ approval. I just don’t think that it is a great idea to be in their receipt of anything they have to give. They deliberately give the daughters nothing, they ruin whatever could be good marriages by placing one in a powerless dependent and limited meaning and autonomy, and they don’t appear to have the ability to unconditionally love and include, the way that Jesus does. They tend to be racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic whenever they can and that is saying something, as they are the law-givers (which law is generally capricious and cruel).

    Jesus on the other hand gives me hope. He gives me hope that we can all grow to be nothing like our parents, just as He is nothing like his father except in appearance. Just as I have my own earthly father’s appearance and anyone could connect us, I never choose the things that my own earthly father chose which was to persecute the weak and use the usable and especially to teach that some people are valuable and others are not. His years as bishop are still affecting people today. We could not think to bury him with a funeral because of all those he hurt. Jesus isn’t like His parents and I can have peace that I don’t have to be anything like our parents, either. I may not have any future because I am not sure if the will of Jesus can over-ride the parents who have apparently created the universe to raise men at the expense of women, and there may be no other future for any of us daughters because we have so specifically been created to be exploited and powerless and without personal meaning and authority.

    I’m going to take a “chin up” approach to this, though. I’m going to live my life trying to do good where I can. I may never have another moment of consciousness after this life because I am so destined for termite-queen-ness which is pretty much the same thing as becoming a great big uterus… but I have THIS time. I can use it as Jesus would, even though I don’t know if there is any reward for me. There is happiness just in seeing every person and all things the way that He did.

  82. What if the OT god was Jesus before he learned what it was like to be human. What if we are in Heavenly Mother’s womb and neither she nor her husband can get to us now so it is all on Jesus. If we have the option to be selective in our beliefs we can choose to see the good, or bad where it is convenient. I think Brigham Young needed to tear women down to tear Emma down and take control of the church after the slightly out of control Joseph was martyred (before he could go any further astray). I don’t utterly reject Brigham as a prophet. I think God (read Christ, the God of this world) will inspire anyone he can to what he needs to, but I think Brigham manipulated the teachings to steal the divinity from women. I think God has spent a lot of time since teaching us all to ignore Brigham’s rewrite on history, along with the chauvinist rewrite that comes down from our forefathers. When I got married the sealer described the triangle idea to us right after we went through the endowment ceremony! Complete rejection of the video in the temple during arguably its most sacred ritual. Either an angry Brigham Young God will cast that guy into hell or the spirit denies the hateful message of women’s limitations in all the new wine bags that will give it ear, even in the old bags at the pulpits continue to burst with folly.

    Take heart. it is possible we can’t know either heavenly parent because they don’t have a choice. In fact, if the HG is some ability to communicate with us (a magic cell phone with terrible reception most of the time?) then who is to say it isn’t Holy Mommy on the other end of the line?
    I search my heart for answers and let the scriptures speak only when they have something positive to say. After all, modern prophecy trumps ancient, and all doctrine is determined by what the spirit confirms in our hearts, not by what leaders (or anyone else) say over pulpits.

  83. Of course to accept any of that you have to accept the blasphemous possibility that not even the people in charge are perfect or all-powerful. I am fine with that. means I can relate to them.

  84. Of course to accept any of that you have to accept the blasphemous possibility that not even the people in charge are perfect or all-powerful. I am fine with that. means I can relate to them.

  85. Kingdomfalling, there is just no way to lay all the centuries of abuse on Brigham Young. He was just one of the more happy gloaters of the penis persuasion. ALL the centuries speak to what the Gods mean for us, prophets are among us all the time and always have been. And by and large, God had nothing He / She wanted to correct. Girls make great gifts and don’t cost much to feed.

    I don’t know what the future holds and whether or not there is any future for women as sentient beings, considering that our parents have no interest at all in any daughters and never have had any interest in any daughters. In making women have children and become house-elves, yes, but in the women as individuals? I think, by looking at the scriptures, they might be shocked that anyone thinks of women as PEOPLE people. They, after all, have never counted the daughters.

  86. Joseph Smith Jr.
    “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”
    ( History of the Church, 6:303. )

    “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another”

    From the Mother in Heaven essay, “This understanding is rooted in scriptural and prophetic teachings about the nature of God, our relationship to Deity, and the godly potential of men and women.”

    Shouldn’t Joseph’s statements apply to Mother in Heaven as well?

  87. I’m actually surprised the Church went as far as it did. Consider the staggering implications of a Mother in Heaven–even if she isn’t co-equal with the Father, the mere existence of a female deity goes against two thousand years of Christian thought. Oh, the Catholics have their Virgin Mary, who is virtually a goddess, and the Eastern Orthodox have Sophia, the divine feminine–but as far as I know no branch of Christianity has ever had a true female deity.

    Offering revelation about such a deity is delicate ground, one where even angels might fear to tread (and apparently do, since no Moroni has appeared to testify of the Mother.) Since the Church leadership is generally slow to act anyway, how much more slowly will they move on a topic that is probably the most radical concept in Mormon theology?

    Doesn’t help those who suffer over this, of course, but barring direct divine revelation, the Church is going to move glacially on this one. “Baby steps”.

  88. Clark Goble says:

    The issue, as others have noted, is that much of the theology of mother in heaven developed during the era of Brigham Young when the notions were inseparable from polygamy and Adam/God theory. Likewise they were wrapped up with views of gender relations that we’ve culturally rejected. (Think of the relationship of Adam and Eve for instance – something that Eliza R. Snow defends as a product of the fall in a way we’d now tend to say is wrong) Now I think the ideas are separable from those. But no matter what we do there’s a lot of speculation. And typically, as is the case with speculation, we’re projecting our cultural values and hopes upon the theology.

    I know it doesn’t placate anyone who wants an iconic image closer to themselves in order to feel the symbols as living symbols. I think the issue of skin color, hair style, and yes gender a big issues in this. While I can say that we really don’t know much about the Father and so our knowledge of Mother isn’t much worse, that isn’t satisfying. Most of the attributes of Father are probably referring to the Son in his role as mediator and creator of this world. Further most of the attributes seem pretty abstract and applicable to any divine being.

    The biggest issues tend to be how we approach deity. There are issues here for Mormons because of our rejection of the trinity but also embrace of the importance of embodiment. Our other Christian friends don’t have these issues. (Fundamentally when one worships God for them the distinctions between the persons of the trinity don’t matter much) For us there are big issues if you worship Jesus instead of the Father or attempt a special relationship that’s inappropriate. I’d say these apply to Mother as well.

    This points to things that just aren’t developed in our theology. We need revelation but I get very uncomfortable when people try to force revelation or blame the brethren for the problem. My inclination is that if there is a problem it’s likely the body of the church not the apostles here limiting revelation.

  89. It’s an interesting theoretical question on whether the Holy Ghost might be Heavenly Mother. I would be happy to see church leaders admit that we do not know the gender of the Holy Ghost. That the Holy Ghost is a male is entirely unscriptural (or based on very sketchy interpretation) and has not been presented to the body of the Church as canon. And yet the Holy Ghost is routinely identified with the male pronoun. This is sketchy theology and the church ought to come clean on it.

  90. it's a series of tubes says:

    That the Holy Ghost is a male is entirely unscriptural

    1 Nephi 11:11, John 16:7 and 13-14 seem to intimate otherwise.

  91. I must say I was disappointed by the closing point on “sufficient knowledge.” The author, I feel, changed the entire meaning of what was written in the essay. It never said that we have been given sufficient knowledge of Heavenly Mother. What is said is that “we have been given sufficient knowledge to appreciate the sacredness of this doctrine and to comprehend the divine pattern established for us as children of heavenly parents.” It wasn’t meant to be cut off after the word ‘knowledge.’ The authors never meant to imply that we should be happy with what we have. What they were saying is this: We have only the teensiest bit of information about Heavenly Mother. Basically, that she exists. (Which, incidentally, is worlds more than what other Christian churches have!) This information, however vague & incomplete that it is, IS “sufficient to appreciate the sacredness of the doctrine & comprehend the divine pattern established for us as heavenly children.” This is why I get a thrill every time we sing “O My Father.” I feel the power of this doctrine–it’s sacredness & what it means for my potential. Do I want more information? Absolutely! I long for it, & I will continue to pray for it, & I believe we will get it as hearts & minds are open & ready to receive it.

  92. “We have been given sufficient knowledge to appreciate the sacredness of this doctrine” – sure, absolutely (if we remember that we have it)

    We have NOT been given “sufficient knowledge … to comprehend the divine pattern established for us as children of heavenly parents” (unless you only mean heterosexual, I guess) – but it is exactly what I would like.

  93. My daughter’s patriarchal blessing begins with “you were taught by your Heavenly Mother” (in the premortal world). I love that image of the two of them.

  94. gordon shumway says:

    We have not one but Millions of Heavenly Mothers.

    In the Adamic Language Adam means man and Eve means women (plural). Thus, according to Brigham Young’s Adam-God doctrine Eve was a group of our Heavenly Mothers that came to this Earth with our Heavenly Father in order to start the peopling of it.

    The Virgin Mary was the most righteous of our Heavenly Mothers, and came to this Earth in order to conceive our Heavenly Father’s Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Thus, JC was not conceived out of wedlock, as Mary was married to our Heavenly Father for eternity. Later, she married Joseph, but only for time.

  95. beautiful. love that you shared the home teaching experience at church & got that response! and love the record keeping.