God-talk and Mother in Heaven

The release of the recent Gospel Topics essay on Heavenly Mother has unleashed a flood of conversation. The questions that have come up are fascinating: what does it mean to assign gender to God? What’s at stake in believing God is embodied? If we do affirm the existence of a Heavenly Mother, why don’t we talk about Her more? Why don’t we see Her in the temple? Does the language of “Mother” and “Father” even seem adequate to a divine force that can somehow encompass and exceed the full range of human experience?

I’m going to admit that I have no idea what the answers to these questions are or ought to be. But I’m also going to admit that I don’t think I can find the answers on my own.

I think it’s easy to risk getting too cerebral with this stuff—especially for men. Sure, we have skin in the game, but not in the same way that our sisters do. It’s easy for talk of Heavenly Mother to become an intellectual puzzle, and for us to get caught up in the thrill of moving the pieces around. I’m not saying that men are intellectual and women are spiritual—anyone who believes that women can’t be intellectual ought to go read Lynnette’s stuff at Zelophehad’s Daughters, or a host of other examples, emphatically including here at BCC—just that on this topic it’s easier for men to make an intellectual game of it, and that this way of talking about the subject is altogether inadequate.

For this reason, people’s spiritual experiences should factor heavily in the conversation. Women have been documenting their varied experiences in relation to Heavenly Mother for some time (for a taste, see the Heavenly Mother’s Day posts at The Exponent and the Connecting to Heavenly Mother series at FMH—and of course Ashmae’s recent post here). I think it’s important to listen to these voices, and not to use abstract theological categories to dismiss them.

Mormon theology isn’t a fixed thing, written in stone by the finger of God. In his April 2012 General Conference address, “The Doctrine of Christ,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson acknowledged that not even pronouncements of the President of the Church automatically gain doctrinal status; rather, in the words of J. Reuben Clark, “The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.”

President Clark’s words mean that the spiritual searchings of ordinary members have something crucial to add to the process of working out Mormon doctrine. But they also mean that Mormon theology is inherently a communal process. Certainly there’s much to be said for the private work of contemplative discernment, but there’s also a place for undertaking our God-talk with other people, sharing our experiences, listening to other people relate their experiences, and taking the time to sit with what they say.

If part of the difficulty with the idea of a Heavenly Mother is that we don’t talk about her much, then we can hardly afford to leave women standing silently on the margins of the conversation about her; indeed, women’s voices and their spiritual experiences should have pride of place in that conversation—and not just about Heavenly Mother. Belief in a feminine deity can hardly be cordoned off from the rest of Mormon theology: if we’re serious about this belief, it should inflect everything we do in some way. I simply don’t see how we get there without a serious amplification of women’s voices. They must increase, and I must decrease.

So, I’m grateful to all the women who’ve had the courage to share your spiritual yearnings (and even your anger!) on this topic. I still don’t know anything for certain about Heavenly Mother, but I feel your witnesses stretching my soul. As Joseph Smith would say, the spirit attending that stretching tastes good. I look forward to learning more from and with you.

Comments

  1. You touch on some really good points here, Jason. Taking and thinking about Mother in Heaven, at least for me, isn’t just theologically or intellectually interesting. If I have an immortal soul– indeed, the question of if I *even exist* after mortality– requires we as a people look at and talk about our ideas of Mother in Heaven. I’m personally choking on the notion that we have “sufficient” information; um… where? The vague notion that she exists is unsupported by our material culture and by our enacted theology. I don’t see her in the Temple. I don’t see her in our worship. I don’t see her. So what does that mean for me?

    Everywhere men look, there are examples of what male progression will look like. If I spend my life dedicated to the notion that gender is eternal, and a pair bond is eternal, and that’s how we achieve exaltation… where is the woman in the creation? Because given what we currently have, she is nowhere; unnecessary for the creation of the universe and all the life on earth. That’s hardly “sufficient” for more than half the children of God.

  2. I am just excited for so many concerns to come together at once, creating a clear view of the problem as a whole. I feel that this is what proceeds change. A fervor led Joseph to ask questions and that changed everything.

  3. I am curious as to the reason that the Church released the essay about Mother in Heaven. As was pointed out in the wonderful essay, there have been various references to her existence. I have no doubt that the Brethren are inspired and they were inspired to release this essay and that it will lead to conversation about the eternal nature of gender and whatnot, but I wonder if there is another reason (if there is one) as to why this essay was released at this particular time.

  4. Thanks so much for this, Jason. Every time a new church essay is released, it seems to start up a flood of conversations–some more productive than others, but conversations nonetheless–and that was what excited me most when I first saw the essay about Heavenly Mother. Talking about her and reading the insights of others who also know what it’s like to yearn for Her has been incredibly healing for me. I’m excited for these discussions to continue!

    Speaking of which, I want to share this link in case anyone commenting hasn’t yet read these poems (I only recently discovered them). They’re by Rachel at Exponent II and embody what I’ve felt about Heavenly Mother better than anything I’ve ever written on the subject.

    http://www.the-exponent.com/heavenly-mothers-day-i-dreamed-i-wrote-five-poems/

  5. Thanks for your comment, Tracy. That’s exactly the perspective that people like me need to hear and remember.

  6. Yeah, those poems by Rachel are amazing.

  7. Yes, Tracy, exactly. If not for so many people affirming that they have had experiences and spiritual insights about Her, I would be feeling very stifled by the essay. Their voices soothe me and help me to have patience, and Jason K’s post here reminds me that men also need their Heavenly Mother and that seeking Her is a communal work. It is much more appealing for me to engage in that work with others than to seek Her by myself (I guess I’m Mormon to my bones), and it is finally starting to feel possible.

  8. oleablossom: I love the sound of hope at the end of your comment!

  9. And now for a bit of lovely speculative Heavenly Mother theology. (What other kind is there, really, these days?)

    https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/the-mystical-body-of-god-the-mother/

  10. It seems to me that The Restoration of All Things – which Joseph Smith attempted to usher in with his First Vision and subsequent organization of the Church – must include a return to apparently subsumed truths about female deity. [see Pre-Israelite worship of both male and female God who were seen as companion co-creators.]

    I personally feel that this compelling drive among many Latter-day Saint women and some men – to acknowledge and include both Heavenly Parents in our worship of God and in our vision of heaven – is a natural expression of truth springing up from the earth to meet expanding righteousness looking down from heaven as the course of mortality roles on. This desire to know Her better (or to know Her at all) is a natural part of the spiritual evolution of us as individuals and as a spiritual community of brothers and sisters. I mean, look at that <<< "brothers and sisters." If we truly believe that humans are an expansive eternal family who came from God, our home, how can we deny our Mother? How?!

    If we truly believe God is only God because S/he is paired with an equally righteous partner, how can we deny or ignore the Her part of Him? If priesthood power comes from God, who is only God because He is paired with a perfect partner, then even priesthood power is incomplete without Her.

    Many women and some men within the church have discovered a gaping Mother-God-shaped hole in our hearts. Only She can fill it. Only her voice will answer this primal longing, this eternal song we hum in Her absence, the one She taught us. I believe this longing is of divine design, possibly even fore-ordained. Why should our yearning for our Mother, a God who looks like us women, be seen as anything other? It is sacred longing, a sacred song; holy and wholly good.
    ::

  11. Subsumed may be the wrong word. . . engulfed? dispersed? diluted? corrupted? lost? I don’t know.

  12. I have no interest in her. She has no interest in us. She either has no power or chooses not to use it to elevate her daughters so that we are not owned by the sons. She is a *terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE* mother, and it could be mental illness from being treated like an object by our pretty darn awful father. Or she could have killed herself long ago because, that’s what I think I’ll do later, if things are as they appear. Mortality is the only time that I might even have any ability to exist as a person in my own right.

  13. Thanks for sharing that perspective, Munga.

  14. I can second what you say, Jason, about needing help to see and to spiritually stretch. I’ve felt this more recently than in a long time. It’s not comfortable, but it’s valuable.

  15. I would greatly appreciate hearing more of our sisters’ experiences, insights, and intuitions regard a heavenly mother. I’ve always considered the existence of a heavenly mother/gendered gods speculative and problematic. The idea is often tied to the problematic belief that female reproductive systems are necessary for spiritual birth, as well as the practice of polygamy. And if we all have a heavenly mother, where is she? Why do we not know more about her? Perhaps, as the op suggests is possible, I’ve fallen into the trap of treating this as an intellectual issue. Maybe I need the benefit of a new perspectives. At the very least, those perspectives would help me better internalize the hopes, wants, and beliefs of many of our sisters.

  16. I don’t think that we don’t know much about her. We know a lot about where she is and how she is treated. We know that the Father never refers to her, never says anything about the value of daughters as whole people and in fact tosses girls around like cattle, we know that Father refers to himself as an “I” and that he never talks to any women. Ever. So, there is a lot we DO know, when we think about it. I think that what might have happened is similar to what I am thinking about: that she saw what the rules were in Father’s (total control and total power) head and determined to do what she could to slow down the cycle of abuse and horror by killing herself, but that Father, not needing any means to create life could just use her organs. That’s what makes sense to me. Who refers to a bunch of organs as a person? Not us, and not Father.

  17. I am open to the idea that we are wrong on the eternal nature of gender, and something about the process of becoming a resurrected being will change us more than just “so we won’t have blood anymore”.

    If gender is an essential eternal characteristic, then I have to hope that we simply look wrongly at God, and They together accept our devotions that are given in the best way we know how (because we surely are wrong about a lot of the ways we view God), and that our blindness and stubbornness is hurting us in ways that are ultimately able to be repaired and healed – in this life, through continuing revelation and the atonement, and in the next life.

    If gender is not an essential eternal characteristic, then I hope God can help us figure that out soon.

  18. eleablossom – right or wrong on gender, there is no mistaking that there is standardized disenfranchisement of women from all aspects of life that we think of as belonging to a sentient being. Let’s say that in the after-mortality we all become one great big Gender. But, that great big gender creates spirit children with a mandate to abuse half of them. I still don’t see a good thing or a future that I good to promote. I partly see our future “organhood” as 1) most likely because a) women aren’t heartless and we know we don’t want to be around in any way to watch the creation of something awful b) most likely because as Joseph Smith said, if our (sentient, individual) life isn’t of worth to our friends (husbands, children, anyone) then it is not of worth to ourselves. I think some of us may hold on, wishing for improvement but we have all our whole history of mankind to show that God (the father or mother – who might not be sentient anymore) has never, ever ever ever ever cared about the personhood and individual meaning of any daughters.

  19. I am thankful that, unlike anyone else in the Judeo-Christian world, we at least have some inkling that She exists. No one else does and in order to imbue the divine with anything female are forced to strain the very definition of existence and individual personality. I hope she is unveiled and we learn more about her in my lifetime, but the arc of the Restoration is wide.

  20. Munga: I think (and hope) that I can see where you’re coming from here. Still, I’m more inclined to blame us for failing to understand or represent God than I am to blame God for the horrors that we humans inflict on each other. I’m with you 110% that the general neglect and abuse of women by men across history is unconscionable, but I guess I’m humanist enough to believe that the responsibility for changing things falls largely to us. Admittedly, that approach raises serious questions about the sovereignty and power of God. On the other hand, conceiving of God as sovereign in the first place might be part of the problem, because of the way divine sovereignty has traditionally underwritten male domination over women. Maybe the Givenses are pointing in a useful direction when they imagine a God more defined by vulnerability than sovereignty.

    In all of this, I have to admit that my own spirituality tends toward the mystical, apophatic side of things, which obviously isn’t where everyone else necessarily does or should find herself.

  21. Jason, I… wish I could share that view. But God is God. God can send another prophet if that one gets killed. God gets His point across if necessary with flames and swords. God has had *all* opportunity to say something else and God has a very long history. The way many tell it, God attends the weekly meetings with the Brethren and totally dictates what happens. I don’t think we should start a conversation with “let’s pretend we know nothing” when in fact we know a lot, and we have a track record we can use to understand it. People without power never have the luxury of pretending that we are fine because we don’t enjoy privilege. We have to pretty much deal with reality, not delusion or pretend.

    My spirituality tends to be concrete: is everyone included and respected and empowered? who is left out and why? Where does love stop and why? Who cares (so we know who we can count on)? Who doesn’t care (so we can help those who are abandoned)? What can I do? Stuff like that.

  22. Owen: it’s worth saying that the rest of the Judeo-Christian world doesn’t have an inkling that She exists because the questions to which She is an answer are in some respects uniquely Mormon. That is, we insist on an embodied God, whom we call Father in a very literal sense, which produces ideas like viviparous spirit birth, thereby necessitating a Mother.

    In terms of orthodox trinitarianism, gender is a category which it makes no sense to assign to God. Admittedly, the iconographic tradition has plenty of bearded white guys in it, but those were always at some tension with doctrinal correctness (and the Protestant shift toward the Tetragrammaton responds to this tension). From this doctrinal perspective, there are no unique male or female tracks toward salvation, and even in the iconography there are visible women (Mary taking the place of the Holy Spirit, or the so-called Anna Trinity). Gregory of Nazianzus (one of the key formulators of trinitarianism) wrote that what has not been assumed cannot be saved. Jesus thus took on the fullness of human experience, without gender distinction of any kind.

    More recently, there’s been a shift toward thinking about God as having all gender instead of none–in 21st-century parlance, a genderqueer God. Such a God can include paths to salvation for people whom he male/female binary leaves out. I really just see this as an expansion on Nazianzen’s dictum.

    Now, I don’t know what, if any of this, is true. The closer I get to God, the less I understand. Hence my primary interest in spiritual experience, instead of theological categories. Even so, I think it’s worth adding other theological possibilities to the conversation.

    Above all, it’s important to me that the women I know and love who feel that the Mormon heaven is an existential blank find a path to the God they seek.

  23. Munga: my spirituality seems much in line with what you describe. We may differ in our views of the God behind that spirituality, but it sounds like we could probably make common cause as far as action on the ground.

  24. This entire issue is just so painful to talk about–and even more painful not to. I really, really want to believe that women play not just a necessary part in our plan of salvation but are equal in power, dignity, and agency to men. I went through some extremely dark times in my life when, despite wanting to believe in the goodness of God, I had to admit that women have just been thrown to the wolves for their earthly lives. Women are vulnerable in every way to abuse, unrighteous dominion, and poverty. Why? If God loves and values daughters as much as sons–why are we so defenseless against rape? If the purpose of life is to experience joy–why not build women with equal physical strength so we at least have a CHANCE to defend ourselves? Why make having children such a disproportionate burden to women’s bodies? Why make childbirth so deadly?
    Did my Mother in heaven have a say in developing this plan? Did she come up with it? Was she not consulted? Was she against it? I don’t have any idea. And to be honest, I don’t know which scenario is more depressing: the fact that she endorsed this existence where her daughters can be so easily and routinely brutalized OR that she weeps over our fate and is powerless to do a thing about it.
    Patriarchy breeds this insecurity in women. I question my place in eternity because I have no theology to contradict what I’m faced with every day as a woman who walks this earth. I’m bombarded with messages that scream my only value is as an object for men. It makes very little difference that I belong to a benevolently patriarchal church–that I am praised and honored for being the eternal side dish to a man’s main course.
    I feel alternately angry and totally crushed anytime a man with any kind of authority in the church makes statements about how we should be content with what we have, that we shouldn’t reach out for our eternal mother or for truth, and that the story of our creation and the execution of the plan of salvation is a beacon of hope to us fallen mortals. It doesn’t paint a hopeful picture for women. It excludes us, subjugates us, and silences us. Are our leaders really so lacking in empathy? Do they understand it and choose to say nothing? Why, for the love of every woman who ever was, do we not as an entire church get on our knees to beg for more insight? Why do we not mourn and help each other cast off this unbelief that puts women beneath men–and knock at the door until our knuckles are bloody?

  25. Eliza R. Snow would have no difficulty finding Mother in Heaven in the temple. She’s right there, in the Garden of Eden with Adam.

  26. There is a lot of evidence in scripture that Mother in Heaven was known and worshipped anciently. For example, after having his first vision, Lehi exclaimed “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!” In the Hebrew Old Testament, this expression is always a translation of Yahweh El Shaddai. In other words, Lehi praises Jehovah, the El (God) in Elohim (the Gods), and another God or manifestation of God called Shaddai, who appears various places in the Old Testament. Shaddaim is Hebrew for breasts, and Margaret Barker suggests, the Divine being known as Shaddai is the God with Breasts. In other words, Lehi sings his praises to the Son, Father, and Mother.

    The worship of Mother was suppressed by Josiah, Lehi’s contemporary, and the scriptures handed down to us were filtered through Josiah’s Deuteronomist followers. But much has now been written and continues to be written about Mother that is rooted in close readings of scripture. Those who are eager to know more about Mother have lots of places they can go to learn more–unless the only voices they are wiling to hear are those of the Q15. Joseph Smith took a more expansive view of revelation. He welcomed communal religion making, e.g., the insights of Parley P. Pratt and others. And he recognized the dilemma of the Q15, which he had in spades. They have far less freedom than other members of the Church speculatively advance our understanding. Since they define official doctrine, they must be cautious. But if you want to know more about Mother, there is a lot that can be gleaned from scripture and voices speaking from the Middle Eastern dust. Seek and ye shall find. Or as someone on a sister BCC thread has said, “If any of ye lack Wisdom (one of Mother’s names), ask of God,” then do you homework. With a little effort, you can know a lot about your Heavenly Mother.

  27. Jason K. says, “…the questions to which She is an answer are in some respects uniquely Mormon…”

    They are not uniquely Mormon. Not at all. They are occult questions. Thomas Burgoyne, 19th Century astrologist and occultist wrote that the union of the male and female energies produce the “spiral” the symbol of “eternal progression.” Yes…that is his own term. He also stated, “They become, by Divine Right, the King and Queen, co-equal and co-eternal rulers over all the elements in Nature. Their will, in the Astral world, is law.”

    I would recommend studying up on Kabbalistic views about sexuality. (Holland calls sexual union a “sacrament.” This is getting very close to occultic teachings about sex.) And also read the chapter about sex in Burgoyne’s occult classic The Light of Egypt. You’ll find a 19th Century source for many of the teachings found in the Proclamation, such as the eternal nature of gender and the havoc that will swallow up society if sexuality is not used carefully and appropriately.

    No joke. The questions to which Heavenly Mother is an answer have long-ago been asked by esoteric, occultic groups. And they found many answers which would sound very familiar to Mormons.

  28. Mark N.

    You are correct. Brigham Young taught that Adam and Eve are Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother respectively. I am not surprised though that the Church decided to leave this information about of the essay, leaving us with only third-hand rumors about something Joseph Smith said to Zina’s mother. Zina — the same woman whom Joseph Smith married despite the fact that Zina was already married to a living man. Zina — the same woman whom Brigham Young married after Smith died, sending her living husband off on a mission while he had children with her.

  29. It’s also the case that Adam-God doctrine seems not to have passed the Clark test mentioned in the OP. Perhaps the essay should have mentioned it, but it would have needed heavy emphasis that the theory is of purely historical interest.

  30. DeepThink says:

    More daydreaming about Heavenly Mother here:
    http://segullah.org/daily-special/heavenly-mothers-job/

  31. John: point well taken. In any case such questions fall outside the purview of mainstream Christian theology–which is an observation, not a criticism.

    OTOH, mainstream Christian theology is making its own movements in this direction. News of the essays interrupted my reading of Sarah Coakley’s book God, Sexuality, and the Self, which is the first volume in a projected systematic theology. She’s hardly alone in thinking about this stuff, of course.

  32. They fall outside the purview of mainstream Christian theology because they are not Christian.

  33. Paige:
    I was really struck by your image of knocking on the door until we bloody our knuckles. It captures the real desperate need for answers. I’m going to let your comment, and other similar ones, influence how I talk about Heavenly Mother.

  34. Paige and HH9, I agree, and I especially liked the part about us as an entire church getting on our knees to beg for more insight. But that would be a miracle in itself.

  35. John’s right. The little I’ve read about occult thinkers – including that bad, bad old Aleister Crowley – I’ve recognized the same ideas that we brush against in our Deep Doctrine. But what a PR nightmare it would be for the Mormons to be seen consorting with witches! It’s bad enough that we have the inverted five-pointed star on a couple of temples, what if we actually started having systematic theological instruction about the descent of spirit into matter, the mysterium coniunctionis, hieros gamos, all that crazy stuff! We’d get religious persecution the likes of which we’ve never seen – unless the Big Bad World continues its slide to secularism.

    The Church wastes a lot of energy trying to prove to the world that we’re Christian.

    Opening up consideration of a Mother in Heaven makes just about everything ever written and said in the Church about sex sound hollow and ridiculous. For instance, Whose idea was menstruation? The clitoris? What does it mean for the status of your sex, if you believe that an all-powerful Father built you to bleed as part of His “plan?” What does it mean if you believe that an all-powerful Mother did, and whose plan was that: was it really Hers? Was She hiding in the background of the Garden of Eden to slip a clitoris in between Eve’s legs after Her husband had finished the sculpting job around Adam’s rib?

    She withdraws with her finger to her lips. She has planted a ticking time bomb of liberation and equality. But for the ages that it ticks, it will cause fear and retaliatory repression, terrible violence and pain. Does Father wink at this, or has there been another war in heaven, transferred to the battle of the sexes in mortality? As above, so below? (I think of a Margaret Blair Young story I read once about this.)

    The scriptural accounts have God or the Gods proposing to create human beings in their own image, and if that image is without beginning or end, then the perplexities of the human body don’t come from the design of our Heavenly Parents, but from earthly biological processes, notably evolution. Instead of God as the comically inept civil engineer who runs a sewer through a playground, we can understand exalted and deified beings as products of evolutionary, or at least natural processes that they follow instead of designing.

  36. I love your final paragraph, Jason. Especially the part about feeling the witnesses stretching your soul. Those words serve my feelings very well. Thank you for this post.

  37. The Holy Ghost says:

    I have often thought. Does male mean a penis? Or perhaps it goes beyond the contraptions of this world. why would God as capable as he is, choose a limiting form like ours- gravity, the elements mean nothing to IT.
    Perhaps God takes the form we can relate to (or we imagine the form to be). In the history of humanity it just happens to be male not female.

  38. HG,

    It’s funny: when I was a child I remember a conversation with a friend in which we agreed that God could not possibly have a penis. That, however, was because we saw that part of the body as shameful.

    Earthbound. Crude matter, the sticky goo of the body that has trapped our ethereal souls in this self-destructive grubby prison, the cosmic meat wheel . . . no, these are not new ideas at all.

  39. “…gravity, the elements mean nothing to IT.” Those IT guys think the rules don’t apply to them. Always with their “did you try restarting your computer.” The sheer arrogance of it drives me bonkers! :D

    I have wondered lately if the reproductive gear we have is only a metaphorical piece of equipment. Of course if that were taken far enough you could say outer space is Heavenly Mother’s womb and this is godly gestation with Satan as some sort of teratogen trying to deform us inutero. Nice metaphor, but it doesn’t bring us any closer to knowing out Mother.

  40. Pacumeni,

    all you are offering is more evidence that women in the next life have no reason to become anything but a partial body. As all-consuming-nothing as the temple makes women (there is no development involved for women in the temple construction of our families, women have no access to the atonement or to a true caring being we are cut off from being heirs of God and merely become servants of our husbands, not different than arms, legs and.. well… uterus) it seems just as likely to me that my last sentient act even in that moment of exaltation could be the burning of my intelligence (if I can figure it out), because unlike the “breasts” of the woman who gave up and let her body be used in a patriarchal system and you mention in that scripture, I want to figure out a way to stop the cycle of abuse, by denying the use of my organs for creation of more children who are destined to be abused in patriarchy again and again and again.

    I know, it is just one starfish. But it will have meaning to me, to say no to abuse.

  41. Munga,

    In some small measure, I feel your pain. But with, I think, equal conviction, I am convinced you are wrong about Mother with respect to both her earthly and heavenly manifestations. At best, you express only half of the following, which I take from “Hidden in Plain View: Mother in Heaven in Scripture”:

    Sealed scriptures are calibrated to reveal their truths in the times and places where human beings are prepared to receive them. As an inspiring story of Rabbi Abraham Berukhim illustrates, our longing to know Heavenly Mother can unseal what is sealed, can open heaven and reveal her to us.

    “[Rabbi Abraham] walked through the streets of [his home town] Safed, crying out “Arise, for the Shekhina is in exile….” He longed, more than anything else, to bring back the Shekhinah out of exile.,,, [Advised to go to the Wailing Wall, after fasting, he set off on foot.] With every step he took, he prayed God to reveal … a vision of the Shekhina to him. By the time Rabbi Abraham reached Jerusalem, he felt as if he were floating, as if he had ascended from his body. And when he reached the Wailing Wall, Rabbi Abraham had a vision there. Out of the wall came an old woman, dressed in black, deep in mourning. And when he looked into her eyes, he became possessed of a grief as deep as the ocean, far greater than he had ever known. It was the grief of a mother who has lost a child; the grief of Hannah, after losing her seven sons; the grief of the Shekhinah over the suffering of Her children…. At that moment Rabbi Abraham fell to the ground in a faint, and he had another vision. In this vision, he saw the Shekhinah once more, but this time he saw Her dressed in Her robe woven out of light, more magnificent than the setting sun, and Her joyful countenance was revealed. Waves of light arose from her face, an aura that seemed to reach out and surround him, as if he were cradled in the arms of the Sabbath Queen. “Do not grieve so, My son Abraham,’ She said. “Know that My exile will come to an end, and My inheritance will not go to waste.’” [137]

    We are now culturally prepared to understand that Mother in Heaven is the necessary and equal completion of Father in Heaven, that Elohim is the union of Father and Mother. And voices speaking from the dust have providentially given us the background information necessary to more fully understand this truth. Thus, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, like Rabbi Abraham, we can come to know the divine Mother that deep in our hearts we, like him, long to know.

    Yes, Munga, Mother is that woman full of grief that her children have co-created a world where they have forgotten her and greatly suffer for that and other sins. But She is also the glorious joyful Woman who wears that robe of light and is Sabbath Queen. How sad that you know only her Hannah manifestation, and that only with despair that Rabbi Berukhim did not sense in his encounter with our Mother in Heaven.

  42. ARE YOU LISTENING TO YOURSELF? You talk about this person as if she has been eaten by worms and her particles are now in all the atoms on the planet. As much as I envision a bleak potential, you envision one that completely destroys the individual sentience and individual personality even I couldn’t imagine it. Holy smokes. Mom, like atoms, is all around you? How is this different from believing that women have no future at all? Or, as the door asked, “Where do vanished objects go?”

  43. As you applaud the courage of women who share their yearnings, I hope you will also acknowledge that it takes some courage to honestly admit if you are one of the women who doesn’t have a problem with the current revelations. Any such woman is going to take heaps of criticism that she is a mindless sheep, drank the kool-aid, etc.

    At a 5th Sunday combined RS-Priesthood meeting a while back, the theme was “Becoming Like Christ” or somesuch. Although I do not have yearnings (just too darn busy to worry about such things), I appreciate that many women do. So I made the statement that it was easier for men than women to aspire to godhood since they have role models that have access to the same tools, etc. whereas women know much less about Heavenly Mother.

    The teacher wasn’t silent long before he responded that we had all kinds of role models, just look around the room at the great women.

    While I am sure that answer is unsatisfying to many, I hope they took some comfort in that a sister who doesn’t share their angst was willing to raise the issue out of her concern for her sisters.

    And I do think there is a point in that the vagueness of knowledge about Heavenly Mother allows us each to achieve discipleship, including motherhood, in our own way. There is no particular model that we feel pressure to fit into, which is a Good Thing. Our stake president’s wives have been amazing women, including homemakers and professionals, moms of large families and smaller. So there are lots of models available to us.

  44. Respectfully, Munga, I doubt that Pacumeni meant “voice speaking from the dust” quite so hyper-literally as your reply suggests. Disagreement is to be expected on a topic like this, where we frankly know so little, and where it’s not yet obvious how the things that people have learned on their own fit together. From your perspective, Mother’s absence suggests a kind of hostility on the part of both heavenly parents. Others, meanwhile, are suggesting that Mother has been there all along, if only we knew where to look. As I see it, both solutions have strengths and weaknesses. You give fierce voice to the experienced pain of abandonment. Nothing wrong with that: Jesus did the same on the cross. But it does raise the question of why one would believe in such a God. On the other hand, the responses that suggest we’ve always known where to find Her make the knowledge an esoteric one–as the comments showing connections to the occult evidence. Esoteric knowledge can foster a kind of spiritual elitism that, because it amounts to a kind of power, can become its own vehicle for inflicting pain. None of which is to say that either approach is altogether devoid of truth.

    For me, though, the pastoral question is more important than the theological one. I don’t even know what answering the theological question would look like. Far more important to me is finding ways for women not only to feel, but indeed to be more empowered in our community. (“Equality is not a feeling.”) I don’t have any comprehensive solutions there, either, but I’m hopeful that our church community can work toward them. Of course, I won’t fault anyone who doesn’t share that hope, since I think that despair is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the current reality.

  45. Yes, Naismith: just as you say, there are distinct advantages to not having a Mother whose qualities are rigidly defined. And the biggest pastoral problem in the Church right now is finding a way for the people at peace with the status quo and those disturbed by it to recognize each other as necessary and contributing members to the body of Christ.

  46. Eric Russell says:

    I find it hard not to suspect that the primary motive behind this essay was simply to emphasize that God is straight.

  47. It’s no small problem that most women the General Authorities encounter in their daily lives are on the whole fully supportive of the status quo (whatever that may be). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it puts another spin on you can’t be what you can’t see.

  48. Yep.

  49. Anonanonanon says:

    One of my biggest problems with both women’s essays that just came out is that they support the interpretation set forward in the Mormon priestess essay that FMH posted some time back. It was such an eye opener to read, to spell out that the position of women is to forever be subordinate to their husband-god. Women will never have an office holding Gods power or authority because women are not on the God track. They’ll only ever get to use someone else’s authority if he delegates it to her for his purposes. Forever a priestess but never a goddess.
    Even this Heavenly Mother essay just acknowledges she exists but should not be worshipped. What power does she have? Besides procreative power what is she good for? Is she perfect? Is she involved in our salvation or its plan? Just knowing she exists isn’t “sufficient” for anything. She’s not a god, she isn’t involved, and if that’s all there is for women in the next life in the CK that’s a fate I’ve got no interest in.

  50. Jason, I don’t think Mother’s absence is out of hostility, but more out of despair or mental illness. She’s been treated like an object and not a real, live actual person of authority and personal power for probably as long as she can remember. That will make anyone insane, maimed or dead. I don’t judge her but I don’t expect anything good to come out of such damage.

  51. When I was young, I always assumed it was Heavenly Father personally speaking in the scriptures. I still recall the day someone pointed out to me that most of the time it is actually the Lord (Christ) speaking. It was a mind-bending concept to grasp at the time. I fully expect that when we better understand Heavenly Mother’s place in the gospel, it will be similar. Things which we previously thought were exclusively done by Heavenly Father we will understand to actually have been accomplished by Heavenly Mother or, more likely, both in concert. I think the reason we don’t see the Mother as readily is because of the fundamental unity between the Father and Mother. When two people act as one, it is hard to resolve the two, just as it was hard for me to see the difference between God and Christ in my youth.

  52. Clark Goble says:

    That seems a dubious interpretation. First off we know we will both become gods and goddesses. Exactly what that means is not at all clear. We have those who follow the King Follet Discourse and Sermon in the Grove interpretations which means that as a married couple we’ll have the full power of the Father and make our own creation in terms of spirit children and our own universe. I think that is the most popular position primarily due to the place the King Follet Discourse has in folk doctrine (it was even a two week course of study in a relatively recent PH/RS manual in the 90’s as I recall.

    However the other reading tends to be more limited in what counts as grounding doctrine, notes several problematic doctrines in the KFD and that it was never canonized. An example of this is Blake Ostler’s theology one can find in his popular series of books on theology. There God is the only being among intelligences to bring himself up to be a God. None of us will be like him and at best will have a similar moral stature. We’ll always be under him. While I have problems with this view and in particular don’t think he’s addressed a lot of gender issues sufficiently, it is a position many adhere to.

    In between there are various others such as the idea that we’ll have our own parts of universes but it’ll be more like an area we’re given stewardship over. (Much like the difference between the President and a Bishop) In this interpretation Christ is always head and we just function with him but under him in various stewardships.

    The point is, that it is not at all clear what we mean by power relative to God theologically. That applies equally to men and women. We reject the omnipotence Greek absolutism pushes (and which makes divisions within God problematic). However we tend to want to push, if only in terms of power, the ability of gods as having few limits. It would seem given that minimal view of deity that both we and God would be equal in that sense of power along with Mother.

  53. I like Clark’s approach but as a female it doesn’t work for me to ignore all of the ways men have power over women and that women are not allowed to exercise the same authority over men. clearly something is going on and it just doesn’t work to throw up our hands and say we don’t know why things are the way they are. If there’s any kind of uncertainty, why not err on the side of including women instead of excluding them?

  54. Exactly, Anything.

  55. Scott Roskelley says:

    Jason K – oops – please delete the off topic comment. With regards to Mother Sophia I would forward the following to Sister Rosemary Wixom who is now on the Temple committee: Mother still has a restraining order, little if any visitation rights, terrible restrictions on receiving direct phone calls from her children, and has been washed out from her husband’s sacred texts. “She should rule over them!” Mosiah 8:20. Why isn’t She?
    Temple videography depicts Father completely alone in a large marble pillar palace on high. Where is she designing and painting the sky and birds as co-creator? Where do we embrace her blessing as the Shekhinah when her love and spirit is breathed into a house of stone, metal and glass to convert it from architecture into a divine family home for nourishment and teaching? Where is she depicted in young women lessons, temple ritual, or even a single painting in our temples? As a crucial member of the divine family council the temple must include her designing the earth, defining and extending the office and mission of savior, responding to the prayers of those who have fallen, and whispering peace and instruction to those who accept the gospel’s message.

  56. One thing that stood out to me was that the article does not use the word “goddess”. The words that imply deity on her part are only used when speaking about her and the Father as a pair. Also, the Gospel Topics article on Heavenly Father is titled, “God The Father”. Why is this new essay not titled “God The Mother”? The article on God the Father makes no mention of his wife even though we are taught regularly that Godhood equals an exalted pair.

    It all beautifully, horribly, backs up the Mormon Priestess essay. And Rodney Turner.

  57. Gorman – I consider that idea a lot, too, that really the pair of them (not just father because mother has been abused to incapability) are responsible for this hellacious abuse/patriarchy. This isn’t too far from my reality as my dad is much like Heavenly Father – didn’t care about anyone but the boys and used anyone who he could, and my mother depended on his vicious nature to threaten all the kids (us) into being attractive members of the church, which is the only thing that she cares about as it connects her to power. In both of their defense, I believe that my Dad was incapable of compassionate behavior as he behaved in manners consistent with sociopathy, especially as a bishop. And my mother has NPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is basically incapable of imagining that there is any other reality but the one she dictates. The moments when the church acts as though it can define reality by “saying so” rather than by fact and history show my mother that she is connected to the right thing. Anyway, I can think of the two of them – both Heavenly Parents – working together to produce this system that destroys the individual power of the daughters and passes abusive and wrong authority to the sons does feel like something that could be concocted by both, but how many people are that “perfect” in their disabilities and tendencies for abuse? It happens but I don’t think it is common. Hence my supposition that she is broken, maimed or has achieved the (completely correct) goal of stopping abuse by stopping the production of children into the patriarchal grist-mill.

    Moss, I also noticed that it fit perfectly with the Mormon Priestess. I don’t think it had any choice. The Mormon Priestess analysis was bang on the mark.

  58. Munga: I know that having abusive parents must have been terrible, and I can hardly fault you for drawing on that experience to understand our heavenly parents. What about other people, though, who have had different experiences? What of the blog series I link to where women report positive experiences with Heavenly Mother? My point isn’t to diminish your experience–you own that, and you’ve given this conversation a useful strand–but rather to suggest that in talking of cosmic things we ought to cast a wider net. The feelings of neglect and silence are part of that bigger picture, to be sure, but they aren’t the whole picture.

  59. I wonder if in the pre-existence, we weren’t complaining about where our Heavenly Father was in the picture…

  60. Jason, if the Heavenly Parents have produced anything good toward the daughters, recognizing us as whole humans and full heirs, please trot it out.

  61. Clearly we have never known Father in this world. We don’t know mother. We might know Christ, but only in the kindness we do others and the records we have of his teaching.
    Mostly we are alone here with only each other to lean on. And it strikes me that it is a good way for us to be. Well we do good things of our own free will, or do we need an authoritative voice to drive us?

  62. Again, I think there’s some risk of extrapolating universals from one’s own experience. Share your perspective, yes, but assume that others exist.

  63. KF, I like that thought.

  64. Jason, show me how to extrapolate from our parent’s goodness, inclusion, fairness with all the children. Show me I’m wrong about *something*. I wouldn’t mind. I have never found any evidence that the parents have even really cared about the well-being of women, even while they don’t count the girls, don’t name the girls, don’t include the girls as children who also get something other the “tree” (only the boys do) I have hunted up and down for any evidence of kindness/ fairness/ inclusion-as-heirs in their treatment of daughters. If you can find it, it will give me just one small point to begin exploring.

  65. Go read Julian of Norwich.

  66. KF, I think we can do things of our own good will and I know many wonderful humans. However, what happens when we are *taught* to abuse, to *not* see some people as valuable and as having the same standing as others? What happens when we are *threatened* with destruction or being cast out, if we don’t agree to abuse some people, just as Adam and Eve are threatened with death if Eve does not agree to the destruction of her personal progress and meaning by subordination and replacement with Adam’s meaning and identity only?

    Dis-inclusion from standing, eventually, becomes a social death sentence, which then becomes an actual death sentence. That is why women and girls the world over struggle under the “righteous” oppression by men.

  67. To be clear, KF, I mostly agree. It’s just that I went a period of years feeling that my primary spiritual communion was with the Father. Jesus felt like a stranger. That’s since changed, but it was my experience. Still, I’m all for revealing God by the way we treat each other.

  68. Clark Goble says:

    Anything, I think we should as much as revealed structures allow give women opportunities. I think if you compare the church today to the church in the 50’s we’re doing much better. But clearly there are things that could be improved. A few I’ve mentioned that seem in accord with the revelations are women ushers along with deacons and teachers. Women in the Sunday School presidency. Just a single meeting for ward council and PEC so Relief Society is always present. Men in primary presidency. There are a few others although I think they require a bit more to do. i.e. things like having women as at least present in courts as advisors to the Bishop or Stake Presidency. I think that’s not something that could be done without some revelation but it’s probably a more doable change than others.

    The rest just seem to require revelation. There’s no way around that. Further the very nature of revelation is that it doesn’t always go the way we expect. I think there’s a common perception that the correct answer is following the evolution within our liberal democracy. While that’s sometimes true such as on race I’m not sure it’s always or even usually the case. However clearly when you look at things such as the evolution of marriage relationships within Mormonism we largely track societal evolution. We have fewer kids, we are far more egalitarian in our relationships, etc. I think a man who didn’t get up with the baby or help clean the house would today be considered a very bad husband whereas a few decades ago that was the norm. Given that reality of changing views even within the church should we assume any new revelations won’t match this egalitarianism? Perhaps, but again we just don’t know.

    The problem is that we feel these things strongly but God is silent. The problem is that of course God is silent about a great many things. Arguably most things. This ends up being what philosophers call the evidentiary problem of evil. That is given all these evils around us (whether due to free will or some other reason) that God could easily reduce significantly with only minor action, why doesn’t he?

    Put it an other way. We can gripe about current gender relations. But why didn’t he do something 3000 years ago on all this? Why not throw in a few lines about egalitarianism in there with the lines about eating pork? It seems the former is far more important than the latter yet just as easy to put in.

    Now I think there are answers here. But I also recognize not everyone will be satisfied. However let’s realize that this concern with what, from a historical view, are fairly minor issues among a people already pretty rich and egalitarian. Look back to the time in Palestine and everyone had it so much worse that I don’t think we can appreciate it. We joke about “first world problems” but really compared to most of the people who’ve lived (and arguably even most people still living) these are pretty minor evils.

    That’s not to disparage the very real feelings people have. I get it. I really do. If I were God organizing the universe based upon my current knowledge I’d do it completely differently. I’d certainly make an egalitarian system more in line with my ethical and political views. However I know I don’t have a clue why God does what he does beyond faith there’s a point. So I’m pretty loath to call out God because there aren’t female bishops when the bigger problems in history and the world scream out to me.

    I know this is like the conservative griping over American feminism in an age of female circumcision, forced marriages, making it illegal for women to be educated, drive and so forth, requiring women to be covered up, etc. I know why that’s not a real objection for Americans who justly worry about improving our own world. Yet in terms of God while we can of course have concerns for our “first world problems” (and should) but God’s actions probably matter more in the bigger questions.

    Again not trying to cut off revelation. I’d love the brethren to get some clear revelations on this. Just trying to situate it all – even if it isn’t personally satisfying to us when we really crave answers.

  69. Clark Goble says:

    To add, I know in writing all that I simply have a very different experience as a man. I’m not sure that means the questions aren’t relevant.

  70. This world is co-created by humanity. That is a necessary implication of God’s respect for agency. Mother and Father in Heaven work within the horizon of cultures we create for ourselves. Those cultures reflect our sinfulness and lust for power. There is a lot of evidence that Josiah and the Deuteronomists cast Mother out of Solomon’s temple, where she had resided during most of its history. Those who administered the second temple likewise rejected Christ. And about forty years after people chose to reject God the Mother and God the Son, the temples were destroyed. So it looks like God gives us what we are prepared to receive and in some measure leaves us alone when we insist upon it.

    As we become more wise and open to the guidance of the Elohim, more is given to us. Thus, the word “equal” and the concept of the equality of souls becomes an important theme in Zenos and Jacob’s parable of the olive tree when it gets to the part that treats our time. Why now and not earlier? Human cultures embraced human equality and great blessings of prosperity and quality of life have followed.

    Both as individuals and as a society, we choose for ourselves and choose for those who are around us when our actions affect them. God (both Father and Mother who are jointly Elohim and who in that guise show up about 2000 times in the Old Testament) let us choose for ourselves and for others. We will ultimately face the consequences of our actions, but the Elohim generally won’t intervene to stop us from rejecting them and their ways. Mother complains in Proverbs 8 that we have rejected her and says bad consequences will follow, but She chooses to, as Revelations puts it, go into the wilderness and wait for us to be ready to receive her rather than force herself upon us. Fortunately, many are now prepared to receive her. Those who are looking are finding her in scripture and in other texts and artifacts and especially in the Book of Mormon.

  71. Thanks, Jason. This is important and well said.

  72. Clark, I appreciate your sincerity. I’ve read many of your comment over the years and you seem to be a good guy. The LDS church, indeed, the world, is made up of good men who sincerely believe that the inequities and violence uniquely facing women are a secondary problem. Until you and all the good men I know start making real decisions to change sexist practices in our culture, we’re going to keep hearing all kinds of excuses justifying the status quo.

  73. Clark Goble says:

    Note that I do think we have to change our sexist practice. My point is that some things can only be done by God and we can’t do it. Talk about the public sphere and I’m all with you although we might differ in the details and how to balance other values we need to maintain. In the church though I think there are things we can do and things that only God can do.

  74. “I think if you compare the church today to the church in the 50’s we’re doing much better.”

    Clark, you lost me right there. You need to do some reading before offering more lengthy abstract opinions. In the 50s, women controlled their own budgets and curriculum, published a monthly magazine, ran a few hospitals… We have massively regressed in terms of women’s opportunities in the Church.

  75. “My point is that some things can only be done by God and we can’t do it. ”

    I’m unclear on what that means. This Church may have Christ at the head, but everyone else involved is a mortal. I’m of the opinion that a heck of a lot of things can be done without the finger of the Lord inscribing a policy. Like, going back to at least the level of influence and ecclesiastical power wielded by women while Joseph Smith was alive.

  76. Clark, I think you’re missing something crucial. This isn’t simply a matter of whether we have an egalitarian system along the lines of the evolution of our liberal democracy. It’s not a question about female bishops. This is a core theological question: are women people? The silence about HM, along with the gender relations outlined in the temple, point to a disturbing but very real possibility: that women don’t exist or have power in their own right in the eternities, but are simply appendages to men. I find God’s apparent silence on the matter deeply, deeply disturbing, and something that we should be raising questions about. Maybe it’s true that a change would require revelation–but given what’s at stake, why not clamor for that revelation?

  77. Clark Goble says:

    Steve, what delineates what can be done? (Serious question) Even if there were practices and the brethren stopped those practices I’m not sure we can say we can just of our own accord change it again. In any case I think what matters is whether the brethren feel inspired to think that such changes require revelation. So it’s kind of like debating what is constitutional. We may have strong opinions but ultimately the courts decide what is constitutional. In this case the brethren decide what’s policy and easy to change versus what requires more divine guidance.

    My own view is that if a major formal change happens that it requires revelation to change it again. Likewise if there isn’t a revelation and it’s a major formal change it requires revelation.

    Don’t get me wrong. I want revelation. I think people are just seeing all this as a somewhat arbitrary human organization and thus open to human change the way all our other institutions are. I just don’t think I can buy that. If it is a divine institution we ought be careful about what we do.

    That said as I outlined there are lots of changes I think we easily could and should make.

  78. Clark Goble says:

    Lynette, I just dispute whether that is the question since of course everyone agrees women are people. The problem is that under most (but not all) interpretations no one has power in their own right. If one buys into the major King Follet Discourse interpretation of deification then not even the Father has power in his own right. We always are already in a relationship with people above and below us when deified. In this interpretation the type is Christ who always operates under the Father.

    If “being on our own” is the criteria for personhood then I first think that a deeply problematic criteria (probably influenced by the American emphasis on an irreducible self). I find philosophically that very conception of self to be wrong. I recognize it is a widespread view that underlies a lot of intuitions. In any case if that is the criteria then no man is a person either.

  79. “I just dispute whether that is the question since of course everyone agrees women are people.”

    Then why don’t we have a Church that reflects that position? Why are gender relations in the temple and elsewhere so dehumanizing towards women? Why do we speak reverently of HM but have her consigned to no particular role whatsoever? I’m sure you’re right that everyone would say that women are people. But we’re not acting like it.

    As for what delineates what can be done, we can learn a lot by looking at the history of what happened in 1978. We can do a lot. The brethren can do whatever they feel inspired to do. But they need to feel inspired to ask.

  80. Clark,
    I can see how you say that from an historical view, many of today’s feminist problems are minor. But, if we look from an eternal perspective instead of an historical perspective things seem a little bleaker. In our doctrine, men are given a pretty solid place in the eternities. Women’s place is up for debate, and I agree with others who have said that the most recent essays seem to re enforce the idea that in the eternities women play the supporting role to their God husbands. If my Heavenly Mother is not a Goddess then I literally have no hope of becoming one myself. All the problems we have in even the most sexist countries are but a blip of our existence. But all women, no matter what part of the world they come from, are destined to be eternal tools that men can use at their disposal. I don’t actually believe that this is true, but I can’t help but feel that it is the doctrine of the Church I am trying hard to believe in.

  81. “I just dispute whether that is the question since of course everyone agrees women are people”

    I think that’s maybe one of the miscommunications going on here. Because everyone doesn’t actually agree about that. The unfortunate thing is that you can make the case that in the context of LDS teaching and practice, women aren’t people. Put another way, it’s not clear that God thinks women are people. And going back to the OP, that’s more than an entertaining intellectual puzzle–it’s a potentially devastating possibility. You seem to not think that it’s possible that that’s really a question for anyone, but trust me, it is.

  82. Everyone agrees that women are people, I just think that not everyone agrees on what that means. There are many who think women are people of a different type than men. For these people it makes utter and complete sense that women have different roles. Women are separate but equal. What they mean by that is that women aren’t really the same kind of people as men and so it’s okay if we don’t have the same kind of exaltation. And, of course, since women are a different type of people than men it makes perfect sense that they love their place (or at least should love their place) even if a man wouldn’t love that place.

  83. Clark Goble says:

    EBK, just to be clear I was more referring to our judgements of God and what he has to explain in terms of evils. If this life is a probationary test then we are intentionally placed in a society that is evil for a reason. Likewise God is silent about most things for a reason. My point is just that compared to living in 1st century Palestine we have an amazing abundance of knowledge and freedom. Yes we don’t know much about the eternities, but that seems by design.

    I certainly think all want more revealed about our future. The question really is over how independent we are. My rejoinder is that none of us are independent. So I think the problem is how we are looking at this. To say this is “eternal tools that men can use at their disposal” misses the nature of divine being. That is it attempts to judge God in terms of the way power is exercised here.

    This is not a minor point but gets at the heart of the perception of power. If the way power is supposed to be exercised is an inverted triangle rather than the usual hierarchal triangle of power exercise we encounter in this world then this is no small matter but gets at the fundamental heart of our theology.

    Even regarding the relationship between Adam and Eve, as I noted (in one of the two threads – can’t remember which) the way in which marriage relations are in practice has changed a great deal. (For the better I think we can all agree) Does that affect how we view Adam and Eve? It should. For even those who fear that the kind of relation Eliza R. Snow taught might be true, I’d simply note that in Eliza and Brigham’s theology this came upon Eve only as part of the fall. When we undo the fall that would be removed. For those of us who simply think Brigham and Eliza wrong then this isn’t even an issue.

    Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand why people make these interpretations. I think both the endowment and also church teaching on this should be clearer. I just don’t think these interpretations are correct.

  84. Clark Goble says:

    Lynette, again I think the dispute is more over what it means to be a person. That is we’re taking an assumption about the meaning of personhood (which I find problematic) and then critiquing God in terms of that. I understand those who have deep held views on what it means to be a person getting upset on this. My point is really to question the presuppositions this critique is based upon. I think they’re just plain wrong and arise out of how Descartes and Locke’s notion of the individual was taken up in American culture.

    Steve, again I think the issue is that some things need revelation to change. Further I disagree that the endowment is “deeply dehumanizing.” I think there’s a cultural jolt. Some things that our culture had difficulty with (or were more accidental masonic trappings) have already been eliminating. I suspect there will be more changes in the future.

    Regarding 1978, as I mentioned I think people are making assumptions that their ideas of what to change are correct. I think there’s a lot of critiquing the church in terms of cultural views without questioning the other direction. Thus the move for more pressure. Yet certainly on some key points (such as the meaning of personhood) I think critiques are themselves wrong. On other points I think changes should be made but again many things require clear revelation. (Again looking at 1978 should show us that revelation can take time)

  85. Clark–the problem is not with the conception of a person. It’s that whatever conception you choose, a woman is LESS of a person than a man in LDS doctrine and practice. This is not about Western Post-Enlightenment Liberalism run amok, it’s a far more basic question about fairness.

  86. A lot of the problem lies in the lack of reciprocity. Women’s access to God is mediated through men, and not vice versa. Women are created for men, and not vice versa. Women are said to be given to men to enable them to attain their full potential, and not vice versa. Whatever understanding of personhood you have, the situation is lopsided.

  87. Clark,
    “I think the dispute is more over what it means to be a person.”

    The dispute is whether or not it means the same thing for men and for women. I don’t think that LDS doctrine teaches that it means the same thing.

    Also, you are arguing under the assumption that the lack of independence that you are likely to experience as a man is the same as the lack of independence I am likely to experience as a woman. That’s the key. I don’t think that the problem is that we are going to be dependent. I think it is essential to the gospel that we are dependent on both Christ and each other. The problem is that there is a disparity in the dependency. Men are kings and priests to God and women are queens and priestesses to men. This is not the same type of dependency. The relationship between man and woman is the same as the relationship between God and man. The only way that works for men and women to be equal is if we believe men and God are equal. I find no evidence that this is the case. Now you can argue that this type of language may one day be removed. I hope that it will. But we have to work with the knowledge we currently have. That knowledge is that men and women are not equal in the eternities. So either this is true, or we need to seek changes.

    I agree with you that blaming God for bad things that are happening in the world is useless. I don’t think that God is sexist, but how do I reconcile that with the idea that His church is deeply sexist and removing the sexist doctrine would require rewriting some of our most basic beliefs?

  88. It was nice of Clark to provide such a compelling example of the very problem Jason describes in the post: “I think it’s easy to risk getting too cerebral with this stuff—especially for men. Sure, we have skin in the game, but not in the same way that our sisters do. It’s easy for talk of Heavenly Mother to become an intellectual puzzle, and for us to get caught up in the thrill of moving the pieces around.”

  89. Clark,

    What Cynthia said. You “disagree that the temple is ‘deeply dehumanizing.'” Well, maybe for you it isn’t, and that’s great, but you can’t trot out a concept like that as the objective truth in a way that negates the existential angst that the temple induces in some of the sisters (and, I’ll add, in men who learn to see it through their eyes).

    If I could sum up the OP in one sentence: the pastoral trumps the theological every time. I kind of think that’s Jesus 101. Care of souls, all the way down. Regrettably, it is a point of debate whether women’s souls matter. Well, they do to me.

  90. Paige, I’m late to the party but thanks for your comment.

  91. Jason, thanks so much for this essay. It’s surprising to me to really sit back and realize that there have been so few times in my church life that a man has stood back and said, “please, tell me how you feel and what you’ve been thinking, I won’t interrupt, or interpret.” Your essays help me to realize that sometimes instead of working to make my voice be heard, maybe I just need to work to be listened to. It seems there are many willing to do so, thank you for setting that example. I think that by equaling out the conversations and listening on both sides, that is how we invite a Heavenly Mother back into our spiritual context.

  92. Clark Goble says:

    Jason, that’s rather my point. What people feel they feel. There’s no going around that. But to say the temple is deeply dehumanizing is to go beyond that and to make claims about what everyone feels. I don’t think most people feel deeply dehumanized by the temple. That doesn’t mean people don’t have bad experiences there. Clearly they do.

    If we move beyond what people feel then that gets into a more complicated discussion of why we make the interpretations – often at an intuitive level – that we do. That’s a more difficult discussion because it inherently means that the context the individual brings to the experience matters a great deal.

    The question is then how can we share a message (a communication) as broadly as possible. With religious ritual this gets trickier because often symbolism is supposed to persist through time and across cultures. Yet our culture is vastly different from most cultures in the history of the world. Certainly how we view our relationship with other humans (our individuality) is different. Also how we view many other things such as covenant making is different. It seems to me that elements of the endowment that were (IMO) genuinely ancient have been removed precisely because they were no longer functioning well in our culture. (Think symbolic curses – a rather ubiquitous part of ancient promising and covenanting but removed in the 1990’s)

    To be clear I’m completely open to the brethren under inspiration changing the endowment and a lot else even when the parts are ancient. However I think the way the discussion goes is that the brethren are wrong or worse if they don’t change it on their own. That’s the part I have grave difficulty with. I also think there has to be a balancing between the range of ways people react to particular symbols. Again, it’s that range that I think is getting neglected in the discussion. Recognizing a range of reaction in no way ignores the very real negative experiences some have.

  93. Clark Goble says:

    EBK (9:54) I don’t think I’m making those assumptions at all. Again, to me the real issue is how we judge symbols/texts. Further in drawing an interpretation what presuppositions are we bringing to the text. It’s precisely there that I think many people disagree. I also think it quite wrong and dismissive to say this divide is along gender lines. In speaking with my wife on this issue she had much stronger opinions than I on the matter and quite different from yours. It’s rather dismissive to portray ones own very real experiences and reactions as if they represented all of a group. Again it’s that issue that I think gets neglected in all this. When only one type of reaction is judged to be authentic (either by men, women, orthodox, feminist, conservative etc.) something is wrong.

  94. I agree with the other commenters that said no matter how you frame your conception of personhood, women seem to be lesser persons in the eternities. The church keeps saying equality isn’t sameness. What they fail to mention is that in some contexts it is exactly that. There are some simple questions that should have simple answers if men and women are equal. Am I a joint heir with Christ, as is promised in the Bible? Will I receive all that the Father has? According to the parable of the workers in the vineyard, all of God’s righteous children should receive the exact same inheritance. Unfortunately if the temple is taken literally and at face value, then the answer to these questions is no. I will not receive the same blessings as my husband. I seemingly cannot receive all that the Father has. But men can, so how are we equal? I don’t actually believe this is true. But with the temple and other church teachings, this is the message that is being communicated.

  95. Clark,
    I never implied that all women feel the same way that I do. In fact, most of my claims were prefaced with “I think” not “all women think.” I am perfectly aware that not all women feel the same way I do, and that in fact I am most likely in the minority. I was not trying to say that opinions divide along gender lines. I do think that it is harder to understand the importance of some things when you have not experienced them yourself. I think this is true of all people, not just men. I acknowledge that problems that some women experience with our doctrine surrounding women may be less important to you than to me and I think that’s okay, but to claim that these are minor issues in the grand scheme of things is what I take issue with.
    I do think that you bring assumptions to your argument, as do I. Everyone has underlying assumptions and I just pointed what I believe one of your assumptions is that I fundamentally disagree with. I personally believe that the best way for two people who disagree to at least understand each other is to break down their assumptions until they can get to a point that they both agree and build from there. I may be incorrect that you are assuming that men and women experience the same dependence, but that’s what it sounds like in your argument. You argue that my interpretation of the temple and LDS doctrine is incorrect because I am assuming that men will be independent and women will be dependent. You state that is incorrect because men will be dependent too. My argument doesn’t hinge on men being independent. It hinges on men and women having a different sort of exaltation.

  96. Also Clark,
    I am not trying to argue that the temple endowment has to be changed or the brethren are wrong. I would just like them to realize the implications of not changing it. There have been many changes in the past and the fact that the problematic issues that many women face in the temple have not been changed means something. If the brethren have prayed about it and there is a reason to leave those things in the ceremonies then that implies something essential about women. I would like it if people who see no problem with this could at least understand how that comes across to many women. If the brethren want to keep it that way, I wish there could be some acknowledgement that men and women are not given the same blessings in the temple and that there is either a good reason for it or we don’t know the reason for it. When every time I attempt to discuss this with leadership and I am told that it doesn’t matter what the words say, I am misunderstanding the symbolism and somehow the words don’t mean what they say and women really are equal, that comes off as extremely condescending. If you have an issue with the sexist language in the temple, you are just not righteous enough to understand the symbolism. If we really believe that women need to hearken to their husbands in the temple then why do we pretend like that’s not what we believe outside of the temple?

  97. 1000x amen to all of EBK.

  98. your food allergy is fake says:

    Isn’t the temple about our present situation on the path to the after-life? Why do we assume that women covenanting to their husbands in this life reflects the nature of relationships in the after-life?

  99. Clark–it isn’t about how women feel or how they “intuitively” interpret the temple ritual. There are actual words there, and concepts, and things we can interpret by logic and all the nice tools your favorite philosophers use. There’s no need to make this a matter of atomized, emotional hermeneutics; the closest thing to the plain text of the temple, or the latest round of Conference talks on women, or (for gods’ sake!) Section 132 make it abundantly clear that women’s status is different from men’s and contingent on men’s will in ways that raise serious questions about their eternal ontology. Making it about women’s feelings is the oldest (and cruelest) trick in the book for dismissing actual, substantive, intellectual issues. Stop doing that.

  100. YFAIF: why do we assume that it’s about our present situation, either?

  101. YFAIF: tens of thousands of single women attend the temple; what meaning can the temple possibly have to them if it is solely about mortality?

  102. Clark Goble says:

    Kristine, I was arguing against making it just about women’s feelings. My point is that what someone feels in response is always true for them in the sense they actually feel what they feel. However if we talk about the meaning of a text that clearly can’t be enough. So it’s the other commenters you’re really arguing with. My point is that even if we deal just with response those who have negative responses clearly aren’t the only people whose responses matter.

    My point was that if we are to talk about the endowment or related issues we have to consider more. If I recall I was then told that I was a perfect example of how men are able to over intellectualize things because we don’t have those experiences or because of privilege. So it seems I get it from both sides. (grin)

    I think we have to deal respectfully with the pluralism of responses yet also recognize that what matters is more than this. I’d argue that the key aspect is the typical interpretation. What some might call the public or corporate meaning. However I also think we have to pay attention to the fact that these texts work across several contexts. We have to be careful not to let one context dominate.

    Now as to the other issues, I fully agree the fact something hasn’t been changed means something. It’s just not clear to me what it means. It might mean that the process of receiving revelation is incomplete. It might mean that God doesn’t want it changed yet. It might mean that the brethren aren’t paying enough attention. My question is how on earth we discern which is which?

    You say, “it doesn’t matter what the words say, I am misunderstanding the symbolism and somehow the words don’t mean what they say and women really are equal, that comes off as extremely condescending.” But if the text is ancient in some measure, isn’t this the same problem as reading scripture? What gets called the fundamentalst or literalist misreading of scripture is when we assume the scripture was written as if by a contemporary. It leads to misreadings. Yet now you’re saying that these common ways of reading are the only way to read the endowment. Surely we can’t have it both ways? Either these other contexts matter or they don’t.

    Now of course texts are easy to misread. It doesn’t take long in Sunday School to see that people read most scripture wrong rather regularly. However if we are to completely change the endowment so people from a particular background can’t misinterpret it, doesn’t it follow the same way we should do the same with scripture? Or am I missing something here?

  103. Clark Goble says:

    Mary, in the various places we’re told we’re joint heirs with Christ aren’t we also seen as under him in terms of authority, faith, and even adoptive son/daughtership? It seems like what you’re saying is to be equal there can be no hierarchy at all. Yet it seems all scriptures of God/Christ entail a hierarchy. That’s independent of the gender issues.

    The underlying assumption seems to be that hierarchy is logically opposed to equality. I recognize that’s an assumption many hold. Are we able to question that assumption? (Again I think it a characteristic assumption of a certain strain of American individualism)

    It seems to me that this holds just as equally to men. I will always in terms of priesthood have to give an account of my stewardship to someone. I’ll always have a certain hierarchal relationship to my parents (both of them) in terms of our theology as I understand it.

    If the underlying complaint is just about hierarchies could we be clear on it? If hierarchies aren’t a problem, then what’s the complaint?

    I’m not trying to be argumentative here. Quite the opposite. I’m earnestly trying to understand the assumptions people are bringing to these issues.

  104. Clark Goble says:

    EBK, why do you assume they don’t understand the implications of not changing it? It seems to me, again looking at 1978, that the brethren then understood the problem even if they felt they couldn’t change it until a revelation was given.

  105. it's a series of tubes says:

    There are some simple questions that should have simple answers if men and women are equal. Am I a joint heir with Christ, as is promised in the Bible? Will I receive all that the Father has? According to the parable of the workers in the vineyard, all of God’s righteous children should receive the exact same inheritance. Unfortunately if the temple is taken literally and at face value, then the answer to these questions is no

    Being a man, I hesitate to post in this thread, but my heart is breaking to see the pain experienced by so many women regarding this topic, particularly in relation to the temple.

    Mary, I don’t have much to offer in response to your questions, but it is my personal belief that to the degree the uncanonized temple endowment ceremony (or an interpretation of that ceremony) conflicts with clear statements of Christ and others in the standard works regarding men and women being equal joint heirs with Christ and inheriting all that God has, then as between the two, I choose to believe that the ceremony is inaccurate, incomplete, or deficient.

    Christ has promised you everything, and in and through Him, you will have it. Trust in Him and don’t let anyone, or anything, in the Church cause you to believe otherwise. It’s not true. The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel, and he employeth NO SERVANT THERE. It’s Christ, and Christ alone, and no one stands between you and Him.

  106. Clark: you are a magnificent commenting beast. If I were you, I’d sit back a little and just read the comments for a while. Don’t you ever change, you crazy diamond.

  107. Clark, there should be no hierarchy between a husband and wife. I have no issue with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother being above me for eternity or however you would phrase it. Having any sort of hierarchy isn’t inherently unequal. The issue is the potential of God’s children, which is supposed to be the same regardless of gender. A hierarchy where the man is put above the woman for eternity when they both supposedly should receive the same power, authority, privileges, God-like attributes, etc. is not equal.

    It’s a series,
    Thank you for your heartfelt empathetic reply. Thank you for truly listening and for your reassurance. I have a strong relationship with my Heavenly Father, and I know He loves me. I know that Christ suffered for all of my sins, pains, and sicknesses. Because I have faith in God, faith in who I am, and faith in my potential and the revelation God has given me, I am so frustrated with the messages about gender that I see in the temple and other church teachings. I really don’t know how to reconcile some of these things.

  108. Tubes – Also thank you from all of anonymous women who are quietly watching these conversations happen and hoping/praying for change. I too believe that the problems with the temple narrative and current gender practices in the church are ‘of man’ and not ‘of God.’ If I didn’t, I think I’d end up going crazy.

  109. “Having any sort of hierarchy isn’t inherently unequal. The issue is the potential of God’s children, which is supposed to be the same regardless of gender. A hierarchy where the man is put above the woman for eternity when they both supposedly should receive the same power, authority, privileges, God-like attributes, etc. is not equal”

    You are somewhat contradicting yourself here when you first say that hierarchy isn’t inherently unequal, then say that a hierarchy in which a man is put above a woman in eternity is not equal.

    Women DO receive the same power, authority, privileges, and God-like attributes as men in the eternities. Men don’t get “more”; they receive them together as couple and only as couples. The point Clark makes is that, for example, Jesus is not any less exalted than the Father because he is subordinate. Neither would women be if subordinate to their husbands.

    No doubt, however, that women have practically no major roles in the gospel narrative. None in the pre-earth council in heaven, in the scriptures (nearly), or in the church. Scriptures often imply that the subordination of women is a consequence of the fall, particularly in that Eve was deceived and disobeyed first. Of course, the consequences of the fall are to be redeemed, so it follows then that if that’s the case, then it may well be that women being in a subordinate role applies solely to mortality. In the eternities, will more closely match the pre-fall conditions in which Adam and Eve were ideally to be “one flesh”.

    In any case, it’s pretty hard to come to any other conclusion from scripture that there are definite gender roles in the highest order of the celestial kingdom. Women’s role is primarily that of nurturing their children. Indeed, the whole source of joy for exalted couples seems to be in having children and raising them (the Abrahamic covenant is basically that he is promised to have a lot of decedents). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it may not appeal t

    It’s a two-way street, also. As I man, I’ve thought about how I’ll never know what it’s like to carry a child and give birth. I can not know how it feels to hold that child for the first time. There are ways in which I have envied women and mildly resented being confined to a male experience.

    But you know what? Men get to enjoy women, women get to enjoy men, everyone gets companionship, and c’mon… sex is pretty awesome! I have to assume that it’s a superior existence to be divided into complimentary genders that lack individually as opposed to androgynous entities that lack nothing. I suppose we just have to trust that Jesus does all he can do give us that which will make us the most happy we can be, whatever station that lands us in.

  110. Wow, just when I thought this thread couldn’t get any more openly hostile to women.

  111. Men: in case you missed it in the OP (and it was the entire point of the OP), dropping in on the thread to pontificate about women’s place in theological schema as you understand them is a bad idea. Being 100% convinced that you’re right isn’t enough. You’ll have plenty of chances to be right on other occasions. Just this once, at least, why not try listening to what women have to say? Sit with their words without saying something back for a change.

  112. I believe Eso and Clark’s perspective is shared by at least 95% of church leadership (both male and female). Which is why the essays are tone deaf at best and condescending and dismissive at worst. I think the Mormon church as an organization is so effective at justifying and using sexism because on the whole Mormons are just so darn -nice- and apologetic about the whole thing. The reason why the temple was so jarring to me is that the cultural niceties that make Mormon sexism more palatable in practice are stripped away, and women are treated as you would expect to see in any other patriarchal religion.

  113. your food allergy is fake says:

    Steve 3:32 “why do we assume it is about our present situation ..”
    Because it begins with the Fall and ends with going through a veil. Sounds like mortality to me. We know nothing about what’s on the other side of the veil, except that there’s usually a big chandelier and some nice decorative plants.

  114. YFAIF, I agree that it’s telling a story that takes place during mortal lives. But do I take it as actually descriptive of my mortal life and human relationships? Not really. My marriage is very different from the male/female interaction in the temple.

  115. Thanks Jason K for reminding everyone what this discussion is about.

    I guess I just didn’t understand before, but I’m so relieved to have a man explain to me that even though women will be subordinate to their husbands, they are still equal. Because the relationship between a husband and wife is totally parallel to the relationship between a father and son :)

  116. ESO,

    Scriptures often imply that the subordination of women is a consequence of the fall, particularly in that Eve was deceived and disobeyed first. Of course, the consequences of the fall are to be redeemed, so it follows then that if that’s the case, then it may well be that women being in a subordinate role applies solely to mortality. In the eternities, will more closely match the pre-fall conditions in which Adam and Eve were ideally to be “one flesh”.

    This is classic Brigham Young/Eliza Snow curse-of-Eve justification. (Snark) It’s so great that men are not punished for Adam’s transgressions, but women are still paying for Eve’s brave choice.(/Snark)

  117. Clark Goble says:

    I’m going to drop out of the discussion. But I think many are missing what I’m arguing. We have a perception of what hierarchy means based upon power relations in our fallen world. The type of hierarchy we see in politics, corporations, and so forth. I simply don’t think that is the type of hierarchy we have with Christ or our heavenly parents. So I think we’re reading a view of what hierarchy means from the world which is engendered by our biology and Satan and then reading the temple and our relationship to God in terms of it. I think that incorrect. Rather than trying to understand what God is teaching us about relations we instead impose this worldly view on the gospel. The lesson that Christ taught when he washed the disciples feet is lost.

  118. Clark, let me suggest that it’s possible that others have been listening to you and understanding you very well, but you have utterly failed to really listen to the women in this thread. And in a thread about how men don’t do a good job of listening to women’s perspectives, that’s pretty sad and ironic.

  119. I can’t help noticing that the defenders of hierarchy are almost invariably the ones who are in a higher position in it. And I simply can’t buy the “power=service so it’s okay for women to be subordinate” argument

    “Women DO receive the same power, authority, privileges, and God-like attributes as men in the eternities. Men don’t get “more”; they receive them together as couple and only as couples. The point Clark makes is that, for example, Jesus is not any less exalted than the Father because he is subordinate. Neither would women be if subordinate to their husbands.”

    Ouch. As Mary said, it’s problematic to parallel the parent-child relationship that God has to us with the husband-wife relationship. Are wives fated to be eternally in the same relation to their husbands that their husbands are to God? Unfortunately, it’s not too much of a stretch to get that from our current teachings and liturgy. But I don’t see how women get the same power, authority, and privileges as men if they’re in a subordinate position; by definition, men have more power in that situation.

    What really bothers me is the possibility that men inherit all things–and women are one of the things that men inherit. If you think that’s crazy, re-read D&C 132.

  120. Sadly in many respects, we haven’t moved one iota from the attitudes that pervaded the Church and society in the 1800s.
    Eliza R. Snow and The Woman Question.

  121. Clark,
    Your argument is a classic religious argument: your ways are not my ways. Here on earth we don’t understand what God and the afterlife are like. While I agree with all that, you are still coming with the assumption that the system which gives you power and privilege is right and good and Godly and will be the order of heaven. My assumption is that the system of heaven gives no one privilege, especially based on things over which they have no control. What it really boils down to is, “Sorry I have all the power. God gave it to me. If you understood the gospel you would be okay with it. Don’t worry though, once you get the celestial kingdom you will understand and love it.” I believe Hawkgrrrl would call that a Celestial lobotomy.

  122. crazywomancreek says:

    Before I poke somebody in the eye (and to be clear I am an inveterate eye poker with no intention of reforming) I like to do a quick check if my own eye needs poking too. Inevitably, it does.
    For instance, when I say “women” do I really mean, “women” or would it be more accurate to say “white women,” because that is really who I am conceptualizing and addressing? Sometimes the thing I need to change is the addition of the word “white” because if I say “women received the vote in Wyoming” it is both factually inaccurate and erases the experience of non-white women. Sometimes the thing that needs to change is my own conceptualizing. If I say “women should enjoy equal status in the church” but I’ve only ever thought about how this effects and is manifested in the experiences of white women, the charge is for me to re-conceptualize and make sure that “women” means “women”. Otherwise I’ve added a silent -ish to my pronouncement, right?
    Likewise when you say “women are human,” but follow it up with justifications for why they don’t deserve equal treatment what I hear you as really saying is “women are human…ish.” And that really isn’t good enough. And I want to poke you in the eye. (-ish)

  123. “Are wives fated to be eternally in the same relation to their husbands that their husbands are to God?”

    Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. In an exalted sense, if the husband is to be exalted like a Heavenly Father, a woman is required. If a woman is to be exalted like a Heavenly Mother, a man is required. So, to answer your question, and to refer back to that scripture I just quoted, yes, a faithful woman’s eternal destiny and divine potential is to be joined in a relationship with and to their husband. And vice versa.

    Getting caught up in linking the woman through the man in exaltation misses the crowning aspect of our faith and reduces it to a debased misunderstanding of the celestial kingdom, which some appear to thing consists of a man lording over the important things while the wife sweeps the celestial kitchen. I’s nonsense to conceive and projects our misunderstanding of roles in mortality into the eternities.

    When Eve made the choice that brought about the fall, Adam went with her. His life in the garden would literally have no purpose without her. You might ask, is a husband eternally fated to have their eternal blessings linked to the righteousness of their wife? (un)Fortunately(!) the answer is YES. You won’t ask that because you appear to project sexism as a one-way street. But both genders are in this together.

  124. As far as I can tell, women are in the same position in 2015 as blacks before 1978. Women are still responsible for Eve’s transgression in our mortal existence (cue the painful child birth and other various and sundry punishments and indignities), which will be rectified after we die and are resurrected. Blacks in 1978 were still responsible for being the less valiant fence sitters in the war in heaven, so they weren’t allowed to be full participants in the LDS church. If they could faithfully sit at the back of the bus, so to speak, however, they too could be resurrected and join all the white Mormons in the Celestial Kingdom. Works for me.

  125. GY,
    Do you realize that your entire response didn’t once address the actual question that you quoted at the top? The question referenced whether or not women have the same type of relationships with their husbands as their husbands have to God – meaning will women be priestesses to God or to their husbands? Your response that men need women for salvation and women need men for salvation does not address this issue.

  126. “As far as I can tell, women are in the same position in 2015 as blacks before 1978. Women are still responsible for Eve’s transgression in our mortal existence (cue the painful child birth and other various and sundry punishments and indignities), which will be rectified after we die and are resurrected.”

    I’d be delighted if we could back to the nineteenth century theological ideas that we need to work towards finding ways to repair that “responsibility.” (Although I strongly dislike that women are bound under a responsibility that the 2nd Article of Faith erases for men.) Jettisoning the polygamy influences, of course. See here for some discussion of those ideas.

  127. Burt Macklin says:

    Many Mormons I know just can’t see that the religion they love and experience as compassionate and welcoming is tainted with the same kind of sexism that people are so quick to criticize in other religions, because the lived experience of many women and men in the LDS Church is that they interact with good people who have good intentions. Mormon niceness and wholesomeness creates an effective cover and a huge blind spot in our culture for otherwise obviously hurtful statements and sexist practices that simply would not be tolerated in other contexts. You can pretty much say anything using the Primary Voice or the Priesthood Voice with a smile and get away with it. Bill Burr has a great routine about the Duck Dynasty guy and this kind of a thing.

  128. Thanks to all–especially women–who shared your perspectives in this thread. I think it’s time to close comments.