Saturday, June 17, 2006

New writer added to the blog

In the next few days, a new blogger/essay writer will make his debut on our site as a full member of our team. Going by the moniker of Larscapo, he is sure to stir things up a bit. He is a good friend of both Darth_ender and myself. In fact, I have known Larscapo for ten years, and in that time, I have watched him master the skill of writing. Hopefully, you will enjoy his writing as much as we do.

Ideologically , we three are very different, representing different ends of the spectrum. We three are different enough to cover the spectrum of Mormon thinking. Since we are adding a third to the blog, it seemed an appropriate time to cover the philosophical point of view of all three of us.

Darth_ender is more conservative, both politically and religiously. He is a firm believer in aligning one’s self to the prophets, although he admits that they are human and are sometimes wrong. He considers himself open-minded and soft-hearted, and tries to be sympathetic to the differences and plights of others. While somewhat a traditionalist, Darth_ender is willing to explore and debate ideas that are different from his own. His essays tend to be doctrinally based and quote the scriptures heavily, but he is usually willing to push the envelope of LDS thought.

On the extreme other side, Larscapo tends to be liberal, progressive and somewhat of an anarchist. Politically, although he started out on the right (when I first met him), he has shifted more and more to the left, and currently considers himself an Anarchist. Religiously, he can be regarded as a progressive Mormon. He has been working on a essay for several months that I hope to see posted here, explaining his point of view much better than I could do. Although I have not seen many essays on Mormon topics from him, I know Larscapo’s interests tend to lie in political realms, and suspect that he will write from that perspective as often as not. Also, since he is working on a PhD in history, I suspect a historical/political slant in his doctrinal essays is likely.

As for my own viewpoint, I tend to be in the middle. I am a centrist. Politically, I am a cynic who does not believe politicians have my best interests at heart, no matter what they say. I am not truly able to accept the platform of any party, so I am an independent at heart. In practical terms, I try to find the common ground between the extremes. I can usually see both sides of any argument and believe there can be merit to both sides. Religiously, I am not as cynical, but I recognize that people make mistakes, whether they be politicians, prophets, citizens or church members. While I have strong beliefs about the church and the doctrine, I also have concerns and doubts. I explore human foibles, both in writing and in my career (as a future mental health counselor, as soon as I graduate and get licensure), so it should be no surprise that I see the human foibles in religion, too. Despite some cynicism, I am a humanist. My essays tend to make commentary on social issues in the church, but I also have my heavy doctrinal essays, as well. I have been known to use satire, as well.

We three make up the core team on this blog (although we reserve the right to have guest bloggers and adding other people to the team in the future, should the occasion warrant it). Our main focus here will continue to be essays that probe the depths of Mormon doctrine and thinking. Thoughtful comments are always welcome.

The ideological differences between us are pretty pronounced, yet we remain good friends. We have an upcoming project in which all three of us will be writing about the same topic from our various perspectives. You shall see how different our thinking is in the next few days.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I've a Mother There--Our Mother in Heaven

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

The references to her tend to be vague, but throughout the history of the Church, we have been taught that we have a Mother in Heaven.

Looking at the quote above, the leaders in 1995 once again alluded to our “heavenly parents,” obviously consisting of our Heavenly Father, and presumably of our Heavenly Mother. But all through the history of the restored Church, her existence has been affirmed.

The first real indication of her being may have been during the King Follett Discourse. In that supreme dissertation on the nature of God, Joseph Smith made it clear that God was once a man. But he continued to grow and progress until he became our God and Father. We, being children of God, are filled with the same potential: to one day be like God (see my essay My Father, My God, part I for further discussion in this vein). Through celestial marriage, men and women joined together may receive the same exaltation that their Father before them received (D&C 131:1-3). Taken as a whole, these doctrines logically conclude that there is a Mother in Heaven.

From thence, Church leaders and other prominent figures have made remarks, written songs and poetry, and in other ways portrayed our Heavenly Mother. Eliza R. Snow, one of the great hymnists of the latter days, wrote “O My Father,” of which penned lyrics President Wilford Woodruff said that were inspired .

In the heavens are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare.
Truth is reason: truth eternal
Tells me I've a mother there.

We even have cases where Church leaders have come out and explicitly made mention of her.

“They come from their eternal Father and their eternal Mother unto whom they were born in the eternal world, and they will be restored to their eternal parentage” (Journal of Discourses 18:31, Wilford Woodruff).

“We have a mother in heaven. We are the offspring of God. He is our Father, and we have a Mother in the other life as well” (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.191).

But the doctrine was never made official until 1909, when the First Presidency made an official declaration on the nature of mankind.“All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” (The First Presidency--Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund, The Origin of Man, 1909)

Though inconclusive, there are hints in the scriptures of her existence. Let’s look at a biblical example first. But to analyze this, we will first recall that in John 1, Christ is called the Word, or the Word of God. “Word” is personified in Jesus Christ. He represents God the Father and was sent to Earth to fulfill his Father’s will, much as our words represent us and declare our will.

Is it possible that other divine beings are represented in a similar way in the Bible? It is certainly possible, and many have postulated their theories along these lines. “Wisdom” is personified in Proverbs 1:20-33 and Proverbs 8. But Wisdom is given feminine titles: she, her, etc. Wisdom is also given maternal traits, looking upon mankind as a mother mourning for her wayward children

Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:

She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,

How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my

hand, and no man regarded;

But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my

reproof. (Proverbs 1:20-25)

In the creation accounts, we also learn an important truth: God made man in his own image, male and female (Genesis 1:26-27; Moses 2:26-27; Abraham 4:26-27). We also know that the creation was not an act by the Father alone. Modern day revelation tells us that Christ, Michael, and even all of us took part in the creation of humanity. Is it not logical that when God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26), “us” could have included his wife? And while man was created in the image of Heavenly Father, cannot one reasonably conclude that woman was created in the image of Heavenly Mother?

And numerous apocryphal/pseudapigraphal writings show that ancient sects of Judaism and Christianity believed in a feminine aspect of God or actual legitimate Goddess. The evidence of her existence is certainly there, both from ancient and modern sources.

But now we come to a controversial point. Why is she not mentioned explicitly in any canonical writings? Why is she not worshiped along with the Father? Why are those who have prayed to her, such as Janice Allred, excommunicated for their actions? Does this represent sexism on the part of our leaders? And if mothers are supposed to nurture, why, in this world where we need to feel the love of God so badly, are we not permitted to pray to our Divine Mother and feel her love and comfort?

There are many who are ready to quickly accuse the Church and its leaders over such things. But let’s take a quick look at the matter, trying to keep a more objective viewpoint.

The prevailing theory for our Mother’s silence is something along the following lines: God has his name and existence abused by mankind. He loves his wife dearly and doesn’t want her to receive the same abuse. Since knowledge of her existence is unessential to our salvation, he chose to have her remain anonymous in order to ensure that she is treated with reverence. It is to this theory that I subscribe.

Many still consider this seeming imbalance as unfair. We, as Latter-day Saints, do know of her existence. Why do we not make use of such knowledge through prayer and worship? I, myself, do not know. I do know that we are commanded not to.

But if we have a heavenly Mother as well as a heavenly Father, is it not right that we should worship the Mother of our spirits as well as the Father? No; for the Father of our spirits is at the head of His household, and his wives and children are required to yield the most perfect obedience to their great Head. It is lawful for the children to worship the King of Heaven, but not the “Queen of heaven” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 159).

Elder Pratt further states that “we are nowhere taught that Jesus prayed to His heavenly Mother.” In fact, nowhere in the scriptures is any prayer or worship of our Mother indicated. In a Regional Representative Seminar, President Hinckley stated that he could find “nowhere in the Standard Works an account where Jesus prayed other than to His Father in Heaven….I have looked in vain for any instance…[of] a prayer to our Mother in Heaven.” He went on to say that he “consider[s] it inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Cornerstones of Responsibility”).

There were some adverse reactions to then First Counselor Hinckley’s words. But what must be remembered is that the brethren are our spiritual leaders. They are whom God has chosen to receive revelation on the nature of God, worship, and Church policy. It is not our place to correct them, even if we disagree.

Women in the Church are seldom in the limelight. The priesthood is given to men, the leadership is largely given to men, the breadwinning is affirmed to be the man’s role. But does this diminish their value? I do not believe so. President Hinckley recently stated that Church doctrine states that men and women are equal, and that he actually shows a little favoritism towards his daughters (Ensign, November 2004, “The Women in Our Lives,” Gordon B. Hinckley). Though a background role may be more humble and seemingly unappreciated, it is often the backbone of any great work. The women of the Church are equal and essential. So is the relationship between our Heavenly Father and Mother.

We may still appreciate, adore and love our Mother in Heaven. The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star once stated, “It doesn't take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother….We honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal Prototype” (“Our Mother in Heaven,” 620). With this knowledge, I feel it becomes almost an obligation for someone with knowledge of their Eternal Mother to love her, though caution still must be used to keep our adoration in proper order. But when one thinks about it, we owe our eternal lives to her as much as to the Father. We should be grateful for her gift of life.

Is our Mother in Heaven demeaned by the Church’s official stance towards her? I do not believe so. In truth, I don’t know the answers to most of the questions I posed earlier, and I would be grateful for any enlightenment. All I know is that I do love and adore her. I am grateful for the part she took in my creation, and for all the unseen work that I am sure she performs. I look forward to day that I meet her and her Eternal Companion, my Heavenly Father, to be held tightly in their arms.

When I leave this frail existence,

When I lay this mortal by,

Father, Mother, may I meet you

In your royal courts on high?

Further Reading

Wikipedia entry on Heavenly Mother

Feminine Mormon Housewives blog on Heavenly Mother

"Restoring the Ancient Church," A FAIR article with a portion on the ancient evidence of Heavenly Mother

"Is There a Place for Heavenly Mother in Mormon Theology," a Sunstone article from a more liberal standpoint

Greater Things webpage on Heavenly Mother with many links

Lightplanet article on Heavenly Mother with some good quotes

"The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven," a chapter of the book Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism