Zelophehad’s Daughters

Heavenly Mother: Is This Line Secure? (or, the Heavenly Mother Catch-22)

Posted by Lynnette

The LDS church is often portrayed (and not without reason) as a highly authoritarian institution.  When the prophet speaks, you’re expected to listen.  But every Latter-day Saint knows that this comes with a significant caveat.  If you’re skeptical about something you hear, you can skip all intermediaries and go directly to God for your own answer.  Church directives come with a built-in loophole, and even with some official acknowledgment that general principles might not apply to everyone–for example, the oft-quoted comment from a talk by Boyd K. Packer that “we’d like not to take care of the exception first. We will take care of the rule first, and then we will see to the exceptions,” (which acknowledges the existence of exceptions), or the comment in the Proclamation on the Family that “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”  If you’re struggling with some practice or doctrine, you don’t have to simply swallow it; you’re expected to individually work it out with God.

It’s with this context in mind that I find the prohibition on prayer to Heavenly Mother so troubling.  Because in essence, it closes the loophole.  If we want to find out for ourselves if this is a divinely inspired directive, to whom can we go?  We can’t exactly ask her if it is in fact her will that we not talk to her.

I imagine that people are thinking at this point, it’s not as if you have nowhere to go.  You can certainly pray (in the prescribed manner) about the legitimacy of this proscription.  But the more I think about that option, the more it bothers me. Because to ask Heavenly Father if this is legitimate implicitly supports the idea that it’s his decision to make, and that communication with her must be mediated through him. If women are indeed full agents in the eternities, as I hope they are, the only way to explain Heavenly Mother’s silence is that it’s her decision.  She’s the one, therefore, who should be accountable for it, and should be the one to ask about it.

I was recently explaining our doctrine of Heavenly Mother to a non-member. He was attempting to be respectful and polite, but he was also clearly baffled. You believe in a divine feminine, but you’re not allowed to talk to her? And I have to admit that the more I attempted to explain, the stranger the situation sounded to me. I find it especially troubling given that one of the most powerful doctrines in Mormonism is that of the direct connection between the individual and the divine.

Of course, it’s possible that for a reason unknown to us, Heavenly Mother has chosen to be the silent partner and communicate to us through her husband.  It’s true that Heavenly Father often opts to communicate through others.  But that communication, as I mentioned, never rules out the possibility of bypassing those others and talking to him directly.  There’s no comparable direct line to Heavenly Mother–or at the very least, the line has been placed on the other side of a barrier that says “do not enter.” (I have to credit my sister Melyngoch for the question: Heavenly Mother, is this line secure?)

Our model of revelation is that we don’t get it until we ask for it.  What, then, are we to make of a situation in which we can’t communicate with the divine person who could give the revelation?

61 Responses to “Heavenly Mother: Is This Line Secure? (or, the Heavenly Mother Catch-22)”

  1. 1.

    Maybe She is already listening to your prayers, regardless of who you address them to. I don’t recall a specific LDS doctrinal citation or quote, but it seems that if God hears your prayers, that means the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They’re all in on the call. So if HM is up there and partakes of Godhood, She is probably already listening as well, even if She isn’t listed on the Godhead credits.

  2. 2.

    I have always felt that communicating with Heavenly Mother specifically sets up a false dichotomy in the Godhead. Our Heavenly Parents are united in parenthood.

    Moreover, we simply don’t know enough about the eternal dynamic to make definitive statements. I imagine that the leadership of the Church has asked about this, and has not been answered or at least has not been answered with a church-wide application. It couldn’t hurt to speak with a bishop or stake president earnestly about this topic, if it troubles you. They may not have the answers, but may be willing to refer you up the chain to someone who does.

    Either way, I don’t suppose it is a salvational doctrine, so if your answer ends up being “don’t worry about it right now” don’t be surprised.

    I understand that might not be the answer you are looking for. Perhaps the question doesn’t really frame your real concern: that you long to have a divine feminine source of counsel. Perhaps that would be a better phraseology to bring to Church leadership. It might seem less critical and more earnest, which would theoretically lead to better answers.

  3. 3.

    Hi Dave. Lol about the Godhead credits; maybe when we get to the next life and see the giant movie of our life there will be credits at the end.

    I certainly do hope that she’s listening; if she’s an omniscient being, it seems a logical conclusion. But that makes the situation kind of bizarre to me, if she is in fact listening but we’re not allowed to talk to directly to her.

  4. 4.

    I’ve always thought perhaps She’s being protected by Heavenly Father. Think about it…Priesthood holders are responsible for protecting their families, wives, children. The adversary has no boundaries with regard to attacking HF, the Lord, us Children, The Church.

    Perhaps if She were ‘available,’ or more prominently acknowledged, She too would be susceptible to attack. The possibility of this attack is eliminated when She’s shrouded in secrecy.

  5. 5.

    SilverRain, thanks for your perspective. I think what puzzles me about the united parenthood explanation, at least in the context of this question, is that unity, it seems to me, shouldn’t preclude talking to both people in the partnership. Otherwise unity seems to actually mean one personality being subsumed in the other.

    I’m fortunate to have an awesome bishop who is extremely sympathetic to feminist concerns, but I think local leaders–or even leaders somewhat higher up the chain–are limited in what they can say about a subject which, as you say, we have very little information. And I’m interested in the question not only as a personal concern, but also a theological question. Though I should add that I’ve appreciated the many church leaders in my life who have been willing to take such questions seriously.

  6. 6.

    Maybe we should be asking: Heavenly Father–is this line secure? It sounds like Heavenly Mother might be eavesdropping.

    Why would she need protection? Is she not strong enough for life in the universe?

  7. 7.

    You’re presuming that this lack of communication is MiH’s choice, when it seems at least as likely that this is simply a human directive. The human directive is well intentioned–after all, our pattern for prayer is the Lord’s prayer, which was directed specifically to Heavenly Father, not MiH. Still, if you’re willing to reach the conclusion that this directive is indeed human and not grounded in orders sent down from above, then you can at least privately pray to MiH. The rub is that you’re responsible for reaching that conclusion on your own, you can’t pass the buck to some priesthood leader.

  8. 8.

    Molly, I’ve encountered that idea before, but it doesn’t really sit well with me. For one thing, I would hope that a divine being wouldn’t require protection. I also don’t see any earthly situations in which mothers are protected from their children; it doesn’t make sense to me that that would be the case in the eternities. HF seems willing to endure all kinds of attacks because his relationship to us matters enough for him to be involved despite that risk; it’s hard for me to imagine that the same wouldn’t apply to HM.

  9. 9.

    the prohibition on prayer to Heavenly Mother

    I don’t know what this is specifically. Where can it be found? And how would it even be enforced regarding private prayers?

  10. 10.

    Maybe Heavenly Mother is living a monastic ideal–having already produced offspring, she’s withdrawn from external stimuli in order to meditate on the divine mysteries (herself among them). Perhaps there’s a model for nuns in Mormonism after all.

  11. 11.

    Hi Kevin! That’s a good point about the assumption that it’s her choice; I do hope that lack of communication with her children isn’t her desire. And I also believe that God often lets us get things wrong without jumping in to set us straight. But despite my frequently unorthodox views, I have to admit that I’m not actually comfortable praying to her when the church has asked us not to. (When push comes to shove, I’m sometimes surprised by my own orthopraxy!) Though of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s worthwhile to examine the difficulties posed by current church teachings.

    A bit tangentially, I attended a fascinating presentation at SMPT this spring, which included evidence that earlier church members did in fact pray to HM. And even now, we address her in song (“Father, Mother, may I greet there” in “O My Father”). That makes me think that not only the doctrinal basis, but even the historical basis, of the current proscription is somewhat tenuous, and that change is a real possibility. Though again, revelation about HM coming through a patriarchal system is not unproblematic. I’m reminded of a haunting line from the poet Adrienne Rich: “this is the oppressor’s language / yet I need it to talk to you.” How do we deal with feminist concerns in a situation in which the answers must be mediated through male authorities–thus structurally reinforcing patriarchy, even if the answers themselves are liberating? Which is maybe the question I’m really wrestling with here.

  12. 12.

    I’m inclined to believe in Heavenly Mother, and to believe that She is a divine being equal in power and authority to our Father, but I’m in agreement with the original post that there’s an institutional barrier to having a relationship with Her. Part of me really wants to embark on the journey of discovering Her, but I have this nagging (probably cultural, but I’m unsure) feeling that it’s inappropriate. Maybe I should just get over it and ask anyway. After all, James 1:5 says that if we lack wisdom and ask God, that He “upbraideth not.” It’s not like I’m going to get struck by lightning or anything.

    However, recently I’ve speculated on another potential reason that we don’t really know about Her. (I’m not saying I believe this speculation, but here it is.) What if we don’t have a Heavenly Mother? Meaning, what if our Heavenly Father either isn’t sealed in eternal marriage, or he was sealed, but the being to whom he was sealed didn’t make it to exaltation? Perhaps Heavenly Father is lonely and that’s why He insists on us being sealed in eternal marriage – so that we won’t be lonely.

  13. 13.

    Geoff, I imagine you’re familiar with President Hinckley’s 1991 talk stating:

    “I have looked in vain for any instance where any President of the Church, from Joseph Smith to Ezra Taft Benson, has offered a prayer to ‘our Mother in Heaven.’

    “I suppose those … who use this expression and who try to further its use are well-meaning, but they are misguided. The fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her.”

    Are you interpreting that to refer only to public prayer? I agree with you that this isn’t possible to enforce when it comes to private prayer, but I still read a line like “we do not pray to her” as applying to more than public settings, since President Hinckley doesn’t qualify it that way. And the fact that some of those advocating prayer to HM have been excommunicated also suggests to me that the church feels pretty strongly about this.

  14. 14.

    Kevin Barney – I think you’ve hit upon it exactly. We’re social creatures, and it is uncomfortable and often inappropriate to do things that aren’t “sanctioned” (and then you add religion and sin into the mix and WOAH BABY). But I just don’t understand why, in a moral sense, we always have to wait for the priesthood holders to say something is okay.

    We have no evidence that Heavenly Mother doesn’t want us praying to her except that this is what church leaders say, which may be enough for some people, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for you, Lynnette (and it’s certainly not enough for me). Why not try a prayer to the divine Mother expressing all of your thoughts, explaining how it doesn’t make sense, how you truly want to know what is appropriate, that you want to know whether She exists and listens and cares, whether She is just a story invented to placate women, whether She is too fragile to withstand direct communication from Her children, or whether she is reaching out to us with all her heart, waiting for the day we realize she is our Parent too. Like you say, we just can’t know what the situation is here. We can’t know if it’s evil or pure to pray to her, and it seems this is really the only way to find out. If it turns out that your personal experience confirms what church leaders have taught, then you can accept that you made a mistake, follow the repentence process, and move on. If it turns out that your experience negates the prevailing attitude, well, then I think that would be wonderful. Obviously though, the way the church is set up, and the way things have gone in the past, you probably shouldn’t go telling everyone all about it unless you want to really rock the boat. And besides, probably most of these spiritual, infinite experiences we have are best kept personal anyway, shared carefully, and when the moment is appropriate.

    Of course, you might be talking about this all on the theoretical/non-personal level, more as a mental exercise, but I suspect you are not. And really, seriously, what is the harm in trying?

    Hope I’m not being presumptuous, here.

  15. 15.

    Oh sorry, I didn’t even see your response to Kevin’s comment!

  16. 16.

    Keri, wow, that’s a fascinating idea! I do see some tension between it and the idea that exaltation only happens to couples together, but it’s always fun to hear new perspectives.

    I’m somewhat agnostic about HM, just because I find the combination of her existence plus her silence so troubling. Though I probably lean toward belief in her despite that. And like you, there have been times in my life when I have wanted to pursue that, but have felt uneasy about doing so. On a personal level, I’m not really sure what I think. But I’m very interested in the theological problems which I see as arising by our lack of knowledge (and even more, from her possible non-existence), because I see them as being intertwined with a number of other gender-related teachings in the church which I find questionable.

  17. 17.

    Hi, newt! Thanks for the comment. You make a lot of really good points. I honestly don’t know what I think about all this, so it’s good to hear how other people come at it. I do have to ask myself–what does it mean that I want institutional sanction for the practice? How does that fit with my own views of the role of personal religious experience in the church? Complicated questions; part of the ongoing question, I think, of what exactly my commitment to my religious tradition means to me.

    Thinking this out a little more, maybe I’m actually addressing two different questions here, which I think I conflated in the post: one involving personal communication, and one involving the difficulties of institutional revelation in the current set-up, and I should maybe think more about how those two issues are related. But with regards to the first, I have to admit that despite my personal uneasiness–wherever that comes from, and I have to admit I’m not sure–as I think you’re getting at, it seems a bit odd to say that such an attempt at communication would be morally wrong.

  18. 18.

    I thought the problem was that there was a plurality of heavenly mothers, and we couldn’t be sure we were praying to the right one. :)

    Okay, that’s 99% tongue in cheek, but if we’re serious about not having given up polygamy, believing it might/will be practiced in the next life, etc. then perhaps the Church’s concern with people praying to HM is that this might raise the question of whether there are many HMs, and that would open the polygamy issue again.

    Sorry this is tangential, Lynnette. Great post!

  19. 19.

    I wonder what happens when your Heavenly Stepmother starts answering your prayers?

  20. 20.

    Ziff, I actually think you’re on to something–I suspect that part of the reticence to say much about HM is connected with the possible skeleton in the closet of eternal polygamy. And if there are lots of HMs, I can see how this might get complicated. What if they disagreed with each other, so that some children got to do things that others didn’t? ;)

    Kiskilili, I want to see a post from you on HM as a model for nuns.

  21. 21.

    My somewhat cynical take on the prohibition is that we’re trying very hard to look like other Christians here and praying to a Heavenly Mother would be a big, red, PAGAN flag. It’d be hard to openly acknowledge and worship a Goddess and still claim to be monotheists.

    So yes, I believe it’s about appearances.

    Which is sad, because sometime we need a Mother in Heaven. When I went into labor with my first child I immediately started to pray for help and comfort and that all would go well, but in the midst of uterine contractions and bloody show I couldn’t do it. It felt too weird to be talking to a man about it. Some divine feminine would have made a big difference in my life at that moment.

  22. 22.

    .

    A sister in a former ward of mine once bore testimony that the reason we all look differently (she was speaking specifically of race) is because we have different Heavenly Mothers. I.e., God is a polygamist.

    While I don’t accept her reasoning, I can’t readily dismiss her conclusion. And if that were the case, perhaps we don’t know her-plural because we would, in our human way, want to place one mother above another and thus create more strife amongst ourselves by seeking for our Mother in those circumstances.

    Obviously, I’ve moved way into the extradoctrinal here, but my main point is one I share with you: We don’t know. Which makes me leery to make conclusions, no matter how important having an explanation might seem to us generally, women specifically, you precisely.

    (I’m no help at all.)

  23. 23.

    philomytha, that’s really an interesting question, because concerns about paganism often surface in discussions of the divine feminine. And I’ve often wondered–why does worship of a female divine provoke such anxieties, while worship of a male divine doesn’t? My own suspicion is that for those of us steeped in western cultural norms, the idea of a male God just seems normal, mainstream.

    And that’s kind of a heartbreaking story about your experience with wanting to reach out to her during childbirth. Situations like that make the question a lot more poignant.

  24. 24.

    .

    I need to learn to type faster.

  25. 25.

    What a fascinating question you’ve brought up, as well as equally fascinating comments.

    I had also heard the “protecting her” excuse, but that seems pretty thin.

    Not to defend the party line, but could it simply be a matter of having a single designated spokesperson? If Christ is as powerful as HF, and there’s no reason to think he’s not, but we “access” him by praying to HF, then perhaps logically we “access” Heavenly Mother the same way, through HF?

    Also, maybe it was set up this way because the men on earth couldn’t hack the idea of taking holy guidance from a woman, even if she is their mother.

  26. 26.

    Th., I’m terribly disappointed in your inability to resolve my concerns. Actually, much as I would personally like to send the idea into the bottomless pit described in Revelation, I have to agree with you that we can’t entirely rule out the possibility of multiple HMs, especially given early LDS teachings on the subject which have never been repudiated. Ah, polygamy–the Mormon fun that never dies.

    And while I’m not happy about it, I do think an appeal to agnosticism is probably the best bet on this topic, given that explanations seem to only make the situation worse. And yet I also think that very lack of knowledge is theologically, and not just personally, problematic–in other words, it’s not just the problem that we don’t know about her, it’s also the more meta-problem of what it means that we don’t have the information.

  27. 27.

    EvolvingLesbian, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the discussion; thanks for chiming in. I do think that that explanation about a spokesperson actually fits well with other LDS teachings/practices–such as the proposal on Kiskilili’s recent thread that Adam could actually represent men and women. The reason I find that possibility unpalatable is that the idea that males can represent humanity, as it were, seems too close to the traditional idea that men are the default sex, the normative humans, while women are only a subset of humanity, and therefore can be represented by men while the reverse isn’t the case.

    But I do think you might be on to something as far as why an involved HM could be challenging. Right now we have a chain of male authority going all the way up to God the Father–what would we do with an actively involved divine female whose authority trumped most of that chain? I think it could be very unsettling in a church in which we’re used to the last word, the final authoritative pronouncement on any subject, coming from a male.

  28. 28.

    Lynnette:

    Are you interpreting that to refer only to public prayer?

    Well in practice yes. No one ever got into any trouble institutionally for their private prayers.

    And since I believe there really is only one God (which One God is a unified divine concert of all divine beings, male and female) I highly doubt God would smite someone for a minor labeling issue. My take is that praying to any member of the One God is praying to all regardless of what title we use (sort of like Dave noted.)

    I think a theological conundrum exists for polytheists among us who assume there are all kinds of Gods who we can address in our prayers to the exclusion of other Gods. And of course the church shuns taking hard stances on these sorts of theological mysteries in general so that conundrum will likely persist.

  29. 29.

    Perhaps Heavenly Father is lonely and that’s why He insists on us being sealed in eternal marriage – so that we won’t be lonely.

    Very interesting, Keri. God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” He would know, eh?

  30. 30.

    I like EvovlingLesbian’s suggestion that we “access” HM through HF. In fact, more than once when I have been in a less-than-100% serious mood, I have asked Him to “tell Mom hi.”

  31. 31.

    I like to imagine that HF and HM are in charge of many many worlds, some of which are matriarchal. In those worlds, the prophetess has encouraged members to pray to HM because we don’t know too much about HF.

  32. 32.

    It pains (Mormon) me that Catholicism has a much more vibrant connection to feminine divine (reverence of Mary — how many feast days can one woman have? — and intercessory prayer to women saints) than we who claim to actually believe in a Feminine Divine. I cop-opt as much as I can (Salve Regina. . .) but I wish I didn’t have to step outside of my own faith for it. Of course, if all truth is Mormonism (quoth Brigham), I’m a just Merry, Mary Mormon.

  33. 33.

    Such a good call #21 phylomytha. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about Heavenly Mother (having lately come to reject the idea of multiple mothers, as well as polygamy as an eternal truth to boot).

    The other day I read Pres. Uchdorf’s talk “The Love of God” and almost inadvertently plugged in female pronouns. I’ve been thinking about HM a lot, as I say, so maybe it wasn’t such a coincidence. Still, here are the highlights:

    “Her power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile Her name. Her influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.”

    “Heaven may seem distant at times, but the scriptures offer hope: ‘Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for em with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).’”

    “As you reach out to your Heavenly Mother, as you pray to Her in the name of Christ, She will answer you. She speaks to us everywhere. As you read God’s word recorded in the scriptures, listen for Her voice. During this general conference and later as you study the words spoken here, listen for Her voice. As you visit the temple and attend church meetings, listen for Her voice. Listen for the voice of the Mother in the bounties and beauties of nature, in the gentle whisperings of the Spirit. In your daily interactions with others, in the words of a hymn, in the laughter of a child, listen for Her voice. If you listen for the voice of the Mother, She will lead you on a course that will allow you to experience the pure love of Christ.”

    Thanks for this post!

  34. 34.

    A few thoughts come to mind

    “I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’; which I cannot subscribe to.”

    – Joseph Smith

    Is a command to not commune with an acknowledged being anything other than a stake saying “hithero thou shalt come” (believe Heavenly Mother exists), “but no further” (no praying)?

    Perhaps more strongly:

    “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

    - Jesus Christ

    Maybe we shouldn’t restrict ourselves according to those who would restrict themselves. I readily acknowledge their authority for Church practice. I accept and sustain them in that role. But I feel no such moral compulsion in my personal worship.

    As I said to my friend, who as an evangelical believes Joseph was deceived by a demon to create the Book of Mormon, the Book teaches me that Christ is my Saviour. If the Book is false, but the teaching is true, I figure God will forgive me. By the same token, if for some metaphysical/spiritual reason God the Father and God the Mother don’t want me to pray to Her, and I’m mistaken by doing so, I’m confident They will forgive me. I personal can’t fathom a reason why I shouldn’t, so I do.

    Like has been said, if she is united part of God the Father, would not the logic also say that a prayer to Her is a prayer to Him.

    I’ve always been somewhat put off by President Hinckley’s statement about “looked[ing] in vain for any instance [of] praying to ‘our Mother in Heaven.’” I recognize the power of prescedent, but my word, are we not the religion of continued revelation?

    As for the problem being centered in polygamy (which I agree is likely the number 2 reason we don’t, right after the appearance of paganism), how are we certain we all have the same Heavenly Father? Is there a reason to assume that the exalted beings from this earth, when they create new worlds, we necessarily separate each one to their own heaven?

    Or will the same sociality exist in heaven as exists here? Is there any reason to assume that God the Father is up there all alone, and not part of a community of Gods? After all, is it not such a community we envision being part of after this life?

    Finally,D&C 132:20 says “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

    Enough of our scriptures are “male-centric” that this verse could easily have been written in the male – then shall he be a god, etc. But it wasn’t. It is describing the exalted state of humans, using descriptors of God, and each time it is THEY – the man and the woman – who are above all, have the power, have no end.

    Just like in the beginning, when the Gods, male and female, came to the Earth, and created man in their own likeness and image – male and female.

  35. 35.

    re: 18

    Ziff, that’s exactly what my wife seriously figured a couple years back when prayer to HM was brought up. She isn’t happy with the concept of polygyny as an essential part of eternal marriage, but is resigned to it as what she’s been taught as our theology. And she thinks talk about Heavenly Mother is verboten because it would call attention to and open the can of worms which is the Heavenly Harem.

  36. 36.

    I wonder how different Christianity and Judaism would have been if their religious histories had been openly compiled, preserved and edited by matriarchs instead of patriarchs?

    In other words, when the male is god, God, is male.

  37. 37.

    This is such an interesting discussion, and I have learned so much from all of the comments. Since I was a very young child (which was a very long time ago), prayer has been very important to me, a time when I have personal access to God. It is the most private form of worship and the most spiritual for me. As a consequence I have interpretted President Hinckley’s statement as a reference to public prayer, not personal. Though we are given guidelines for praying, I don’t honestly believe there is a wrong way to pray. Surely God (female, male, plural or singular) listens to all prayers and, as Geoff J said, ” would [not] smite someone for a minor labeling issue. ”
    I do believe in a Heavenly Mother, but I struggle to find where she fits in the grand scheme of things. Thank you all for adding some enlightenment to my questioning.

  38. 38.

    In a footnote at the end of my Dialogue article on MiH I expressed the opinion that there is only one MiH, FWIW.

  39. 39.

    Lynette, What are your thoughts about praying to Jesus or the Holy Ghost? That is just as proscribed, no? Why would Heavenly Mother be any different than Jesus?

  40. 40.

    Lacy, I thought President Uchtdorf proved either of two points for me as he spoke these words:

    “His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.”

    If this statement applies to Her, then the notion that She is being protected through Her absence emerges as the absolute garbage doctrine it’s always sounded like to me.

    If it doesn’t apply, then it proves S/she is not a G/goddess on par with Heavenly Father. It makes sense that we would not worship H/her in any way.

  41. 41.

    I wonder how much of divinity is really a projection of our finest, most perfect selves – that deep godliness we all have within. I think one of the reasons we’re here on Earth is to awaken our own divinity and to prove to ourselves that we are heirs of godliness. When we set up men (who have traditionally had the power, eductation, and ability to speak about the spirituality as they’ve experienced it) as the sole sources of prophetic communication with diety, then we’re going to get a definition of God that more suits a perfection they see in the divine potential of their own selves (i.e., a male deity). Thinking of Jesus’ resemblance to the Father, and Moses’ resemblance to Jesus (as stated in the PoGP), I feel this to be a good possibility.

    So, I might carefully suggest that in order to find our own divine potential as women, we might want to seek for a divine feminine source. Look within. Look to the earth and to nature (it sounds pagan, but there’s a holiness about it). Anyway, I don’t want to lay it all out there, but I do think there’s hope. But until women are again called of God to be prophetesses, I’m afraid that we’re going to need to figure this out one by one, on our own. I do think it’s possible to seek personal revelation on this and not offend the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost, but it takes some navigating.

    And fwiw, I think men can use the feminine divine too, just as I can and do use the divine power of my Heavenly Father. There can and should be a balance of masculine and feminine. I’m just saying that I don’t find it surprising that women are particularly curious about finding the divine feminine and seem more called to Her.

  42. 42.

    Matt W.

    While I think many view it as proscribed, if we accept the commonly taught Jehovah=Jesus idea, the entire Old Testament is replete with people praying to Jesus. The D&C even contains examples.

    However, we need not even rely on that. The Book of Mormon has multiple instances of people praying to Jesus, both before his mortal existence and in his presence.

    Of course, that we proscribe something that we have examples of in the scriptures doesn’t bode well with Hinckely’s argument. Presumably we could proscribe praying to MiH even if we had examples. ;-)

    As for the Holy Ghost, I think as Mormons we have somewhat of a hard time accept Jesus as God, let alone the Holy Ghost.

    All that being said, we pray in Christ’s name and do so through the Holy Ghost, so at least they are both involved. Plus, we frequently pray for the Holy Ghost to be with us, comfort us, etc. – i.e. be active in our lives.

  43. 43.

    Ok, haven’t read all the comments, so may lightning strike me if I repeat something someone already said.

    Anywho, growing up, in my family of origin, I felt much closer to my mother than my father. Now that I’m grown with my own family, I’ve had much more opportunity to interact with my father, and I’m much closer to him than I was growing up. Now, of course I still communicate with my mother, not just my father, but it still makes me wonder. Our life on earth is such a short period of time in our lives, thinking eternally. Perhaps, if our life on earth really is a “blink of the eye” in the eternal sense, then it’s possible that HM wants us to grow closer to our Father while we are here on earth. Perhaps she did more of the nurturing before we came to earth. I don’t know, it’s all speculation anyway, isn’t it?

  44. 44.

    HeidiAnn,

    I really like your image. When we were “home” in the premortal life, we spent most of our time with Mom. Now when we are on Earth, it is more Dad’s help we need. And when we die, we do like most of us did when we were younger and got home from school. The first thing most of us did when we walked in the door was yell “Mom! I’m home!”

  45. 45.

    I like HeidiAnn’s image as well.

    As Mormons, we believe multiple beings can be “perfect”, and yet not be the same (which is philosophically challenging, but we believe it anyway). That means HM and HF could have different attributes.

    In raising our kids, there have been times when my wife or I asked the other to “let me handle this”, and usually that happened when we recognized that our personal attributes matched better for our child’s expectations. For example, it was my job to teach the kids to ride their bikes. My wife was invited outside to give compliments when we were done. When the kids get hurt in our family, they expect Mom to kiss it better, but they expect Dad to tell them to get back up and try again. Both roles are essential, but while learning to ride a bike, they needed Dad during, and Mom after.

    Maybe life is that way. Maybe HF attributes match up better to our expectations in this life (which is such a short period) and HM is just waiting to welcome us into the next stage.

  46. 46.

    .

    This is a lovely take on the question.

  47. 47.

    Lynnette,
    I know how much I hate it when people make the thread all about me when I wanted it to be about an issue. So forgive me when I say I can’t help but thinking about your hesitance to pray to HM because of your orthopraxy and that you think of it as immoral (while acknowledging that others may not).

    I’m wondering if it’s really more about the fact that you’re not sure she exists (ei your other post “why I don’t want to believe in HM) or some other reason.

    I just finished Dance of the Dissident Daughter and she addresses the issue of how difficult it is for women to first imagine then communicate with a Divine Feminine. I know for some women, especially those who seem more emotionally driven, it seems easier and more necessary to take that step.

    Intellectual discussions of the ills of patriarchy never really get to the heart of the benefits of finding and connecting with a Divine Feminine. Somewhere there needs to be a bridge between the two.

  48. 48.

    [...] I have a strong belief in a Divine Feminine as well as a desire to connect with her more deeply which isn’t allowed within Mormonism. I’ve even written articles of faith about my intentions to find my own rituals, study sacred [...]

  49. 49.

    The speculation that my husband and I favor is that yes, each of us has a Heavenly Mother, but we all don’t have the same one. If polygamy is an eternal law, and one is trying to maximize reproduction of even spirit children, it stands to reason that Heavenly Father has multiple wives to whom he is sealed.

    Also, on the ability to connect with our specific Heavenly Mother whether she is one of many or just one, I found comfort in a quote from Joseph Smith (of course, I can’t find the specific quote at this time) where he described it being okay to talk to beings who are not on this earth (living or dead).

    After the death of a number of people close to me, I found myself turning in my prayers from a prayer to Heavenly Father, to a conversation with a loved one. I never knew if it was “right” or not, but its what I felt impressed to do. I got confirmation of that after reading the quote I’m referencing. It was okay to talk to the dead, knowing that they can listen and know what our hearts and spirits want them to know. If it can work for deceased loved ones and friends, why wouldn’t it work to talk to our Mother in Heaven?

    Its not a prayer because prayer required worship. When I talk to my father who is deceased, I’m not worshiping him but talking to him as if he were still here. My worship still squarely focuses on the God who I’m commanded and covenanted to worship.

  50. 50.

    Jenne,

    If polygamy is an eternal law

    That’s a gigantic “if.” Though plenty of people in the church disagree with me, I’m pretty unconvinced that polygamy is an eternal law, that God is a polygamist, or that polygamy will exist in the eternities.

  51. 51.

    Jessawhy, I’ve been thinking about your comment (sorry about the slow response—you can blame Ziff, since I spent the last week visiting him and being distracted by other things instead of blogging!) I do find it difficult to parse out the extent to which this is a kind of theoretical concern versus a personal one—maybe that distinction is already problematic, especially when applied to religious questions. It’s true that I’m not one hundred percent convinced she exists, and as you know, I have some real concerns about what it means if she does, and yet has remained silent. But you make a good point about the need at some point to move out of the intellectual realm and actually look for spiritual connection—because thinking about this, I wouldn’t hope for discussion about the possible existence of God (for example) to ultimately be resolved in the absence of actual religious experience. But I realize that I’m reluctant to go that route with Heavenly Mother, and I might need to think more about why. Part of it is probably that at least at the moment, the question troubles me more in the context of how it’s related to the position of women in the church than in terms of personal spiritual connection. And part of it, as I said earlier, does have to do with my own relation to the church; I could write blog post after blog post questioning the coffee prohibition (for example), but I’d still be unlikely to drink coffee. Thinking back to an old discussion on Exponent, about different kinds of feminists, I think I’m more of a questioner than an activist (and I mean that in a broad sense)—for good and for bad. (This conversation has gotten me thinking about some broader questions about my feminism and my relation to the church, which I should maybe turn into a post.)

    Jenne, thanks for your comment. I have a lot of problems with the multiple Heavenly Mothers idea, not least for what it suggests about the eternal status of women—but I can’t dispute that LDS doctrine poses the possibility. But I’m intrigued by your distinction between prayer and worship; it occurs to me that I’m not actually sure what we mean by “worship.” Because I agree with you that when we talk about prayer, we’re usually talking about communication. Is the concern less with prayer than with worship, I wonder? And why would worship be appropriate for a divine male but not for a divine female? Maybe that actually gets better at the basic question I have about all of this—even beyond the problem that we’re told not to talk to her, how do we make sense of the fact that we posit the existence of a divine female who is specifically not an object of worship? Because I think that’s closely tied to the status of women both temporally and eternally.

  52. 52.

    In response to the idea suggested several times that this is a phase of life in which our primary relationship is with our Father–in some ways I find that really appealing. But I still have some reservations, especially in the context of LDS teachings on the importance of this life. This life is crucial, we say; it’s our decisions here, in this brief span of mortality, that establish where we’ll be in the eternities. The implication, then, seems to be that a relationship with HM isn’t important or necessary as we make those decisions. (Though to be fair, I think teachings on the overriding importance of this life are somewhat in tension with other LDS teachings, such as the fact that most people hear the gospel in the next life, and the number of people who don’t even survive to the age of accountability.)

    My other problem is that some clearly do feel (as expressed here and elsewhere) the need to have a connection to HM in this phase of life. I think it’s one thing to say that one parent is more involved at different times of life; it’s another to say that one parent has opted to be completely uninvolved even if the child wants that connection. The church emphasizes, after all, that children need both a mother and a father to be involved in their upbringing, and I’m assuming that means having both involved throughout their development, as opposed to switching off between one and the other.

  53. 53.

    Matt (#39) asked:

    What are your thoughts about praying to Jesus or the Holy Ghost? That is just as proscribed, no? Why would Heavenly Mother be any different than Jesus?

    As the Ignorant Sage said, I think that proscription is maybe less clear, given the ambiguity of the divine figure in the OT, and the Nephites praying to Jesus in 3 Nephi. But in any case, I’m thinking about why that is—why we pray to the Father rather than the other members of the Godhead. Off the top of my head, my guess is that it’s because we understand the Father to be the one ultimately responsible for it all, the mastermind behind the plan, so to speak—we talk about the Son and the Holy Ghost as carrying out the Father’s will, not as initiating things. So it makes sense that prayer would be addressed to him. But I would think that HM’s relationship to HF is qualitatively different from that of Jesus’ relationship to the Father, which is why I don’t see the situations as comparable.

  54. 54.

    Lynnette, of course I give you a hard time for not posting very often and then I don’t actually check the blog since Christmas :)

    Great post, I just wanted to add a couple of my thoughts.

    First a caveat: when I pray it usually turns into a big jumble. I have a hard time following the primary proscription: address HF, thank Him, ask Him, close in Jesus’ name. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to HF, sometimes to Christ, and sometimes to HM, and sometimes I’m just shouting hoping anyone at all will listen. So my prayers are not very orthodox, I guess.

    I really dislike the idea that we don’t discuss HM (I think of her in the singular because even if there are multiple, I only have one) because HF wants to protect her. It is demeaning to her and reminds me too much of times when I was being “protected”, or in other words, simply not allowed to do something that wasn’t appropriate for girls in my fathers’ eyes.

    I tend to believe that over time men (as in male, not as in humanity) have removed references to divine feminine from scriptures simply in order to continue the power status quo. Perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously, probably a mixture of the two. But in my mind, it is more likely that references to spouses for either God or Christ have been removed, rather than the fact that they have not existed at all. Or maybe that men simply didn’t ever put them in, where HM might have been trying to slip in some inspiration to do so.

    Although I do think that God inspires those that He calls, He does not take away their agency, so even in latter day revelation, an idea that seems unpalatable to the prophet due to his generation and life (ie worshipping a woman) would be easily dismissed, or at the most put in the “We just don’t know so let’s not talk about it too much” box.

    To me Her silence doesn’t imply a lack of power in HM, it implies a lack of willingness in us to continue to change closer to unified godliness. When enough of us desire that something gets fixed, and it’s inline with God’s desires, it happens (major things like the removal of the Priesthood ban all the way to smaller things like changes in the temple ordinances).

    I was not familiar with President Hinckley talk in 1991 on the subject, but using that logic you could also say that because She’s simply not mentioned anywhere in those sources, we ought not believe in Her at all, and obviously we do. I’m okay with accepting that President Hinckley (at least in ’91) just wasn’t there yet, in recognizing HM for her reality…

  55. 55.

    Hi, Enna! Thanks for your thoughts. (And the sad truth is that I’ve only posted like twice since September, so I probably deserve to be given a hard time. ;) )

    Your comment about prayer very much resonates with me. My private prayers also tend to be somewhat jumbled and chaotic. And I hadn’t thought about how that might apply to this question–that’s a really interesting point.

    Thinking about this more, and about some of the conversation here, I’m thinking about the different implications of a ban on private prayer and a ban on public one–though as discussed earlier, I don’t think the 1991 statement makes a distinction. In some ways I see the former situation as less of a concern, maybe because it is so unenforceable, and I think it’s the kind of thing that most people would simply say is between you and God. But the public ban, the fact that we only address HF in church, inevitably shapes our view of gender in ways that I find troubling.

    Anyway, getting back to your comment, I don’t know what to make of the absence of the divine feminine in scripture. Except for the obvious point that our scriptures come from males, and we do tend to create God in our own image–and as you mentioned, they might not have been open to revelation about HM. There’s a tension there, I think, not just on this issue but generally, in that in a sense the whole point of scripture is to be counter-cultural–the prophetic voice challenges the status quo–and yet we then find ourselves grappling with the cultural limitations of even that critique. And it’s hard to untangle.

    I also agree with you that the argument from silence (we don’t have any examples of it) isn’t very compelling, especially in a church which believes in continuing revelation.

    I’ve come to think that the question of HM’s silence is like some of the other difficult questions in religion–attempts at explanation are prone to make the situation worse. (Some of the ones that have been cooked up, like the “she’s being protected” thing, I find almost more disturbing than the situation they’re attempting to explain.) But I’m not sure where that leaves me. My hope is that she’s every much as involved as is HF, not a subordinate partner in the shadows, and that her apparent silence is–as you and others have suggested–due to our limitations, rather than hers. But I do wish I had a stronger basis to build that on.

  56. 56.

    I guess my only basis is hope. It’s how I *want* to believe things are… if it’s not, if eternity is a patriarchy where women are given only a supporting role and the occasional pat on the head, I imagine most of us will make a party of it in one of the T kingdoms :)

    No, that’s not true. Sometimes in the temple I’ve felt like HF was assuring me that he doesn’t work the way the world works. I try to remember that.

    One thing on your comment, I guess I never thought of scripture supposing to be counter-cultural. In fact, I would assume it’s meant to fit in with culture, at least during the time it’s written. I look at scripture as something that is meant to help all of us apply divine things to our everyday lives, it only feels counter-cultural when it’s 1000 years old… But I often am accused of being a heretic for my views on the scriptures :)

  57. 57.

    Hey Enna, I was meaning to respond to this, and then lost all my blogging energy and disappeared. But on the question of scriptures being counter-cultural, I agree that of course they’re a product of their culture and deeply shaped by that. But I also think that they’re meant to go beyond that, to challenge us to question our assumptions and think differently, whether about merit and deserving things, or about justice and judgment, or about what matters most in life. That kind of thing. I don’t know if that makes any more sense, but that’s what I mean by counter-cultural (e.g., we live in a culture which places a high premium on appearance, so the counter-cultural scriptural message which would be one that challenges that.)

  58. 58.

    Mother is not silent.

    Once, when I was very much distressed, during a terrible night, when I felt Heavenly Father wanted to comfort me with some comment, I refused him and demanded Mother. She came. She comforted me. Ande ever since, when I get a priesthood blessing by my husband, she comments as well.

    I think the reason why the church does not know much about her is that no prophet has really dared or bothered to ask.

    Just think about Joseph Smiths first vision. Or how he recieved the word of wisdom. Or how the blacks were finally granted the priesthood: Someone had to bother and dare to ask. No question – no Information.

  59. 59.

    I feel it is illogical to think Heavenly Mother has chosen to be silent and unavailable to us. Ancient peoples and even early Hebrews worshipped the Goddess and felt their prayers answered by Her.

    I think generations of patriarchy have taught us all too well not to seriously seek her. This is advantageous to the system, to the culture, but not to women.

    When I am doing mundane work I sometimes listen to a classic rock radio station. I like it because the music is pretty, familiar, and undemanding of much attention. I’ve been hearing these tunes since the 60′s, I don’t have to focus or THINK about them.

    I have it on good authority that there is an NPR station in our town that plays great music, has interesting news reports and challenging word games…….and surely this must be true.
    But I’m never going to hear these things if I keep my tuner set on the classic rock station.

    Likewise, I suspect our Heavenly Mother vibrates on a somewhat different frequency than our Heavenly Father. If we want to talk to Her we need to find a way to tune our hearts to her frequency.

    As to whether there are many Heavenly Mothers and how we would sort out which one is ours—
    Every Mother on the playground recognizes her own child’s cry.
    I suggest we call with a sincere heart and trust our own mother to answer.

  60. 60.

    Alot of the opinions expressed here are very well thoughy out and I have appreciated reading them. I too think I favor the idea that currently, either open worship to a Heavenly Mother would make us suddenly non-monotheistic (although we already believe in other Gods) or polygamous relationships are truly something that happen in the eternities. If the latter is true, then all of us would, in fact, have different Heavenly Mothers.

    But my reply to THAT is this: If polygyny exists, then polyandry better dang well exist also, else that makes men and women unequal in power AND in status and opportunity. If, perchance, polygamy is the eternal order of things, then I find some comfort in Joseph Smith’s History in the fact that he married at least 11 women whom were ALREADY married to other men. He doesn’t seem to have been condemned for that (nor those women either).

    It IS interesting to note that the word polygamy itself is actually the word that is used. The true definition of polygamy is “having more than one spouse”. Well, spouse is gender neutral. If it is truly that only men get that “priviledge” (if you see it that way), then the word should actually be polygany. So, the continued use of the word polygamy could actually imply equality for all? Is there a chance for us women to marry and keep both Thor and Loki? (sorry….pop culture reference to Marvel’s latest “Thor” movies….I think both actors are hotties). Cuz to be honest, one of the biggest continuous “peas under my mattress” has been the policy that men get to marry and be sealed to more than one spouse (either historically or currently upon becoming a widower), but a widowed woman is forced to choose? Why in the heck SHOULD she have to choose? Why do we alone get to bear that exquisite and unfair pain? Honestly, what’s that about? Don’t think we would know whose baby is whose in heaven? What’s the reasoning?

    What if, in the end, heaven is one large string of open marriages as we will (and of course covenant to)? I mean, if petty jealousies and true openness and understand are to be ours, though the idea is completely repulsive to some, why would it necessarily stay that way? Becoming perfect must mean that petty jealousies, hormonal and chemical imbalances in the brain and body, innacurate and harmful thought pathways will go away. Right?

    Just puttin’ it out there. How far down the rabbit hole do we wanna go with this one?

  61. 61.

    Yay! Let’s go all the way!

Leave a Reply