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?
- 5 January 2010