Zelophehad’s Daughters

Mormonism Has the Most Sexist Cosmology of Any Religion

Posted by Kiskilili

Our planet’s head support staff is comprised of three males: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Heavenly Mother gets an occasional sideways glance in current publications (and so do her sister wives if you go back a bit), but is never mentioned even once in any scriptural or liturgical text; she’s a grainy mirage of a shadow in the corner of the family photograph, explicitly excluded from the Godhead and an inappropriate subject of veneration or invocation in ordinances. She does not communicate with us, nor we with her.

We know Abraham has become a god. Not sure what status Keturah has.

All known angels are male. So is the devil.

We know Peter James and John served our world before birth. They have no female equivalents.

If Eve existed before the creation of the world, we know nothing about it. If she participated in the creation, unlike that of Michael/Adam, her role is apparently too unimportant to mention.

Section 76, our most detailed outline of the afterlife, includes no mention of women in any kingdom, and gives clear indication that women are not in evidence in the celestial realm (“They [in the celestial kingdom] are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fullness, and of his glory; / And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son”).

Thanks to a single slender verse, we have evidence Eve and her daughters participate in the Great Beyond (see here; naturally in detail and attention, even here, they’re dwarfed by their brothers).

Relying on a recipe of one part extrapolation and two parts wishful thinking, we’ve concluded from this promising panoply of attestations that women are Very Important in both the pre- and post-mortal existence, although, unlike their male counterparts, it’s not clear they have any authority or any contact with us. Our canon and liturgy portray them as absent or barely marginal.

In the other monotheistic traditions, the universal God transcends gender. In polytheism, goddesses abound. Not so Mormonism! We believe both that gender is eternally significant and that the eternities are significantly masculine.

Here’s my challenge to you, gentle reader. Point me to a religious tradition whose cosmology marginalizes women more than that of Mormonism.

51 Responses to “Mormonism Has the Most Sexist Cosmology of Any Religion”

  1. 1.

    Are you sure this shouldn’t be “Christianity has the most sexist cosmology of any religion?” Catholicism excepted, most traditional Christian religions don’t have any additional “participation” by female entities (or even any equivalent acknowledgement of ‘Heavenly Mother’ type personages in the heavens at all).

    Judaism has the same issues with Abraham and Old Testament gender roles — no female religious traditions that I’m aware of.

    Islam is no different theologically (and in practice far more sexist than LDS culture).

    I’m not sure having a theology that God is genderless actually makes any religious less “sexist” in practice. I think your real point is “all religions, including Mormonism, are sexist to one extent or another”. I’m not sure where comparing Mormonism to all other patriarchal religions really gets us.

  2. 2.

    But I’m talking about cosmology specifically—not ecclesiology, not domestic gendered expectations, not even scripture.

    For all its problems, Judaism at least has the Shekhina—and in no strain of Judaism of which I’m aware has Abraham been deified. Protestant God-language is traditionally androcentric, which is certainly problematic, but the Protestant God is not literally male and not even necessarily masculine. This is equally true of the transcendent God of Islam.

    I’m not arguing that Mormonism has the only androcentric cosmology, by any means: just that Mormonism takes the cake.

  3. 3.

    I’m not sure having a theology that God is genderless actually makes any religious less “sexist” in practice.

    I’d agree that it doesn’t always make a difference, but it certainly has the potential to do so. For one thing, it gives you a theological basis for gender inclusive language when referring to God (for the traditions that have opted to make that move), which affects things like scriptural translation, hymns, and ritual. I think it also makes it easier to ordain women, because it’s harder to make the case that males represent God in a way that females don’t. Yes, there are major holdouts who haven’t taken that route, but it’s still worth noting that the potential is there (and feminists in those traditions are making exactly that argument).

    A God who transcends gender also means that the image of God manifested in humans isn’t connected to gender, which means there is no reason it can’t be found equally in women and men. In Mormonism, by contrast, men are clearly in the image of God in a way that women aren’t. And I think that inevitably shapes the way we talk and think about women and men.

  4. 4.

    As a philosophical exercise, you’re probably right, but that seems to be only because Mormonism uses more gender-specific language from the beginning.

    The paragraph about the “promising panoply of attestations that women are Very Important in both the pre- and post-mortal existence, although, unlike their male counterparts, it’s not clear they have any authority or any contact with us. Our canon and liturgy portray them as absent or barely marginal.” seems to indict virtually all patriarchal religions the same way, and having a ‘genderless’ God doesn’t help much. Is proclaiming a Heavenly Mother but then marginalizing her through doctrine and speech really that different than believing there is no Heavenly Mother at all for women?

    I’m not sure splitting hairs between ‘cosmology’ and ‘ecclesiology’ based on assigning a gender to God or angels affects much in practice. Certainly no Muslim woman with feminist leanings is going to think, “Islam has a way to go, but at least we’re not Mormonism! Check out that sexist cosmology!”

    (Islam still has the ‘men get 77 virgins in heaven’ doctrine as I recall, which doesn’t imply any better an equitable destiny for women in the afterlife than the possibility of celestial polygamy does for us…)

  5. 5.

    As a philosophical exercise, you’re probably right, but that seems to be only because Mormonism uses more gender-specific language from the beginning.

    But the gendered language is rooted in theology, right? It’s not happenstance. The Mormon God has a penis. He’s the eternal role model to men exclusively.

    I happily indict all patriarchal religions. There’s a lot about Islam I object to. But I don’t think I’m splitting hairs. Although we don’t ordain women, I would never argue that Mormonism has the most sexist ecclesiology—that’s manifestly false.

    Is proclaiming a Heavenly Mother but then marginalizing her through doctrine and speech really that different than believing there is no Heavenly Mother at all for women?

    No, it’s not. And unlike the rest of the monotheistic world, we have people doing both.

    You keep bringing it back to practice. I acknowledge that the interface between cosmology and practice is complex: there are religions with goddesses and female ordination but with more rigid gender norms than ours. But I reject the idea that we can only understand religion by focusing on practice. This particular post is on cosmology. I care about cosmology.

  6. 6.

    Oh, I think I misread the title. I thought you were saying we had the *sexiest* cosmology…

  7. 7.

    That too, Kevin. Eternal sex has more meanings than one.

  8. 8.

    I have spent study time and much meditation regarding the female role in deity, theology, liturgy. Having grown up in a nuclear family, I have the experience of especially strong female role models. My dad always treated my mother and both of my grandmothers with reverence and admiration. The conclusion I have come to as an LDS woman is this: we see how the world abuses even the name of God. Why would he expose our divine mother to such treatment? This is all my own opinion, but I think Eliza R. Snow said it best in the hymn “O My Father,” LDS Hymns page 226 which speaks to the topic of our Divine Mother. One of my best friends practices Dine religion. He is an artist of some renown who urges us daily through word and art to show reverence for Mother (earth) and Father (sky). I don’t follow his religion but it helps me define my own. A mother on earth is my calling. Womanhood is a sacred thing.

  9. 9.

    Not to threadjack, (I suppose it’s related) but Connie, why would a Goddess require protection from her children? Why is she so much more special than God that she can’t take it?

    The idea that we need to shelter Heavenly Mother says far more about how we view women than how she actually is.

  10. 10.

    we see how the world abuses even the name of God. Why would he expose our divine mother to such treatment?

    In addition to the problem May pointed to, this solution assumes God’s authority to make unilateral decisions for Goddess, construing her as treasured property and not as an agent capable of making her own decisions.

    Following this logic, one could argue that the holiest act of veneration would be to refuse to pray to God or to think about or talk about Jesus at any time lest we contaminate them with our earthly ideas and language. Ignoring is the ultimate act of worship.

  11. 11.

    Connie, did your (earthly) father love your mother enough to keep her kids away from her once they got to be sassy teenagers?

  12. 12.

    Another issue is that Goddess exists as a concept in our culture whether she’s truly interacted with our world or not. I think the Wiccans already let the cat out of the bag. It’s too late to protect her by preventing anyone from even imagining her existence (if that was God’s goal).

  13. 13.

    Well, it’s been speculated that the Holy Ghost is the mother….a female. The pattern of a Father, a Son (child) and a Mother seems to permeate throughout most of bilogical existence. It just may be that the “male” writers of scripture hid the female mother under the name of the Holy Ghost…..of course out of respect.

  14. 14.

    Also, surely manhood is a sacred thing too. Maybe the real question is, why doesn’t Heavenly Mother love Heavenly Father enough to keep him away from us? Doesn’t he ever get tired of being blasphemed and cast before swine?

    As a side note, if I’m ever in a marriage where I find my husband treating me with reverence, I’m going to wear nothing but a Big Bird costume with little plastic devil horns and moonwalk everywhere I go until he STOPS IT.

  15. 15.

    I don’t know, Jonathan. Is it more respectful to refer to a woman as a ghost than a woman?

    The “Holy Ghost” solution poses so many problems for me. “Ruach” in Hebrew is masculine or feminine, though generally the latter; “pneuma” in Greek is neuter. Are we sure the Holy Ghost isn’t transgendered?

  16. 16.

    I disagree that we have the most sexist cosmology. As you mention, women *are* granted a place in our cosmology. There is wording in D&C 138 as well as in the temple. Full female participation in divinity is both strongly implied, not sure how much it is discussed.

    Now, how much of an androcentric approach to our cosmology we take is a different issue, and that is what you seem to be largely talking about. But then once again we don’t come out as most chauvinistic. Perhaps God transcends gender in monotheism, but in practice He is Male.

  17. 17.

    Thank you for this. This expresses one of the biggest issues I’ve been having with the church lately. When visiting my husband’s home ward last Christmas, I attended the gospel essentials class taught by my fabulous feminist mother-in-law. It was on Heavenly Father, and at some point in the lesson I made a comment about Heavenly Mother.

    After church, my fabulous feminist father-in-law came up to me and kindly told me that I can’t mention Heavenly Mother in a gospel essentials class where investigators and new members are present. I replied that I see no reason why that should not be addressed, and he answered that the doctrine of Heavenly Mother is “not essential.” When I tearfully asked why not, he fairly admitted that he didn’t know, with the air that it is troubling.

    That’s my question now: why is Heavenly Mother not essential? Why the hell not? Why is it not necessary that over half of the church have an inkling as to what eternity holds for them? Why do women not warrant role models, a mother, a goddess, a female angel or prophetess? When will the entirely male leaders realize that what we have isn’t enough? It’s not enough for me. I wish more women would stand up and admit it with me.

  18. 18.

    Thanks, Jenna. It’s like being punched in the face to be told that the gospel is essential for everyone on earth because it teaches us who men are in the eternities. It’s clearly not essential to us, but how can it not even be worth mentioning what women do in the eternities!?

    Jared, I think we still come out ahead of conservative non-Catholic monotheists (the Catholics, with Mary, aren’t even in the running in my view). Their God is male in practice but not in theory; ours is male in both practice and theory.

    I’m grateful for the crumbs hinting women have souls—I don’t discount those passages. But I disagree that it’s “strongly implied” anywhere that women participate fully in divinity. The fact that the Godhead has three male members indicates exactly the opposite: that women specifically don’t participate in divinity.

  19. 19.

    Jared, I don’t think the problems Kiskilili is pointing out can be reduced to nothing but an approach to cosmology. The very fact that women are present in our cosmology but are so radically marginalized in every account thereof points to the deeply sexist nature of that presence. Just as one example, consider your own assumption that “full female participation in divinity is … strongly implied.” I can make a case for that implication, but I can make just as strong a case for the opposite assumption, namely that full female participation in divinity is strongly precluded by our cosmology as represented in our scripture and liturgy. The very fact that such a case can be made demonstrates how sexist our cosmology is by nature and internally to itself without regard for how it is approached. If it weren’t deeply sexist in and of itself, not just by virtue of our approach to it, then I don’t think such a case could so very easily be made.

    The nature of something does not result from how people approach that thing in the present. I suppose it could be argued that the sexist nature of our cosmology resulted from the sexist nature of past approaches to our cosmology, but that does not change the fact that the current problem is one of nature not approach. No matter how much we were to begin talking about Goddess, that would not change the fact that our cosmology itself marginalizes her and every single woman in the LDS church. I do think that changing our approach would help us also change our cosmology, but the former alone is not enough because the former alone is not the entire problem.

  20. 20.

    Spot-on analysis, Kiskilili.

    (One minor quibble — as you note in comments, it’s not exactly the case that “Our planet’s head support staff is comprised of three males.” The support staff is two men and one neuter entity. That entity may in fact be a woman, but as you note, that’s not really much of a step up, if that woman’s womanhood has to be concealed behind a neuter mask.)

  21. 21.

    I think we have to look upon this historical and present male-female earthly societal hierarchy and female Godhoodlessness in a much broader and eternal perspective. First off, God is limited in what He and She can do due to our free agency. God(s) cannot coerce anyone to do their will. Only persuade through the Holy Ghost. If human society choose to organize their religious and governmental society in a male dominated fashion, then all the Gods could do was work within that structure. If the cultural and religious environment 2,000 years ago would have allowed it, a man or a woman could have done what Christ did. But, all this aside, there does seem to be a practical earthly biological reason for the functioning (calling?) of a male and a female in this temporary earthly life cycle. And, as society evolves, it seems this separation of male-female function is becoming less and less. As it should. I venture to say, in the eternities there may be no separation at all. Let’s agree that we do not know the whole eternal picture. But, I believe this….the Universe is fair to everyone and that the lowliest of human being that has ever lived upon this earth will have a chance for eternal life. That there is never an eternity of damnation or eternal suffering as this is an offense to an all loving God to think He and She would allow this. And, that there is no tragedy, no accident, no human unfairness, and no human atrocity that the God(s) cannot make right in the hereafter. The uniqueness of the Mormon belief is a pattern God gives to all living things which we see on this earth: As even seeds grow to become fruits or trees….God’s children can become like their Eternal Parents. This is what all existence is really all about…..reproduction of Gods through the free will and training of Their children.

  22. 22.

    All of your comments are thought provoking. My earthly father didn’t keep me from my earthly mother, he insisted on her being treated respectfully. I think the best way to explain my own relationship with female deity is in regard to some of my most sacred experiences. In the temple I do not feel left out or unnecessary to exaltation. When I gave birth to my children I felt an extreme closeness to the mother of my spirit. As a feminist-leaning woman, I would like the distinctions between monotheism and polydeism to be resolved in a way that all women could feel the love of our Heavenly Mother and not tolerate a society so tied to semantics that the tenet that as man is God once was, and as God men can be; surely there is not the king without the queen, God without Goddess. I guess I feel what I feel and if it is considered a topic of controversy I know where my beliefs lie. I realize my arguments will be viewed as childish, unsound, flawed. What can I say? I’m a student of life though past my youth.

  23. 23.

    To Connie on her reply:
    There is nothing flawed or unsound in your feelings. You are part of the process of equalizing the rights and status of woman not only in this current earthly religious life, but in bringing about an afterlife awareness of the role of women thoughout eternity. Now, you will have to pay the temperal price, even in the Mormon Church. You do kinow that if you are too vocal you will be excluded from the Church. I am not saying this to tell you to keep your thoughts to yourself. Just the opposite. Be vocal in a respetful way, but, be vocal within the system. I don’t think women in the Church will receive the priesthood in our life time, but I do think it is possible in the future. You are a Goddess. Now learn to be a political one. j

  24. 24.

    Thanks Jonathan! I’m afraid my views generally land me in hot water. Today I received the answer I needed. It’s so simple really. I have a firm testimony of the gospel, of the articles of faith. My meditation today was led to A of F 9. I don’t need more than that. Will I cease to chafe against the idea that monotheism and mono deism are mutually exclusive? Nope. But it will give me no pain, other than that of a wish to understand and be understood. I have peace and that is all I require. For now :)

  25. 25.

    Oh my other point (mind over age 50-not as quick) I don’t need the priesthood now. I have womanhood and as a completely deluxe bonus I have motherhood and grandmotherhood!

  26. 26.

    Kiskilili,

    I think the weakness of your argument here is the assumption that there is a single Mormon cosmology. That is not the case. There is a Mormon liturgy and set of scriptures used in Mormonism; then there is a lot of guessing/speculating about how the universe really works based on those. But clearly there are some yet-to-be-revealed mysteries about the details of the universe.

    So While I agree there are plenty of extremely sexist versions of Mormon cosmologies there are also some very egalitarian versions of Mormon cosmologies. The good news is that in the absence of binding revelation on the topic we Mormons get to make our best guesses on the real cosmology of our universe.

    My Mormon cosmology happens to be a very egalitarian one.

  27. 27.

    The sacred feminine is everywhere present in Mormonism — nowhere more obvious than the female statue over the veil in the celestial room in the Salt Lake Temple. Most of Mormonism’s sacred feminine has disappeared from the litergy and tradition since the restoration. Your perception of a sexist cosmology is misquided since you are unaware of Mormonism’s profound cosmology, as are nearly all Mormons. You might want to look into it.

  28. 28.

    Yes, the sacred feminine is so omnipresent in Mormonism that she’s essentially invisible to the average member who’s just not enlightened enough about church history, Mormon cosmology, or the decorative elements of the Salt Lake Temple. All us silly feminists should stop worrying our pretty little heads about these concerns ’cause it turns out they’re not actual concerns. Good thing we had a man come along to set us straight.

  29. 29.

    I guess I’ve only been studying the superficial cosmology! Any recommendations on where I might access the profound edition? (Is that sort of like having the teacher’s edition of the textbook?)

    Here’s another way of looking at the problem.

    Enemies of the church like to accuse Mormonism of teaching that Satan is Jesus’s brother, implying there’s something untoward about the ontological nature of their relationship.

    This is true, but also misleading for the following reason: there’s only one type of eternal being in the Mormon taxonomy. God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, Satan, angels, devils, and men are all the same divine species, as it were.

    (Plus, there are females. We’re not sure what they’re for, but we think it probably has to do with gestation.)

    There’s less ontological distance between God and man than between man and woman. It’s as if men are caterpillars, women are worms, and God is a butterfly. We men and women might represent each other superficially, but the caterpillars are destined for something grand. The worms, in contrast, are destined to [this question is apparently not worth our consideration].

  30. 30.

    Obviously you are using hyperbole for effect Kiskilili. There is nothing in the Mormon liturgy that forces one to adopt the extremely sexist cosmology you are describing. In fact it would take an extremist to do so. But maybe your point is that it is possible to do so and that is the problem?

  31. 31.

    Jenna (#17): You echo how I felt in the church a few years back when you say you need “more” and wish other Mormon women would stand with you. I came to understand, however, that most Mormon women are quite content with how things are and they are not going to push for more (at least, not soon enough for me). I wish I had met more Mormon women like you back then. My answer was to leave the church and seek for “more” elsewhere, and it turned out to be a very good choice for me. But I understand that that isn’t the course for everyone. Whatever course you choose, I wish you well in finding what you seek.

    Amelia (#28): Thank you for making me laugh.

    Geoff J (#30): I’m not sure what you see in Kiskilili’s post that seems extreme to you. Can you name a female that the scriptures say has attained Godhood? Can you name a female angel? A female devil? Do you have the name of a female that participated in the creation of the world or an example of anyone communicating with a female deity? Not only are Kiskilili’s observations not extreme, they’re commonly accepted perspectives in Mormonism.

    Thanks for the post Kiskilili.

  32. 32.

    Tam (#31),

    The complaints you are making are related to the Mormon liturgy and scriptures. While all Mormon cosmologies use Mormons scriptures and liturgy as a launching point, not all Mormon cosmologies are sexist. in fact it takes real effort to come up with a Mormon cosmology as extremely sexist as the one Kiskilili came up with for this post.

    I understand the value of such a reductio ad adsurdum approach of course. The problem is when folks pretend such and extreme version of a Mormon cosmology is mistaken to be run-of-the-mill. There are probably as many Mormon cosmologies as there are Mormons. How many Mormons believe the universe really works as K described here? Maybe 0.0001%?

  33. 33.

    Now I’m curious, Geoff J. How do you define/demarcate/delimit Mormon cosmologies? When you say that not all are sexist, can you bring specific counterexamples?

    Is your refutation that, because we have an (in name, at least) open canon, we potentially will have (or could have) more revelation on the role of women? and that, therefore, this openness leaves room for nearly any non-sexist cosmology one might wish? I guess I’m curious about what you are accepting as your jumping off point for establishing what constitutes Mormon cosmology, if you are saying, as you appear to be, that the scriptures and liturgy play less of a defining role than Kiskilili posits.

  34. 34.

    Geoff J (#32): No complaints – just questions to ascertain why you thought the post described a cosmology that was somehow an extreme outlier from mainstream Mormonism. I see your point that there can be many individual Mormon cosmologies, but as a member of the church I was presented with essentially one accepted mainstream cosmology. Because that perspective was, to use your words, launched using sexist scriptures and liturgy, that mainstream perspective was pretty much what Kiskilili described.

    My experience in the church appears to be quite different than yours. I think it’s great that you have found/created a more egalitarian cosmology for yourself within Mormonism. I have to admit, I find it surprising that you encountered non-sexist cosmologies in the church – can you share any of them?

  35. 35.

    Geoff, if you haven’t already listened to it, I think you’d really enjoy this podcast:

    http://www.daughtersofmormonism.blogspot.com/2012/04/episode-37-re-visioning-garment-symbols.html

    These are Mormons who are worshipping the quaternity Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, and suggesting, among things, that Goddess’s Daughter, the Holy Ghost, is perhaps making as significant a sacrifice as God’s Son. I’m not comfortable with everything in this cosmology by any means, but it is balanced, especially once you open up the possibility of prayer to Goddess. And it is Mormon (in the sense that the people advocating it are officially members on record).

    Now we might disagree on how mainstream such views are. My impression is that it’s on the fringe, but I’d love to hear that I’m wrong and that in current Mormon practice praying to Goddess and worshiping a gender-balanced Godhead (whether with 6 members or 4) is becoming more commonplace.

  36. 36.

    Good questions galdrlag. What I mean is that there are innumerable mysteries yet to be revealed about the nature and origin of intelligences/spirits, the nature and origin of God, and how the whole puzzle of the eternities fits together in reality. In the absence of a ton of clarifying revelation Mormons (at least those of us who think about such things) come up with widely differing cosmologies.

    For example I am currently lean toward a cosmology that assumes there is only One God in existence and there will always only be One God in existence. This One God is not a single person though, it is the union of all divine persons. In other words I think “God” is an extended Godhead comprised of all divine persons. Divine persons include the the intelligences/spirits of women and men. So when I read about “The Father” I interpret it that to be another title for The One God.

    I fully recognize that mine is likely a a fairly extreme Mormon cosmology too. But that is my point — Mormon scriptures leave a lot of room for us to choose the Mormon cosmology that makes the most sense to us based on the canonized evidence and our own personal revelations. Maybe I’m right or maybe I’m wrong in my theological and metaphysical assumptions — I expect to find out when I meet God. But I would bet the farm that my Mormon cosmology is closer to the truth than the one Kiskilili outlined in this post.

    In any case I suspect the vast majority of Mormons, when pressed, would probably say they believe in a cosmology that is somewhat less egalitarian than mine but significantly less sexist than Kiskilili’s.

  37. 37.

    Thanks for the link Kiskilili. I’ll check it out.

    Based on your description I would probably agree that their cosmology is not mainstream. My main point is we are given a lot of room to decide what our own Mormon cosmology will look like. Sounds like we are on the same page with that one point at least.

  38. 38.

    Regarding Heavenly Mother–I would think she could make herself more known if She wanted to. Since She is equal to Heavenly Father, She must be all right with the status quo.
    If She wanted to play a more visible part as have the other members of the Goodhood, then She would. Perhaps it is us who don’t understand how things really are and why.
    She obviously does.

  39. 39.

    meg,
    I think our Parents are restrained by our choices. Plus, this status quo only exists within Mormonism. Goddess/Heavenly Mother is alive and well and kicking in other religions and is prayed to. The way I see it, She won’t force communication any more than Her partner will. Our Parents will always stand in the same place; we are the ones who draw nearer or farther. Because Mormonism is so patriarchal, most members won’t think to talk to their Mother. To me, this is a tragedy of epic proportions. Both men and women are damaged by this.

  40. 40.

    Kiskilili ~ Speaking as one of the people who was in that Daughters of Mormonism podcast you linked, I just wanted to clarify something. We are active members of the church who have testimonies of Heavenly Mother, and have adjusted our concepts of theology accordingly. We *speculate* at length about other ideas that would honor femaleness more rather than leaving everything so male-centric (for example, who is the Spirit, was Mary Magdaline married to Jesus, and if so is she in the theology somewhere, etc). We are seeking more balanced understandings, because scripture says that God’s house is a house of order, and so balance seems like a rational thing to expect.

  41. 41.

    I should say, balance seems like a rational thing to expect…even though patriarchy has worked hard for millennia to bury it.

  42. 42.

    My two cents’ worth is simply this: if you feel strongly about Heavenly Mother, celebrate her, pray to her and enjoy her presence in your life.
    This will not take away one jot from the reverence we give to her husband, our Heavenly Father.
    I don’t pretend to be an expert in theology, but I pray every morning to BOTH my heavenly parents. This enriches my life immeasurably, and no one on this earth can stop me or take it away from me.

  43. 43.

    Violetta, that’s a great perspective, and I completely agree. I also pray to both my Heavenly Parents. And I was inspired by a testimony I heard some years ago in my home ward where the woman bearer said that for all that she loved Heavenly Father, sometimes she just felt more comfortable talking to Heavenly Mother.

    The problem is (I don’t know if you’re intending to imply this, and if not, I apologize for reading too much into your statement), is that the church by no means is willing to accept it. About a year ago, I was called on to say a prayer in Sunday School, and on a whim, I prayed to Heavenly Mother. A week later, I got called in to have an hour long conversation with my branch president who told me it wasn’t my place to be changing doctrine, and gave me a talk from President Hinckley from 20 years ago (I don’t remember its name off the top of my head) where he details all the reasons why he thinks it’s inappropriate to pray to Heavenly Mother. I wrote all the reasons why I disagreed with him and returned them to my branch president (for example, Pres Hinckley cites a number of scriptures that specifically say that we need to be praying to our Father and uses it as an argument as to why we should be praying to our Father, but not our Mother; problem is, the scriptures came at times when people didn’t even know about Heavenly Mother, so why would God be saying don’t pray to Her?) and he never responded. I’ve since had a conversation with the first counselor in which he’s said he respects my right to pray to Heavenly Mother, but as long as I do, they can’t call on me to pray in church.

    So whatever else, we are a long, long way from being able to accept in our mainstream the idea of Heavenly Mother being deity, and not the secondary companion of Her husband that needs to be protected by Him.

  44. 44.

    I suspect Lady Amalthea’s experience—that praying to or invoking Goddess is socially transgressive in Mormon communities—is the norm and not the exception in the church.

    It’s true that Mormonism as it’s lived on the ground has very little to do with canonized scripture or liturgy. (Correlation and BYU religion professors are shaping doctrine a lot more profoundly than scripture ever did.) But even if we throw out the canon and choose, as our methodology for determining “Mormon cosmology,” the approach of a social scientist collecting information from ordinary members in the pews, I doubt we’d find an egalitarian cosmological outlook. I suspect the vast majority of Mormons believe in the all-male Godhead and the male devil Correlation has fed them; the place where I think we’d find doctrinal creep is on the question of the sex of angels, where we seem to be heavily influenced by Hallmark.

    If Mormons don’t recognize their beliefs in the cosmology I’ve outlined, they’re either heretical or they’re not accepting the uncomfortable consequences of their ideas.

  45. 45.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jenni B! I think your speculations are great, and highlight just how profoundly androcentric the mainstream Mormon outlook is.

  46. 46.

    [...] Melyngoch, commenting on Kiskilili’s post “Mormonism Has the Most Sexist Cosmology of Any Religion” at ZD: [I]f I’m ever in a marriage where I find my husband treating me with reverence, I’m going to wear nothing but a Big Bird costume with little plastic devil horns and moonwalk everywhere I go until he STOPS IT. [...]

  47. 47.

    I just found this website and this topic, so my comments may be too late, but I wanted to make them anyway.

    I think there is a big difference between practice and our cosmology. I think the cosmology is not as sexist as it is portrayed in some earlier posts, but I agree that sometimes our practices could cause people, especially women, to perceive our cosmology as being sexist.

    I think in the church most people accept the cosmology that, as Erastus Snow put it, “Deity consists of man and woman.” The average member would agree that to be a God / Goddess, you need to be married (for this post I’m ignoring how practices related to this marginalize single members). Thus, if we know of males who are Gods, we know their spouse is a Goddess. DC 132 talks about A man marrying A woman, and THEY are Gods. I think most Mormons leave it at the “you have to be married to be a God” stage. I, along with Snow, take it a little further and believe that the term God is plural. I always sing “I am a child of God and They have sent me here.” I used to wonder why the term Elohim was a plural word. I now believe it is because it refers to God the Father and God the Mother at the same time. Admittedly, I would love our practice to change so that when we see Elohim portrayed, we see the two portrayed separately.

    A great article “A Mother There,” by David Paulsen (available for $2) looks at what General Authorities in the church have said about Heavenly Mother. Interestingly, the “She’s too sacred to discuss” is not from general authorities. Instead they typically see Her as a partner with God the Father in all aspects form the creation of the Plan, to the creation of the Earth, to involvement with our individual lives, to welcoming us to our Celestial home. As this post is about cosmology not practice, I won’t say too much about how appalling I find it that this information on Her is available only by paying $2 for an article if you happen to find it, instead of being in the Gospel Principles manual, or True to the Faith, for all members to read.

    With regards to knowing the name of female devils or angels, I think that with the huge population of each, and the small sample size we have of known names, it is not too unrealistic that we only know of men’s names, especially when we consider that the majority of angels whose names we have were related to historic priesthood authority, and came from times when men dominated the realm of authority. I don’t think that given these facts we can conclude that there are not female angels nor female devils.

  48. 48.

    On whether Elohim refers to a divine couple, see the following:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2007/11/08/does-elohim-include-heavenly-mother/

    I’ll grant that people construe Mormonism to mean different things; for most believers, Mormonism is constituted by the body of beliefs and practices, historical and current, espoused by some contingent of church leaders, that they personally believe and practice. If we investigated the religion in terms of what individual Mormons believe at the present time— without reference to sacred texts—we would probably discover most Mormons profess a belief in some form of gender “equality” in the afterlife and recoil from the idea that women are either eternally subordinated or eternally marginalized (in spite of sacred texts, including the liturgy, proclaiming exactly that).

    However, it’s striking how absent female characters are from Mormon visions of the eternities, and, in my opinion, Mormons deal with this absence with extreme glibness. Adam helps with creation; Eve does not, being herself a part of that creation. There simply are no women in the afterlife in D&C 76. Our sacred texts provide us with virtually no resources for constructing a doctrine of female ensoulment. And it extends beyond scripture and liturgy—all of the major players in the cosmological stories we tell, from God to Jesus to Satan, are male. The message we get from the temple to church manuals to conference to the scriptures is that God is a male and he interacts almost exclusively with males. Mary gets to play a bit part, but explicitly as a vessel—an object; she’s virtually reduced to her womb.

    The best case scenario is that our eternal salvation depends on our understanding the cosmological roles males have played; the roles females have played in eternity (if any) simply aren’t important enough for Goddess, or anyone else out there, to reveal them to us.

  49. 49.

    On female angels: Eve has pointed out to me how bizarre it is that Gabriel brings news to Mary of her impending pregnancy. If ever there was a moment to send a female angel, this was it. This might suggest the complete lack of female angels in canon is more than happenstance.

  50. 50.

    Been thinking – probably too much – about this. Esther seems to be a story that suggests, at the very least, female foreordination. Also, patriarchal blessings. I don’t know how those fit with cosmology, I’m neither a doctor nor a cosmologist (theologian? yet?)

    But, in talking to my little sister about this, she reminded me that Heavenly Mother has a personality and preferences and opinions. Probably. I disagree with my friend who thinks there’s a platonic ideal that we reach through godhood. I don’t know how to square “perfection” with personalities. Maybe, goes my thinking, Heavenly Mother would prefer to take a quiet back seat? And with correlation, the more traditional ways we had of communicating with and about Her are forgotten a bit?

    I’m not even sure if this comment belongs here, but I guess my point is that most revelation is of the “answers to questions” variety, and most prophets just haven’t really felt a burning need to ask about or include women’s roles. And maybe knowing more about Heavenly Mother won’t necessarily show me the limits of my eternal role? (Yes, I’d still like to know it, but the “things will be different in my Worlds” fantasy is a strong one for me.)

  51. 51.

    I happily belong to a church which must be more progressive and on the right track ( as compared to the Mormons, the Catholics, and others) … as they happily and willingly encourage, and treat woman equally, and ordain woman to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and allow woman to be Deacons, serve as ushers, and bless and pass the Sacrament … it is the UCC Congregational Church, the same church which originally were the Puritans/Pilgrims. They are also Open and Affirming which means they accept lovingly gay people into their membership. Their motto is “God is Still Speaking.” … I used to be LDS and had experienced many of the typical things that we gay LDS people experience and I was so blessed and very surprised how my exerience is and was with the Open and Affirming UCC Congregational Church was toward me. They excepted me with love and with open arms, and they even fly the Rainbow flag in the most openly way possible … directly in front of the church for the world to see.

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