Heavenly Mother and Gay Marriage

One of the doctrinal situations in the church that many feminists (and even some non-feminists) find particularly challenging is our lack of knowledge about Heavenly Mother. We know that she exists—this has been reiterated by a recent gospel topics essay—but, troublingly, we are not allowed to pray to her or worship her. I’ve personally blogged about the topic a couple of times—once about why I don’t want to believe in her (because she’s silent and subordinate), and once about why I do (because I want to believe that women are equal in the eternities). Every time this topic gets discussed, I encounter women sharing the deep desire to have a connection not just to an eternal father, but to a mother as well. It’s not good enough just to have a father, they say; we also need the influence of a mother in our lives.

It is worth noting, however, that these kinds of arguments are exactly those being made against same-sex marriage. Children need opposite-sex parents. It’s not enough to have just a father (or a mother)—they need the influence of the opposite sex as well.

So what are you to do if you both see a need for Heavenly Mother, and you support gay marriage? Are the two hopelessly in conflict? I’ve thought a lot about this question. And these are my very tentative thoughts on why I think you can make the case that a belief in Heavenly Mother doesn’t have to preclude support of same-sex marriage, and vice versa.

1) We need Heavenly Mother because we need information about what women are doing in the eternities. This is vital. The fact that she’s (apparently) silent and distant points to the devastating possibility that that is the destiny of her daughters. The fact that we don’t worship her is particularly troubling, I think—it suggest that women can’t become divine beings worthy of worship in the way that men can. Are women more than appendages to men? This is a core question, and a stronger doctrine of Heavenly Mother, one which not just allowed but celebrated the possibility of prayer to her, would go a long way in saying that women are powerful agents in their own right. This is the case whether or not one believes in gay marriage.

2) We have no idea what the makeup of the eternities generally, but our doctrine is that we in our sphere have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. If you believe in the value of two-parent families, it’s a problem that we’re missing a parent. And if she’s there, we should be learning about her, regardless of whether the heavens are generally heteronormative.

3) We need Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father as role models for all of us, to show us that positive traits aren’t limited to one sex or the other, that in particular women can be leaders and men can be nurturing. We need this as a challenge to our cultural gender stereotypes. We all need this, regardless of sexual orientation.

Ahh, you say, but once you’ve brought up role models, don’t children in individual families need role models of each sex? I can in fact see advantages for those in straight marriages, because they get role modeling from two sexes—but I can also see advantages for those in gay marriages, because they get to see the variation among people of the same sex, and are less likely to hold gender stereotypes. But more importantly,

4) We need to move away from the isolated nuclear family, and give children from both straight and gay marriages multiple role models of both sexes, whether found in extended family or close friends. The idea that there should be an isolated unit of parents and children which is autonomous and independent is a particular historical and cultural ideal which has caused all kinds of problems. Same-sex marriage becomes less threatening, I think, when you have a broader concept of family.

5) Same-sex marriage and a robust doctrine of Heavenly Mother both bring about good things, I would argue. The former encourages committed relationships among gay people, and the latter empowers women (just to name a few of the benefits). It would be a shame to abandon one of these goods simply because the theoretical issues are messy.

In the end, I believe we have a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father. And I don’t think that their gay children are some kind of mistake. I don’t know what that means in the plan of salvation, or how it will play out in the eternities. (Taylor Petrey’s work is worth a mention here, as one possibly way of dealing with the theological challenges posed by homosexuality.) But I’m not ready to write off the importance of Heavenly Mother, or say that gay people are defective. It’s a hard issue, but it’s one worth tackling.

13 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you, Lynette. This is very interesting with me because I spent all last night arguing with someone about this very thing! I’ve never felt a particular need to be ministered to by a Heavenly Mother. When I’m experiencing physical pains incident to a female body, or questions and frustrations about parenting, I don’t feel to pray to a Mother rather than a Father. I affirm the experience and needs of others who express such yearnings, but it’s never been part of me. Sure, it would be nice, but I’ve always felt that a sufficiently empathetic Father would be adequate for my nurture and comfort.

    Yet I get white hot rage when others (cough*male theology scholars*cough) seem blase about the existence of a Mother, or approach the debate about whether a search of the LDS historical record yields enough evidence to conclusively support Her existence with a casual, semi-detached, intellectualizing air.

    It matters to me because of what you said in #1. I don’t care about Heavenly Mother for Her sake, but for mine. The discussion about HM is important because I need to know if when I die I just go into the void like the atheists believe, or whether women exist in the afterlife. If we believe that earth life is boot camp training for exaltation, which means becoming deity (with a physical body) with your own planet, and there is no evidence in the temple film that women participate in those exalted activities of creation, and only flimsy evidence in the historical record, then we aren’t really sure if women have a path forward post-mortality. Then we aren’t really sure if I am a full human, because full humans (men) are agents for the purpose of that boot camp training. You know who else’s post-mortal existence we have only scattered evidence and authority quotations to support? Our beloved pet dogs and cats.

    Men, think about that. Think about what it is like to worship in a religion where there is less clarity on whether you exist post-death than there is about whether Fido exists after his death. I’m glad that we now have the essay as an official weigh-in in support of her existence, but the authorities and evidence it cites struck me as so conspicuously thin as to actually have the opposite of a reassuring effect.

    Heavenly Mother matters. She really, really matters.




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  2. I believe heavenly father and heavenly mother are equal in power and authority.

    I believe our culture of patriarchy has made both earthly and heavenly women appendages, but when the truth is fully revealed all be “alike unto God, male and female gay and straight, black and white.” combined with the endowment where both men and women wear the robes of the holy priesthood “so they can officiate in the ordinances thereof”




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  3. Are you familiar with the idea of the Council of Gods that make up the Elohim? This is even less discussed and certainly hadn’t made an appearance in the church essays, but it could very well be that the diversity we seek in the Godhead is there and that each of us can find the diety we feel most comfortable with.




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  4. I think looking towards our future can help us look towards God’s present. Or, as Descent just alluded to, the Gods present.

    Using the simple version of it all, what is our celestial future? To become celestial beings on a celestialized earth. The same sociality as we have now, coupled with celestial glory.

    So not one off couples (or is that two off?), but an entire community of God’s (as the Book of Abraham puts it).

    Oft time people say “maybe we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because we have more than one”. Well, what if we have more than one father, too? What if we have a whole saved world full of Mothers and Fathers? And the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother are the idealized “One” of these, much in the same way we tend to simplify “God” to be the Father, sometimes forgetting that Son and Holy Ghost are equally “God”.

    I believe Mormons are best described, not as monotheists or polytheists, but as pluralistic monotheists, in that we worship a single God, but that God is made up of a plurality of beings. A plurality of beings we are striving to join.

    And to tie it back to the OP – then it doesn’t matter the make up of any given couple. Just as they are individuals combined in one, they are combined in one with tons of other couples too.




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  5. I really like your thoughts here, Lynnette. I really like your point about knowledge about HM being important because we currently have no doctrine about what exalted women do in the afterlife, so it looks for all the world like they are eternally silent. This is important information even setting aside who HM is or the possibility of a relationship with her.

    Also, this is kind of a side point you made, but I really like your point that children of same-gender parents get to see variation *within* two people of the same gender. That’s a great point I hadn’t ever seen articulated before, but it totally makes sense.




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  6. I love your comment, Cynthia. I think you totally nailed a gigantic problem with how so many men talk about HM. This is so spot on.

    “Yet I get white hot rage when others (cough*male theology scholars*cough) seem blase about the existence of a Mother, or approach the debate about whether a search of the LDS historical record yields enough evidence to conclusively support Her existence with a casual, semi-detached, intellectualizing air.”




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  7. I’m very much of Geoff’s opinion that our Heavenly Parents are equal partners. In fact, I would go so far to say that our masculinization of God has more to do with our limited human arrogance and does not wholly reflect Who God actually is. In my own personal prayers I’ve started addressing “God” rather than “Heavenly Father” because, while I’ve never felt comfortable outright praying to Heavenly Mother I know that She exists and I want to communicate with Her in my prayers just as much as Her Partner.

    Actually, in contemplating LGBTQIA issues and realities, I’ve come to realize that eternity must be far vaster and stranger than we think it must be. We limit ourselves and needlessly harm our fellows when we attempt to take a narrow view on the limitless possibilities offered by the restored Gospel.

    But, having said all of that, it IS vital that we come to a more concrete understanding of Heavenly Mother because understanding Her helps us understand women and what we have to look forward to in the eternities. Men currently have at least a ghost of an idea, we women are left grasping at shadows with only our own sense of divinity to try to help guide us through. Yes, pursuing this line of doctrinal inquiry will send us even further from the mainstream of Christian thought and theology, and that’s a scary thing. We simply have to decide what’s more important, furthering our understanding of God’s Plan or fitting in with our co-religionists.

    God is ready to give us more light and knowledge. We, as a people, are the only ones holding it back.




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  8. I fall into the camp of people who do not feel they need a God of a particular gender to pray to. I’m happy with either a male or female God as my source for answers and comfort. I believe God to be all understanding so gender doesn’t really matter to me.
    My problem with the current teachings on Heavenly Mother are that they put me, as a woman, in a secondary role. The new Mother in Heaven essay states “Indeed, as Elder Rudger Clawson wrote, “We honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal Prototype.”” I would add that we dishonor woman by denying Heavenly Mother as a being worth worship. By saying that we can’t worship her or pray to her, we are saying that women in the eternities are not the same sort of beings as men. Men are worthy of worship when they become Gods and women are not. I am not okay with this teaching.
    In the church we believe that they way to become God is to have eternal increase, that is why being able to create spirit children in so important. We have decided that there is only one way to create spirit children – man/woman pairs. I think that God created a number of creatures to inspire us and show us that there are many paths to creation. There are species of African frogs that can change gender from female to male in order to reproduce. There are plenty of organisms that reproduce asexually. Why would God create organisms that can reproduce in such various ways if there is only one way to have eternal increase in heaven? My opinion, he’s trying to inspire us to think outside of the box.




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  9. Thanks, Lynette, for raising the difficulty and beginning to think through it. I’m glad to learn from you.

    And Cynthia’s comment does indeed nail it.




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  10. The OP brings up a lot of riverbottom muck for me, personally. The author writes, and I respond within:

    1) We need Heavenly Mother because we need information about what women are doing in the eternities… Are women more than appendages to men?

    —I think the teaching and more importantly the example and history show that HM is just a thing to HF and that HF wants her to be only a thing or a nothing to us, because that is how he has taught his sons to treat the daughters. Maybe she is a melted pile of reproductive organs that he uses. But she isn’t a *person* person to HF.

    2) We have no idea what the makeup of the eternities generally, but our doctrine is that we in our sphere have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. If you believe in the value of two-parent families, it’s a problem that we’re missing a parent…

    —And that is the summary of female value. Females probably aren’t even sentient in the here-after, as we are treated as essentially non-sentient here and there.

    3) We need Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father as role models for all of us…

    —they are role models. HF teaches exclusion, HM teaches abandonment or despair or non-sentience. Only Jesus is a positive role model.

    4) We …give children from both straight and gay marriages multiple role models of both sexes…

    —Again, the role models are there already and I think this article is written somewhat disingenuously because you are ignoring that role models *already* exist but they aren’t positive, except for Jesus.

    5) Same-sex marriage and a robust doctrine of Heavenly Mother both bring about good things, I would argue.. It would be a shame to abandon one of these goods simply because the theoretical issues are messy.

    —they aren’t messy. This history is clear and consistent.

    In the end, I believe we have a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father…

    —I think it is possible and likely. HF appears to have such grotesque cruelty that it does seem likely that he has captured females and reduced them, just as the scriptures describe mortals doing. It seems that only HF’s obsession with perfection is *our* saving grace because that is how Jesus persuades HF to let us all “live”. We are all related to both HF and Jesus, so family life is going to be interesting, though it appears that just living isn’t going to be easy, as HF actively teaches all the males to abuse women by reducing us to living objects owned by males.




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