Every time someone complains on the blogs about the fact that we know next to nothing about Heavenly Mother, someone else busts out the tried-and-true argument that we shouldn’t feel bad about this, because we don’t know much about Heavenly Father either. (For example, see the discussion following Tracy M.’s wonderful post “But Where Am I?” at BCC a few days ago.)
This is not a good argument. It kind of suggests that people are wishing to hear little details about Heavenly Mother. Like maybe is she left-handed? Or what’s her favorite color? Or her shoe size? Or how did she and Heavenly Father meet during their mortal probation? Perhaps she was a dentist and he was a bartender, and he totally botched her complicated drink request, but he had such a charming smile that all her friends said she should give him a chance, and she did, and the rest is history.
But of course, it’s nothing like this that people want to know. It’s the basics. The fact is that we know some very basic fundamental things about Heavenly Father than we don’t know about Heavenly Mother.
- He exists. It seems silly to have to spell this out, but we talk about Heavenly Father all the time. We pray to him in all our meetings and at our tables and in our closets. At least when I was a missionary, he was the first point in the first discussion. His existence is absolutely central to our beliefs. Heavenly Mother, not so much. Oh, sure, we believe in her, kind of. Her existence is more something that we infer than something that’s really crucial. We talk about her hardly at all. Of course this is no accident. President Hinckley famously gave a Conference talk in 1991 where he responded to a teenage girl’s letter by saying in effect, that yes, Heavenly Mother exists, but let us never speak of her again. The result is, as Kevin Barney at BCC put it once so well, a culture where “it’s acceptable to say ‘Heavenly Parents’ (because Proc), but it would take a cattle prod to get anyone to actually say ‘Heavenly Mother’ or ‘Mother in Heaven.'”
- There is only one of him. This isn’t at all an open question for Heavenly Father. But you can’t say “Heavenly Mother” on the bloggernacle without someone coming along to ask “Don’t you mean Heavenly Mothers?” And it’s a fair question, given what we have to go on. With our refusal to repudiate polygamy, GA statements about Heavenly Mother that often leave the door open for the possibility of multiple Heavenly Mothers, and current GAs who are planning to live polygamy in the next life, it’s no surprise that this remains an unresolved issue.
- He is important. The plan of salvation/happiness is his plan. The universe is his creation. We are his children. Heavenly Mother? Well, sure, she’s probably important. Maybe. We must be her children too, right? And who’s to say she wasn’t part of coming up with the plan too? We’re free to speculate all we want, since we have nothing to go on at all about how important she is, other than guessing and inferring based on her relationship to Heavenly Father and how important he is. And of course this interacts with the multiple Heavenly Mothers question too. If there are lots of Heavenly Mothers, it seems like any particular one of them is a whole lot less important than the singular Heavenly Father.
- He is powerful. We pray to Heavenly Father to ask for help, for comfort, for whatever we need. We’re counting on him to ultimately get everyone judged and assigned their just reward in the afterlife. And Heavenly Mother’s power is, like her importance, undetermined. We can speculate that it might be great, but there’s really nothing solid in our teachings to go on.
Of course what makes this lack of information so pressing is that Heavenly Mother is the only model women have for what they might expect in the next life. It’s far easier for us men to wave questions about her away with arguments like the one I’m responding to here. We have models–thin though they may be– for what our experience might be in the next life. We do know some fundamental things about Heavenly Father. Women have nothing to go on at all in thinking about what the next life might look like for them. In fact, it might even be the case that what they have is worse than nothing. We acknowledge the existence of Heavenly Mother, but say virtually nothing about her, which kind of suggests that she’s completely irrelevant, and therefore that’s the likely fate of righteous women who achieve exaltation. So let’s stop using this argument and pretending there’s any kind of equivalence between what we know about Heavenly Father and what we know about Heavenly Mother. There isn’t.