Project Conversion

Project Conversion


Our Mother, Who Art In Heaven…

posted by abowen

Nope, that isn’t a misprint. In general, members of the LDS Church believe in the existence of a divine momma, however if you ever ask a member of the church about her, well…

The concept of God the Father being the sire of us all isn’t so foreign in what we might call “mainstream Christianity,” after all, Jesus went on about this reality extensively during his ministry. But it wasn’t until I hooked up with the Latter-day Saints this month that I was asked to take this literally. What really blew my mind was the idea that God the Father and Jesus reside in heaven with literal, however glorified and perfect, bodies (Doctrine and Covenants 130: 22). If this is true, and Jesus is the firstborn of God, then how did God–being a dude–make us kids?

Divine baby-momma.

What a concept! We have literal divine parents, because after all, God did say that he created us in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). As previously mentioned, Jesus also commented on God not only being his father, but our father. Remember the Lord’s Prayer?

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” –Matthew 6: 9-13

Jesus also asks us to,

“Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” –Matthew 5: 48

There are many other scriptures that imply divine parentage–mostly via Jesus–but for the Latter-day Saints,

“Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body.”–Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998] 335

According to this teaching by the presidents and prophets of the Church, we lived in heaven with Heavenly Father before the foundations of the earth were even made. The idea is that in order to develop and mature, we needed a physical existence to test our faith and grow–much as we do while children–to learn the ropes of adulthood. We could not do this in heaven because we had the undeniable benefit of being in God’s presence. While on earth, we have a chance to prove ourselves worthy of living with Heavenly Father, and with the help of the Holy Spirit (the witness and teacher of truth), we can come to know the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wow.

Again, these ideals about the nature of God are pretty foreign, but I have to admit, attractive too. Modern day prophets of the church often extend this idea to involve the existence of a Heavenly Mother simply because it makes sense in this context. The family is the most basic and sacred unit of mankind. If we are modeled after a divine plan via the Father, it implies that the blueprint for us rests in the realities of heaven, ergo, a divine family.

Now go further. If we are literal sons and daughters of God, guess what? We’re brothers and sisters!

No wonder we fight so much…

So what about Heavenly Mother? Why don’t we hear much about her? Many LDS members are reticent to discuss her because, frankly, there are few details scripturally. Once we start talking about issues with no doctrinal basis, conjecture and folklore creep in and before you know it there are divergent theories flying all over the place. Another explanation my Mentors provided that it’s more out of modesty and respect.

Imagine all the bad things said about Heavenly Father and Jesus and all the times their names are taken in vain. Who is the one person you do not insult in front of a guy? His mom. In a way, leaving Heavenly Mother out of the messy business of theology is a sort of chivalry, protecting her honor and modesty with a quiet, yet knowing reverence. Because of this, LDS members do not pray to her. They do acknowledge though, in general, that she is a model of the mother/woman role in the family, just as Heavenly Father is for the husband, and Jesus is the model for all of us as children of God.

I like that last line. I like the idea of a heavenly model. Heavenly Father providing, Heavenly Mother with her gentle touch, and Jesus as older brother/leader showing us how things are done.

This is a lot to process, and I’m sure there are a lot of gaps here, but I invite you to ponder these concepts. What is your impression of God as a father? Can you imagine a heavenly family? For me, I get a closer, familial sense of my relationship with God. In this way, I’m not honoring and worshiping some distant, powerful force, but a thoughtful and loving father who purposefully created me to one day join him.

Now if we just had a Heavenly dog…

 



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Laurelle

posted August 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm


I got here from a link on classicmomscorner.blogspot.com, and I have to say I’m really impressed with what you’re doing. It takes a truly open mind and loving heart to devote so much energy to exploring others’ spiritual realities, and to do it kindly and without prejudice. Thank you.

In response to river–
That has actually been the most difficult issue for me as a member of the LDS church. I’m very much a feminist and it’s hard, very hard, for me to reconcile that with a church that has little official information about the divine female figure and that doesn’t allow women to hold the priesthood or serve in certain roles (even or maybe especially if there are women-only roles as well).

However, after a lot of study and prayer on the subject, I’m at peace with my church, for a couple of reasons. One is that I disagree with you about gender–I believe as my faith teaches, it’s eternal and inherent in each soul. Not that any individual can’t cultivate specific virtues because of their sex–far from it! But that there are differences, unfortunately so clouded by cultural perceptions that I can’t even give myself a satisfactory answer about what specifically they are. I can tell you what they aren’t, though: they’re not inequalities. Everyone has an equal chance at righteousness and salvation and what have you. But we have different roles to fulfill on the way, not because we each couldn’t do the work the other does–I’m sure we could–but because Heavenly Father knows what WE need to experience for our own growth and has thoughtfully provided us with the opportunity.

Moreover, we’re told we need each other for balance and to strengthen each others’ weaknesses. No man reaches exaltation without a woman he’s sealed to, and no woman reaches it without a man. Nobody is higher than anybody else in that arrangement; we’re partners. And that’s my next reason for being content: men and women are partners, and however much one might try to point out supposed superiority in one or the other, the Church would fail if either was taken away.

But the bottom line for me, really, is that I trust God. I don’t understand as much as He does. So when He arranges things a certain way and gives no explanation why, and I have a choice to follow or not, I choose to have faith. Not blind faith–like I said, I’ve prayed hard about this, and as a church we believe in personal revelation. I got my answer. It wasn’t an explanation. It was just a confirmation that the church is true and that I need to follow its teachings, including this one. You can believe or discount that experience as you like; I know that’s not a good enough answer for everyone, especially those who haven’t had a similar experience. But it was good enough for me.

It also occurred to me as I was writing this that if I believe in a Heavenly Mother, that She must be in on this arrangement, too. I don’t believe for a second that Heavenly Father is making Her do anything She doesn’t want to do–just like my husband has no way to lead me where I won’t follow. So if She is the essence and epitome of the feminine, the ultimate example for all women, then whatever works for Her works for me.



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 8:24 pm


Thanks for bringing up that lovely visual, Kitsune. And as for dogs, that was just a little comic relief ; )



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 8:24 pm


Thanks for the reminder about the Baha’i perspective. The bottom line to both traditions is that the reality of this issue is a mystery. God is viewed as sexually neutral in many cases within the Middle Eastern traditions, however many references in scripture suggests a lower level or role for women. This is tough to reconcile, however I think modernity is helping with our interpretations. You will also remember that while women are said to be equal with men in the Baha’i tradition, they are not permitted to hold the “highest” roles in the Universal House of Justice. In other words, this sentiment plagues nearly every faith.



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river

posted July 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm


this is fascinating, and something i did not know about lds teachings.

as you already did your turn as a baha’i, you probably know that we believe gender/sex to be aspects of this material existence, not inherent to our spiritual reality. so god is genderless, and manifests all the attributes we would consider masculine and feminine. once we pass from this world, we leave our gender identity behind as part of our physical reality, and are purely spiritual beings.

i think this is important, because it teaches us that even in this world we are not constrained by our physical gender, in terms of the qualities and virtues we develop. we are all capable of being nurturing and merciful, and as a man it shows me the importance of cultivating these qualities, so that they balance my biological and cultural tendencies.

this also applies to the human body on the macro scale — society. much of human history is dominated by the male attributes. it’s critical in this time of humanity’s maturation that we balance the masculine and the feminine in order to address the crises, many a result of this imbalance.

a quote from the baha’i writings:

“The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings . . . become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary.”

i also fear that there is a subtle message in these teachings of lds that the masculine is above the feminine, since god the father has a primacy in this heavenly relationship, and one doesn’t pray or speak much about the mother. i’d be interested to hear how lds members reconcile that.



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Kitsune

posted July 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm


So.. if everyone is your brother and sister.. then logically you have slept with your sister and bore children with her. Think about that. LOL!

The concept of a Goddess isn’t new. There has been many types of gods, however, and different types of “family models” besides the supposedly natural monogamous, heterosexual relationship. There have been gay gods, transvestite gods, asexual and bisexual gods, and anything else you can think of. But, as you know, there is no scripture of these gods either.

BTW, dogs were viewed favorably and were even companions to gods before monotheism came into the scene…



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 12:17 am


Could be a cop out. Very much so. Or God is just old school and Heavenly Mother is just one of those ol’ fashion gals. Who knows!



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 12:16 am


Thanks!



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 12:16 am


It does indeed change our attitudes when we look at our relationships that way, doesn’t it?



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 12:15 am


Jessie, I have two daughters and understanding this concept–that they are holy daughters of God–I think represents a fantastic foundation for self respect.



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abowen

posted July 29, 2011 at 12:14 am


That is a great way to understand the feminine aspect of the divine!



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