Truth Eternal Tells Me I’ve a Mother There

[ 79 ] Comments

by Becca

From our Separating Culture from Doctrine series, an ongoing series addressing culture and policy in our LDS communities that stem from doctrine but may not necessarily be doctrine. If you have a question to ask or an essay to submit, please do so using our Contact or Submit form.

We received this question from a reader:

menorahMy question rests with Heavenly Mother.  We talk as though she exists but practice though she does not and give (no) explanation as to why (i.e. we don’t talk about her out of respect?? When I die, I sure hope my children talk about me, share stories, etc.  that seems very respectful.)

So where does Heavenly Mother sit in the triangle? Doctrine, policy or culture??

In 2011, David L. Paulsen and Martin Pulido published an excellent overview of this very topic, titled “A Mother There” A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven. It is an excellent (though long) read, including the footnotes, and I encourage everyone who has an interest in Heavenly Mother to study that article.

The article begins with the following stanzas from the hymn O, My Father which read

In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

I remember the first time I really heard the words from this hymn. It was a stake conference when I was very young, either still in Primary or just in Young Women. My aunt was the stake choir director, and I don’t remember if I actually sang with my mother in the choir, or if I simply attended the rehearsals. Either way, I remember that they sang an arrangement of this hymn, and I remember loving the part that talked about having a Mother in Heaven. It just felt right, and I don’t think I have ever doubted her existence since.

I also don’t remember feeling as though I shouldn’t talk about her, although I do remember my parents giving the same explanation as to why we don’t talk about her, something about her being too sacred and Heavenly Father wanting to protect her from the disrespect He received from us mortal beings. That always seemed like hogwash, but I was young and naive and I didn’t really mind not talking about her at Church as long as I knew that everyone else knew that she was real.

In their article, Paulsen and Pulido immediately state that the existence of a Heavenly Mother is doctrine. I think that much is clear, that we have a Mother in Heaven. Sometimes it seems a little obscure, because she has never really been a topic of a General Conference talk (although she has been mentioned either directly or indirectly by referencing our “heavenly parents” in probably most General Conferences). However, I am confident in asserting that Heavenly Mother exists and is an important part of our eternal identity, and you would be hard-pressed to find a Mormon leader who would argue against that.

Now comes the harder part: why she doesn’t have a more prominent place in our everyday gospel discussions.

In their article, Paulsen and Pulido mention,

Because the Saints are instructed to pray to the Father, and, as President Hinckley pointed out, nothing has been authoritatively revealed about Heavenly Mother, some Latter-day Saints have thought that any mention of her is discouraged by the Church.

This probably answers your question of why no one talks about her. Because there is so little officially revealed doctrine about Heavenly Mother, I believe people have a hard time wanting to bring her up in, say, Gospel Doctrine class, and open the door to all sorts of speculation and possible false doctrine. I love to discuss the things we do know, and I think it is good to use what we do know to help us understand what we don’t know.

If we never talk about something just because we don’t know anything about it, then we are stuck. If no one ever talks about Heavenly Mother, then no one will ever talk about Heavenly Mother, by this logic.

asherahAnath sepulchral stela, Encyclopaedia Britannica

I think that it is beneficial to discuss what we do know about Heavenly Mother, and this article by Paulsen and Pulido really helped me to realize that many prophets and apostles have taught about Heavenly Mother.

They basically asked the same question that you are asking, and according to their research, this is what they found:

Our investigation has led us to conclude that such claims—that the Church mandates silence or gives only simplistic portrayals of Mother in Heaven—are mostly false. In this paper, we will share important historical accounts that cast serious doubt on the specific claims that, first, a sacred silence has always surrounded this treasured Mormon doctrine and that, second, Heavenly Mother’s ascribed roles have been marginalized or trivialized. With respect to the second claim, we will share historical portrayals of Heavenly Mother as procreator and parent, as a divine person, as co-creator of worlds, as coframer of the plan of salvation with the Father, and as a concerned and loving parent involved in our mortal probation.

The authors also mention that their research is not exhaustive, and they only presented a handful of the over 600 quotes relating to Heavenly Mother! So, as you can see, people do talk about her.

To sum up the answer to your question – the existence of Heavenly Mother is doctrine. Beyond her existence, not much has been revealed, but that doesn’t mean the other things leaders have said about her are not possibly true; they are simply not official doctrine. The idea that we shouldn’t speak about Heavenly Mother is definitely cultural. There is no official policy about whether or not we should speak of her, and I would have a hard time believing there is a doctrinal reason why we should not speak of her.

  • When was the first time you heard of Heavenly Mother?
  • Do you believe that the existence of Heavenly Mother is doctrinal?
  • Do you think we should or should not speak of her? Why or why not?

About Becca

Becca is just a woman, mother, daughter of God, trying to figure things out. She blogs at My Soul Delighteth and Real Intent.

79 Responses to Truth Eternal Tells Me I’ve a Mother There

  1. Cheryl says:

    I’ve always known about Heavenly Mother. My parents would talk about my Heavenly Parents ever since I was a child –I don’t remember ever NOT knowing about her.

    Yes, it is doctrinal that She exists. How could She not? Our goal is to become like our Heavenly Parents, and we know eternal increase (children) can only come from man/woman relationships –we wouldn’t have existed without Her.

    I think we should speak about Her in reverence and as far as the things we know. I don’t believe we should ignore the commandment to pray to Heavenly Father, nor assume that She isn’t who She is simply because we focus on our Father.

    Everything about motherhood denotes Her existence. I feel Her close to me when I carry, birth, and nurse my babies. And there is something inheritley (sp) divine about womanhood that is tied to Her. I know She exists –my faith in her has never been diminished by the little we speak of her. Truth is, knowing my Heavenly Father tells me I know Her. Because if He is that good and that wonderful, than how could She be any different? They are One –I have no doubt of this.

    I find it comforting knowing that my husband will be as Heavenly Father and I will be as Heavenly Mother (if we keep our covenants, etc. etc.). It’s all about marriage and parenthood and family…

    • Becca says:

      “Truth is, knowing my Heavenly Father tells me I know Her. Because if He is that good and that wonderful, than how could She be any different? They are One –I have no doubt of this.”

      Ah, unity – it is the great secret of the gospel. Well, not a secret, but it’s really what makes everything make sense. If we focus on unity.

      • SPE says:

        Except what does “…. and I will be as Heavenly Mother..” MEAN? Where do we find out what exactly it means to be like Her? Certainly not in the temple, or in Sunday School, nor in RS, not Sacrament Meeting, not Enrichment, not YW…so where? We have no actual information about what our eternal progression looks like outside of possibly being pregnant for the rest of the eternities (not an exciting prospect for me).

        • Ray DeGraw says:

          There is no information about “possibly being pregnant for the rest of eternities” other than the fact that some earlier leaders couldn’t imagine any other way to create life. Fwiw, I don’t believe for a second in eternal, spiritual gestation.

        • Cheryl says:

          Where do we find out what it means to be like Heavenly Father? Why would we be asked to be “perfect” like He is –if He is not attainable?

          I’m not sure why I know what I know, or where I learned what I know (except Nathan’s link that I posted near the end of these comments gives a good indication where I must have learned it throughout my life –reading the scriptures and listening to prophets) but I do know the pattern we have been asked to follow. And I also know from whence I came.

          If we are sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents, and if we’ve been asked to emulate Heavenly Father, and we know that man/woman are to marry and be one flesh, then why is it such a leap to assume that Heavenly Mother is like Heavenly Father? We know of eternal marriage, we know those in eternal marriage (and who have kept their covenants) will be the only ones who will have eternal increase (children) in the celestial kingdom.

          So, if I keep my covenants, if I am sealed to my husband, how is it that he can expect to be as Heavenly Father but I can’t expect to be as Heavenly Mother?

          It is so logical to me, to my soul, that I can’t really explain it all very well. This isn’t something I go about searching or lobbying because I simply know it in my heart (that She exists).

          I guess my point is that if and when we truly understand Heavenly Father (and Jesus Christ), then we will already know Heavenly Mother. Truth is, I think there’s a part of Her in every woman, anyway.

          As for eternal gestation? Honestly? I don’t have any idea what it will be like. But if having spirit children is anything like what’s it been like to have my earthly children –I welcome it most willingly. But seeing how we will be resurrected and exalted beings, I’m pretty sure it won’t be as… painful. :)

          • Kathryn says:

            I’ve always understood that the pain and discomfort or child bearing was a result of Adam and Eve being escorted from the Garden of Eden. I believe that is a challenge given specifically to women to bring us closer to Christ. It’s probably the closest thing we can experience to His suffering.

            I really don’t think that creating spirit children will be anything like creating children here on the earth. Logically, spirit children are spirit therefore they do not have bodies. I don’t know how it works, but I don’t need to. I know that I am going to do my darnedest to return to my Heavenly Parents so that I can be just like my Heavenly Mother.

  2. EdwardJ says:

    Thanks for this insightful post, Becca! As a person who loves Heavenly Mother and prays to Her often, I certainly think we should talk about Her (and TO Her) more.

    People seem to think that the only way we can know more about Her is through revelation to men in the church hierarchy. I would like to propose the radical notion that we can learn more about Her by asking the Woman of Holiness Herself! (Or, if one is uncomfortable with that, asking God the Father about God the Mother.)

    Truth will be forthcoming if we ask for it.

    Also, for those interested, there is a great Facebook group for discussion of issues around Heavenly Mother: https://www.facebook.com/groups/467349696664222/

  3. Ray DeGraw says:

    My take is simple and in agreement with the point you make in the post:

    We don’t talk about her much because we don’t have much revealed about her (largely, I believe, because our scriptures were written and compiled by men) – but, to be fair, we don’t have all that much revealed about Heavenly Father as a unique individual, either. When you get right down to it, it’s all pretty generic father stuff, not uniquely personal stuff. Thus, I believe pretty much everything that has been said about Heavenly Father applies equally to Heavenly Mother, especially since our theology emphasizes two-made-one as equal partners. We talk about Godhood as a condition, not just as a title – so I apply our descriptions of God to each parent and the plural Elohim to include not only to spirit children who become like their parents but also to the plural-made-singular couple who constitutes our Heavenly Parents.

    We also have next to nothing about the mechanics of spiritual parenthood (the creation of intelligences, their transformation into spirits and the raising of those spirits), so all we have is speculation in that regard – and we tend to extrapolate the constraints of mortality into the eternal realm and advocate for whatever makes the most sense to us from the perspective of our dark sight through non-prescription glasses.

    This is one area where I have no problem saying I don’t know and am relying purely on faith – with regard to both of our heavenly parents.

  4. Ray DeGraw says:

    Also, my mother is as orthodox as it gets. Before old age took its toll, she used to pray to Heavenly Father only . . . but she paused occasionally in the middle of a prayer and told Him that she was going to talk with Heavenly Mother for a few minutes and would be back when they were done.

    • Becca says:

      When I think of this kind of “praying” to Heavenly Mother it reminds me of the way I speak to my grandparents who have passed away, or my older brother who has passed away. I am not praying to them in the same way that I would pray to Heavenly Father. When I think of praying to Heavenly Father I think of this section of the Bible Dictionary part of prayer: “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” Prayer, to me, is about aligning our will with God’s.

      I haven’t really figured out what I think about praying to Heavenly Father vs Heavenly Mother. If they are really truly one (and I believe they are – I believe that “God” is Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother) then praying to God would really be praying to Heavenly Mother anyway. Like being on speaker phone when you call your parents. Hmmm…

  5. Brenda says:

    One of the quotes that stood out to me in Paulsen/Pulido paper was by Pres. Harold B. Lee.

    “Sometimes we think the whole job is up to us, forgetful that there are loved ones beyond our sight who are thinking about us and our children. We forget that we have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother who are even more concerned, probably, than our earthly father and mother, and that influences from beyond are constantly working to try to help us when we do all we can.”

    It seems that we should know this intuitively but since we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother often it is easy to relegate her to the sidelines, to think that she is passively watching what is going on and exercising no influence in our lives.

    That line of thought never made sense to me because I know how interested and involved righteous earthly mothers are with their kids. I’m grateful for works such as as “A Mother There” that gives us access to reliable sources of information without speculation.

    • Becca says:

      Just a few minutes ago I was rocking my baby to sleep and thinking about the importance of mothers in our mortal lives. It is constantly proven that children need a mother.

      If we are so confident that mothers are important in the life it just feels right that our Heavenly Mother would be equally as important. It really does seem like it should be intuitive.

  6. Ja says:

    Just like our families there is a family of God with 3 members. I think our Mother is the comforter and we talk about her being with us all of the time. We just don’t use her name. She is the presence we all need with us to feel and hear and connect with the Father. She does not have a body like man. She is a personage of spirit so she can dwell with us.

    • Nick Galieti says:

      Ja, I think you will find that while mothers can be a comforting influence, there is nothing even remotely revealed to say that she does not have a body and is a personage of spirit. Also, I see no reason to think that having a body would diminish the influence a Heavenly Mother could have on her spirit children as you would be saying that God is also somehow disconnected, unknowing or unloving to some degree because He does have a body.

      If Heavenly Mother is a member of the GodHead it is done so jointly with her Husband and would be considered His equal and joint partner. We are living the same plan of Salvation that God the Father lived to achieve his place, therefore, it is safe to assume that our Heavenly Parents position was achieved in the way that we have been taught we can achieve it. We are taught that our exaltation is only done when two mortals, sealed under authority,successfully navigate mortality and achieve exalted rank. That would mean that in order for her to be in the position she occupies, she too would have to be a resurrected being. God the Son, and God the Spirit did not create our spirits, I believe due in part to the fact that prior to the creation of this world, they were without either a mortal or a perfected resurrected body.

      We do know that we are spirit offspring of our Heavenly Parents, but there is nothing further (at least none that has been revealed — by design) on this issue that need be discussed. If we were to develop a relationship with a Heavenly Mother separately and distinctly from God the Father we would be afforded that opportunity to do so with perfect instruction on how that is to be done. Again, we have not been given such instruction because they are not so disconnected or so different from one another in such a fundamental way as having a body.

      Discussion on the matter is actually pushing a boundary for me in many ways. If God wanted us to talk about Heavenly Mother as a member of the GodHead, as a spirit or as an exalted being with a body, he would have revealed that truth. However, he has not, and I anticipate that he will not. To consider such is beyond speculation and does not have a basis in any current revealed truth. Heavenly Mother is a sacred subject that I don’t believe is up for public discourse on purpose, let alone public debate, the same way that we don’t discuss certain parts of the temple. In fact, it is my feeling that the more we talk about this subject, the more we open the door and invite such a debate. So, I hope this offers some degree of satisfaction. If it doesn’t, perhaps it would be best to keep such to one’s self.

      Simply put, we are taught in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” It is not necessary for our Salvation that we know Heavenly Mother, if it were, God would have revealed it and commanded us to have knowledge of it, as of this post, He has not done so and that settles the issue fine for me.

  7. Capricornus says:

    I’m not wanting to offend anyone here, but I’m a little suspicious of the assertion that the existence of a Heavenly Mother is doctrinally asserted. I’ve studied a lot and I’ve simply not found much evidence, other than the ‘well it makes sense that we’d have a Mother in Heaven’ type that is found in the referenced hymn and Pres. Hinckley’s 1991 address.

    The Paulsen & Pulido article that you link to mentions a pretty clear assertion in a 1909 Improvement Era, but it seems suspicious to me that a ‘revelation’ of this magnitude came out in a magazine that reads more like the modern Church News and has not been reaffirmed since. This troubles me more by what is said in the beginning of the essay:

    In presenting the statement that follows we are not conscious of putting forth anything essentially new.

    If this statement, which asserts that a Heavenly Mother exists, was not new doctrine in 1909, when was it first revealed? Was it ever revealed, or do we just assume it because it makes sense? If it is firmly-established doctrine, why was Pres. Hinckley so wishy-washy about it 12 years ago – why didn’t he just say that we believe in a Heavenly Mother if the 1909 Improvement Era statement is a doctrinal assertion? Why is there no information on Her on the church website, other than a few other questioning-style references from Maxwell and Kimball in 1978?

    I know that the existence of a Heavenly Mother is widely believed in the church; I don’t know that it’s doctrinally attested.

    (And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a woman-hater who wants a Heavenly Mother to not exist. I’m a feminist and am very dissatisfied with much about the way women are treated in the church. But I’m also a lover of truth, and I’ve simply found next to no truth revealed on this concept in my own personal studies.)

    • Nick Galieti says:

      I think the assumption is safe that there is a Heavenly Mother as the plan of Salvation teaches that our destinies are to mirror God’s position and rank in the eternities. We are taught that neither is the man without the women in the Lord. Exaltation is a joint venture with husband and wife (D&C 132). If our destiny is such that we are to be like God and inherit all that the Father hath, not only are there women of exalted rank, but that the women that are there are one with their husbands and in no other way. It would be a matter of hypocrisy for God the Father to require the union of husband and wife, father and mother, for exaltation if He has not kept that commitment Himself.

      • Capricornus says:

        You make a compelling case and one I hadn’t thought of before, but I still think you’re taking some leaps that aren’t really justified. Here’s some problems I see:

        1) “our destinies are to mirror God’s position” – we don’t know God’s position in this matter, that’s my whole point. If we don’t know anything of God’s spouse, other than that we suppose she exists, we can’t presume that something we experience is something He experienced or currently experiences.

        2) 1 Cor. 11:11 “neither is the man w/o the woman in the Lord” – this verse seems clear cut, but it’s surrounded by verses that we don’t hold to currently (v. 5-7, 13-14, etc). It’s plausible that in the context of directives that we don’t adhere to today, along with the absence prophetic confirmation, that this verse may not be indicative of eternal truth either. It’s easy to pick one or two verses out of the chapter that are ‘correct’ and ‘eternal’ because they resonate with our assumptions about reality. I’m not saying we should throw out the whole Bible, but it’s dangerous to cherry pick from, even on a local level.

        3) Exaltation as a joint venture (D&C 132) – if you read the relevant verses carefully, all we have here regarding marriage are conditional promises: IF man and woman marry and stay true, etc… THEN exaltation. The converse (If exaltation then man + woman + marry + …) isn’t necessarily true. (There are potentially other ways to arrive at the ‘then’ statement – i.e. if I’m in the rain then I’ll get wet… it’d be erroneous to assume that there are not other ways to get wet.

        In your favor, though, D&C 131:3 states that entering into the new and everlasting covenant is a necessary requirement of exaltation, and as it stands that happens now only by man + woman.

        I’ll have to think about this more, but I’m not sure that you can directly leap to the existence of a Heavenly Mother from there, though. Thanks for making me think more about it!

        • Cheryl says:

          You don’t have to leap anywhere to know Heavenly Mother exists. Our prophets speak about our “Heavenly Parents” and it’s known that as God is, so man will become. Since we know sexual relations are celestial and will only occur between men and women married in the everlasting covenant, we know that spirit children will be born of that covenant. We were once spirit children. Ergo, we have a Mother –a Heavenly Mother –with a body, resurrected and glorified as is our Father.

          It’s not only doctrinal. It’s logical.

  8. Bonnie says:

    It’s interesting to me that we extrapolate Her role backward from mortality, not knowing the breadth and type of work which occurs eternally. I suppose that’s what we do in the absence of revelation. There is much for the salvation of humankind that is done that we only touch on, and there’s likely reason for that (Moses was gently guided to mind his own business when he strayed off the Earth in his curiosities.) In my own wondering, I ruled out her role as the Holy Ghost because she must be resurrected if El is, and that role (the comforter) is a priesthood role in a presidency. In addition, the comforter is an Elias-type role, I think, because Jehovah/Jesus can also function in that role. Many have received “comforters” in the form of angelic visitors as well.

    My personal opinion, based purely on that extrapolation backwards that it’s our tendency to do, is that Heavenly Mother played a huge role in our preparation for mortality and that the priesthood channel of prayer that we use to reach our Heavenly Father reaches her equally. Besides, prayer is really more the process of bringing ourselves in harmony with Them rather than delivering telephone messages, so use of the priesthood harmonizes us with Her as well. IMO.

    What I do find really curious is the lifelong tendency of human beings to diminish the female. If people had had a clue, we wouldn’t have had fertility worship overtake what I believe was Her true worship (Asherah), making it something sensational instead of real, and then we wouldn’t have had to sweep through and destroy all traces of Her. That just makes me mad. Why make Her less than She is by making Her solely sexual? Satan ticks me off. He’s always trying to make women solely sexual. Why does he get away with it?

  9. ji says:

    I’m among those (the minority?) who does hold that the Heavenly Mother notion is doctrine. A thread in the tapestry of Mormon belief, yes; doctrine, no — in my mind. I think we sometimes want to create God in our own image.

    Really, all of our attention is supposed to be focused on Jesus Christ. Even when we speak of worshipping the Father or praying to the Father, it is always in the name of and through the person of Jesus Christ. John ch. 14 is instructive here and helpful to me — the apostle Philip asked Jesus, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us” — the Lord’s answer is very clear see John 14:9-14. I recommend it to everyone. I tend to think of looking to a Heavenly Mother (and looking too hard for Heavenly Father, too) as ookig beyond the mark — the mark is Jesus Christ, and He is sufficient for me.

    Innocent imaginings, dangerous heresy, somewhere in-between, I don’t say — all I say is that I’m a Latter-day Saint but I have absolutely no concept or doctrine of a Heavenly Mother.

  10. ji says:

    oops! …does not hold…

  11. Ja says:

    I understand the idea that it makes people uncomfortable and risks blaspheming the Holy Mother if it was so, but I will make my assertion anyway. In the temple, women hold the priesthood and wear a veil. Can this not be likened to the 3rd member of the Godhead? What is to say she was resurrected just because El is? Like a father going ahead, or off to work, a Mother stays with the children. She is still with us in spirit form as the comforter. It may not be preached over the pulpit, but I would venture to say that it is known as truth by those who have asked as far up as the prophet. Just like Adam did not get instructions for Noah’s boat, we get what we need in the Lord’s due time, but we also must ask. I did. The doctrine on family is based on a Godly family. With gender as an eternal characteristic, we see that the true nature of the Holy Ghost will be revealed and show Gods as in D&C121:26. We see man not exalted without woman nor woman without the man. She’s been with Him but she did not show her veiled face until the bridegroom comes. Then we will see God (the 3rd member).

    • SilverRain says:

      It is not discomfort or fear of blasphemy that leads me to assert that this is false doctrine. It is scripture, prophetic teaching, and personal experience.

      The reasoning for believing the Holy Spirit is Heavenly Mother is built upon a misunderstanding of grammatical gender, assumptions about gender characteristics, and wishful thinking. It raises far more theological problems than it solves, which would be clear if people were less enchanted with feeling like they “get” something no one else does.

      • RT says:

        “The reasoning for believing the Holy Spirit is Heavenly Mother is built upon a misunderstanding of grammatical gender, assumptions about gender characteristics, and wishful thinking. It raises far more theological problems than it solves, which would be clear if people were less enchanted with feeling like they “get” something no one else does.”

        SilverRain,

        The evidence for understanding the Holy Spirit as Heavenly Mother is actually far more substantial than you seem to realize. I have written a post about this subject at Rational Faiths.
        http://rationalfaiths.com/biblical-allusions-to-asherah/

        • SilverRain says:

          Yes, I am aware of the muddying of Asherah worship with the theory that the Mother in Heaven is the Spirit.

          Neither one of which are doctrinal.

        • SilverRain says:

          Just to clarify, there are elements of truth mingled with the philosophies of man in the essay you wrote. But even if every point you make is scholastically accurate, there is nothing in that that requires that the Holy Spirit be the Mother in Heaven. It assumes that the words for “spirit” can only be used in one way throughout scriptures, which is a very problematic assumption.

          Until it is accepted as modern-day doctrine, it should be kept strictly within the bounds of scholastic theory and personal study, NOT be taught or assumed as doctrine.

          • RT says:

            There are lots of different ways to define “doctrinal”. If you’re saying that because current leadership do not teach that Heavenly Mother is the Holy Spirit that the notion is not generally accepted doctrine, then I agree to that definition. But simply because something is not taught by church leaders really has nothing to do with whether a particular idea or theory is accurate/true or not. In the field of biblical studies, I know of lots of things about the Bible or Old Testament that are likely to be historically true (and that do have bearing on LDS teachings and assumptions), but they are not conventionally taught by the Church. On the other hand, sometimes the church can teach things that we realize later were not true or not fully inspired (such as teachings about race or gender). So simply calling something “non-doctrinal” hardly says very much.

            “there are elements of truth mingled with the philosophies of man in the essay you wrote”

            I’d be interested to know how you are able to distinguish “elements of truth mingled with the philosophies of man”. Do you have some sort of special inspiration? What are those elements you believe to be based on truth, and on the philosophies of men?

            The article is actually strictly an academic and scholarly treatment of the subject of Asherah worship in the Bible, so if you think I interpreted the evidence incorrectly, I would be interested to know why. Can you propose alternative readings of the Hebrew passages that I offered? I fail to see where my own philosophy is at play here.

            ” It assumes that the words for “spirit” can only be used in one way throughout scriptures, which is a very problematic assumption.”

            You either did not read the article or fundamentally misunderstood it. I said no such thing. The Hebrew term ruach can mean several different things, and I merely review a few passages in the Old Testament that suggest that the Spirit/Holy Spirit could at times be used to refer to a female deity, who is mostly likely Asherah in the context of ancient Israelite/Jewish religion.

            “Until it is accepted as modern-day doctrine, it should be kept strictly within the bounds of scholastic theory and personal study, NOT be taught or assumed as doctrine.”

            This gets onto tricky ground here. On the one hand, I agree that this kind of an idea (even if historically true) should not be taught as official and therefore binding on members until it gains acceptance from the general church leadership. However, because a certain idea or theory is not currently official should not be thought to suggest that members should refrain from exploring its possibilities or considering its relevance or usefulness if it were true. How would we ever learn something new if we were always afraid to look outside of the box we are most comfortable with?

            The fact remains that the historical evidence suggests that the Holy Spirit was originally understood in the Old Testament to refer to a female deity. We may not like that, we may choose to read the scriptures according to traditional LDS or conventional Christian understandings, but I think people have a right to know about this idea.

          • SilverRain says:

            I do have special inspiration. Just as everyone does. It’s called personal revelation and a personal relationship to deity. But I’m under no constraint to discuss the details here, in a public forum. Quite the opposite in fact. And that is partly my point.

            There is a tendency for those who are interested in ancient interpretations of scripture to extrapolate modern understanding of historical perspective to modern day practice. There is nothing wrong in studying these things, and even discussing them with liberal grains of salt added. But it crosses a fine line when it becomes a judgment and condemnation of the teachings of current prophets. We can’t know for certain what the ancients thought, nor even if they were correct in THEIR interpretations. While it is certainly useful to mull over and to study, it cannot replace the guidance of the Lord directly to us now through His prophets and personal revelation.

            Don’t think that my words of caution are wholesale condemnation. I only detect that that line is indistinct in your promotion of this idea. I can understand why. It is titillating to “discover” a different way of thinking. That excitement can easily motivate someone to feel their interpretation is superior to the prophet’s currently taught interpretations. But disregarding the counsel of the Lord’s anointed, and publicly teaching our philosophies in contrast to what they have been commanded to publicly teach does not lead us towards a better knowledge of Truth, however factually accurate it might be.

          • SilverRain says:

            I should add, that doing so is likely to lead others further AWAY from Truth, even if it helps us personally get closer. Which is why such teachings (even IF completely true) that delve more deeply into doctrine than the prophets themselves publicly teach should be revealed a truth (as opposed to mere scholastic theory) individually and only when constrained by the Spirit.

            We might all have the same basic map, but we don’t all start at the same point on our journeys back to God.

          • RT says:

            SilverRain,

            You’re still not understanding what the article was trying to say (and I highly doubt that you have given it sufficient study to receive personal revelation on the subject). I’m not saying that some “ancient” people believed in some Holy Spirit goddess and therefore we should believe the same. I’m saying that the identification of the Holy Spirit as a female deity and partner of the Heavenly Father is already contained in the scriptures we regard as canonically authoritative and therefore in some sense doctrinal. Do we not believe in the Old Testament as containing revealed doctrine? If we do, then it seems obvious that its portrayal of the Holy Spirit as Heavenly Mother has implications for our own understanding of Heavenly Mother.

            “But it crosses a fine line when it becomes a judgment and condemnation of the teachings of current prophets.”

            That’s simply your interpretation (which isn’t correct by any means). No one is condemning anyone. I would rather see it as a matter of progressive understanding and revelation. There’s always more that we can and should understand better, for our own sake and the sake of others. And I think Heavenly Mother is one of those things. So if we have a substantial amount of information about Heavenly Mother’s identity already contained in the scriptures, then why not look into it? There’s no reason to be afraid.

          • RT says:

            By the way, I hardly see the question of the identity of Heavenly Mother and her divine role as “delving into deep doctrine”. Joseph Smith taught that understanding the character of divinity is the first principle of Mormonism, so learning about the nature of the godhead would seem to be basic and essential. I think we are really talking about Primary level subject matter here.

          • SilverRain says:

            Thanks for taking the time to respond, RT. But I admit I stopped reading after you judged whether or not I’ve taken time to study something out in my mind. That isn’t your call to make, and whatever you have to say after that has lost its value to me.

            Have a nice day.

          • RT says:

            SilverRain,
            I wasn’t trying to be offensive. I was merely stating that this is a very complicated and important subject, and your hasty judgment about the content of the article as a mix of truth and the philosophies of men seemed to me to be what was truly uncalled for.

  12. Ramona Gordy says:

    So, as a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS I had not considered that there was a “heavenly Mother”. When I was investigating the Church, the missionaries “let it slip” that there is a Heavenly Mother, although they said it in whispers, I was curious. And I read everything presented in the Church, and I even asked my Bishop, and he also agreed, also in a whisper that we have a Heavenly Mother.

    So the question:
    Do you believe that the existence of Heavenly Mother is doctrinal?

    For my own understanding, I “searched” the scriptures and two verses stood out to me:
    First:
    Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

    This is a spiritual blessing that manifest’s in both realms, temporal and spiritual. We all have earthly parents who manifest all types of behaviors toward us in this life, some may be hard to love, much less honor, and others are doing the best that they can.

    As we learn to give honor to the Father, is it the same honor for Mother? Why is this commandment so unique?
    If we are commanded to be “fruitful and multiply”, then would not Father have set the example, is Father a single parent? And going forward, the book of Mormon declares that many “plain and precious” truths have been omitted from the scriptures. Is the reality of Heavenly Mother a plain and precious truth?

    Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

    So in this verse, which seems to a popular verse, used in weddings ever more, what is the context of this command. It appears that this was first a command to Adam and Eve and then also for generations through the ages.
    Did Adam and Eve leave their “heavenly abode” and Father and Mother?
    These are questions to ponder.

    • SilverRain says:

      Yes, the existence of Heavenly Mother is doctrinal as is the existence of Heavenly Father. However, we know very little about either. Most of what we know about God in scriptures refers to Jehovah, or Christ.

  13. Cheryl says:

    The existence of Heavenly Mother shouldn’t even be a question. As to whether or not she is the Holy Ghost? That is conjecture at best and SilverRain is right –it’s false doctrine.

    Nathan outlines what has been said about her in this fantastic compilation:
    http://nathanrichardson.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Nathan-Richardson-Heavenly-Mother-references.pdf

    • Cheryl says:

      And, I should add, that in there is quotes from prophets about why we DON’T pray to our Mother in Heaven, but testify of Her existence.

      • Capricornus says:

        That’s a fantastic resource, thank you for sharing!

        Could you be more specific about which ones testify of her existence? I skimmed through them but couldn’t find which one you’re referring to other than Pres. Hinckley’s 1991 address. Unfortunately, rather than testifying of her existence he clearly states that “we have no revealed knowledge” of her.

        For me, that’s the most troublesome wrench in the works, as the most recent thing that’s been said about a Heavenly Mother is that nothing is revealed. How does one get around that?

          • Ray DeGraw says:

            and “reason” based on that faith

            It’s interesting to me that the hymnal reference in “Oh, My Father” relies on “truth” founded in “reason”, much like Alma’s reasoning about all things testifying of God’s existence.

          • Bonnie says:

            I concur. This is the essence of D&C 9 – we study things out, reasoning as we do, and we seek revelation and inspiration, lather rinse repeat. We refine our ideas over time in the absence of statements that define reality. That’s just as important a process as we’re going to find in mortality.

  14. KMD says:

    I believe Heavenly Mother is doctrinal because she is in a hymn and hymns are scripture.

    I really like this quote by Valerie Cassler, found here: http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerRubySlippers.html

    “And so it is for the daughters of God. The daughters of God are apprentices to Heavenly Mother, and the final destiny of a daughter of God–the pinnacle of all she can hope to attain–is the Motherhood. Biological motherhood here on earth is not the template for Motherhood; rather, Motherhood is the template for biological motherhood here on earth. The apprenticeship to be a Mother has, at various times in the Church, been called priestesshood; at other times it has been referred to as being a Mother in Israel or a Mother in Zion. This apprenticeship is Motherhood-training, qualifying one more fully to become a Heavenly Mother than biological motherhood alone, expanding and deepening our concept of what it means to be a mother in mortality. Indeed, one can aspire to Motherhood and progress in one’s apprenticeship without ever having given birth to a child in this mortal life and, in turn, biological motherhood can be profoundly magnified when a woman has apprenticed herself to the Mother in the magnificent work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind in the Great Plan of Happiness.”

    (My thoughts again) I agree Heavenly Mother isn’t often talked about because of cultural belief of too sacred, but also that it’s because we aren’t sure what to say since there hasn’t been much said. For example I decided since there is no specific thing saying we can not talk about her that I would with my kids. So I told my 4 yr old daughter recently: “You know, you have a Heavenly Mother who loves you, just like you have me as an earthly mother who loves you.” She replied: “Yep!” And then I didn’t know what else to say. But I think not much has been said because the guys in charge haven’t really thought about it as much as women do. Why are the scriptures mostly filled with stories about guys? Because the women were too busy raising families to have important spiritual experiences? I call bull on that. The authors are guys and they wrote their stories. If women had written them, there would be lots of great stories from raising families and having spiritual guidance and also messing up and repenting as a mom. Think about how awesome that would be for women! This is why I keep a journal and plan to share it with my kids! It’s the people who write things down that get remembered. :) Think how awesome it is to realize that even if I don’t have an awesome mother to emulate here on earth, I have a Heavenly Mother to emulate. I honestly believe our leaders are trying to share this message, but they aren’t doing it explicitly. We were told last conference by Sister Dalton that we all really need to take the message to heart that we are daughters of our Heavenly Father. Can we add to that “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father AND mother who love us and we love them? Knowing I have a Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally is awesome. Knowing I also have a Heavenly Mother who loves me unconditionally is super awesome. And for me, it is life changing. It makes me cry a little to realize she is there. I guess I should just know it implicitly. But knowing it explicitly makes a difference.

    As far as statements in General Conference, how about this one: 1978, Neal A Maxwell: “Finally, remember: When we return to our real home, it will be with the “mutual approbation” of those who reign in the “royal courts on high.” There we will find beauty such as mortal “eye hath not seen”; we will hear sounds of surpassing music which mortal “ear hath not heard.” Could such a regal homecoming be possible without the anticipatory arrangements of a Heavenly Mother?” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/04/the-women-of-god?lang=eng)

    • Emily says:

      KMD – as I’ve read parts of the Women of Faith in the Latter Day books, I’ve felt that missing link for Church history. Have you been able to read any of them? You may like them. Now to get the women’s side of the scriptures, as you said!!

  15. Becca says:

    KMD, I love your comments about our male-dominated (not saying that negatively) history/scripture. It’s not necessarily bad (I don’t think) it’s just the way it is. If it was female dominated, then we’d be missing a lot of instruction for men. *shrug* I’m not too concerned about it – I can rely on my own personal study of the gospel, and my personal relationship with Heavenly Father and personal revelation from Him. But it is definitely something to recognize and talk about, and I love how you have addressed it without being all “women are better than men” or “men are better than women”. We simply don’t have many records from women about women because of the way the administration of the Church is set up.

    I, too, keep a journal for the same reasons – to be scripture to my children, especially my daughters.

    Thanks for your comments!

  16. RT says:

    Becca,

    Just wanted to thank you for the post. I really agree with your statement, “If we never talk about something just because we don’t know anything about it, then we are stuck. If no one ever talks about Heavenly Mother, then no one will ever talk about Heavenly Mother, by this logic.”

    My conversation above with SilverRain just underscores that people do not talk about Heavenly Mother because they are afraid of what they are unfamiliar with. It is sad… The vicious cycle goes on and on, even when people are presented with information drawn from their own sacred scriptures that would potentially give much needed light on the matter.

    • Ray says:

      “My conversation above with SilverRain just underscores that people do not talk about Heavenly Mother because they are afraid of what they are unfamiliar with.”

      No, it doesn’t. Silver Rain’s disagreement with you has NOTHING to do with fear.

      • Ray says:

        I also will repeat what Silver Rain said to you, RT – simply as an attempt at instruction and with not scorn or condemnation in any way:

        You dismissed and belittled Silver Rain by stating explicitly that she hasn’t studied or thought deeply about what you were saying – knowing nothing, apparently, about her and if your assertion was correct or not. It came across as condescending and even arrogant – and it probably wasn’t meant that way.

        It’s really helpful in situations like this to step back, clear your mind and read your own comment as if someone else has written it to you – focusing on how you would react in that situation to the comment you wrote. I think you will see what I mean about it if you so that.

        Finally, let’s let this particular discussion end here and not turn it into a threadjack of a very important topic. The post isn’t about you or Silver Rain (or me), so let’s let it stay that way.

        • RT says:

          “It’s really helpful in situations like this to step back, clear your mind and read your own comment as if someone else has written it to you – focusing on how you would react in that situation to the comment you wrote. I think you will see what I mean about it if you so that.”

          I agree Ray. And the same could go for how she initially responded to my comment. I’m sorry if I sounded belittling, but I’m highly skeptical of someone’s argument when they almost immediately resort to the idea that they have received some sort of extra inspiration that someone else’s idea is “the philosophies of men”. I just wanted to have a good productive exchange. If someone disagree’s about something, that’s fine. But let’s be honest about it and clarify exactly why we feel differently. Are we really understanding one another?

        • RT says:

          And maybe I’m wrong that her response wasn’t motivated out of fear. I’m sorry if I have made a real mistake in my assumptions. If that’s the case, then just ignore that I ever said that. However, I would love to hear someone engage the thoughts contained in the post I linked to. I think it really does have something to offer to this conversation, since the whole point of the post was to consider talking more about Heavenly Mother. How would you feel if the historical and scholarly arguments raised in the article that the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was a female deity were solid?

        • RT says:

          Ray:

          So you don’t think fear comes into play at all in discussions about HM (or the lack thereof)? Based on my own personal experience, I have seen a lot of fear among conventional orthodox Mormons, fear about overstepping bounds of propriety, fear about saying something that would stigmatize you or be out of line with current teachings from leaders. If you have read the Paulsen and Pulido article referred to in the OP, then you know that this article was somewhat controversial and countercultural in its attempt to suggest that the common Mormon folklore that HM should not be spoken of is simply that: a folklore used to avoid talking about a difficult subject. It seems obvious to me that there is a lot of fear about talking about HM. You can feel it. People almost immediately go into an alert mode that causes them to put blinders on that inhibits them from thinking anything new.

          • Ray says:

            RT, I never said fear is not a part of conversations about this or other topics for any Mormons. I would never claim that – but it’s true of pretty much everyone in some way, not just Mormons. You accused Silver Rain of being an example of fear-based reaction; I said you are wrong in that accusation.

            This is not a post about fear-based reactions. It is a post about Heavenly Mother. Thus, I won’t engage your comment further. Please, let it drop – with the understanding that we don’t disagree about fear being a basis for lots of reactions by lots of people about lots of topics.

          • Ray says:

            and, fwiw, this is another example of jumping to conclusions that are not in the actual words someone wrote and then making inaccurate and stereotypical accusations based on extrapolated conclusions

            I work really hard when I comment to not have hidden messages or have anything that needs to be read between the lines. Just as you want others to respond to what you write, please accord us the same consideration and respond only to what we actually write. In my experience blogging, which is extensive, that is critical to mutual understanding.

      • Cheryl says:

        Ray is right. And, frankly, talking about Heavenly Mother without doctrine –making assumptions that don’t even fit in our theology –is not helpful at all. It isn’t about being unfamiliar with things, it’s about knowing when something has crossed a line.

        • RT says:

          “without doctrine –making assumptions that don’t even fit in our theology”

          What do you mean Cheryl? What doesn’t fit?

  17. Ray says:

    RT, I respect that request, but the answer is really simple – from a Mormon theology perspective. Let me start by giving my own definitions of “doctrine” in relation to this discussion, just to set the stage for why I think teaching that Heavenly Mother is the Holy Ghost is “false doctrine” in the context of modern Mormonism and, more particularly, the LDS Church (which is the context of this group site).

    “doctrine” = “what is taught as normative within a particular group at a particular time” (By this definition, “Mormon doctrine” has changed and continues to change – and I like that.)

    “eternal doctrine” = “what has been taught, without deviation, since the beginning and will be taught, without deviation, forever” (There is very little, imo, that fits this definition.)

    “false doctrine” = “anything that is contrary to doctrine – either time- and group-specific or eternal”

    With that in mind, there is a LONG tradition of the divine feminine throughout religious history, and I would not claim that the idea of the Holy Ghost (or the Holy Spirit) being Heavenly Mother (or “the divine feminine” or any other name/title that has been used over time) is “false doctrine” for lots of people, based on the non-eternal definition. However, this discussion isn’t about what other people in this time or another time believed and taught. It’s about how Heavenly Mother is seen and taught within Mormonism and, more specifically, the LDS Church. In that context, there are two irreconcilable “doctrines” that make the assertion that the Holy Ghost is our Heavenly Mother “false doctrine” within the LDS Church:

    1) D&C 130:22 says, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” Thus, within Mormon theology, there is a clear distinction made between the physical nature of the personages within the Godhead.

    2) We are told that Heavenly Mother is the eternal partner of Heavenly Father – and that all of us have the potential to become like our Heavenly Parents. Within the construct of Mormon theology, that means, without argument, that men can become like God, the Father, and women can become like God, the Mother – and the conclusion is clear that part of that “becoming” involves resurrection for both men and women – with the attendant obtaining of equally immortal, tangible bodies.

    There is no way within Mormon theology for Heavenly Mother to be a “personage of Spirit” who can dwell within us, distinctly different than Heavenly Father in that regard. It is a logical impossibility.

    Thus, no matter how other religious traditions might have viewed and continue to view a divine feminine, by any name, equating Heavenly Mother with the Holy Ghost is false doctrine within Mormonism.

    As I’ve said in this thread and others, in multiple places on numerous sites, the eternal future is an area where I lay no claim to seeing through a glass, clearly – and I tend to place my understanding of far fewer things in the realm of eternal doctrine than many people are comfortable doing, but when it comes to the first definition of doctrine, I believe it is next to impossible to see this particular assertion as anything but false – again, in the context of this discussion and Mormon doctrine.

    • Ray says:

      RT, I add a personal note as a request:

      Please read that last comment very carefully before responding. It is full of intentional, important qualifiers – especially in the last paragraph.

      • RT says:

        Thanks for responding Ray in such a thoughtful and intelligent manner. I’m glad that you draw a distinction between historically contingent doctrine and eternal doctrine. It is helpful to keep in mind that the former changes constantly (from a larger macrosopic perspective), while the latter is something that we can only dimly perceive.

        So far so good.

        Here’s where I differ in my understanding of doctrine and the status of the theory that HM is the Holy Spirit in particular:

        First, I would merely expand upon your definition of doctrine as historically contingent and constantly evolving to suggest that we should be open to change in that regard per the doctrine of the nature of the godhead. As you probably already know, Mormon/LDS understandings of the godhead have changed significantly over time, from the Trinitarianism of the early days of the church, to the more developed theology of Nauvoo, to the streamlined modern conception. So we have to keep in mind that it is theoretically possible that sometime in the future the official church could change with regard to its teaching about the identity of the Holy Spirit and its relationship to Heavenly Mother.

        Second, I would also suggest that because we understand doctrine to be historically conditioned that we as a church (both individually and collectively) be anxiously engaged in trying to discern aspects of our doctrine that are more a reflection of the culture from which they originated than some transcendent reality. That is, for us to be consistent Mormons, I think we always need to be open to asking difficult questions about whether this or that idea or teaching is culturally timebound or whether we can be confident that it was actually revealed (or that we have thought through whether we want it to be accepted as revealed doctrine). I think this process will only become more relevant (and fraught) as Mormonism moves further into the 21st century.

        Third, I think your use of the label “false doctrine” is ethically problematic. In my view, false doctrine would have to be something that we have explicit knowledge of its falsity, that is, we would have to have a clear and authoritative statement (not simply an opinion or idiosyncratic teaching of a particular church leader or leaders) to that effect. But with regard to the theory that HM is the Holy Spirit we have no such statement. Therefore, the proper category in which this theory should be placed is something in between “currently authoritative doctrine” and “false doctrine”: it’s something not currently taught, but something that has not yet been disavowed. The label “false doctrine” prejudges the issue and tends to reinforce a false sense of security about the completeness and eternality of current LDS teachings and understandings.

        Fourth, the fact that something is not taught by the official church does not mean that individuals cannot of themselves adopt certain ideas or beliefs, as long as they are not wholly in conflict with LDS tradition. I remember having a conversation with my wife’s grandmother, who is one of the most saint-like people I know (mother of 16 children, national mother of the year, has been attending the temple regularly into her 90s), and somehow when on the topic of the godhead and the Holy Ghost, she suddenly confided without any suggestion on our part that she had always believed that because the godhead comprises Heavenly Father and the son Jesus that the Holy Ghost must be Heavenly Mother. My wife and I were shocked. And this coming from a conservatively orthodox and spiritually sensitive Latter-day Saint! Furthermore, sometimes the leadership of the church do not change or seek for inspiration about a potential change until there is a sufficient number of members who are ready for the change, which would imply that learning new information about HM or seeking for new knowledge may be a necessary precondition for new revelation.

        Fifth, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Mormonism generally and Joseph Smith’s teachings is exceedingly nebulous. There has been substantial ambiguity throughout much of modern Mormon history in the pronouns used for the Holy Spirit and in people’s conceptions of the Holy Spirit’s nature. It is probably the most enigmatic and least understood member of the godhead. Furthermore, I’m not so sure that the doctrinal grounds for assuming that the Holy Spirit has a physical nature utterly different from Heavenly Father and Jesus are very sound. The statement that you allude to is from 130:22, part of a number of teachings given by Joseph Smith ad hoc at Ramus. Obviously, these teachings do not have the same formal quality of many of Joseph’s revelations and it is not clear that he would have regarded them as authoritatively comparable (that was a later decision of 19th century Mormonism). Moreover, it may be significant that the statement about the Holy Spirit is couched in language that suggests he was not revealing divinely vouchsafed doctrine. Notice that the statement about the Father and Son is given affirmatively, while the statement about the Holy Ghost is justified by a rationalization, “were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us”. This suggests to me that the latter statement was simply Joseph Smith using his mind to clarify the nature of the Holy Spirit for his audience (most of whom derived from Protestant origins) and not necessarily eternal doctrine.

        Sixth, in the article I link to, I show how the title of Holy Spirit in the ancient Israelite Hebrew context did not refer to the material nature of the divine personage, but to her close intimate relationship to Heavenly Father. Thus there is no reason to assume that the Holy Spirit as HM is physically embodied any differently from Heavenly Father.

        Seventh, the ancient Israelites were able to make a distinction between “spirit” as a divine numinous presence that emanated from deity and the “Holy Spirit”, a title of a specific female deity. This could possibly provide a precedent for our own practice of referring to the Spirit both as a divine non-personal influence and as a divine individuated personage.

        Eighth, the religious traditions that I discuss in my article are not just any religious traditions. They are traditions found within texts already deemed by the LDS community to be canonically authoritative (Isaiah, Genesis, Proverbs, etc). Knowing what I know, it is hard for me to understand how someone could say that understanding the Holy Spirit as HM is non-doctrinal and in the same breath say that they believe the Old Testament to be scripture. Of course, someone would naturally respond, BUT I DON’T SEE THAT IN MY SCRIPTURES! Which is why it is important to understand the language behind the translations that we use and to carefully examine the cultural contexts in which they were written. And this is not only a matter of the Old Testament. Non-LDS scholars of early Christianity have suggested that the earliest Christians and perhaps even Jesus himself understood the Holy Spirit in this way.

        In any case, as I see it, the identification of the Holy Spirit as HM would solve a lot of theological problems in LDS Mormonism. It would immediately launch Heavenly Mother into the godhead, which would give her far more significance than she now enjoys and provide a much more satisfying divine symbol for women in the church, while at the same time retain some continuity with a traditional LDS understanding of the godhead as consisting of the Father Son and Holy Spirit.

        • Ray says:

          As I said, the modifiers in my last comment were intentional and important – and I don’t disagree with much, if anything, in your last comment. “False doctrine” also is a subjective term, so I understand your resistance to using it – but I don’t mean “false eternal doctrine” or “objective untruth” when I use it.

          I still say, however, that the idea that the Holy Ghost is Heavenly Mother is false doctrine within the current LDS Church – as I don’t believe it is in line with what the top leadership would teach if they spoke about Heavenly Mother in General Conference (and, in fact, if they were to issue a statement about it, which I don’t think will happen, I believe it would be a disavowal of the idea not an endorsement of it), it isn’t taught openly in ANY official publication of the LDS Church (including any manual that covers the passages used to explain it) – and, most importantly, probably would lead to official sanction if taught in such a way as to be seen as actively seeking “converts” to it. The mere fact that it would be seen as outside the normative standard and require “conversion” of some sort is instructive.

          We both understand, doctrine has changed radically and regularly over time. If our collective understanding changes to embrace this idea at some point in the future, it no longer will be false doctrine at that time.

          It might be unrevealed eternal doctrine, but it also might be false eternal doctrine. I don’t know which it is, but I think it clearly is not in line with current doctrine.

          • RT says:

            I never said it was anything close to the current normative standard (though maybe not as distant as you think). I just think you overextend yourself when you call it a “false doctrine.” And in any case, my interest is not in the status quo of Mormon views about HM (which for many LDS men and women are depressing and debilitating in terms of how they function for women). My interest is in how a careful understanding of our ancient religious past may invigorate our religious and theological conceptions in the present.

            And nothing of what you say resolves the problem of LDS adhering to scripture that itself speaks of the Spirit as a female deity/HM.

            Finally, if the only criteria by which we were able to judge the revelatory worth of an idea or teaching was that it lined up with current doctrine then I think it would be a pretty poor religious system.

          • Ray says:

            RT, I think you would be surprised at the specifics of many of my personal beliefs, as well as the specifics of much of my theological study (both content and location). I find great value in contemplating things like this topic – and, as a history teacher by inclination and training, I value ancient beliefs greatly – even though I don’t adhere to many of them.

            If you (or anyone else) has not done so, there is an interesting book by Naomi Goldenberg entitled “Changing of the Gods” that I recommend. It is relatively old (1979) and certainly isn’t a comprehensive treatment of the divine feminine, but, as an introductory historical treatise, it is a relatively easy read and is interesting to consider, as a reader, from a Mormon theological standpoint.

            All that aside, I believe teaching that Heavenly Mother is the Holy Ghost is false doctrine within the context of the modern LDS Church – no matter how you and I might view it personally. That is all I have been saying, and this needs to be the end of our discussion about it here, since there is nothing else to be said in a public forum like this from either of us that hasn’t been said already.

          • RT says:

            Thanks for the chat Ray. Haven’t looked at Goldenberg’s book yet, but appreciate the reference.

            By the way, I never suggested that someone should teach the HM is Holy Spirit idea as official doctrine. We are agreed on that. What I was suggesting was that it was a historical idea that as long as we value the Old Testament as scripture (and claim any sort of gospel continuity with early Christianity and ancient Israel) we will need to grapple with. I would offer it as something that may be true so that individuals would be free to take it up and see whether they find any value in it.

          • Ray says:

            “What I was suggesting was that it was a historical idea that as long as we value the Old Testament as scripture (and claim any sort of gospel continuity with early Christianity and ancient Israel) we will need to grapple with.”

            We agree totally on that, RT.

            I don’t believe any scripture is the infallible word of God, so the mere fact that something is recorded in our canonized scripture doesn’t bind me to accept it as Truth, but I value what others believed highly – inside and outside the Judeo-Christian tradition.

            I also believe there are times throughout history when institutional orthodoxy builds hedges about the law, so to speak, that exclude some truths – when internal battles create losses in very real ways – when the possibility of on-going, doctrine-changing revelation is limited in some areas of mortal certainty. I believe it happened with regard to Heavenly Mother in our ancient scriptures and that it happened and happens in our own modern age. I believe in the continuing pruning process described in Jacob 5 – “according to the strength of the root”.

            Thanks for the discussion.

          • RT says:

            “there are times throughout history when institutional orthodoxy builds hedges about the law, so to speak, that exclude some truths – when internal battles create losses in very real ways – when the possibility of on-going, doctrine-changing revelation is limited in some areas of mortal certainty.”

            Well said, Ray! Couldn’t agree more. If you’re interested, I wrote a piece about how this process occurred with respect to HM/Holy Spirit in ancient Israel/Christianity for Exponent II. My article starts on pg 25:
            http://www.exponentii.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Fall-2010.pdf

        • Ray says:

          Oh, and thank you for such a comprehensive and thoughtful response. *grin*

    • Ja says:

      I disagree about the argument that doctrine is the normative and changes like a fad or something. Like a platter in the middle of the room stacked full of items, we may only see or understand part of the doctrine, but doctrine does not change. The culture and accepted principles change as we see more or different perspectives, but doctrine is eternal and unchanging. Our view or exposure changes and we filter according to our needs, as well, but that is due to the Noah concept-we get what we need and what we are ready for now, not everything all at once. The 10 commandments were a start, not the complete law.

  18. Ja says:

    That said, I would like to address point 1) about the nature of the Godhead. In D&C 130 it mentions, “the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” In 129 it says, “There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones— 2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.” Is it at all possible that HM is a Spirit made perfect and not a resurrected being? She has the ability to dwell with her children because she is not a flesh and bone form that has been resurrected. She is waiting for her time. D&C 121 “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now; 27 Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;
    28 A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be bone God or many gods, they shall be manifest.”
    That is doctrine that we may not be ready for, but still doctrine. It does not say the Holy Ghost is female, but is does say (she) has not been revealed. Like a couple sealed on earth, HF may be waiting for his companion to have the resurrected body, but it is still perfect in Spirit. They are One in purpose and not an impossibility in the family of God. Is MH any less God than the Father? It is not an impossibility that she is the 3rd member in the Godhead, but may be something many are not yet ready for.

  19. Ray says:

    ja,

    1) What prophets have taught throughout the history of Christianity alone (and even since the Restoration within the LDS Church) has not remained constant and unchanging. Lots of things that used to be seen as doctrine, and even eternal doctrine, no longer are believed or taught in the current church.

    2) I can grant that your reading of those verses might be correct (and I personally don’t reject it out of hand) – but it is purely speculative in nature, not taught in any official way in the LDS Church and, therefore, not “doctrine” in any accepted sense of the word, no matter how you or might see it. You can say you reject my definition of “doctrine” – but your own definition is exactly what I called “eternal doctrine” (in order to distinguish that type of doctrine from the standard, non-LDS definition in every dictionary where it ever has been included).

    There simply is no way that your conclusion can be called “doctrine” within the LDS Church, unless you say only that it MIGHT be “eternal truth” (which seems to be what you mean when you use the word “doctrine”). With that caveat, however, absolutely anything any sincere member believes could be called “doctrine” – since, theoretically, anything MIGHT be truth we simply don’t understand yet.

    I don’t accept meanings without real meaning with regard to topics like this, so I just can’t accept that definition of “doctrine” – even if I was inclined to accept your view of those verses.

    • Ja says:

      I did not say Holy Ghost is Heavenly Mother, but I did conjecture within the stated doctrine of the Godhead and the forms of each. There is much we do not have given in letter of the law (or doctrine). I was making a rebuttal of your statements that said it was “false doctrine.” You also stated
      There is no way within Mormon theology for Heavenly Mother to be a “personage of Spirit” who can dwell within us, distinctly different than Heavenly Father in that regard. It is a logical impossibility.

      Thus, no matter how other religious traditions might have viewed and continue to view a divine feminine, by any name, equating Heavenly Mother with the Holy Ghost is false doctrine within Mormonism.

      I agree it is not clearly stated as doctrine, but you implied the impossibility and fallacy of the statement. It is however, a truth that I have prayed about and firmly believe to be true. Not doctrine, I agree, but supported by many of the beliefs and would make the doctrine of family more substantial. If no feminine and equality in the family of God, why see it here. Time has offered a progression of women, but traditions show them covered and protected, but still respected as a crown. A marriage is a glorifying partnership (or should be) like a crown and the head. Without the head, the crown is not king. Without the crown, the king is a man without recognized power. One day, the truth will be uncovered and we will see what the nature and partnership is in the family of God.

  20. Becky says:

    She is mentioned in my patriarchal blessing, that I talked with her, she gave me advice before I left for earth.

    • Martin Pulido says:

      Hey Becky, if you are comfortable, could you e-mail me more about this? I have been gathering information about HM’s inclusion within Mormon rituals and ordinances, and have wanted to take a look at patriarchal blessings.

  21. Ray says:

    Fwiw, I think Becky’s description is enough without an actual quote.

  22. Martin Pulido says:

    I skimmed through the comments on this site, but it did make me wonder, even if HM is not the HG (and I tend to be of this persuasion; I agree with the embodied/disembodied problem that others point out), this doesn’t rule out that the HG is not a female spirit. So we still could have an instance of the divine feminine with the HG. The only thing I’ve seen that specifies that he’s male, or even a “spirit son” of HPs, is from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Dr. Paulsen contacted the author, who admitted the claim was baseless. He just thought it was the case. The HG need not be male, and he need not be a son of our HPs.

  23. Ray DeGraw says:

    “The HG need not be male, and he need not be a son of our HPs.”

    I agree completely with that statement – although I recognize the irony of using “he” in the second part of it. *grin*

    • Martin Pulido says:

      Lol. Love the slip. I guess part of it is the annoyance of constant use of he/she. I really think the pronoun “herm” should come into vogue. We understand the him or her thing going on there…

  24. Brittany says:

    For the record, Janice Allred, author of the article linked above about HM and the HG was excommunicated. She has written about her disciplinary experience, and says she was told it was for apostasy and preaching false doctrine and for disobedience because she published that article when her Stake President had asked her not to. There is a response to some of her ideas here: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu//publications/pdf/review/19866253-12-1.pdf. I don’t think that we shouldn’t talk about Heavenly Mother, I just think Allred’s ideas about Her, as well as her ideas about Church authority, are highly suspect.

    I like what Bonnie said about the Mother having a significant role in our premortal experience. This is a conclusion I have come to myself. Also, the idea that the Holy Ghost could be a female spirit is really interesting, and together with the idea that “Elohim” refers to both our Heavenly Parents as a unit, would lead to a Godhead that is, essentially equal parts male and female. Ultimately, I will have to be patient for either further revelation or until my own heavenly homecoming to know the answers for sure.