Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Our Magical Mythical Mother

I'm not exactly an on-the-scene reporter, here, so I'm a few days behind the curve on this.  But the church has recently released two additional gospel topics essays—one about women's standing in the church and the other about our fabled Heavenly Mother.  Women and their arguable lack of equality in Mormonism has been a hotly debated issue lately (Ordain Women, Kate Kelly, et cetera), and the essay about women (which, in my opinion, didn't do much to establish that women are indeed equal in the church beyond trying to insist that they are) has had a lot of attention, so I'm going to focus more on the one entitled Mother in Heaven...especially since I'm pretty sure these new essays are intended to be supplementary to each other.

This unsigned, unattributed article begins by explaining that we are all children of two heavenly parents and that "the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a distinctive and cherished belief among Latter-Day Saints."  What cracks me up is that the next thing the essay says is that there was no formal revelation given to Joseph Smith concerning the subject.  Heavenly Mother, it seems, is such a cherished woman that even Joseph Smith, the restorer of the fullness of the gospel in the final dispensation of times, couldn't be bothered to go on the record about her.  And you have to wonder about God, too, and why that guy seems intent on shrouding his wife in mystery instead of letting his children interact with their mother the way they supposedly get to interact with their father.

The essay also mentions the fact that Mormons are taught to pray to God the Father in Jesus's name, with no mention whatsoever of the woman who birthed our spirits and is supposed to have raised us in the premortal existence.  "The fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven," the unnamed ghostwriter explains, "in no way belittles or denigrates her."

I can assure you that if I directed all my communication to my parents through my father and siblings without ever bothering to contact my mother directly, she would feel both belittled and denigrated. I think most mothers would.

Former Apostle Rudger Clawson is quoted as saying "We honor woman when we acknowledge Godhood in her eternal Prototype."  This, to me, is honoring Heavenly Mother (and, by extension, earthly women) for her contribution to our spiritual DNA, perhaps, but it's hardly honoring her as an individual.  I could talk all day long about how I inherited my hair color and my stubbornness from my mother, but if I'm not willing to discuss the things she personally taught me and the specific characteristics I admire about her, how much can I really be said to revere her?  Perhaps I can honor her when I acknowledge my adulthood in her physical prototype.  But that's really all it is.
Something else relevant about Clawson's quote is the apparent context.  I tried to see if I could find a scan or complete transcript of the Millennial Star article from which his quote is lifted, but all I could discover with my limited powers of Google-Fu was a slightly longer excerpt [one place I found it].  Preceding the above quote in the article is this:
It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections.
To be fair, without finding the complete article, I can't say for sure, but it seems to me that the quote in the LDS.org essay was, originally, used in an effort to persuade members of the church that it's okay to love our Heavenly Mother.  If this is indeed the case, I have two problems with this.

First, if the church teaches that Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father are interdependent equal partners (because the other new essay insists that men and women are), then this kind of thing should have never needed to be said.  How many people wonder if it's okay for them to love their biological mothers?

And second, Clawson's comparison begs a glaring question:  If we should love both our spiritual parents the same way we love both our physical parents, why should we worship one spiritual parent and not the other?  Isn't the whole point that they are equally deserving?

After all those Sunday School discussions about the characteristics of God and after all the scriptural stories of the Father's interactions with his people even down to the specific words that he's spoken, what do we know about our Heavenly Mother?  Not much.  We know that she's God's wife and she is the mother of our spirits.  We don't get to talk to her and she doesn't even get to talk to us.  Hell, we don't even know her name.

I'm failing to understand how this is supposed to make the church look like it sees women in the eternal scope as anything other than wives and spirit mothers.  These essays make a big deal about the interdependence of man and woman—that one cannot get to heaven without the other.  But it seems like, other than that, there isn't much in the way of equality.  Heavenly Father is the Creator, he's the Man With the Plan (of Salvation), he's the one we worship, the one we pray to, the one we read numerous scriptural accounts of, and the one whose name we actually know.

Who is our Heavenly Mother?

To us, she's basically nobody.  A spiritual egg donor.  She exudes no sense of individuality, she provides no interaction and exhibits no characteristics beyond motherhood.  Perhaps Mormons revere her and shroud her in secrecy because of her sacredness, but I don't think it's fair to say that men and women are equal in the Kingdom of God when Heavenly Father runs everything and forces us to be completely estranged from our mother. 


  1. Last Mother's Day in my ward, the opening hymn was O My Father. It's the only hymn in the entire LDS hymn book that mentions mothers, and that's just a speculation that if there's a father it only stands to reason there would be a mother. Women are only valued in the LDS Church, because they have a womb.

    1. What bothered me about the essay about women was that so much of what the church claimed made women equal was given to them by men. For example, the Relief Society, which the essay tries to imply is equal to the Priesthood, was created by Joseph Smith. And any authority the essay claims the Relief Society has is delegated to it by men who hold the priesthood. The women in leadership positions of the church are still called and set apart only by men.

      And similarly, the best lip service to motherhood found in the LDS hymn book is in a song entitled "O My Father."