Guest Post by AmyB: On the Nature of God: One Woman's Struggle

(Amy grew up in Utah Valley but now lives with her husband in New York City. She recently finished her Master’s degree in Music Therapy at NYU and works with emotionally disturbed children, which she finds sometimes heartbreaking and always fulfilling. She reads voraciously and is fascinated with human development. On matters of being Mormon, she is deeply struggling, but has great hope that whatever happens life will be beautiful.)

“Believe in God. Believe in God the Eternal Father. He is the great Governor of the universe, but He is our Father and our God to whom we may go in prayer. We are His sons and daughters. Have you ever really thought that you were a child of God and that you have something of divinity within you?” President Gordon B. Hinckley, Liahona and Ensign, Mar. 2006, 2–6

If God is a man, what does that say about me as a woman? What is that something of divinity within me?

I searched church publications on lds.org for references to Heavenly Mother. I found about 24 articles. Nine of them had the same quote from Orson F. Whitney, who, in a lovely statement about suffering and the atonement spoke about returning to live with our Heavenly Father and Mother and becoming more like them. While this quote said nothing specific about HM, at least it used inclusionary language. After the late 70s and early 80s, any mention of HM is rare, except in 1991 when Gordon B Hinckley announced, “I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.” Ouch.

Here’s a brief summary of the other things I found about HM: She exists. We are made in her image. President Kimball gave her qualities of “maternal modesty” and “restrained, queenly elegance.” Elder Maxwell noted we would have a great homecoming in heaven, made especially great by the “anticipatory arrangements of a Heavenly Mother.” So it appears she is a great party planner. Elder Featherstone in 1987 said “Young women are endowed with special traits and attributes that come trailing down through eternity from a divine mother.” So perhaps in studying our femininity we find attributes of the divine feminine.

All in all, my search was unsatisfying and disheartening. At the same time, I want to be intellectually honest and genuine. I’m not sure that we need to hear more attributes of Heavenly Mother as a separate god. What I really believe is that God is a divine union of masculine and feminine operating as one entity (this may be a radical view, I know). Our language is such that we don’t have a word to describe this, and so God is masculinized. Orson F. Whitney’s inclusionary language was a step a good direction. However, contemporary church speakers don’t seem to have followed suit. Mormon doctrine makes it even more difficult because it tells us God has a man’s body.

On a final note, I am also troubled by the portrayal of the creation, especially in the temple video. Does it really make any sense that the earth was created by a bunch of men with no female involvement? On earth, new life comes from the union of masculine and feminine. I would like to think this is a model of the way the universe works. The Mormon and generally Christian view of a male God as creator and caretaker of the universe seems lopsided and illogical to me. I’m not comfortable with the Mormon god, nor with the exclusively masculine power structure that is justified by the view that god is a man. How can I maintain my dignity as a woman and remain within this structure?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. Jezebelle says:

    “How can I maintain my dignity as a woman and remain within this structure?”
    Perhaps you cant. Many Many others seem to have been able to however. What is the difference between you and them?
    Just wondering.

    Jezebelle

  2. Caroline says:

    I can’t speak for AmyB, of course, but perhaps one thing that makes it difficult for women like her is that she really is grappling with the problem. So many wonderful, nice, lovely LDS women I know just sweep such questions under the rug (if they even have such questions in the first place)and figure that it will all be explained in the next life. For me, and probably for AmyB too, such a strategy is not satisfactory. I think that women like her, who are questioning and seeking, are actually following Christ’s advice in James: “Knock and it shall be opened.”

  3. AmyB says:

    You’re right, Caroline, I am really grappling with this issue. I feel that growing up in the church I constantly recieved the message that I shouldn’t think about these things. Any “righteous” woman in the church should automatically have answers like “Well, I wouldn’t want the priesthood anyway.” We are told things are the way they are because God wants them that way and we shouldn’t question. This no longer works for me.

    Jezebelle,
    If you have thought about similar issues and come to a different conclusion, I’d love to hear about your experience. I recognize and respect that not everyone feels the same way I do. If you have answers to my questions that are satisfying to you, please share.

  4. Jezebelle says:

    I do not have any answers. That is why I asked. I do however feel that the majority of LDS women are not operating in a void, and do not “sweep it under the rug”. Again, that is why I asked. I too would like to know.

  5. Kaimi says:

    Amy,

    Great post, and good questions. In particular, I really like your statement that “Does it really make any sense that the earth was created by a bunch of men with no female involvement? On earth, new life comes from the union of masculine and feminine. I would like to think this is a model of the way the universe works.”

    I can’t necessarily answer your questions and concerns, but one possible reply is that we’re open to the possibility of future revelation and addeed truth, as we become ready for that. Our understanding of the nature of life, the creation, and so forth, has changed over the years. Even the temple ceremony has changed. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that future changes will elaborate on the role of women.

    Unfortunately, while it’s entirely _possible_ that such changes will occur, I don’t know that they’re all that _probable_. If anything, the church seems to be going in the opposite direction. We haven’t had a strong official advocate of a Heavenly Mother theology for some time now.

    And if the church doesn’t move in the direction of recognizing women’s roles in a theological narrative? Good question. You can chalk it up to the imperfections of human beings, and the necessity of operating in an imperfect society. You can challenge the roots of the theology, and decide that the church is misguided or wrong. You can continue to wait and hold out hope. Unfortunately, none of these are particularly comfortable options.

  6. manaen says:

    I stumbled upon this issue 30+ years ago.

    I left the U.S. divided by racial issues for my mission in 1971. I returned two years later to discover that popular wisdom had turned the corner on race and now our sisters were asking, “What about us?” This launched me into a deep-dive for a couple years into the Church’s teachings and legacy about women’s and men’s roles, status, and relationships.

    I resolved all this to my (male) satisfaction by coming to the understanding that we’re incomplete components needed to form a complete union – within the union, there should by “us” and “our” instead of “yours” and “mine.”

    Much more recently, I discovered a convergence with another understanding. As I pondered the progression from people serving one another to Christ’s commandment to love one another, and the basis of it all in Christ’s atonement, I realized that there is a final step. Christ narrated (John 17) the workings of the atonement as he paid its. He gave the final step in the progression in the midst of his sufferings,:

    “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23). Love and oneness.

    The ideal is not just to go from serving one another to loving one another, but to become one with each other – to follow Christ, we’ll create our own at-one-ment. Of course, no part of an ideal union would accept lesser/demeaning/dominant/abusive treatment of any part of that union, whether our own part or our partner’s part. (See Covey on Win/Win vs. Win/Lose or Lose/Win). It seems that, once that’s understood and jointly sought, talk of yours/mine is divisive when the parts should work for the benefit of the whole, including each part.

    I believe this loving oneness of spouses is the essence of Deity. It is my answer to your comment that, “I’m not comfortable with the Mormon god.” You didn’t mention it, so maybe you didn’t find Erastus Snow’s explanation of who is the “Mormon God.” I found comfort and understanding in his comments about the oneness of our Heavenly Parents. Some excerpts are:

    In Gen. 5:1-2, we read, “This is the book of the generations of Adam: In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him, male and female created he them, and blessed them and called their name Adam in the day when they were created.”
    […]
    …in the language of these Scriptures was called Adam—male and female created he them, and called their name Adam, which in the original, in which these Scriptures were written by Moses, signifies “the first man.” There was no effort at distinguishing between the one half and the other, and calling one man and the other woman. This was an after distinction, but the explanation of it is—one man, one being, and he called their name Adam. But he created them male and female, for they were one, and he says not unto the woman multiply, and to the man multiply, but he says unto them, multiply and reproduce your species, and replenish the earth. He speaks unto them as belonging together, as constituting one being, and as organized in his image and after his likeness.
    .
    “What,” says one, “do you mean we should understand that Deity consists of man and woman?” Most certainly I do. If I believe anything that God has ever said about himself, and anything pertaining to the creation and organization of man upon the earth, I must believe that Deity consists of man and woman. Now this is simplifying it down to our understanding, and the great Christian world will be ready to open their mouths and cry, “Blasphemy! Sacrilege!”
    […]
    I only repeat what he says of himself; that he created man in the image of God, male and female created he them, and he called their name Adam, which signifies in Hebrew, the first man. So that the beings we call Adam and Eve were the first man placed here on this earth, and their name was Adam, and they were the express image of God. Now, if anybody is disposed to say that the woman is in the likeness of God and that the man was not, and if vice versa, I say you are both wrong, or else God has not told us the truth.
    .
    I sometimes illustrate this matter by taking up a pair of shears, if I have one, but then you all know they are composed of two halves, but they are necessarily parts, one of another, and to perform their work for each other, as designed, they belong together, and neither one of them is fitted for the accomplishment of their works alone. And for this reason says St. Paul, “the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” In other words, there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. I have another description: There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female.
    (Journal of Discourses 19:266-271, complete text available at http://journalofdiscourses.org/Vol_19/JD19-266.html)

    I suppose that this is accepted doctrine because we sing the last two verses of “O My Father” in sacrament meetings.

  7. Coffinberry says:

    For what it is worth, I occasionally wrestle with this question. It is like I lay it to bed on one aspect and then (months, years) later it rises again in another.

    Just last Friday, I was wrestling most of the day again, begging for some clearer understanding of what it meant to be female in the family of God. (I mean, Nephi asks to see the vision his father saw, and he gets it, so why not get the vision/understanding I crave?)

    Nothing. Nada. Zip. No vision, no understanding. Just a sense of “you’re gonna have to trust Me on this one.” I felt sad and discouraged.

    Then, the next day, listening to conference, in the middle of the very first talk, I’m taking notes when all of the sudden I have to interrupt what I’m writing to write down what the Spirit is telling me: “You want understanding of the role of women in God’s family. I will not open that vision to you now. But remember, back when you could see with your own eyes what it meant to be Heavenly Mother, you made the choice to follow the Savior’s plan, so you could become like Her and fulfill your divine potential. Trust your own choice — this is something you want.”

    This answer meant a lot to me. I realize it presupposes an unexplainable faith in the nature of my pre-birth existence; but for me, and for now, it is enough.

  8. jana says:

    AmyB:
    You’ve raised such provocative questions. Unfortunately I have no answers. I can only say that I wonder the very same things. And though I’ve prayed about it, I’ve not yet had any doors opened or felt any peace on this matter.

  9. Caroline says:

    Manean, Thanks for posting those quotes from Erastus Snow. I really am compelled by the idea of diety as a perfect combination of male and female. Unfortunately, the Church leaders really seem to have retreated from this. In current discourse, God = Heavenly Father, and _____ = Heavenly Mother (using the term Goddess seems like a no-no, probably because of pagan associations.) I definitely get the sense that he God of current Mormonism is all male. I suppose I would be ok with this if, Heavenly Mother also got some acknowledgement as well.

    But, as Amy pointed out, HM has slipped out of our rhetoric. I read a fabulous article called “The Changing Conception of Heavenly Mother” which documented the various ways HM has been talked about. Women in late 19th century Utah used her as a platform upon which to argue that women should have the vote and be civic participants. 1950’s discourse painted her as the maternal nurturing baby maker. There’s the infamous party planner image. Now there’s nothing. In each of these times, people used her as a way to promote their own ideas of a what a woman is or should be.

    Part of me is relieved that GAs don’t talk about her, as I fear how that she would be characterized in stereotypical gendered ways. But part of me craves so badly to at least hear her acknowledged. To hear people talk about looking forward to seeing HF and HM again. To hear people say that they know HF and HM love us. Just including her in our Church discourse like that would mean everything to me.

    I am actually at the point where I feel slightly guilty about ignoring my HM in my prayers. My husband finds this hard to believe since we’ve been instructed to not pray to her, but it just doesn’t make sense to me to not include my Mother. One way to get around this, I suppose, is to pray about her. I also favor gender neutral language that can refer to either parent. Like “Creator.” Others hearing me can read in what they want, but I know what it means to me, and it makes me happy to be true to myself.

    So I’m not really answering your question, Amy. I have not found peace either, but taking small little steps to develop my own love and appreciation for her have helped. And including her in our discourse when we bear our testimonies or give lessons or speak with our friends can also hopefully help move HM out of the void and into the light a bit more.

  10. annegb says:

    If only men created the earth, that explains a lot.

    Consider the difference between a Relief Society lesson and a priesthood lesson.

    I suppose women had to be involved or the earth would have fallen apart a long time ago.

  11. TftCarrie says:

    Amy B,

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. They are issues I have been thinking about a lot lately and I take some comfort in finding someone who can more eloquently explain what I am feeling in my own heart. I have decided as of late, to concentrate on using more HM including language when I am talking of diety. It has definitley made me feel a little better but I find many people to be uncomfortable with this. I think it is because this kind of language is not the norm in the church. But if you really think about it, it shouldn’t be that out-of-the-norm.

    It could be blamed on the 50’s era thought of HM – we don’t know much about her because HF is protecting her from the bad men of the world who would take her name in vain. This is what my parents taught me. Looking back on that explanation makes me just laugh. As if a Godness would need protection! It is just like Caroline said: “In each of these times, people used her as a way to promote their own ideas of a what a woman is or should be.”

    I do stay away from addressing her in my prayers because of specific prophetic counsel. But like Caroline, I still don’t feel quite right about it.

  12. EmilyCC says:

    Thanks for this post, Amy. These questions are good for me to ponder every few months (wish I’d come up with some answers to them!).

    Jezebelle (I love your name, btw), I think you’re right. For lots of LDS women, these aren’t issues, and I don’t think it’s because these women aren’t intelligent or diligent seekers. All of the women in my family (except me) and many of my LDS friends are content with the current status of HM in the Church. But, then again, there are other parts of the Church that bother some of them that don’t affect me that much.

    One thing I love about Exponent is that we have all types in our group: people who are fine with HM and priesthood and such, people who are really struggling with such issues, and people who decided that they do better with their struggles by leaving the Church. I think it makes for great discussions!

  13. AmyB says:

    I really appreciate all the heartfelt responses.

    Manaen, I hadn’t seen the quote from Erastus Snow. I like the scissor metaphor. I wish there were more discourse like this today.

    Caroline : “Part of me is relieved that GAs don’t talk about her, as I fear how that she would be characterized in stereotypical gendered ways.” Well said. I worry about this too. I would be glad to see a resurgence of inclusive language, if nothing else. It seems, though, as the mormon church tries to appear more mainstream, doctrines like this get downplayed and hidden.

    As for GBH discouraging praying to HM, I don’t know how seriously to take it. His argument was basically that we’ve always prayed to God the Father, so that’s the way it should be done. The “we’ve always done it that way” argument doesn’t hold up. I also wouldn’t be surprised if 15 years later he has a different opinion about that.

    Thanks again to everyone who has commented so far. It gives me hope to know some have found peace on this issue, and it’s comforting to know that others feel like I do.

  14. bigbrownhouse says:

    The Erastus Snow quotes – as soothing as they are – seem a bit hollow placed next to the LDS belief in and practice of polygamy (in which shear is actually comprised of one necessary half, and any number of interchangeable parts.) Which Heavenly Mother would you like to know more about? Yours? Mine?

  15. AmyB says:

    bigbrownhouse,

    You bring up an interesting point. Current LDS doctrine still seems to say that polygamy will be practiced in the celestial kingdom. It also says that we have the potential to become gods. So followed to its logical conclusion, one would think “god” as a unit could consist of one male and any number of females.

    To be honest, this whole concept is making me feel sick to my stomach as I sit here typing. Polygamy is such an oppressive practice; I can’t fathom that it is an eternal principle. Once again I ask, how can I maintain my dignity as a woman within this institution????

  16. bigbrownhouse says:

    I have to be honest about this. This is one of many reasons that I finally stepped away. The strange thing is – I love the church. But I got tired of always feeling sort of sick to my stomach – and more importantly – tired of always trying to convince myself that I didn’t.

  17. jen says:

    big brown house and amyB,

    you just HAD to bring up the P word… 🙂

    Maybe you haven’t read President Hinckly’s quote on polygamy in his CNN interview with Larry King.

    He says, “I think it is not doctrinal”.

    Here’s a link to the transcript. http://www.lds-mormon.com/lkl_00.shtml

    It’s possible that polygamy was no more than a means to an end….that ended.

  18. jen says:

    I have tried to look at the lack of female presence in doctrince two ways.

    1. That the literal scriptures have few refrences to females and must therefore be completely sexist.

    or

    2. That the scriptures have no need to refrence females specifically because we are equal in all ways and can assume that every “he” is like ADAM –male and female – with no need to differenciate.

    Number 2 is a stretch for me, but its along the lines of what we’ve been told on how to interpret scripture for ourselves… the whole insert your name bit.

  19. bigbrownhouse says:

    Jen, I’m very familiar with the Hinckly interview. He doesn’t *think* it’s doctrinal? That comment seems very disingenous to me – a PR soundbite meant to deflect further questions. The Church continues to seal multiple women to individual men.

  20. Deborah says:

    AmyB: Thanks for this post — I’ve wanted to respond all week, but life got in the way of blogging!

    You wrote, “I’m not sure that we need to hear more attributes of Heavenly Mother as a separate god. What I really believe is that God is a divine union of masculine and feminine operating as one entity (this may be a radical view, I know). Our language is such that we don’t have a word to describe this, and so God is masculinized.”

    This perspective has become increasingly appealing to me in recent months. For my wedding, my best friend commissioned a giant yin/yang painting from an artist in China (this is the same friend who is urging me to read “Living Buddha, Living Christ” — which I’m ordering this week, I promise!). The notion of a Heavenly Mother seems to be a gesture toward a larger concept of balance and harmony. The masculine/feminine imagery used to describe Christ would fit nicely in this schema, as would the creation stories of many cultures — a severing of male/female unity that must bridged.

    Do I wish the GA’s talked more about Her? Yes and no — I certainly wish there were less fear and secrecy and taboo, but do they really know any more about her? If not, it would likely be conjecture that reinforced earthly ideas of gender roles. I have a healthy respect for the Catholic doctrine of the MYSTERY of god. That we acknowledge a feminine divine thrills me — and leads me to seek for other representations of Her from other religions, mythologies, and personal narratives.

    If I felt like I had to find all my Truths in Mormonism, I don’t know if I could stay — but it’s the very spirituality the Church has helped nurture in me (e.g. developing a personal relationship with a loving god, the 13th article of faith) that keeps me both anchored and searching . . .

  21. AmyB says:

    Deborah,

    I gather from a few comments you’ve made that finding truths in other places than Mormonism has been important for you. I really like this perspective. I feel like the church seems to say it has all the truth, and that really bothers me.

    I deeply believe that divinity is a balance of masculine/feminine. There’s an interesting point from Leonard Shlain in a book called “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess : The Conflict Between Word and Image” All of the ancient societies worhipped female deities. Shlain wondered what happened that changed the current religions into more exclusively male deities, particularly the western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to his research, the change happened when a written alphabet was invented. The alphabet is representative of a more male way of thinking and changed the way people thought about God. It’s interesting food for thought.

    BTW- I started reading Cloister Walk. 🙂 I’m really liking it so far.

    bigbrownhouse,

    I’m on the fence right now- coping with frequent sick feeling, wondering what I can or need to reconcile. Wondering if I can stay. It’s an interesting journey.

    Amy

  22. Deborah says:

    Amy: Yeah, that’s a pretty fair assessment — and you brought back a memory. My dad was not one to get overly excited about church (dutiful but not excited) — but I remember the glee on his face when he read the second chapter in “Teachings of the Brigham Young Manual” under the heading “The Gospel of Jesus Christ Embraces All Truth.”

    “It’s right here — what I’ve been saying all along.” (I’m certain he was thinking, among other things, of the freshmen in his science classes at BYU who were skeptical that an evolutionary biologist could be faithful).

    The section contains such gems as:

    “Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.”

    and

    “I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it.”

    I wonder if these quotes — and my dad’s unexpected burst of passion — helped free me (as a teenager) to explore with less constraint than I otherwise might have felt.

  23. stacer says:

    Deborah, those ideas you’ve pointed out, and the 13th Article of Faith, are what I think have helped me walk with faith in my search for my place as a woman in the church, too.

  24. AmyB says:

    Deborah,

    On my first reading of the BY quote I was really turned off. I read it as saying the church has some kind of ownership over all truth and good. It was the phrase “belongs to Mormonism” that threw me. But upon pondering, he seems to really be saying we believe in good and truth wherever it is found. That is very comforting and lovely.

    Where my difficulty lies is when I find things to be true on a deep spiritual as well as visceral level, and I see the church as being contrary to that truth. What do you do with that kind of cognitive dissonance?

  25. manaen says:

    I’m glad (some of) you enjoyed the quotations from Erastus Snow. Here are some other sayings that may help:

    RE: whether polygamy will exist / will be required for exaltation, I found this quotation enlightening.

    “Those who are denied endless increase cannot be what God is, because that in connection with other things, makes him God. The eternity of the marriage covenant ought to be understood by Latter-day Saints clearly to be the sealing of at least one woman to one man for time and for all eternity. Then do not get confused on that point and imagine that it necessarily means more than one woman. It may be, certainly, but it does mean at least that one man and one woman are sealed together by the power of the holy priesthood and by the sealing approval of the Holy Ghost for time and for all eternity, and then that they keep their covenants, before they will be candidates for the highest degree of celestial glory, and unto them only of all these groups of our Father’s children is the promise made of endless or eternal increase.”
    – Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, “Three Degrees of Glory,” speech given 9/22/1922 in the Ogden Tabernacle. (Full text available at: http://www.shields-research.org/General/LDS_Leaders/Q12/Ballard_Melvin_J/01Three_Degrees_cap400x100.pdf)

    On earth, the key for when/whether polygamy is practiced seems to be the need to build a critical mass of believers, “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be onecwife; and concubines he shall have none […]For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” (Jacob 2:27,30) In heaven, I don’t know the triggers or restrictions.

    RE: “I feel like the church seems to say it has all the truth, and that really bothers me.” I believe the Church says that it *accepts* all the truth; I’ve never heard that it claims to be the sole source of all the truth.

    David O. McKay said “We are free “to launch into the realm of the infinite” in search of truth. The Church stands for education. The very purpose of its organization is to promulgate truth among men. Members of the Church are admonished to acquire learning by study, and also by faith and prayer, and to seek after everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy. In this seeking after truth they are not confined to narrow limits of dogma or creed, but are free to launch into the realm of the infinite, for they know that
    “Truth is truth where’er `tis found,
    Whether on Christian or on heathen ground.”
    (quoted in “Gospel Ideals,” p. 439)

    (Followed by one of my favorite sayings, “But gaining knowledge is one thing and applying it, quite another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge; and true education — the education for which the Church stands — is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character.” Ibid, p. 440)
    (available at: http://education.byu.edu/edlf/archives/prophets/prophets.html)

    Ezra Taft Benson said, “Religion and science have sometimes been in apparent conflict. Yet the conflict should only be apparent, not real for science should seek truth, and true religion is truth. There can never be conflict between revealed religion and scientific fact. That they have often occupied different fields of truth is a mere detail. The gospel accepts and embraces all truth; science is slowly expanding her arms and reaching into the invisible domain in search of truth The two are meeting daily — science as a child, revealed religion as the mother. Truth is truth, whether labeled science or religion. There can be no conflict. Time is on the side of truth — for truth is eternal.” [Conference Report, April 1966, pg. 129].

    “Both science and religion beget humility. Scientists and teachers of religion disagree among themselves
    on theological and other subjects. Even in our own church men and women take issue with one another
    and contend for their own interpretations. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men
    and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should
    ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and
    opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences.
    “We should all be interested in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue to
    explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not
    come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation
    may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of
    search and research and prayer and inspiration. We must be unafraid to contend for what we are thinking
    and to combat error with truth in this divided and imperiled world, and we must do it with the unfaltering
    faith that God is still in his heaven even though all is not well with the world.
    “We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one
    would have us become mere tape recorders of other people’s thoughts. We should be modest and
    teachable and seek to know the truth by study and faith. There have been times when progress was halted
    by thought control. Tolerance and truth demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested
    against each other so that the best, which might not always be our own, can prevail. Knowledge is the
    most complete and dependable when all points of view are heard. We are in a world of restlessness and
    skepticism, where old things are not only challenged but often disappear, but also a world of miraculous
    achievement, undreamed of accomplishment, and terrifying power.
    “Science offers wonderful tools for helping to create the brotherhood of humanity on earth, but the cement
    of brotherhood does not come from any laboratory. It must come from the heart and mind and spirit of
    men and women.
    “Peace and brotherhood can be achieved when the two most potent forces in civilization — religion and
    science — join to create one world in its truest and greatest sense. We should continue to become
    acquainted with human experience through history and philosophy, science and poetry, art and religion.
    Every discovery of science reveals clearly the divine plan in nature. The remarkable harmony in the
    physical laws and processes of the universe, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, surpasses mortal
    understanding and implies a supreme architect, and the beauty and symmetry of God’s handiwork inspire
    reverence.
    “One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring.
    Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking
    wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking.
    More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to
    express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our
    own shortcomings. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress
    it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or
    heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In
    this age of speed there seems to be little time for meditation.
    “While speak of independence and the right to think, to agree or disagree, to examine and question, I need
    to remind myself not to forget that fixed and unchanging laws govern all God’s creation, whether the
    vastness of the starr
    y heavens or the minute revolving universe of the atom or human relationships. All is
    law. All is cause and effect, and God’s laws are universal. God has no favorites; no one is immune from
    either life’s temptations or the consequences of his or her deeds. God is not capricious.” [Hugh B. Brown,
    “A Final Testimony”, from The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown: An Abundant Life, Signature Books, 1988].

  26. Deborah says:

    Amy said: “On my first reading of the BY quote I was really turned off. I read it as saying the church has some kind of ownership over all truth and good.”

    Huh. I guess it could be read that way, but I jumped to the more second reading you point to: the idea that Gospel is a much more encompassing word than we allow it to be, that it encircles truth and beauty — from any source. (Tells you which version I _wanted_ to hear, doesn’t it 🙂

    I guess the question, then, is why I choose to stay anchored to a church, this one in particular, when I could (perhaps) wander a less conflicting Spiritual Path. Because there is dissonance between some of my deep convictions and some of the church’s teachings . . .

    I could say Mormons — particularly Mormon women– are “my people,” but it’s more than that. Once, while wrestling with this question, the thought came: “Take a break if you need to, but this faith feeds you as much as it infuriates you.” Whether this was inspiration or persperation, I don’t know, but it stuck deep.

    I have a lot of other thoughts (an upcoming post, probably), but I guess I take as my “core truth” that the prime commandment is to Love. And that “God is love.” And prune where necessary from there.

    P.S. I really enjoyed this thread at T&S, where I pretty much posed the exact same quesiton you posed to me to Julie.

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2896

  27. Tri Mama says:

    Divinity for me stems and is reinforced for me by my ability to create. I have never felt closer to God than when I was pregnant and I felt sorry for my husband that he would never have the ability to gestate. Feeling those small spirits grow inside me left me in awe of all that is Eternal. Once I gave birth I felt so empowered and there is nothing more sacred for me than raising my own family. As a woman my constant engagement with the edification of life via my career and my role as a mother/wife allow me to see my temporal weaknesses and my eternal potential. The church has been my solid ground for me to maintain my dignity in a world that often belittles my role as a creator and mother. In the moments I am overwhelmed, I can easily erase the anonymity my Heavenly Mother because I know she understands the wonder of creation and relates to all my joy and pain.

  28. AmyB says:

    Deborah, Thanks for the T&S link- I’ll check it out.

    CC, thank you for your thoughts. That was beautifully written.

    Manaen, I’ll have to share some of your quotes with my mother. When I told her about some of my struggles with the church, she said “Don’t look outside the church for the truth, you won’t find it.”