Guest Post: Is the Godhead Trying to Tell Us Something? Part I

 

Goddess Head II by Emily F. Balivet

 by Annie Berry 

Annie Berry is wife and mother to two girls (8yrs and 18 months), raised LDS, and currently serving as nursery leader.

I’ve long been trying to reason through some of the principles and directives that the LDS Church currently teaches, and trying to decide whether I agree with some of those principles or not, and why.  Some of those being: the promotion of marriage and pro-creation as our highest eternal purpose and essential to our celestial glory, male-only priesthood, a lack of a female representation in the Godhead, and traditional gender roles as stated in the Proclamation on the family.  In an attempt to better understand my eternal nature, I have studied the Godhead and have discovered what appears to be contradictions in what LDS Church leaders currently teach about these issues.

Even though I’m a wife and mother with two daughters of my own, and thoroughly believe that my marriage and commitment to raising my children is beautiful and sacred, I have not been able to find the elitism of marriage and parenthood currently taught by the LDS Church (and expressed by other parents) to be beautiful or necessary.  To say that marriage and family is sanctioned by God is wonderful, but to say that other life paths (unless they eventually lead to marriage and family in this life or the next) are not sanctioned by God, even if those life paths provide fulfillment and do much good, never seemed right to me.  In fact it seemed very hurtful.

It is currently taught in the LDS church that marriage is the crowning covenant of our celestial glory, and is as necessary to our achieving celestial glory as baptism.  While I always liked the idea of a Heavenly Mother, and liked the idea of being represented in the Godhead by a divine female being, the truth is, She is not represented at all in the Old and New Testaments (or if she is, it has been lost or changed), and even current LDS doctrine only teaches that she exists, and not much more.  If eternal marriage truly is the epitome of divinity, why does a divine male and female couple not represent the Godhead?  Is it possible that while marriage is sacred, it is not the only way to achieve celestial glory?  If God truly intends for eternal marriage and pro-creation to be the goal of every one of his children, why is it that The Godhead, our prime teachers, authorities, and examples of how to achieve divinity, are represented by The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost , a celestial being who is not given any familial title and additionally has no body (which in LDS terms means he cannot pro-create), instead of a Divine Mother, Father, and offspring?  Is it possible that those who have no desire to pro-create in this life or the next, or even no desire to marry in this life or the next, can still achieve fulfillment and divinity?  I think The Godhead tells us it is.  If we find homosexuality to be harmful on the basis that a homosexual couple will be unable to pro-create in the hereafter, does the example of The Holy Ghost, a being that has made it to celestial glory without an ability to pro-create, provide sufficient proof that an inability to pro-create in the hereafter is not a detriment to Celestial Glory as LDS leaders currently teach?  

I’ve been told that once the human race masters the principles of the Gospel that God has already revealed to us, he will provide us with more to learn.  Have Latter-Day Church leaders correctly interpreted the principles we as a people have already been shown?  Have we correctly prioritized the principles that Christ showed us were most important to our salvation, or have we gotten caught up in and obsessed with peripheral “jots and tittles”?

 

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26 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    I very highly reccomend you read “Holy misogyny “. It speaks
    to a lot of your feelings and what has been lost about HM
    It’s scholarly by a professor at Rice University. Her name is April DiComick. I am sure I am spelling it wrong. It is a fast read and really the first part has the most to do with the conversation.

    But really it is an amazing perspective about how
    We lost the knowledge of the divine. And what ancient cultures including early Christians and Jews belived.

    • Annie B. says:

      Thanks, I’ll have to check that out, it sounds really interesting. I did read in comments here once, someone was saying that they believe there are or were references to HM in the Bible but that She is represented by a tree or by wisdom. That’s something I don’t know a lot about but would love to learn more about also.

  2. mountaingirl says:

    This is an interesting line of reasoning. I have always believed in a Heavenly Mother and wondered about the lack of mention of Her (as many have) or a partner to Jesus even. I also have an older brother who is not married and most likely never will, and I whole-heartedly want him to be happy and to be tied to him eternally. He is a good, good man. This also bothers me.

    My initial reaction to this logic was, “NOOO – that would mean there is no Heavenly Mother and that means that the Godhead is completely male-gendered, and that MIGHT mean that women ARE less important or something!” I know, how ridiculous. But on the other hand following this logic, perhaps gender and traditional family doesn’t have the meaning that we place on it. That line of logic feels better and feels enclusive and loving of everyone. I’m not so sure there isn’t a Heavenly Mother, but I still think that it is an interesting thought and I learned a new perspective. Thanks for sharing!

    • Annie B. says:

      Yeah that was kind of my initial reaction too, but then I kind of think that if we do have a Heavenly Mother, that she is implied where “God” is mentioned, but that patriarchal tradition has snubbed out the mention of her and mis-represented her role. That, or celestial/divine beings are such that they have mastered and balanced both male and female aspects of themselves and can pro-create individually. Although that gets kind of weird and sci-fi-ish to think about…

  3. mountaingirl says:

    *inclusive, of course.

  4. Jules says:

    Thank you for writing this–as someone who has longed for decades to be married, church and especially the temple can be really painful places for me. My heart tells me that the purpose of my life is salvation through Jesus Christ, but week after week I hear that the purpose of my life is to be married and bear children (which is quickly becoming a medical impossibility). And the throw-away “maybe not in this life” doesn’t help. Not one bit.

    I often wonder if I’d feel the same way if I wasn’t LDS but was still Christian (or Jewish or Buddhist or whatever). I’d still feel lonely, I’m sure. But I wonder if I’d struggle with feeling like my singleness was an indictment of my righteousness.

    And what drives me the most insane about it, is that most of what I was taught in church (ask and you shall receive, Lord’s timing, etc.) leads me to believe that it truly is punishment for all my many sins (you know, since I’m the only woman in the church to gossip, cuss, and drink diet Coke. :D), which then invalidates the Atonement and starts a downward spiral of faith crisis…

    And at the end of the day, I kind of wish I knew for certain I had a Heavenly Mother to talk to about this, to reassure me that my life isn’t an eternal waste.

    • Annie B. says:

      I think that’s my biggest reason for this theory, is that I simply don’t believe that marriage and child-bearing are required of everyone in order to achieve divinity. It also seems like it’s really late for that idea to be showing up on the scene…like Jesus maybe would have mentioned that when he was here providing a perfect example for us to follow…

    • Babs says:

      I think of this often, as I’m in the same boat as you. I find myself really quite angry about how naive I have been by having such blind faith for most of my life. I believed in my patriarchal blessing, but it simply wasn’t true at all. I have not sinned to some horrible degree to disqualify myself from the blessing of marriage and family. I pray often (to my Father and to my Mother), and know that They wouldn’t promise me something that they knew wouldn’t happen. I don’t know what positive to say to you, just that I completely understand your pain.

  5. Mhana says:

    Sometimes I think the Holy Ghost is Heavenly Mother. I know what we’re taught — the Ghost is a he, the ghost doesn’t have a body etc. On the other hand when I think of the comforter, I think of my mom. When I need help with anything, from homework to fixing my dishwasher to how to fold a fitted sheet to the answers to life’s persistent questions, I call my mom. And she comes, right away. It doesn’t mean she can’t also answer my brother’s phone calls and be there for him. She isn’t a Goddess, yet. But I just think it makes sense that if a comforter is being sent, it would be mom.

    • Jessica says:

      I think this too. The book I quoted above supports that idea very well. I wonder if she chose to give up her body for a time so that she could be with us on earth. It makes scence that it would be father – mother- son.

    • mountaingirl says:

      This a thought I had recently too! So interesting.

    • Rachel says:

      Margaret Toscano looks closely at that idea in “Put On Your Strength O Daughters of Zion: Claiming Priesthood and Knowing the Mother.” You can read it online in Signature Book’s “Women and Authority.”

      There is a lot that resonated with me, when I first read it, primarily because so many of the adjectives we use to describe the Holy Ghost seem to match perfectly my idea of Mother, But I ultimately reject it. Mostly because I believe Heavenly Mother has a glorified and exalted body presently.

      I also remember reading something that Hugh Nibley once wrote, about how in ancient traditions the Godhead was generally a quaternity, made up of Father, Mother, Son, and Daughter, rather than an all-male trinity. At the very least it was good food for thought.

    • Annie B. says:

      That’s interesting…I think it’s definitely possible that The Holy Ghost is Female and has just been misrepresented. I think it’s interesting too that Christ, a male, fulfills many of the principles of Christianity that society associates with being female (mercy, charity, healing, compassion, forgiveness, etc…) (<—That idea is mentioned in part II of this post that I'm told will be posted on Saturday) There was a post on the Exponent Blog a while back that discussed whether or not gender is eternal and pointed out that even though culturally we consider certain characteristics to be female and certain characteristics to be male, females may possess any number of male characteristics and males may possess any number of female ones. It made me wonder if we are all supposed to balance and master our inherent male and female attributes in order to become perfected.

    • Babs says:

      This is so interesting… I thought I was the only person that thought this! Thanks for all the extra input ladies. I’ve always thought the title Comforter was a dead giveaway of Her identity.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    Annie, you ask some insightful and important questions here. Thanks so much for sharing this. Like you (I’m married with children), there are aspects of the marriage as the only way to salvation and the lack of a woman’s presence in the Godhead are troubling to me.

    I think that there aren’t explicit references to Heavenly Mother in the scriptures, but I find Her presence in Proverbs 8 as the anthropomorphized wisdom figure. It’s one of my favorite examples of the feminine divine in the scriptures.

  7. Rachel says:

    Annie, thank you for this sincere and thoughtful post. I particularly appreciate hearing your musings on Heavenly Mother and the godhead. Eugene England has a powerful quote about how he believes that whenever the scriptures say “God” it means both God the Father and God the Mother, and that they are more unified than even God and the other members of the Godhead. That idea felt true to me. Erastus Snow said the same thing:

    “Deity consists of man and woman … 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 … 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” (as quoted in Linda Wilcox’s great historical essay on HM).

    • Annie B. says:

      Thanks, I think too that whatever “God” in the godhead implies, whether it is two beings or one, it represents a balance of male and female.

  8. DefyGravity says:

    I love this post. I feel like I should say something, but I’m not sure what. I’m still thinking about it. So thanks for giving me stuff to think about!

  9. I loved this post and I am going to go look at the great resources I’ve found in the comments.

  10. bwv549 says:

    Interesting post. Like many of the principles in the Gospel, I don’t think God stands around in Heaven barring people from progression (“Sorry buddy, no wife, no highest degree for you”). Rather, our progression is naturally and intrinsically bound to the path we take (in this life and the next). Male/female couples can procreate, single (or homosexual) couples cannot and the highest degree is clearly tied to the creation of offspring. I don’t think God is being vindictive to those who refuse to marry, it just follows. OTOH, I think it is telling that we can achieve Celestial glory without being married, and this suggests that there are, indeed, unimaginably fulfilling roles for those who choose this route. We can rage against God all we want, but I think he is ultimately on our side.

    • Annie B. says:

      I don’t think I’m raging against God in my ponderings, but disagreeing with some people’s opinions on the nature of God, and trying to better understand the nature of God for my own sake. I think it is true that nurturing/raising offspring provides unique opportunities for progression. I think that progression resulting from the nurturing/raising of offspring is just as valid whether offspring is adopted or biologically produced though. So to assume that a homosexual couple could not progress to divinity because they cannot biologically pro-create doesn’t make sense to me. I also believe that other life paths (or eternal paths) could possibly provide unique opportunities for progression that could equal that of child-rearing. So again, I still believe child-rearing is worthwhile and beautiful, I just don’t feel the same elitism towards it that many people do.

  11. Jenne says:

    I came back to this post because it came up when I searched “why isn’t heavenly mother part of the Godhead?” While this essay doesn’t offer an explanation, it essentially asks the same question. I’d really like to find some source material from Mormon scholars suggesting the reasons why the church has been loath to include her in its teaching. Is there anything in Dialogue, Sunstone or elsewhere that provides an answer to that question?

  12. Gabrielle says:

    I was taught from a professor at BYU something that I think will change your life as it did mine and look at it all very differently. First, our purpose of existence is to become like Him. A God is a man and a woman that have completely become one and have been perfected. A man cannot become a God nor a woman reach Godhood without the other. This acknowledgement answers the why of all your inquiries and may put to rest most concerns.

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