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?